Pros: Eco-friendly materials. Full bodied sound. Extremely comfortable. Top build quality.
Cons: Cable is a little stiff
This sample was sent to me for the purpose of an honest review. All opinions and observations here are my own based on my experience with the product. I have no affiliation with the company and do not benefit financially from this review. More of my reviews can be seen from the link in my Head-Fi profile or on my blog.
The ms02 has an MSRP of $119.99 but at the time of writing this review it can be purchased for $99.99 directly from the Thinksound website.
According to the Co-Founder and president of Thinksound Aaron Fournier the company was formed
"to make headphones that we would want to listen to; and we’re not easily satisfied."
Not only that but they also wanted to make their products using Eco-friendly materials which I think is an admirable attribute for any manufacturer and to top it off they offer discounts on future purchases if you send in your old headphones for their recycling initiative.
A little about meWarning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
The ms02 is delivered in a tiny little white box with a nice, clear image of the earphones adorning the front. Over on the back are some features of the ms02 and some information on the eco-friendly nature of the packaging along with the benefits of using wood as a material for their headphones and earphones. I believe this is a really sensible and responsible approach to packaging as once we remove our item from the box it usually ends up in the trash so there's really no need for big, flashy plastic laden delivery content. Inside along with the earphones you'll find:
- Warranty information sheet
- Thank you card
- Unbleached canvas carry pouch
- 4 additional pairs of silicone ear-tips.
- Shirt clip
Overall it's a neat little package that gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that you're not destroying the environment with your purchase. One thing that I thought would be nice is if the ear-tips came in an unbleached paper envelope or something similar instead of the plastic zip-lock bag as it would tie in better with the rest of the packaging theme.
BUILD, COMFORT AND ISOLATION
Wood and metal, it's a timeless combination. You have the aesthetics, natural feel, plus the acoustic properties of wood and you get the rigidity, strength and consistency of metal, in this case polished aluminium. That's what you get with the ms02, Thinksound's monitor series IEM. Starting at the front end is the rather large aluminium nozzle with protective mesh cover. The aluminium section continues about a third of the way down the housing where it seamlessly joins the wooden rear section. On the underside you'll find L and R markings for Left and Right. So many manufacturers neglect this small detail and it can be really frustrating so thank you Thinksound for paying attention to detail. The surfaces are smooth and polished and look as good as they feel. On the rear of the housing is the Thinksound logo in white.
The black PVC-free, Kevlar reinforced cable exits the housing within a really nice strain relief that provides plenty of flexibility and should reduce the likeliness of damaging the connection within. Farther down the line is the Y-split which also has good strain relief and is made from the same polished aluminium we saw on the housing and is adorned with Thinksound's branding. The cable under the Y-split is fairly thick for an IEM. It's a smooth rubber tubing that feels good in the hand and doesn't have any stickiness to it. It sits fairly well but never completely straight which is a shame and is most likely a result of the cable's thickness but on a positive note it is well resistant to tangling. The cable terminates in a gold-plated, 45 degree angled plug which again has very good strain relief and excellent build quality.
When it comes to comfort the ms02 nails it. The IEMs have a safe barrel shape and as mentioned above the surfaces are polished and smooth. Added to the housing's 10g ultra-lightweight design the result is something that I can wear all day long without discomfort. The largest of the included tips have a wide bore and are the perfect size for me so overall I find the comfort exceptional. Sound isolation is slightly above average for a dynamic driver IEM, in part because there's no bass port or ventilation on the housing. Fortunately for me there was no driver flex as a result. I find the ms02 ideal for any situation, including commuting or a noisy environment.
Sources used for testing
- Mrobo C5 V2.0
- Acoustic Research M20
- PC/MusicBee > Audinst HUD-MX2 > Phatlab Sassy II
What I've been listening to lately
- Solar Fields - Blue Moon Station
- The Gloaming - The Gloaming
- Radiohead - Hail to the Thief
- Trevor Morris - Vikings OST
- Roque Banos - In the Heart of the Sea (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
- Thundercat - Drunk
Like most IEMs the ms02 tends to sound a little more fleshed out when powered by a solid DAC or headphone amplifier, however it still sounds great straight out of a smartphone or DAP.
