Pros: Overall sound quality, design and looks, comfort, accessories, clever 3.5mm jack design, foldable, mic capabilities, PC connection
Cons: Slight microphonics
Packaging & Accessories: 10/10
Build Quality: 9/10
Design & Look: 10/10
Audio Quality: 7.5/10
My final Rating: 9/10
Purchase Date: April 2015
Purchase Price: £50
First of all I would like to thank Mark from KS Distribution for sending me these SoundMAGIC headphones for review.
They can be bought from a variety of sources including:
–AmazonUK for £50
–The non-mic version on AmazonUSA for $40
More information on the SoundMAGIC P21S can be found on their website.
Before getting into this written review, here’s my video review:
Packaging & Accessories
The packaging is minimalistic, but the contents are far from it.
In the package you receive the headphones alongside a 3.5mm adapter for the PC and a lovely soft carrying pouch. At the given price of £50, it’s nice to see these accessories included, especially the PC adapter which came as a surprise. Despite knowing it’s a headphone with mic capabilities, it’s very rare to receive a headphone, that’s not marketed as a headset, to come with such an adapter.
The pouch itself is really well made and is perfect for the headphones which are designed to be portable and taken on-the-go.
Overall I was extremely impressed with the package contents and wouldn’t change anything here, great job from SoundMAGIC.
The build quality is almost flawless, but for the choice of cable.
I found whilst taking the headphones on-the-go, to experience slight microphonics, also known as cable noise. Due to the headphone having a flat cable design, it causes cable noise down the drivers. This is a common occurrence with flat-cables, however it’s rare to experience microphonics on a headphone, whereas with an earphone it’s quite common to experience some sort of cable noise.
Other than the slight microphonics that occur, the build quality is absolutely fantastic.
Starting from the jack – I’ve always had the inherent problem of having to deal with “Made for iPhone” headphones, where they won’t work with my PC or some older Android devices. This has to do with the “poles” found on the 3.5mm jacks. In a nutshell Apple, much like a lot of their products work in a different way than the rest of the industry – due to that, headphones are either made for one or the other, rarely for both.
In this respect however the P21S has a clever A/B switch which allows you to invert the poles thereby completely eliminating the problem. This does mean you have a slightly larger than normal 3.5mm jack, however this is a very small price to pay for such a clever and well integrated design found in the jack.
I can’t believe other manufacturers haven’t been adopting this for years now, and finally I’ve come across a headphone that solves it, and this headphone only costs £50 – sensational. So starting from the gold plated right-angled 3.5mm jack, the build quality gives off an excellent impression.
As we move down the cable, there is a one-button remote which allows you to control your music and/or calls by the touch of a button. Due to it having a mic, it can be used on a smartphone; better still it can be also used with a PC, via the included adapter SoundMAGIC have thought to include in the package, allowing you to turn this headphone into a headset – again absolutely brilliant!
The cable as mentioned before is a flat-cable which is great for anti-tangle capabilities, but is a problem when it comes to microphonics.
The headphone itself is also well built – starting from the pads, they’re soft and are very comfortable (more on this below).
The headband itself is adjustable and of good quality, where it can be extended precisely via the measurements shown on the side of the headphone. Speaking of which, the left and right indicators can be found on the side of the headphones. At the top of the headband there’s a bit of padding, which I would have liked to see a little more of, but due to the nature of the headphones being portable, it’s to be expected to find a limited amount of padding on the headband.
To round off the build quality section, it goes without saying that these headphones are truly portable headphones due to their rotating, pivot-able and foldable headphone design. This means the headphones can be folded and be taken with you on-the-go. It doesn’t fully fold (via the top of the headband), but they’re able to be taken in the provided pouch and put in a bag, either way they’re very lightweight and can even be worn around the neck, without you having to really worry about them.
Overall the build quality is almost perfect, but would have been flawless if it wasn’t for the slight microphonics the headphones have.
Design, looks, comfort and isolation
The looks of the headphones are simple – they can be bought in a variety of colours, green, white, red, black with red trim and black with grey, the version I was sent.
The looks to me are minimalistic and just perfect – I would change anything about it and find that they really do look good when worn on-ear.
