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Thinksound Thunder & Rain IEM Reviews – The Eco-Friendly IEM (or More Wood) - NOTE: Thunder will...

post #1 of 168
Thread Starter 
Do you drive a Prius? Are there solar panels on your roof? Do you know your carbon footprint? If you are conscious about the environment, thinksound is a new, eco-friendly headphone manufacturer. Their current lineup consists of 2 IEMs, the Thunder and the Rain, which were released in December 2009 after over 2 years of development. The Thunder is an “enhanced bass” IEM and the Rain has a flat frequency response. This is just the start of the thinksound lineup of headphones, with higher end models to be released in the upcoming months.

Thinksound’s green initiative led them to design headphones with the following features to reduce its overall environmental impact:
* Wood is from renewable sources
* Packaging is made from recycled materials
* Bleach-free packaging materials
* Smaller packaging size = less materials used
* Elimination of plastic bubble insert
* Cotton carrying pouch is sewn from renewable sources
* PVC-free cables

Thinksound wanted to make sure they could produce not only a great sounding IEM, but one that would sound consistent across the production run and have long term durability while using the most eco-friendly materials possible.

Both the Thunder and the Rain come in two different color choices, black chocolate and silver cherry. I chose black chocolate as I have other IEMs that have similar style to the silver cherry. While I was initially questioning if I would like the look of the black chocolate, I think they look great in person. You can see the whole lineup at thinksound's product page.

Due to my preference for “enhanced bass” IEMs, I am going to review the Thunder (Rain review in post 2 of this thread).
Thunder Specs:
Driver size: 10mm
Enclosure: Wood with a rear vent hole and aluminum nozzle
Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20KHz
Impedance: 16 Ohm
Cord Style: Y-cord, 4 feet
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated straight style, iPhone ready

Included accessories:
* 4 sizes of silicon tips, (s/m/l/xl), however I would call them (xs/s/m/l) when compared the standard tips I own.
* Shirt/cord clip
* Cotton carrying pouch, unbleached!





Warranty is 6 months. Per Aaron Fournier, the founder of thinksound, this is due to many reasons from warranty abuse to dynamics of being a start-up. Per Aaron all the customer needs to do if their headphones break after 6 months is email hello@thinksound.com and he will review what the issue is and work with that customer to help them replace it if it really is a defect. He seems like a good guy that will stand behind his products.

OK, so they are eco-friendly, but how do they sound? Very good out of the box. But as is tradition for me, I burn my dynamic driver IEMs in for a good amount of time. And after 24 hours of burn in, the soundstage has opened up and they are sounding even better. Smooth and detailed, with very good natural sound (of course with the enhanced bass). Is this IEM worth your money…stay tuned!


Now with the Thunder is burned in enough for my liking, it is sounding very sweet. So, here it goes:

(Rating system: 1 star = poor; 2.5 stars = average; 5 stars = exceptional)

Physical Properties:
Packaging: ★★★★☆ – big thumbs up for using recycled materials.
Accessories: ★★☆ – 4 sizes of silicon tips, (s/m/l/xl), however I would call them (xs/s/m/l) when compared the standard tips I own; Shirt/cord clip; Cotton carrying pouch, unbleached!
Build Quality: ★★★☆ – build quality seems to be above average, and better or at worst, equal to other wooden IEMs I have seen.
Isolation: ★★☆ – isolation is about average
Cable: ★★★★ – Not too thin, not too thick, doesn’t tangle easily (compared to many in this price range), this cable is one of the best I have seen on an IEM in this price range. And being a little longer than standard is nice also, IMO.
Microphonics: ★★★★ – slight microphonics when walking, none when sitting at a desk. There is a clip that is included to prevent microphonics while moving around. I wear them over my ear, and there are no microphonics.
Comfort: ★★★ – typical comfort due to shape and size, which is dependent on tips.
Tips: The nozzle size is slightly smaller than the WM2/IE8 and I had to use a space to try one of my favorite tips, the IE8 double mold tips. They seem to bring out additional detail, but there is an odd upper mid/treble spike that makes them sound off on some songs. For the listening tests used large UE silicon tips which work better for me than the stock tips.
Fit/positioning: Can be worn cables down or over the ears and the shape allows a multitude of positions in order to achieve a good fit. For me, cable over the ears is best!
Quick Sum: Average packaging, but eco-friendly, which to me is a huge plus. Similar or better build quality than most of the other wooden IEMs I have seen. Low microphonics, good isolation, easy to find a good position for ideal sound, which is typical at this price point.

