It would seem that on-ear headphones are gaining in popularity judging by the number we’ve reviewed recently. These are the SoundMAGIC P30S headphones, priced at a very reasonable £70.
These are similar in aesthetic appearance to the AKG Y40 headphones we had a chance to review a few weeks ago. They share the exceptionally thin, yet bendy headband and compact ear cups. The design overall is no-thrills in aesthetic terms, with an all black scheme, featuring silver accents on each ear-cup.
However, we found the build quality to be more impressive, with a mixture of rubberised and hard plastics used as exterior materials; and the slider that adjusts the ear cups is reinforced with metal, something we've found prolongs the lifespan of headphones that are taken with you, which the slender design does encourage. Of course, when these headphones aren't in use, hinges on the metal sliders enable them to fold up for easy (carry case is supplied) storage.
Compact headphones like these can sometimes be a tight fit, even on smaller heads, to compensate for their lack of mass so they don't fall off your head. These, whilst clasping onto the head, aren't at all tight. This translates into their not being suitable for activities like running, but the cups do remain comfortable on the ears after hours of listening. However, the headband wasn’t padded enough for our liking, with the internal housing shaping the headband beginning to irritate our heads after around an hour. A quick alteration of where the headband rests relives the irritation, but that doesn’t excuse the poor design choice.
We were impressed with the noise isolation the on-ear design exhibits at low volume levels, and others in the studio couldn’t hear what we were listening to when sat a metre away. When closer and the volume at roughly 75%, the bass is, however, quite discernible.
The ’S’ within the model name ‘P30S’, stands for smartphones. This is because the aux jack has a switch which enables the the headphone's one button remote (controls music/calls) and microphone to be compatible with iOS, Android and Windows Phone. This we liked very much: you no longer need to put up with an incompatible remote/mic or need to buy smartphone specific headphones, which is more commonly the case.
We often rave about the Marshall Major FX headphones, because they offer tremendous full bodied audio performance for what appears to be a continuous small sale price of £67.99 (RRP £120). If SoundMAGIC is to be believed, they gloat that they’ve also accomplished this with P30S headphones, at a RRP of £69.99. Whilst both headphones are remarkably similar in sound styles, the Marshall Major FX headphones promote a more bass skewed signature, whereas the SoundMAGIC P30S’s have a more treble orientated sound style, although still maintaining a neutral balance and a swift response to both ends of sound frequencies from the 40mm drivers.
The bass is universally definitive in songs, but it could be a notch deeper for our preference when listening to broad general genres. We fear this may have robbed some of the clarity away from the crisp and gorgeous treble, which doesn’t move over for anything. The highs also impressed our ears, not being at all spiky when playing something like ‘Crazy’ covered by the whispery high voice of ‘Daniela Andrade’.
Stereo performance and the perceived distance of a moving sound is good. The clap that features on ‘Waiting on the World to Change’ by ‘John Mayer’ featuring ‘Ben Harper’, is a good example of the strength of spacial separation of instruments and vocal elements within songs, they’re not masked over one another and have plenty of room to play individually - impressive for closed back headphones. From this a soundstage is marginally prominent, but due to the size of the headphones and the way they direct audio straight into the ears, the appearance of sound jumping around your head isn’t particularly definitive.
As things stand the SoundMAGIC P30S on-ear headphones offer respectable value at their current RRP, but it’s likely that they will drop below this point with online sales and the like, which would make them an incredibly generous buy. In producing neutral and rich bodied sound from a slender pair of headphones we’ve honestly not heard much better at this price range. Our only suggestion is that the headband should be more generously padded.