Los Angeles, CA (April 28, 2021)—After being Grammy-nominated in the best immersive audio album category for 2019’s The Savior, Michael Marquart employed Neumann and Sennheiser 3D technologies while tracking his follow-up, Lifelike.
Early in 2020, Marquart — who records as A Bad Think — entered L.A.’s Henson Studios with engineer Dave Way at the helm of an SSL 4072G+ series console to begin tracking Lifelike. “I thought, ‘How far can we push this, and what if on this album we start at the ground level in a 3D environment — using the Neumann KU 100 and the Ambeo mic?” says Marquart.
The basic tracks involved three drum sets, set up in a half-moon position. “Depending on which track we were recording, we would use one or two of the drum kits to meet the flavor of the song,” Marquart explains. Both a Neumann KU 100 binaural head and Sennheiser Ambeo VR mic were set up in the middle of the room, with the KU 100 pointed towards the primary drum set, located in the middle of the half-moon.
In addition to the KU 100, a Neumann U 47 FET large diaphragm condenser captured the kick drum with several Sennheiser MD 421 II dynamic microphones on the toms. Additionally, a matched pair of vintage U 47 tube mics were used flanking each ear microphone of the KU 100. “Neumann mics are the best, so we had them on practically everything,” Marquart enthuses.
By recording in 3D at the outset, Marquart’s team was able to create a spatially accurate aural rendering of each song as it was being tracked, rather than depending solely on mixing to create an immersive experience. “Back in the day, you could record stuff in a traditional way and then do an Atmos or Surround mix or something, but now we are recording this three-dimensional space — not just mixing,” says Marquart.
Bob Clearmountain handled the stereo and 5.1 mixes, while Steve Genewick and Dave Way handled the Dolby Atmos mixes at Los Angeles’ Capitol Studios. All the final mixes were mastered by Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering Studios. “Working with people I trust takes all the pressure off,” says Marquart. The Blu-ray release will include all these mixes, along with a 22-minute documentary highlighting the making of the record.
Excellent bass weight and extension, Clear and natural vocals, Rich and lush presentation, Good soundstage expansion and layering, Gorgeous build and design, Great carrying case
Separation suffers from its fullness, Average technical performance in-class, Reasonably limited range of headband adjustment, Thin earpads can affect long-term comfort
Though its unique combination of qualities and thoughtful execution, the Phoenix is able to carve out a reasonably uncontested niche in the audio market for bass lovers who still value clear vocals and a spacious soundstage.
SIVGA are a Chinese audio company founded in 2016 who focus on stunning wooden designs and competitive pricing. They work hand-in-hand with Sendy Audio, their premium division, who recently achieved renown for their well-received Aiva planar magnetic headphone. The Phoenix is their latest creation, an open-back over-ear headphone featuring a huge 50mm dynamic driver. Signature to Sivga, the Phoenix features a premium bill of materials with special mention going to its gorgeous zebra wood cups. Sivga promise a rich and natural sound from its custom dynamic driver with moderate pricing placing it in direct comparison to some of the most acclaimed planar magnetic options on the market such as the Hifiman Sundara. Still, this is a unique approach and one that does feel well executed to boot.
The Phoenix sits just below the planar P-II in Sivga’s line-up at $299 USD. You can read all about it and treat yourself to a set on Sivga’s website. See also Sendy’s website for their premium planar offerings here.
I would like to thank Collin from Sivga and Mark from Capisco Ltd very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the Phoenix and Upgrade Pads for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the headphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
The Phoenix’s dynamic driver features a uniquely developed polycarbonate film and independently developed diaphragm structure. The company specifies a clear focus on rigidity in order to reduce modal breakup at high frequencies. Meanwhile, a lightweight construction with copper-clad aluminium voice coil promise an agile transient response for a detailed, extended and low-distortion sound. This is enhanced by the adoption of a 3mm thick rubidium iron boron magnet that provides strong driver control and low-end drive. A 32-ohm impedance makes the Phoenix easy to drive.
Sivga create a premium unboxing experience for the Phoenix with a gorgeous wood-grain and carbon-fibre textured hard box that slides open to reveal a zippered hard case. The case is excellent, moulded specifically for the Phoenix to provide a perfect, extra-secure fit during storage. It has a faux-leather texture and feels very well-constructed, four feet on its base enable the case to stand upright as well. Inside are the headphones and cable within a drawstring hessian pouch. Sivga also provide a 1/4″ adaptor for use with desktop amplifiers. Altogether, a well-considered and high-quality experience!
Immediately, it’s hard not to appreciate the gorgeous painted stainless steel and zebra wood build that stands out as a defining feature of this headphone. The Phoenix appears premium in materials and provides a timeless retro aesthetic with adjacent chrome and woodgrain drawing the eye. The metal hangers and headband are reasonably lightweight but feel sturdy in the hand, reinforced by well-weighted and smoothly articulating hinges. Due to its compact dimensions, the Phoenix also is far from a heavy headphone at just under 300g despite its construction mostly employing robust metal parts.
This experience is complemented by a slide-to-adjust suspension headband with a wide, padded goat leather strap. It feels super soft and, being authentic leather, should also hold up better over time than faux so long as it is appropriately maintained. The pads are super soft with memory foam interior that conforms well to the individual’s head shape. The sides are pleather, and the face made from a soft suede that provides a comfortable and slightly more breathable experience.
The cable attaches via 2.5mm mono plugs which is a less popular choice these days but still commonly available on aftermarket cables. Unfortunately, I am not so enthusiastic about the Phoenix’s stock cable which is thin and flimsy, barely thick enough to be an IEM cable. Albeit, the cable is very light and unobtrusive, it is also very compliant and doesn’t irk during listening. The connectors are metal and terminations have a nice strain-relief, the 3.5mm plug, in particular, employing a robust spring loaded one. Still, the thinness is a concern for longevity to me, I would like to have seen a more robust cable that better complements the build of the headphones themselves.
