- Very good sound quality overall
- Tangle-resistant wires
- Bass can be a bit recessed
- Soft-pouch carrying case is difficult to open
- Limited selection of eartip sizes
This in-ear headphone offers very good sound quality for very few bucks. The sound is just a bit lean with slightly recessed bass, which isn’t a problem without a direct comparison.
I’ve been a big fan of 1More in-ear headphones (IEH) ever since I reviewed the company’s Stylish True Wireless model for Macworld. In addition, I wrote about the 1More Triple Driver wired IEH that is given to VIP attendees at Aerosmith’s Las Vegas residency in my coverage of that event for TechHive.
1More offers other models of wired in-ear headphones, including the Dual Driver and Quad Driver, which led me to wonder if more drivers equal better performance. I asked 1More to send me a Dual Driver and a Quad Driver, so I could compare them with the Triple Driver I had from the Aerosmith concert. The sound quality of all three is quite good, but in a direct side-by-side comparison, the Triple and Quad Driver models edge out the Dual Driver.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best headphones, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.
The first thing you might wonder is, why bother with wired in-ear headphones? True Wireless models, such as the 1More Stylish, have no wires to get tangled, and they are quickly gaining popularity, especially since many modern mobile devices have ditched their headphone jack in favor of Bluetooth. Well, for one thing, it’s entirely too easy to lose a true wireless headphone unless you’re very careful. Then there’s the need to charge their batteries—I hate it when they poop out just as I’m getting on the treadmill. But most importantly, a wired connection is still superior to Bluetooth, which is important for audiophiles who want the best possible sound quality. But if true wireless headphones are what you’re looking for, Macworld offers excellent coverage of that space.
As you can undoubtedly surmise from the product names, each model has a corresponding number of drivers in each earpiece. The Dual Driver has a graphene dynamic driver for the low and mid frequencies, and one balanced armature for the high frequencies. The Triple Driver uses a beryllium-composite dynamic driver for the lows and mids, with two balanced-armature drivers for the highs. And the Quad Driver includes a PET (polyethylene terephthalate, aka Mylar) diaphragm with a “diamond-like” carbon coating for the lows and mids, with two balanced armatures for the highs, and a third balanced armature for ultra-high frequencies.
All three models were tuned by Grammy-winning sound engineer Luca Bignardi, and all have a frequency response from 20Hz to 40kHz, making them completely amenable to high-resolution audio. Most of the other specs are essentially identical as well: 32-ohm impedance, 98-99 dB sensitivity, 5 mW power handling, 1.25-meter cable length, and an L-shaped, gold-plated 3.5mm plug. The Dual Driver weighs a total of 15 grams, while the Triple Driver tips the scale at 18 g, and the Quad Driver weighs in at 18.5 g.
The drivers and associated structures for all three models are housed in aluminum-alloy bodies with ergonomically angled eartips. The shape of the earpieces and the angle of the eartips help achieve a good seal to isolate you from ambient noise, which is critical for good sound quality. Another crucial element in this regard is selecting the best eartips for your ears. The Dual Driver comes with four pairs of silicone tips of various sizes, while the Triple Driver and Quad Driver include nine pairs of tips (six silicone, three memory foam). The largest 14.5mm silicone tips that come with the Triple and Quad Driver work the best in my ears—in fact, I use them on almost all IEHs I listen to.
In addition, all three have an inline control pod on the right-earpiece wire that lets you control the volume, skip tracks, and take phone calls. The pod also includes a microphone to pick up your side of a phone conversation. I like the Quad Driver’s pod the best; it has raised physical buttons that are easy to find by feel. The Dual and Triple Driver pods have non-raised buttons separated by tiny ridges.
The wires are Kevlar-sheathed for increased durability, and the wires from the two earpieces join into a single wire braided with nylon for tangle resistance. The Dual and Triple Drivers use “enameled copper” conductors, while the Quad Driver uses oxygen-free copper, a conductor that is well-regarded in the audiophile community. Interestingly, the Triple Driver cable is the thickest of the three.
The Dual Driver comes with a soft-pouch carrying case with a spring-loaded mouth that’s difficult to open, while the Triple and Quad Drivers come with a hard-sided carrying case with a magnetic clasp.
Perhaps most importantly, 1More claims that the Triple Driver is the world’s first THX-certified headphone, which means it has passed a rigorous set of tests conducted by THX.
To compare the performance of the 1More Dual, Triple, and Quad Driver, I listened to several tracks on each model played from an Apple iPad with a headphone output. I also listened to each track on the RevoNext QT5 wired IEH, which I reviewed very highly on TechHive, as well as the 1More Stylish True Wireless IEH to see how it compared with the wired models. I adjusted the iPad output level as close to the same setting as I could.
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On a technical note, the RevoNext QT5 is a dual-driver model with a dynamic driver for the low and mid range and a balanced armature for the highs, just like the Dual Driver. The 1More Stylish uses a single titanium-composite dynamic driver to cover the entire frequency range.
As I mentioned earlier, 1More’s 14.5mm silicone eartips—the largest that come with the Triple and Quad Driver models—work very well for me, so that’s what I used on those IEHs. I tried the largest tips that come with the Dual Driver, which worked fairly well for me, but the 14.5mm tips work better. So, I used the 14.5 mm tips on the Dual Driver as well as the Stylish. I use the largest silicone tips that came with a JBL IEH on RevoNext QT5, which works very well for my ears.
