TRN MT1 Max
I received the TRN MT1 Max about a month ago and finally had a moment to share my impressions. I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much from this set. Not that I didn’t trust the people of TRN to create a nicely made and nicely tuned iem, it’s that I still have preconceived notions that the ultra-budget category will always have deficiencies. Less capable I suppose. The crazy thing is I have reviewed many very well done iems in the ultra-budget sector of the Audioverse. Lately, and more often than not I find myself surprised at how far the hobby has come and just how nice the quality as well as the sound fidelity of an iem can be at these low prices. Perhaps, TRN will surprise me once again like they did with the MT3, MT4, and the TA1 Max?
TRN is a company who has released steadily for years now. I have reviewed many past TRN iems and most recently the TRN TA1 Max (Review HERE), TRN MT3 (Review HERE), and the TRN MT4 (Review HERE). Each set seems to have its own distinct sound and style, and each does well to compete in their respective price points. On top of those which I’ve reviewed I’ve owned many more over the years. The TRN MT1 was a widely praised iem in its time and then was followed fairly quickly by its successor with the TRN MT1 Pro. Next came the set I’m reviewing today and I think that TRN did a good thing by creating another new iteration as the timing is about right-angle. I will do my best to explain the MT1 Max from the perspective of an audio fan. That said… The TRN MT1 Max…
MT1 Max Pros
-Price to performance
-Decently built for $12
-The MT1 Max look is very nice
-Tuning switches at $12
-Easygoing sound that doesn’t offer fatigue
-Nice low-end punch
-Smoother and non-offensive treble response
-The treble does have pretty good air with the right tips
MT1 Max Cons
-No tuning switch information (I was left to figure it out on my own… Lol)
-Not the most techncily savy iem in its price point
-Tip rolling is a must
-The tuning switch variations don’t make the largest difference
-At this price there isn’t anything else to harp on about
Gear used for testing
-IPad 6th gen
Packaging / Accessories
I’m almost positive that nobody is going to read this section and I suppose I don’t blame you. Truthfully, I can hardly write it. I’m all about “getting ‘er done” though so, let’s check out the unboxing (as quickly as possible). As far as packaging and accessories are concerned let me first begin this by saying… Friends, the MT1 Max cost $12, don’t expect a bountiful unboxing experience. The box that the MT1M has a very utilitarian approach. Inside the box you’ll find the earphones themselves, the eartips, as well as the cable and the tuning switch tool. Nothing special and should be expected at this price.
TRN includes a few pairs of eartips. They added two pairs of white silicone tips with a narrow bore as well as one set of TRN’s own “T-tips”. The T-tips are actually decent tips and can be used for tuning purposes with some of my other iems but I found that I didn’t get the most out of the MT1M using them. The same can be said about the narrow bore silicone tips. I actually went with a pair of KBear 07 tips which definitely opened up the sound to a degree as well as giving a nice clean punch in the low end.
The included cable is obviously not going to wow anyone with its look and aesthetic. I can’t find much info on it but I’m assuming it’s an SPC cable. It comes with a 3.5 single ended jack and QDC 2-pin connector fittings. To be honest, I swapped the cable out almost right away for balanced sources using the TRN TN Modular cable. The included cable will work perfectly fine for daily use but doesn’t pair very well with its look. Of course, if this is all that you have you can rest assured the included cable works perfectly fine. Also, the look & aesthetic of the cable with its brown sheath just doesn’t do it for me.
Build / Design / Internals / Fit / Drivability
Build & Design
We may have to be reminded to “temper our expectations” as far as build is concerned at such a low price. That said, the MT1 Max is actually built pretty nicely for $12. Made completely of plastic of decent quality. It isn’t flimsy or cheaper than its asking price. Basically, this set is not going to fall apart in your hands. Made entirely of plastic from the 2-pin connectors to the nozzles with the exception of a circular alloy faceplate which appears to house a semi-open vent. The look is pretty cool but nothing we haven’t seen before. Still, the MT1 Max will look nice in the ear. TRN added three dip switches to further tune the MT1 Max which is a great thing to see at such a low price. All in all, the build is of good quality. The plastic doesn’t feel too cheap.