Fit & Isolation –
Looking over the design, I was expecting a very comfortable fit, however, the Phoenix’s compact dimensions means there are some concessions for all-day at-home listening. The headband has fairly limited adjustment relative to most competitors. I personally felt I required slightly more length as I was just able to fit the headphones with the setting maxed out. Otherwise, the headband is comfortable and didn’t form any hotspots for me over time. Though do keep in mind, that If you find yourself maxing out the slider on most headphones, the Phoenix may not fit.
In addition, while the earpads are soft and compliant, they are also very shallow. The opening is large enough to engulf my ears by a hair, however, the lack of width means the drivers are constantly pressed against them, causing soreness after an hour or two of listening. The discomfort was mild and I was able to listen for longer, though the Phoenix does feel more to me like a portable headphone than a full-size open-back as a result. The lightweight build and slim pads to me seem contradictory for an open-back design that is not ideal for portable use, and yet it almost appears geared towards it.
This may be the intention of the design as it does isolate considerably more than most open-back headphones, albeit not nearly to the extent of a closed-back model yet alone the stronger ANC performers out there around this price. This does mean they do in a pinch for basic commute. Still, they do leak sound which is not ideal for public transport. I feel the pad design is intentional to deliver the best sound, that said.
For those concerned about the earpads, Sivga do offer OEM protein leather replacements that offer an additional half-centimetre of width for only $15. The pads are held in place by a twist lock like most competitors making pad swapping easy – though of note, they do rotate clockwise rather than anticlockwise to disengage so take care to twist in the right direction during removal. The company was kind enough to send over a pair for evaluation. Though they aren’t as breathable as the stock pads with an entirely faux leather construction without the velour of the stock pads, but do successfully provide more of an over-ear fit. For my ears, they were noticeably more comfortable for longer listening sessions as they reduced contact between the driver and my ears. I think this is a fine option and a reasonably priced extra, though do note that they will change the sound quite noticeably as I will touch on in the sound analysis below.
New York, NY (February 22, 2021)—Pro-audio mainstay Sennheiser turned heads last week with the announcement it is searching to find a new corporate partner for its Consumer Electronic division. Under the expected arrangement, the consumer division would gain additional resources that a partner could bring to the brand, allowing Sennheiser to focus on its Neumann, Pro Audio and Business Communications business units, co-CEOs Andreas and Daniel Sennheiser told PSN.
Opting to team with an outside entity is no small decision for the 75-year-old company; the consumer electronics division, which introduced its first headphones in 1968, comprises roughly half the manufacturer’s business, said Andreas Sennheiser. The partnership search, then, is the result of “actually having more opportunities at hand than we can give all the full potential [under our current] setup.”
The decision came after an internal assessment of the company’s divisions, said Daniel Sennheiser: “Looking at the different business units in more detail, we realized we need different strategies to make them successful. How we can develop all four business segments at the same time with the necessary power, so all markets that we’re in have great growth opportunities? We saw that the consumer part can be really driven to the full extent if we can find a partner and focus on the pro part.”
In recent years, the company has sought to make the various business units more independent, creating separate sales forces for each. “Now this is the next level,” said Andreas Sennheiser. “[All four] need investment in technology and audio competency, but also in sales and marketing. We believe that we can do this very well long term on the pro businesses, and a partner will help us accelerate the growth on the consumer business.”
While the CEOs are open to discussing a variety of approaches as they begin the search, one scenario that’s off the table is the possibility of selling the brand outright, said Andreas Sennheiser: “It’s our family name, and therefore we’ll hold that close to the family.”
As the manufacturer plans to focus on its other three business units once a partner is in place, plans are already afoot for those divisions. Daniel Sennheiser noted, “We’re looking forward to the pandemic lifting, especially now for live and broadcast, where we believe that we’ll see a renaissance of the industry; the public is really waiting for live events to come back. It’ll still be a little bit difficult for this year, we believe, but then in 2022, we’ll see great growth.”
The CEOs noted that the pandemic has aided their MI-based efforts, with the rise in home recording and home studios creating an upswing for both the Sennheiser and Neumann brands. “That area has actually grown significantly and gives us more opportunities to also invest into R&D and more products,” Daniel Sennheiser added. The pro-audio division’s broadcast and audio-for-video offerings, will be an upcoming focus, too, as they are the subjects of “strong plans and strong pipelines.”
Sennheiser isn’t letting the consumer division sit idle during the search either. “Every plan, every strategy that was in place prior to this announcement is still there,” said Andreas Sennheiser, “so we’re still driving the business strongly. With a new partner on the consumer side, we can even grow stronger there, creating therefore a better future for all sides.”
Unrivalled custom fit and isolation for TWS, Outstanding balance throughout and accurate timbre, Best in-class soundstage and resolution, Excellent build and finish
Power and charging functions hamper convenience, Lower-treble spike may irk some, Background hiss, Call quality below average, No official IP rating, Costly
The M5-TWS Custom lies at the pinnacle of TWS sound quality, tuning and fit, but expect to pay a hefty premium to obtain it.
ADV. really came out of nowhere in 2015. They began life crowd-funded by Kickstarter but soon made a name for themselves with their very affordable products that focussed on the fundamentals and essentials. However, through collaboration with esteemed industry veteran AAW, the company soon set its eyes on the high-end scene, releasing a sophisticated line of customs and a planar magnetic headphone. They assume advanced manufacturing processes such as 6-axis CNC milling and 3D printing in order to realise these products. The M5-TWS was a departure from their usual designs, sporting the same audiophile focus but in a true-wireless form factor. We walked away very-impressed by its clean Harman-target tuning and immaculate 3D printed housings. The company didn’t stop there, however, releasing the M5-TWS Custom which represents more than just a custom variant of their previous TWS hit. It sports a new “reference” tuned driver and reworked acoustics alongside representing quite possibly the first full-custom TWS design on the market.
The M5-TWS Custom is available for $499.99 USD from ADV. at the time of writing. For more details, customization options and purchase, see ADV.’s website here.
