Even though Strauss and Wagner claim to be able to deliver high quality sound at low affordable prices, can you really get audiophile quality from a 40 dollar earbud, like Strauss and Wagner EM205? I took a listen, and am ready to weigh in.
What’s in the Box?
As far as packaging, there isn’t much to say here as this is just about as standard as it gets. The EM205 comes in a white box which unfolds at the top to reveal a handsome grey and silver drawstring pouch. Your earbuds are located inside along with your manual and a small packet of different size replacement eartips.
Design and Fit
The same nondescript quality is present in the design here as well, as these are not aspiring to look any different than your standard pair of wired earbuds - albeit perhaps with a bit more build integrity. The cable is fairly thin and won’t stand up to any particularly harsh abuse, but the connection on the 3.5mm jack and the housing are made of a very sturdy feeling plastic that also has a nice looking matte charcoal finish. These certainly feel a little more solid and durable than a typical bargain bin earbud. These also feature an inline remote with three buttons to control volume, play, pause and skip functions, and handle your calls/
Because of this boilerplate dual cylinder shape, you won’t find much in the way of ergonomics here, and these fit just about as well as any other earbud I would carry around. They were nice and snug in my ear but they don’t slot in as well as a universal IEM, and despite their relative comfort these will start to wear on you ever so slightly if you’re going to have them for abnormally long amounts of time.
You can also see our video review below.
The EM205 utilizes a reliable 9mm dynamic driver setup and they output the standard 20hz to 20khz frequency response. These, along with a 32ohm output impedance to ensure optimal performance with any smartphone or computer make the EM205 stand pretty much smack in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to headphone specs: no more than the usual, and no less.
You’d be forgiven for wondering why I’m even reviewing these headphones up to the point since all I’ve managed to say is that they are extremely ordinary.
Well, this is very true, except when it comes to that most important area, the sound quality.
In this sense, these absolutely eviscerated my expectations.
When I put these in, the first thing that immediately drew my attention was the size of the soundstage that began to emerge. As someone who is constantly cycling between burner earbuds when not listening to some of the more sophisticated units we have here, I’m very used to having earbuds like these in nearly 50 percent of the time. As soon as I started to put on some tracks, the normal stereo field I was accustomed to with earbuds stretched wider and wider and managed to project out of my head much farther than I would have expected.
Granted, these are still small units and will naturally not sound like over ear open backs, but the amount of size they deliver in such a small package is highly notable. In a track like Supremacy by Muse, each of the intricate instrument parts gets its own space to reverberate naturally and retain finely layered timbres. The image was very clear and there was a superb amount of separation.
It’ll be no surprise to earbud users that these lean a tad heavy on the bass, and the low end frequencies are thick and powerful - but with enough balance and restraint not to fully overpower the limited headroom. Any song predicated on driving drums and bass will receive more than its due, and for those who prefer a little rumble to their tracks these have a good amount of thump and sub bass response to get your head bopping. In something like Jennifer Lopez’s Pa Ti, the reggaeton bass is sufficiently heavy but doesn’t cause any fuzziness or bleed over some of the more delicate elements.
Certain mid range frequencies also really stick out here, generally at the lower end of the mid range to give these headphones an overall fairly warm and pleasant sound signature. This means that depending on what you’re listening to, some of these elements might blend a bit more than one might prefer. For instance, in All I Ask by Adele the combination of the rich piano with her smokey and bellowey vocals results in an effect that is heavy on overtones, and creates a blanket of midrange sound that’s totally enveloping. It wouldn’t be ideal if you needed to do some analytical mixing, but odds are you wouldn’t be using any kind of earbuds for that purpose anyway.
Naturally, this all also means that the high end frequencies are the one area where the EM205 doesn’t deliver quite as much as other units might. Listening to the same song, when Adele gets into her vocal pyrotechnics for the grand finale of the track, the power is all there, but some of the crackle you might get from her voice on the top end is slightly rolled off. This is less a problem in a piano and vocal ballad, but even the most emphatic of high range vocal performances can threaten to get a little lost here in mixes that are big and busy enough.
To say I was surprised by the EM205 is certainly a big understatement. While they may not turn any heads with their decidedly regular design or features, the sound quality is simply superior for a consumer level earbud. Anyone looking for an extra kick to their casual listening or some backup earbuds that their audiophile ears can still enjoy should definitely look at these tiny power houses from Strauss and Wagner.
You can order Strauss and Wagner EM205 at Audio46.