Sound Quality (listening was done at my average listening levels, which would be approx 3.5/10 on the Fuze, and primarily with the AMP3 Pro2):
Treble: ★★★- The treble is very easy to listen to as it is smooth, non-fatiguing, and most importantly has a great balance with the rest of the frequency spectrum. Not as detailed or as extended as some other IEMs in this price range, but it does nothing wrong or offensive, as some others may have been.
Mid: ★★★★ – Great timbre and rhythm with a presentation that just sounds right to me. Technically not the best performer in detail or instrument separation, but good smoothness with believable instrument reproduction in a smooth, easy to listen to way make these mids very enjoyable. Very balanced between being forward and laid back with great integration between the treble and bass.
Bass: ★★★★- The bass is well controlled, powerful, yet not overpowering, and as stated above, blends in nicely with the rest of the spectrum. I have heard a lot more bass being pumped out from other “enhanced bass” IEMs, so this is not the bass king, but there is enough so I am not left wanting more. Technically not the fastest, deepest, or hardest hitting, but not far off from the best, especially in this price range.
Soundstage: Above average/wide – The Thunder gives good width and space, portraying a realistic stage. Above average when compared with many IEMs in the same price range. And a thing to note is the stage depth seems very even across the spectrum, as I have heard other IEMs that might have forward mids and laid back treble, for example.
ABF: Average – see below for pairing with my different sources (upcoming)
Overall SQ: [4 / 5]
Summary: The overall presentation and great balance (for a bassy IEM) of the Thunder is what makes this IEM very enjoyable. A/Bing the Thunder with many other IEMs has made me appreciate the presentation even more, as it does truly sound musical and very balanced, often making the other IEMs sound like something is either missing or excessive. While technically it isn’t a world beater, it is near the top of other similarly priced IEMs I have heard. One of the strengths of the Thunder is it’s ability to sound good to me no matter what genre I threw at it, from country to trance to classical to rock to jazz, it didn’t sound too hard, or harsh, or bad in any way. The Thunder put everything together quite well to make it one very listenable IEM no matter the genre.

Recommended for:
- Someone that likes more bass vs. a flat presentation but listens to many genres and doesn’t want an IEM that will be great at one, but lackluster at another.
- Someone that likes balance across the spectrum with a presentation that is not too laid back, not too forward with a good soundstage.
- Someone looking for a fun, smooth, non-fatiguing, and involving sound vs. an analytical sound.

Value SQ vs Price: 4.8/5 – hard to beat for the price and the mass appeal I feel these have.


Sources pairing with the Thunder (my personal ranking):
DAP (iPod or Fuze) -> LOD -> Mustang (1st): Just got my hands on the Mustang 1/15/10, and the first thing I noticed was the improved bass, in depth and control. This amp also adds a slight amount of clarity due to better 3D space vs the AMP3, and has smoother, more extended treble. Plus, the detail level is competitive with the TF10 with the Mustang! I really didn't think the AMP3 was bad, and it isn't, but wow, nice improvement with the Mustang. Of course, there is also a good price increase between the AMP3 and Mustang!
AMP3 w/250 ohm impedance adapter (as a DAP, or via line in) (2nd): Ample bass, natural sounding with good bass impact, tone, and timbre.
Fuze v1 HPO (t 3rd): Loses some of the space with the AMP3 (config in #1) via LOD and the treble isn’t as smooth and the mids lose some of their space and sweetness, but pretty close. Bass seems very similar.
iPod 5.5g HPO (t 3rd): Bass roll off similar to the AMP3 without the impedance adapter, maybe a little less, but the mids and treble are closer to the AMP3 than the Fuze.
AMP3, no adapter (5th): Looses a little of the smoothness and space, but minimal. The biggest difference is less bass depth and impact due to roll off. There is noticeable hiss in quiet passages, which allowed the Fuze and iPod HPO to slightly surpass the AMP3 HPO without an impedance adapter.
Prodigy 7.1 sound card Speaker out (AD 8397) (6th): Keeps the balance of the Thunder, adds a little space to the Fuze, but has similar mids and treble with slightly weaker bass.
Prodigy 7.1 sound card HP out (OPA627) (7th): The presentation becomes more laid back and spacious, but IMO somewhat throws off the great balance of the Thunder. Also pulls the treble back, making them seem a little weak.


