While earbuds are no longer a plug-and-play affair, Bluetooth tech doesn’t need to be a hassle to use. 1MORE understands this and distilled only the most necessary features into its super cheap 1MORE PistonBuds true wireless earbuds. These feature just the necessities, but is that enough?
Editor’s note: this article was updated on April 5, 2021, to update the scoring with the results of our audience poll.
Who should get the 1MORE PistonBuds?
- Budget listeners should get the 1MORE PistonBuds because they cost less than $50 USD, and are easy to operate, even if the controls are limited.
- Athletes should keep the PistonBuds on their shortlist because they’re IPX4-certified and can resist most cardio workouts.
Are the 1MORE PistonBuds easy to use?
The 1MORE PistonBuds come in a nondescript, plastic charging case that’s very difficult to grip. There were many times when the case slipped out of my hands and clattered to the floor. Consequently, this caused the earbuds to go flying because the lid and contact point magnets aren’t all that strong. The case has its redeeming qualities though: it’s extremely lightweight and supports USB-C charging.
1MORE strayed from its standard earbud design with the PistonBuds. Rather than a rounded, oblong earbud shape of previous 1MORE true wireless earbuds, the PistonBuds feature a stemmed design—wonder where the company got that idea. The stems are shorter than most AirPods alternatives, which is good and bad: the design makes them less likely to catch on a facemask and fly away, but it also makes them harder to remove compared to long-stemmed buds.
1MORE features touch panels on its PistonBuds instead of tactile button controls, which is cool, but the controls are so limited that they’re nearly useless. The only playback adjustments you can make are to pause and resume your music. Other than that, you can access your smart assistant with a double-tap of the left earbud, or answer and end phone calls. If you want to adjust the volume or skip a track, you have to pull out your phone.
As with most all earbuds, the PistonBuds feature angled nozzles that fit comfortably in your ear. You’re afforded few provisions aside from three pairs of silicone ear tips (small, medium, and large). They’re easy to install and seem fairly tear-resistant.
Should you get the 1MORE MUSIC app?
As of this review, the only reason you should download the 1MORE MUSIC app is if you need to update the 1MORE PistonBuds. Otherwise, the app is next to useless: you can’t remap the controls, equalize the sound, or locate the earbuds. These software features could all be added in a future app update, but for now, all it does is clearly displays the battery life of each earbud and the case. Otherwise, reserve the space on your phone for something fun like Among Us.
What Bluetooth codecs do the 1MORE PistonBuds support?
The 1MORE PistonBuds are Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds that support just the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. This is good news for you iPhone owners but leaves us Android users in the dust. Android fails to properly encode the AAC Bluetooth codec consistently across supported hardware. When using the PistonBuds, you may get reliable AAC streaming rates with a Samsung Note 8, but shoddy results with a Huawei P20 Pro. Streaming quality is so volatile that many Android owners are better off just forcing SBC streaming for the sake of reliability.
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Bluetooth multipoint isn’t supported, so you need to disconnect from one device before connecting to another. This feature omission isn’t a huge inconvenience and is to be expected at this price point. A bigger drawback to the PistonBuds’ connection quality is that there’s a very distracting audio-visual delay when streaming video content. There was also a delay from the time I made any command via the touch panels, to when the earbuds actually communicated with my Samsung Galaxy S10e to execute the command.
You can't equalize the 1MORE PistonBuds, so you're stuck with the default sound profile.
Connection stability is very good, though, connection hiccups arose when I listened in mono mode. This happened with either the left or right earbud, and I only observed it when my phone was in the pocket opposite of the active earbud. It’s not a huge deal, as nearly all true wireless headsets struggle with connection stability; plus, it could be remedied with a firmware update.
How long does the battery last?
The 1MORE PistonBuds last 3 hours, 32 minutes on a single charge, which falls in line with the official standalone battery life.
We subject every applicable audio product to a constant 75dB(SPL) output until the battery runs out, so if you listen to quieter volumes, you may reach nearly four hours of playtime. The case provides an additional 4.7 charge cycles, meaning you’ll get 20 hours of listening before taking two hours to charge the USB-C case. It takes 90 minutes to completely charge the earbuds, and unfortunately, fast charging isn’t supported.
Do true wireless earbuds have battery problems?
True wireless earphones aren’t built to last, plain and simple. You’re lucky if you can get a pair to hold a significant charge beyond the two-year mark. All wireless headsets house lithium ion batteries, the same cells typically found in smartphones, and these are subject to degradation over time. This degradation cycle is rapidly sped up because of how true wireless earbuds work: you place them in the case anytime they’re not in use, and whether you like it or not, doing so tops the earbuds’ battery cells up.
Apple leads the way in battery optimization, and one of the key features of its iOS 14 update was efficient and smart charging for the Apple AirPods and AirPods Pro. The software learns your usage habits (e.g., a consistent weekday commute), and holds off on topping up the earbuds’ batteries until right before you use them. This should preserve the life of your earbuds but is currently a feature exclusive to the AirPods line. In the future, we may very well see other handset and headset makers offer similar features.
How do the 1MORE PistonBuds sound?
If you want to feel every bass bump in your favorite tracks, you’ll like 1MORE PistonBuds’ frequency response. These 7mm dynamic drivers make bass notes sound two times louder than midrange notes, and nearly four times louder than certain treble notes.
