Although I spoke to many of the differences that I found between these two headphones in my full review of the Quad Driver, I thought it’d be helpful for some to offer a more structured and separate comparison. The break down will be by frequency range first, followed by a general comparison of sound signature in summation, by both general characteristics and by soundstage/imaging/etc.
The setup for this comparison was as follows: my Pixel sent signal via USB to a Chord Mojo, then through one output, to the Quad Drivers, and through the other, identical output, to the Triple Drivers. Although I have questioned Chord’s inclusion of two absolutely identical 1/8” TRS outputs, it was very useful in this case. Once all connected, I hung both over my neck, and as seamlessly as I could, switched headphones while taking notes. Then, I constructed this full-form comparison from those notes while re-listening to the same tracks, still switching.
I’d like to throw a thanks to 1More for sending me these at the same time, and to Chord for coincidentally loaning me a Mojo in the same time span, as the former allowed me to write this comparison, and the latter enabled me to do the testing in a much simpler way than I otherwise would have been able to.
Let’s get started.
Songs used: Think by Cicley Goulder and Christina Wood, Smoke Again feat. Ab Soul by Chance the Rapper, and Three Ralphs by DJ Shadow
The first thing that I noticed as different in the bass of these headphones was detail, and attack/decay speed. Although I wouldn’t expect it, as both use a single dynamic driver, which is presumably responsible for the lower end frequencies, I believe that the increased area of venting in the Quad Drivers allows them better control of speed and detail, beyond just slam and power. This isn’t to say that the Triple Drivers are recklessly out of control, they just lack a little bit of nuance in the low end when compared to the Quad Drivers. Both are appreciable though, and per the increase in detail, the Quad Drivers lose a noticeable bit of emphasis when compared to the Triple Drivers. This is a tradeoff that I found made me lean towards the Quad Drivers, but it all breaks down to personal preference. The other key difference that I noticed was that sub-bass is more rolled-off in the Quad Drivers than the Triple Drivers, which came through primarily in songs like “Three Ralphs”, where the bass-line is mainly composed of those ultra-low notes.
Key differences: speed and detail
Songs used: Carry On by Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, Cajon by Daniel Waples & Friends, and You Woke Me Up! By Andrew Bird
The primary difference that I found in the mids was emphasis. My experience was that the mids in the Quad Drivers are fuller than those in the Triple Drivers. Vocals of both genders come across as slightly more embellished and natural than they do in the Triple Drivers, which lean closer to thin and a little bit distant. Furthermore, the vocals in the Triple Drivers can sometimes come across as a little bit tinny, when compared to the Quads. Instruments in both have good fidelity, with both coming across as relatively natural. Interestingly, I found that in certain passages of instrumental tracks (particularly violin pizzicato), the Triple’s slightly edgier response in the mids allowed for a more realistic portrayal of the sound than the Quads. However, I still do feel that generally speaking, the Quads hold an edge over the Triples in this frequency range, though I will concede that your mileage may vary, as with all of this. Both have a good sense of detail, though, with neither portraying more obscure and detail-exhaustive instruments as blurred or messy.
Key differences: fullness and fidelity to source
Songs used: Ageispolis by Aphex Twin, Everybody’s Something feat. Saba & BJ The Chicago Kid, and Goodnight Kiss by Ibrahim Maalouf
The primary difference between the treble in these headphones is peakiness versus smoothness. The Triples tend to lean towards grating more frequently than the Quads do; the Quads come across as a bit more laid-back and smoothed out than the Triples do. In heavily-bowed string passages, where high overtones reign king over others, the Triples had a tendency to screech, just a little bit. It wasn’t enough to ruin my listening experience, but it was something that became noticeable frequently enough that it warranted being mentioned. I would say that the Triple’s treble feels a little bit more airy than the Quads, which interested me as, in the past, generally, headphones with peaky treble have come across as a little oppressive to me. These did not, with the Quads feeling a little bit more congested, almost. Both can sometimes be sibilant, with about the same frequency and intensity. Neither had a huge propensity for this, but it did come up every once in a blue moon.
Key differences: smoothness and air
What I found through this comparison was that the Quad Drivers seem a little more balanced, over-all, than the Triple Drivers. The Triple Drivers represent, to me, a very good approach to the consumer-common, V-shaped sound signature. The Quad Drivers certainly are not neutral, by any stretch, but they lean closer to it, with the bass losing a little bit of its emphasis and the mids moving forward. This comparison breaks slightly in the treble, as the Quads take a laid-back, almost Audeze-esque approach to that range, where the Triples remain consistent to the V, with slightly emphasized, if peaky, treble.
Soundstage for both are about the same, with the Quad maybe getting an edge, although I admit that that could be ersatz, and may just be the result of inability to quantify this element of a headphone in the same way as sound signature, etc. Imaging for both are very good, above par of most consumer headphones that I’ve heard over the years. Separation is slightly better on the Quads, with a little more distinction existing between instruments and vocal lines in the mix.
On the whole, the decision, if you’re making one, between these headphones comes down to personal preference. I tend to lean towards a slightly V-shaped, neutral-light sound signature, which pointed me (as I imagine you can tell by reading this) towards the Quads. The Triples are still a commendable effort by 1More, and are a great headphone in their own right. I had a little more to gripe on with them, but as I discussed in my full review of them, they are still a very enjoyable listen; I just found myself leaning more towards the Quads as a result of personal preference.