As these are on-ear headphones, it’s to be expected that their isolation isn’t the best in the world. These do however isolate quite well, given their design – where I found them to not leak much music and not to be that negatively influences by external sounds.
The comfort is something that I found exceptional. Normally I find on-ear headphone uncomfortable for a reason or another – be it my glasses pressing against my ears or the headband, weight etc of the headphones. In this case however, I can safely say that these were one of the most comfortable on-ear headphones I’ve come across. They were very comfortable and this was greatly aided by their lightweight design – which means that they sit on your ears without you really feeling that there’s headphones on your head.
I should point out, as mentioned before, that the headband could have been slightly more padded, but in all honesty, due to where and how these headphones will be used it’s understandable that they aren’t as padded as full-sized over-the-ear headphones.
Overall these are very comfortable headphones which I really had a pleasure wearing both at home and on-the-go in the street.
After having reviewed a few other on-ear headphones and being disappointed with them, such as the AKG Y50s which to me were a huge let down I didn’t have much expectations for these headphones – little did I know how great these sounded!
What I absolutely loved about these was the fact that their soundstage is fantastic – it really reminds me of the open-sounding soundstage found on the AKG K551/550 & K545s, something that completely lacked on the Y50s which made the overall sound experience terrible. The P21S on the other hand have a fantastic open soundstage, which makes you think they’re open-back headphones, despite them being closed-back minimalistic designed headphones.
Overall, the sound quality is very impressive, especially considering its price-tag of £50.
The low-end was surprisingly good! The mid-bass had a nice slam whilst the sub-bass actually extended to a certain point before cutting off. I was impressed to see these headphones perform well in the low-end frequencies. It’s not that surprising to see headphones perform well in the mid-bass region, however in the sub-bass region it’s nice to see that they can also produce good sonic vibes.
The lows on the whole were good – if I had to be critical about them, I would say that their sub-bass could have extended a little more, whilst their mid-bass could have been a little more precise and a little more controlled.
The mids and highs are decent despite me wanting just a little more from both the mids and highs.
The mids felt a little V-Shaped, which is to be expected by headphones at this price-point and they lacked a little “life” to them. This is me being extremely analytical about them though, and I did find them on the whole to be very good.
The highs similarly lacked that little bit of sparkle that I like to see in headphones. I found the P21Ss to roll off quite a bit and it was a little shame as it would have been nice to see them shine in this frequency range.
Overall, both the mids and highs could have been just that little better – but maybe that’s me expecting a little bit too much from a set of foldable, mic-capable on-ear headphones that cost only £50.
The soundstage is definitely the most interesting point to talk about here – where as mentioned previously, these sounded like open-back headphones. They really reminded me of the AKG K551/550 and K545s, and essentially what the AKG Y50 headphones should have been. The SoundMAGIC put the Y50s to shame here and really gave off an incredible soundstage, that actually compete with some full-sized headphones.
The main thing I felt was lacking was the depth and that extra bit of width, which would have been impossible to achieve without making these sound artificial, in the given design. Thereby, I think SoundMAGIC did a brilliant job and I can only complement them for making such open-sounding headphones, that are extremely low-profile.
Sound Quality Ratings
Conclusion & Closing Thoughts
Overall, as the title suggests, these are “one of the best all-round on-ear headphones I’ve ever come across” – if not the best. I was really impressed with them, and knowing their price of £50 it makes it all the sweeter. Knowing these come in at even cheaper for the non-mic version actually blows me away (cheaper versions are mainly found in the USA).
I feel that at £50, these headphones really do a lot well and very little wrong. If these were to be a slight bit cheaper, at £40, it would completely destroy all the competition it might/already has. As it stands, I feel that these headphones should be definitely be on your buy-list, be it if you’re looking for on-ear headphones that are portable or a set of back-up headphones.
I should also say that due to their build quality and design, these could also be used by DJs, when mixing their music in clubs. I believe that their overall sound quality and price will be a big hit with DJs out there!
To sum it up, an all-rounder that does very little wrong and a huge amount flawlessly!
Hope you enjoyed my review!