There’s an old adage that one should “never judge a book by its cover”. I don’t often subscribe to that idiom personally, however with the SoundMAGIC P23BT headphones it might just be warranted. Boasting some impressive specs, aptx HD codec and good battery life, is this ugly duckling about to become a swan?
- Excellent battery life
- Brilliant isolation
- Lightweight and portable
- No on-headphones microphone
SoundMAGIC are part of the wide-ranging KS Distribution stable which are well known to many who shop on Amazon. This particular brand had eluded me to this point, however. They come packaged in a cardboard box, with a plastic insert upon which the headphones rest. This could easily have been replaced by cardboard again to reduce waste.
The SoundMAGIC P23BT is constructed largely of a PBS plastic with the headband being wrapped in silicone. The headphones can be rotated a small amount and can be folded up for easy portability.
The right ear cup has the model number and some SoundMAGIC branding, along with the NFC pairing location. On the left ear cup is where the majority of the functionality exists. There is a small power button and AUX port on the bottom edge to be used with the integrated microphone. Additionally, there’s a USB Type-C charging port on the top edge, covered by a rubber flap.
- Driver: Dynamic 40mm Neodymium
- Bluetooth Version: 5.0
- Bluetooth Codecs: aptX, aptX HD, AAC, SBC
- Transmission Range: up to 13m
- impedance: 32ohm
- Mic Sensitivity: 42dB
- Battery: 400mAh large capacity lithium-ion
- Charge time: 1 hour
- Music playback time: 54-60 hours
- Talk time: 30-45 hours
- Standby time: 50 days
- Weight: 156g
In The Box
- SoundMAGIC P23BT headphones
- Carry case
- Microphone cable
- USB Type-C charging cable
- User guide
Audio & Use
The SoundMAGIC P23BT don’t dazzle straight out of the box. They are small, plastic and lightweight. Most of those things usually mean the end result is another cheap and cheerful e-tailer special. Look beneath the functional design and things start to look up.
Thanks to the included NFC pairing chip on the ear cup, pairing is as easy as waving your NFC-enabled smartphone over that location. Standard Bluetooth pairing will work just as well too. I know this is something most people use rather infrequently (pair once, and go) but I do like little inclusions like this.
Once it’s time to put these on your head, the 1.5cm of memory foam padding on the ear cups do a decent job of providing comfort. These are an on-ear design, and not over the ear so comfort is paramount. They are soft enough to deal with the 2-3 hour session I started off with. Past that I did get a big of fatigue, but nothing uncomfortable. Up top, there is less than 0.5cm of padding on the headband. Luckily, thanks to the lightweight design, this doesn’t detract from the comfort. Lightweight isn’t always a bad thing in headphones – who would have thought?
Battery life is worth touching on at this point as, for me, this would be a major reason for throwing these in your Amazon cart in the first place. SoundMAGIC markets up to 60-hours of playback in Bluetooth mode. Based on my testing, my initial 3-hour session took just 6% of the battery which seems to correlate to that claim. For a 400mAh battery, that is pretty excellent! The Qualcomm QCC3034 SoC will no doubt play a part in this with its energy-sipping design. If you do run out of juice, you can always use the integrated AUX cable to wire up and keep on listening.
Who wants to listen to more than 50-hours of audio on a pair of headphones with a dire soundstage though? Thankfully the SoundMAGIC P23BT delivers good audio from the 40mm dynamic drivers. Look elsewhere for an in-depth audiophile review, but suffice to say, my Amazon Music playlist provided a lot of enjoyment, with a mix of Pop, Hip-Hop, Drill and Chilled House/Dance music. These are tuned for bass, without a doubt, as the lows are deep and rumbling. The mids can get lost sometimes depending on the tracks, but the highs come through crisp and clear. It completely depends on the genre of music you are listening to and how the track has been mastered as to the outcome. To back this up, I used a binaural testing app with the SoundMAGIC P23BT and there was a wide soundstage delivered. Subjects speaking ranged from what felt like 30-feet away to up close and personal, across a 360 test.
I was also surprised by the isolation here. With the volume on an almost unbearable 50%, there is only a faint sound coming from these when off the head at just 1-foot away. With them on the head, it’s even less. Perfect for those starting to commute again.
Again, I’m no audiophile here, but I could happily use these headphones in place of any of my TWS buds.
Controlling the audio output is easy. The touch panel on the left cup allows play/pause, volume and track control, with a triple tap launching the voice controls. Interestingly though I was unable to identify any microphone on the headset at all. In my recording testing, the headphones didn’t record anything directly through the headset without the integrated microphone included. This means calls and voice assistants will require the phone close by to capture any audio. It would have been nice to see a pinhole microphone included here, albeit the integrated microphone, whilst unwieldy, performs well.
I was surprised with the SoundMAGIC P23BT. I felt, on first look, that this would be another cheap and frankly, nasty, pair of Shenzhen-made headphones. They really surprised me though. So much so that this entire review was written whilst the SoundMAGIC P23BT were on my head belting out some Tion Wayne, SR and Pa Salieu.
The battery life is the star of the show here; they’ll last you as long as you need them to. The audio is also more than adequate but tuned more towards the lows, some might find them a little aggressive. The included carry case is nice, and the fact that they fold up is even nicer.
The inclusion of a strange integrated microphone (possibly aimed at the increase in home workers of late) doesn’t detract from what is a very comprehensive package. At less than £50 these are well worth the look!