I would like to thank Hannah from ADV. very much for her quick communication and for providing me with the M5-TWS Custom for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
The Pitch –
Custom 3D-printed design
ADV. use 3D printing to achieve a high-quality acrylic construction and speed up turnaround times on custom products. This also opens the avenue for use of digital ear impressions that greatly aid convenience during the ordering process and permit the user to reuse the same impressions for years to come. Furthermore, the intricacy permitted by 3D printing means fewer cosmetic imperfections, more control over acoustic design and better channel matching for custom products, very important for imaging performance.
Reference-tuned PHPC Driver
The M5-TWS Custom uses a similar 6.1mm pressurized high-purity copper dynamic driver as the universal model. This means a tight, well-damped micro driver with an agile transient response whilst upholding an authoritarian sub-bass due to the enclosure that increases low-frequency pressure. However, the company has retuned the custom model specifically to follow a different curve. Where the uni was tuned to match the in-ear Harman target curve, the custom is reference-tuned that promises to be more neutral and transparent. I will touch more on the specific difference below.
You don’t receive the same level of customisability as most custom wired earphones, but a select range of set designs; black burst, green ash and red pearl. Besides this, the company only offers different options in delivering your impressions, able to ship impressions, email 3D STL files or visit ADV’s lab in Santa Cruz. Alternatively, if you’ve ordered custom products from the company in the past, they’ll have your impressions on file.
Turnaround and Support –
I will firstly thank the ADV. team for their support during the global pandemic which has complicated production for many companies. The company promises a 4-6-week turnaround and this is in-line with my experience, my unit taking about 6 weeks to prep from when I first sent my digital impressions. It later came to my attention that the impressions I sent had a flaw necessitating 0.5mm bolstering of the left sound tube and ADV. were very helpful here too. The company was able to modify the earphones to my specification and shipped them out 2 weeks later by DHL Express which sped up the process.
The M5-TWS Custom comes with markedly different packaging to the universal, more in-line with a CIEM. Sliding off the top cover reveals the earphones within a sleek CNC aluminium case with foam inlet that holds the earphones. Of note, the earphones utilise plugs on the faceplate for charging since the custom design does not permit docking in a universal case. The company includes a tiny type-C cable that charges the earphones alongside a compact Type-A to Type-C adaptor for use with ordinary chargers and older computers. The M5-TWS Custom’s case has no smart features or ability to charge the earphones. A smaller case with tighter inlet would have been a welcome addition, something like CFA’s IEM pouches that are much more pocketable and separate the housings to prevent scratches.
In handsome red pearl, my unit is very visually distinct and represents a high level of construction quality. Being a custom-made earphone don’t expect premium material choice here as conventional 3D printers only work with acrylic at present. I have been gushing about 3D printed products lately but do take note that not all are created equal. The particular company ordering or printing the products has full control over the resolution and finish at the cost of time, and ADV. clearly spend a bit more achieving a refined product here.
In turn, the finish and build are as good as you could hope for, each surface is perfectly smooth and this was especially noticeable to me when lighting the earphones where we observe very clean lines and contours. There are no seams due to the 3D printing, leaving a flawless unibody construction that feels light but solid. The transparent bodies showcase the acoustics and circuitry inside with mic cut outs interestingly positioned at the rear and a small vent at the very top. Take note that the M5-TWS Custom has no IP rating so use these for exercise at your own risk.
Fit & Isolation –
The M5- TWS Custom is about the size of a regular CIEM plus another millimetre of depth for the electronics. This makes it quite a bit larger than the regular M5-TWS but may vary based on your individual ear anatomy. Still, they aren’t especially low profile meaning that they won’t be suitable for wearing underneath a motorbike helmet or sleeping as our readers often ask about. As far as comfort is concerned, however, the size is of no consequence since they conform perfectly to the shape of your ears – given that the provided impressions were taken correctly. And indeed, this was the case for me; the M5-TWS custom disappears in my ears, providing perfect fit, seal and long-term comfort. They lock into the ears very well with slightly more articular fit around the anti-helix as opposed to my wired CIEMs, that greatly aids retention in the absence of cables and ear guides.
During workouts and commute, the earphones required no adjustment and I encountered no other fit stability issues. They were perfectly comfortably during longer listening sessions. Due to the rigid acrylic design, I did not find them ideal for running, however, where the constant motion would cause them to lose seal. A universal earphone with silicone Eartune fidelity/custom tips are a better option for this sort of application if a personalised fit and high levels of isolation are required. Despite visible vents, they isolate similarly to my sealed CIEMs. They also block the most noise of any TWS earphone I’ve tested ANC or not – nothing beats a perfect seal. The ear-filling design provides especially strong attenuation of low-frequencies which works well in tandem with their more balanced sound tuning. This will make these earphones an excellent companion for frequent fliers and travellers.
Pairing and Connectivity
The experience here is similar to most TWS earphones. After power on the earphones, they enter pairing mode. ADV. add a custom Bluetooth ID to match the user’s name here, ensuring that they are never confused with other devices. They quickly reconnect with previously paired devices but go back into pairing mode if that device is unavailable. The faceplates can be held for 5s to force pairing mode, audio cues let the user know when this is occurring. Utilising Qualcomm’s QC3020 chipset, the earphones support BT5.0 including Apt-X and AAC. This also means they can be paired independently which I was able to confirm, handy for extending battery life during mono calls for instance. Once connected, the M5-TWS Custom provided reliable connectivity. I experienced no dropouts between either side nor to the source device. Connection was also stable in crowded areas such as Sydney CBD which is generally most taxing for a wireless product. Range is also on the higher side, stretching through two rooms with double brick walls before becoming intermittent. With a line of sight connection, range was higher.
Charging and Battery Life
The M5-TWS Custom surely provides a markedly different experience here compared to your average TWS earphone. For one, the user must manually power the earphones on and off in the absence of a charging case via a 7 second hold on the touch-sensitive faceplates. In the same vein, charging is done via a Type-C cable, again affecting convenience. The upside is that, due to the compact size, it is very unobtrusive and enables the user to charge the earphones directly from a smartphone with Type-C connector. It seems reasonable given the nature of the product though potentially the company could have included a charging case that interfaces with the flat faceplates that will invariably by similar between all users.
