Warm Sound, Reclaimed Materials

A Review On: thinksound ms02 In-ear Monitor with Passive Noise Isolation (Gunmetal/chocolate)

thinksound ms02 In-ear Monitor with Passive Noise Isolation (Gunmetal/chocolate)

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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Isolation
Value
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Pros: Great bass, warm sound signature, eco-friendly, solid build

Cons: cable kinks easily, few extra eartips

 

-Introduction-

Thinksound is a rather unique headphone company. While many companies will focus on flashy boxes, bright adverts, and shiny materials, Thinksound takes a much more subtle route to differentiating it’s products. After all, how hard is it to find wooden earphones? Sure, not hard, but how hard is it to find earphones built exclusively from reclaimed wood and aluminum, PVC free plastic, and that have a carrying pouch made from entirely reclaimed cotton? Pretty hard. But that’s exactly what the MS02 is. However, 
Aaron Fournier, the CEO of Thinksound would never ask you to buy something that didn’t sound great, and the MS02 delivers.

You can find the MS02 on Thinksound’s official website here for $100.

Disclaimer: This review is based upon a sample unit provided to me by a manufacturer or distributor in exchange for my honest opinion and un-edited words. I do not profit in any way from the writing of the review. I would like to thank Aaron at Thinksound for sending me this review unit.

Preference and Bias: Before reading a review, it is worth mentioning that there is no way for a reviewer to objectively pass judgment on the enjoy-ability of a product: such a thing is inherently subjective. Therefore, I find it necessary for you to read and understand what I take a natural liking to and how that might affect my rating of a product.

My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, bass. The mids should be slightly less pronounced than the treble, but still ahead of the bass. I prefer a more bright upper range.

Source: The MS02 was powered like so:

PC optical out-> HifiMe SPDIF 9018 DAC 3.5mm out-> earphones

or

AP100 3.5mm out -> earphones

All music was served as MP3 @320Kbps or as FLAC.

-Sound Signature-

Initial Impressions:

Warm. After all, that’s Thinksound’s house sound. You won’t find a single IEM designed by Aaron that’s not full and euphoric, owing partly to the rich wood that he builds his IEMs from. The mid and sub-bass are synergistic in a special way, elating both drums and bass guitars. The vocals and mids are slightly behind the bass, but are fairly in line with the treble giving the MS02 a fairly laid back sound signature, though not lacking in detail.

Treble: Songs used: White FlagMidnight CityOutlands

Despite having to cut through thick bass, the treble of White Flag manages to push through the mix fairly well. While not emphasized, it is still easy to make out the details in the background of the song, partially due to the good extension of the 8mm dynamic driver the MS02 uses.

While the layering and airiness of Outlands could have been better, I found the MS02 to be above average for a warm IEM. It is also worth noting that the sound stage sounds slightly more congested at lower volumes that at medium and high ones, though this could be due simply to the way our minds process volume.

Mids: Songs used: Flagpole SittaJacked UpI Am The HighwayGood Life

The mids of Flagpole Sitta were fairly well presented. The warmth doesn’t cloud up the mids, but adds body and weight to it, something I find many IEMs in this price bracket struggle to accomplish. The guitars resonate well, but are softer in the mix. Jacked Up’s piano was predictably soft, but replaced the hard edge with a decent amount of impact. The secondary piano sounded great though, as the upper-mids seem to be rather unaffected by the extra body the lower-mids have. The vocals of both I Am The Highway and Jacked Up were in control of the song, but never got pushed too far in front of the rest of the instrumentation.

Bass: Songs used: LightsGold Dust99 Problems (Hugo Cover)Leave Me

The MS02 performs well in most categories, but is especially proficient in the art of the bass drop. Gold Dust was visceral, deep, and impactful, especially when played out of my AP100. Leave Me performed just as well. The MS02's excellent sub bass and lower-mid bass really push the song beyond what other more “reference” IEMs are capable of.

However, the MS02 can reign itself back in when needed, as with Lights and 99 Problems. The bass never overpowers the song. You won’t forget that the bass is there, but at the same time, you won’t really want it to be gone either. This being said, despite the MS02 being Thinksound’s most reference IEM, it is definitely not for listeners looking for a true reference sound signature. If you didn’t get that from my review thus far, well, now you know.

Clarity: Songs used: ThroneMap of The ProblimatiqueI’m Not Alright

I’ll admit that I didn’t expect the MS02 to do too well on Throne. After all, the Rain2 didn’t do so well, so why should this IEM? I am happy to say that I was wrong. Due to the MS02's emphasis on some of the frequencies that are less busy, the song sounds more full and avoids distortion and doesn’t become blown out. This bodes well for people who listen to very busy songs from genres such as punk and metal.

I’m Not Alright performed decently well, but failed to resolve some of the background detail’s I’d become accustomed to hearing with the RHA T20. However, this is to be expected given the great price disparity between the two IEMs and their respective tunings. For example, the background violins of the chorus didn’t cut through too well.

Sound Stage

Since soundstage is largely predicated on the treble an IEM produces, the MS02 struggles to maintain an open and airy soundstage, instead creating a cozy and intimate box for your favorite artists to play in. This makes the MS02, in my humble opinion, a good on-the-go IEM, but harps on the flow and symphonic feeling of classical music and other “huge” genres.

-Packaging / Unboxing-

Inside the packaging you will find the MS02 inside its cloth carrying pouch along with the extra sets of eartips and shirt clip.

 

-Build-

Construction Quality

The MS02 is graced with the usual Thinksound construction, meaning you can expect an understated and refined look from the reclaimed wood and polished aluminum that Aaron uses almost exclusively to build his IEMs. The actual nozzle is quite large, but doesn’t feel fragile at all. Given Thinksound goes out of its way to create as small an eco-footprint as possible, I really have to give them props for making such a well-rounded product.

The cable is, as with the Rain2 I reviewed before, my one complaint. I understand the challenge that PVC-free plastic poses to cable engineering, but I think that it’s possible to make a cable that is less prone to remembering its bends. The cable terminates in a 45 degree 3.5mm jack with a new stress relief design. It’s more compact and easier on the eye than the ones on the last generation of Thinksound IEMs.

 

 

Comfort

Despite my oddly shaped ear canals, I found the MS02 to be quite easy to seal and fit. The light wooden housings don’t pull down on the seal at all, making it quite easy to forget you are actually wearing the earphones at all.

Accessories

The MS02 comes stocked with minimal accessories, which is forgivable when taking into account the rest of the package. Included in the box you will find:

  • 4 sets of silicone eartips
  • Cloth carrying pouch
  • Shirt clip
  • MS02

The cloth carrying pouch is surprisingly sturdy, and feels far better than it looks, all things considered. After all, it is made from reclaimed cotton!

-Summary-

The MS02 is perfect for the eco-friendly audiophile looking for a warm IEM and understated design. With a relaxed tuning, solid construction, and reasonable comfort, I can recommend the MS02 with few reservations. However, listeners who prefer accuracy and reference sound should stay away. The hearty sound signature of the MS02 is probably not for you.

 

1 Comment:

Very nice review. I have owned ms01 for a while and really enjoy its sound.based on your descriptions I think the ms02 would have very similar sound signature to ms01. It seems to me that the cable pf ms02 is one of the main improvements over ms01.