SoundMagic still isn’t quite a household name in headphones, but little by little it’s proving it can outplay the big boys at their own game. What it lacks in fancy packaging and styling it generally makes up in value.
This is certainly true of the PL50s, at least on the face of it. Inauspicious cardboard packaging, not a jot of brushed aluminium in sight and a brand identity that’s almost certainly never been through the offices of a trendy east London marketing agency. Fine by us.
Sound per pound
What they are is amazingly well-equipped for the money. The PL50s are proper ‘balanced armature’ designs like out favourite Klipsch Image X10s and the excellent Phonak Audeo PFE122s, but at a fraction of the price.
Done properly, balanced armature in-ears deserve the title ‘In-Ear Monitor’ (IEM) as that’s what they are: accurate sound producers that come close to recreating the sound that came out of the studio’s monitor speakers. It’s a fair description of the PL50s.
In fine voice
The sound they produce, with vocals especially, is staggering: we’ve never heard voices this good from sound-isolating headphones for less than £100 before. It’s honest, insightful and subtle, thanks to excellent midrange and treble capabilities.
The wheels come off slightly with bass. At this price you get a lot of mass-market boomers that flatter dance and hip-hop, but the PL50s aren’t like that. They’re much more refined, and consequently, less fun. There’s bass, but not all that much of it.
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But, considering how much better they do other stuff than other headphones at the price, we’ve no right to complain. These are real grown-up in-ears at iPod-upgrade price.
The rest of the package is grown-up too. Like many balanced armature designs they’re tiny, weighing next to nothing and almost disappearing when you put them into your ears. You get a great selection of tips (including our preferred Comply foam designs), a hard case and a couple of ear loops to keep the PL50s in place.
All in all, then, at £50-odd quid these are just about the best headphones going. For acoustic fans especially, they’re an utter bargain.