Everyone knows the free earbuds you get with a new phone aren’t worth the plastic they’re molded from - it’s a fact.
Take a look around the train or bus on your morning commute, though, and you’d think Apple Earpods were the height of audio excellence. Almost everyone has a pair. Just be clear, they aren’t - they’re a leaky abomination that should never have been taken out of the box.
You don’t need to spend a fortune to get musical excellence, though. Got £40? SoundMagic’s E10C is, hands-down, the best pair of in-ears you can get for your cash.
SoundMagic has long been our top choice for getting superb sound when you’re on a budget, but it also helps that the buds themselves aren’t a crime against fashion.
That bright red cable is definitely eye-catching, but you can get a more subtle black version if you like. The metal build is tough to beat for the price, and the twisted cable returns for extra durability.
Throwing a pair of these into a jeans pocket several times a day shouldn’t be enough to kill them after a few weeks of listening, but tangles can still be a pain.
You get a bag full of rubber ear tips to make sure the buds fit properly. Getting that perfect seal makes all the difference to blocking outside noise, so you’ll want to mix and match based on how big your ears are.
It’s a shame you don’t get any Comply foam tips (the best fit you can get without ultra-expensive custom moulds) but that’s pretty much my only complaint given the bargain price.
SET THE TONE
There was never any doubt the E10C would knock it out of the park when it comes to sound quality.
The drivers haven’t really changed from the previous generation E10S, which means you can expect bass that’s bold, without being distracting or overpowering. There’s plenty of clarity for such a full-bodied sound.
The colourful signature won’t please anyone looking for a neutral listen, but voices still have great texture and depth. Instruments pop with plenty of detail, but can be subtle when they need to be.
If you need more refinement, get ready to spent a lot more cash. For most people, the balance here will be just right - especially with a crisp treble that never sounds harsh.
SWITCH ME ON
Here’s the deal: the E10C is the same great pair of headphones as before, only now it doesn’t matter if you’ve got an iPhone or an Android sat in your pocket.
Last year’s E10S had a one button inline remote, which was handy for pausing the tunes whenever someone was frantically waving their arms in your direction to get your attention (it happens more often than you’d think in the Stuff office). Trouble was, you had to flip a switch on the 3.5mm jack to tell it whether you had an iPhone to guarantee it would work properly.
The E10C has a three button remote that does the detective work automatically, so you don’t need to fiddle with switches. Those extra two buttons mean you can skip tracks and change volume as well as pause your music, so there’s no need to keep fishing your phone out of your pocket.
SOUNDMAGIC E10C VERDICT
There’s still nothing out there that can topple SoundMagic as the king of cheap headphones, but the E10C shows there’s still room for improvement - without hammering up the price.
If you’re still listening to a pair of freebie buds, there’s really no excuse - buy a pair of these right now. Your ears will thank you.