Strauss & Wagner EM205 wired earbuds are well-built and comfortable to wear, but their sound leaves a lot to be desired.
The EM205 are supposedly a breath of fresh air to a wired market, delivering high audio quality for under $40. Sadly, that isn’t what I hear.
These have an overall bassy sound with a peak around 6-7kHz and another one at 13kHz. Their presentation feels veiled and lacking details.
Sure, they’re fine for casual listening, but purists should look elsewhere.
On the other hand, the EM205 have lightweight aluminum housing that doesn’t protrude at all. You can even use them under a helmet.
Furthermore, they fit comfortably and don’t cause any pressure or wearing fatigue. Earbuds are easy to drive, even from your smartphone.
However, are these forty-dollar headphones worth it? Or should you skip them entirely? Find all the good and the bad in the review below.
- Decent audio performance
- Good overall build quality
- Good passive noise isolation
- Bassy sound lacking in resolution
- Memory wire (cable doesn't get straight)
- Loud cable noise
What’s in the Box?
- Strauss & Wagner EM205 wired earbuds
- 3 pairs of silicone ear tips (S, M, L)
- Carrying pouch
- User manual
Comfort & Fit
Thanks to their lightweight construction and tiny build, you quickly forget you’re wearing them. Fit isn’t the best but can improve by wearing them over-the-ear.
Strauss & Wagner EM205 are tiny in size and should fit all ear shapes.
Included 3 pairs of silicone ear tips don’t cause much pressure. Consequently, they don’t hurt your ears, even when you accidentally pull on the cable and launch them out of your ears.
While the fit is good, stability is only okay. They will stay inside your ears for light outdoor walks, whereas running with them isn’t comfortable.
There’s no shirt clip inside the packaging, and the control module on the wire bounces a lot. Here are some solutions to keep your earbuds from falling out.
Cable noise is also quite severe. The best solution is to wear them with the wire behind the ear, which will better distribute the weight and prevent earbuds from bouncing too much.
Also, since earbuds are pretty tiny, they can easily fit under a helmet. They’re ideal biker earbuds.
Just be careful how you tuck in the remote control module under the helmet since it’s pretty long.
Even though earbuds do a great job passively isolating ambient noise, they also produce tons of microphonics.
Passive noise isolation is usually a strong point with in-ear monitors, and Strauss and Wagner EM205 are no different.
Silicone ear tips sufficiently cut out most of the surrounding noise. You can wear them on public transport and not be bothered by people’s speech.
However, the EM205 have a noticeable cable noise that gets much worse when you walk. It can mask a large portion of the music.
Fortunately, you can reduce 90% of the cable noise by wearing earbuds with the wire going behind your ears.
That way, your earlobes dampen vibrations that travel by wires.
The metallic housing appears quite sturdy, with the control module sharing the same rigid construction. However, the thin cable and small strain reliefs leave much to be desired.
Touching the cold exterior of the EM205 does give some reassurance of the earbud’s build quality.
The housing is made from half aluminum and half plastic parts, both feeling quite sturdy. They could easily endure some abuse if accidentally dropped on the floor.
The control module is also made from aluminum and plastic buttons. The latter provide very tactile feedback.
One thing that might cause some concern is the cable. It’s non-detachable and pretty thin, which isn’t the best combination. Cables are usually the first thing to break.
Also, the rubberized texture on the cable makes the earbuds prone to tangle. Untangling them takes quite some time. Keep that in mind before you simply throw them in a bag.
Another thing is strain reliefs. They’re relatively tiny, so you have to be careful not to twist cables too much.
There’s also some memory-wire effect (the cable doesn’t want to stay straight). That can be annoying when you wear earbuds outdoors since the cable is constantly twisting.
The addition of the control module helps you navigate playback without touching your music player. Mic quality is also pretty excellent.
Wired earbuds usually don’t carry many extra features, except the control module. Thankfully, you can control pretty much everything with the one found on the EM205.
The module has 3 buttons: 2 for volume and the main one, from where you activate various commands using gestures.
Strauss & Wagner EM205 controls:
- Volume control up – press the button with a “+” sign
- Volume control down – press the button with a “-” sign
- Play/pause – press the center (main) button
- Next track – double-press the center button
- Previous track – triple-press the center button
- Activate voice commands– press and hold the center button
- Accept call – single press on the center button
- Reject call – press and hold the center button for 5 seconds
- End call – press the main button during a call
As with many other wired headphones with inline microphones, these too are great for picking up your voice with good clarity.
It’s worth noting that the integrated microphone on the Strauss and Wagner EM205 is extremely quiet. The latter can be annoying for the person on the other side of the line.
Good clarity continues even after introducing background noise. While earbuds don’t even try to suppress the noise, your voice is still clear enough to come through understandable.
Also, even when making phone calls during walking or running, the microphone picks up very little vibrations. The latter is great when you have to answer a call outdoors.
While vocal performances sound good and the soundstage is above-average, everything else feels veiled and muffled, with little detail and transparency to the audio.
Indeed, all humans hear slightly differently. Strauss and Wagner appear pretty sensitive to how you place them in your ears and what ear tip you use.
