After coming home from school for winter break, I found waiting for me this package. I’ve seen a lot of prior attempts at multi-driver over-ear headphones, but in full candor, they mostly suck. The drivers always seem haphazardly and nonsensically arranged in some arbitrary geometry, and that randomness is usually reflected in the acoustic qualities of the headphones. But, I’d heard a lot from 1MORE in the past, almost entirely good, so I suspended my prior experience as best as I could and went in with the clearest head that I could muster and the usual expectations that I hold for a ~$250 headphone.
I was immediately surprised by the clarity, cohesion, and quality of the sound that was being pushed through these three drivers, and that left me with a lot questions – what did they change? What considerations did they make that made this a better headphone? I got these about a month before their release, so I couldn’t scout around and find answers elsewhere. Ari Morguelan, 1MORE’s director of PR, and I worked out a time for a quick phone call and below is most of the conversation, and all of it that helped to answer those questions. It’s a bit long, but there’s a lot of information and insight that I think is valuable in this particular case, since these really are the first multi-driver over-ears in this price-range that I’ve heard that don’t suck – contrarily, they’re quite good, and have bass that rivals some things I’ve heard in much, much more expensive headphones.
Me: “The primary reason that I wanted to get a more informed background on these is that I’ve seen a lot in the past of multi-driver over-ears, but they tend to fall under two categories, in that they’re either very expensive or very cheap, with the latter tending to be pretty universally terrible. So, a big part of my question is what special consideration and material design choices were made that you feel have made this a much better headphone than past entrants to the market?”
Ari: “Sure, yeah. Once you get to the high-end, you’re talking about ultra-high-grade, premium materials, and oftentimes planar magnetic technology accompanied by dynamic drivers, which leaves a lot more options. On the low-priced end, you tend to have multiple, but smaller, dynamic drivers, and they don’t hybridize them (usually four or more dynamic drivers in a circle, a square, a triangle, etc.).
Ours is kind of a compromise between the two – we do use higher-end materials - for example, we have a beryllium driver in there, and all of the form on the outside is anodized aluminum. The other consideration is that instead of using multiple dynamics drivers or multiple balanced armature drivers, we actually decided to use three different dynamic drivers.
How we did that was through a bass reflex driver, a huge, 40mm, composite metal diaphragm and a 45mm driver around that, and then a ceramic tweeter. So, it works more like a home theater system, or a car that has a kicker. You’ll have a main stereo, a tweeter, and then a passive bass tube, sort of.
So together, the three combine, and they don’t necessarily compete. We have a very even crossover between the first driver and the tweeter. The tweeter bridges to the high-end, I think, around 2000 Hz. And the main driver does the low-end, with the bass reflex driver working like a passive diaphragm on the outside.
It’s not really considered an open-ear, because we have a piece of PET that coats the outside, where you can look in and see the passive driver, but because it allows a fair amount of noise to emit through it, so it’s not considered closed, either. It’s almost a hybrid open and closed design. Usually people will pick either open or closed, and it’s rare to see a hybrid like this. So, I think those are two compromises that really aren’t being seen out there.
If you’ve ever been to these audio shows, you’ll see these massive Sennheisers, and you can hear right through them. You know, a guy could be standing beside you, thirty feet away, and you can hear exactly what he’s listening to. And they’re totally committed to that – it allows for an incredible soundstage. Other people who go on the other end of that, they go closed, they’re only moving the air within the earcup, and if you don’t have the right balance, you’ll lose a lot of fidelity.
These allow for a little bit of both – you have the closed-back feel, with an intimate soundstage, but you have some of the bass radiating in and out, creating what we call transience. It’s like when you walk into a nightclub, and you can immediately feel the bass in your feet. It’s not really hearing, it’s feeling. I think that we haven’t compromised on materials, and in the face of, sort of, cramming multiple drivers in there for the sake of doing it, we actually came up with a very unique, sandwiched design – they all sit on top of each other, they don’t have to compete for space.
When you play around with the arrangement of the drivers like that, they’re always going to have some sort of resonance, but the goal is to minimize how that affects sound quality.”
Me: “This is my intuition speaking, but I’m assuming that the bass reflex driver is taking advantage of the resonant structures in the earcup to amplify the desired frequencies?”
