The cheap noise-cancelling headphones market is heating up with new releases like the $79 1More ColorBuds 2 offering active noise cancellation and customizable sound for a modest sum. This is a notable upgrade to the ColorBuds that brings new functionality not available on the original.
- Our expert picks for the best wireless earbuds, per budget and style
- Check out our Apple AirPods Pro review
- …and our Sony WF-1000XM4 review
ANC won’t blow you away, but it is sufficient for the price. The inclusion of SoundID software from award-winning audio technology innovator Sonarworks helps tailor sound to your hearing. In addition, app support has been included this time around to personalize the buds in different ways. For its quality traits, the ColorBuds 2 also has its fair share of drawbacks. These include disappointing call quality, unreliable controls, and a lack of extra features.
1More ColorBuds 2 review: Availability and price
You can purchase the 1More ColorBuds 2 for $79 at Amazon or directly from 1More. It is sold in three colors: Black, Frost White, and Twilight Gold. Bundled with the purchase are a wireless charging case, USB-C charging cable, user guide, and four different sizes of ear tips.
These buds have a lower MSRP than mid-tier gems such as the Beats Studio Buds ($150) and Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($150) and are far less expensive than category leaders like the AirPods Pro ($249) and Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279). Other notable rivals in their price class include two popular Anker models: the Soundcore Life P3 ($79) and Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro, which is on clearance for $84.99 at Best Buy at the time of publishing.
1More ColorBuds 2 review: Design and comfort
The ColorBuds 2 don't look any different than their predecessor. Peep the protruding in-ear design and matte finish, along with the airbrushed logo on the front, which is less transparent on this version. 1More’s choice of bold colors and unique shape make these buds eye candy for fashion-forward music lovers.
Craftsmanship is solid with hard plastic making up the ColorBuds 2’s entire frame. These buds won’t crack or scuff easily like the AirPods Pro. An IPX5 rating keeps them protected from sweat and splashing water as well.
1More has a knack for creating super compact and stylish charging cases and the ColorBuds 2’s variant is proof. The pebble-inspired design with a matte finish is more attractive than the rectangular, all-white AirPods Pro case. UV coating is used to reduce stains and fingerprints. More importantly, it’s travel-friendly and slides into pockets without causing any bulge.
Comfort is moderate and the buds rest pleasantly on the concha. Minor pressure is applied to the front part of the ear, but you’ll only notice this when wearing the buds for longer than 3 hours straight. The sound port slides easily into the canal and the silicone tips create a tight seal to keep the buds locked in.
1More ColorBuds 2 review: Controls and digital assistant
A full suite of media controls is at your disposal. Performing a double-tap can play/pause or answer/end calls, whereas a triple tap enables your device’s native assistant. Keep in mind that these can be swapped out in the companion app for other functions such as next/previous track and volume. The touch-and-hold gesture is reserved for switching between listening modes.
Not having a single-tap gesture is silly, especially since it simplifies playback operation. You can enable on-ear detection in the app for auto-pause/play, but the feature suffers from lag. Also, the touch sensors aren’t reliable, either misinterpreting multi-tap inputs or not registering them at all.
Siri and Google Assistant are compatible with the ColorBuds 2, but only one seems to work well. Answer: Siri. Firing up Apple’s AI bot on my MacBook Pro and my wife’s iPhone 12 was a breeze, while the software recognized voice commands and acted on them quickly. Google Assistant was a buggy mess the first few days I used it, either timing out or not acknowledging full sentences. Things changed on the fourth day, and I was able to perform basic tasks like online searches and open streaming services hands-free.
1More ColorBuds 2 review: Audio quality
Sound comes neutral right out of the box, so you’ll get a little bit of everything regarding frequency range. 1More even added aptX Adaptive support to enhance streaming quality and receive hi-res sound. There is also a sound personalization feature called SoundID that will create your own sound profile based on a series of tests. But before I jump too far ahead, let me break down the ColorBuds 2’s default EQ.
On tracks like Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven,” the “oh yeah, yeah” vocal riff was loud and crisp. The drums banged hard, and the synth effects were striking without producing any distortion. I thought the bass on Public Enemy’s “Can’t Truss It” was punchy and well balanced, though it wasn’t as impactful as I’ve heard on other truly wireless models; reverberation was lighter. Jazz classics also performed well on the ColorBuds 2, as exemplary on Alice Coltrane’s “Journey in Satchidananda,” where the hi-hats remained steady, horns were melodically vibrant, and double bass was prominent throughout the recording.
