In recent years, the rise of what has been dubbed "Chi-Fi" - short for Chinese hi-fi - has been causing a stir in the audiophile market, and the latest from Shenzhen-based company 1More shows the trend is not only here to stay, but also a force to be reckoned with.
Chi-Fi refers to audio gear made in China that are often priced way below the quality they offer. The latest in this wave is 1More's Quad Driver In-Ear earphones, which also goes by the E1010 model number.
As its name implies, the earphones feature four drivers - three balanced armatures and one dynamic. On paper, the more drivers there are in earphones, the greater their dynamic range, which means clearer, better-sounding bass, mids and trebles.
These earphones certainly deliver on this front, offering stellar sound quality with a clear and balanced sound signature.
That's not the only good thing going for the earphones. True to its Chi-Fi roots, the Quad Driver In-Ear goes for a reasonable $299 in a market where earphones with four drivers start from at least $500.
These are audiophile-level earphones targeted at consumers with a friendly price to match. Sound- wise, the earphones don't offend, having a very neutral signature that reproduces songs with tight clarity and sonic balance.
The bass is tightly controlled and robust without being overpowering. Where the earphones truly shine is at the mid-range, where they are able to capture detail from the slight wispiness of female indie singers to the raw tension of male vocalists.
They handled whatever I threw at them very cleanly, from the crystalline synth tones of Such Great Heights by electronic band The Postal Service, to the bassy, grungy vibes of the White Stripes.
True to its Chi-Fi roots, the Quad Driver In-Ear goes for a reasonable $299 in a market where earphones with four drivers start from at least $500.
The Quad Driver In-Ears also have excellent instrument separation and an expansive soundstage, which make them versatile across genres from rock to pop to classical music.
The build quality also makes them worth their price. The stiff Kevlar cable makes them less prone to entangling, and the earpieces are made of a handsome, sturdy metal that look and feel very durable.
DRIVER TYPES: Three balanced armatures; one dynamic driver
FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20Hz - 40kHz
VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5
In order to fit all four drivers into a portable package, the earpiece casings are quite large and bulbous, which takes a while to get used to. They are reasonably comfortable for short periods of listening, but I found them a bit heavy and tiring after an hour.
Despite having relatively high impedance - 32ohms - I found that powering them using a smartphone or my iPod is serviceable. They do sound clearer and better when used with a dedicated audio player capable of driving them effectively, but the difference is near negligible.
•Verdict: 1More's Quad Driver In-Ear earphones are good value for money, offering the clear, balanced sound signature found in other four-driver earphones more than twice its price.