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Soundmagic E80 review: Excellent, all-round headphones

Katharine Byrne
24 Aug 2016
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Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
65
inc VAT

The Soundmagic E80 isn't quite as versatile as some of its competition, but its superb sound won't disappoint

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Specifications

Headphones subtype: In-ear, Plug type: 3.5mm headset jack plug, Weight: 13g, Cable length: 1.2m

Soundmagic has been responsible for some of our favourite budget headphones of recent years, with the £30 E10 and £45 E50 leading the pack. The latest E80, however, is arguably the best pair of the lot. These aluminium earphones not only look more refined than the rest of the E series, but they also offer the most precise and balanced sound.

Design and features

The E80 borrows the same smoothly coated, woven cable and angled metal headphone jack as the E50, but it also has a much more secure connection where the earpieces meet the cable. Instead of using a small, rubbery connection on the underside of the earpiece, the E80 has a large plastic mould that takes up the entire end of the bud, giving it a more understated look than its siblings. The woven cable creates the odd bit of microphonic noise here and there, but it’s better than most, and you can help minimise this with the bundled cable clip.

Soundmagic supplies a wide selection of eartips with the E80, including two types of small, medium and large silicone tips, double flange silicone tips and small, medium and large pairs of Comply foam tips as well. The Comply tips in particular offer excellent sound isolation compared to the regular silicone tips, and a set of three often costs at least £10 when bought separately, so the fact they're thrown in for free here is impressive.

Personally, I found the default pair of medium silicone tips were the most comfortable. They provided enough sound isolation to block out nearby conversations, but still allowed just the right amount of ambient noise in to help me cross the road safely without stopping my music. They also never slid out of my ears while walking, and they even stayed still during the odd dash for the train, which is more than I can say for my pair of E10 headphones.

Sound quality

The E80 has a higher impedance of 64 ohms than the rest of the E series, so you may have to turn the volume up quite high depending on how powerful your music player is. Even if you do have to have the volume at maximum, though, the sound quality is excellent. The bass is much richer on the E80 than its cheaper siblings, and it helps everything from rock music to classical orchestral tracks sound a lot warmer as a result.

Whereas the E50 sounded a little restrained on bass-heavy music - the Batman vs Superman soundtrack exposed that little weakness - the E80 thundered on through, maintaining a palpable sense of depth without sacrificing the mids and trebles playing out on top. Vocals were clear at all times, and there was plenty of detail to be heard between intakes of breath.

Verdict

With this kind of depth and clarity, the E80 combines everything we love about the bassy E10 with the precision of the E50, offering the best of both worlds without any kind of compromise. The E10 is still a good buy for those on a budget, but I think it's well-worth spending the extra £20 over the E50 if you're looking for something a bit more full-bodied – especially if you're after a full set of Comply eartips.

Looking for something else? Read our Best Headphones 2016 round-up

For just £10 more you can get Onkyo's superb E700M in-ear headphones, which support high-resolution audio and come with an in-line microphone so you can take phone calls without having to pull your headphones out of your ears. However, the E80 still come highly recommended if you want no-nonsense headphones without the frills.

Hardware
Headphones subtypeIn-ear
Headphones driverNot disclosed
Active noise-cancellingNo
Power sourceNone
Headphones sensitivity102dB
Frequency response15-22,000Hz
Headphones impedence64 ohms
Plug type3.5mm headset jack plug
Inline volumeNo
Weight13g
Cable length1.2m
AccessoriesSilicone tips, Comply foam tips, cable clip, hard carry case

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