After being very positively surprised by the Soundmagic E10, it goes without saying that their slightly pricier brethren, the E30, should get the same review treatment as well. ‘Pricier’ here means a difference of a whopping five currency units – 35 vs. 40, either US dollars or Her Majesty’s pounds, depending on where you live.
The E10 and E30 actually look nothing alike, the former being an aluminum barrel-shaped IEM, the latter being a plastic over-the-ear fit one. However, once they’re in the ears, the Soundmagic family resemblance is easily spotted. Read on for an in-depth look at the E30, and a comparison to the earlier reviewed E10.
- Soundmagic E30 Specs
- Driver: 9mm dynamic, neodymium
- Frequency response: 15Hz – 22kHz
- Sensitivity: 94dB/mW
- Impedance: 12 Ohm +/- 10% (?)
- Cable: 1.2m, gold-plated straight 3.5mm plug
- Accessories: silicone tips (single and double flanged), plastic ear guides, cable clip, carrying pouch
- Available housing colors: black, white, blue, pink
Accessories, Build, Design
The E30 come with the basic accessories – single flange silicone ear tips, drawstring carrying bag, shirt clip – and a few additional ones to distinguish them from their cheaper siblings, the E10: plastic ear guides and a pair of double-flange tips.
The E30’s silicone tips are quite a bit better than the E10’s, which I didn’t like that much. The E30 tips are actually clones of the popular Sony EP-EX10 “Hybrid” tip shape, sans the color-coded inner tube. Those kinds of tips have a form factor that fits my ears very well, as well as the right friction and texture so they stay in securely.
Unfortunately, the E30’s nozzle is very short, and their over-the-ear shape prevents me from inserting them deeper into my ear canals. Contrary to the very easy to insert barrel-shaped E10, it’s been rather difficult for me getting a proper fit with the E30. I tried different brand tips, like Future Sonics Atrio and Alpine double flanges, but those made the sound of the E30 noticeably more muddy and veiled. Larger diameter tips like the Super.Fi one don’t fit the E30 nozzle properly and make the bass rather overpowering, so I had to make due with the provided Sony clones. I managed to get a halfway decent fit with the largest size provided, but the seal often breaks and the bass disappears. Maybe I have especially weird shaped ears, or maybe they’re just too jumbo-sized for the E30’s shape. I assume people with smaller ears and ear canals might have fewer fit issues with the E30.
While the E10 are made from aluminum, the E30 sport a full plastic housing. That’s not a bad thing – quality plastic is just as good as aluminum, and might even scratch less. The only things I don’t like about the E30’s design are the chrome painted plastic accents. As usual, when a material pretends to be a different one, it looks a bit cheap and unnecessary. That doesn’t distract from the fact that the E30 feel well engineered and sturdy. Soundmagic’s trademark color coded strain relieves are present as well – red for the right ear, blue for the left.
The cable is standard fare – not the most flexible and a bit rubbery feeling, but it should last for a long enough time, judging by my experience with similar variants. Strain relieves appear to be doing their job well, and the (real) aluminum barrels on the Y-splitter and the 3.5mm plug look classy.
Cable transmitted noise, often called ‘microphonics’, is about average with the E30. Their over-the-ear fit reduces cable noise quite a bit – if one would wear them with the cables hanging down, it would be quite a bit more noticeable. The included plastic ear guides may improve cable noise a bit as well, but I didn’t find them overly comfortable, unlike the soft silicone ear guides that come with the Phonak PFE.
Isolation from outside noise is about average as well with the included Sony tips. It rejects enough so the E30 are usable on crowded streets, on busses, and so on – without having to turn them up to unsafe listening levels.
The E30 are efficient enough to go plenty loud even with weaker portable players, and they don’t hiss much either – all is fine regarding these technicalities.
Sound-wise, the E30 aren’t all that different from their slightly cheaper E10 siblings. The E30 do have a little less bass quantity, a little more treble, both resulting in a bit better perceived clarity and a bit ‘leaner’ overall sound. They also have a bit narrower stereo imaging – but that’s about it, basically. If you want a bit more ‘neutral/linear’ or ‘polite’ phones, go for the E30. If you want more ‘exciting’ or ‘lush’ phones, get the E10. The differences are very small, however – there’s certainly no ‘night and day’ difference found between these two Soundmagic IEMs at all.
Bass quality on the E30 is very good. It extends deep, provides texture instead of a one-note sine wave, is rarely ever overpowered, and generally well controlled. Even if I mentioned the dreaded ‘neutral’ word above, the E30 are far from being bass-shy – they certainly have plenty of bottom end to deliver, no worries. If you’re a sworn basshead that’s looking for a more refined pair of phones, the E30 might still be very satisfying.
The E30’s midrange is very nice, quite precise, and well balanced. It is perhaps the clearest I’ve yet heard in that price range, surpassing other quality budget IEMs like the Brainwavz M2 (and the E10, too). As expected, it struggles a bit with overly complex and dense music like orchestral pieces or some heavy metal tracks, but that can be easily forgiven, since many other dynamic driver phones in this price range (and above) fare worse than the E30 with complex musical passages as well. The E30’s midrange even sounds clear at very low listening levels, which is great if one wants to preserve one’s hearing for years to come (or if one simply wants one that sounds good for listening to subliminal messages while sleeping).
While the E10’s treble is certainly a bit ‘laid back’ or recessed, the E30’s sounds ‘just right’ to my ears. I assume for some people’s taste it might still be perceived as recessed, but that’s all a matter of debate. Either way, the E30 never hurts with too forward or sibilant high frequencies. It doesn’t provide the most resolving treble, like some armature-based IEMs do, but it doesn’t lack anything either. It’s not overly sparkly sounding, but it’s clear and without veil or – in this price range often heard – metallic sounding by-products.
Stereo imaging isn’t quite as wide on the E30 as on the E10 – probably due to the smaller housing and only a single vent per side – but it’s still rather nice. Interestingly, the E30 do sound somewhat more ‘distant’ while the E10 sound a bit ‘closer’ or ‘more intimate’ – which probably is due to their slightly different frequency response. Instrument separation on the E30 is good; one does get a good sense of location, even if it might not be overly three-dimensional (depending on one’s imagination or spatial sense, of which I have none).
Dynamics – the secret sauce that often lifts phones from ‘boring’ to ‘exciting’ status – is generally very good with the E30 as well. Even at lower listening levels they sound quite punchy and snappy, where many other phones often fail.
Sooo… the E10 or the E30? It’s simple – just get both.
All kidding aside, both are excellent phones for the price. Besides the differences in sound quality I already described above, it’s mostly a matter of fit. While I generally do prefer an over-the-ear form factor like the E30 provide, I guess I’m just unlucky with the way my ears are shaped. It is possible for me to get a fairly decent fit and seal with the E30, but it is not as straightforward as with the E10. I hope other people’s mileage may vary.
Same as the E10, the E30 are a slightly different sounding flavor of ‘best bang for the buck’ in-ear phones available at the moment. This leaves me no option other than both these Soundmagic phones having to share our Editor’s Choice award.
- Clear, natural, dynamic sound quality
- Good selection of included silicone tips
- Over-the-ear design
- Great price/value ratio
- Proper fit and seal might be difficult to achieve for some people’s ear shapes/sizes
Same as with the E10, my review sample of the E30 was kindly provided by Hifi Headphones UK. Thanks, guys!