A tripe dynamic driver headphone that isn’t a bass cannon and doesn’t suck? Say hello to the BOT1 earphone. This sub $20 IEM really surprised me with its tonal accuracy and agile performance. If you’re tired of V-shaped or heavily coloured sound signatures then this might be what you’re looking for.
Nimble and punchy bass
Midrange has a natural tonality
Lower treble is just a bit too forward
♫ Sensitivity: 105 dB ♫ Impedance: 16 Ω ♫ Frequency: 7 – 40, 000 Hz ♫ Plug type: 3.5 mm ♫ Line length: 120 ± 5 cm ♫ Driver Unit: 3 Dynamic Driver Unit ♫ Cable length: 1.2 M ± 3 cm
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own, based on my experience with the product.
Package and Accessories
The BOT1 comes is a familiar style black cardboard box with the model name printed in silver on the top with the brand name on the front edge. Opening the box we’re presented with the BOT1 earphones seated in a foam inlay.
Next to the foam is a smaller cardboard box that holds the included accessories. So what do you get in the box?
1x BOT1 earphone
3x pairs of silicone eartips (S, M, L)
Fabric drawstring pouch
Build Quality and Design
The BOT1 certainly is a unique looking headphone. Its most striking feature is the 3 gold-coloured discs on the faceplates. Each disc has a hole in the centre and is surrounded by a concentric ring pattern.
Each disc represents one of the 3 dynamic drivers within the housings. At first, I thought there were only added for appearance as covering them with tape didn’t seem to affect the sound. However, I believe they must be vents for the dynamic drivers because I can’t see any anywhere else on the housings which would be most unusual.
The housings have a concha-filling shape that is common with over-ear style IEMs. The shells are made of a glossy black plastic and are extremely lightweight. There’s a well-defined ridge on the nozzles that holds eartips firmly in place and there’s a mesh covering the nozzle to keep one’s earwax at bay.
A surprisingly good cable accompanies the BOT1. It reminds me of the one that came with the QCK W1 pro (that is a compliment by the way!) It’s a black twisted cable with a clear plastic sheath. The cable is supple, feels strong and does not have any kinks or unruly memory.
There is a gold-coloured metal Y-split but this one comes with some extras. The inline 1-button remote and microphone are actually built into the Y-split.This is the first time I’ve seen such an implementation and I must say I rather like it!
Finally, the cable terminates in a straight metal plug that matches the colour of the Y-split. Overall, the build quality of the BOT1 and its cable is impressive for a $20 headphone.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
The shape of the housings looks a little unusual but in fact, I find the BOT1 to be really comfortable. It is important to find the right tips, as the nozzles are fairly long. I settled on one of my staples – an extra large, shallow, wide-bore from my stockpile.
Noise isolation is above average for a dynamic driver IEM, which again leaves me feeling confused with regards to the apparent vents on the faceplates. With my music playing at low volume, I don’t really hear anything else going on around me. Noise leak is also minimal, making the BOT1 suitable for any environment.
Gear used for testing was my regular everyday carry, including my new favourite gadget, the Shanling M0 and the Acoustic Research AR-M20 for DAPs. I also gave it a spin with my Android smartphone plus the Radsone Earstudio Bluetooth amplifier. On the desktop, I used my PC running Tidal HiFi and the Topping DX7.
I could make this section very short and just tell you that the BOT1 sounds great but I know Y’all will want the details so let’s delve deeper. The BOT1 has a light and nimble sound with enhanced bass and excellent clarity.
A low impedance and high sensitivity mean that the BOT1 is super easy to drive. It will work fine with a smartphone (assuming it has a headphone jack) or low-powered DAP. Dang, maybe it’s time for me to start saying “It will sound good, even from your low-powered Bluetooth receiver.”
The BOT1’s bass is enhanced but this is by no means a basshead IEM. It’s nimble and punchy with good definition. A fast attack gives bass notes a solid leading edge and the fast decay keeps things tight. The result is a bass that is lean but still carries authority and strength.
Sub-bass has a fast deep rumble. It’s got enough gusto to shake things up enough so you’ll feel the housings vibrate in your ears. Yes, the extension is good too, just as you’d expect with a whole dynamic driver dedicated to the bass.
The midrange is fairly neutral and like the bass, it’s lean and uncoloured, some might even call it a bit dry. Intelligibility is good and the BOT1 achieves impressive tonal accuracy. I need to keep reminding myself that this is a $20 IEM.
Light and airy, the BOT1’s treble is inoffensive and doesn’t cause fatigue. There is an emphasis on 3kHz-4kHz but it doesn’t sound disconnected or affect cohesion. If I can listen to the last minute of The Pineapple Thief’s “No Man’s Land” at moderate volume then it’s generally a safe bet for me.
The BOT1 presents an impressive soundstage for an ultra-budget IEM. Its neutral midrange has really good separation which helps to provide a stable stage. It’s wider than it is deep but nevertheless still feels like a large area.
Imaging is about average for a budget IEM and does a better job of left and right separation than it does with pinpoint positioning within the stage.
BOT1 vs KZ ZS4 ($18.90 US)
The Bot1 has a little less sub-bass than the ZS4 and both IEMs have a similar mid-bass in terms of quantity and punch. The midrange and vocals are more recessed on the ZS4, giving it more of a V-shaped signature.
The ZS4 also has more upper treble emphasis, especially around 10kHz-12kHz. This doesn’t make it sound brighter but adds a little more sparkle and liveliness compared to the BOT1.
Both earphones are really comfortable but the ZS4’s unique shape feels really good in your ears and it’s one of the best budget IEMs in terms of noise isolation. The BOT1 provides more accessories with its drawstring pouch and shirt clip.
BOT1 vs Auglamour F200 ($19.90 US)
The F200 has a smoother overall presentation. It’s bass isn’t as textured or punchy but is less emphasized than the BOT1. The midrange and vocals have more body on the F200 but are more recessed in comparison to the BOT1.
The F200’s treble is very smooth indeed but it doesn’t have as much detail as the BOT1. The BOT1 is a much more revealing IEM while the F200 aims for smoothness.
When it comes to build quality, nothing in this price range can match the Auglamour F200. The F200 also comes out slightly ahead in accessories because it comes with a zipper case while the BOT1 has a fabric drawstring pouch.
The BOT1 earphone is a very interesting addition to the ultra-budget IEM bracket. Its uncoloured midrange is a bit of a rarity and will surely appeal to those who want more neutrality as opposed to something with a warmer tonality.