Review – Camille Thurman “Inside the Moment” on Chesky Records, 1More Quad Driver In-Ear Headphones, Astell & Kern AK Jr Digital Audio Player – Part Two of a Three-part article

To listen to “Inside the Moment” I chose the newly released 1More Quad Driver In-Ear Headphones. 1More is making serious waves in the audio community since the release of their Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones last year. While the audiophile dream is great audio at thrift store prices, rarely is this achieved without compromise. 1More seems determined to meet the former goal, without the compromise. When we looked at the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones last year, which at under $100 seemed too good to be true, especially at the price point. However, from the moment you picked up the box and started to open it up, the attention to detail, design, and execution in packaging and presentation made evident that this was being treated as a serious component, despite the ridiculous low price. Nice design would mean nothing unless the actual product met the same build quality, and sonic expectations. And this is where 1More is starting to set their own standard. Not only are they often voted at the top of list by other reviewers, they often maintain that distinction regardless of price.

The build quality on both the triple and quad drivers is excellent. Metal housings with a flawless finish, high-quality cables with little noise transmission, and an open, airy sound. Utilizing a unique hybrid design, with 3 balanced armatures, coupled with a dynamic driver for the bottom end and mid-range. The armatures handle the high and ultra-high-end frequencies, and all of those drivers are contained in a very comfortable angled design, that fit us very well and although not designed for active use, stayed in place during extended listening sessions. The cable includes smart controls for Apple iOS and Android phones, and included with the hard leather case is an airplane adapter, and ¼-inch adapter.

Aesthetically, they are a soft grey with a small and discreet red stripe, so elegant but not ostentatious. The cables are tough, Kevlar core with Oxygen Free Copper. They carry the new Hi-Res Audio logo and certification, which is nice, but in our experience not all that meaningful, except that in theory the device can reproduce specific technical requirements, but the certification doesn’t say anything about the actual quality of reproduction. For us, relying on the logo is like measuring a car by horsepower only. Still, if you have logo envy, no worry here!

When the Quad Drivers arrived, my first impression was that they were bass heavy and a bit muddled. And while I’m not a huge believer in “Break-In” since by its very nature it indicates a vague process full of variables. In other words, when products require a lot of break-in, my first thought is to quality control and consistency. Can a product that requires a break-in period, be expected to meet design goals for each unit as time goes on? It’s a strange engineering presumption to the use of a break-in period for a component to meet its long-term design goals, but the fact remains that some products, almost always analog components, do benefit from some break-in time, and the 1More Quad Drivers improved over time. The initial bass punch transitioned over the course of several weeks into an accurate and warm bottom end, with bass well defined and present, but not overly stated.

The 1More Quad Driver's along with the previously released Triple Drivers, represent an amazing value, with superb audio performance, that can reproduce everything from a Charlie Parker lick, to the latest from Green Day, at prices that make no sense, but are a welcome change from some vastly overpriced components. We aren't on board with "the more drivers the better" bandwagon. Some of the best sounding earphones made are single driver models such as the Etymotic ER 4 units, and in fact multiple drivers complicate the engineering model considerably.

We have heard some superb multiple driver models, and quite a few that didn't sound so great. Last year we auditioned some models with twelve drivers, and despite their $1,000 plus dollar cost, they didn't sound as good as that manufacturer's own triple drivers at 1/4 the cost. So, we don't think that basing your decisions on how many drivers are present is all that wise. We found that 1More's decision to employ multiple balanced armatures and only one dynamic driver an interesting decision, as most multiple driver earphones tend to have a slew of tiny little dynamic drivers. So, by utilizing balanced armatures for the higher frequencies, they are taking advantage of the sweet spot for armature reproducton, while providing a bit of the bass ooomph that dynamic drivers excel at. Rest assured, 1More has created earphones where the mulltiple driver technology is invisible. I never had a sense of multiple drivers, or any of the technology, all I heard was music, easily balanced, and versatile in use. Well done!

This article continues with Part Three as we continue exploring “Inside the Moment” with 1More Quad Driver In-Ear Headphones and the Astell & Kern AK Jr Digital Audio Player.

Harris Fogel, with editorial assistance from Nancy Burlan, posted 5/8/2017

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