Ari: “Yeah, and not to get too technical, because that’d be out of my wheelhouse, but the PET that you can see on the back of the headphone helps to enclose a lot of that vibration. All of our products are finally tuned by Luca Bignardi, who’s a Grammy winning sound engineer, so he actually sits down with the finished product and does that tuning with the finished product. As a result, they’re always making considerations in the design for that.
For example, the resonance within the sound chamber itself is taken into consideration in the design. You have to take into account the vibrations within the sound chamber. I know we’re doing that here, but could I tell you exactly what frequencies and how? I could find out. But I would say, for sure, putting that PET coating there allows for those resonances to be taken advantage of.”
Me: “Something that I noticed, even on the first listen – headphones always struggle with, by their form factor, emulating the reality of a speaker system, which is that, when there’s a cabinet subwoofer that’s as large as they get, moving that much air creates an effect that isn’t always replicable by headphones, given the inherently smaller drivers.
I think that one of the reasons I so immediately took to the sound signature of these headphones was that you guys certainly aren’t cramming an 18-inch subwoofer into a headphone, but you’re getting a lot closer than I think I’ve seen a lot of other manufacturers get, in the past. And that’s something that I think is very impressive.
I think a big part of that is the concentric design that you guys have put together, because you’re right, the idiom I have for multi-driver over-ears is this terrible, $60, 5-driver over-ear, where they’re almost randomly placed in the earcup and it just makes no sense. Seeing that these are concentric makes a lot of sense with what my intuition was saying, which was that for this design to work and sound good, while still retaining a lot of the appreciable qualities of higher-end headphones, the drivers can’t just be thrown into the earcup randomly. That’s what I was alluding to earlier, because I think there’s a lot more potential to having multiple drivers in over-ear headphones than is necessarily being recognized currently, partially because of the way that it’s been done in the past, if that makes sense.”
Ari: “It does, and beyond that, I think a lot of the high-end companies, they want to make one kind of design strategy, one driver technology, so they do it very well. They’re also committed to that, they don’t generally like to deviate from that. 1MORE is new in that we’re trying to make ourselves, to be in between the audiophile and the consumer, to be right in between. We feel like the pricing, as well as the materials, as well as the design philosophy, should be in the middle, being able to deliver somewhat of that audiophile, really top-notch sound as well as some of that openness that you get from the soundstage, as well as having the ability to be affordable and accessible.”
Ari: “Also, if you’d like, I can give you a little backstory about these headphones.”
Ari: “If you look at them from the side, you can see that they were originally done as a possible partnership with Maserati. If you look at the earcups straight on, they look like a Maserati wheel. We did a limited run, about 500, for one of the Maserati roadsters, so that when you bought the car, you would get a pair of these custom-made headphones with the car, along with a jacket, leather gloves, all the cool stuff you get when you buy those types of cars. So, they said, “Oh, we have this awesome design, so let’s see what we can do with it.” So, it has a cool birth, as far as I’m concerned, it has this race car-like design, where the design and the form factor come from Maserati and our partnership with them.”
That’s up there with the coolest backstories that I’ve heard for any headphone, and after hearing Ari and my back-and-forth through them for the past hour or so, I think I’m ready to move into the actual review section of this review.
Fit and Form
These headphones are quite the looker, as mentioned above. In this black colorway, though, they don’t bridge the gap into ostentatious or ear-candy, thankfully. I wouldn’t call them understated by any means, but the design is well-considered and attractive, in my opinion. I particularly am a fan of the curve in the headband at the point of rotational articulation – they look nice.
They’re also very small, folding easily into a convenient carrying case. They do stretch right to the limit of the definition of the term, “over-ears,” as they do sit around my ears, but only just. After three+ hours, my ears do get a little bit cramped, but I tend to have pretty sensitive pinna, so that may vary depending on the user. They aren’t uncomfortable though, and generally speaking, I didn’t have any issues there. The headband is well-padded without being excessively so, and they extend to fit pretty much any head size that I could foresee. The earpads aren’t too cushy nor are they too stiff, with some small ventilation holes in the forward-facing side that keep the ears adequately cool. The mesh that covers the driver array in each earcup is marked with a large, “L” and, “R” for the left and right earcups respectively – no guesswork there.
The included 3.5mm TRS auxiliary cable terminates to the headphone end with a pair of 2.5mm TRS auxiliary connectors. Both the connectors rings and the ports of the headphones are colored white for the left side and red for the right side – 1MORE is making it really hard to screw up using these headphones; no complaints. I will say, it’s beyond me what the ring in each of the headphone-end connectors is for, but that’s not even a gripe, just something that I found interesting. Aside from that, the cable is of good quality, with the section below the Y-splitter being cloth-wrapped and rubber above the Y-splitter.
