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Home / Reviews / Audio / Headphones / SoundMagic E80D review: who needs bundled ‘buds anyway?

SoundMagic E80D review: who needs bundled ‘buds anyway?

Wired. Wallet-friendly. Wonderful.

SoundMagic E80D review lead

Stuff Verdict

Affordable, well-built and strong sounding wired earphones that play nicely with almost every gadget. The SoundMagic E80D proves cables haven’t bitten the dust quite yet.


  • Engaging audio
  • Quality construction for the money
  • Hi-res playback, wide device compatibility


  • In-line remote is a little skinny
  • Only one set of dual-dome ear tips


Smartphones with headphone ports are now practically extinct, as are the basic ‘buds you used to find bundled in the box. So SoundMagic has done the next best thing for its latest pair of affordable wired earphones. The E80D foregoes 3.5mm for USB-C and a built-in DAC, so you can live a dongle-free existence – and at $45/£40, they’re a whole lot cheaper than even the most bare-bones Bluetooth earbuds.

Sticking with wired has plenty of advantages. There’s no need to worry about charging cases, battery life or signal drop-outs. And seeing how SoundMagic has been pumping out brilliant sounding budget earphones for over a decade now, the E80D looks likely to school its wireless rivals on audio quality too. After a week of listening, have they made me a cable convert?

How we test headphones

Every pair of earphones and headphones reviewed on Stuff is used for a minimum of a week’s worth of daily listening. We use a playlist of test tracks made up of multiple genres to assess sound, and use our years of experience to compare to other models. Manufacturers have no visibility on reviews before they appear online, and we never accept payment to feature products.

Find out more about how we test and rate products.

Design & build: take your best shot

The E80D takes SoundMagic’s bullet-style earbud design to its logical conclusion, with aluminium-crafted driver housings that wouldn’t look out of place in a pistol magazine. The in-line remote and USB-C connector are suitably skinny, too. The styling is more pared back than the excellent SoundMagic E11C, and the (apparently hand-painted) silver finish showed no signs of flaking or rubbing throughout my testing.

I like that the matching cable is partly see-through, to show off the twisted cores made of silver-plated copper. At 1.2m it’s a fairly typical length, and more than enough for plugging into a phone in your trouser pocket or backpack. Unsurprisingly given the price, this is a captive cable, with no way to detach it from the earbuds should it get damaged. The way the USB-C connector feeds in at a right angle keeps it as flush to your device as possible, which helped cut down on snagging.

These are a seriously light listen if you’re used to Bluetooth earbuds; the whole thing tips the scales at a mere 16g, cable and all. I barely noticed them in my ears after a short while.

Features: keep it simple

This isn’t going to be a long section – but what did you expect for a pair of sub-$50/£50 wired earphones?

The hard-shell carry case is a great inclusion, giving you somewhere to safely stash the earphones themselves, as well as the bunch of silicone ear tips SoundMagic puts in the box. It’s barely bigger than the typical charging case you’d get with a pair of Bluetooth earbuds, and I had no trouble sliding it in and out of my jeans pockets.

As well as the usual trio of small, medium and large ear tips, the E80D also comes with one pair of double domed tips that create better passive noise isolation. They work brilliantly – I could listen at a fairly low volume and not make out a conversation going on behind me. Just don’t expect the same level of quiet on public transport as a (much more expensive) pair of headphone with active noise cancellation. You’re also out of luck if the double-domed pair don’t fit your ears.

There’s a three button in-line remote control with built-in microphone for voice calls and activating your phone’s smart assistant. Recording quality was far better than anything I’ve experienced for this money that relies on Bluetooth. The remote is super-light, so I never felt it was dragging the buds out of my ears.

It was handy to have both volume and track skip on the remote, meaning I rarely had to reach for my phone once I’d queued up a playlist. It’s an especially skinny remote, though, with buttons that are very close together – good luck getting the function you want while wearing gloves on cold days.

Finally, the DAC can handle 24-bit/96Hz playback – something few Bluetooth buds can promise at this price. SoundMagic doesn’t say which specific DAC it uses, and it surely won’t be anything audiophile-grade, but it had no trouble with my FLAC files.

Sound quality: a refined listen

SoundMagic says the E80D’s 10mm dynamic drivers are redesigned from previous iterations, with a focus on clarity and precision. Fair play to the firm – these are impressively clear and clean, and not just “for the money”.

I place the sound signature just slightly south of neutral, with delicately controlled bass that still has presence in the tracks I’d expect it to. These are really well balanced for pretty much any genre you’d care to name, with the Nova Twins’ Angtagonist having plenty of energy and low-end oomph alongside screeching guitars and vocals that aren’t lost within the mix.

The far more sedate Burial’s Strange Neighbourhood showed off crisp highs and atmospheric sound effects, alongside subtle sub-bass. They’re not going to outshine a top-end pair of IEMs, especially one hooked up through a dedicated DAC, but are otherwise a very enjoyable listen. I was also pleased that cable micro phonics (the noise you get when headphone wires rub up against other materials) are minimal.

Interestingly volume seemed quite conservative, no matter what device I plugged the E80D into. On smartphones, I always ran into the volume limiter long before they reached uncomfortable levels. On a MacBook, I could listen at maximum volume and still be perfectly comfortable – which isn’t always the case for other USB-C or Bluetooth earbuds.

Soundmagic E80D verdict

SoundMagic E80D review headphones in case

Sometimes the old ways really are the best. The E80D is a simple set of wired earphones that look, feel and sound like a much more expensive pair. SoundMagic has nailed this formula time and again, so it’s no surprise to see a repeat performance here.

Bluetooth buds have plummeted in price since SoundMagic last launched a pair of wired in-ears. £50 will buy you a pair of CMF by Nothing Buds, complete with active noise cancelling, punchy sonic performance and a comprehensive companion app. But they’re little more than a plastic paperweight if you forget to charge ’em.

For sheer simplicity, I’d go with the E80D every time. And if you’ve already got a spangly pair of top-tier Bluetooth in-ears? Throw a pair of these in your bag anyway, so you’re never caught short.

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

Affordable, well-built and strong sounding wired earphones that play nicely with almost every gadget. Proves cables haven’t bitten the dust quite yet.


Engaging audio

Quality construction for the money

Hi-res playback, wide device compatibility


In-line remote is a little skinny

Only one set of dual-dome ear tips

Soundmagic E80D technical specifications

Drivers10mm dynamic
Profile image of Tom Morgan-Freelander Tom Morgan-Freelander Deputy Editor


A tech addict from about the age of three (seriously, he's got the VHS tapes to prove it), Tom's been writing about gadgets, games and everything in between for the past decade, with a slight diversion into the world of automotive in between. As Deputy Editor, Tom keeps the website ticking along, jam-packed with the hottest gadget news and reviews.  When he's not on the road attending launch events, you can usually find him scouring the web for the latest news, to feed Stuff readers' insatiable appetite for tech.

Areas of expertise

Smartphones/tablets/computing, cameras, home cinema, automotive, virtual reality, gaming

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