TRN added three tuning (Dip) switches on the back side of the MT1 Max which are actually fairly easy to operate by use of the needle tool provided in the packaging. With three dip switches there are many different combinations to go through. I can tell you straight up that the tuning switches actually have some nice changes depending on what settings you choose. The “Treble” setting really does add some sparkles and shimmer, but it also becomes somewhat sibilant and splashy. I also find that the treble setting makes the largest difference in the sound. The “Balanced” setting is just that… balanced more son across the mix than the others. Now, the “Bass” & “X-Bass” settings are odd because I hear more low-end presence in the regular bass than the X-Bass. In the end I find the balanced setting is the way to go.
For the purposes of this review, 1=on and 0=off. TRN actually pre-labeled some of their own settings which is seen in their promotional material. They are “bass-enhanced” (100), “treble-enhanced”(010), “balanced” (110) & “Xtra-bass” (001). I’ve done quite a few reviews with dip switches, and I never enjoy trying to explain them. I’d rather choose a setting and run with it and let you, the buyer, decide how the others sound. 100% transparency; I don’t like dip-switches. They seem to be mostly gimmicks that only subtly change up the sound. Some companies do it better than others but I just feel switches simply offer more confusion. Also, they aren’t very user friendly. Now that I’ve said that, when switches work well my tune changes. So, to keep things moving along for this review, I will just tell you now that I choose the “balanced” setting. Check out TRN’s promotional explanation of thier switches…
TRN decided upon what they refer to as a “4th Generation” 10mm Dual magnetic Dynamic Driver with a Nanotech Composite Diaphragm using N52 magnets. Pretty standard I suppose. The driver seems to be a decent quality as I don’t hear much distortion or too much grain in the sound, even with decent power. Of course, I wouldn’t overdo it either. The driver seems to be perfectly capable for this price.
I had zero issue with the fit. Once I got the eartips correct the fit was perfect. Also, isolation is pretty good too, about average. You also shouldn’t have much in the way of sound leakage either. To be honest I have no idea how well the MT1 Max will fit you but for me… Not bad.
I found the MT1 Max to be very easy to drive with a 22 ohm impedance and a sensitivity of 108 dbs. In fact, I easily drive it to good fidelity simply with my IPad. The MT1 Max sounds pretty nice this way. Using The Fiio UTWS5 was great to me as well for a mobile option. Maybe a hair warmer than I’d like but still nice. Using something like the Qudelix 5k was a breeze and sounds good as this is my best synergy with this set for mobile purposes. Obviously bumping up in power and quality to the Hidizs S9 Pro in its wired format proved the MT1 Max doesn’t fall apart with more juice. Also, they pair great together. But the best I’ve heard of the MT1 Max is through my Shanling M6 Ultra. Something about that velvet AK4493SEQ dac chip that brought out the best in the MT1 Max. In the end, all you really need is a decent Dongle Dac. You could even probably get away with just using a decent phone if that’s all you have. These are very easy to drive.
The MT1 Max has a warmer sound with some sprinkles of forwardness in the midrange and a decent ear gain that’s right on the cusp of being too elevated. I hear a slight V-shaped sound. For this review I am simply using the “balanced” dip-switch setting. I may comment on the other settings, but I feel the balanced setting makes the most sense for review. Plus, I like it the best.
The bass is big, hits hard with a slower decay. The midrange has a slight recession and isn’t the most resolute but it does have a nice presence in the mix. The treble is moderately enhanced with a decent lift. Extension into the upper frequencies could be better but not bad for the price. I find the stage size to be about average as well as details, separation, & imaging. All in all, it’s a very nice listen for the price with a decently organic timbre and a dynamically expressive sound. Sure, it has some issues but issues are to be expected. I find that the treble setting is a bit too sibilant, and the bass enhanced setting is too veiled and too laid back sounding.
I find the bass to have a nicely deep and penetrating sound with decent extension for the price. Not too overbearing or lifted. Overall, I hear a more mid-bass focused sound with a relatively solid leading edge which is nice to hear. I certainly don’t hear anything hollow or pillowy. The sub-bass reaches down low and gives off a good haptic vibration for tracks like “Paradigm” by The Head and Heart. The mid-bass has some very good and tactile rumble which is fairly clean for the quantity and the price. “All My Life” by Lil Durk smashes pretty hard without muddying up the rest of the mix. “Groove” by Ray Wylie Hubbard presents a full and rotund bass guitar riff that doesn’t disappoint me at all.