Also included in the small, Velcro-backed pouch that sits in the upper lid of the zippered, hard-shelled, travel case is a 3.5mm to 6.3mm TRS converter for use with home audio solutions. It seems of good quality, and I had no issues with it in use.
The sound signature of these headphones is fairly balanced, although there is a notable and fairly significant tilt to the lower frequencies. I oftentimes refer to an admittedly nebulous, “consumer oriented” sound signature, and by that, I mean relatively neutral with slight favor towards bass. I’d say that these go a little bit beyond that with their bass emphasis, to the point that bass-heads would probably be pretty satisfied with these, especially with the quality of the bass, but I’ll get to that in just a bit.
Soundstage sits a bit larger than most closed-backs that I’ve heard in the past, with falls in line with what Ari said earlier, regarding their self-conceived hybridization of open- and closed-backs. Imaging and separation are good, and they allow for a very natural presentation of most recorded music. They aren’t so good that in listening, I feel as though things are unnecessarily separated, nor are they overly cohesive, so that the music becomes soup. There is an appropriate degree of connection between different parts within a track, but they are technically competent enough to handle busier and more instrumentally-complicated tracks (see: much of Snarky Puppy).
Isolation is pretty good; I used them on a plane ride, and had almost no issue separating myself from what was going on around me. Leakage is not as bad as I think Ari let on earlier, although it is a bit more than most closed-backs. I think the closest approximation that I have to their leakage at relatively normal volumes is a pair of Apple EarPods – in a silent room, people will be aware of what you’re listening to, but in almost any other environment, they don’t disturb much.
In terms of most-ideal genre pairings, the first that come to mind are the classic bass-heavy genres: EDM, hip-hop, electronic, house, pop, etc. But, any music that I personally feel is head-nod inspiring sounds good through these, even outside of those genres (see: Kaleo, Dave Matthews Band, even a lot of Steely Dan). They certainly don’t do a bad job of any genre that I put through them, including orchestral music, but every once in a while, they add a bit more bass than I think I’d like in some of the less intense genres in my library. I wouldn’t call them perfect all-arounders, but they do a competent enough job to handle pretty much anything that I could throw at them.
I'd also like to specifically note that these headphones do particularly with equalization. I mostly played around with this (un-intuitively enough) in slightly bumping up the bass and dropping the treble a bit, and they do extremely with avoiding distortion and general unpleasantness when playing around. For anyone who does grab a pair of these in the future, I highly recommend messing around a bit with your EQ settings and seeing what you like best.
Songs used: Three Ralphs by DJ Shadow, ZIPPER by BROCKHAMPTON, and I Never Woke Up in Handcuffs Before by Hans Zimmer
Sometimes I struggle to find the highlight section of a headphone. This is not the case for these, at all. The bass rumbles, it shakes, and it slams, all when called for. This really is as close to speakers as I’ve felt in a headphone that I’ve had for review (yet, I’m still waiting to get a set of Taction Technology’s Kannons). This isn’t to say that they rival an SBS Ultra Subwoofer, or anything close, just that they get a lot closer to replicating the feeling of bass that only speakers can provide, at least for now. Simultaneously though, they retain pretty good control of attack and decay. It’s by no means the fastest bass that I’ve heard (I think that still goes to Noble Audio’s Kaiser Encore of Periodic Audio’s Beryllium), but it isn’t sloppy or mushy like many of past multi-driver over-ears have been. At a higher level, these headphones are damn good at making me nod along to the music. They keep me engaged and enjoying almost any music that I can think to put through these headphones, and they make for a very satisfying listening experience.
Additionally and aside, the control of imaging in this range in combination with its fullness makes for a very fun time in some modern, well-mastered hip-hop, as hearing a synth sub-bass zoom around is a very entertaining time.
