Pros: Bass boost switch is awesome and sure to be a huge crowd pleaser, excellent battery life and range, neutral presentation, flexibility, nice looks
Cons: App is not useful, average soundstage, slightly recessed mids, some physical ear fatigue, bass cut switch is nasty
I find myself in a strange position. I love wired headphones. I like the plugs, I like the feel of aftermarket cables and sexy looks. I like that I can be confident that my music won’t be interrupted.
I’ve reviewed a lot of Bluetooth headphones, with my total now at six before this review is completed. Four out of six have been inexpensive units that have failed to be anywhere near giant killers, all in the below £25 price range. Most of these have sounded like average consumer headphones with inoffensive signatures that don’t move me in any way. This is not a recipe for audio pleasure. So far, my experience has been that you can get good to excellent sound from Bluetooth, if you are willing to spend over $50. Ironically, I think that many of the people searching for a Bluetooth option are also the people who don’t want to spend $50 on any headphone. So these folks, those that could be wading into the shallow end of the steadily improving sound quality pool, will not partake of any auditory feast of wireless delectibles. They may not hear the 1MORE iBFree ($50), or the 1MORE MK802 ($150 or £150).
I think the audience that this headphone is serving is so called audiophiles such as myself, and aesthetes and fashionistas currently donning Beats and other fashion headphones like members of some me-too cult. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid, it doesn’t matter if it’s in the room and bursting through the wall. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.
I first heard the 1MORE MK802 at CanJam London 2016. I was in the middle of reviewing the MK801 and had finished reviewing the EO323 Double Driver in-ear. I stopped by the 1MORE booth and Jude had just checked out the iBFree. Having a brief listen to the MK802 and the E1001 while seeing how impressed Jude was with the iBFree, I just had to review all of them. In hindsight, that was a big plate of food I served up, and I’m now just finishing it, with the maitre d’ signalling closing time. It’s a bit bittersweet to finish this three course meal. There’s no time for coffee and the other guests have left. The meal has been delicious, though, so there is that.
Usability: Form & Function
The MK802s come in the same box as the MK801s and even have the same cloth pouch, and same cable (in a new colour in my case). That cloth pouch is still about as protective as a paper bag—I’ve definitely seen tougher paper bags. The foam inner box has grown on me a bit since I reviewed the MK801. It still isn’t as fancy-pants as the 1MORE E1001 or the 1MORE EO323 box innards, but the box has a solid feeling foam insert, a useful accessory box and one can never forget the all important desiccant package—do not eat, that’s for keeping out the salty sea air, not for causing poisoning down in there.
The headband is made of the same material as that of the MK801 and took a little bit to break in, much like the MK801 headband. I find the headbands on both headphones to be most comfortable tilted slightly forward. The earcups are more plush than those on the MK801 and slightly larger in width (75mm vs. 70mm), so they have a bit less concentrated pressure on the ears. The depth is the same, but the MK802 have softer pads with a nicer feeling protein leather. These are still not circumaural, but they are more comfortable than their forebearer. Like the MK801 the cups have good adjustability via vertical movement, and are adjustable on two additional axes, both front to back and side to side on the head.
There are five buttons on the right earcup. From top to bottom, they are: the power on/pair button, volume up button, play/pause/answer call button, volume down button, and the dedicated 1MORE Assistant App button. Pairing and volume control were mostly straight forward, with the exception of pairing with my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (I know, why do I still have such an ancient outdated phone, right?). Pairing with computers and dongles was easy with all devices identifying the 1MORE MK802.
The Note 2 had to be put into developer mode. I didn’t answer any calls while using my Note 2, but I did try to make one. On that occasion the microphone didn’t turn on, so I could hear the person on the other end, but they couldn’t hear me. It may just be that I’m a newbie to making calls with Bluetooth, but there were no instructions in the manual for making calls, only for answering them.
The included manual was clear with good definition of all functions. There was also a manual included for the 1MORE Assistant app. Personally, I found the app to be absolutely useless. It didn’t help me pair the headphone when my phone wasn’t allowing pairing, it didn’t have any really interesting features or modes for the headphones, and the included smart burn-in feature was stupid. The principle behind burn-in is to exercise a dynamic driver so that it has longer excursions, increasing its capabilities. The app sets the volume of the phone at 20%, which is not sufficient to exercise a driver. It’s like doing the right exercise but with a weight that won’t challenge the driver. Most burn-in recommendations I’ve read have said to play between slightly lower than normal listening volume to slightly above. All advise against blasting the volume. I normally play at normal listening volume for burn-in. I didn’t use the app for burn-in as the audio signal was just way way way too quiet. It was school library when all the students have left quiet.