Battery life is rated at 8 hours down from 9 on the universal. Given that the driver is actually slightly more sensitive, it is possible that the earphones have a more powerful amplifier. In real world usage, at around 40% volume, I found the earphones to meet that figure comfortably and reliably. I also feel that the absence of constant trickle charging may be beneficial for battery health long-term – though, of course, the user will have to remember to keep them topped up. From empty, ADV. quote that the M5-TWS Custom will take 2 hours to charge. They also state quick-charge support though they don’t quote any exact figures. In 15 minutes, I was able to charge from critical battery to approximately 40% which represents just over 3 hours of listening time. They also auto-off after 5 minutes to save power.
The M5-TWS Custom utilises similar touch controls to the universal model. As they have a more stable fit and larger, flatter faceplates to interface with, the experience is somewhat better here. Furthermore, the controls have been slightly altered to now include volume control and smart assistant functionality as seen pictured below.
I personally am not a fan of the volume controls, however, since the single tap is easily mistaken when adjusting the earphones in the ear. Fortunately, they only change one step at a time, so you don’t have to worry about ramping volume up to a deafening level unintentionally. The touch controls aren’t as responsive nor as accurate as the Pixel Buds or Sennheiser MTW2 overall, but I experienced around 90% accuracy during my testing and didn’t find them frustrating during daily use.
Call quality was mostly similar to the regular M5, meaning good volume but some slight muffling here due to the rear-facing microphones. In quiet environments, users reported good vocal intelligibility. However, there is minimal ambient noise cancellation similar to the M5, if at all as recipients noted that ambient noise and wind were quite intrusive during calls. This will not be the best choice for those interested in the highest call quality but will do in a pinch, especially in quiet environments.
Whether due to the increased isolation, the more sensitive driver or revised circuity, the M5-TWS Custom has a reasonably pronounced background hiss that is clearly audible in quiet environments. It was more prevalent than the other TWS models I’ve tested so far, though again, isolation is substantially better making it appear more apparent. It was also slightly more prominent than on the universal M5-TWS. If you are sensitive to hiss, this will not be the best solution for you. However, most users shouldn’t find it too bothersome when music is playing.
Great ANC with usable modes and minimal artefacts, Stable fit, Well-considered V-shaped signature, Excellent foreground detail retrieval, Wide soundstage, Stable connectivity
Larger charging case, Large housings won’t suit those with small ears, App has questionable functionality
The 1More TWS ANC may not best market leaders, but gets very close for considerably less with a more technical sound on top.
1More are a US-based audio company who have built a strong cult following with their triple-driver hybrid in-ears and more well-received products since. The ANC TWS is one of their more coveted products and also one of their most unanimously lauded. It is especially feature packed, offering advanced ANC and a hybrid DD + BA driver setup not commonly seen on this form factor. So, it came as little surprise when 1More announced that their ANC TWS would be the first TWS in-ear to achieve THX certification. What was less obvious to consumers is that there’s more to this than a simple badge on the box; consider the THX certified models – that being manufactured around June 2020 onwards – as V2 hardware. This revision will also features a revised balanced armature driver, similarly, the firmware has been upgraded according to feedback by THX engineers alongside adding support for 1More’s QuietMax technology first introduced on their neckband model. This is a very nice refinement of an already very competitive TWS in-ear.
The 1More TWS ANC is available for $179.99 USD at the time of writing. To read more about it and 1More’s technologies see their product page here. To purchase one for yourself, please see here (affiliate).
I would like to thank Ari very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the 1More ANC TWS for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
Dimensions: 38 x 18 x 28.5 mm (earbud), 81.32 x 30 x 38.5 mm (case)
Bluetooth Version: 5.0, 10m range, apt-X and AAC supported
Battery: 55 mAh (earbuds), 410 mAh (case), 5v 1A charging
Runtime (50% vol): 6hrs (ANC off), 5hrs (ANC on), 22hrs total (incl. case ANC off)
Impedance: 32 ohms
The Pitch –
The ANC TWS’ design opens up several avenues for enhanced ANC performance. QuietMax consists of dual-band ANC, intelligent wind reduction and methods to reduce wearing pressure. On traditional single-driver earphones, ANC diminishes sound quality as the driver must handle two duties. With the ANC TWS, 1More attempt to circumvent this by delegating the DD to ANC duties and allowing the BA driver to cover a wider frequency range with ANC on. 1More are also utilising two mics to offer feedforward and feedback ANC so it can detect noises within the ear canals in addition to ambient, offering additional attenuation.
The dual mic system is also handy for wind noise reduction, as the earphones are able to reduce the sensitivity of the ambient noise feedforward mic and rely more on the in-ear feedback mic to mitigate artefacts. There are also two ANC modes that vary not in intensity, but bandwidth. One is a wide-band attenuation to cancel a wide range of sounds including voices, the other focusing more on lower wearing pressure and the cancellation of explicitly more constant low-frequency background noise. Overall, this is a very intelligent approach to ANC with clear benefits to real world performance. This technology is further explain here.
When the TWS ANC first launched, it was slammed for sounding very different when ANC was activated, becoming overly bass heavy. This has since been remediated to some degree with firmware updates, now creating a more consistent sound profile – the more balanced one offered with ANC off is now mostly retained with ANC on. Furthermore, the V2 hardware units have also been updated with ANC and audio tweaks based on feedback from THX engineers. 1More explains THX certification and how to identify your hardware version on their website here.
1More always provide a stunning unboxing experience and the TWS ANC is no different. The box looks premium with high-quality print and renders. There’s a brushed metal tab on the magnetic tab that opens to reveal the earphones and case within a foam inlet. A separate box contains the remaining accessories. There are 3 sizes of retentive loops, 1More’s interpretation of stabiliser wings, in addition to 3 pair of soft silicone tips and 3 pairs of harder silicone tips. I found it especially important to find the right combination of both due to the size and shape of the ANC TWS. Also take note that the tips are directional, try rotating them 180 degrees if you can’t get a good seal.
