When we recently reviewed Strauss & Wagner’s EM205, we found only a very few issues with the wired earbuds. In fact, it easily earned an Editor’s Choice award for being audiophile-friendly at under $40. Now, Strauss & Wagner has reached out with a new pair, the EM8C, offering Android Headlines an early look and review. And, according to the company, the new pair of wired earbuds rectify those issues.
To be clear, it’s not that there were all that many issues to correct. And at least two of the issues we noted with those earlier headphones are still present. But the caveat that Strauss & Wagner EM8C does fix is a big one. And even small changes sometimes drastically alter the experience. So let’s dive right in for a closer look.
The biggest change for Strauss & Wagner EM8C is in the hardware
At just a cursory glance, its easy to see that Strauss & Wagner stuck to their guns on design for its wired EM8C earbuds and, as this review reveals, that’s not a bad thing at all. But there’s also one big difference this time around.
These earbuds hold onto the EM205’s unassuming barrel-shaped earbud and its long — 43-inches long — cable. That cable made riding my bicycle around town while listening to music streamed from my handle bar-mounted phone a breeze, by the way. It’s more than long enough at nearly four feet.
The company also held onto the high-quality pack-ins and materials. Including the seude-like carry bag with nylon pull-ties, two extra set of super-comfortable ear tips, and the manual. While the user manual is probably my least favorite pack-in — it opens up like an old-school map and these buds don’t pack steep learning curve, to begin with — it’s made of quality paper too.
In terms of durability, there’s still no water- or dust-proof rating for these earbuds. But the carry case and earbuds themselves are lightweight, tangle-free, and feel sturdily constructed enough that they should hold up fairly well. Even at the low asking cost associated with Strauss & Wagner EM8C. The in-line buttons, conversely, are clicky and easy to identify at a touch thanks to the company’s decision to use protruding symbols on each of those.
Now, I could spend a good deal of time talking about the multi-function buttons or the comfort of these earbuds. Even after hours of listening, they don’t generate ear fatigue. That’s at least partially down to the softer, squishier earbud tips, making more inclusions effectively redundant. And that’s a good thing, because there’s no battery to speak of here. Since these are wired, you could genuinely just listen all day long without worry.
But the bigger change to Strauss & Wagner EM8C is in the end of the cable itself.
The end of the cable attaching to the earbud is the same as before. Off-centered, which relieves pressure from the thinner-than-average cable to help keep it from breaking. The cable feels just as strong as with the EM205, at any rate, despite being thin. But the added attention to detail is appreciable.
No, the big change here is that these headphones, unlike their predecessor, don’t utilize a 3.5mm jack. Instead, they use USB Type-C. And, thankfully, that meant I could finally use these with my Google Pixel 5 — or any other smartphone or device that requires a Type-C jack. The sole caveat to that, of course, is that it doesn’t work with Apple products. But that’s not going to come as a surprise to most who own those devices.
Audio here was predictably fantastic
Of course, borrowing the design from EM205 does a lot for Strauss & Wagner EM8C under review. A snug, lightweight fit and comfort are, afterall, paramount when it comes to a great listening experience. Setting aside battery life since these are wired.
The quality of the audio, conversely, is far more important then. Especially with consideration for the rapid advance of great Bluetooth headsets. And with consideration for the ever-rampant use of terms like “audiophile” and “high-value” in writing about new audio products.
Strauss & Wagner doesn’t necessarily avoid aiming for those attributes for EM8C, for clarity. In fact, it aims to offer those attributes at a far superior cost. And, for the most part, the company doesn’t disappoint. That is, with one caveat that’s well worth mentioning.
In most modern headphones, there’s a persistent need to push and amplify bass tones well beyond what could be called “production levels.” That is, listeners increasingly want heavier-hitting low frequencies, often at the expense of higher ones. Strauss & Wagner, it’s fair to say, is having none of that. So, if that’s what you’re looking for in your next pair of earbuds, you can skip these.
What these do bring to the table, and for a lot less money than wireless options, is a truly near-audiophile experience. And that means that audio isn’t just well-placed in terms of headspace. It’s well balanced as well.
Bass tones are present and accounted for, with plenty of oomph where tuned that way in production. And, of course, you can get more using in-app EQs for whatever streaming or listening service you use. Or if your device happens to have one. Mids and highs shine through in clarity without ever coming across as overbearing or tinny. The tones sound almost perfectly level out-of-the box.
Strauss & Wagner EM8C, like the EM205, offers an impedance of 32Ohms, range of 20Hz to 20kHz, a sensitivity rating at 108dB, and 9mm drivers.
And noise cancellation on the mics is all but unneccessary. Thanks in part to a similar mic sensitivity of -43 dB. Making the mic more than serviceable in all but the loudest environments for video chatting, meetings, and other use cases. That’s with no complaints from anybody I called while wearing them.
These earbuds are very back-to-basics and that’s a good thing
Looking beyond simple audio quality, which was on par with EM205, Strauss & Wagner EM8C does have one major advantage. And that’s on the connectivity front.
No, you aren’t going to find any wireless connection options. With the years-long debate still rages about whether wired or wireless audio is better, these buds have chosen the wired-only route.
And these earbuds won’t overwhelm you with a lot of app-based or on-bud based features, either. There’s no in-ear detection and there isn’t any added software to block out exterior sounds. Strauss & Wagner is focused on bringing things back-to-basics. And in doing so in a way that supports audiophile-like levelling and balance, combined with powerful sound, on any device.
And, to that end, the biggest connectivity feature with Strauss & Wagner EM8C under review, is its USB-C connector. The previous wired model featured a 3.5mm audio jack. And, despite offering great sound at a bargain, it simply didn’t work with my Pixel 5 smartphone. Or with any other USB-C gadgets I happen to own.
So, at the end of that earlier review, unlike many others I’ve conducted, I was left feeling like those earbuds simply weren’t for me. Now, with USB-C in place and properly adjusted, I was now able to listen to my heart’s content on those devices. And that’s without losing in-line controls for voice commands and playback or the simplicity that made EM205 such a good offering.
Should you buy Strauss & Wagner EM8C?
As of this review, unlike most others, the answer to the question of whether or not you should buy EM8C from Strauss & Wagner is a firm “no.” Or, at the very least, you can’t quite do so yet. But you absolutely should once they do launch.
Right now, the company is running a Kickstarter campaign to get these earbuds produced and out the door. But, unlike many other companies, this one has a long list of already-available devices. So this isn’t likely going to be vaporware, at the very least. It’s just going to take some time before they become available to the wider public.
The question becomes then, why should anybody wait on buying a new pair of earbuds for the arrival of Strauss & Wagner EM8C. And the answer is fairly straightforward. These offer as close to an audiophile experience as is going to be possible in a broad price range. And with the added benefit of supporting USB-C devices without costing an arm and a leg.
Typically, audiophile-level audio costs hundreds of dollars. So the real killer feature here might really be on the price side of things. When Strauss & Wagner released its EM205 earbuds, those only cost $39.95. And, while the company doesn’t list a price for the upcoming EM8C, it’s not unlikely it will fall into a similar price range.
When and if it does, these earbuds will easily be among the best you can buy. At the very least, for those who need great audio via USB-C but don’t require official dust and water protection or Bluetooth.