I’ve long been, and to this day remain a fan of the Etymotic Research line of earphones. In fact, I had three product generations from them. Most recently their HF5’s which remain my favorite noise reducing earphones. That said, in recent times I don’t find myself in need of noise reducing earphones as much as in the past. After 20 years of routine business travel, in 2013 I gave up my relationship with the airlines in favor of a continuous home life.
So when my current set of HF5’s started looking a little worn out it I occurred to me that I could try something new and different. That was about a year ago. While I was curious about some of the multi-driver Shure IEMs their >$300 price point put them out of reach.
Quite recently I read something about 1More, a new company trying to disrupt the high-end earphone market, which has gotten just nutty in recent years. The Shure 3-way IEMs run a whopping $550, which reflects their value to a professional musician who needs premium sound from a durable personal monitor. In contrast, 1More are focused on the consumer experience, offering a hybrid 3-driver IEM for just $99.
Now I can be impulsive, especially when the price is right. Given this impulse, bolstered by a range of glowing reviews at respectable web sites (here, here, here, here & here), I ordered a set of the top-end 1More earphones. This review reflects my initial experience with them over the course of about six weeks.
The package design of the 1More product is Apple-esque. They come in a fancy box with a magnetic closure. Inside you’ll find the headset, a carrying pouch, an airplane adapter, an array of tips in difference sizes, a metal cord clip and printed documentation. The package conveys an impression of quality, although some, myself included, might think it excessive.
The metal construction of the headset gives it a sense of heft that I find reassuring. The mini plug, the reinforcement at the Y-point are and the inline volume/mute controls are all made of metal. The cord is Kevlar reinforced and covered by a durable woven protective layer below the Y junction. I expect that it will prove very durable.
There’s no doubt that the "Balanced Armature" design of the Etymotic line deliver crystalline high-end response. That’s why I like them. However, it has been noted that the bass suffers with such a design. If you’re into the big thump-thump sound (Beats anyone?) Etymotic will not impress. They’re all about clear, accurate, detailed sound. Here’s a nice overview of the differences between the two approaches.
The 1More triple-driver model is a hybrid, with a dynamic driver for the low-end and a pair of balanced armature drivers to deliver the crisp, detailed, high-end. The company touts them as being tuned by recording engineer and producer Luca Bignardi. I don’t know quite what to make of such a claim. It suggests a kind of "season to taste" approach, which is quite different from a goal of simple accuracy.
After just a few hours of listening I was impressed. They definitely have the clarity of my reference Etymotics, but they have dramatically more bass. In fact, coming from the HF5’s I find the 1More earphones to have excessive low-end. At this point I’m not clear if I am merely accustomed to something bass-shy, or the 1More earphones have truly exaggerated low-end. Is it a feature or a fault? I’m not yet certain.
As an aside, I went looking for an audio app for my Android phone. If the 1More earphones were too bassy perhaps I could temper them with some simple tonal adjustment? Why are the dozens of audio equalizer apps in the Play store such drek? Do you know of one that isn’t? I gave up looking in disgust.
The 1More earphones don’t provide the serious isolation of the triple flange tips of the Etymotic models. Their noise reduction function is less pronounced. That said, most people who are not actually on an airplane likely don’t need that kind of serious acoustic isolation.
The ear-buds fit readily into my ears with 13 mm tips. There are an assortment of tips from 10 mm to 14.5 mm, in both soft plastic and foam. I prefer the soft plastic over the foam tips.
Most recently I have found that the tips tend to come off the earpieces too easily. In fact, they can come away from the earpiece even in the simple act of taking off the earphones, which leaves the soft plastic tip still in my ear! For the moment I’ve switched to the larger 14.5mm tips. I want to see if they stretch over time and again become loose.
Time will tell if I become accustomed to the 1More earphones. For the moment they’ll do nicely. At just $99 they’re a pretty good value.