Moving up through the midrange, the Thinksounds somehow pull off the impressive feat of sounding warm and rich yet clear and open at the same time. The Etymotic HF3s have a noticeable edge in midrange transparency and detail over the TS02s, yet the TS02s manage to avoid sounding closed in or opaque. Having a super revealing headphone isn’t necessarily the best idea for listening on the go, and the Thinksounds do a deft job of remaining warm and compelling without making you feel like your missing out on detail or clarity.
I listened to the TS02s using several sources including an iPod Classic, iPhone 4, and from high-resolution digital files into both a Furutech/Alpha Design Labs GT40 and a Topping TP30 DAC/Amp.
The legendary 1961 Village Vanguard recordings from the Bill Evans Trio showcased the TS02’s strengths perfectly. On “Alice in Wonderland” the deep resonance and subtle fingerings of bassist Scott LaFaro’s playing were easy to follow, while drummer Paul Motian’s incredible brushwork kept things swinging. The Thinksounds also put across the Vanguard’s intimate club setting perfectly, revealing everything from the murmuring audience to the clinking of glasses at the bar.
I figured “Ravi Shankar Dub” by The Dub Syndicate might push the TS02’s bass over the edge, but even when I cranked it up the bottom end remained clear and tuneful. Producer Adrian Sherwood is known for dropping in massive amounts of reverb or room sound on individual drum beats, and these sounds helped to demonstrate how the TS02s could really open up to create a massive soundstage.
While the TS02’s warm balance made them a great match for listening on the move, don’t get the impression that they can magically turn a nasty sounding recording into sonic gold. They did little to salvage the heavily compressed sound of Metallica’s Black Album, and in many ways the prominent mid bass and lower treble of the TS02s made this record sound crunchier than ever. Through the Thinksounds the compressed kick drum became more of a “crack” sound than a “thunk,” and the snare drum sat out in the mix with the cymbals sounding a bit recessed. The overall sonics were still quite listenable, but the subtle changes in emphasis might make you question just why they mixed it that way.
Consider this product if:
• You want an easy to live with portable in-ear monitor that gives plenty of kick in the bass, yet manages to stay controlled and musical.
• You value eco-friendly products and want to support a company that thinks green.
Look further if:
• You believe ultimate accuracy is paramount, and want to hear only the un-embellished truth.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced earphones)
• Tonal Balance: 6
• Frequency Extremes: 6 (Bass)/6 (Treble)
• Clarity: 7
• Dynamics: 7
• Comfort/Fit: 9
• Sensitivity: 8
• Value: 9
Thinksound lives up to its name by thinking about our planet while doing what it can to minimize its E waste footprint. The resulting headphones are stylish, comfortable, and make a fine companion for listening on the go. While their warmish sonic balance may not be strictly accurate, they manage to deliver a level of musical satisfaction that’s hard to beat at the price.
Thinksound TS02+mic Earphone/Headset
Accessories: Four pairs of silicone ear tips, shirt clip, cotton carrying pouch
Driver: 8mm moving coil-type
Frequency response: not specified
Impedance: 32 Ohms
Warranty: 1 year
Price: $109.99 (TS02+mic); $99.99 (TS02)