Details: Entry-level earphones from California-based design firm elago
Current Price: $11 from amazon.com (MSRP: $29.99)
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16 Ω | Sens: 90 dB | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cord: 4.3’ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 4.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock Single Flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear
Accessories (1/5) – Single flange silicone tips (3 sizes)
Build Quality (3/5) – The unique shells of the E3 are plastic but seem very well-put together. The stems are slightly rubbery but not flexible enough to be called strain reliefs. The cabling is excellent for an earphone in the lowest price bracket, keeping up with the renowned JVC IEM cables in thickness and flexibility, and the metal-encased 3.5mm plug and y-split feature short rubber sleeves to protect the cable
Isolation (2.5/5) – Quite good but the ergonomic design of the E3 prevents deep insertion when worn in the conventional manner, limiting isolation slightly
Microphonics (4/5) – Very low when worn cord-down; nonexistent when worn over-the-ear
Comfort (4/5) – The angled-nozzle design is wonderfully ergonomic, with the shell of the earphone resting snugly against the antitragus of the wearer’s ear when worn cable-down. The E3 can be worn over-the-ear as well but the nozzles are angled in the wrong direction for cord-up wear, causing the earphones to stick out slightly. With the channels reversed, however, the featherweight elagos compete with the likes of the Phonak PFE in overall comfort
Sound (4.1/10) – The sound signature of the elago E3 is undoubtedly bass-centric. The low end is smooth and extremely powerful, reminding me of JVC Marshmallows and Sennheiser CX300s. The low end is quite well-extended by any standards, continuing to rumble all the way down to around 30 Hz, and carries impressive impact. At high volumes the bass has a tendency to crowd out the lower midrange and generally sounds a bit overbearing for my tastes. It is at moderate listening volumes, however, that the E3 shines. The bass becomes far less intrusive and the otherwise recessed midrange and treble step forward to reveal surprising clarity and a fairly realistic tone. Expectedly, the earphones are a bit warm and dark in nature, but not in a way that is capable of putting me to sleep (a-la Coby CVEM79). The midrange and treble of the E3 are smooth and roll off gently at the top and the earphones present a small soundstage. Though leaning towards intimacy, especially at high volumes, they don’t sound overwhelmingly narrow. Aside from the ever-present bass, instrumental separation is actually quite decent. On the whole, while the elago E3s don’t have the clarity or detail of higher-end sets such as the Meelec M9 or Soundmagic PL30, they are surprisingly capable of providing an enjoyable listening experience that puts mainstream sets such as the Yamaha EPH-20 and JVC HA-EBX85 to shame.
Value (7.5/10) – The elago E3 is a well-designed and comfortable entry-level earphone. The ergonomic shells are a welcome change from the generic straight-barrel housings used by the vast majority of the competition and the sound signature, while not nearly as unique, fares very well in the price bracket. Powerful bass slightly overshadows the competent midrange and treble but the earphones balance themselves out at lower volumes and respond well to equalization. All in all, the elago E3 is yet another earphone showing that decent sound doesn’t necessarily need to have a hard-to-swallow price tag. For bass lovers on a tight budget, this definitely isn’t one to miss.
Pros: Ergonomic design, low microphonics, solidly-built, pleasant midrange and treble
Cons: Bass can be slightly overbearing at times, stock tips can be difficult to change