Big Quality for Little Coin: 1MORE's ColorBuds 2 True Wireless Headphones – A Full Review

Manufacturer & Model
1MORE ColorBuds 2
MSRP
$79.99
Link
https://usa.1more.com
Highlights
Affordable access to effective ANC technology, lightweight and comfortable, tunable using 1MORE's app and SoundID, sound quality is quite good.
Summary
1MORE's ColorBuds 2 hit the market early this fall touting a sub-$80 price point and some nifty technologies. Now, with the holidays upon us, they can be found for less than $65, making them a near no-brainer choice. The buds natively sound rather flat, but SoundID within the 1MORE's free app allows owners to custom tune output and the results are quite good. Effective Active Noise Cancellation performance completes an impressive performance package. Due to its size, weight, low profile, and IPX5 rating, ColorBuds 2 are perfect for active users and aggressive activities.
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2021 marks the first year I've had hands-on time with products designed by 1MORE, and so far I'm impressed. It's a value brand that looms large in the Chinese market and is quickly establishing a foothold in North America. The company's latest release is a true wireless earbud called ColorBuds 2 ($79), which currently carries an attractive sale price of $69.99.

1MORE's marketing materials highlight a list of impressive-sounding technologies, all of which claim to make ColorBuds 2 perform like a sure-shot budget rockstar. That list includes Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX Adaptive and AAC compatibility, Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) with an optional Transparency Mode, enhanced calling, and integration with SoundID for personalized sound. So the question is: do these technologies work? Or are they little more than a fancy cover for an otherwise mediocre pair of budget buds?

I've used the ColorBuds 2 for the past four weeks, pacing them through relaxing listening sessions, phone calls, simulated plane rides, hardcore workouts, and even naps. I ultimately found a capable device that does quite a bit right despite a few shortcomings. So, let's take a closer look at 1More's latest offering and see if it's the right fit for you.


First Impressions
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1MORE's choice in packaging materials far outpaces the earbuds' price. While not as luxurious as the best on the market, it's well above average and reflects the company's desire to be taken seriously. As a fan of the unboxing experience, 1MORE gets a solid thumbs up for a quality approach (and for using lots of recyclable materials).

ColorBuds 2 ships with a host of goodies, including a charging case and cable, several different sizes of ear tips, a complete instruction manual, and a few nonessential items. Thanks to the creative use of surfaces within the box, owners are provided with impossible-to-miss quick start instructions that expedite the amount of time needed to get the buds paired and in service.

I was immediately struck by the case's compact, lightweight nature. It fits perfectly in the palm of a hand and is comfortable to hold or slip into a pocket. Flipping open the lid immediately triggers LED lights on the case and earbuds, each of which indicates charge status. The case holds an 18 hour charge with two hours of playback time available by docking the earbuds for just 15 minutes. That, combined with 6 hours of earbud playback time, gives owners roughly 24 hours of use away from an external charging source. The included USB-C charging cable doesn't ship with a head unit, so you'll need to connect the cable with a computer or a plug from another product. Alternatively, the case's flat rubber bottom is compatible with a wireless charging pad.

Each earbud weighs 4.9 grams and sports a rounded low-profile design. Both feature user-adjustable touch controls, IPX5 sweat resistance, a 7mm driver with graphene film, and magnetic charging points that snap the buds into the case – overall build quality is quite good. The buds' shape makes case extraction and ear positioning easy. Unlike some wireless in-ears, ColorBuds 2 must be inserted and gently twisted toward the back of the head (this keeps microphones from being blocked by the lower portion of the ear). As I'll discuss, proper positioning is key to getting the best performance!

1MORE doesn't publish frequency response specs for the ColorBuds 2, and bass performance varies based on how firmly the buds are seated in the ear. I attempted to measure a frequency response with a miniDSP EARS rig and Room EQ Wizard, but experienced lots of variability between sweeps (likely due to how the buds were seated in the test rig). That said, test sweeps generally captured decent output in the low frequency range, and listening tests revealed plenty of ear-pleasing bass. So, without solid measurements to back up conclusions, I think it's safe to say the buds' bass response is more than acceptable (especially when considering price).


