Where its consumers demand nothing less than the closest possibility to sonic perfection, British born 'Musical Fidelity' is a manufacturer best associated with state-of-the-art premium Hi-Fi separates. Enter the EB-50's, Musical Fidelity's first, and only, attempt at premium earphone design where, in comparison to many of the other earphones out there on the market, their quirky nature and bulky industrial design harbours a certain sonic taste that is somewhat unexpected. In fact I would like to add that the EB-50's have a sonic signature which is refreshing and beautifully insightful.
Upon opening, the inner packaging is clearly designed to 'wow' when opening and it is just impossible to not be impressed with the sheer amount of quality accessories you are adorned with. Inside the box is a branded 'Musical Fidelity' plastic carry case which, when opened, contains three different 'standard' ear-plugs (S,M & L), two different sizes of deep ear-plugs for ultimate fitting and a lovely branded black polishing cloth. Behind the superficial packaging you are equipped with a well-made leatherette storage bag, a pair of ear hooks (for those who want to perform activities whilst listening to music), an additional five pairs of ear-plugs, a gold plated 1/4" to 3.5mm jack adaptor and a gold plated airplane audio adapter for those frequent flyers.
In a discussion of overall build quality, these earphones and all the accessories included, are well ahead of the competition. The 3.5mm jack is gold plated, has a termination jacket which is designed to reduce stress on the internal solder joints and prolong life, but where the cable is strong and resilient it is a little prone to tangling. It would have been nice to see a detachable cable from the driver housing but this isn't a necessity - it would have helped the earphones longevity... we also discuss this later. Moving up the 1.2m wire we come to the splitter, surprisingly it is solid aluminium, adds a real sense of quality, has lovely machining and has the serial number and Musical Fidelity brand engraved onto both sides. If there is going to be any failing in the cabling it is not going to be here, but it has a secret trick... The top of the splitter comes away to help with the left and right earphones not tangling together when dropped on the chest. I have to admit that it felt a little bit strange to find a one action button and built in mic for the smartphone users built into the upper cabling but, unlike other brands, did not feel like a cheap afterthought. The housing of this unit is matt black plastic but it is extremely resilient and feels as if it could survive a hell of a battering.
For the build quality of the driver housing alone we need a great deal more headroom. Whilst the drivers in the EB-50's are only 6mm, the housing measures near to 10mm, and immediately we might draw our attention back to the discussion of a detachable cable... surely with this extra space there would be room for a port to be accessed? No, and there appears to be some reasoning that makes the sacrifice worthwhile. Musical Fidelity claim that the neodymium driver capsules are encased in a multi-layer anti-resonant military grade aluminium body. This does make the driver housing a bit bulky but this is definitely a positive! I have personally tested other aluminium housed earphones and found that the inherent nature of the material adds a rather harsh resonance that is not very desirable, so kudos to Musical Fidelity on their attention to detail... the last thing we want to hear is bouncing harmonics that distort the audio produced by the driver housing. Okay, now I have to say that aesthetically, the industrial vibe caused by the neon red and blue flat-head screws at the back make me feel a little self-conscious. On a pair of earphones a) in this price-range b) that represent the musical fidelity brand, this is an unnecessary design over-thought that I expect detracts many prospecting buyers. It just is a bit strange that there is this addition but there is no markings that reflect what earpiece should go in the left or right ear and this is, sadly, the first reason why I cannot give the EB-50's a full 5/5. Maybe Musical Fidelity might make a black cap that can go over the end of the earphones and is supplied as part of the kit.
Following a forty-hour burn-in process (performed at a moderate level) the EB-50's are now ready to review. At our review station many genres of music have been loaded, played and analysed over and over again by two members of our team. I have to start out describing the sound by drawing your attention to the fact that they have such a flat frequency response which leads to a rather sterile sound. No coloration means that the EB-50's aren't suitable for bass-heads, but the inherent sonic design easily suits the ears of a trained professional and allows you to appreciate the full beauty and detail of any given track. If you are used to the rest of earphones out there that are coloured then you need to give the EB-50's a chance because once you have had them for a few days you will not want to go back. This is what the sound of the future should be... The EB-50's set a precedent for the rest.
Where the earphones appear to have a very natural stereo field, absolutely no distortion, fast transient response and wide dynamic range these qualities really shine if you are listening to live tracks. 'Radioactivity' by Kraftwerk was a particular favourite and made you feel like you were part of the crowd, not with earphones on, but just... you know... there. Turning attention to a sonic descriptive, the bass is well controlled and acts fast to transients whilst the mid-range is silky smooth. The treble is extraordinarily sharp and clear and is a detailing that won't suit some, because it can be a bit too present, but it hasn't left me with fatigue - even after hours of listening. Unfortunately, I can appreciate that the response of the treble might grate a bit on the unsuspecting user and this is reflected with the 4/5 rating.
Overall Musical Fidelity's 'EB-50' earphones have been a joy to test. They come with lots of extras, have an amazing build quality, sound just how sound should sound and cater for the most disconcerting audiophile, but their industrial design and treble response may be a problem for some. The Pro Audio Web Blog rates the Musical Fidelity EB-50's a 4/5.