The bass region has a hard hitting and impactful boom for bass drops which is nice for the price. It isn’t the speediest bass it it also doesn’t come across sloppy. However, it does do better with slower jams rather than fast paced music. I don’t find the low-end interferes with the midrange to any huge detriment but there is a hint of bleed into that area of the mix. I don’t hear anything muddy or bloated either unless you begin playing with the settings. Listening to the “Bass” or “X-bass” settings will boost the low region a few db’s for those who enjoy a bit more rumble. Of course, the sound also becomes a bit too veiled in that condition. However, the MT1 Max has the capability to have a very nicely tuned low-end which is a lot of fun.
The midrange is actually not recessed as much as I thought it’d be. Yes, there is a recession but it’s not to the point that it’s far off and distant. People I gotta hand it to TRN, they made a very nice sounding set here with nice timbre and an organic quality to it. Not earth shattering but it’s okay to give a little credit for making a set that sounds musical at these prices. The midrange is placed in a good position in the hierarchy of emphasis between the 20’s, and I actually think they sound pretty good.
Listening to “I’m Leaving” by The Teskey Brothers is flat out great! Really. Their voice just makes a home on the MT1 Max. Males come across with a nice presence and a warmer tilt. Male vocals are nicely weighted, not too heavy and thick but also not too dry and clinical either. The MT1 Max does struggle with resolution, which should be expected, yet nothing that takes away from my music. I notice there is a smoother body to the low-mids and hurts transparency in this case to a slight degree. Instruments around this region also take on a more warm and smooth tonality and inflection which doesn’t come across very detailed but is capable of good note weight.
Female vocals within the upper midrange do have the slightest bit of shimmer to their voices listening on balanced setting. They have moderate note weight, like on the song “Mariana Trench” by Gabrielle Aplin. Her voice never becomes strident or shouty and remains pretty smooth, for the most part. Also, please trust me, some sets become pretty peaky on this track. Maybe a titch less vibrant than I’d like but not bad.
Another example of a female voice is Ella Henderson in the song “Everything I Didn’t Say“. This is a more somber song. It isn’t exactly some upbeat and energetic jam, but I feel I could use a bit more energy and liveliness listening on the MT1 Max. On the flipside, her voice is like velvet with a nice tonality that is very easy to listen to or get lost in. For the most part females are well established and come across nicely on the MT1 Max. I will also say is that timbre never becomes metallic or weirdly grainy and remains mostly natural, smooth, warm and does have a decent macro details.
Instruments don’t sound bad at all. In fact, nothing sounds outright bad! I have been far more impressed with the MT1 Max than anything. Hence why I am being so picky over liveliness in the upper portions of the midrange when I know darn well that the MT1 Max sounds fantastic at this price. Anyways, strings have enough energy with the right amount of pep and warmth to balloon out the fundamental body of an acoustic guitar and zesty enough for the residual harmonics. Piano has nice fullness too, albeit slightly less resounding than I’d like. Percussion is mostly well bodied and punchy but I could use a bit more tackiness at the surface. .
All in all, the midrange has great tonality and timbre without any real sibilance unless you go with the “treble switch” setting. At which point I found a slight bump in resolution. However, timbre takes a hit, and that natural sound takes a hit. Again, all things considered the mids sound very nice. Maybe not perfect for vocals but still pretty nice sounding. I didn’t hear anything too shouty for me either and the MT1 Max is mostly non-offensive and very nice for just sitting back and listening to music without the worry of any uncomfortable glare.
The treble is certainly a safer treble, especially on the balanced setting. I want to preface this section by explaining that I don’t expect to hear the most refined treble. This is an ultra-budget single Dynamic Driver iem folks. However, the treble needs some energetic bite, or a little bit of contour. The treble slightly lacks air while not completely absent of a presence in the mix. The treble comes across lifted enough to add slight vibrance to the entire spectrum and does counter the larger bass section to a degree, but in my opinion, they need a bit more lift. Not bad by any means but there are sets which do it better for the price. For instance, the MT1 Max ($12) aren’t as refined as say… the KZ Krila ($17), or even the CVJ KE-S ($9) for example.