Bluetooth Connectivity
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ColorBuds 2 is equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX Adaptive and AAC functionality, making it play nicely with just about every Bluetooth-capable device under the sun. It also allows Bluetooth to stream to both earbuds simultaneously, giving owners the option to listen to one earbud and not the other. For this review, I paired the buds with an iPhone 11 Pro and a MacBook Pro, and was pleased to find they seamless paired with my phone every time I removed them from the case (no extra steps or fumbling through settings were necessary).

Overall signal strength was also excellent, matching my Apple AirPods Pro in terms of functional distance. I was able to ditch my phone and wander to nearly every room within a 4,800 sq ft home with very minimal breakups or dropouts. That kind of performance was a major positive and not something that all wireless earbuds are capable of achieving in my home. I did experience random signal drops led to very brief, crackly interruptions of sound (<0.5 seconds). This issue was independent of distance, source (MacBook vs iPhone), firmware version, iOS version, location, and a handful of other factors – it just happened from time to time. While not ideal, the issue wasn't bad enough to sour my overall experience.


Music Performance
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The ColorBuds 2 sounded thin and flat out of the box. That was corrected by downloading the 1MORE Music app (Apple and Android). The app is a gateway to information and control, providing exact charge statuses for each bud and the case, firmware updates, control over noise cancellation, and the ability to assign your own double and triple tap controls.

The 1MORE app also has tuning capabilities compliments of SoundID, an EQ mechanism that uses a sound preference test to make adjustments to the overall output. The upside is that SoundID works reasonably well. Once the test is complete, SoundID uploads an EQ profile to the earbuds, and output characteristics are permanently altered. In my case, I was able to improve output from flat sounding to something lively and full-range in a matter of minutes. The downside is an inability to save multiple profiles or make small tweaks to a saved profile. If you'd like to change any tonal characteristics, the entire SoundID test needs to be retaken, and you need to *hope* the new result is closer to your liking.

Using tracks sourced from TIDAL, Qobuz, and Spotify, I found myself happy with the ColorBuds 2's adjusted playback characteristics. Songs like DeadMau5's "imaginary friends (ov) Morgan Page Remix" (TIDAL HiFi) and Third Eye Blind's "Screamer" (Qobuz, 16-bit/44.1-kHz ) revealed decently weighted and controlled bass paired with a peppy high-end attack. The bass guitar in "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2" (TIDAL, Master) carried a surprisingly detailed and rich presence, and some of my favorite Tom Petty tracks (American Girl, Running Down a Dream; TIDAL Masters) weren't overly bright despite their innately bright nature.

While not the most balanced earbud – female vocals heard on tracks by Norah Jones (Qobuz, 16/44.1) were a bit thin for my liking – it's hard to find much fault with ColorBud 2's overall sound capabilities, especially considering how much they cost. When tuned with SoundID and seated properly within the ear, they bathe the ears with a generous presence that evades the pitfalls of cheap earbuds that sound tinny and lifeless.

Owners can customize double and triple tap touch controls using the 1MORE app. Available controls include Play/Pause, Previous Track, Next Track, Volume Up, Volume Down, and Voice Control. This is a *great* feature that's easy to access and alter. I assigned Previous Track and Volume Down to the left earbud and Next Track and Volume Up to the right for this review. The entire outer surface of the earbud acts as a touch-sensitive surface, though I never advertently activated control functions during minor adjustments to in-ear positioning.


Call Quality
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1MORE says the ColorBuds 2 uses four microphones and CVC 8.0 noise cancellation technology to "ensure superior ambient noise suppression and crystal clear calls." As long as the earbuds were properly twisted into place, callers said voice clarity was decent; however, there were some complaints. Callers said overall clarity and intelligibility didn't match a pair of Apple AirPods Pro used as a control. Also, one caller said a faint buzzing sound accompanied my voice during our conversation.

