urBeats3 vs Soundmagic E11C - Battle of the Budget
When it comes to budget earbuds Soundmagic have long been renowned as the king, with their E10 model carving a firm position as no.1 for those looking for exceptional sound and build quality along with a price that won't break the bank. Late last year they launched the Soundmagic E11 series, which has since received even more praise as a step up from their predecessor. Beats by Dre have done extremely well with their mid-range products, leveraging the increasing use of bluetooth technology and creating a resurgence in popularity of over ear headphones for everyday use. They have also now unsurprisingly launched a range of in-ear earphones under the Beats brand at a much more appealing price point, so could we see a new king budget earbuds?
We've had a look at both these earphones and compared them to see which is the best bang for your buck. For this comparison we have taken the Soundmagic E11C model and the urBeats3 with 3.5mm jack.
As you'd expect from both of these veteran audio brands there isn't a terrible experience from either of these models.
The urBeats3, when worn properly sound surprisingly bassy as you might expect from a Beats product. They retain the bouncy bass you’d hope for but lose out a bit in the midrange. The smaller drivers mean the high end is fine but details in the mids are missed a tad. The Soundmagic E11s on the other hand have really taken a step up from previous models in this area. Pretty much everything you chuck at them sounds great - and not just ‘for the price’. Most people should have absolutely no problem with using these as their daily drivers. Bass is hefty, authoritative and well handled, while instruments sound authentic and pretty spacious considering the size of the drivers inside the buds.
With the slight higher price of the urBeats3 you would have expected Beats to have had a little more in the manufacturing budget for creating a comfortable design. Unfortunately this is not the case. We found that it was really difficult to get them to fit properly and from a quick costumer review search, it looks like we weren't the only ones. If you happen to have Beats shaped ear canals then you could be alright but generally we found the lack of fit meant that we were losing on sound performance but also they were more likely to fall out.
On the other hand the Soundmagic experience was much more favourable. Stick them in your ears and you’ll barely notice them - in a good way. They’re super-light and incredibly comfortable, forming a nice tight seal to ensure your tunes sound exactly as they should and not too much exterior racket can creep in, all without feeling too intrusive.
Making attractive products is something Beats have done extremely well in the past and it doesn't seem to have changed for the urBeats3. Of course aesthetics are a completely objective to the user, but in our opinion the the clean matte texture of the Beats work very well in combination with the Beats branding and colour scheme.
The urBeats3 sports an interesting flat cable which although looks cool and stops tangles, isn't the best design in terms of flexibilty which some users may find it annoying. Soundmagic have improved on the design from their E11 to create what can only be described as a more elegant 'grown up' look. The aluminium housing looks extremely refined and the silver model has a clear grey casing which shows the silver plated braided cable inside.
Like many products, the length of time they last has a lot to do with how you treat them. At the same time, earphones are an on the go product and therefore need to be ready for a bit of rough 'n' tumble. Soundmagic have long been known for making earphones that can last a lifetime and the E11Cs seem to be no different. The build quality is exceptionally good. The cable cover is a strong and flexible material and the jack is angled to make more usable with any device. The urBeats3 are also well made but the jack feels a bit weaker than the E11C and because of the shape of the cable it does feel like after some use creases could turn into cracks.
The urBeats3 are a solid attempt at budget earphones and could be classed as acceptable for the price range, but unfortunately the performance felt a little budget as well. We don't think Soundmagic have much to worry about when it comes to being king of budget earphones, but in fairness, the Soundmagic E11C could hold its own at a much higher price point and therefore we would recommend them as coming out on top on this occasion.