New year resolutions are notoriously difficult to stick to, especially if they involve physical exercise. If you're determined to get fit in 2022, then you might need something to keep you motivated. A personal trainer would do the job, of course, but paying a fortune to be verbally flogged by a retired squaddie isn't everyone's cup of tea.
A cheaper – and less stressful – alternative would be a pair of earbuds that enable you to listen to your favourite tunes while busting out those reps. In this review, we're going to look at, and listen to, a particularly cheap pair: the SoundMAGIC E11Cs. Launched in 2018, these British-made buds were named 'Best in-ear headphones under £50' at the What Hi-Fi Awards a year later. But are they still worth buying now? Step this way to find out...
By the way, if you want to see what other options are available right now, check out our guide to the best earbuds and in-ear headphones 2022.
SoundMAGIC E11C earbuds review: Design
It can't be easy creating a set of earphones that look genuinely stunning – after all, there isn't exactly a lot to work with. Bang & Olufsen managed it with the PI7s, as did Campfire Audio with their Honeydew buds. But genuinely beautiful in-ears are few and far between. SoundMAGIC doesn't quite nail it with the E11Cs, their cylindrical aluminium form factor being workmanlike rather than spectacular. However, they feel pretty robust in the hand, and the hand-painted finish (you can get them in black or silver) is a nice touch.
As for how they feel in the ears, the ergonomic angled sound tubes, combined with the silicone ear tips (you'll get three different sizes), mean that they nestle snugly inside the lugholes. This will obviously come in handy if you're planning to take them running or cycling. Since the snug fit provides fairly effective noise isolation, though, you'd best keep an eye out for traffic.
Speaking of noise, the silver-plated copper cable that comes with these earphones is designed to eliminate interference, enabling you to enjoy your music or podcast in high fidelity. Attached to this cable is a splash proof, in-line control pad that'll enable you to adjust the volume, skip tracks, start and stop phone calls, and activate your phone's voice assistant. One thing we like about the E11Cs is that they can automatically detect whether you're using an Android or an Apple device and adapt accordingly.
Note, however, that the cable features a standard 3.5mm connector, meaning you'll need an adaptor if you want to hook up to a USB-C or Apple Lightning port.
SoundMAGIC E11C earbuds review: Features
Compared with some earbuds, which offer things like noise-cancelling technology and true wireless capability, the SoundMAGIC E11Cs' list of features is pretty basic. Indeed, we covered most of them in the previous section. Basic isn't necessarily a bad thing, though – after all, it's much easier to lose true wireless earphones, and you also have to charge the batteries.
One thing we haven't mentioned about these earphones is that they feature redesigned 10mm drivers – an upgrade on the ones SoundMAGIC used in previous launches. How do they affect the sound quality? We're just coming on to that...
SoundMAGIC E11C earbuds review: Sound
The days of expecting awful performance from a pair of earphones are long gone, and it's now possible to get truly lost in your music while working out down at the gym. But is that the case with a pair of buds costing as little as this? As it turns out, yes.
Despite those redesigned drivers, the sound isn't noticeably different to previous SoundMAGIC earphones, but that's not a bad thing; listening to some classic Oasis, we found the performance to be taut and energetic. The treble could be a little forthright in places, but not to the detriment of the bass, which was rich and precise. With a sensitivity rating of 112dB, the E11Cs also offer plenty of volume, which, on life-affirming tunes such as those on Definitely Maybe, is absolutely essential.
Inevitably, you'll get a more sophisticated delivery from costlier earphones – more detail, more rounded bass, a slightly better balance – but for the money, these buds sound really, really good.
SoundMAGIC E11C earbuds review: The alternatives
True wireless buds are in abundance these days, and you don't need to spend a fortune to get some. One of our favourite sets, the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus, are available for an attractive price considering you get up to 45 hours of battery life, not to mention great-quality sound.
If you want true wireless capability and proper noise-cancelling, then expect to pay a bit more. The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 will leave your wallet somewhat lighter, but you'll be treated to up to 28 hours of immersive listening, and without a cable in sight.