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1More Spearhead VR Review – For The Multimedia-Phile

Pros – 

Well-priced, Clean, understated styling, Adaptable sound, Integrated mic has impressive vocal clarity

Cons – 

Pads are on the thinner side, Very prone to microphonics, Sound is congested without software equalisation

Verdict – 

The 1More Spearhead VR provides a well-rounded experience at a reasonable price, suiting frequent gamers and casual multimedia-philes.

 


Introduction –

Grossly unbalanced and gaudy in design, gaming headsets are like the plague within the audio community. 1More are here to change that. Renowned manufacturer of the award-winning triple driver in-ear and over-ear headphones and the first THX-certified in-ear, the Quad-Driver, 1More are well-equipped to tackle seemingly any market. The Spearhead VR is their first take on a gaming headset. It features the sleek design language intrinsic to the company in addition to powerful 50mm drivers and a wealth of features that enhance both sound quality and voice quality over the integrated microphone. 1More augment the experience with capable and user-friendly software that provides some real benefits to performance. Originally priced at $150 USD, the Spearhead can now be had for $100, offering some of the best value on the market. See 1More’s website for all the details and purchase one for yourself here.

 

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Ari from 1More very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the Spearhead VR for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the headphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

Accessories –

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The headphones have a pleasing unboxing, a staple of 1More products. Inside the large textured hard box is the headphones themselves within a plastic inlet and just beneath is another compartment containing the accessories. 1More provides a carrying pouch in addition to two cables, a 3.5mm audio cable and micro-USB data/power cable. No other accessories are included, it would have been nice to include a hard-case, however, considering the Spearhead is a gaming headset, its likely users won’t be using them outside. The pouch will suffice for storage, preventing the build-up of scratches and dust.

 

Design –

The Spearhead VR is a very streamlined headphone with luminescent edges reminiscent of the iconic Tron. Due to its clean lines and mature black/gunmetal colour scheme, it’s an aesthetic that presents as futuristic rather than gaudy or juvenile, a common complaint with gaming headsets. The Spearhead is instead rather quite subdued and cleanly styled. Its fit isn’t low-profile, protruding a fair distance from the head so they still aren’t a style-orientated portable headphone, but they’re infinitely more approachable than the majority of other gaming peripherals.

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The headphones are also built quite nicely as we’ve come to expect from 1More. The main structure is metal while the earcups are a dense plastic that feels solid in the hand without weighing down the head during wear. Controls and interfaces are located on bottom of the left ear cup. There’s a switch to toggle the microphone, a volume wheel/eQ button and micro-usb input/output. The headphones also have a 3.5mm input for audio-only use. The lighting zones are nicely implemented, the permitter of the metal faceplates, logo and retractable mic saber all impress with an even glow.

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Ergonomically, the headphone could do with some work. My main complaint is to do with the ear pads that just manage an over-ear fit but have limited depth. As the driver protrudes slightly, I did find the headphones to produce a hotspot on my outer ear after just a 2-3 hour of use. Angled drivers or thicker pads would have effectively alleviated this issue. Otherwise, the pads pamper the ear with dense memory foam cushioning and a breathable fabric exterior that suits gaming marathons. Being closed-back, isolation is above average, effectively isolating from fan and keyboard noise and sound leakage is a non-issue at safe volumes. Meanwhile, dual noise-cancelling microphones above each hangar ensure that your peers don’t have to contend with that noise either.

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The headphones utilise an automatically adjusting suspension headband that supports a wide range of head sizes. Clamp force is moderate and stability is high without compressing the skull. Though a touch higher than personally preferred, tension on the headband doesn’t wear too much on the top of the head despite minimal padding. Each earcup floats on a flexible membrane supporting adjustment in all axis. One notable drawback of the Spearhead is a strange resonance between the headband and drivers with any contact sending loud vibrations throughout the headphones. Microphonics are also an issue, especially using the stiffer USB cable. This can be partially alleviated using a shirt clip or wire router, though it is hardly ideal.

 

Usability & Software –

The headphones are effectively plug and play, but to access the headphone’s entire feature set, the user has to download the Spearhead control panel application from 1More’s website. The Control panel is fairly straightforward to use. It has 3 overarching menus, speakers, mic and LED that control volume, audio settings and lighting respectively. There’s basic channel balance, sample rate control, a basic equaliser and array of adjustable enhancements detailed further in the sound section below.

The mic menu offers basic gain control in addition to a toggle that enables environmental noise cancellation. This is not to be confused with active noise cancellation as it doesn’t provide addition isolation for the user, rather, it uses the headphone’s two exterior microphones to cancel out ambient sound in voice chats and recordings similar to modern mobile phones.

Finally, the LED menu gives users the option to control lighting colour and effect. 7 preset colours are provided in addition to a more specific colour palette that will no doubt help with colour congruence in a user-specific setup. Lighting effects include constant, breathing and heart rate with a basic speed slider below to adjust the interval. There is no option to customise each zone individually. The user is able to create multiple profiles that can be toggled by clicking the volume wheel, a nice touch. Of note, the volume wheel controls windows volume which I prefer over an internal volume setting.

 

Mic Quality –

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The microphone quality of the Spearhead VR is quite good. Friends reported almost as much vocal clarity as my Samson Go Mic, one of the better budget microphones on the market south of $100. It doesn’t quite capture the same range as that microphone and something like the Blue Snowball or Yeti will easily provide greater quality when recording. However, for vocals, the Spearhead is one of the better recording devices and it does hold one notable advantage over these microphones, its ambient noise cancellation. As a result, the headset picks up considerably less external noise than standard microphones, aiding the discernibility of speech. Gain is also appropriate and artefacts aren’t introduced by 1More’s noise cancelling software. The headset will do in a pinch for voice recordings too though, of course, it does lack the same vocal clarity and power of a proper condenser microphone.

