With the wireless headphone market projected to grow to over $27 billion by 2027, there is clearly a lot of room for growth, but the ugly truth is that brands have to find a niche within that very competitive landscape and stick with it. The high-end segment is going to be a street fight between Focal, Bowers & Wilkins, Mark Levinson, T+A, HiFiMAN, Sennheiser, Audeze, and Master & Dynamic for the foreseeable future. 1More have wisely chosen to steer clear and remain focused on what they are good at — affordable, competitive headphones that deliver good sound quality. The 1More SonoFlow jumps into the feeding frenzy at the other end of the pool this week.
Having covered 1More rather extensively over the years, we have watched this start-up emerge as one of the more reliable brands in the affordable headphone and earbuds categories; they have certainly had a few duds but the vast majority of their products have delivered solid value. The company can’t compete with Apple, Sony, Skullcandy, Bose, or Beats when it comes to marketing reach, but they have created a rather sizable customer base at their end of the market.
The Piston Bud Pro TWS Wireless Earbuds performed rather well in our testing and we’ve been waiting for the 1More SonoFlow for a few months. Were they worth the wait?
1More has made a point from the very beginning of building headphones that offer affordability, long battery life, and strong performance for the money. The Sonoflow are the embodiment of that ethos in every meaningful way.
They are also 1More’s first over-ear wireless headphone to integrate their “enhanced ANC technology.”
Battery life is greatly affected by ANC and we raised a collective eyebrow at the claim of “70 hours” on a full charge; the reality is somewhere in the middle.
The biggest selling point for the 1More SonoFlow is the affordability; $99.95 USD for a pair of ANC wireless headphones that are certainly good — if not great.
Internally, the SonoFlow utilize 40mm dynamic drivers that deliver a frequency range of 20Hz to 20KHz (or 20Hz to 40KHz if you use the LDAC codec).
The headphones offer compatibility with Bluetooth 5.0 and support the AAC, LDAC, and SBC codecs, but there is no support for aptX or aptX Adaptive.
We would normally consider that to be a negative in this market, but the $99 asking price is too reasonable to act like chazers. Don’t be a chazer kids.
Android users will probably be happy to have LDAC support; hi-res audio listeners need not apply in this scenario. Another plus is that the headphones also offer multipoint connectivity for up to two devices, such as a laptop and a smart phone.
The build is mostly plastic but the construction is rather robust and far better than what we’ve seen on other $100 headphones. Extended usage and a lot of time spent with them traveling which required frequent removals did not leave fingerprints anywhere and they were easy to keep clean.
1More are offering a multitude of color options for the Sonoflow; as long as you’re fine with dark grey with black highlights and red cloth covered grilles. The ear pads are rather comfortable and constructed out of memory foam which helps keep its shape.
The headband is also made from the same memory foam and finished in an imitation leather wrap. Both are quite soft, plush, and we found them to be very comfortable during long flights and long listening sessions.
How the headphones fit into the case is also unique and a smart design decision that will find favor with a lot of commuters and travelers.
Turning each ear cup flat, you rotate the right cup inward (towards the headband), which allows the earcups to be flat, but side by side. The oval shaped case is thus flatter than others allowing for the fit to mimic a medium sized hardcover book.
The overall battery performance is quite good; 1More’s estimate that the headphones can deliver 70 hours (ANC off) or 50 hours (ANC on) of playtime is very dependent on volume levels, ANC settings, and other factors.
We ran the test multiple times with both settings engaged and while we did not hit the 70 hour mark (it was closer to 60) or 50 hours with ANC turned on (42 hours), the performance far exceeds what other brands are delivering in the price range and that’s a huge plus.
The 720mAh battery takes approximately 80 minutes to fully charge from empty; the quick charge feature delivered almost 5 hours of playtime after only 6 minutes of charging.
How liberal you are with the ANC settings and volume will have a significant impact on battery life — moderate listening levels and the judicious use of ANC depending on the specific environment will allow you to listen for almost an entire 5-day work week on a single charge.
The controls on the 1More SonoFlow are a mixed bag when it comes to the operation and sequences.
The left ear cup includes the USB Type-C port for the supplied USB Type-C to USB Type-A charging cable, and users will find a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right ear cup for connecting the headphones to a source device with the supplied cable.
The right cup also houses the power/pairing button, volume up/down buttons, and a NC button that acts as the ANC control.
While that seems simple enough and easy to use, those buttons also control a number of other functions that could be better served by the app.
The power button handles a multiple of options, including playback controls, calls, and the ability to access your smart phone’s voice assistant — and that depends on how many times you press the button.
The volume controls also act as your forward/backward navigation when listening to music; 1More should have gone with a less complicated system with a central button that toggled between functions and dedicated volume controls. The learning curve is likely to frustrate users and we really think based on our daily travels with the headphones that the app could handle this better.
The 1More app is available for both Android and iOS devices and our initial impressions were quite mixed.
The layout is somewhat simplistic; which is fine if the menu offers everything you need to control all of the settings. The battery life “estimate” is useful and we like that the scrollable menu is on the page next to it. Having to dig through multiple sub menus on some apps to control basic functionality is becoming tiresome.
The various listening modes; Transparent, Strong (ANC is turned on), and Off are all accessible but why does the app let you know every time you make a change with some visual fireworks. Odd.
The “Strong” setting is also rather misleading because there are no “Medium,” or “Low” settings to be found.
