Musical Fidelity EB-50 headphones

Musical Fidelity is a British brand well-known in hi-fi circles for its uncompromisingly high-quality (and uncompromisingly high-priced) amplifiers, CD players and audio streamers. It doesn’t do headphones, which is why it’s a surprise to see the EB-50s, and true to form, they’re refreshingly different.

They’re available now for £149.

 EB-50 headphones
Before you even try them on, it’s clear that the EB-50s aren’t like other headphones. Unlike many companies that enter the headphone market, MF hasn’t simply branded an existing design, but turned its own research and development team on the problem of developing a new type of headphone.

They’re earbuds, but they’re built like mini hi-fi speaker cabinets, with 6mm balanced armature drivers with neodymium magnets for greater sound definition held within an aluminium case made from “military-spec” (MF has good contacts with the military — it’s where it sources the rare valves for many of their specialist amplifiers).

They might look like beer barrels but despite their sturdy appearance, but they’re surprisingly lightweight, and don’t weigh heavy on the ears.

There are a total of seven pairs of in-ear tips supplied, so there’s no excuse for not getting a comfortable fit, whatever the size of your lugholes. They also come with a shirt clip and ear hooks so they’ll stay in your ears while you’re jogging. All that and a leather-look carry pouch too, plus an in-line microphone and mute button so you can take a call on your phone.

The 1.2m cable includes a quality metal splitter designed to separate the stereo signal to the two earpieces while the 3.5mm jack plug is gold-plated. Nice to see that each of the speakers is colour-coded, so you always know which one goes in which ear.

They look interesting, but the sound more than makes up for any aesthetic reservations and the audio performance is impressive. With an eerily flat frequency response, they sound a little dry and clinical at first, certainly in comparison with most low to midrange ear buds. But as you get used to them, you realise that they’re just very accurate, with virtually no coloration. If you like your music clean and unadulterated, then the EB-50s deliver.

The dynamic range is goes wide, with crystal clear, but not screeching trebles and low, controlled bass. The midrange delivers excellent levels of detail, and you’re almost certain to discover something new about your music collection when you try these.

They work well across the spectrum too. Speech is sharp and clear, acoustic jazz offers a breadth of tonality that seems to give the music additional height and room for the frequencies to stretch out. But hard rock and heavy dance beats sound punchy and tight, with plenty of distortion-free oomph, even when the volume’s cranked up to ear-bleed levels.

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