At under £50, the E11’s are among the best earphones money can buy; they’re considerably better than the popular E10’s, too
- Fantastic sound quality
- Beautiful design
- Comfortable to wear
- Microphonics when worn straight down
If you’ve ever looked for a new set of earphones with a maximum budget of £50, you’ve probably come across the SoundMagic E10. Released in 2011, the budget earphones quickly became a worldwide success. Seven years on, and the Chinese company has brought out its successor, the E11, and its mic variant the E11C, which are both £10 dearer than the E10 and E10C, respectively.
SoundMagic E11 vs E11C vs E11D: What you need to know
The SoundMagic E11 and E11C are both budget earphones with non-removable silver-plated copper cables, and an elegant design to boot. The E11C, much like the E10C before it, has an in-line mic and a three-button remote, while the E11 doesn’t.
If you own a smartphone that has a sole USB-C port rather than a more conventional 3.5mm jack, then it’s worth considering the E11D, instead. The all-black variant features a non-removable USB-C jack and an in-line mic while it maintains the same sound characteristics as its siblings.
Within the package of either of these three variants, you’ll find a small hard carrying case and three sets of silicone tips.
SoundMagic E11 review: Price and competition
The E11 costs £40, while the E11C costs £50. These are £10 dearer than the E10 and E10C, respectively. If you’ve got a modern-day smartphone that has a sole USB-C connector, it’s worth considering the E11D, instead. These are a little dearer at £60.
Elsewhere, there’s the impressive Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2 at £35 and £40 with an in-line mic; the stylish Final E3000 sits between £49 and £54; and the Sennheiser CX 3.00 comes in at around £37 – a set of buds so comfortable, they can be worn while sleeping.
READ NEXT: Our review of the Soundmagic E10
SoundMagic E11 review: Build quality, design and comfort
In terms of design, the E11 is definitely an improvement over the E10. Instead of having a two-tone colourful design, this time around the earphones are housed inside an silver aluminium shell. Looks can be subjective, but I’m sure most would agree the design is more elegant over its predecessor.
SoundMagic doesn’t stop there: the non-removable cable had a facelift, too. Instead of having a braided all-black cable, you’ll now have a rather stylish 1.2m silver-plated copper cable that’s terminated by a 60° angled 3.5mm gold-plated plug. Not only does it look the part, but on a practical level the cable doesn’t get tangled as easily as before.
The seamless silver design does, however, come at a cost – the blue and red side indicators have been ditched for a see-through strain relief. I personally quite like having the distinction between left and right through a colour indicator: it means you don’t have to waste valuable seconds looking for tiny engravings on the earphones’ housing.
Much like its predecessor, the earphones are lightweight and have a small footprint within your ears while isolating relatively well. I’d suggest a set of Comply T-400 foam tips if you want to up the isolation a little more, though.
As far as comfort goes, they’re great when worn straight down or over-the-ear. I’d advise wearing them over-the-ear if you want to cancel out microphonics. Unfortunately, there’s no change since the E10’s here – they still have cable noise when they brush against your shirt.
READ NEXT: Our pick of the best headphones
SoundMagic E11 review: Sound quality
With such a strong precessessor, the SoundMagic E11 was going to have a tough time becoming an essential purchase. I’m pleased to say that the buds surpass my expectations and eclipse the E10s with ease.
Here, both earphones house single 10mm dynamic drivers and have the same sensitivity levels (100dB), but where the drivers differ is in impedance. The E11 sits at 16 Ohms, while the E10 at 46 Ohms. Theoretically, the new drivers should be a tad louder, but in practice, they require a few extra notches on a smartphone or portable DAC.
As for the sound quality, the new drivers are extremely impressive – particularly in the way they deliver the mids. Unlike the E10 that has a somewhat muddy sound, the E11 is a lot more forward-sounding. The result is excellent, Charlie Puth’s voice has far more detail – if you love vocal tracks, you’ll enjoy the extra ‘Attention’ SoundMagic has spent on bettering the mid-range frequency. From the lower mids to the upper mids, the entire spectrum is a far more accurate and more forward-sounding.
The same can be said about the treble energy and extension. The E11’s highs provide better sparkle, which is great for vocals, high hats and guitar strums. That extra sparkle will keep your toes tapping to Shawn Mendes’ Treat you Better.
Instrument separation, tonality and the overall width and depth to music has vastly improved, too. If you enjoyed watching old live performances of Michael Jackson with the E10, then you’ll love them even more with the E11. Music is fuller, more engaging and those live recordings are that bit more captivating.
The bass frequencies come across better, too. The E11 is less boomy, which means there’s a little less emphasis on the mid-bass quantity, rather more control and quality. The sub-bass frequencies haven’t changed though: you still have a cut-off in the lower tones.
SoundMagic E11 review: Verdict
On the whole, the SoundMagic E11 is in every sense an upgrade over its predecessor the E10 – to the point where I’d suggest upgrading; it really is that much better. From the design to the overall sound quality, SoundMagic has created a true marvel.
It’s worth every penny and as a complete package. Although on-par when it comes to sound quality, I’d pick it over the Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2 for its design and comfort characteristics. Suffice to say, the SoundMagic E11 is a must-buy and rightfully deserves Expert Reviews’ Best Buy award.