SoundMagic has cut the cord on its popular E11 series of in-ear headphones to bring us the new E11BT and they're some of the best cheap headphones out there. In fact, we'd go as far as to say that these are best headphones for those on a budget. With a similar shape and feel to its predecessors, the E11BT connect to your device via Bluetooth, and are connected by a durable neckband.
They are available to purchase for £69.99 (around $90 / AU$125) however, right now it looks like they are only available to buy in Europe, with no word on when you will be able to buy them in other territories.
We tried out the new wireless earbuds – here’s what we thought.
In terms of design, the E11BTs look similar to the wired E11C’s, with one crucial difference; the buds are now connected by a neckband, and connect to your device wirelessly. The neckband feels very sturdy, and with a flat design, it feels comfortable against your neck.
Coming in an all black design, they look more ‘sporty’ than the E11C’s, and boast an IPX4 waterproof rating – that means they will be safe from minor splashes and sweaty workout sessions, but you absolutely shouldn’t take them in the shower with you after your run.
Like the other earbuds in the E11 series, the bullet-shaped earbuds themselves are extremely small, lightweight and elegant-looking, with an aluminum housing that features the SoundMagic logo and the model number on the left and right buds, respectively.
One nice feature of the E11BT wireless earphones is that the two earbuds connect together magnetically, so you can keep them secured around your neck while not in use.
About two inches down from the left earbud you’ll find the inline remote, which features volume buttons, and a ‘multifunction’ button. The multifunction button can be used to control your music, pair the headphones with your device, and answer phone calls.
On the side of the inline remote there is also a micro-USB for charging the E11BTs – SoundMagic includes a USB cable in the box. While charging, a small LED on the inline remote will glow read, and when the earphones are fully charged, the red light goes off and is replaced by a blue one.
Overall, the E11BTs haven’t traded off the elegant design of previous models in the series when cutting the cord; they look very attractive and they have retained the compact housing design that SoundMagic has become well known for.
Features and performance
Generally, the audio quality provided by the E11Bts is very good, with an impressive amount of sonic power for such small earbuds.
Vocals sound clear and smooth on Fleet Foxes’ ‘Blue Ridge Mountains’, thanks to their custom-tuned drivers – as dynamic drivers they also provide a hefty amount of bass, due to the relatively large volumes of air they displace as they vibrate. We tried them out on Kanye West’s ‘Flashing Lights’, and we were impressed by the thumping bass and unctuous synth strings.
Treble frequencies are sharp and crystal-clear, with a good level of attack – they can occasionally come across as a little harsh, so if you’re looking for a warmer sound stage, you might want to try the true wireless Earin M-2s, which have similar sized buds but feature balanced armature drivers instead of dynamic drivers.
It’s important to make sure you’re using the correct-sized eartips when using the E11BTs, as a good fit enhances the sound ten-fold, as well as improving the sound isolation – they come with three different eartips, so you should be able to find a good fit through a bit of trial and error.
The sound isolation is pretty good for in-ear headphones; if you have your music pumping you’ll be pretty well-insulated from annoying environmental sounds. We also tried listening to podcasts using the E11BTs, and while the sound isolation was less obviously pronounced in when listening to dialogue, the noise from a loud train carriage was reduced enough for us to hear speech clearly.
Using the inline remote to control playback worked well, and we didn’t experience any problems with connectivity while using the E11BTs; in fact, pairing them with our smartphone was an absolute breeze.
If you’re thinking of buying these in-ears to use while working out or running, you may be concerned about how secure they feel. Generally, they fit pretty snugly into your ear, but if you’re concerned about the buds falling out mid-run, you might want to try a pair with wingtips that fit into the conch of your ear for extra stability.
Overall, the E11BTs are very comfortable to wear, even for long periods of time. SoundMagic claims that these headphones can handle continuous playback for 20 hours; while this is likely not at full volume, we had them on continuously for around five hours and found that the battery hardly depleted at all.
The SoundMagic E11BTs are an extremely capable pair of wireless in-ear earphones, and given their low price, it really is difficult to fault them - the audio quality is fantastic and design-wise, they look very elegant. They're comfortable to wear thanks to ergonomically designed eartips and a flat neckband that won’t irritate you while running or working out – and with an IPX4 rating, they should withstand sweaty sessions.
They generally feel secure, although the option to add wingtips would be a great feature for those who want a little more stability when listening on the go.
Battery life is pretty good at 20 hours, and they take just two hours to charge fully via the micro-USB cable included in the box.
If you’re looking for a fantastic pair of value neckband earphones, the SoundMagic E11BTs are a great option – here’s hoping they reach territories outside of Europe in the near future.
- See where these rank in our best earbuds guide.
- The best wireless headphones: our pick of the best ways to cut the cord