AFUL Magic One Review – Chosen

Sound –

Testing Methodology: Measured using Arta via IEC 711 coupler to Startech external sound card. 7-9KHz peaks may be artefacts/emphasised due to my measurement setup which I found to be the case here. Measurements besides channel balance are volume-matched at 1KHz. Fit depth normalised to my best abilities to reduce coupler resonance. Still, due to these factors, my measurements may not accurately reflect the earphones or measurements taken by others.

Tonality –

The MagicOne has been a huge subject of discussion lately for breaking the mould of high driver counts and also for its smooth and coherent tuning. On one hand some label it boring, on the other, a masterpiece of neutrality. I think this divide has come down to communication and expectations more than unit variation. Explaining what the MagicOne offers and, perhaps more importantly, who it is for is my job as a reviewer.

The MagicOne is indeed very well balanced between the core frequency bands. It provides an easy listen with a subtle warm tone, smooth transitions and overall, has a natural timbre throughout. Technically, it performs especially well in terms of midrange resolution and it punches above its price class in treble extension. However, what it doesn’t do is blow the competition out of the water in terms of overall end-to-end extension even if this quality is still very good for the asking price not to mention very impressive given the driver platform; I would not have guessed it was a single-BA design in a blind test.

So, while an impressive proof of concept technically with a very likeable tuning, the MagicOne is not a flagship killer. It lacks the treble extension, dynamics and separation of one so this should not be expected. I do think it punches well above its price bracket in terms of overall resolving power and has a far more likeable tonality than many IEMs in general. If it had a little more treble extension, it would easily pass for a far more expensive IEM because of this. What we have is a very refined tonality with excellent listenability and balance alongside above-average technical performance.

Bass –

Though we once thought BA bass couldn’t compete with DD’s, the gap has been vastly reduced by recent designs. I still find BAs decay a lot faster, but some designs provide a heap of power and extension that belies the traditional belief. In addition to innovative filter designs, some modern BA drivers are simply physically huge. However, this is not the case with the MagicOne which appears to be using a full range/midrange driver instead. Indeed, the tech improves bass extension and presence, but resonators can only do so much and the One is lacking the same physicality as these larger BA drivers and dynamic drivers as a result.

While bass is the weakest aspect of this IEM, it’s still not a poor performer. The resonator and tube system provide a clearly audible if not palpable sub-bass that is present but mostly sits behind a lightly enhanced mid-bass. This region tends to be more responsible for bringing fullness and structure to the sound. Tapering off through the upper bass, the overall low end is lightly warm and full but overall showcases a balanced and natural character with minimal bloom and rounding. While there’s a tight impact in the mid-bass, the MagicOne still isn’t especially weighted or dynamic below.

The note presentation is also typical for a BA earphone meaning it is quick and well defined. The mid-bass despite being a touch fuller, still showcases excellent separation due to the modest overall bass presence combined with quick decay speed. Overall, extension isn’t the best, even amongst BA earphones but most of those are vastly pricier multi-BA designs. The MagicOne offers reasonable slam and dynamics set to a pleasant tuning with enough bass quantity to achieve genre versatility. It has good detail retrieval in the mid-bass but ultimately won’t suit those wanting an enhanced bass nor dynamics or the most weighted, detailed sub-bass.

Mids –

Undoubtedly a highlight of the MagicOne, the midrange showcases both a clear, natural voicing and excellent resolving power. The Harman curve is a good reference that many listeners will be familiar with. The MagicOne lands in the same ballpark but tones down the upper-midrange by just a few dB and has a smidgeon more mid-bass. As a result, it avoids the intensity that irks some listeners on more faithful Harman interpretations whilst remaining clean and clearly expressed. This is withholding male vocals that tend to be slightly warmer hued due to mid-bass colouration which contributes to the earphone’s more forgiving nature. If you don’t mind that, I am a big fan of the voicing that I find more natural than Harman and easier on the ear during long listening sessions. Furthermore, due to the subtle level of warmth on display, concerns of overwarming and veil should be alleviated.

Clarity and overall transparency are excellent performers, aided by a balanced lower-treble presence that contributes to an appropriately articulate sound devoid of breathiness or sibilance. Midrange resolving power punches above its price class too. The MagicOne is near neutral in terms of note size and positioning. Alongside high note definition, separation within the midrange is excellent and small details are clearly apparent. Layering impresses too with a clear and well delineated background and foreground. Overall, the MagicOne delightfully balances presence, timbre and detail retrieval with aplomb within the midrange. It appeals to those wanting a resolving and naturally voiced sound that tones intensity and brightness back a notch compared to most competitors.