If you’re familiar with 1More’s other TWS designs, you’ll find a similar experience with the ANC TWS. A key differentiator from the lower-end models is the all-black colour scheme with slick carbon-fibre faceplates and red accented grills. It gives the earphone a seriously sporty aesthetic that’s reminiscent of automotive design and also very distinct. They are one of the largest TWS in-ears I’ve tested personally, but are very lightweight, being mostly plastic in terms of construction. In turn, they don’t feel especially dense or high-quality in the hand, but the positive trade-off is a more stable and less obtrusive fit; you feel the size much less in wearing. They have no official IP rating, but 1More claim the design is suitable for workouts and light moisture if not any kind of submersion.
The majority of the housing sits outside the ear while the portion that sits in the ear is compact and covered by a silicone cover. The user is able to choose between 3 sizes of silicone rings, the smallest having no retention for those with smaller ears. The experience can be likened to that provided by Master & Dynamic’s MW07 earphones; they feel soft in the ear and achieve a nice, locked-in sensation once tilted appropriately. This works in tandem with angled nozzles and oval ear tips, though do take note that users will be limited to the stock ear tips since the nozzles are also oval and elongated which can affect purchase with third party tips. Infrared sensors are also apparent to auto-pause when removed from the ear.
Fit & Comfort –
The earphones are clearly on the larger side, most apparent when looking at photos of the inner face as shown below. Accordingly, they protrude noticeably from the ear, so a far cry from svelte competitors such as the Airpod Pros and Pixel Buds though roughly on par with something like the WF-1000XM3. In turn, they aren’t suitable for sleeping on and do pick up a little more wind noise than the smaller aforementioned designs. In addition, they are not the best choice for those with smaller ears as I found them very unstable without the stabiliser rings attached. Due to their larger design, finding the right sized stabilisation rings and eartips is imperative. With the large rings and stock medium tips, I was able to achieve a consistent seal and stable fit for my ears.
I was able to run and skip without requiring adjustment, a surprisingly good result given that the medium rings installed out of the box were very awkward for me. I do also personally find the rings more comfortable than wing style stabilisers and even the small fins on the MW07 earphones. They form no hotspots and spread the force evenly over a large area, where the fins and wings tended to push on certain parts of my ears harder causing mild discomfort over time. If you have average sized ears and above, the 1More ANC TWS will provide a very comfortable and stable fit.
Though not nearly as compact as the Airpods case or even the Pixel Buds case, the 1More charging case has well-considered dimensions that make it more pocketable than most. It’s long but also slim and narrow, so it slides into the pocket comfortably next to a wallet or phone. The case feels great to handle, high-quality and solidly built with a gunmetal anodized exterior and silicone base that keeps it steady when placed on a table. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend repeating this, but the case is bottom heavy so it tends to fall towards the rubber base when dropped, offering some shock protection. The hinge feels solid as well, not the smoothest and the reverse lock feels stiff, but it works reliably and hasn’t popped out or caused other issues during testing.
The magnets that hold the lid closed are strong so you don’t have to worry about losing the earbuds when dropped or placed in a bag. Similarly, the earbuds seat themselves very snugly into the case and there is plenty of room for large tips and rings. The case charges via Type-C and supports Qi wireless charging. There’s a status LED on the front and a pairing button inside. Of note, the case will power the earphones off even if completely discharged, but it will not power them back on when removed requiring the user to hold the MFB on the earphones to power on manually. The case offers around 3 full charges and I found it to match that figure comfortably during testing. Fast charge is also available, offering 2 hours of listening time with 15 minutes of charging.
If you’re able to operate any other TWS earphone, you’ll have few troubles here. The 1More’s are easy to use with intuitive controls. Upon opening the case, they enter pairing mode or automatically reconnect to previously paired devices. Pairing can also be manually initiated with the button inside the case. Auto pairing was quick and reliable on my Pixel 4. Once setup, I was also very impressed with the connectivity. They offer among the best range of any TWS earphone I have on hand, able to traverse around 3 rooms with double brick wall before becoming intermittent, but even then, they held onto audio most of the time. With my phone on person, I experienced no issues with cut-out or interference, even in busy areas such as the CBD or public transport. Connected over apt-X, latency was also a strong performer with minimal lip sync making them suitable for videos, movies and some gaming.
Here I am experiencing a mixed bag, the physical controls work well, and the touch controls are among the better performers I’ve tried. I appreciate the use of touch for more complex actions such as ANC mode, and more reliable physical controls for volume, skip track and call accept/reject functionality. However, there are a few caveats that irk during daily use. For one, there is no ability to customize the control scheme, aggravating as I can’t set a dedicated button for instant pass-through mode. The touch controls also have a noticeable latency but have voice feedback announcing the ANC mode, passthrough, etc. Meanwhile, the physical controls lack any kind of auditory feedback, aggravating since skipping tracks requires a 2s hold, but only initiates once the button has been released. So, if you hold the button for too long, the earpiece powers off, too short and it only changes the volume; an unreliable control that I struggled to acclimatise to during my testing. You can’t palm the touch-sensitive faceplates like the Sennheiser MTW2 so they’re a bit difficult to tap when running per say, they are also nowhere near as responsive as the class-leading Google Pixel Buds with capacitive touch panel. That said, the touch controls are reliable enough, hitting about 95% accuracy during daily use.
1More Music App
It’s good to see some app integration here as it permits some functions that other more audio-centric earphones lack. That said, the experience is quite limited which seems like wasted potential here. The app is limited to basic controls of the features available. There’s a slider that adjusts the ANC mode between the 3 settings and a pass-through toggle just below. You can also adjust whether the IR sensors auto-pause music or both pause and play, however, you cannot disable this feature. OTA firmware upgrades are available alongside a quick guide for fit and controls. There is no eQ or other sound mode setting and no ability to change audio feedback. There is an addition 1More app available, however, this essentially only offers firmware updates and automatic burn-in for those wanting to extract maximum performance from their earphones out of the box.
Given 1More’s bold claims with the introduction of QuietMax, I was very curious to try their technology for myself – especially, since impressions online vary wildly. Of course, effectiveness will vary greatly based on seal, so ensure you have the best setup of tips and rings, I do personally get a very good seal with these. I also have not tried the non-THX V1 earphone so these will be purely impressions based on the newest revision.
