My first impressions of the sound of the 1More Over-Ear MK801 headphone (MK801 hereafter) are based on direct comparisons to other headphones, particularly those that resemble its design (portables mostly), but also to a few premium headphones for reference. I’ll describe how I relate to the MK801 (i.e., my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) after covering all of the objective issues.
Nearly every new headphone I get (see below**) has been a surprise in one way or another, and the MK801 is no different. I’ll get right to the point, i.e. the sound. The MK801’s bass is nearly identical to v-moda’s legendary M100. I’ve seen ads for the MK801 that describe a Super Bass, and it is that.
Audiophiles want to know what that bass is made of – is it clean, tight, and more? So since the bass is fairly strong, to understand its quality better I perform some experiments. Start reducing from the upper bass with a parametric equalizer, and see if it thins out, or if the fundamental weight of the deep notes is still there. And the answer is yes – weighty, firm, tight – all that stuff. So while the Super attribute probably refers to the amount of bass, the quality is as good as I’ve heard. And I’ve had a few headphones upward of $600 whose bass isn’t so good. But this is a $80 headphone, so what am I giving up compared to the M100 for example?
**As an independent reviewer, 90 percent of the headphones I get are purchased, and all of those in the mid-to-upper price ranges are purchased out of pocket. But being an audiophile who serves users on tight budgets, I try to review as many budget headphones as possible. This 1More set was provided by the company for our MyMac evaluation.
The MK801’s bass, out of the box and after burn-in, is as described above. The mids and treble can sound very slightly recessed, depending on how the subject music works with the strong bass. Ditto for the presence region between approximately 3 to 6 khz. The very small peak around 9 khz balances out the treble.
Now comes the big surprise. Comparing the MK801 to the king of strong bass headphones, playing both of them flat (no tone controls or EQ), the only significant difference is that the MK801 has a more neutral or natural midrange. I’ll end that comparison and description of the sound right there. Let someone else do the more detailed analysis, but hey – this is a good result for $250, let alone $80.
And the build quality is very good – mostly metal, with nice soft earpads and good padding under the headband. Isolation is moderate, but useful. Not ideal for commutes or jet planes, but good otherwise. Leakage is low, but if played loudly in a quiet office, someone close by could hear a faint sound.
The MK801 earpads are a snug fit around my average-size ears. For users with big ears, these will probably work as on-ear, but they should be very comfortable anyway. The earcups have a few degrees of rotation horizontally and vertically, so they should accomodate most headphone users’ heads. The headband’s total range of adjustment is about 9/8 inch on each side, where my average-size head fits the middle of that range, so that should also accomodate nearly everyone.
The cable is single-entry, about 4.5 ft. long, and terminated with an Apple-style 3.5 mm miniplug. The 3-button control box on the cable does start/stop, next/previous, and volume up/down on Apple devices. The start/stop and next/previous button should work with Android phones, but I don’t know whether the volume buttons will work on non-Apple devices. Bonus: Phone calls sound great at both ends of the conversation using the built-in microphone.
The MK801 is an ideal portable headphone in that it can be pulled off the head when not in use, and worn around the neck with the earcups pulled all the way down. A heavy cloth bag with drawstrings is supplied, but since the MK801 carries so easily around my neck when I’m not listening, I don’t use the carry-bag unless I have to pack it away. There’s a lot of competition in low-cost headphones, especially among the no-name or OEM brands, but 1More makes high-quality headphones, and I’ve used several of them. I highly recommend the MK801, for sound quality, build quality, and flexibility.
Sources: iPhone6s+ with Oppo HA-2/FiiO K1 DAC/amps, various computers using the Audioquest Dragonfly-2/HRT Microstreamer/FiiO E17k/FiiO E07k DAC/amps.
YouTube review (8 minutes)
MyMac Review Rating is a strong 8 out of 10.
In previous reviews I’ve included the following music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the MK801 compares with each individual track.
Animotion – Obsession (1980’s New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The MK801 plays this extremely well.
Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects – this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled perfectly by the MK801.
Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can really feel the weight they carry with the MK801.
Black Sabbath – Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The MK801 plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn’t unbalance the treble.
Boz Scaggs – Lowdown (1976): Great sound quality – this is a good test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled very well by the MK801.
Cantus – Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The MK801 plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.
Cath Carroll – Moves Like You (1980’s New Wave/Techno): This track’s percussion and voice are crisp and well-balanced, and there’s a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The MK801 reproduces the space and detail very well.
Catherine Wheel – Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones – I like this since it’s a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the MK801 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.
Chris Isaak – Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The MK801 plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly – the voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy – very musical in fact.
Chromatics – I’m On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sound is clearly identifiable.
David Hazeltine – Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The MK801 reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.
Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) – Peer Gynt-Solveig’s Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950s) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg’s amazing voice are as close to “being there” as I’ve heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The MK801 plays this music perfectly.
Hans Zimmer – Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep “shuddery” kind of sound that indicates a solid deep-bass response. Overall, the MK801 plays this music extremely well.
Heaven 17 – Let Me Go (1980’s New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a “you are there” quality that’s uncommon in early 1980’s pop music. The MK801 plays this track perfectly.
Hugo Audiophile – 15-16 (Electronic): I’m not sure what the 15-16 stands for – perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the MK801. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone’s bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.
Jimmy Smith – Basin Street Blues (early 60’s): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don’t sound clean and musical with some headphones. The MK801 provides excellent reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for best-case detail. I’d like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the MK801 does those very well.
Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) – Pedal, 32′, Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won’t “hear” the tone – you’ll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any “feel,” so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of “rumble” that’s similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The MK801 plays the fundamental tone with excellent weight, and enough detail that you can almost count the 16 cycle-per-second beats of that tone.
Mantovani – Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor (see below ***) who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani’s accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn’t tolerate the notion of “light classics” or “semi-classical” music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960’s through mid-1970’s had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2016, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it’s not always the case. This track as played on the MK801 is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.
***Mantovani developed the “Cascading Strings” sonic effect circa 1950, a famous “Wall of Sound” effect for mono hi-fi systems that predated Phil Spector’s own famous Wall of Sound effect by 10 years or so.
Michael Tilson Thomas – Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is appreciable with the MK801.
Pinback – Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with “crunchy guitars and bashing drums” – the MK801 renders this music as perfectly as I’ve heard an energetic pop-rock recording played with any headphone.
Porcupine Tree – Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of “clip-clop” effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The MK801 reproduces the clop portion of that sound almost perfectly.
Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) – Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I’ve heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The MK801 conveys as much of that experience as I’ve heard with a stereo headphone. The tympani also have good impact here.
Scarlatti-Kipnis – Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the MK801 renders the tones and transients perfectly.
Tiger Okoshi – Bootsman’s Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant “bite.” The MK801’s reproduction is near-perfect, and the close-mic piano is also a treat. For comparison, I have several Maynard Ferguson tracks that feature a similarly strong trumpet with lots of brassy bite.
Trombone Shorty – Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong, and work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The MK801 delivers the impacts with great weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.