THINKSOUND On1 supra-aural headphones
EVER since my interest in the world of head-fi was refuelled a year ago, I’ve made some wonderful discoveries… new names, interesting technologies and best of all, the realisation that great sound did not have to be limited by the room’s deficiencies, and could be had for not a lot of money.
So I’ve been going through all sorts of headphone designs whenever I get the chance, and I know what I like to hear and wear, in and on my head. And the brands I’m listening to these days didn’t exist the last time I had a collection of headphones, back in the early 1990s.
Once such brand is Thinksound, a USA company founded not so long ago by a couple of guys who used to work with lifestyle audio outfit Tivoli. Thinksound’s focus is chiefly in-ear ‘phones, or earbuds, but the flagship model, the On1 featured here, is an on-ear unit.
BITS AND PARTS: The On1, which uses a 40mm driver, is described as a “supra-aural high definition monitor” – it sits on the ear and is a closed-back design. The distinctive feature is the hand-crafted natural wood housing with “Memory Foam” ear pads, which one assumes is designed in the long-term to shape itself to your ears for a more comfortable fit.
Thinksound says passive noise isolation is employed to minimise ambient sounds – the ‘phones are a sweat-resistant design and suited for use in the gym. The flexible headband, made of metal with a fabric overlay, adds to the comfort factor.
The On1’s frequency response is given at 5Hz to 22kHz, with an impedance of 50 ohms.
The wood back is available in natural finish, and the headphones weighs just a shade over 184gm.
Two sets of detachable Kevlar-reinforced, tangle-resistant fabric cables are provided, each 4.5 feet long and terminated with a 3.5mm steel-reinforced gold-plated stereo plugs. One cable has a microphone control with a single button – it is compatible with both iOS and Android phones.
A cotton carrying pouch is also included to protect the headphones and store the accessories.
IN CONCERT: On a visceral level, I immediately liked the On1 headphones – they had a cheerful and energetic presentation that was infectious and made me want to try out all the reference tracks on my iPod.
Further listening over the weeks solidified this impression… while I have heard fuller bass and better transparency in other models, the On1 delivered with a rhythmic fluidity that was especially suited to rock and pop music. And I guess since gym users are part of the target group, this is only appropriate!
Not that other material didn’t sound good on the On1, but those seeking a finer and more detailed presentation that emphasises the nuances in acoustic jazz and classical recordings may find better options by spending a bit more.
Bass here is tight, punchy and well-detailed, the level of resolution much better than what you’ll hear with cheaper cans – since I listen to a lot of rock music and am familiar with the styles and sounds of various rock bassists, I better appreciated how the On1 performed in this area, without muddying the higher frequencies.
The On1 also created a fairly spacious stage, despite being a closed-back design… there’s a hint of airiness that allows the music to breathe easier, which is a welcome trait since I was playing a lot of rock music.
I liked the relative lack of pressure on the ears during longer hours of listening… I hardly felt the headphones were there, and for this, the designers have to be commended.
APPLAUSE: The comfort factor is high, the sound is tight and rocking, and also well-balanced. These are the sort of cans you would take anywhere, without worrying about physical fatigue setting in from hours of use.,
BUT…: Some may find the sound to be a bit “light”, and perhaps less gripping than other cans that cost slightly more. Oppo’s PM-3 is a blazingly good supra-aural design, but it costs about 50% more than the On1.
FINALE: I doubt there are headphones that work well for everyone and all situations, and the Thinksound On1 doesn’t try to be any such mythical creature. Regular mobile users and health hounds who want music piped into their ears without the use of intrusive buds will certainly appreciate what the On1 can do, and at its price.
Toshiba laptop running foobar2000, iPod Classic (final generation), Marantz CD6005 CD player; Chord Hugo DAC/headamp; Final Audio Pandora Hope VI and AKG K271 Studio headphones