Tom's Guide Verdict
1More’s first-ever spatial audio buds are an enticing deal at just $54, but their 3D sound technology needs a lot of work.
Impressive sound and ANC
Impressive feature set
Decent call quality
Poor spatial audio performance
Finicky touch controls
Below-average battery life
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
Price: $54 / £49
Colors: Black/gold, white/gold
Battery life (rated): 5 hours (ANC on); 7.5 hours (ANC off); 20 hours (ANC on w/charging case), 30 hours (ANC off w/charging case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 (codec support: SBC, AAC)
Durability: IPX5 (earbuds)
Size: 1.02 x 0.8 x 1.1 inches (per bud); 0.9 x 1.6 x 2.4 inches (charging case)
Weight: 0.16 ounces (per bud); 1.22 ounces (charging case)
1More has put out some great budget earbuds over the past few years. They just launched the PistonBuds Pro Q30, a follow-up to our top pick for the best cheap wireless earbuds, the PistonBuds Pro, that delivers the same impressive sound and several more features for a lower MSRP.
Does 1More have an AirPods Pro 2 or Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds killer on their hands? Let’s not get carried away. The PistonBuds Pro Q30 don’t deliver on every advertised hallmark, but there is plenty of performance to satisfy both low and high spenders.
1More PistonBuds Pro Q30 review: Strikingly good sound, but poor 3D audio
These buds have a pleasant and punchy soundstage that you can personalize via companion app. There’s a 10-band EQ to manually tweak output and 12 “studio-grade” presets consisting of different frequency modifications and music genres; stick with the default Studio preset for optimal audio results.
Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” revealed the PistonBuds Pro Q30’s wide frequency range. The interweaved drum-machine patterns were reproduced exceptionally well and brought more oomph to the production, while the vibrant horns, prominent vocals, and teetering cymbals sounded crisp. Classic jazz recordings like the Ahmad Jamal Trio’s “Dolphin Dance” showcased some amazing lows, none more captivating than the accentuated double-bass with powerful reverb that decayed smoothly with every stroke.
The PistonBuds Pro Q30 operate on less-advanced codecs (AAC, SBC), but stream music at a quality rate with minimal lag. 1More’s low-latency Game Mode slightly improves audio synchronization on video content.
1More developed proprietary spatial audio technology that operates similarly to Bose’s Immersive Audio mode. It works with all media, no matter the device or platform. All processing is done directly on the buds. How is it? Not good. It lacked the atmospheric detail and lively presence of Apple and Bose’s spatial audio formats. Vocals and certain lows sounded hollow on all DSPs (digital streaming platforms), and there was distortion in the background of most Spotify tracks.
1More PistonBuds Pro Q30 review: Adequate ANC with terrific wind resistance
Four ANC modes are available: Strong, Mid, WNR (Wind Reduction), and Adaptive. Strong is most effective and blocks out close to 85% of unwanted sounds, specifically low and mid frequencies. Electronic toys, loud TVs, talkative neighbors, and the tumbling noises from my laundry room didn’t capture my attention. High frequencies did and often broke my concentration. Adaptive requires several uses for ANC to properly adjust to environments and Mid barely cancels out any noise.
WNR is arguably the PistonBuds Pro Q30’s unsung feature. Enabling it will put a kibosh on harsh “whoosh” effects created by gusty winds and will not affect the soundstage. Transparent mode is also sufficient for keeping tabs on your surroundings. Not every sound is audible, but you can hear people chatting and siren-blazing ambulances coming from a block away.
1More PistonBuds Pro Q30 review: Flagship features for less
Only one other true wireless model offers adaptive ANC, customizable sound, low latency, and spatial audio at this price point: the $47 Creative Outlier Pro ANC and ranks among my 5 best $50 wireless earbuds. Keep in mind too that Creative’s buds launched at $89 and have undergone several markdowns since they launched. The PistonBuds Pro Q30 come with a few more extras.
Experimental features are available in the settings menu (the brand logo on the top right). Dual-device connection lets you pair the buds with two devices at the same time, and it works well. The Pairing Pop-Up Window provides battery level indicators and one-touch access to the PistonBuds Pro Q30’s settings on your smartphone. There’s also Smart Burn-In, a setting designed to break in the buds by using a special range of frequencies, though the concept of burning in headphones has been highly debated among audio purists.
1More PistonBuds Pro Q30 review: Disappointing battery life and touch controls
A full charge equals 5 hours of ANC use and 7.5 hours when disabling the feature. High volume and other special features shave off another hour. By comparison, that’s slightly lower than the AirPods Pro 2 (5.5 to 7 hours) and much shorter than class-leaders like the Sony WF-1000XM5 (8 to 12 hours). Assume you’ll get two days of moderate use (3 hours) before tossing them in the charging case. Speaking of which, the accessory doesn’t support wireless charging, but holds up to 30 hours and generates 2 hours of listening time on a 10-minute charge.
Even more disappointing are the touch controls. There is no single-tap function. The touch sensors work half the time, mainly to operate playback (double-tap). At least wear detection is on point to auto-pause/play content when removing or placing the buds on your ears.
1More PistonBuds Pro Q30 review: Verdict
The PistonBuds Pro Q30 have the audio prowess to compete against several of the best wireless earbuds. Unfortunately, 1More’s spatial audio format is nowhere near as convincing as Apple and Bose’s premium-sounding options. The low battery life and unreliable controls are also nuisances. Then again, no one really expects perfection from $45 spatial audio.
Flaws aside, these buds perform much better than their low price suggests, making them an ideal choice for bargain seekers wanting an AirPods Pro alternative at a fraction of the cost.
A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.