Highs –

I do quite like the treble response of the MagicOne though despite the company’s best efforts, extension remains to be desired. Still, the tuning is very impressive, with a lower treble that extends linearly and in equal measure to the upper midrange. This gives percussion, strings and cymbals a nice sense of bite and definition in the foreground. Above, the mid-treble is similarly linear with a small 7kHz peak that can be shifted depending on fit depth. I appreciate that this emphasis doesn’t introduce any sibilance or harshness but augments treble note clarity and adds a little extra air and complexity to the sound. Also note that my measurements exacerbate this peak due to coupler resonance so altogether, the treble sounds balanced in presence. Though a touch thin, the MagicOne has a pleasing note timbre with pleasing texture and much better fine detail retrieval than class average.

The mid-treble tuning and lack of peaks through the 5-7kHz range especially contribute to fine detail retrieval and differentiate the MagicOne from most competitors. While many IEMs at this price boast a crisp lower treble, few offer the background detail retrieval and headroom offered by the MagicOne. It retrieves more nuances and background details in addition to crafting a more complex, layered soundstage as a result. Above, there’s a slight uptick of presence in the upper treble on measurement but this wasn’t audible to me in listening. Treble extension doesn’t match pricier multi-driver IEMs, lacking the sparkle and micro-detail they provide. This region serves more to provide air and space to the sound which the MagicOne achieves if not offering low enough distortion to imbue true audible micro detail into the sound. Nonetheless, the treble offers a good tone and timbre alongside an excellent technical performance that punches above its price class.

Soundstage –

Booting up some live recordings showcased a very solid soundstage performance from the MagicOne. It isn’t huge but certainly is extremely impressive for a single BA IEM. Width is especially impressive, stretching a few steps beyond the head on the right tracks. Depth is more intimate but still adequate to craft a convincing dimension and avoid claustrophobia. Imaging is also a strong performer. Directional cues are tack sharp and vocals occupy a strong centre image. Layering performs as well as many higher-priced IEMs. It doesn’t have any sparkle or holography, nor does it finely delineate or portray distance as a good high-end IEM would. However, it offers clear and delineated foreground and background layers that keep its stage well organized during complex passages. Separation on a while performs well overall, in the midrange especially. Relative to an earphone like the Blessing 3 which offers a similar style of tuning but a more complex driver platform, separation could be improved in the bass and treble though it doesn’t stand out as a deficit in isolation.

Drivability –

Adding filters to an IEM tends to reduce sensitivity and this is the case here with a lower 103dB sensitivity. The driver itself also has a higher 38 Ohm impedance meaning it requires more juice than many competitors to achieve higher listening volumes. In turn, it does benefit from a dedicated amplifier or source device.

Output Impedance Sensitivity

Given the single driver design and higher impedance, the MagicOne is very tolerant of output impedance and this is showcased by the mostly flat impedance curve. As measured, there is a slight attenuation of the higher frequencies though mostly through the mid-treble region. In subjective listening using a 20 Ohm impedance adaptor, I found this to be repeatable with a subtle attenuation of the air and presence region but otherwise a very similar character. Subjectively, the MagicOne sounds best from a low impedance source but those sensitive to brightness can use an in-line impedance adaptor to tone this down or simply use foam tips to achieve a similar result.

Driving Power

As aforementioned, the MagicOne requires a decent amount of power to achieve high listening volumes. Comparing my desktop stack to the DITA Navigator revealed that the more powerful desktop setup was able to provide a bit more bass extension and an airer, more open treble. While the sound signature and resolution were still good on the portable source, it definitely benefits from a bit more power to get the best sound from the MagicOne.

Suggested Pair Ups

The MagicOne isn’t at all sensitive to source noise nor is it overly sensitive to output impedance though there are some effects. I would still recommend pairing the MagicOne with a low-impedance source and tune the sound using ear tips instead due to its lower sensitivity. It benefits from greater driving power but will sing happily from most portable sources due to its forgiving tuning. To my ears, the MagicOne benefits most from a clean, neutral source that maximizes its transparency. However, it has plenty of leeway to accommodate greater warmth or brightness without overwhelming the sound. So this is a matter that comes down purely to personal preference.   

Next Page: Comparisons & Verdict

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Ryan Soo

Ryan Soo

Avid writer, passionate photographer and sleep-deprived medical student, Ryan has an ongoing desire to bring quality products to the regular reader.

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