This got really long, and I doubt you want to read it all, so let’s put this right at the top:
tl;dr: if you’re in the market for a set of headphones in the $100 range and you want fairly clean, balanced sound, 1More Triple-Drivers should be at the top of your list.
If you want to jump around some, I whacked this post up into three parts:
- My Headphone History
- Compare/Contrast: 1More Triple Drivers v. Bowers & Wilkins C5 S2
- 1More Triple Drivers: general thoughts (with pictures!)
- Final Thoughts
First up, my nearly 15 year history with headphones. I’m no audiophile, but I like to pretend towards it…
In 2004, after years of hacked-together shelf systems and consumer grade 1970s stereo components, I jumped into the digital age with the 40 GB clickwheel iPod. I used the original headphones for a few weeks until I saved a bit of money for an upgrade, and I tried out the Apple Earbuds. They had better isolation than the original earbuds, but the sound quality wasn’t worth the cost, and I found them very uncomfortable. I shoved them in a drawer for a couple of years and then gave them away.
After a few months of annoyance with the earbuds and chagrin at the waste of money that was the Earbuds, I pulled the trigger on the Shure E2 earphones . The upgrade was incredible: great isolation and far superior sound to any of the Apple buds. I don’t remember much about the sound, but I used the E2s exclusively for the rest of the decade. The wires frayed where they met up with the earphones, but I patched them up with electrical tape and kept going until I finally got a smartphone and needed the convenience of inline controls.
In 2010, I got on board with the iPhone 4 (I’m a late adopter). I alternated between the included earbuds and the Shures for a few months. The E2s were fine, still giving great sound and all, but the right-angle plug was a pain with the OtterBox. After a few weeks, I couldn’t take it anymore and snagged a set of Klipsch S4i earphones. The S4’s were a definite upgrade from Shure, with more clarity, a better fit, much lighter weight, and much greater comfort, but cable frayed after 9 months and right headphone stopped working after 11 months. I thought about buying another set of them, but the build quality was so poor that I couldn’t imagine dropping the $100 again, so I waited awhile, read some reviews, and settled on the Monster Miles Davis Trumpets in late 2011.
The Trumpets were a massive upgrade from Klipsch, with even better fit & isolation, and really great sound. I bought them from Amazon at a significant discount, which I found was a mistake when, after about 7 months, the right earphone stopped working and Monster refused to honor their warranty because Amazon wasn’t on their authorized retailer list. Grrrrrrr.
Around that time, I bought the Nikon D7000 and I had a $50 coupon from Adorama and after some research, went ahead and bought another set of trumpets… They were still great earphones, but the left earphone stopped working after about 13 months. This time, I was able to return them under warranty, and the replacement worked through February 2015, when I lost them on a business trip to Costa Rica.
I didn’t really have the money, but I was so ready to buy another set of Trumpets when I realized they were discontinued… What a sad day. I researched and hemmed and hawed and thought about going for some full size cans. I tried out the Sennheiser Momentum on ear and over ear modelss one day, and the difference in sound between the two was so great that I decided to stay away from Sennheiser entirely. I understand profit motive and all, but I don’t care about paying for a brand, and, while the over-ears sounded good, the wide variability between the over- and on-ears smacked of profit taking, so I lived with the iPhone 5 earbuds for awhile.
Then one day, all spur of the moment like, I picked up the Bowers & Wilkins C5, series 2. Ugh. Sure, they were better than the earbuds, but I had fresh memories of my beloved Trumpets, and the C5s pale in comparison. The fit was annoying, at best. The sound was good, but only if I held the earbuds firmly in my ears or cupped my hands over my ears and sorta converted them to cans…
After 8 months, the right earbud frayed and fell off. I got a new set under warranty with no trouble, and I just lived with them and lived with them. I never got a good fit: the right bud often just fell out and would regularly take the left one with it, and the cord was too short to really wrap the headphones securely around my neck and tuck them into my shirt collar for safekeeping, but long enough to catch on everything.
After a year of frustration and cursing, I decided it was high time for a decent set of headphones, so I started reading reviews off and on and stumbled onto the 1More Triple Driver In-Ears, maybe on cnet or something like that, I don’t recall. From the few reviews out there, it looked like they’d provide a fit similar to the Trumpets, and I didn’t think the sound could be any worse than the C5’s: at $100, I figured I couldn’t go wrong, so I pulled the trigger… After a month with them: Alhamdulillah.
In the first week, I struggled through some lengthy and unscientific comparison listening sessions. I hope this helps someone, somewhere. The B/W C2 S2s were fully broken in after about 10 months of use, but the 1More’s were brand new at the time. (After 6 weeks of use or so, they’re fully broken in.)
Al Dimeola, Roller Jubilee
B&W C2 S2: The toms and cymbals sound a bit muddy, with a sort of hiss from the cymbals and little separation. The guitar is clear and forward, the vibes are pushed way to the background, and the bass is very forward, sorta drowning out the mids.
1More: I can hear distinct taps on the high-hat and clear separation in the toms. There is a bit of sibilance, but I expect that to lessen with burn in (EDIT: and it has, though what was there was not distracting at all). The guitar is clearly forward in the mix, but the vibes are easy to pick out. Overall, there’s a much more balanced, flatter, yet fuller sound and a decent sound stage.