Saying all that, I want to also say that I do think there is enough air on the MT1 Max to hear decent details, both macro and micro. There is some treble punch and good body in the treble. Now, it isn’t the fastest up top, but I also don’t expect it to be. On the flipside the treble isn’t slow either. Let’s put it this way, the MT1 Max did a serviceable job keeping up with “Ice Bridges” by Billy Strings and the breakneck speed of his banjo play. Not as refined as some pricier sets but very nice for $12.
The one great thing that we have here is a smoother treble that will never become peaky to the ear. This is mostly a non-offensive treble so long as you don’t go with the treble setting. There is some splash up top but nothing that comes across shrill to my ear. The treble presents an easy and decently melodic listening session altogether.
The soundstage has an average sized stage. Nothing that feels congested at all and nothing that sounds stadium sized. Width is not ultra-wide but it’s above average to me and more than appropriate for my music. Height is around average yet there actually is some decent depth to the sound. For $12 the MT1 Max does very well actually. The sound does come across more immersive than flat with a fuller expression within my mind when I listen. To be honest the stage size is pretty good for the price.
Separation / Imaging
Separation of elements on an imaginary stage is okay, nothing to write home about but nothing to call a “con” either. The time the MT1 Max struggles the most is when listening to more complicated tracks. Anything else other than a congested song and you won’t even notice any issues. Imaging is actually quite nice. The MT1 Max do a commendable job at partitioning of elements within a stage and making those partitions distinct and with good placement. There is depth for layering too which surprised me. This helps the MT1 Max do a better job at delineating between instruments and voices from front to back as well as left to right. Truthfully, the MT1 Max don’t really do anything horribly.
As far as macro-details are concerned the MT1 Max does seem to shine a bit better than when seeking out the micro-details within my music. Listen, the MT1 Max was not created to be a detail marvel. It simply isn’t that friends. Nor should you expect it to be. When dealing with micro-details and the tiny and faint minutia within a song, the MT1 Max do tend to blur some lines. It isn’t perfect.
What we have is a more warm, slightly smoother sounding iem that doesn’t have the greatest resolution. This is a V-shaped sound with a larger bass section and refinement wasn’t part of the goal here. I believe TRN tuned the MT1 Max to be a fun iem, non-fatiguing, with warmer dynamics. It just doesn’t bode perfectly for details. However, I still would say that for $12 the MT1 Max is certainly at least average as I’m still not missing much of the info I’d otherwise like to attain.
Note: I am not going to very in depth comparing anything here. Please understand that I’m trying to keep my reviews to a manageable length that isn’t too bothersome. Especially with ultra-budget sets. Not that they aren’t worthy of a lengthier approach, but I believe you can easily get the gist of how they compare in a more condensed version than I would otherwise do. Also, this is not a duel to the death. I’m not trying to crown one set over another. I compared to explain the iem I am reviewing. I will always work this way.
CVJ KE-S ($9)
The CVJ KE-S is CVJ’s latest entry into the ultra-budget category. I am actually in the process of reviewing the KE-S as I type this. The KE-S is a single Dynamic Driver with a plastic shell but a nice look to them. I find this set to be a very nicely tuned set with good macro-dynamics and a full sound throughout. The KE-S is warmer than it isn’t but has a nice balance to them sonically.
I find the KE-S to have a hint more natural timbre than the MT1 Max with slightly more of a bass bump and a weightier note weight across the board. There just seems to be an element of density to the sound that the MT1 Max doesn’t have to the same degree. The MT1 Max do have a slightly tighter bass region yet the KE-S has a deeper and more authoritative bass. The midrange comes across a hair more resolute on the MT1 Max, but it is by the thinnest of hairs. I’d also say that the MT1 Max has a slightly more forward midrange. However, like I said the MT1 Max are also more lean and less tacky and simply less present in the mix somehow. The treble of the KE-S has more bite, more body and better extension and is slightly more emphasized.
The MT1 Max has a better chance to bring out the finer details in my music but again, it isn’t by much. Soundstage is larger sounding on the KE-S with better height and about the same in depth. Neither set are price point killers in the technicalities department, but both do a nice job. Both are very good sets at their asking price.