Keep in mind that finding the right eartips for your ears is critical for getting the best possible sound from any IEH. If the tips do not create a good seal in your ear canal, the bass will be very thin and the overall sound will be tinny. It’s crucial to find the best tips for your ears, which might well be different than the ones that are best for my ears. Also, you might find that foam tips are better for you than silicone. Spend some time trying the tips that come with any IEH to find the best ones for you. If none of them work well, you might try a third-party vendor like Comply, which makes lots of different foam eartips.
I began my marathon listening session with “Whirl-Y-Reel 1” from Afro Celt Sound System’s album Sound Magic, Vol. 1. This world-music ensemble uses lots of synthesizers along with Celtic flute, bagpipes, and lots of percussion. The Dual Driver sounded nice and clean with good delineation of instruments, fairly deep bass, crisp highs, and clear midrange. The Triple Driver was a bit louder and richer, and the bass was slightly more pronounced, while the Quad Driver was even richer with more bass, and I could hear deeper into the mix. The QT5 was somewhat leaner sounding, and the bass was slightly bloated, while the Stylish was clean overall, though the bass was a bit indistinct and the highs were ever-so-slightly brittle.
Moving on to more mainstream popular music, I listened to “Landslide” as performed by The Dixie Chicks on their album Home. On the Dual Driver, the vocals were very forward, the lead vocal was a bit harsh, and the bass was slightly recessed, though there was good delineation of instruments, and the guitars and mandolin sounded quite nice. The Triple Driver sounded a bit louder, smoother, and more pleasing overall, and the bass was more present. I heard very little difference between the Triple and Quad Driver, which also sounded very smooth and clean. The QT5 sounded smooth, though the bass was slightly recessed and the vocals were just a tad brittle. Finally, the Stylish also sounded smooth with very nice vocals, and the bass was well-balanced though a bit indistinct.
I love all of Joni Mitchell’s oeuvre, so I listened to “Hejira” from her album of the same name. The Dual Driver sounded very good with full guitars and natural vocals, thought Jaco Pastorious’ fretless bass was a bit restrained. The Triple Driver sounded richer and fuller with more pronounced bass and more present vocals, while the Quad Driver sounded much the same with a bit more airiness. Joni’s voice sounded slightly brittle on the QT5, and the Stylish was a bit lower in volume and slightly veiled overall.
For some good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll, I listened to “Sweet Home Alabama” from The Best of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The vocals and guitars sounded very good on the Dual Driver, though the bass was a bit indistinct and the cymbals were slightly harsh. The bass was better defined and more balanced on the Triple Driver, and the overall sound was smoother and more coherent. On the Quad Driver, the bass was even more pronounced—maybe a tad too much—but otherwise, the sound was much the same as with the Triple Driver. The QT5 had a slightly harsher sound, and the bass was a bit recessed. The Stylish sounded smoother, but the overall sound was a bit veiled, and the bass was slightly indistinct.
One of the genres that is nearest and dearest to my heart is jazz, so I listened to “My Funny Valentine” as performed by trombonist Steve Turre with piano, acoustic bass, and drums on his album Keep Searchin’. I play trombone, so I know what it should sound like. The Dual Driver sounded just a tad lean with laid-back bass, and the piano and cymbals were ever-so-slightly harsh, but the trombone sounded quite natural. The Triple Driver sounded fuller and richer; the bass was more pronounced, and all the instruments were more present. I heard much the same sound on the Quad Driver with very airy cymbals, though the bass might have been a bit overblown. On the QT5, the bass and drums were slightly more present than on the Dual Driver, but the cymbals were back to being just a bit harsh. The sound of the Stylish was slightly veiled overall, the bass and drums were a bit restrained, but the cymbals were not harsh at all.
Finally, I listened to a couple of classical tracks. First up was Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, IV. Chor “Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen,” as performed by the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique under the direction of John Eliot Gardiner. The Dual Driver sounded slightly thin, and the choir was slightly recessed, though the orchestra was well balanced, and the dynamic range was excellent. The Triple Driver sounded richer, smoother, and more present, and the Quad Driver sounded much the same. By contrast, the QT5 had a slightly thin, brittle sound, and the Stylish sounded a bit veiled.
For a purely orchestral track, I listened to Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene 2: No.28 “Romeo with Friar Laurence,” performed by the London Symphony Orchestra under Andre Previn. The Dual Driver had a good sound with nice delineation of sections and solo instruments, though the bass was slightly recessed. As expected by now, the Triple Driver had a richer sound, and the bass was more pronounced, while the Quad Driver had a very similar sound that was a bit more airy on the top end. The QT5 was slightly thinner, but the bass was a bit better than the Dual Driver, and the Stylish also sounded a bit thinner with slightly recessed bass.
I must emphasize that the differences I heard between the five IEH models were very minor; the only way to hear those differences was in a direct side-by-side comparison. I would be very happy to listen to any of them in isolation.
Having said that, here are my overall opinions after conducting just such a comparison. The Dual Driver sounds a bit lean with slightly recessed bass and occasionally just a hint of harshness in the high end, much like the RevoNext QT5, though these are very minor shortcomings. The Triple and Quad Driver models sound fuller and richer with more pronounced bass—in fact, the Quad Driver’s bass was just a tad overemphasized on some tracks, though it’s sound was slightly airier in the high end. The Stylish sounds a tad veiled overall with slightly recessed bass, but again, this is some serious nitpicking based on direct comparisons.
In the end, I give the nod to the Triple Driver for its combination of outstanding sound quality and value. In fact, it gets the first 5 rating I’ve ever bestowed on a product in a TechHive review. Not that the others are bad in any way—far from it! Depending on your budget, I’m sure you’ll be happy with any of these excellent in-ear headphones from 1More.