Soundmagic E11BT full review
Soundmagic is well-known for making some of the best cheap headphones on the market – the Soundmagic E11Cs are amongst our favourite budget cans – and the trend is set to continue with the company’s latest set of wireless earphones, the E11BT.
Offering exceptional battery life, impressive audio and a lightweight design for less than £70/$80, the Soundmagic E11BT neckbuds are amongst the best in the sub-£100 headphone market – find out why in our review.
Price & Availability
The Soundmagic E11BT wireless earphones are budget-friendly at £69.95/$74.99, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that by looking at them or listening to the audio produced by these neckbuds.
The sub-£100 wireless neckbud market is a packed one, with hugely popular options like the RHA MA650 Wireless offering premium features in a budget package, but we think Soundmagic has produced something that stands out from the crowd.
The Soundmagic E11BT earbuds sport the ever-more popular neckbud design, although these are noticeably more lightweight than others we’ve used in the past at only 25g. This makes the E11BTs comfortable to wear around the neck because they’re barely noticeable when worn, although it can also make them prone to falling off. (That happened to me on one occasion when they were dangling around my neck, but thankfully, a member of the public told me I’d dropped them!)
The earbuds themselves are crafted from aluminium and feature a hand-painted finish that helps provide that premium look, despite the sub-£70 pricetag. They’re small and ergonomically shaped to fit comfortably in your ear when coupled with one of three sets of eartips provided with the earbuds.
In fact, our only real concern design-wise is that the wires connecting the buds to the body of the neckbuds look delicate, and we’re worried about how durable they are in the long-term.
Connected to that delicate wire are media controls for both iOS and Android, allowing you to control volume, playback, access Siri or Google Assistant and answer calls. The microphone quality is decent, although we’ve found that we’ve had to hold the controls (where the mic is embedded) close to our mouth when in busy, loud public places.
We’re not a huge fan of the soft, squishy buttons of the in-line controls though – we’d prefer something a little more tactile for quick input.
Oh, and don’t worry about sweat damaging the E11BTs – the earphones offer IPX4 water resistance, making them sweatproof and rainproof (as long as it isn’t torrential!) but we wouldn’t recommend wearing them when going for a dip in the pool.
Features and connectivity
The Soundmagic E11BTs offer Bluetooth 5.0 support, which improves operating range (around 10m in our experience) and, most importantly, improved sound quality when compared to previous iterations of Bluetooth headphones.
But while Bluetooth 5.0 support is great, it’s the battery life that has really impressed us at Tech Advisor. Despite the lightweight nature of the earphones, the Soundmagic E11BTs offer between 48 and 60 hours of music playback on a single charge – dependent on volume and other factors, of course. That’s perfect for those of us that forget to charge their headphones before heading out to work and have to deal with a music-less commute.
In fact, we found they lasted weeks before needing a top-up with what we’d consider average use.
When they do require a top-up, simply pop a microUSB cable into the E11BTs microUSB port (located on the side of the inline mic controls) and wait – it took around two hours to go from flat-to-full in our experience. That’s more than enough of a trade-off, considering the extended battery life on offer from the earphones.
The Soundmagic E11BTs sport reasonable 10mm drivers and they provide excellent sound quality. The neckbuds sport a built-in 24-bit DAC, and when paired with AAC support for iOS, the results are impressive – especially for the price. It has to be noted that the neckbuds don’t offer aptX support for Android users, so there may be a slightly skewed audio experience across iOS and Android.
When paired with an iPhone, the earbuds provide clear, balanced and detailed audio playback with crisp vocals and surprisingly animated (but not overpowering) bass tones. There’s no hint of tininess or harsh treble at high volume, a common issue with sub-£100 earbuds, with the E11BTs capable of pumping out great-sounding audio no matter the genre.
Our one complaint? We’d love for the E11BTs to be a smidge louder as even at full volume, it’s not quite loud enough to drown out louder environmental noises like the screeching of the tube in London.
Snugs provide the perfect fit
While the eartips provided with the E11BTs provide a great fit, it’s not the perfect fit – for that, you have to go to Snugs, a maker of custom eartips for most earphones on the market. We were sent a pair of custom tips to test with the E11BTs and we can honestly say that they improve the experience tenfold – but they’ll cost you more than the neckbuds themselves, and they’re not usually transferrable between earphones.
The Snugs-manufactured eartips are based on your ears, so once you’ve put your order in, you’ll have to go to either one of Snug’s storefronts or an audiologist and get a scan of your inner-ears. Once Snugs has the scans, you should get your tips within 8-10 days – and that’s when things get interesting.
Aside from the snazzy colour options and personalised detailing (your own name!), the first thing you’ll notice about Snugs is that they aren’t shaped like any other eartips on the market – rather obviously, as they’re made for you. That makes them a little bit difficult to put in and remove initially, but it’s a relatively short learning curve for most users.
When worn, the Snugs block out most environmental sounds – and that’s without music playing. The airtight seal provided by Snugs enhances the audio playback, providing noticeably improved bass as well as enhanced passive noise isolation, and they’re so well-fitted that you’ll probably forget you’re wearing earphones at all.
Of course, that experience costs, with new customers paying up £199.95/$248 for a pair of custom Snugs eartips. That is steep, admittedly, but we think it’s worth the price. Once the company has your scans on-file, subsequent orders are £30 cheaper at £169.95/$214 a pop, allowing you to get a second or third pair for other earphones that you use.
The Soundmagic E11BTs are impressive, there’s no doubt about it. The neckbuds are incredibly lightweight at 25g, making it feel like you’ve got nothing on your neck at all most of the time, and the aluminium hand-finished eartips complete the high-end look – despite a sub-£70 price tag.
That theme continues with the battery, offering a hard-to-beat 40-60-hour battery life on a single charge and a charge time of around two hours.
Of course, it’s the audio that matters most, and the E11BTs excel here too, delivering balanced, clear defined audio with no hint of tininess or harsh treble at any volume. For the price, the Soundmagic E11BT earphones are certainly hard to beat.
Soundmagic E11BT: Specs
- 10mm drivers
- Frequency Response: 20-20,000Hz
- Three eartip sizes
- Bluetooth 5.0
- 40-60 hour battery life
- microUSB charging