1…MORE…time!: Balanced Armature Earphones with an arty bent
7th April 2017
Promising a combination of style and price, Paul Rigby reviews the rather clunky monikered Triple-Driver In-Ear Headphones from 1More
Based in Shenzhen, China, the company regularly digs into the bruised head of sound engineer Luca Bignardi to extract designs and procedures for its range of headphones and earphone. To 1More and to Luca, everything is a headphone. Even earphones are headphones. Luca likes to simplify, obviously.
Let’s turn to the review sample here and, look, I’m not suggesting that they call it ‘Kevin’, ‘Fred’ or even ‘Thou Art Glorious’ but naming these earphones as ‘Triple-Driver In-Ear Headphones’ just will not do. They have to change the name. Preferably today. Really, right now is a good time.
There are plenty of alternative names on offer. ‘Luca Triple Drivers’ would be ok; ‘The Bold, the Balanced & The Beautiful’ has a Hollywood-esque angle and even ‘Armature, I’m Really Sure’ may sound a little feckless yet it retains a playful hue to the naming game but not this. Anything but this.
In honour of the main man, I’m going to refer to these earphones/headphones as Luca. Why? Because life is too short.
So what are the Lucas all about then? They arrive with two balanced armatures (inset with silicon covers and no welding points to reduce noise) and a separate dynamic driver. There are patents flying around all over the place with these drivers and ‘flying’ is an apt description because aircraft-grade metals are featured. Also in the chassis is PET, a tough polymer aimed at bass response.
For those that like to chat while they walk, there’s a built-in MEMS microphone, supporting Android and iOS, which is a separate line to the music line, to retain sound quality. The cable, incidentally, is TPE enhanced with a high strength Kevlar core, a tangle resistant exterior and an aluminium cable splitter. There’s enough specialised materials and metals in this design to strain the resources of China, let me tell you.
With a cable length of 1.2m and 32Ohm impedance plus a 3.5mm termination, the Lucas arrive with black and gold or silver colouring.
For the price, I was most impressed with the style and presentation of the Luca packaging and the contents within. The earphones are contained within a book-like box with a magnetic latch seal. Once open, delicate, almost Victoriana-like illustrations are subtly sketched on the inside front cover while the earphones are stylishly presented on the right. A neat cover protects the cable while underneath this section lies the covered tray for six sets of silicone ear tip sizes plus three sets of foam ear tip sizes. A magnetic clasping traveling case is stored in a second box with a third box featuring a dual prong airline adapter and matching shirt clip. The nature of the close fitting package and the jigsaw-like manner that each component of the box is fitted and presented reminds me of the Japanese art of box design which includes varying sizes and shapes of boxes placed with precision and accuracy in and around each other.
Playing Sonny Rollins’ St. Thomas at 24bit/96kHz, sourced via my MacBook through a SSD drive and played via my Chord Mojo headphone amp, I was mightily impressed by the low noise configuration of the Luca earphones. So much so that my default volume was way too low at the beginning of the sound test so up went the gain to reach an appreciable volume. This is a ‘good thing’. Often, what we conceive as being loud in terms of volume is, in fact, merely distractive noise that hurts our ears and demands a brief tango with the volume knob on your device. Remove the destructive noise and what you hear is pure music. That’s what I had here. The increase in gain meant that I could hear more information. Before I report on that, let me mention the air and space around the soundstage which added to the tonal realism of the instruments but also allowed the treble from the percussive cymbals to attain a high degree of fragility.
The rest of the drum kit offered a complex personality as each drum type offered its own tonal changes and strike response which added tonal layers to the music as a whole.
Meanwhile the upright bass was distinct as an instrument instead of merely a lower frequency tone, adding to the richness of the soundstage. Piano, meanwhile, was focused and tonally light on its feet. There was little in the way of smearing: quite a feat for earphones reporting on this most chaotic of instruments.
And as for Rollins’ own sax? It was both focused and precise, sounding both swinging in rhythmic terms but also relaxed and slightly arrogant in approach. In short, it sounded lovely.
Maintaining the resolution but turning to a slice of bossa nova via Ray Santos and Arcason, I was happy to hear the subtle nature of the bongos and the tiny changes in the strikes upon the taut percussive skin as the hand moved across it. The focus of the Lucas was easily portrayed by the precision of the acoustic guitar which was not only picked with aplomb but was never masked by the plethora of other instruments on the soundstage.
More than that were the background vocals, recessed in the mix and covered by a host of instruments, the 1More still picked up each voice in turn, even when they merged in harmony. Such clarity was quite startling and very impressive for this price point.
Finally, I turned to a ripped 16bit/44.1kHz WAV of Skunk Anansie’s Hedonism, a highly dynamic rock track, seeing how the 1More design coped with drive and guts in music. I’m happy to report that the music benefitted from the low noise clarity of the basic earphone design which allowed me to easily track the bass guitar while the drum-derived bass was strong, powerful but never bloomed. Focus was retained. The lead vocal was pure and ‘apart’ from the music. You never felt that was ever being swamped or subsumed by the high energy rock music surrounding her.
I really had to look twice at the price for these earphones just to make sure that the figure was correct. For a tad under £100, the 1More earphones are a complete steal. Apart from the amazing value for money, the Lucas give you a neutral yet open and lively presentation with enough clarity to amaze and, indeed, delight, the E1001 earphones cope with any genre of music and present it back to you with style and élan. Top that off with a beautifully boxed presentation and you’ve got yourself a cracker of a package here.
Triple-Driver In-Ear Headphones from 1More
GOOD: clarity, low noise, midrange insight, focus, price, design and packaging
Bad: (I’ll keep it simple, it’s all good…Luca would be proud)
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Chord Mojo DAC
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MacBook Pro computer
iPhone 6S phone
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