In addition to the controls on the right earcup there is also a headphone cable out. The cable used for the MK802 is exactly the same as that used for the MK801—noticing a theme here? I burned in the headphones using the cable. Burn-in did help the sound, making it open up a bit and making the sound more defined. It was a bit murky to start. I found that the sound is better without the headphone cable, with better overall clarity. There is something to be said for the amplifier having almost no distance to the diaphragm.
My favourite feature, by far, is on the left earcup: the bass switch. The bass switch has a boosted setting and a reduced setting. The boosted setting does a nice job boosting sub-bass and lower midbass. To my ears it accomplished this without colouring the mids. The boost is bigger than on the iFi iDSD BL and more broadband.
My battery life testing rig for when I really need to concentrate at work
The Bluetooth is strong with this one—I’ve been watching way too much Star Wars. I was able to travel about 10 meters with solid signal. With regards to longevity, the battery life is absolutely exceptional. The specs say that the battery will last for 15 hours listening time, I got 23 hours. Well done, 1MORE.
The 1MORE MK802 is a larger, more refined version of the MK801 with long-life Bluetooth added.
For comparative listening I volume matched every headphone using my trusty SPL meter with big foam ball or with my toilet roll and Poundland packing tape coupler—extra special reviewing gear here. Volume was matched to 78dB using white noise from Ayre Acoustics – Irrational but Efficacious System Enhancement Disc.
Below is the rest of the signal chain:
Dell Vostro—LH Labs Lightspeed 2 USB—iFi Micro iUSB3.0—LH Labs Lightspeed 2 USB—LH Labs GO2A ∞—
—Avantree Priva II AptX transmitter—1MORE MK802 Bluetooth headphone
—Avantree Priva II AptX transmitter—1MORE iBFree Bluetooth IEM (Comply tips)
—Avantree Priva II AptX transmitter—Syllable D700-2017 Bluetooth IEM
—Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered (got to have a neutral reference in there!)
For Bluetooth headphones I maxed transmission volume on the GO2A and then adjusted volume on the headphones to closest match. All volume adjustment was done via the GO2A volume controls for wired headphones. The Avantree Priva II sounds better than the Cayin i5 Bluetooth out, and better than my phone’s Bluetooth, I wouldn’t be surprised if this little white disc of flexibility bests a lot of Bluetooth setups. Something to note with Bluetooth dongles is their black box nature; inside the Avantree Priva II there is an ADC, and a DAC and Bluetooth transmitter (maybe part of same chip, I don’t have a clue) but I don’t know what they are. One advantage of the Avantree Priva II is that it can pair two Bluetooth headphones at the same time, which is hugely useful for reviewing. I should have bought this little white beauty a long time ago. The table below presents the volume levels and recorded SPL readings for each of the headphones.
|1MORE MK802 Bluetooth headphone||1000mW||~78.9||10||$149.99|
|1MORE iBFree Bluetooth IEM (Comply tips)||450mW||~77.7||12||$50|
|Syllable D700-2017 Bluetooth IEM||1000mW||~78.1||14 (2 away from max)||$22|
|Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered||450mW||~78||37||$999|
|*Steps from bottom on Bluetooth headphone, volume value on GO2A is system volume with wired headphones|
Why – Strawberries has a bit of a veiled sound, but for £20.99, these are doing pretty well. Bass sound is very fit dependent and these things are sized like they are made for Keebler Elves or other fey creatures, not for humans who have reached full maturity. If I press these in firmly I get a more intimate soundstage, bigger bass and more muffled mids. I prefer the loose fit that is more natural on these, which is good, because I’d have to hold my fingers on top of the capsules to make these seal more—that would be a pain in the butt. There is nice sparkle on the bells. Perla Batalla’s rendition of Bird on a Wire (RIP Leonard Cohen—2016 was like a class field trip to the sewage processing plant, at least it’s over). Overall the detail is pretty excellent for this price range.
Bigger than D700-2017 in every dimension on soundstage. Fit much more comfortable. Both headphones have a neutral-ish sound to their bass signature. I can flip a switch for more bass on the MK802, though, which is awesome like a Secret Aardvark hot sauce. That’s some hot action there when listening to Yoni Wolf drop some twisted and demented rhymes on Mumps, Etc…. I far prefer the MK802 with the bass switch pumped up on many tracks. Pushing the bass a bit forward also gives the impression of greater depth in the signature. It’s a nice improvement much of the time.
