With the MagicOne, AFUL is putting the bold claim right in its name. These single balanced armature IEMs promise to deliver a richer, fuller sound than any we’ve seen before. They make this promise based on multiple innovations for earphones at this price ($139.99): a resonance chamber, flanked by a snake-like “nautilus” tube, inspired by a $100,000 speaker and an intricate electrical network, both of which enhance and tailor the sound. The promise of this design: full range, dynamic sound in a small, yet affordable package, with enough bass and detail to bring both music and games to life.
In a time when other brands are cramming as many drivers into their earphones as they can fit (sometimes for pure marketing), the MagicOne is already unusual. But this isn’t snake oil — and I admit to being skeptical at first. The MagicOne works, and works well, and sounds great while doing it.
- Current Price:
- Key Features:
- Self-Developed Wide-Frequency Response Balanced Armature Driver Unit
- Innovative SE-Math Electro-Acoustic Intermodulation Technology
- Nautilus Acoustic Maze Technology
- Powerful & Massive Sound Signature
- High-Purity Hybrid Stock Cable
- Easy to Drive
- Impedance: 38Ω
- Sensitivity: 103dB/mW
- Frequency Response: 5Hz-35kHz
- Passive Isolation: 26dB
- Connectors: 2-pin 0.78mm
- Termination: 3.5mm/4.4mm
- Cable Length: 1.2m
AFUL MagicOne - First Impressions and Key Features
AFUL has been an exciting brand to watch over the last year. With both the Performer 5, its debut pair of earphones, and the Performer 8, its higher-driver-count follow-up, it has introduced technological innovations for their price point. Thus far, these have consisted of an acoustic tube tuning system (tubes from each set of drivers — bass, mids, and treble — that are of different lengths and diameters to adjust the airflow and tune the sound) and an RLC filter system that corrects frequency abnormalities, particularly in the highs.
In the audio space, snake oil is a real concern, as is simply repackaging the same driver in a new shell and giving it a new name. AFUL’s innovations have allowed real, true audio tech to become more accessible. True innovation is hard to come by, but it’s what we’ve found in AFUL’s releases. On top of excellent tuning and a very enjoyable sound for music and gaming. It’s a combination that has earned the brand a lot of fans.
The MagicOne is a single balanced armature IEM, which is already unusual. BAs typically come in groups, allowing each to focus on a narrower range of frequencies. It’s what they’re known to do. Single BAs, historically, have sounded thin, if detailed. This etched quality is exactly why they’re so common in hearing aids — most single BAs are about clarity as opposed to a fun listening experience.
According to AFUL, this IEM throws those traits out the window by taking the innovations of its prior models, building on them, and adding a unique twist of its own. Their research and development have allowed them to deliver a single BA IEM that has deep, well-extended bass unlike any other single BA before it. At the same time, the qualities that make balanced armatures so popular in hybrid or multi-BA earphones are still presented: etched, detailed mids and highs. Yet, these are also smoothed to ensure detail but never sharpness.
So what is the magic behind the MagicOne? A completely custom balanced armature that feeds into a resonance chamber and out through a winding tube to a vent a vent in the side of the shell. The tube, in fact, is based on the Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus, a $100,000 loudspeaker that uses a similar structure to enhance its bass depth and presence. In the picture above, you can see the tube but also notice the rectangular block in the middle of the IEM. This block connects to the rear of the balanced armature with a small bridge, allowing air to feed into it and through the tube.
Seeing this for the first time, I was confused on how it was supposed to work. If you look closely at the nozzle, you might notice the BA feeds directly into it. There is no connection for the air from the resonance chamber or tube to make its way back into the IEM and into your ears. On top of that, very few IEMs actually vent out the rear where the bridge connects. By all appearances, the bridge connected back by where the wires were soldered onto the BA — far from the typical side vent of most balanced armatures.
How could that, I wondered, do anything at all? Yet, at the same time, it definitely did have a fuller sound when given the right source and tracks.
So I reached out to the company. The balanced armature the team designed does in fact have a tiny port in the back. The chamber and tube design isn’t intended to echo or amplify frequencies and then feed them back into your ear at all. Instead, it’s about tuning the air pressure and velocity of the air escaping out the back vent, which directly impacts the presentation of the sound and what makes its way out the spout on the other end. Sound, after all, is moving air and adjusting the flow of that air in conjunction with the internal design and acoustic structure of the BA itself could certainly have an impact. Here, the chamber and the nautilus tube are precisely crafted to perform a sort of air dampening, similar to how over-ear headphones will use open or closed-back designs and foams to adjust airflow/sound wave before they hit your ear.
It’s not what I expected when I read up on its design, but I find it eminently cool. It’s outside of the box thinking, a new approach to an old problem, and you know what? It solves that problem. The MagicOne is anything but thin.
The acoustic tube design is supplemented by a version of the RLC filter network found on their prior models. This resistor system actively dampens spiked frequencies in the highs, removing sharpness without sacrificing their naturally detailed sound.
In short, the MagicOne is the third IEM from AFUL that really pushes the boundaries of IEM design at a given price point. This is an innovative, boundary-pushing company, and I’m here for it.
