Veteran Head-Fiers will recall a time in personal audio, not too long ago, when good in- ear monitors (IEMs) were few and far between. We often learned the hard way, at some expense and disappointment, that new and unfamiliar brands were things to be looked at askance, rather than eagerly embraced.
Consequently, and for years on end, we instinctively flocked to the safety of assured performance offered by industry giants like Etymotic, Shure, Ultimate Ears, Westone and others. And though doing so meant limiting our choices, it was all we could do to safeguard our ears and wallets from far worse.
About a half-decade ago, as we approached today’s golden age of personal audio, we began to witness a wholesale sea change in the sound quality of in-ear monitors. Custom IEMs led the charge with notable advancements in multi-driver and crossover technology. Kilobuck universal IEMs burst onto the scene, serving those who sought to avoid the complication of custom molds or difficult resale propositions.
Then, in an amazing trickle-down of premium performance into less-atmospheric price points, we were soon introduced to a steady stream of both agreeable and accessible universal in-ears. Those of us who experienced this evolution will undoubtedly remember notable models from the likes of Dunu, Fischer, HiFiMAN, RHA, VSonic and many others.
Suddenly, good (or at least good enough) IEMs were now the norm, and no longer the exception. And for a time, all seemed right with the world, as we settled into a price versus performance ratio that everybody seemed comfortable with. All we need now is something novel, something disruptive, to jumpstart the next evolution... something like a triple driver (single dynamic + dual balanced armature) in-ear, voiced by a Grammy award-winning sound engineer, that is available for only $99.
Enter 1MORE’s E1001 Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones. Voiced by Luca Bignardi - a sound engineer who has worked on albums for Andrea Bocelli, Red House Blues Band, Laura Pausini and others - the E1001 sports a single dynamic voice-coil driver supported by dual balanced-armature drivers.
● Apple iPhone 6S+
● Astell&Kern AK380
● Cavalli Audio Liquid Spark (prototype)
● Kimber Kable Axios interconnects
While the E1001 is not a basshead’s IEM, it is clear that Mr. Bignardi voiced it to be warmer and weightier than neutral - enough so that I could get my groove on with all of my late-Eighties’ slow jams. Reminiscing with The Jets’s Make It Real, the E1001’s low- end boost flooded me with memories of anxious junior high dances from ages past, where I gently but awkwardly held she-who-shall-not-be-named. The additional bass presence also added a richness to my appreciation of acapella - a visceral richness that resonates deep within my loins - as I indulge in one of my guilty pleasures, the Pitch Perfect soundtrack. And speaking of acapella, Avi Kaplan’s basso profundo prowess is downright intense in Pentatonix’s Daft Punk Medley.
The E1001’s mid-range might not be as forward as that of the neutral sounding in-ears which many of us are accustomed to. Nevertheless, it is very capable of resolving details and separation, particularly with vocals. With the aforementioned Daft Punk Medley by Pentatonix, as well as Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek, the E1001 is easily capable of presenting each voice within the chorus, as well as the harmony of the chorus itself.
In an era where many manufacturers accentuate upper mids to present the illusion of increased detail, the E1001 shows remarkable restraint in not doing so. As a result, I am rewarded with the powerful clarity of Bruce Hornsby's Baldwin grand in The Way It Is, with none of the annoyingly excessive brightness that often plagues poor renderings of Baldwin grand pianos. The E1001’s upper mids also do well with percussive elements, delivering full-bodied snares, hats and cymbals in The B-52’s Follow Your Bliss, without a hint of sibilance in accompaniment.
And while the 1MTDIEH doesn’t dazzle us with the kind of sparkle and airiness that traditional audiophiles prefer, it does offer up a delicate and feathery presentation in the highs that dovetails nicely with the overall signature. “Papageno’s Magic Bells” from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra; Bernard Haitink, Conductor) still ring true with a sublime effervescence in their upper harmonics.
After spending weeks pairing the E1001 with an Astell&Kern AK380, I began to use it with my iPhone 6S+ to test its microphone and remote. The difference in sound quality was staggering, with the main issue being that the audio from an iPhone 6S+ sucks.
And that's when it hits me, this $99 IEM is resolving enough that it can easily pick out deficiencies in my source gear! That, perhaps more than anything else, serves as a testament to how far IEMs have come... and how much the 1MORE E1001 embodies that evolution.
Of course, nothing is perfect in this world. In the 1MTDIEH’s case, imperfection manifests as a rather large nozzle that measures over 6 mm in diameter without any tips fitted. Once the smallest included silicone tip is fitted and compressed over that nozzle, the minimum diameter grows to 8.5 mm. For most of us, that shouldn’t be a problem. But when you consider that ear canal diameters can be as small as 4.4 mm for adult men and 4.1 mm for adult women, some of you may experience difficulty in getting a good seal.
That said, the 1MORE E1001 Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone is an excellent initial foray into premium IEMs. Available in both Titanium/Silver and Black/Gold finishes - for only $99 - it appeals to the vanity and austerity within all of us. But more importantly, it just plain sounds good.
Some time ago I received a package in the mail inside of which was a small bag with a pair of IEMs and a note to burn them in for 100 hours with orchestral music. The IEMs turned out to have come from Charles at Shozy (and Cozoy), the maker of the Alien DAP.
Very small with wood and metal housings and a very rubbery cable, they are simple and well-made.
Knowing nothing more about them, I had a listen and was very pleasantly surprised at the good sound, and general lack of any unpleasantness in the sound. After burn-in, as instructed by the manufacturer of the dynamic driver inside, which distinctly changes the amount of bass, the sound is more on the warm side of things, but with a sweet treble and good mids that make them an excellent all-rounder, and worth pairing with a good DAP.
The in-built cable uses high-quality wire according to Charles from Shozy, their only negative being the rubbery outer sheath which makes it tangle easily and transmits a bit of noise.
Overall, this has put them way above any pair of $50 IEMs I've tried (excepting the Meze 11 Neo) and made them good enough to slip them into a pocket for daily carry duty.