The EQ settings are certainly not going to make listeners who want the ability to customize one happy. 1More have been very generous with 12 non-customizable presets which include Default EQ, Acoustic, Bass Reducer, Bass Booster, Classical, Deep, Electronic, Hip-Hop, Lounge, Podcast, Pop, and Vocal Booster options.
The issue with the 12 EQ presets, is that you almost have to guess what they do — there is no explanation in regard to which frequency ranges have been boosted and by what degree. Frustrating.
But does the average person considering these headphones want to bother with customizable settings? Will they just scroll through each one and pick what they like with the specific album and be done with it? Quite possibly.
During my listening sessions, it was rather noticeable that the EQ settings do have a significant impact on the presentation; I used the Default setting for the vast majority of my listening because it was the most linear sounding, but I did occasionally use the Bass Booster. My listening preferences call for some additional impact and definition in the low end and the 1More app allowed me to add some emphasis rather effectively in that regard. One major surprise — the Bass Booster doesn’t negatively impact the rest of the tonal balance or presentation, which is often the case with EQ settings that really emphasize the bass too much.
The QuietMax™ Intelligent Noise Cancellation integrated into the SonoFlow is rather effective; certainly much more effective than anything we’ve heard so far in the $80 to $100 range.
You’re not getting Sony or Bose ANC performance for $100, but it still does a respectable job of keeping exterior droning noises to a minimum when listening.
The Transparency mode is rather effective when you need to listen to someone or notice that you are about to walk into the path of a bus or car. Situational awareness is so important and parents need to make sure any ANC wireless headphones they use or give to their children have a transparency mode that can be enabled. Better safe than sorry.
The passive isolation is very good for a $100 headphone; the fit and feel of the lush memory foam pads contributes greatly to this creating a rather good seal. The ear pads create more of a “on-ear” experience but that still works.
Tip: Users have mentioned a momentary increase in volume when you engage the ANC and we did experience it. The volume does return to its previous level in less than one second.
The seal and comfort of the ear pads make it easier to enjoy longer listening sessions. People are definitely listening for long periods of time (watch your volume levels) and that’s an important consideration with any pair of headphones or earphones.
The clamping pressure is sufficient and turning my head while wearing my glasses did not cause the headphones to shift.
Most headphones provide a sliding band mechanism right above the yoke/gimbal, close to the ear cup. The 1More moves it closer to the top of the headband just about splitting the difference between the top of the yoke and the center point of the headband.
I like this approach as it slightly changes the angle of the ear cups, adding the right amount of seal and pressure on the bottom of the cup. With enough fore/aft swivel and rotation as well on the vertical plane, I was able to easily find a good fit. The only issue I could see is that this may increase pressure on the bottom of the ear cup for those with smaller heads; but the sliding headband should counter that.
Almost all of the 1More headphones and earphones have a “house” sound and that’s fine assuming that you prefer the tonal balance and presentation of their headphones.
What surprised me somewhat listening to classic rock using the Default and Bass Booster EQ settings is that the bass never overpowered the rest of the range; especially the top end that exhibited some additional emphasis as well.
It didn’t matter if I raised the volume to levels that most would consider quite loud or kept it at moderate listening levels; the bass was always delivered with enough impact and definition to give music a solid foundation.
Listening to Kenny Burrrell’s “Chitlins Con Carne,” bass guitar notes had excellent timbre, texture, and speed — describing the SonoFlow as a neutral or accurate sounding pair of wireless headphones would be slightly inaccurate.
There is some added emphasis in the mid bass and upper bass range that does bleed somewhat into the lower midrange but it’s not overwhelming; in some respects it gives male vocals some added weight that keeps this headphone from ever sounding too analytical. The clarity never suffers either.
The Bass Booster definitely provides some added presence, but not in the extreme low end where you might expect it.
Hot recordings don’t get a pass with these headphones, and you will hear any form of sibilance if it exists.
There is definitely some added emphasis in the upper midrange and lower treble which gives female vocals some added energy and airiness. Brass and upper strings also benefit from the boost in this region and nothing came across as overly hyped or bright sounding.
While I’m slightly hesitant to call the 1More SonoFlow “balanced” in its presentation, it gets somewhat close using the aforementioned EQ settings. I really didn’t find the remaining 10 all that useful listening to jazz, classical, or classic rock.
The soundstage performance is respectable for a $100 pair of ANC wireless headphones; certainly for a closed-back pair that rest on your ears. The width and height create a rather spacious sounding presentation; the depth is the weak area and it did hinder the the instrument placement on the soundstage. Stereo separation is more than acceptable in this price range.
One of the most surprising aspects of the SonoFlow was the call quality; The beam-forming five-mic array is rather advanced for a $100 headphone and phone calls through my iPhone 13 Pro Max were crystal clear.
If the 1More SonoFlow sold for more than $150 USD, I would advise that you hold off and save for either the Sony or Bose models that offer superior ANC. The Sony XM5 has better sound quality but it should considering the price difference.
But below that price, the 1More offers solid battery performance, respectable ANC, comfort, and above average build quality. The phone call quality is excellent and most people will find the tonal balance and presentation highly engaging.
The app and physical controls are the biggest weaknesses and I hope that 1More makes some changes to the app with a firmware update.
A solid affordable option for those looking under $100.
Also available for $129.99 at Amazon.ca