Claims of "superior" ambient noise suppression turned out to be a disappointment. Callers told me they could clearly hear things like running water, a fan, and clattering dishes in the background. However, poor background noise suppression is also a complaint of AirPods Pro, and callers told me that the ColorBuds 2 was slightly better at reducing ambient noise in a head-to-head comparison. Perhaps my expectations were overly optimistic, but the buds certainly failed to deliver on "superior" suppression.

Incoming call quality was serviceable but not spectacular. Callers' voices were intelligible, but they generally sounded gritty and lacked the sparkle that higher-quality earbuds deliver.


Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode
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The ColorBuds 2 has 1MORE's proprietary QuietMax ANC for ambient sound suppression, and a Transparency Mode that lets ambient sound in. Both modes can be activated through the app or a single long tap on either bud.

The Transparency Mode worked as intended, letting in plenty of ambient noise without adding any unwanted distortion, ringing, or buzzing. ANC also worked decently well, appearing to be on par with AirPods Pro. I ran a simulation of airplane cabin noise in my reference home theater using EARs as a capture device. While hardly scientific, I approximated capture times within the audio simulation clip and found ANC was able to suppress an average of 15 to 20dB of cabin noise between 150Hz to 4,000kHz.

In practice, my ears confirmed the ColorBuds 2's ability to tame low frequency rumbles while effectively reducing the impact of midrange sounds you'd experience on a plane or in a busy coffee shop. Most importantly, activating ANC didn't result in any residual hissing, noise, or detrimental effects to audio playback. High Frequencies still bled through, which keeps the ColorBuds 2 from matching the kind of ANC performance you'd expect from top-shelf models.


Wearability
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From a fit perspective, the ColorBuds 2 are comfortable to wear. A lightweight design is easy on the ears during lengthy listening sessions, and an IPX5 rating means the buds can handle "water jets," so light splashes of water and sweat aren't an issue. I wore the earbuds during long runs and lengthy workout sessions in the gym, and they held their in-ear positioning decently well. Like any earbud, they do impart a "thumping" sound during runs, but I was able to consistently find a good balance between comfort and sound quality to keep that issue at bay.

The buds' low profile allowed me to put on equipment, like a weight vest, without snagging or ripping the earbuds from my ears. And that same low profile made them comfortable to wear with my head against a pillow for a late afternoon nap.


Conclusion
So there you have it, 1MORE's ColorBuds 2 can deliver pleasant performance for a relatively small sum of cash. While it doesn't work miracles in every department, it does enough right to be an excellent wireless companion for good-sounding tunes and rugged workout sessions. And its low-profile design makes it comfortable to wear while staying out of the way.

If you're looking for a wireless earbud that excels in the phone call department, you might want to up your budget and look at a higher-end model. But, if your primary need is audio with decent noise-canceling capabilities, the ColorBuds 2 will please your ears and your wallet.

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1MORE's ColorBuds2 True Wireless Headphones Specifications
  • Single Earbud Weight: 4.9 g
  • Charging Case Weight: 34.5 g
  • Gross Weight: 44.3 g
  • Earbud Dimensions: 27 × 21 × 20 mm
  • Charging Case Dimensions: 60 × 30 × 38 mm
  • Single Earbud Battery Capacity: 55 mAh
  • Charging Case Battery Capacity: 410 mAh
  • Earbud Charging Time: 70 minutes
  • Case Charging Time (Wired): aptX / 85 minutes
  • Playtime*(ANC On) Earbud Fully Charged:6 hours
  • Case and Earbuds Fully Charged: 18 hours
  • Playtime*(ANC Off) Earbud Fully Charged: 8 hours
  • Case and Earbuds Fully Charged: 24 hours
  • Speaker Impedance: 32 Ω
  • Bluetooth Range: 10 m (Open Space)
  • Bluetooth Version: Bluetooth® 5.2
  • Bluetooth Protocols: HFP / A2DP / AVRCP
  • Input: 5V 1A
  • Working Temperature: 0 ℃ ~ 45 ℃
  • Frequency Range: 2.400 GHz ~ 2.4835 GHz
 
Last edited:

tripplej

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Nice, thanks for the review. Looks to be a great item for xmas gifts! :)
 

Todd Anderson

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it’s pretty amazing what $60 will fetch these days!
 
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