Reviewed December 2015
Brief: Swarovski-encrusted IEMs from the designers of Xiaomi’s renowned Piston family of IEMs
MSRP: $79.99 for 2-pack (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $80 from Amazon.com for 2-pack
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 32Ω | Sens: 97 dB | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear (preferred)
Accessories (2.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (4 sizes) and soft carrying pouch
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The construction of the Crystal Piston is very similar to the Xiaomi Piston 2. The machined metal housings are not as finely detailed as those of the Pistons, but the design goes well with the large, multi-faceted Swarovski Crystals at the rear of the earphones. The cable is cloth-sheathed below the y-split and features a 3-button Android remote
Isolation (2.5/5) – Average, about the same as with the original Piston
Microphonics (3.5/5) – Bothersome when worn cable-down but better compared to the original Piston; good with over-the-ear wear
Comfort (3/5) – The housings of the Crystal Piston are rather wide and have squared-off edges at the front, which may create pressure points for those with small outer ears. Aside from that, the earphones are lightweight and comfortable
Sound (8/10) – The design house behind Xiaomi’s successful Piston line, 1MORE entered the US market with a few earphones of their own this year. Their first release, however, is more of a bling-ified version of Xiaomi’s Piston 2 – not the worst starting point as far as I’m concerned, since the Piston 2 is one of my favorite budget-friendly earphones of all time.
Like all Piston earphones, the Crystal features enhanced bass, delivering both good extension and strong mid-bass presence. Its bass is a touch less impactful compared to that of the Piston 2, but without any of the quality improvements you would normally expect with tamer bass – it seems that the Swarovski Crystal in place of the Piston 2’s rear vent is preventing the driver from moving air as freely. When comparing the Crystal Piston to higher-end earphones the bass can appear a little intrusive but against similarly-priced sets – and the original, 1st-gen Piston – the quality still manages to impress.
The Crystal Piston offers up a warm tone and full-bodied sound. While its sound is “v-shaped” in the sense that the bass and treble are emphasized over the midrange, the fullness prevents its mids from sounding overly recessed. Clarity is good considering the bass quantity and slightly laid-back midrange – in this price range only more balanced earphones such as Xiaomi’s own Piston 3 can sound clearer.
The upper midrange and treble of the Crystal Piston are smooth, but not lacking in presence. Despite pretty good sparkle, the top end is still sufficiently forgiving – maybe not as much as the Sony MH1C or HiFiMan RE-400, which have more laid-back treble, but still very good for a sub-$50 earphone. Tonally, the Crystal Piston can’t even be called “bright”, though it does have a little more treble energy than the Sony MH1C.
The only other area where the Crystal Piston falls slightly behind the Xiaomi Piston 2 other than bass quantity – again perhaps due to the lack of a rear vent – is soundstaging. The presentation of the 1MORE unit is not quite as wide, airy, and open as that of the Piston 2, though it has good depth and is at least on-par overall with other great sub-$50 sets such as the SteelSeries Flux and T-Peos D200R.
Xiaomi Piston 1.0 (discontinued)
While the physical design of the Crystal Piston more closely resembles the Piston 2, the lack of a rear port and tiny bottom-facing vent indicate that the sound should be more similar to the original Piston 1.0. However, the 1MORE earphones have significantly less boomy and bloated bass than the Piston 1.0. Their midrange is nowhere near as muffled and the treble is a little more prominent, though also a touch less forgiving. The presentation is a touch more open, too. On the whole, the Crystal Piston is the more accurate and natural-sounding earphone by a large margin.
VSonic VSD3S ($50)
The Crystal Piston is bassier and warmer than VSonic’s benchmark sub-$50 earphone, the VSD3S, but the bass quality lags behind the VSonic unit a bit – while more extended and powerful, the Piston’s low end can appear somewhat intrusive and bloated next to the more balanced VSD3S.
The midrange of the VSD3S is a little thinner and more recessed than that of the Crystal Piston. However, it is also clearer and does a better job of staying free of bass bleed, especially on complex tracks. Moving up, the VSD3S is more peaky, which makes it brighter and more sibilance-prone. The Crystal Piston is smoother and more forgiving. In terms of presentation, both sound nice and airy but the VSD3S provides a wider, less intimate soundstage.
Value (7/10) – The 1MORE Design Crystal Piston earphones extend the excellent sound of the Piston family to the fashion earphone market courtesy of large multi-faceted Swarovski Crystals at the rear of the earpieces. They sound better than other fashion earphones, being a closed-back version of Xiaomi’s fantastic Piston 2 in-ears and only giving up a small amount of punch and airiness in comparison. The biggest issue is that the Piston 2 offers a slightly fuller, more natural sound and (often) a lower price tag, making the Crystal Piston tougher to justify for enthusiasts. It’s still a superb in-ear however, and a great buy for those who fall in love with the unique aesthetic or are seeking an excellent gift item (it is further aided here by the stylish, minimalistic packaging).
Pros: 3-button Android remote; the only truly high-performance fashion in-ear I’ve tried
Cons: Wide housings not ideal for small ears; mediocre noise isolation; more expensive than Piston 2