Performance at quiet and loud volumes (tested with the Fuze HPO):
Low volume (1/8 volume): Still has a good bass kick at this volume, however, the great balance just sounds a little off compared to medium volume, as the mids seem to recess a bit.
Loud volume (3/5 volume): Performs well, retaining the balance. Treble becomes a little bit harsher but the bass remains controlled. The bass does seem to slightly affect the mids at this volume.

IEM Comparisons:
Mingo WM2 gold: First, let me say I love the presentation and sound signature of the WM2. I think it punches above it’s weight as far as detail goes as well, and has great space and a fairly wide presentation for the price point. So how does the Thunder compare, well, surprisingly well, but they are very different. The WM2 has more forward mids, yet as wide, if not a wider soundstage, more treble energy, and definitely more bass energy and depth. But the WM2 is just as controlled as the Thunder. A/Bing the two brings out the bass and treble emphasis of the WM2, while the Thunder seems much more balanced across the spectrum. Detail does go to the WM2, as the IE8 double mold tips do increase the detail. The WM2 is much more tip dependent, as different tips can change theWM2 sound drastically. I would say the WM2 is more exciting (and borrowing the word used by Woody469 to describe the WM2, “euphoric”) and the Thunder strikes a fantastic balance for bass heads. I think the Thunder will have more mass appeal, but both are extremely good in their own right, and both are keepers IMO.

HiFiMan RE252: Fun and balanced vs. accurate and detailed. A/Bing these two accentuates the warmth and bass of the Thunder and the treble of the 252. Technically, the 252 wins, but the Thunder sounds more enjoyable and will get more ear time. The 252 has a more laid back presentation, but both are balanced in their own way, the 252 for a true flat reproduction, and the Thunder in an "enhanced bass" sort of way.

UE Tripile.fi 10: One sounds thicker and more bottom heavy, the other more balanced…can you guess which is which? Yes, the TF10 does have a wider stage and yet a closer presentation, but they have very contrasting sounds. The TF10’s somewhat recessed mids and accentuate mid-bass make the TF10 sound like there is something missing when A/Bing the two. The TF10 does have more detail and extension at both extremes, but the sound signature is just so different. OK, just got a Mustang loaner and the TF10 and Thunder sound closer with this amp, but the Thunder still sounds more natural, and the TF10 treble sounds rougher. The Mustang bring the mids of the TF10 up more, but still slightly recessed compared to the Thunder.

Sennheiser IE8: Is this bringing a gun to a knife fight? First thing A/Bing the two is how wide the soundstage of the IE8 is compared to the Thunder. But, depending on the song/source, the mids sound fuller with a more real to life presentation from the Thunder. Leona Lewis – A Moment Like This sounds better to me on the IE8, but with Van Halen – Why Can’t This Be Love I prefer the Thunder. The overall presentation of the Thunder sounds lighter and more balances, but the IE8 not only has the better soundstage, but also better detail, transparency, and instrument separation. Of course, as it should considering the price differences. Both can be very enjoyable. But if you prefer a sound signature, what difference does the technical stuff make?

Meelectronics M6: Finally, a lower priced competitor. Very different sounding. While I do enjoy the M6 a surprising amount due to the sound signature and price range, they don’t really compare. The Thunder sounds much more realistic and accurate, with less bass and treble, and better balanced/filled mids. The Thunder wins by a large margin except in fun quotient and bass depth.

Final Remarks: Music and sound preference will determine if these are the right IEM for you, but I think the Thunder’s fantastic balance will do justice to your music, whatever the genre. So, yes, I am telling you these sound great, are eco-friendly, look beautiful, and are a great value! I highly recommend them!
post #2 of 168
Thread Starter 

thinksound Rain Review

Thinksound Rain IEM Review – The Other Eco-Friendly IEM (Even More Wood)

Just received the thinksound Rain, and wow, these do sound very good right out of the box! Oh, and the silver cherry does look fantastic (not that the Black Chocolate looks bad!). I am using a system enhancer/accelerated burn in CD to accelerate the burn in, so the review should be done sooner!