Well, if my prior comments had you concerned about 1More’s ability to deliver on claims, the ANC performance will surely redeem them, it is superb. I found them almost on par with market leaders such as the Airpods Pros and Sony WF-1000XM3, which is to say, very effective and instantly noticeable. Those models cancel out just a little more midrange, so voices sound a bit more muted on both, however, low-frequency noises were similarly attenuated to near silence on the 1More’s, if not a little more so. The only downside is that high-frequencies are a little more apparent when ANC is on than these models, with a noticeable whoosh. That said, the 1More’s are also less susceptible to artefacts. A common area where I experience difficulties with the other models was chains rattling in the gym, the change in pressure when doors close on the train and a pop when the rope strikes the ground during skipping. The 1More’s had no issues with any of these noises where the Sony’s and Airpods would pop and clip noticeably.
As mentioned in my rundown of QuietMax, the ANC TWS offers two modes of ANC; one wideband, one low-frequencies and less aggressive in general. They are very useable with well-defined use cases for each – if somewhat inconvenient to toggle between. It should be noted that wind noise is still noticeable on these earphones, but was better controlled than competitors even on the more aggressive ANC setting (mode 1), and it was roughly halved in volume on the low-frequency ANC setting (mode 2). The worst performer here was the Sennheiser MTW2 that almost amplified wind noise despite being by far the least aggressive in terms of actual noise cancellation. The first mode does a sensational job at silencing background hums and drones, think road and traffic noise, AC, computer fans and distant chatter, in addition to a good job at lowering the intensity of voices and keyboard noise. Meanwhile, setting 2 cancels those hums and drones at about 80% of the effectiveness of the first mode, while leaving voices less attenuated. However, the 2nd mode also vastly lowers artefacts and there is almost zero wearing pressure, where some becomes apparent on the 1st mode when in louder environments.
I think this is a good trade-off and a very useful addition for frequent flyers who may prioritise long-term comfort over the best ANC performance possible. For reference, the level of pressure on the Apple and Sony competitors is similar to the 1st mode and only the Sony’s offer the ability to adjust ANC intensity. However, as aforementioned, it is a pain to cycle through each setting, of which there are 4 – ANC Mode 1, ANC Mode 2, Pass through (aware mode), ANC Off. Most notably, reaching pass through takes a good 5 seconds or so as there is an accompanying voice chime between each setting paired with a second delay, presumably adjusting the dual-driver duties. This means it is essentially useless for catching quick conversation and announcements as it simply takes too long to cycle around to this mode. You can manually select each within the app, however, you’d need to keep it open in the background as there is no quick-setting toggle or slider in the notification shade.
Despite being more inconvenient than most to access, the actual effectiveness here is very good. It doesn’t amplify sounds like the Sennheiser’s but passes ambient noises in a very natural manner akin to the Airpod Pros. They don’t clip on louder ambient sounds and don’t sound thin, sharp or shouty either as some do – for instance, the Sennheiser’s would amplify high-frequencies excessively to the extent that jingling keys would deafen. The 1More’s sounded almost open, not super clear once again, but a natural effect that leaves speech easy to distinguish even with music playing – so long as it is at a reasonable volume. Overall, if you’re looking for an earphone with effective and adjustable ANC and a very sound pass-through when you need spatial awareness, you won’t be disappointed with the 1More’s.
With an extensive microphone setup, call quality is easily good enough for day to day use but still clearly a setup below market leaders. That said, I would only recommend these other models over the 1More if the buyer were using them primarily as a headset as I find the ANC TWS to offer a fairly well-rounded experience with good performance elsewhere. Recipients noted my voice was immediate and discernible in noisy environments with good ambient noise cancellation albeit could be a little clearer. There is no pass through/sidetone during calls and also no ANC during calls as the Huawei Freebuds 3 are able to retain. However, other competitors do not offer this functionality either.
New York, NY (December 24, 2020)—With the end of 2020 upon us (and not a second too soon), we look back at the year that was, presenting the Top 10 Pro Sound News articles of 2020 that appeared on prosoundnetwork.com, as ranked by the site’s Google Analytics readership statistics. Intriguingly, while the biggest news of the year was the pandemic, virtually none of these articles even mention it. Instead, audio pros like yourself were mostly interested in either looking ahead to when things would get back to normal by checking out the latest gear, or looking back at great moments in audio, whether it was the recording of classic albums or the earliest known stereo recordings. No one knows what 2021 will bring, but for now, enjoy the most popular articles from our site, and we’ll see you in the new year.
8. The METAlliance Report: The Recording of Steely Dan’s Aja By The METAlliance. Widely considered a pinnacle of recording excellence, Steely Dan’s 1977 album Aja had an occasionally tortured gestation—but it won the Grammy for Best Engineered Album. Now METAlliance members Al Schmitt and Elliot Scheiner share the inside scoop on how…
6. Inside the Live Sound of Live Aid, Part 1: London By Steve Harvey. We look back at the live sound effort that went into the legendary charity concert Live Aid, held simultaneously in London and Philadelphia. With 60+ acts on the bill and 160,000 in attendance—not to mention 1.9 billion watching it…
3. Tool Tours with Intricate, Immersive Sound By Steve Harvey. Touring the world behind Fear Inoculum, Tool’s first album in 13 years, the prog-metal heroes are filling arenas with a massive audio system that takes a new approach to immersive live sound.
As if facilitating pristine indoor recordings isn’t hard enough, some podcasters seek out harsh audio environments in order to bring adventurous stories to life. We’ve brought together some of the best field recording pros in the business here to share insights they’ve learned on location. Read on to see how they get the job done in the face of wind, water and reverberant warehouses.
Outside Podcast and Outside/In
More than 40 volcanoes in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands form the northern curve of the infamous ring of fire that encircles the Pacific Ocean with hundreds of active peaks. But for audio producers charged with field recording in the region, that’s not even the most terrifying fact about this vast region of fire and ice.
“I don’t know if you are familiar with the Aleutian Islands,” says audio storyteller and podcast producer Stephanie Joyce with a laugh, “but their nickname is, ‘the birthplace of the winds.’”