Coming in at $140, they’re not exactly cheap but aren’t exceptionally expensive. For that money, you get the earphones themselves, a gorgeous, completely see-through resin build and sparkling white faceplates, as well as a selection of two different types of ear tips. It also comes with a very nice cable — if a bit thick — that feels high quality. There are no modular ends here, just a single 3.5mm jack that will work with any standard audio jack. That’s fine in this case as they’re very easy to drive and will get to listenable volumes on just about any device.
AFUL MagicOne - Fit and Comfort
The AFUL MagicOne is on the small end of medium-sized earphones with average-sized nozzles. I found that they fit quite well in my ears and didn’t cause any discomfort. They’re not as small as you might expect them to be for only having a single tiny balanced armature, but that’s a result of the acoustic chamber design, nautilus tube, and crossover network. Still, they fit just fine and I suspect that most users will find that they do for them as well.
AFUL MagicOne - Listening Impressions
The MagicOne are an interesting pair of earphones, but as I mentioned in the lead-in, they do accomplish their goals. The graph above shows the relative volume of frequencies throughout the human listening range. The left is the deepest bass, the middle represents the mids (vocals, instruments, team callouts, footsteps), and the right is the highs — important for making those instruments and sound effects in the mids sound detailed and true to life. There’s a definite rise in the bass and even more in the upper mids and treble, yet no peaks. This is a graph we might more commonly see from a hybrid IEM with multiple drivers or a single dynamic driver. There’s definitely bass.
Yet, the presentation of what you’re hearing will depend on your library. The first time I listened, I went right for one of my go-to bass testing tracks, D.R.E.A.M. by Jonny Craig. For whatever reason, the MagicOne disagrees with that song and Mr. Craig in general. The deep bass was present but thin. I had a night where I walked away pretty darn disappointed, thinking that maybe the design was bunch of marketing.
I tried again the next day, this time with the soundtrack for Interstellar by Hans Zimmer. All of the missing bass from the night before was suddenly present with noticeable extension. The bass was deep and even a bit rumbly. That would be sub-bass. The mid-bass — bass guitar, kick drums, synth bass — was also present. Listening to Sorry by The Kid Laroi as I write this, and the MagicOne has better body than I would ever have expected from a single BA. I have a single other pair of single BA earphone to compare to on-hand and it’s a big difference. While not exceptionally bass heavy, they’re probably the best single BA IEMs for bass available today, purely because of the nautilus tube and chamber implementation.
The mids and highs are very good too. These earphones excel at live and acoustic music. Pianos have a wide body to them while also having a very natural timbre. That’s the upper-mids and treble coming in to support the harmonics of these instruments. Guitars also sound very good. There’s no sharpness to the listening experience but there is definitely classic BA etched quality that you’ll either love or hate. I fall into the former camp.
Vocals have a crispness to them without feeling cold or artificial. It speaks to the detail-centric nature of these earphones. You’ll hear tiny details that lesser headphones blend in and make difficult to perceive: layered vocals in particular. I didn’t find these especially better for male or female voices due to their neutrality in this range, but it’s a matter of personal taste.
The earphones lean into crispness and detail. They deliver well for this price point, offering that “high resolution” quality the best IEMs provide and is typical at higher price points. This BA timbre can enhance this, almost like a sharpening filter on an image.
With only a single full-range driver, you can’t expect miracles. A great hybrid like the Moondrop Blessing 3 or Thieaudio Hype 2, but both of those IEMs are much more expensive. What you’re getting here is a good value for the price and delivers a very enjoyable, revealing listening experience.
The soundstage and imaging are only average. The earphones don’t sound constrained at all but also aren’t exceptionally wide. There’s not a lot to complain about here, it won’t distract you, but it also won’t wow you with its wide staging.
These can work well for gaming. Their comfortable fit and well-balanced sound work well for both single- and competitive multiplayer games. You’ll be able to pick out the direction of important audio cues, so you won’t be disadvantaged in any way. At the same time, these definitely fall in the “needs Dolby Atmos” camp for the best listening experience.
Should you buy the AFUL MagicOne?
All of this brings us to our central question: should you choose the AFUL MagicOne as your all-in-one listening solution? It definitely has the chops to enhance your music, movie, and gaming experience and it does so in a stylish, comfortable package that’s easy to wear for extended periods of time. AFUL is very good at balancing its tunings so they’re at once fun and engaging but aren’t overdone in any one area. This IEM definitely continues that impressive trend.
I do wish it were a bit lower priced. At $140, it faces stiff competition. The Letshuoer S12 Pro is right around the same price and uses a planar driver with even more detail. There are many others and there continue to be more as time goes on. It’s a competitive price segment.
But the MagicOne is good. It’s very good. It’s true that you could get similar levels of bass from a hybrid or single dynamic driver pair of earphones, but there’s also something to be said for supporting innovation and driving the industry forward. And there’s something to be said for supporting a company that, one, develops great-sounding earphones — that’s the most important — and, two, does so while pushing the limits of what you should expect at the price point. AFUL embodies a lot of what I find interesting in this hobby: a small team, innovating, and coming out with products that are consistently fun to listen to at better prices than you would expect to find them at. They’re challenging the status quo, and that’s better for all of us.
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