When seeking the best wireless earbuds, the choices are few and far between at less than $100. That was until the 1More PistonBuds Pro arrived.
Yes, that is quite a silly name, but at $70 (£65) the spec list reads like a dream. You have 38dB active noise cancellation, 10mm dynamic drivers with a titanium diaphragm andbattery life up to 30 hours and IPX5 water resistance.
But is the dream for real? Has 1More hit it out the park? As you can tell by the score, the answer is “yes,” but allow me to explain in more detail.
1More PistonBuds Pro: Availability and price
You can pick from two colorways: black or white. At $70 (£65), 1More does have some competition in the Soundcore Life P3, which are available in more shades.
Also, it's worth noting that we’re seeing a lot of special offers in the first month of their release, which includes codes for $15 off in the 1More U.S. store (code is PistonPro15) or £20 off at Amazon in the U.K.
1More PistonBuds Pro: Design
I get it. At this price, you might be nervous about your earbuds looking and feeling cheap. 1More begs to differ with a sleek cylindrical form with a concentric circular metallic surface, which bears a resemblance to a piston.
The buds themselves measure in at 0.6 x 0.7 x 0.8 inches and a mere 0.16 ounces. These are noticeably smaller and lighter than the Soundcore Life P3s (1.5 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches, 0.2 ounces), the rubberized tips guarantee a secure fit and the IPX5 water resistance makes them ideal for exercise.
In fact, to take things one step further, they are smaller and lighter than the fitness-focussed Jabra Elite 4 Active (0.8 x 0.8 x 1 inches, 0.2 ounces), which really speaks to the portability credentials of the PistonBuds Pro and is all the more impressive given their premium looks.
That circular metallic top carries over to the svelte case, which adds a dash of class to the container. The plastic used has a matte finish to it, which is pretty durable to the point it withstood any scratches in my keys pocket.
At 2.2 x 1.5 x 0.9 inches with a weight of 1.4 ounces, the small pill-shaped case is skinny jeans friendly and considerably smaller than the Life P3’s case (2.4 x 2.1 x 1.2 inches, 1.8 ounces).
All-in-all, this is a comfortable package with the strong, lightweight wearability to handle exercise, and upmarket styling for all use cases.
1More PistonBuds Pro: Controls and digital assistant
You get a basic set of touch controls on the PistonBuds Pro — double and triple taps on each bud, which are customizable in the 1More music app on iOS or Android.
The tap surfaces are responsive and any interactions to change track are immediate, but I would have preferred to have more than just four interactions in order to manipulate the volume alongside changing tracks.
Of course, the option to change what these inputs do means you can choose to access the Siri or Google Assistant with ease. Across both Android and iOS devices, waking them up is quick and the microphones do a good job of picking up your request in almost all indoor and outdoor circumstances.
1More PistonBuds Pro: Active noise cancellation and ambient listening
One of the big selling points for these budget earbuds is the inclusion of 38dB ANC: something reserved for pricier options that makes these (alongside the Soundcore Life P3) outliers in their range.
Paired with a snug fit of the right-size rubberized tips for your ear, the overall effect is surprisingly strong. These do a great job at blocking out the surrounding sounds of rush hour traffic, without creating that build-up of pressure in your head that makes this mode uncomfortable in some buds. It’s just a shame that the volume of the music doesn’t match up to these ANC credentials (more on that later).
Plus, for those moments when you do need to let the outside world in, there is a transparency mode. The quality of it is compromised by a slight hiss, which is expected in cheaper buds, but conversations around you are clear and I spoke to my partner from across the room.
1More PistonBuds Pro: Audio quality
Now for the most surprising part of this formula. The 1More PistonBuds Pro pack 10mm dynamic drivers. Slightly smaller than the 11mm beasts you’ll find in the Soundcore Life P3, but when it comes to quality of sound, you won’t hear the difference.
These pack a crisp, detailed sound profile with delectable depth that doesn’t hinder the mids at all, alongside plenty of room for the highs to soar. Instruments and vocals have room to express themselves with a spacious quality.
“Sunday Best” by Surfaces is a delicious feast for the ears, as PistonBuds Pro delivers every level of the track with precision. They even handle trickier tracks with ease, such as the orchestral uprising section of “A Day in The Life” by The Beatles — a notoriously difficult and dynamic cacophony for true wireless earbuds with swells, fades and an ever-changing instrumental tapestry. In the face of this, the acoustics didn’t break a sweat with zero distortion at all volumes.
There’s just one problem though. While the detail and personality is there, the volume doesn’t go high enough to deliver that oomph you need when you’re out and about.
Don’t get me wrong, this is only a problem in about 30% of circumstances. If you’re listening indoors, walking down quieter streets or jumping on the train, you won’t face this issue. But once you’re in the loud bustle of cafes and pubs, walking alongside packed roads (like I was when walking past a Nottingham Forest match…come on you reds), you’ll need to turn these up a helluva lot higher than most other buds to match their levels.
Put simply, the 1More PistonBuds Pro sound amazing, but they could do with a little more volume.
1More PistonBuds Pro: App
Soundcore’s companion app is one of the best in the business, but 1More gives it a run for its money with the free 1More Music app.
In this software, you get a range of presets, a customisable EQ, easy access to customise your tap interactions, a low latency mode for gaming and a soothing sounds option to create an ideal ambiance for sleeping.
There is no “find device” feature though, which is disappointing for more clumsy people like myself. If that is you too, be careful with these!
1More PistonBuds Pro: Battery life
1More promises five hours of listening time with ANC turned on, extended to 20 hours in the case — flick ANC off and that goes up to 7.5 and 30 hours, respectively.
Chances are you’ll just use ANC all the time anyway, so when comparing to those initial numbers, 1More’s claims are pretty much bang on, as I hit 5.5 hours on one charge.
In comparison, the Soundcore Life P3 last an hour longer, but when you’re looking at the average use case (morning commute and a few hours of listening while working, followed by a quick charge in the case over lunch and afternoon listening), this stamina is more than enough.
1More PistonBuds Pro: Call quality and connectivity
On the 1More PistonBuds Pro, you’ll find four microphones with an A.I. powered algorithm, to suppress ambient noise and amplify your voice. On paper, this sounds great, but in practice, it’s more of a mixed bag.
Sure, you can hear the other end of the line just fine, but the issue here is microphone placement. I understand these work at a disadvantage compared to the Soundcore Life P3, as they don’t have a stem to bring the mic closer to the mouth.
But the mics on the PistonBuds Pro are outward facing, which leads to unavoidable wind noise that tends to overwhelm your voice.
1More PistonBuds Pro: Verdict
Let me make this easy. Are you looking to grab the best earbuds on a budget? 1More PistonBuds Pro are what you should buy.
They are not perfect: call quality is hit-or-miss, the touch controls are limited and the relatively weak volume means these peak at a slightly quieter level than the competition.
But with a stellar sound stage and ANC that matches up to earbuds at twice the price, strong battery life and a svelte, stylish aesthetic, these are easy to forgive.
They are the best sounding earbuds at this price. Just please give me a less embarrassing name to say next time I recommend 1More earbuds to my mates.