 

Sound –

Though not a music headphone, it’s important to consider the specific tuning choices at play that make the Spearhead suitable for certain applications and less suitable for others. Subjectively, it is well considered for its intended uses, gaming and presumably video and film too. They do for a pinch for music but aren’t ideal. They provide a fair experience when eQ’d but still don’t compare with similarly priced music-orientated headphones such as the Audio Technica M40X, understandable. The headphones can be driven by an external source over its 3.5mm input or via the internal DAC/AMP using micro-USB. There isn’t a huge discrepancy in quality between the two, however, there is audible hiss over USB regardless of volume. A good wired source will not have this issue.

 

Tonality –

The Spearhead has a mid-forward sound from factory and its tuning has congested transitions between bass and mids. It is clear that the headphone was intended to be used with software equalisation of some sort. Its low-end is quite good actually. It’s mid-bass focused and therefore notes are full and tone is on the warmer side. Sub-bass extends quite well but interestingly, isn’t very present and the Dynamic Bass enhancement doesn’t boost these frequencies as much as mid-bass. Users wanting physical slam will want to increase the 30Hz slider manually. Overall, the low-end is quite nice and it isn’t nearly as bassy as most gaming headsets nor as bloated.

The main issue with the Spearhead is its overly present lower-midrange. This creates a rather congested midrange and a general lack of transparency; there’s too much body and little separation between mids and bass. To compensate, centre mids are enhanced, bringing vocals slightly forward and aiding discernibility. On the other hand, upper-mids are attenuated by comparison so though the headphones aren’t veiled, they aren’t especially clear either. Treble sits behind, lower-treble is smooth and detail presentation is laid-back. In its stock form, the headphone honestly sounds quite dull and uninspiring, even compared to something like the Oppo PM3 that closely traces the Harman curve. A lot of users will want to look towards the software adjustments below that can be surprisingly effective.

 

Sound Modes –

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XEAR Surround Headphone – Crossfeed plus volume boost DSP. Basic eQ sucks out lower-midrange and upper-bass, sounds hollow and diffuse, but also hyper-separated. Not recommended.

XEAR Audio Brilliant – 3-8KHz Boost, particular emphasis around 5-6KHz. Female vocal presence and midrange clarity is enhanced. Treble is more detail forward producing sharper directional cues. Even the lowest setting is slightly too strong, still a fine choice for gaming or music but can easily become fatiguing on higher settings. Recommended but use in moderation.

XEAR Dynamic bass – Standard adjustable bass boost. Use 100Hz cut-off as wideband bass boost destroys midrange timbre and any bass note definition. Level 2-4 fills in the sound nicely without introducing too much bloat. Level 1-2 is quite convincing for music and 3-4 will do nicely for gaming and film. Increase the 30Hz eQ slider to provide more physical rumble and slam as this setting barely raises the sub-bass frequencies.

XEAR Smart Volume – Volume normaliser, reduces the difference between quiet and loud at the cost of dynamic range. Leave this off for music, use replay gain instead. For gaming, this isn’t a bad option, small details like footsteps are more audible and it takes the edge off loud explosions.

XEAR Voice Clarity – Huge boost to vocal presence frequencies (1-2KHz). Sounds quite disjoint and not exactly enjoyable for film or music. For voice chat, however, this feature is quite useful as it very effectively brings vocals forward and aids discernibility of speech.

XEAR Surround Max – Similar to surround, basic crossfeed with a noticeable volume boost and V-shaped eQ bringing out bass and treble, heightens bass/midrange separation. However, centre image is destroyed and vocals sound very unnatural due to excessive lower-midrange attenuation. I’m sure many will enjoy this option, it’s a good all-in-one and makes the headphones sound quite engaging and vivid. I’m not personally a fan of the soundstage processing and I think it may disadvantage the player due to less accurate imaging.

Preferred setting – XEAR Dynamic Bass setting 2-3 with cut-off at 100Hz. This provides a warm, full low-end without introducing too much muddiness or bloat. XEAR Brilliant setting 1 provides enhanced clarity, especially with regards to mids and vocals, and detail presence is enhanced. By bringing up the bass and high frequencies, the headphone’s lower-midrange issue is alleviated as they now sit further behind in the mix by comparison. Using these settings in conjunction grants a more engaging V-shaped sound and greater separation without the unnatural soundstage processing and crossfeed introduced by the surround settings. As such, imaging and the placement of elements within the soundstage is more accurate. It isn’t anything audiophile grade but becomes a fine listen for a budget gaming headset.

 

Verdict –

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The Spearhead VR is a strong first gaming headset from 1More. Despite undercutting the competition, it has an infinitely more tasteful design than competitors and easily above average sound quality. They’re no audiophile headphone, that’s no surprise, but they don’t harm music and media enjoyment either, something I can’t say about every gaming headset. Furthermore, as their tuning is mellow, they offer a blank canvas for software adjustment to sculpt the sound to user preference. The integrated mic isn’t as clear as a dedicated model or even something like the Antlion Modmic, however, vocal clarity remains impressive and the environmental noise cancellation is effective. Comfort is my prime concern, and users with wider than average ears may feel some discomfort after several hours of use. Otherwise, the 1More Spearhead VR provides a well-rounded experience at a reasonable price, suiting frequent gamers and casual media-philes.

The Spearhead VR is available from Amazon (International) for $100 USD at the time of writing. Please see my affiliate link for the most updated pricing, availability and configurations.

 

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