Every so often I see a limited selection of cheap earbuds, around the thirty to forty dollar range, at stores like Barnes and Noble. I remember once storming in there because I had lost a pair of earbuds and needed something quick to get me through a long subway ride. It was at times like these where I wish something like the Strauss and Wagner EM205 existed. They’re a $39.95 pair of earphones that pack a serious punch in terms of their sound signature. These buds come on to the scene looking for something to prove, so let’s dive into what makes the EM205 special.
What You Get
The packaging presentation may not stick out to you at first. The box is small, hinting at the limited contents inside. What you will get with the EM205 is a drawstring storage pouch, and two extra pairs of ear tips.
Look and Feel
In terms of appearance, the EM205 definitely fits on the shelf next to other earphones in this price range. However, the miniature body takes on a fairly elegant design, especially with the formal S&W logo that’s supplied onto the faceplate. The EM205 features an aluminum body that ensures a more durable build compared to some of the harder plastics of other earbuds in this price range. The size of the medium ear tips combined with the EM205’s housing turns out to be roughly the same size. It ends up meshing well with the earphone’s overall look and presents a very classic aesthetic to the earphone. As for the fit, the EM205 holds a tight grip and an obstruction-free listening experience that’s sound isolating. The small shell barely leaves any noticeable feeling when inserted, and the thin cable does its best to not get in the way of things.
For a relatively tiny earphone, the drivers it carries are still bigger than even some more pricey IEMs. The EM205 houses 9mm drivers that are sure to amplify a sufficient signal. Outside of the main body, there’s the cable, which is around 43 inches long with a 3.5mm connector. The EM205 also supplies an attached remote, with the addition of an onboard mic that can control volume, playback, voice assistant, and phone calls.
The EM205 is designed to work with any smartphone, or computer with a 3.5mm jack(Strauss and Wagner also sell lightning adapters on their website). With a standard impedance of 32 Ohms, you’ll be able to drive these earphones at a normal, nominal gain without having to really crank your volume control.
If I’m spending forty bucks on earbuds, am I expecting a good soundstage? Not really, however, this is what makes me respect the EM205 more than most. It might not have the widest or most outward stereo image, but it at least makes an effort to. Firstly, the EM205 boasts a large image that excels in making the sound appear big while adhering to accurate pan movements and a clear separation of elements. The sound signature sticks to a mostly linear image but does show some instances of depth at points. There’s a real inward feel, as the bass reverb on tracks like “Whisper to a Scream” by the Icicle Works shows off some nice articulating as the tympanic dance rhythms reflect through a circular headspace in the left and right channel.
Whatever you choose to listen to first on the EM205 earphones, the most immediate feature you’re more likely to notice is the driving punch of the bass. However, it never overcrowds the signature, as the Em205 exhibits a much cleaner timbre than some bass-head heavy earphones. The Track “Lullaby” by The Cure shows off the best of this bass, with a deep bassline that provides the resonant grove you want to hear from that selection.
While not as well defined as the bass and low mids, the central mid-bands still receive some ample gain. Although they aren’t as clear, you’ll still hear some pleasant textures on instrumentals and vocal performances. The mids mainly present a low-mid boosted warmth that helps give some coloration to the mid-range. It’s just enough to give some emphasis to the mids that’s worth noting.
The treble isn’t completely recessed, but high range output definitely isn’t a strong suit for the EM205. The problem isn’t their presence, it’s more so how thin they appear. Some percussive elements have a tiny bit of sparkle, and they’re given some good headroom, but they don’t really make a big impression on me.
If you’re in the need of some inexpensive earphones, there has never been a more sure bet than the Strauss and Wagner EM205. With some thick, punchy bass and an accurate stereo field, these earphones will bring you a lively sound signature for a cheap price.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Punchy bass, large imaging, impactful sound, sleek fit
Cons: Thin highs
The Strauss & Wagner EM205 is available at
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