This is a very consumer-friendly sound, and it’s popular among those who like to listen to their music on the go. For example, the bass emphasis will help drown out noise where the sealed ear canal can’t block it out—and the bass makes lower notes easier to hear when your heart is pounding on a run. A slight bump in the mids makes voices easier to pick out. This is a typical workout headset sound, and one that will please most casual consumers who are upgrading from dirt-cheap earbuds.
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While the amplified bass response is fun, it isn’t even slightly accurate and it easily masks higher frequency sounds. This kind of extreme auditory masking can make it seem like detail is “missing” from your music when really your brain just prioritizes the more threatening loud sound (bass notes) over the relatively quiet ones (midrange and treble notes). Unfortunately, you can’t equalize the sound signature in the app, yet, and if you want a more neutral-leaning sound, you’ll have to pay a bit more.
Isolation is very good for a pair of cheap in-ears, but it relies on a proper fit. 1MORE supplies just three pairs of silicone wing tips, and it’s very important that you take the time to decide which set fits your ear canals best. Ideally, the ear tips will completely seal to your ear canal, and you’ll feel a light suction sensation. There aren’t any spatial vents to alleviate inner ear pressure, but I didn’t find the fit uncomfortable. If you have larger or smaller ear canals, your experience will differ from mine, so just be aware that these are pretty “standard” in size (if there is such a thing).
Lows, mids, and highs
To ground our earlier notes in a more concrete way, let’s look at a more easy-to-understand example. Machine Gun Kelly’s song Bloody Valentine opens with an energetic drumline contrasted by a relatively slow guitar riff. The drums sound loud but auditory masking is immediately present as it’s very hard to hear the harmonic resonances from the individually picked A-E-D guitar notes.
Bass amplification isn’t even all that pleasant during the chorus (0:37). A drumroll leads into Kelly’s vocals but all of the accompanying instruments sound unclear through the PistonBuds. This, again, is a consequence of auditory masking: the fundamental frequencies of each note are relayed twice as loud as midrange notes, so clarity is nearly impossible to perceive. Treble notes from cymbal hits are nearly imperceptible beyond the song’s intro.
Typically, we’d recommend that you EQ the bass frequency range down ~10dB, but that’s not possible from the 1MORE MUSIC app.
Can I use the 1MORE PistonBuds for phone calls?
You certainly can use the PistonBuds for personal phone calls, and the sound quality is fine for the price but that’s not a very high bar.
1MORE strategically de-emphasized low-frequency notes (20-500Hz) to combat the proximity effect, when a speaker gets too close to a mic and the bass notes of their voice become over-amplified. Unfortunately, the preventative measure doesn’t do much in practice, because the mics tend to clip and can’t combat light winds. If you field a lot of calls while walking outside, the PistonBuds aren’t the earbuds for you.
1MORE PistonBuds microphone demo:
As of April 5, 2021, 150 readers have rated the above mic sample as somewhere between “okay” and “good.” This is a pretty typical result for embedded true wireless mics, and at the upper end of what you should expect to get out of any products of this type.
Should you buy the 1MORE PistonBuds?
Listeners who want a pair of cheap earbuds that are just that: a pair of earbuds, should get the 1MORE PistonBuds. True wireless earphones don’t get much more simple than these, and despite the affordable price, the PistonBuds still boast a nice design.
As is 1MORE’s approach to all of its products, the PistonBuds are a high-value product that attempts to undercut the competition. Casual listeners who finally want to cut the cord, but don’t want to invest too much money in a product with a very limited lifetime should consider these. The design is more attractive than the Anker SoundCore Liberty Neo, and the fit is more comfortable too.
1MORE PistonBuds vs. 1MORE Stylish True Wireless vs. 1MORE ColorBuds
Both the 1MORE PistonBuds and 1MORE Stylish True Wireless are considered budget earbuds, but the Stylish True Wireless offer a few features that justify the greater cost. Unlike the PistonBuds, the Stylish True Wireless support aptX. Another advantage the older earbuds have over the new, cheaper ones: fast charging. Just 15 minutes in the case yields three hours of playtime from the earbuds, which have a longer standalone battery life too, topping out well over 5 hours.
The PistonBuds have a few advantages too though, namely USB-C charging. The 1MORE Stylish True Wireless case relies on microUSB charging, which is inconvenient but not necessarily a dealbreaker. The PistonBuds are also more durable than the True Wireless Stylish, which are only sweat-resistant but don’t merit an official IP rating like the PistonBuds’ IPX4 certification.
If you want something a little fancier than the PistonBuds and 1MORE True Wireless Stylish, you may want to turn your attention to the 1MORE ColorBuds. These come in a variety of fun colors and are slightly more durable than the PistonBuds. The build feels a bit sturdier, and they support both fast and wireless charging. The ColorBuds’ frequency response is more accurate than that of the PistonBuds, and isolation is nearly the same—which is to say, very good.
If you need noise cancelling, get the 1MORE True Wireless ANC
The 1MORE True Wireless ANC offer noise cancelling, making them one of the best 1MORE headsets for commuters. Noise cancelling performance isn’t the best, and is certainly outdone by competitors like the Jabra Elite 85t and the more affordable Panasonic RZ-S500W, but 1MORE’s ANC technology is better than none at all.
The earbuds operate via Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and support all three major Bluetooth codecs: AAC, aptX, and SBC for high-quality streaming from any device. The case houses a USB-C input and supports fast charging, much like the company’s ColorBuds. These earphones boast excellent connection stability thanks to Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus. The onboard controls are much more comprehensive than any of the company’s other earbuds, and the design is stylish as you’d expect.