There is really nice air between instruments in the MK802 presentation. Perla’s vocals should always enchant, and the MK802 don’t fudge with that—children force you to learn prudent self-censorship. I prefer this trackThe soundstage on the MK802 is not as big as that on the Ausdom M05. Some of this could be due to the MK802 sealing better. The MK802 does have better detail and separation than the Ausdom M05. For rock tracks and hip-hop tracks I found that I basically always flip the bass switch as it is much more satisfying.
To test out speed, I tried to do some metal music, but volume levelling doesn’t work right for metal, it removes all the dynamics and makes the music sound muted. Metal shouldn’t be muted. However, when I turn off the levelling the result is distortion. These headphones can’t handle being punched in the face by some aggressive metal music.
Warmer than the MK802. Big midbass, with a little bleed into the mids. Still love the fantastic airiness in the signature, good 3-dimensional soundstage. More comfortable than the MK802. Leak sound like a sieve, though, so not suitable for out and about or in a quiet office. The bass is on these is like a less controlled version of the MK802 with the bass switch engaged. These sound louder and more energetic than the MK802 due to a more forward signature and the big bass enhancement. However, instrument definition on the M05 is not nearly on par with the MK802. The soundstage has greater dimensions in all ways, but instrument separation isn’t as refined and mids and midbass are forward, a sound that many will prefer.
Listening to Michael Jackson – Billie Jean, the house sound is readily apparent. Similarly, both of these headphones use single dynamic drivers to provide their sound. The soundstage is smaller than the MK802 and notes don’t have quite the same precision, but the sound signature is very similar. The mids on the iBFree are a bit more forward than the MK802, which is helpful in picking out the details of the train station announcements on Pink Floyd – On the Run. Similarly, the drums are closer on Pink Floyd – Time, which compresses the soundstage depth a bit but gives more immediacy to the sound. There will be folks that prefer the more forward mids of the iBFree. I think that both presentations are good. In my opinion, the MK802 definitely has the edge in overall presentation.
Similar to the iBFree, the 1MORE MK801 is a bit more mid-forward in the signature. Listening to Dragonforce – The Fire Still Burns reveals that the amplifiers in the MK802 earpieces just aren’t up to snuff for loudly mastered tracks. They twist and distort when exposed to more heavy tracks. Something I’ve found is that if a track is mastered loud, listening to it quiet will never sound right. I try to have a live feel to music when listening. Because I wanted to listen to some metal, I did a corded comparison for the MK801 and MK802 with volume matched as follows with white noise: MK802 = GO2A Infinity 450mW, volume = 41; MK801 = GO2A Infinity 450mW, volume = 37). I used the cable from the MK801 for both, but it is likely that the cable is identical between the two headphones, just a different colour.
Listening to Animals as Leaders – Ka$cade, the background is a tiny bit noisier on the MK801, and the notes a little less precise. The MK802 is also a bit faster. Some detail is lost in both. The MK801 has more forward mids, which will be inviting to many. I experienced no distortion with either headphone in cabled operation.
Since I was already corded, and still wanted to judge some speed, I ran some more volume matching for the UERR without volume levelling (GO2A Infinity 450mw, volume 29). Mids are more like the MK801 on the UERR than like the MK802, which inclines me to conclude that the mids are a bit recessed on the MK802. The soundstage of the MK802 is more intimate and has less well-defined elements, but we are talking about a nearly £900 price difference. The UERR is a bit denser in the mids too, which isn’t always welcome, depending on the track and sonic preferences.
Throwing on San Francisco Symphony Orchestra – Harrison: Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra (off American Mavericks), the UERR sorts instruments in space much better with a greater soundstage in all dimensions.
Whilst the MK802 is not as technically accomplished as the UERR, it’s performance is by no means embarrassing. It is still a great sounding headphone. I’m finishing off with some SACD ripped Pixies – Where Is My Mind. The mids are further back on the MK802 and it doesn’t give the same level of performance in soundstage or instrument definition, but it is still very satisfying.
I set out with three new 1MORE headphones to review in August. Of the 1MORE headphones, these MK802s have the greatest range of functionality. I love love love the bass boost on the MK802 and find myself engaging it much of the time for the increase in body and small increase in perceived stage depth. These are fast enough to keep up with the technical metal of Animals as Leaders and reach high enough to showcase the airy twinkling percussion of the Welsh folk of 9Bach. If you are looking for a Bluetooth headphone that will give you copious playback time, good range, corded operation for when that mega-battery runs out, and a neutral signature with extra bass on demand, these 1MORE MK802s are worth checking out.