KZ Krila ($16)
The infamous KZ Krila (my Krila Review here) was touted by their manufacturer as being better than $1000 iems. I certainly disagreed with that statement, but I do think the Krila are one of the best iems you can find under $20. The Krila is actually a hybrid iem of 1DD and 1BA. Also, just like the MT1 Max, the Krila has dip-switches. I assume both parties noticed the trend (dip-switches) and jumped on board. The Krila is a neutral/bright sounding U-shaped set that is highly detailed and precise with a fantastic build quality. Truly one of the better iems you can find at these prices.
The greatest difference between these two iems is the tonality and timbre. The MT1 Max has a warm sound whereas the Krila comes across brighter with a neutral leaning. The bass of the MT1 Max has more oomph and authority with better extension into the lowest of lows. The Krila has the more nuanced bass, more mature and more resolute bass between the two. The Krila has a more forward midrange with better vocal delivery, better details and better note definition. The MT1 Max comes across better bodied with a smoother sound and much easier on the ears and very likely the MT1 Max has more lifelike and natural timbre. Simply more organic. The Krila has a much more emphasized treble with better treble bite, detail retrieval and much better extension. The MT1 Max has, you guessed it, the less offensive and safer tuning up top.
As for technicalities, it’s Krila across the board. Much better detailed, bigger stage, better separation of instrumentation and vocals and better imaging throughout. The area I think the MT1 Max shines against the Krila is that it comes across more melodic and musical. Folks, these are two completely different sets, with completely different tuning. However, they are both competitive in their respective price points. I’m sure many would enjoy the warmer and smoother sound of the MT1 Max. However, in the same breath I’m sure most people will say that the Krila is certainly the more refined and talented iem. I suppose this was simply a battle of preferences.
Is it worth the asking price?
This is very easy for me; the answer is an obvious yes. Friends the MT1 Max is very nicely tuned and offers a fun and dynamic sound that fits in with many genres. Is it perfect? Absolutely not! There are some issues. Also, there’s many good iems floating around the same general price point. Still, I think for $12 you get a nicely built iem with an expressive and somewhat musical sound and you also get three dip-switches to help you tune the MT1 Max to fit your style of listening. These won’t blow your mind, but they are certainly worth the $12 that TRN is asking. I think it is a wonderful thing that we as a community can purchase even ultra-budget iems yet still have a high fidelity and fun listening experience. Folks, you can’t go wrong for $12.
Note: all ratings are based upon my subjective judgment. These ratings are garnered against either similarly priced sets or with similar driver implementations or styles with the unique parameters of my choosing. In the case of the TRN MT1 Max ratings below, that would be $10-$20 iems in any configuration. Please remember that “ratings” don’t tell the whole story. This leaves out nuance and a number of other qualities which make an iem what it is. A “5” is exactly average and please take into consideration the “lot” of iems these ratings are gathered against. $10-$20 US is a decently broad scope of iems and so seeing a 9 better means something special. My ratings are never the same and each set of ratings tells a different story. Each time you read one of my ratings it will be unique to that review. Basically, I create a Rating that makes sense to me.
-Build Quality: 7.2
-Accessories: -.- (At this price Accessories don’t apply)
I don’t think there is much to summarize here. The MT1 Max is a good performer in its price point and should be in consideration for anyone choosing to purchase an iem at or around its price point. However, we have some extremely well-tuned ultra-budget iems for the MT1 Max to compete against. If one could add $5-7 more than you will be able to afford something like the KZ Krila, QKZ X-HBB, TangZu Waner, 7Hz Zero, KZ ZVX and the list goes on. Even iems listed at the same price or less is the KZ EDXS which is a fantastic iem at that price and would give the MT1 Max a run for its money with relative ease. However, there really aren’t any sets that are head & shoulders above anything else. I think the ratings match where they are at in my opinion against some of the better sets.
You see a lower rating for the treble at 5.8, yet that low Rating doesn’t deprive the MT1 Max from being one of the better iems in its price point. Hence why I say that ratings don’t tell the whole story. The beauty of the MT1 Max is how the sound comes together as a whole as its individual parts don’t necessarily tell the whole story.
To conclude I simply want to thank TRN for providing the MT1 Max for review. All of my thoughts are my own and are completely honest and forthright. Beyond that I also want to request that anyone reading also check out other reviews of this set. It will only help in making a purchasing decision. No two of us are perfectly alike and I do feel that it pays to get all perspectives. Thank you for reading, try to stay safe and as always, God Bless.