Teenage Engineering M-1 Review
Teenage Engineering is a Swedish manufacturer whose products are often an explosive mixture of purism, progressiveness, toys, and professional tools for creative minds. The Teenage Engineering M-1 headphone/speech combination was designed as an accessory to the compact multimedia synthesizer OP-Z, which I was able to test myself almost a year ago.
In the following test report, you can read whether the Nordic “Personal Monitor Headphones” can also be used for other purposes and for whom the filigree headset might be of interest.
- Highly portable
- Multimedia: make videos to go with your songs
- Synth with sequencer and multi-media tools
- Expandable with sounds and companion hardware
- Slightly lighter on the synthesizer/patch creation tools
- Steep learning curve for newbies
Details & practice
Features and product properties
The Teenage Engineering M-1 headset with its filigree housing construction is strongly reminiscent of the legendary Walkman headphones of past decades. The headband is equipped with a folding mechanism made of metal, which leaves a solid impression despite the fragile proportions. Only the hinged joint for hanging the auricle is made of plastic and audibly clicks into place when the headphones are unfolded. In principle, there are a clever solution, how many weeks, months, or years. This simple mechanism will last, but it is difficult to predict (even for a tester). The supra-aural auricles are also made of plastic and house dynamic 30mm transducers. As an alternative to the plug-in microphone, there is a built-in microphone in the left auricle and a button on the back for controlling various telephony and playback functions. Due to the barely noticeable weight and the highly moderate contact pressure of the auricles, the M-1 is comfortable to wear.
As mentioned at the beginning, Teenage Engineering’s headphone/headset debut was conceived as an accessory for the OP-Z, which on the one hand, is only equipped with a very poor loudspeaker. On the other hand, the position of the internal microphone is ergonomically not particularly inviting for sampling. From my point of view, the M-1 headset is, therefore, undoubtedly a helpful addition to the tiny multimedia synthesizer. Still, the Teenage Engineering M-1 can also be used profitably as a headphone/speech combination on other devices such as tablets or laptops. However, due to its compact, supra-aural auricle, the acoustic insulation of the headset from the outside world is, as expected, not comparable with closed, circumaural models, making the device unsuitable for use in a noisy environment.
The Teenage Engineering M-1 has an almost 1.2-meter long cable with 3.5mm mini-jack plugs (TRRS) on both sides, which enable monitoring and simultaneous recording at the headphone outputs of my iPad and Macbook Pro. If you do without the plug-in microphone, it can even be linked to another M-1 headset (see illustration). An optional spiral cable is available from the manufacturer for this purpose. The cascading also worked in the test with headphones from third-party manufacturers, provided they have a mini-jack plug that is slim enough for the narrow area between the auricle cover and the metal bracket end of the auricle suspension.
You should imagine that you shouldn’t expect any audiophile miracles from inexpensive headphones of this size with their 30mm converters. However, I still find the playback properties to be solid and suitable for music consumption. Compared to many “full-blown” headphones, the M-1 weakens a little in the sub-bass, and a roll-off can also be heard in the upper treble, but both in bearable and tolerable proportions. Furthermore, Beat-heavy, modern music styles mostly sound homogeneous and “species-appropriate.” At the same time, classical repertoire, for example, in the woodwinds (higher registers), sometimes reveals an uncomfortable mid-range, whereby such nuanced characteristics are probably not very relevant for the target group of teenage engineering headsets. Finally, the comfortable but rather loose fit can sometimes have a detrimental effect on the playback and stereo image. Here you often have to help the correct sitting position by hand. It should also be noted that the M-1 at the headphone output of my iPad looks a bit livelier and more impulsive than at the output of my Macbook Pro.
Sound of the microphone
The plug-in microphone ensures good speech intelligibility, but my ears, which are used to the studio, also hear significant noise components, which is particularly noticeable when using the iPad input. The surprisingly apparent differences in sound compared to the physical input of the Macbook, which can be easily identified in the following audio examples, are fascinating. Nevertheless, the microphone integrated with the auricle is, in my opinion, a possible emergency solution that should be sufficient for communication (e.g., during video telephony) in many situations when the plug-in microphone is not at hand.
The Teenage Engineering M-1 headset from Teenage Engineering is a relatively inexpensive listening/speaking combination. It tends to be a lifestyle product for mobile devices (tablet, laptop, sound generator) than a professional tool category. Nevertheless, the Swedish product delivers solidly and offers good speech intelligibility and somewhat rustic but still usable playback properties for creative work and audio/music consumption. If you are looking for a compact, wired companion for your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or mini-synth, you should check the Teenage Engineering M-1 to see whether it meets your requirements.