Key descriptors: big, booming, and satisfying
Songs used: Gunpowder by Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, Down the Road by C2C, and Did We Live Too Fast by Got a Girl
If I were to read the “bass” section alone and predict this following section, I’d expect to read something that included the words, “washed out” and “bled-over” and “un-emphasized,” but I’d be wrong. The mids are actually pretty good. They have almost no tilt towards lean or lush, with pretty good portrayal of male and female vocals. I think I hear a tiny bit of a spike in the upper-mids that can become just slightly fatiguing over time, but it’s nothing major and nothing too bad. Most instruments are conveyed with good fidelity, and I’ll especially highlight that a good horn bassline absolutely shines through these headphones, as they have a good control over rendering the texture of that range, and when that combines with the bass qualities that I talk about in the above section, it yields a very fun time. Certainly not the best mids I’ve heard recently, but for a headphone with the emphasis that these have, they’re better than I’d expect and certainly more than tolerable.
Key descriptors: neutral, textured, and detailed
Songs used: Ageispolis by Aphex Twin, K.K.P.D. by Christian Scott, and First by Cold War Kids
Treble is a bit of a weak spot. Even with the separate ceramic tweeter, it seems that the treble is slightly veiled for my tastes, and oftentimes gets noticeably overpowered by the bass. There’s very little sibilance that I noticed, but it does happen occasionally, although excusably. Even though that’s a positive, it gets a little bit peaky and can sometimes become a bit grating. All this is not to say that this range ruins the headphones, by any means, just that I feel that it is the weak point.
I always try to make a point of putting a track through them that highlights cymbals in this section – that’s why “K.K.P.D.” is almost always featured in this section – the opening drum solo is very well recorded and mastered, and does a great job pointing out problems in a headphone from that perspective. Interestingly, considering the commentary directly above, these headphones actually handle cymbals pretty well – they retain good poignancy and detail, with hi-hat barks and ride bell strikes retaining the correct fidelity and balance of attack and decay. Props there, as I didn’t necessarily expect it.
Key descriptors: detailed, slightly veiled, and slightly sharp
I’m always glad for the format that I follow, because writing the “Sound” section before the three break-down section allows for a space for both my general, high-level thoughts on the headphone based on my use and a lower-level breakdown of the good and bad of the headphone, at a more analytical level. In addition, the “Wrap-Up” section is helpful, as it allows me to, sort of, allow the analytical end inform my last stated opinion of the product.
This is particularly helpful in the case of these headphones, because it’s made my opinion a little bit clearer to myself, and hopefully that’ll allow it to be a little bit clearer to you. In general, I feel that these are a very enjoyable pair of headphones. They make the music that I put through them a bit more fun than most headphones, and just listening can be a very enjoyable experience as a result of the qualities and uniqueness that I’ve found in the bass section of their frequency response. There are certainly flaws here – the treble is a bit restrained and can get a little bit grating in extended listening sections, and the mids aren’t near the perfect that I’d like them to be.
But, at the price point, I generally feel that these headphones are pretty incredible. I can’t emphasize enough (I don’t think) just how fun they are, I have yet to get bored of them in almost 40 hours of analytical listening. They’re low-end really is unique in the market that I’m aware of right now, and they represent a huge step forward in headphone technology with their nested integration of multiple different dynamic driver-types, if I haven’t made that abundantly clear by now. 1MORE is an entirely unique brand – they started out as an OEM manufacturer, for those unaware, and transitioned into making their own headphones full-time, with their own drivers, their own enclosure, and their own engineering. Periodic Audio has a somewhat similar story, and long-term followers of my reviews will remember how much I raved about them then.
After the triple- and quad-driver in-ears that they sent me, I was excited to see what would come next. I’m completely comfortable admitting that when I first saw the empty placeholder for these headphones in their webstore, I was worried that this would represent an unpleasant turn in their progress as a company. This could easily have been another mediocre-at-best entrant into the multi-driver over-ear market, but it is far from that. I hope to see 1MORE expand and extend on these technological innovations, and I’m left even more excited and anticipatory of their future in this industry.
I’d also like to extend a huge thanks to Ari and 1MORE for sending these out to me so far from release, as its allowed me to spend enough time with them that I really feel comfortable with my opinion of them, as well as directly to Ari for taking the time to give me an in-depth background into the development, design, and considerations made that allowed these headphones to be what they are.
These headphones were provided to me by 1More Audio. I am not being paid by anyone to write this review, to endorse the product reviewed, or for the content that I put in the review.
These headphones were provided signal by an Astell&Kern AK Junior, a Google Pixel, a Neurochrome HP-1, and by whatever soundcard is in the motherboard of my computer.
I have had these headphones for about a month, and I have put about 50 hours of analytical listening through them during that period.