I strongly advise enabling SoundID because it fine-tunes sound to your hearing preferences. The testing process is annoying, but won’t take more than 3 minutes, and users can disable it if they feel the regular EQ performs better. From my experience, Sound ID increased the low end on “Can’t Truss It” for the better, as well as the highs on “Locked Out of Heaven.”
For videos, the ColorBuds 2 delivers crisp sound to enjoy action sequences and dialogue-heavy scenes. Volume won’t reach harmful levels and sound doesn’t leak. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about damaging your hearing or people staring at you for blasting music.
1More ColorBuds 2 review: Active noise cancellation
While the more premium ComfoBuds Pro has three ANC Modes – Strong, Mild, and WNR (Wind Noise Resistant) – the ColorBuds 2 only has one. Luckily, the ColorBuds 2 knows how to handle low and mid frequencies. Just don’t expect grand results.
During work hours, the buds silenced common household distractions (e.g., family chatter, loud TVs, laundry room noises), as well as the humming sound from our AC unit. Any attempts to block out my crying baby were unsuccessful; I could still hear him from about 30 feet away. When outside, some ambient noises went unnoticed such as talkative joggers and any landscape work transpiring from across the street. High-frequency sounds (e.g., ambulance sirens, whistles) definitely drew my attention, along with gusty winds and speeding cars.
Pass-Through is 1More’s version of transparency mode and it comes in handy for increasing environmental awareness. Walks felt safer since I was able to hear traffic and construction work. Being able to keep tabs on the baby during naps was helpful too. The mics don’t do a great job of picking up vocals, so I couldn’t engage in brief chats with the missus while music played in the background at a low volume.
1More ColorBuds 2 review: App and special features
The 1More Music app provides a fair number of features to play with. I already touched on the SoundID, as well as control customization, smart playback, and ANC/Pass-Through. Let’s get to the rest.
Open the app and you’ll be greeted with visuals of both buds and the charging case, along with battery level indicators for all three units. There is a Soothing Sounds setting at the bottom that acts as a sound machine and has 30 different profiles to mask ambient noise around you with nature sounds. If only the sounds ran on a continuous loop and didn’t restart after several seconds; this becomes aggravating after a few minutes and breaks your concentration.
There are two more settings available in the back end: Smart Burn-in and Experimental Features. For those unfamiliar with the process of burning in headphones, it is an exercise that involves playing audio (usually static noise) for several hours or days to break them in and improve audio. Some people believe it works and others believe it is complete BS, but at least 1More gives you that option. Pop-Up Window is the only feature available in Experimental Features. The app doesn’t explain what it does, and I couldn’t get it running on either of my Android devices (Google Pixel 3XL and Samsung Galaxy Note S20).
Not all app features present in the ComfoBuds Pro were carried over onto the ColorBuds 2. You lose out on the most valuable one: the Equalizer. This would have given you access to 20 different presents that complement most music genres.
1More ColorBuds 2 review: Battery life and charging case
1More rates battery life at 6 hours with ANC. Throw other features into the mix, along with high volume and streaming, playtime decreases by about 30 minutes. You’re still getting more use out of these buds than the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours) and OnePlus Buds Pro (5 hours), but slightly less than the WF-1000XM4 (8 hours). A full charge was fine for 3 days of moderate use (2 hours daily), plus a 15-minute quick charge generated 2 hours of listening time.
What about playtime with ANC off? Well, according to 1More, there is no option to disable ANC.
The charging case holds up to 24 hours, which is the average industry time set by the AirPods and AirPods Pro charging cases. That’s about 4 extra charges. Not bad for a week’s worth of entertainment. Wireless charging also comes as part of the package.
1More ColorBuds 2 review: Call quality and connectivity
Qualcomm’s cVc8.0 Noise Cancellation Technology is employed to deliver “crystal clear microphone quality” for calls. That wasn’t my experience. Several callers complained about my voice sounding distant and muffled, both indoors and outdoors. On top of that, my wife and mother-in-law mentioned a buzzing noise during phone calls that were very distracting. Another caller said the same thing during a video chat.
Bluetooth 5.2 maintains a stable connection within a 40-foot range, which is longer than the standard 30 to 35 feet that most wireless earbuds get you. I was able to jump from room to room without any dropout. Pairing is reliable with the buds demonstrating strong auto-connect capabilities on iOS/macOS and Android devices.
Multipoint technology is not available to pair the ColorBuds 2 to two devices simultaneously.
1More ColorBuds 2 review: Verdict
To offer high-end perks like noise cancellation and SoundID technology on a pair of $79 wireless earbuds is impressive. Not only does the ColorBuds 2 accomplish this, but the two features are serviceable. You just need to be acceptant of its flaws (e.g., touch controls, call quality), which do affect the user experience, depending on how you use the buds.