Smuggled dinosaur bones? Scuba diving under a pyramid? Binaural audio recording onsite? It’s all part of the Overheard at National Geographic podcast’s third season. For the show’s production team, gathering field recordings from exotic locations and subjects is just another day at the office.
“I went to a warehouse in Queens [New York] where a paleontologist had dinosaur fossils given to her by Homeland Security because they had been illegally shipped to the United States,” says producer Brian Gutierrez. “Just following her with the recorder and letting her tell her story, I think brings you into the moment more than just being in the studio.”
The environmental touches that connect listeners to place and setting in Missing in Alaska are the real deal. When producer Seth Nicholas Johnson needed sounds to represent the idea of lowering a search boat into the water, he simply referenced their own collection of curated audio, captured while field recording on location.
“It’s like, ‘Okay, we’re building Alaska, we’re painting a picture of this three-day trip and this search, there’s no need to pretend that just a random soundscape of the ocean that I found online was the Pacific Ocean,’” says Johnson.
Capturing the vibe of a big-budget spy thriller was crucial for Wind of Change, a podcast that asks an intriguing but potentially dangerous question: What if the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency wrote “Wind of Change,” the enormously successfully 1991 power ballad by hard rockers Scorpions, in a bid to bring the Cold War to an end?
While chasing leads and operatives from New York to Russia and Germany, producer Henry Molofsky was tasked with capturing audio in a multitude of environments—a Scorpions stadium concert held in Russia, a boat on the Moskva River in Moscow on a windy night, telephone calls with secret agents, and even random hotel rooms with former CIA spies.
In November, Sennheiser introduced the new dynamic MD 435 and MD 445 handheld vocal microphones for use in live sound settings. The heads on these mics are based on the legendary Sennheiser MD 9235 wireless handheld microphone head, used on the biggest stages and artists in the world. Many of my friends that mix big hip-hop artists rely on 9235s for their ability to handle loudness and their cardioid rejection—great for avoiding feedback from the monitors.
Those features can be found in these two mics as well: The MD 445 is a high-rejection, super-cardioid microphone and the MD 435 is cardioid. Both microphones are great for loud sound pressure levels (163 dB) like a snare drum or guitar amps, but they can also handle a delicate human voice. They’re not as sensitive as a condenser mic, of course, but each one has a great natural sound in the higher frequencies. After checking out the frequency responses for each microphone, I noticed the MD 435 peaks at around the 5k-7k range in a way that reminded me of the Sennheiser 935, capturing very clean sound with a little help in the higher frequencies for vocals. Meanwhile, the MD 445 has a darker yet slightly fuller sound, because the frequency response has a smoother curve at those 5k-7K Hz frequencies. Both microphones needed a decent amount of gain from my mic pre to get a respectable signal, but there was little to no white noise created.
I’m a big fan of the super-cardioid polar pattern from my live-mixing days—and now in my studio, too, for getting for ultimate rear rejection—and in that respect, the MD 445 really knocks it out the park. The beautiful vocal response that it produces is second to none in dynamic handheld microphones, and I found I like this microphone on male vocals a little better for the darker lower frequencies.
In use, I found that handling noise for both the MD 445 and 435 handhelds was almost nonexistent, as you can hear for yourself on a special episode of The Art of Music Tech podcast that I recorded with my business partner, Denis. We recorded an entire podcast using the microphones, and at one point switched mics to hear them on female and male vocals. I was amazed at the silence of switching hands with the microphone and not getting those weird low-frequency thumps that are heard with all handheld microphones. That truly blew me away—and it’s exactly why I would use them for a live podcast setting: They sound excellent and reject the noise that’s happening behind the microphone.
Out of the two, the MD 435 is my favorite for a female vocalist because of the sweetness around the 8 kHz range. I didn’t need to EQ frequencies as much as I would for the MD 445; I don’t like to tweak things if I don’t have to, so I would definitely have this in the audio toolbox for a female vocalist. As I mentioned earlier, the MD 435 sound reminds me of a richer toned Sennheiser 935, and they share similar frequency responses with the MD 435 at 40 Hz – 20 kHz, and the 935 topping out at 18k Hz. The MD 435 has a silky tone on the top end that’s not too harsh, but lets the vocals sit on top.
Overall, the MD 435 and MD 445 are amazing microphones. The bodies of the microphones are a slick, black finish and have that nice feel and shape that we’re used to seeing from the Sennheiser brand, along with a weight that is solid and but not heavy. Each microphone retails at $499, so it’s not a beginner’s microphone, but well worth it for a road warrior engineer or vocalist. I’d even suggest it to podcasters that record in a non-studio setting. Sennheiser has continued its legendary evolution in the microphone world.
Lightweight and comfortable, Folding design, Super soft lambskin leather, Superb balance and linearity, Strong fine detail retrieval in class, Cable orientation always correct
Less bass extension than some competitors, Not the most spacious or open sounding headphone, Unorthodox cable design, Plastic build scratches easily
The LCD-1 provides a balance of qualities and conveniences unmatched by immediate competitors.
Who hasn’t heard of Audeze? The US-based headphone manufacturer are an icon of the headphone industry, their LCD line-up having both huge success and staying power. If there’s one thing that alienated buyers from these models, it’s likely their price followed quickly by their large, heavy design. The new LCD-1 is their solution to these qualms, and their sleekest LCD headphone yet excluding the on-ear SINE. It implements the same technologies in a compact form factor designed for all-day comfort. Furthermore, the sound signature has been tuned with monitoring in-mind, pivotal as such a balanced sound is not so easy to come by around this price range.
The LCD-1 retails for $399 USD. You can read all about the LCD-1 alongside Audeze’s technologies here and treat yourself to one here.
I would like to thank Ari very much for getting me in contact with Audeze and making this review of the LCD-1 happen. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the headphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
Style: Over-ear, open-circumaural
Transducer type: Planar magnetic
Maximum SPL: >120dB
Frequency response: 10Hz – 50kHz
THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
Impedance: 16 ohms
Sensitivity: 99 dB/1mW
The Pitch –
Audeze implement waveguides to avoid unwanted resonances and destructive interference. This enables greater high-frequency extension and resolution in addition to increasing efficiency. Audeze also promise greater phase coherence resulting in better resolution and sharper imaging. Furthermore, the waveguides can help reduce turbulence and enhance damping enabling higher driver control and a more agile transient response. You can read Audeze’s description here.