When performing frequency response measurements, I’ve noticed that the bass gets flatter if you push the earbuds all the way into the artificial ears.
In contrast, the punchy bass boosts up to 7dB if you only place them in front of the ear canal.
There are also changes in higher frequencies when trying different ear tips. Silicones sound notably different from foam ones.
However, there are always some massive peaks and dips that only shift left and right but never disappear.
The sound signature is generally too V-shaped (overly bassy and recessed/veiled in the midrange).
The bass extends nicely into the sub-bass and can produce a good rumble. It’s punchy and reasonably controlled, especially when you pair the EM205 with an amp (I used AudioQuest Dragonfly Red).
However, the low-end often bleeds into the midrange, muffling instruments and vocals at the same time.
Vocals sound a bit dark but still relatively natural. Earbuds portray male vocals slightly better than females, which are a tad thin sounding.
However, the bass bleed, and the dip in the lower mid-range creates a veil that muffles all the instruments.
The latter lack detail and texture, especially acoustic guitars. Foam ear tips help to smooth out the audio a bit, but the muddiness stays, unfortunately.
It’s fairly dark, with some sparkle in the upper treble. However, like the mids, it also lacks resolution and texture.
Cymbals can sound a bit splashy at times, missing airiness and sparkle that would make them stand out.
At least the soundstage is above-average for in-ear headphones. You can hear sounds slightly out of your head. There’s more depth than width.
Earbuds have a rather accurate stereo field (imaging), with no major blind spots between the left or right channel.
Upon investigating the EM205’s frequency response, it seems very similar to the stock Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 tuning. So why they don’t have the same good sound quality?
There are 2 problems. Firstly, Sennheiser earbuds require some EQ corrections and a “High-End Tuning” feature to perform at their best.
Secondly, dynamic drivers from Momentum True Wireless 2 are technically superior to the ones from the EM205.
Consequently, the audio feels tighter and more detailed on Sennheiser’s, even though both earbuds share similar tuning.
Should You Get Strauss & Wagner EM205?
If you prefer a darker, V-shaped sound or search for a very usable set of earphones to wear under a helmet, these are worth checking out.
Furthermore, they boast a good build quality and ensure long-lasting comfort. The built-in microphone is also excellent if you make lots of phone calls.
However, don’t expect audiophile nirvana, as the audio can leave you a bit disappointed.
It’s far too V-shaped to provide a faithful listening experience, let alone shower you with micro details. And hooking them with an amp doesn’t help that much.
The cable is also quite thin and could be the first thing to break. Even at $40, you can get in-ear monitors that offer a removable cable.
Compared to what the competition offers, especially truly wireless solutions, I have a hard time recommending these. Even Skullcandy Dime, which cost only $25, sound way better than the EM205.
If you truly want wired options, the KZ brand offers excellent value for the price (KZ ZST review). Also, their earbuds usually come with a detachable cable.
Strauss & Wagner EM205 Alternatives
The Sonic’s are true wireless earbuds that cost $10 more than the EM205 but still offer better value.
They have a more engaging, natural, and impactful sound, with a massive boost in sub-bass. The latter can be a bit fatiguing when listening to more modern genres like hip hop.
Furthermore, the Sonic offer higher freedom of movement with no wires and can withstand water splashes (an IPX5 rating).
Even though they run on batteries, with up to 14 hours of playtime on a single charge, you can wear them for a couple of days straight.
They’re made entirely from plastic but feel sturdy nevertheless.
Overall, they’re an all-around better option than Strauss and Wagner EM205.
A cheaper true wireless alternative for $25 that can easily beat EM205 in sound quality. The Dime are slightly V-shaped yet very clean and with good detail across the spectrum.
Moreso, they offer an IPX4 water resistance rating, ensuring that the sweat doesn’t damage the internals.
On the other hand, the battery life is extremely short at 3.5 hours per charge. Meaning, you have to keep the charging case with you at all times.
They’re also not as comfortable as Strauss and Wagner earbuds, with sharp edges that can quickly start poking your ears.
Build quality is on the lower side, too. They feel very plasticky and fragile compared to other TWS earbuds.
Zero Audio Carbo Tenore
If you seek great value wired earbuds for under $50, you should check Carbo Tenore instead.
Overall build quality is comparable to the EM205, with well-made housing but overly thin, fragile-looking cable. There’s no control module on the Carbo Tenore.
While the latter is more comfortable, they also protrude out of your ears. That is why you can’t wear them under a helmet like the EM205.
The most notable difference is in their lively sound signature. The Carbo Tenore’s sound is more detailed and fun while still producing some solid bass punch.
These are wired cheap earbuds with detachable cables and a bassy sound signature.
If you’re looking for more power in the lower frequencies for a cheap price, don’t look further. At the lowest price for under $20, with solid construction and detachable cables, you’ll have a hard time finding a better deal.
These are tuned for more bass while keeping the details and clarity. This won’t make them have the deepest beats, but an enjoyable bass-heavy audio. It’s popular among audiophiles for a reason. They’re a great choice and worth checking out.
|Connection:||Wired – 3.5mm|
|Weight:||13g (with cable)|
|Mic & Controls:||Yes|
|Active noise cancelling:||No|