1More MK801 Headphone Review: Use the word budget for the price, not the sound

Chinese-based 1More has sent us a series of their over the ear and in-ear-monitor headphones for review. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with all the samples including the company’s MK801over the ear headphones (the subject of this review) and at a $79.99 price-point I’ve been left very impressed.

Fit and Finish

My review pair came in red.  Red can be a very dangerous color.  Too hot and shiny and it looks like lipstick.  But, given just the right shade and finish, it can be a real statement.  Thankfully, the MK801s are the latter.  The MK801s have a bushed-aluminum matte look  to them so that in the light, the red takes on a darker tone and highlights have a smooth sheen.

The included 3.5mm matching red cable is removable (something you don’t often see with headphones at this price point).  It plugs into the right earpiece and has integrated dual-system, three-button remote that’s compatible with both iOS and Android devices.

The lightweight, shape memory TR-90 titanium steel headband is flexible and has a fixed height. Underneath and against your head you have a silky-smooth black rubbery layer that never catches your hair but helps keep the headphones snug to your head.  My experience agreed with the marketing materials that the headband was flexible, lightweight, and sweat resistant. What’s even better is that it doesn’t feel cheap like many plastic headphones at this price point.

The packaging that comes with the 1More MK801s is superb and is something you’d find in a far more expensive set of headphones

To adjust to your size, the ear cups glide on a knob as opposed to expanding on a headband. They contour to the side of your head with a combination of some headband pressure and pivot.  All-in-all, I found 1More’s design to be snug and comfortable.

The ear cups don’t fool you into thinking they are leather.  They are soft but have a high quality vinyl feel as opposed to real leather.  They do an OK job of blocking external noise but I’ve heard better. Take note that you’ll hear sounds of any rubbing against the 3.5mm cord through the ear cups.

Listening Impressions

I chose to audition the MK801s with Questyle’s simply superb-sounding QP1R hi-res digital audio player and an iPhone 6s.  I played a mixture of ALAC, FLAC, and DSD hi-res tracks and CD-quality files.

1More says that the MK801s have been tuned by Grammy Award winning and internationally acclaimed audio engineer and mixer Luca Bignardi.  Why is this potentially a big deal?  Shouldn’t headphones just measure as with a flat frequency response?  Well, no.  Extensive research led by Harman’s Dr. Sean Olive has shown that a flat frequency response on headphones isn’t necessarily accurate.  In fact, Harman has developed what has come to be known as the Harman Response Curve to compensate (you can read a bit about it here on InnerFidelity).  Therefore, there’s certainly some merit to getting headphones tuned.

The MK801’s will enthrall you with a warm, intimate presentation. I very surprised by the MK801’s killer bass response.  Bass was authoritative but didn’t get sloppy. Playing a 16/44.1 quality version of “Hotel California” from the Eagles Hell Freezes Over, bass was detailed, taut, and wonderfully textured. The same was true of Patricia Barber’s, “Too Rich For My Blood” from Cafe Blue.  At this price-point especially, it’s an over-achiever in this area.

The ear cups slide up and down and have a four-way pivot for a very comfortable fit.

The midrange, however was slightly veiled.  Glen Frey’s vocals on “Hotel California” and Patricia Barber’s on “A Taste of Honey” and “Too Rich for my Blood” didn’t quite have the dimensionality and airiness from more expensive headphones. For example, kicking over to the $299.99 Sony MDR-1A headphones that I previously reviewed immediately cleaned things up. Kicking over to more expensive headphones also betrayed a slight coloration, but when you went back to the MK801s that never really bothered you or took away from the overall experience.  The voicing was indeed well done—especially at this price point.

Listening to hi-res music versions of Led Zeppelin II was jammin’ experience with the MK801s.  I found myself moving to the bass lines in “Heartbreaker” and cracking a smile with Jimmy Page’s riffs in “The Lemon Song.”  Perhaps “Ramble On” best encapsulates the MK801s.  They had a great ability to render individual instruments and yet pull together a coherent orchestral presentation. The soundstage was just… right.  In fact, track after track sounded nice and smooth without any harshness whatsoever.  My only persistent observation was that the veiled midrange sensation never quite left.

The Verdict

The headphone space under $100 is a very crowded market.  Unfortunately, that market is crowded with lots of garbage cans.  That’s not the case wit the MK801s.  It was incredibly refreshing to listen the $79.99 the 1More MK801s.  These budget headphones are a great example of high value not cheap sound.  Top to bottom, The MK801s strike a great balance. They sound warm and smooth and deliver some great kick without becoming bloated or fatiguing.  Would I have liked a cleaner and more transparent midrange? Yes. But at this price point, you can’t have it all.  One thing’s for sure, if you’re looking for a low priced headphone with a taste of high end sound, check out the MK801s. You won’t be disappointed.