Although the ms02 is part of Thinksound's monitor series it doesn't really have a reference sound. It is a fairly balanced presentation but very musical and more tuned towards fun with added warmth and a well extended but non-aggressive treble.
Bass is full bodied with an emphasis on mid-bass but it's well controlled and has some nice texture to it though some bass notes have a bit of a soft edge on them. Sub-bass can dig fairly deep but rolls off a little early. For the most part though it will satisfy during bass drops or when called upon and responds well to extra amplification without distorting.
The ms02's midrange comes with plenty of body and warmth but manages to do so without getting muddy or congested. They're balanced fairly well with the bass and treble so not really recessed but not overly forward either. Vocals are rich and natural on the ms02. In Thundercat's "Drink Dat (feat. Wiz Khalifa)" the vocals manage to stay forward of the thick kick drums and bass guitar.
When it comes to treble the ms02 does a fine balancing act between extension and smoothness. Overall the sound is warm and full-bodied and after listening to the ms02 almost exclusively for a couple of weeks I was thinking of them as a bit toward dark. This is just the impression given by the fullness of the midrange and weighted bass though. When comparing directly with the SHOZY Zero I was quite surprised just how much more treble the ms02 has. This makes it a great IEM for showcasing the genius of Gavin Harrison's hi-hats and cymbals in "The Final Thing on My Mind" from Your Wilderness by The Pineapple Thief. They manage to produce far reaching treble without any hint of stridency or harshness.
ms02 vs SHOZY Zero ($60 USD):
Hmm battle of the woodies right here. If anyone remembers the time of the Zero launch they were lauded as being comparable to earphones many times more the price so this should be a fair comparison. When it comes to build there are quite a few similarities between these two. For a start they both sport a metal front end and wooden rear on the housing. Both have a very similar capsule shape to them but the Zero is shorter and wider than the ms02. The supplied ear-tips are practically identical and with their similar shapes I find them both to be equally comfortable.
The biggest differences between these is evident in the sound they produce. The most noticeable variance is in the treble and it's immediately apparent that the ms02 has much more forward treble and better treble extension. With regards to bass these are almost playing the same drum but the Zero has ever so slightly more sub-bass extension. In the midrange the ms02 has more body and warmth and a fuller sound overall and the Zero is closer to neutral.
Now how to pick a winner here? Some may find the treble too dulled down on the Zero but then it probably does have slightly better resolution and separation in the midrange due to being less full-bodied but if you're more into vocals the ms02 probably gets the edge here. I think it's going to come down to personal preference on the sound level and as far as build goes there's not much difference between these competitors though I will say I prefer the cable on the ms02.
ms02 vs Accutone Gemini HD ($119 USD):
So here we have two single dynamic driven earphones at near the same price point but both have a very different approach. The Gemini HD is an all metal IEM and also comes with 3 sets of interchangeable filters that allows the user to customize the sound to suit their tastes. For comfort I'd say the Thinksound comes out ahead with its smooth curves and light weight while Accutone's offering has straight back edges that can cause hot-spots after a fairly short amount of time. Moving on to the sound. Just like the Zero, the Gemini HD has a very restrained treble giving an overall thick and dark sound. The midrange on the Accutone sounds a little muddied in comparison while the Thinksound has an airiness and more clarity throughout. Both these earphones have a similarly boosted bass level. For my preferences this is a relatively simple choice and I would go with the ms02 for its sound and comfort. If however you are treble sensitive and prefer a darker sounding IEM the Gemini HD is a decent offering and has outstanding build quality.
From left to right: Thinksound ms02, Accutone Gemini HD, SHOZY Zero
Thinksound's ms02 is a great earphone. The build is solid, the earphones very comfortable and priced competitively. Being eco-friendly gains some extra points as well in my view. When it comes to sound the ms02 is no slouch. It offers a warm but balanced presentation with good extension on both ends and a rich, musical midrange. Although the sound is full and engaging its non-fatiguing and you should be able to enjoy your music for hours on end unless you're particularly treble sensitive. I personally have spent some days with these in my ears for over 4 or 5 hours straight and even then removed them only because life required me to do other things.
Bottom line is, if you're looking for the natural timbre of a (well tuned) single dynamic driver or just excellent sound in general the Thinksound ms02 fully deserves your attention in the sub $100 bracket. Do yourself and the environment a favor by getting these in your ears.