Aphex Twin, minipops 67
B&W C2 S2: I’ve only ever listened to Syro on these headphones, so I don’t have much to say. The shaker break sounds thick and muddy: the sounds are there, but it’s pushed back and not at all distinct.
1More: SubhanaAllah. The bass is so much deeper and fuller. I can feel it in my chest, and this gets me moving around so much more than the C2s. It’s not a shaker at all… it’s a machine noise of some sort, clearly, and there are all sorts of other things that I had no idea were in this track.
Daniel Lanois, Opera
B&W C2 S2: I remember what this sounded like on the Trumpets, and after a couple of weeks with the C2s, I removed it from the phone: it’s a great song, but it’s just flat and lifeless through the C2s, and there’s nothing to get me moving unless I push the volume really high, or cup my hands over my ears to sort of improvise cans.
1More: These get closer to the sound from the Trumpets, if I recall, but I think the 1Mores have a bit more depth. Even at half-volume, the complexity gets the feet tapping and the spine twitching.
David Bowie, Fascination
B&W C2 S2: Bowie at his coke-fuelled best. I’ve listened to this maybe 100 times through these headphones, and they sound fine enough, I guess.
1More: Glory be to God, there’s so much more depth and interest throughout.
Pictures, and random thoughts
You might be curious what these bad boys look like… Well, here’s some eye candy for you, plus some general thoughts on design and function.
They’re nice and small, and have a dense feel to them. Once they’re in my ears, they’re virtually weightless and very comfortable. I’ve worn them for 6 or 7 hours straight with no fatigue at all, but then I’m used to sitting at work with headphones in all day long.
The controls and microphone are above the split, high on the cord for the right earbud, and the microphone falls near chin level, which should allow or decent voice transmission. (Full disclosure: I haven’t made or received any calls on these headphones since receiving them, so I don’t know how well the mic works. I’ve read good things about it though.)
The buttons on the controller have a nice, clicky feel to them, and they’re easy to press and to distinguish from one another. This is another huge plus over the C5s: the buttons on that were meh at best, and this is also an improvement over the Trumpet’s trumpet valve shaped buttons, which were a gaudy annoyance and one of my least favorite things about those earphones, probably second only to the build quality.
The plug is straight and very narrow, which appeals to my religious sensibilities, while also easily fitting into the headphone port on the OtterBox: it’s full of Win.
And from the two pictures above, you can see the woven cover to the cable below the y-split, and the vertically ribbed texture on the cable above it. I’ve had no issues with tangles thus far.
Most other reviewers had the black/gold model, and I was very happy to find this titanium/silver version in the online store. That’s really all down to preference, of course, but give me titanium/silver over black/gold any day.
There’s not much else to say about these, design or build-wise. They feel better built than the C5s, and about on par with the Trumpets, and for 1/3 the cost of the Trumpets and 2/3s of the C5s (with sound nearly on par to the former, and miles better than the latter), the 1Mores are clearly superior.
Other reviews start with a lengthy discussion of the beautiful packaging and the various accessories, and if you’re interested in that I apologies for not including pictures or much discussion. The 1More packaging is nice enough, certainly beats the C5 S2 box in ease of headphone and accessory extraction and overall quality, but the Miles Davis Trumpets set a pretty high bar for packaging. I do prefer the crescent-shaped zipper case that came with the C5s to the 1More’s hard-sided cigarette-box style case: I shoved the C5s roughly into the 1More case/box and am using the nice zipper case from the C5s to daily carry the 1Mores.
God made us all different, with different body shapes, skin colors, hair and eye colors, and ear canal diameters so that we could get to know one another. Headphone companies understand this, and most include at least a few different sizes. The 1Mores include about 10 different sets of sleeves to fit many different ear canals, and my rather tiny ear canals were a major factor in choosing the 1More Triple Drivers: they looked to have some nice, small tips. The smallest tips for the C5s are way too big and for almost 2 years I’ve been cursing them as they fell out while washing my hands, walking around, or just sitting, still and quiet at my desk. The tips for the 1Mores seal quite well, much better than the C5s, and are very comfortable, but I sure wish the tips from the Trumpets would fit the 1Mores: those were the best tips ever, with the oval tips on the old Klipsch S4i’s coming in a distant second.
In the A/B analysis, it quickly became obvious how paltry and anemic the BW C5’s sound. Part of this comes from the seal I get with the 1Mores (and the lack of same with the C5s). Even with my hands cupped over my ears and the C5s jammed in as far as they’ll go, the sound is nowhere near the clarity and impact of the 1Mores. I knew there was a big loss in quality when I went from the $300 Trumpets to the $150 C5s, but it was really only a guess, and listening to the same tracks back to back reveals how much I was missing.
With the Bowers & Wilkins C5 S2s, I had paltry bass under normal listening conditions that got a bit boomy with my hands cupped over my ears, the mids were muddy and indistinct, and the treble was tinny and sibilant. But with the 1More Triple Drivers, bass is smooth and present, thumping away in my chest, mids are present and clear, and the treble is balanced and distinct. If you want fair and balanced, you can’t go wrong with the $100 1Mores.
Ease of Use
Overall, I’d give the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones a very respectable 4.6, and I have no real complaints at all.
If you’re in the market for high quality headphones that’ll work with your smartphone and give great sound without an amplifier for less than $100, look no further than the 1Mores: they’re great.