Last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing the 1MORE Stylish True Wireless Stereo buds – and I very quickly fell in love with them. Far from being aimed at audiophiles, they’re a great consumer set. Pairing a clever O-hook system to keep them in your ear with phenomenal battery life and rich audio, they’re perfect for use at the gym or on a daily commute. They offer an exceptional price to performance ratio and support a range of codecs, making them very close to perfect. The micro USB charging port and lack of wireless charging were about the only problems I had.
Of course, I’ve been excited for 1MORE’s follow up set. On paper, it fixes the slight annoyances I had with the previous set, while adding appreciable new features. With a hybrid dual driver array consisting of a balanced armature and a dynamic driver, active noise cancellation, USB C-type charging and wireless charging, it should be an incredible set. Unfortunately, a few problems with the execution have left me feeling slightly disappointed. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still one of the better TWS sets you’ll find right now, but it should have, and could have, been so much better.
The set, as is the norm, comes in a lightweight hinged, flip-top case. Eschewing the plastic, moulded ovoid from the last set, it’s now a thinner pillbox case that’s made of spectacularly machined, matte aluminium. There’s a USB C-type charging port on the rear, and a single light on the front that changes colour to let you know the approximate remaining charge. There’s no doubt that this is a premium product. That carries through to the earphones themselves, which have a carbon fibre print, embellished with a tiny red grille and the 1MORE logo. The earpieces are big, but that’s necessary to house the dual drivers. Atop each earpiece is a single multi-purpose button. There’s a bit of a learning curve in using those buttons, as they can differ per ear, but in no time it’s easy enough to switch between tracks, play and pause, answer calls and increase or decrease volume on the fly, without having to interface with your phone. Each bud also has a little optical sensor, automatically pausing media when an earpiece is removed from your ear. Unfortunately, it doesn’t automatically resume on re-insertion, but that’s a feature that’ll be coming in a future firmware update, according to the 1MORE app. The company also says that future firmware updates will allow users to disable the auto-pausing.
Coupled with the returning O-hooks, they’re snug and comfortable, entering at an oblique 45 degree angle. 1MORE has made the curious decision to skip the standard rounded tip for something that’s larger and oblong. They don’t rest inside the ear canal. While that makes them more comfortable, they don’t completely seal, cocooning you in a personal bubble. As one benefit of this, running and jogging are no longer subject to that weird doppler effect, where you get a warble with each stride making these are great for sporting folk who like listening to music on their runs. It does, however, also mean that it gets no benefits from passive noise cancellation.
That’s where the hybrid active noise cancellation should help. Unfortunately, the ANC isn’t as good as I’d expected. It’s more than serviceable. Thanks to hybrid noise cancelling through both feedforward and feedback microphones (whose signal get sent through to a dedicated DSP), the noise cancelling works. There’s perhaps something amiss with the DSP tuning though, because for some reason, the ANC actively adds a bit of hiss from the microphones, something that’s both noticeable and sometimes even annoying. It’s especially prevalent around higher pitched frequencies. The set actually features two levels of ANC. You cycle through modes by double tapping the touch-sensitive side of either earpiece, with a but of audible feedback to let you know which mode you’re on. The primary ANC mode does a better job of stripping out unwanted sounds on lower registers, like the rumbles of plane engines and the other is better for the general commute. Neither of those can match the noise cancelling you’ll find in Apple’s AirPod Pros, or the current reigning champ in that segment, Sony’s WF-1000XM3. One mode I found myself using surprisingly often is one that feeds information from the mics into your ears. It’s great for those who don’t want to shut themselves out from the world – like in an office environment where you might need to actually hear people, or when travelling on a motorbike. The sound signature doesn’t seem to change too much when noise cancelling is on, but it emphasises the low end – probably to try to mask the inserted hiss. If you like extra bass, you’ll want to switch noise cancelling on.
These sound at their best when the ANC is off. Thankfully, they sound good if you’re listening to something where high range and low end are important. The hybrid dual driver appears to sue the balanced armature for high frequencies, and the dynamic driver for lows. The highs are crisp and bright, with a punchy bass that feels like it’s coming out of a set of headphones. They’re perhaps too well suited for those specific tasks and, unfortunately, this has the effect of sort of spooning out the middle range, to give you that “smiley” EQ. Drums and bass are loud and punchy, with boosted and bright, but needlessly sculpted highs. There’s a loss of detail and clarity as a result, giving it a sound signature that’s just a little off. As with the regular TWS, that isn’t a deal-breaker, as you wouldn’t use these (or any other Bluetooth set) for critical listening, but the sparkling highs can lead to fatigue. 1MORE has also told me that they’ll be tweaking the set’s sound a little in the future, with a series of firmware updates that’ll keep the sound signature unchanged between modes, and also improve the noise cancelling in general.
At 50% volume, 1MORE says you’ll get around six hours of use per charge with ANC off. Switching noise cancelling on will knock an hour from that tally. From my own usage, I’ve seen similar, but lower times; I’ll usually get 4 and a half hours with noise cancelling. You’ll get very nearly 4 charges from the case, netting an additional 18 hours of charge. It takes about an hour to charge the case to full, with the earpieces taking about as long as that to charge from the case itself. Pretty standard stuff. There’s a handy quick charge, getting 2 hours of use from 10 minutes of charging, along with Qi-based wireless charging.
As with the Stylish TWS, the ANC model supports Wireless Stereo Plus, which allows each bud to pair independently but simultaneously, which increases their efficiency and reduces latency. Unfortunately, that’s a feature that’s only supported by phones sporting Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chipset and higher, and only on Android 10. They support Bluetooth 5, with support for the standard SBC codec along with aptX and AAC, giving you more bandwidth and better audio on both Android and iOS. I’ve had no connectivity problems at all, likely thanks to the increased size allowing for an increased antenna size.
They also feature a microphone that 1MORE says has environmental noise cancelling. It works fine, but I think the very nature of the microphone placement means that there’ll always be a hollow echo, no matter how much environmental noise is removed. While these are dust proof, there’s no ingress protection rating to gauge how waterproof they might be. Unlike with the Stylish TWS, 1MORE doesn’t even mention any sort of water resistance, though according to the company it features a similar sort of tri-layer construction that means it’ll be perfect for gym, but shouldn’t be used outside in a thunderstorm. That warrants a bit of extra caution if you’re looking to use these for exercising. I have, and I’ve encountered no issues whatsoever, but it’s noteworthy caveat.
That all said, I really do like these. I don’t mind the scooped, smiley sound signature. They’re ridiculously comfortable, are packed with features and make for a worthy gym companion. It’s still hard not to be disappointed by the marquee noise cancelling feature though, especially when they cost R3,499. While it’s entirely adequate, it doesn’t compare to offerings from Apple or Sony. Given their price, they become a hard sell. For Apple users, it just makes more sense to opt for the AirPod Pros. For those who want superlative noise cancelling, Sony’s WF-1000XM3 are worth the premium. For those who just want a fantastic true wireless set? Well, I’d still rather recommend 1MORE’s own Stylish TWS.
Last Updated: March 5, 2020