SoundMagic E11D review: impressive hi-res USB-C wired earbuds that won’t break the bank

 SoundMAGIC E11D on top of orange amp.
Credit: Future

SoundMagic E11D: Review

SoundMagic makes some bold claims about the SoundMagic E11D, stating that they deliver “superior sound”, “enhanced accuracy and detail”, and are made from “high-quality aluminum components” – but how good are they really? Pretty good, actually.

Let’s start with what matters the most – audio quality. I was very pleased with the clarity offered by these buds, and when listening to Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes by Paul Simon, they skilfully weighted the various instrumental elements – from the groovy bassline to the recurring guitar riff and layered vocals. However, I did find that clarity was hampered somewhat at louder volumes. On that point, these buds can get very loud if you want them to; there’s no way that you’ll be left wanting more on the amplification front.

When tuning into Black Eye by Allie X, I was impressed by the E11D’s ability to supply controlled bass. The deepest tones weren’t astonishingly impactful, but they certainly demonstrated a bit more depth than the Skullcandy Set USB-C buds on comparing the two. Similarly, Rains Again by Solji was delivered clearly and without any tinniness at 50% volume. However, high-pitched vocals fell short of being perfectly crisp. All in all, though, audio will satisfy the vast majority of listeners – something that also rings true of the E11D’s sibling, the SoundMagic E11C, which appear on our list of the best wired headphones.

The E11D’s effectiveness in the sound department is, in part, thanks to their built-in digital-to-analogue converter (DAC), which can handle up to 24bit/96kHz audio. This alone earns the E11D kudos, especially given that even some of the best wired earbuds still require one of the best portable DACs to truly showcase their skills. That’s not to say that you’ll transcend to a new plane of consciousness by using the E11D, but for the very decent list price of $44 / £39.99 / AU$65, you’ll most certainly get your money’s worth.

On the topic of cost, it’s important to consider that the E11D arrive with a few extras to sweeten the deal. Alongside some silicone ear tips, in small, medium, and large sizes, you also get a sturdy black and gray carry case, which is a decent-looking, convenient addition to the mix.

Another area in which the E11D score positively is comfort. I kept them in my ears for multiple full work days and while on walks, and they never once fell out of my ears or felt irritating after longer listening periods. In addition, the E11D enable you to enjoy music, podcasts or videos without being overly distracted by external noise, thanks to their noise isolation.

Imagine this: you’re sitting in the office with colleagues around you typing away. A plethora of sounds surround you, whether it's occasional chatter or the roar of an engine as a car zooms past – but even that’s overridden by an electric guitar blaring from the next room over. Well, let’s just say I didn’t have to do much imagining last Thursday – but, thanks to the E11D, all of this wasn’t too much of a distraction. Noise isolation here is pretty good, and although some sounds will still creep through, these buds do a nice job of keeping you zoned into whatever you’re listening to – especially considering they don’t come with specialized foam ear tips.

One more factor that can disrupt a wired listening experience is the sound of wires moving during use. SoundMagic has done a decent job of keeping cable noise relatively dulled compared to other more budget models. You can still hear these sounds if you touch the wires, for instance, but the noise is far less imposing than I’ve heard with the Skullcandy Set USB-Cs, for example.

So far you might be thinking that me and the E11D have an unbreakable bond that could last a lifetime. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to burst that bubble. You see, these earbuds may offer solid sound and considerable comfort, but they don’t hit all the right notes, especially on the design front.

First, the E11D’s controller is pretty disappointing. While equipped with the classic volume up, down, and play/pause buttons (the latter can also be used to take or hang up calls and skip songs), the buttons themselves are so small and positioned so close together, that they can prove a challenge to use. Even my colleague with fingers smaller than mine struggled with the button controls. This is pretty frustrating if you’re trying to adjust the volume while on the go, for instance. When it comes to the E11D’s built-in mic, though, I’m pleased to report that it works very well, and I could hear myself clearly – with only a little background static – when listening back to a voice recording.

Looks-wise, the E11D aren’t stone cold stunners, but they’re also far from ugly. The rounded appearance of the actual buds lacks the sharpness of models such as the Skullcandy Set USB-C, for instance, but they're still classy in their way. Available in either black or silver, I did test a seemingly older variant of the E11D in black, which had a larger connector, plus they did have some issues working with my Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4. However, when using the newer, silver version of the E11D, I experienced no such issues, and in fact I’d argue that their cable’s twisted design makes them the better choice.

Overall, the E11D deliver plenty of bang for their buck. The combination of hi-res audio and impressive noise isolation means that you’ll almost definitely be satisfied with what they offer.

SoundMagic E11D earbuds and gray carry case on top of orange amp
SoundMagic E11D earbuds and gray carry case on top of orange amp

SoundMagic E11D review: Price and release date

  • $44 / £39.99 / AU$65

  • Launched in November 2018

SoundMagic’s E11D earbuds are available for $44 / £39.99 / AU$65 and first launched in November 2018.

These are a budget option, but there are USB-C earbuds on the market that are cheaper still, such as the aforementioned Skullcandy Set buds, which come in at just $31.99 / £29.99 (about AU$50), but also Apple’s USB-C EarPods (list price currently $19 / £19 / AU$29). More on the Skullcandy alternative later – but be warned that in our opinion, Apple’s USB-C EarPods don’t deliver particularly great sound quality. If you want access to a higher caliber of audio, shelling out a little more on the E11D could be well worth it.

SoundMagic E11D review: Specs

SoundMagic E11D controller against orange background
SoundMagic E11D controller against orange background

Should you buy the SoundMagic E11D?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

SoundMagic E11D review: Also consider

SoundMagic E11D review: How I tested

SoundMagic E11D hanging down against orange background
SoundMagic E11D hanging down against orange background
  • Tested across two weeks

  • Used in the office, at home, and while walking

  • Predominantly tested using Tidal on FiiO M11S hi-res music player

I tested the SoundMagic E11D earbuds in a range of environments, including the office, at home, and while out and about. When listening to music, I played tracks from the TechRadar testing playlist, which contains tracks from a vast variety of genres, in order to measure sound quality.

I also listened to hours of songs via Tidal on the FiiO M11S hi-res music player, and watched YouTube videos on my windows laptop. When appropriate, I used the Skullcandy Set USB-C buds to compare the E11D on audio quality, comfort, and ease of use.

Read more about how we test.

  • First reviewed: June 2024