Audeze headphones utilize very strong N50 neodymium magents – the higher the number, the stronger the magnetic force exerted, with N52 being the absolute strongest currently available. This equates to a greater ability to exert force onto the diaphragm meaning a quicker transient response, higher efficiency. This enables Audeze to implement a single-sided array that contributes to the LCD-1’s very light weight design. You can read Audeze’s description here.
Ultra-thin Force Diaphragm
Audeze headphones use an ultra-ligthweight diaphragm just 0.5 microns thick – 1/10th of the thickness of a red blood cell. In turn, the diaphragm is very lightweight which permits quicker acceleration and deceleration – a quicker and cleaner transient response. Alongside the more uniform force application with Audeze’s fluxor magnet array, their drivers offer high resolution and low distortion at high frequencies due to the reduced inertia. You can read Audeze’s description here.
While the box doesn’t have the luscious velour interior of Hifiman’s headphones, the LCD-1 upholds a premium unboxing experience. Sliding off the outer sleeve and opening up the hard box reveals the compact Audeze carrying case. It’s a tough and protective zippered hard shell with rugged fabric exterior. There’s an elastic internal pocket with Velcro holder that enables the user to store cables and accessories without them scratching the headphones. The headphones are comfortably secured within the case, which also showcases how they fold-up for storage. Audeze also includes a 2m cable and 3.5mm to 6.25mm adaptor and papers to verify warranty and authenticity.
Futuristic is one of the descriptors that came to mind when I first lay eyes on the LCD-1. It’s a compendium of clean lines merged with Audeze’s signature faceplate design merging minimalism and the tradition that came before. The plastic construction is a departure from the tanky builds we’ve come to expect from Audeze, however, it is premium where it counts. The earpads and headband make an especially strong impression, employing a gorgeous lambskin leather with plush memory foam on the earpads and soft sponge on the headband. The swiveling mechanism features a metal reinforcement plate that will provide more reliable function over time. Though not the most premium in terms of overall material choice, the LCD-1 feels relatively sturdy and upholds a strong user experience.
The LCD-1 can both fold flat and fold down for storage making them very portable when paired with the included case while enabling them to hang comfortably around the neck. They offer more axis of adjust-ability than most and a nice ratcheting headband slider that lacks position markers but retains its position well. The design of the headband may present issues if you have an especially large or tall head as I found myself using the 2nd largest setting where I usually hover around the middle setting on most competitors. The tolerances are also impressive, with only a slight wobble due to the folding mechanism, but zero rattles, hollowness or creaking indicative of a long-lasting product. The clamp force is slightly higher than average but this is mitigated well by the plush earpads while contributing to strong fit stability. My only personal gripe with the design is that, when folded flat, the earcups are prone to scratching one another.
It is easy to append using some adhesive vinyl, even tape if you don’t mind the ghetto aesthetic. However, competitors such as the Oppo PM3 have small tabs that place the earcups apart, mitigating this issue. It doesn’t help that the LCD-1’s matte finish scratches quite easily even if providing a generally pleasant in-hand feel. The LCD-1 is extraordinarily lightweight in return, especially for a planar. At just 250g it is lighter than most portable dynamic driver headphones. Due to the plastic build and soft leather, I would treat the LCD-1 a little more carefully than most headphones, however, in my experience lambskin wears much better over time than the Faux leather used on the majority of competitors that are prone to pealing.
I am also enthusiastic about the included cable. It’s a dual entry design with TRRS 3.5mm plugs on all terminations. Note, even the headphone side are TRRS which means aftermarket cables are unlikely to fit, and the sound will be in mono if using a regular dual-entry TRS cable. In return, the cable is always in correct orientation since both sides offer stereo that aligns with mono connectors in the earcup jack. The cable itself is of good quality. It’s braided and smooth, but also very supple with zero memory. Microphonic noise is minimal and the cable coils very easily for storage. The metal connectors feel premium and the straight plug has great strain relief in addition to a protruded plug that makes it case friendly.
Fit & Isolation –
I am a huge fan of the LCD-1’s fit and comfort, the lambskin feels superbly soft and supple, while the heat-activated memory foam conforms perfectly to the head over time. They are an over-ear headphone and, as others have stated, the pads are on the smaller side, measuring in at approximately 3.5 x 6 cm but with a larger cavity behind. As the pads are quite deep, they did fully engulf my ears so I didn’t personally find this to form discomfort over time. As always, YMMV here. The headband is reasonably thin but well-padded. Due to the lightweight design of the headphones, they don’t wear on the head like many other either, so I was able to wear them for hours with no issue. For professionals, this will be a prime selling point of the LCD-1, their all-day comfort and the excellent wearing properties of the lambskin leather. Of course, being an open-back design do expect sound leakage in addition to minimal noise isolation. Though compact and fold-able, this makes them less ideal for portable use.
I don’t listen to headphones like the Focal Stellia (website). Okay, let me back up—I listen to headphones all the time, just not for pleasure, but rather to check my work in the studio and occasionally to make eq decisions on a master. Words by Dave McNair and Nan Pincus When Eric Franklin Shook asked me if I wanted to review some headphones, I said “Uh, I don’t think so.” “Wait, these are special ‘phones—the Focal Stellia AND their killer headamp the Arche,” he says. “Okay, I’ll give it a shot,” I reply since I know Eric to be the best at deciphering the fake news you can trust. Dave McNair’s Take So here I am with these gorgeous, French-made beauties. The Focal Stellia headphones look like they’d be at home on location at the season’s showing of the new Chanel or YSL line. Not too blingy but a certain unmistakable French elegance in fit and finish. After I whipped up a batch of Coq au Vin and got out a bottle of vintage Bordeaux, I sat down to listen to some Serge Gainsbourg. Tonight, the headphones will deliver you the words I can’t say The first thing I did [...]