Details: Soundmagic’s follow-up to one of Head-Fi’s favourite budget IEMs
MSRP: $40 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $39 from amazon.com; $39 from mp4nation.net
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 12Ω | Sens: 94 dB | Freq: 15-22k Hz | Cable: 4’ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: Stock bi-flanges
Wear Style: Over-the-ear
Accessories (3.5/5) – Single-flange (3 sizes) and bi-flange silicone tips, cable guides, shirt clip, and soft carrying pouch
Build Quality (3.5/5) – My old PL30 is still going strong after 2.5 years of near-constant use so I expected nothing less from the E30. However, the construction of the E30 is more similar to the PL50 with its glossy finish and short plastic strain reliefs. The cable seems identical to the old PL30 cord, being rubbery and a little thin, but Soundmagic have added a strain relief to the y-split and a metal shell to the 3.5mm I-plug. The bass switch, which was of no real use on the PL30, is gone
Isolation (2/5) – better nozzle angle means slightly more isolation than with the PL30
Microphonics (4.5/5) – Pretty much non-existent, especially with cable guides or shirt clip in place
Comfort (5/5) – The E30 is slimmer and smaller than the PL30 and boasts a more ergonomic nozzle angle. I do miss the foam tips that came with the PL30 but otherwise the E30 is about as comfortable as any in-ear
Sound (7.1/10) – The old Soundmagic PL30 was one of my favourite budget earphones due to a uniquely spacious and balanced sound with a slight mid-range emphasis – not a signature commonly found in the lower price brackets. With the new E30, the dynamic-driver monitor has been bumped to a higher price category. Fortunately, the sound quality seems to have kept up with the price increase, and then some.
The low end of the E30 has been emboldened, receiving a more prominent role in the overall soundscape compared to the old PL30. Next to the midrange, the bass is emphasized only mildly but compared to the laid-back bottom end of the PL30, the difference is quite large. Extension has been improved and the low end now sounds fuller and more impactful. Bass notes have more realistic weight and more drawn-out attack and decay times. Though I don’t mind the balance of the PL30 in the least, I’ll be the first to admit that the low end of the E30 sounds more natural in comparison. Still, the new earphone is by no means a bass monster and those who were previously in the PL30 camp will enjoy it much more than adherents of bass-heavy budget sets such as the MEElec M9.
The midrange of the E30 is just a touch less forward than that of the PL30 but seems more laid-back due to the greater bass emphasis of the new earphone. Despite its balance, the E30 actually manages to sound a little cooler in tone, and closer to what I would consider neutral. As with the PL30, the clarity will be enviable for the vast majority of similarly-priced IEMs, but the E30 also makes gains in detail and texture compared to its predecessor, sounding smooth and refined without major sacrifices in resolution.
The treble of the E30 is balanced well with the midrange, taking at most a half-step back in emphasis. It sounds clean and clear but not overly crisp as with the similarly-priced MEElec CX21. Top-end extension is sufficient – on par with the CX21 and Brainwavz M1. Music, as presented by the E30, generally sounds airy and open, helped along by better dynamics compared to the PL30 and a similarly large soundstage. Though it may not sound quite as wide as the PL30 in absolute terms, imaging and positioning are slightly improved and the whole presentation is more convincing and refined. Lastly, Soundmagic has managed to drop the sensitivity of the earphone a bit, which makes it far less likely to hiss heavily with a poorly matched source.
Value (8.5/10) – The Soundmagic E30 makes far fewer sacrifices to obtain the clarity and spaciousness many found so impressive about its predecessor, sounding more natural and refined. I see very few people preferring the old model to the new one in signature and even fewer arguing that they are similar in technical performance. I do have a couple of reservations worth voicing – the accessory pack, for one, has taken a dip into mediocrity with the new soft pouch and exclusion of foam tips, and the glossy plastic housings look slightly cheap next to the rubberized finish of my PL30. Barring these small complaints, the E30 is clearly one of the better overall performers at its price point.
Pros: Lightweight and extremely comfortable, spacious sound with slight bass emphasis
Cons: Mediocre isolation