I know when I was considering buying, I wasn't entirely sure and knew actaully very little about both the headphones and amp and how they work,so hopefully this helps someone out.
Anyways, onto the review itself, I'm still writing it and will add more info as I go, so check back here every so often
Fresh Out The Box
The pl30s are incredibly small, as in, really small. From the pictures I saw, I expected them to be slightly larger than normal, but after seeing them for myself they are very discrete and lightweight. Because of this (not that it’s a bad thing), it was quite hard to work out how to put them in. People are frequently saying its a problem getting these in at first, but as they will all agree, once you have used them for about a week it is so simple and it really feels comfortable.
The entire packaging itself (from Raz) is slightly unprotected as its just a brown bag. The first thing that surprised me, was just how small both boxes are. They look a lot bigger in the pictures, especially the Fiio E5 white box shown in the blogs.
The pl30s have a very clever and discrete box which you wouldn't expect from such cheap earphones compared to other boxes. Whilst the outside is a little flimsy, the pl30s are secure in the casing. The amp is just stuck into a piece of shaped card. However, the products themselves aren’t damaged, just the boxes got crushed on the sides from delivery.
Asthetics (yes ive forgotten how to spell it) and Design
Okay they don't look that good in the pictures, but in real life they have a nice look and feel. They're very small and flat with a nice matt black finish with a bit of silver glossy metal still showing. I think they would have looked better without the bass adjusting knobs, which are more put there for a marketing gimmick rather than making THAT much of a different. The earpieces sit well in your hand as they're so small and its easy to determine which is left and right. The clip is a great addition as it stops the cable from dangling around infront of your body like a lot of people wear nowadays. It is a Y-shaped cable (more universally preferred) even though I myself prefer J-shaped.
Whats great about the SoundMagic Pl30s is that when you buy them, you get a lot of accessories compared with other headphones. A great compact carrying case that can just about hold the headphones and an E5 amp. The case is rugged and looks durable. They come with 8 pairs of tips: S,M,L in grey and black; Bi-flanges (black) and foam eartips (black). I think the foam eartips aren't all that good compared to other foams, but these will still achieve the best sound isolation of all the tips supplied. The box also includes this weird earpiece holder thing made of a hard silicon-like material. I will probably never use this as theres no real use for it and it just fits into the carrying case -if you really squeeze it in- but then it takes up too much space. The newest addition couresty of Raz means that you will also get silicon ear gliders which go around your ear to help guide the cable over your ear smoothly and hold it in place.
The earpiece is solid and won't break under a lot of pressure. But it does feel a little hollow so probably if it has a nasty crash with something it might break. The bottom half of the cable is nice and thick but the top ends leading to the earpieces are a little thin. However only time will tell how the cables hold up. The 3.5mm jack feels a little nimble and I worry this make be the first bit to break. The cable clip is made of normal plastic and feels solid.
These feel remarkably comfortable and it sorta feels as if nothings there, except its blocking out noise. The headphones themselves are very small, so as of right now, I still can’t use the little nobs to change bass. Because of over ear and tight fit design, it does take about 4 seconds to take them off carefully whereas other headphones you can just take straight off. After trying a few tips, I actually find the medium ones that come on it are more comfortable than the foam tips.
On my first listen and comparison, they sound pretty much the same as my ipod 2nd gen and Philips SHE9501. There bass is there, but less muddy. If I close my eyes, I can hear a much better clarity of music: listening carefully and properly, the sound quality is better. There are hints of a good soundstage and I suspect this will only improve after burn in. My initial thought is I read somewhere that the microphonics (when the wires rub across your body) it should be good at blocking out that noise compared to others. I myself think the opposite, as you do hear quite a lot of ruffling if you’re on the move.
Ive now used the headphones for a while now. There is a lot more pitching of notes compared to iPods, giving great depth to the music.
The trebles-especially in vocals- sparkle and ring out. They extend very high and there lots of sounds previously unheard with other headphones will come out. Instruments have their own channels of music and there is really clear seperation of each individual sound which is fantastic. I feel the mids are slightly thick and cloudy. They are "pushed forwards" and they are a little bit flat, dare I say monotone. Although the sound is great compared to other headphones, generally mids from all different genres of music will sound similar as compared with high-end headphones where you can really feel a buzz. EQ can easily fix that.
The bass is noticeable present and very clear and bassy but it isn’t muddy or vibrates a bit. I really love the bass on these, but heavy bass audiophiles will dislike the "clean" sound signature they bear.
These aren’t deep IEMS, so the sound isolation won’t be as good as the high end headphones, but to me, I think they’re excellent. Better than my Phillips isolation. I was in the car yesterday and I couldn’t hear the person talking to me. I can even hear my heart beat sometimes when its quiet.
The greatest thing about the headphones, for me at least, is the soundstage. It has lots of depth and the music doesn’t sound in my head, instead very around me. It has such a unique sound signature, vibrant and energetic, whilst still retaining good clarity.
I have heard that after about 50 hours burn-in the mids really grow on you. I hope that they clear up a bit and sound as good as the rest of these headphones.
Around the Ear Design
I feel the around the ear design is very comfortable as there is less weight pulling down on the side of your face compared to when you just normally stick headphones in your ears.
It took me a while to work out how to put the headphones in, as well as getting used to the ear gliders. But I think overall they do fit nicely around your ear. The ear gliders do hold the cable better, because without the gliders they may fall of when doing a lot of physical activity where your head moves such as jumping. I personally don't like the ear gliders as I never truly get a perfect fit and they just add unneccessary weight onto my ears which feels bad.
The bass adjustment is not huge, but there is certainly some noticeable bass addition, but still it remains clear which for my style of music, I like. It does take a while to loosen the knobs in, but once you get used to it you can turn them on the go whilst they are still in your ears.
What you have to remember is that these are only my thoughts, so depending on what kind of sound you like, the outcome may be different. For me, the music I listen to is more subtle and less meaty stuff. These are often compared to just below $100 headphones and are hailed as a good buy for the under $50 market. At mp4nation they are selling for under $30 so these are an extreme bargain. The sound is sure far better than the price.