Properties:
Driver specs: 9mm dynamic driver; Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20KHz; 16 Ohms
Housing: wood housing with aluminum baffle and rear port
Packaging: ★★★★☆ – big thumbs up for using recycled materials.
Accessories: ★★☆ – 4 sizes of silicon tips, (s/m/l/xl), however I would call them (xs/s/m/l) when compared the standard tips I own; Shirt/cord clip; Cotton carrying pouch, unbleached!
Build Quality: ★★★☆ – build quality seems to be above average, and better or at worst, equal to other wooden IEMs I have seen.
Isolation: ★★★ – isolation is a little above average, as these IEMs are thin and can be inserted deeper than some of the larger IEMs
Cable: ★★★★ – Y-cord, 4ft; Gold plated straight style, iPhone ready plug; Cable is not too thin, not too thick, doesn’t tangle easily (compared to many in this price range), this cable is one of the best I have seen on an IEM in this price range. And being a little longer than standard is nice also, IMO.
Microphonics: ★★★★ – slight microphonics when walking, none when sitting at a desk. There is a clip that is included to prevent microphonics while moving around. I wear them over my ear, and there are no microphonics.
Fit/positioning/comfort/tips: ★★★★-Very comfortable and easy to position and insert due their small size. I am getting a great seal with double flange tips, as these IEMs can be inserted deeper than the bigger IEMs. It is easy to achieve a great seal wearing these with the cable over the ears or down. Overall a great fit in my ears and comfortable for extended periods of time.

Sound Quality (listening was done at my average listening levels, which would be approx 4/10 on the Fuze):
Treble: ★★★★ – Nice detail and a non-fatiguing, natural, smooth, easy to listen to presentation. The Ran has good treble extension and performs very well for this price point with no hints of sibilance.
Mid: ★★★★ – Great balance with the treble, making the mids/treble extremely enjoyable with an excellent presentation. The midrange is not to forward, and not too laid back, and very well filled out. The presentation is detailed, natural, smooth, cohesive, and believable.
Bass: ★★★- For not being a “bass” model, the bass is very present. Not too warm, but not lacking, the bass has a good kick and decent depth. The bass is fast and detailed with good attack and decay, but doesn’t have the reverb of some of the bassier IEMs. The bass sounds very balanced with the rest of the spectrum for many acoustic songs, but IMO seems a little lean in comparison to the mids for some bassier songs. Not that the bass is lacking in punch or quantity, but lacks the warmth I prefer in some songs.
Soundstage: Above average/wide – The Rain has slightly above average width and good space with a very realistic stage. Not the best in this price range, but more than acceptable, especially give the balance that this IEM displays.
ABF: See source matching below.
Overall SQ: [4 .2/ 5]
Summary: The Rain is another great IEM from thinksound, offering a very nice overall presentation that has good detail, with sweet mids and treble and more bass oomph that one would expect from a balanced sound. Very easy to listen to for hours on end. A/Bing the Rain with other IEMs accentuates the strong mids and treble with ample bass, even if it is not the warmest in the bass region. While these do work with every genre I threw at them, I didn’t think they handled the bassier genres quite as well as the Thunder. But the better treble makes up for that, and it is really a matter of preference between the two.

Recommended for:
- Someone that is looking for well balanced, cohesive presentation that listens primarily to acoustic (such as rock, pop, classic rock, jazz, etc) and occasionally listens to bassy music (such as trance, R&B, rap, etc).
- Someone that likes balance across the spectrum with a presentation that is not too forward and not too laid back and good, full mids.
- Someone looking for a fun, smooth, non-fatiguing, and involving sound vs. an analytical sound.

Value SQ vs Price: [4.6/5] (current street price: $59 shipped)


Sources pairing with the Rain (my personal ranking):
Mustang P-51 amp via DIY moddd iPod 5.5g (t 1st): The Mustang brings out the best in these, creating a very smooth presentation with extra detail. But the soundstage just isn’t as good as with the OPA627 powered sound card.
Prodigy 7.1 sound card HP out (OPA627) (t 1st): Something great is going on here, I guess it is synergy. This combo of the laid back, wide OPA627 matches well with the Rain and fills in the bass while extending the soundstage quite a bit. The treble is pulled back a little, which is the biggest negative of this matchup.
AMP3 w/250 ohm impedance adapter (as a DAP, or via line in) (3rd): Very nice sounding mids and treble with the AMP3 and good bass make for an enjoyable experience.
Fuze v1 HPO (t 4th): Not bad at all, and actually near the quality of the AMP3 with this combo. The bass is a little more visceral, but the treble just isn’t as sweet and smooth.
AMP3, no adapter (t 4th): Very close to the performance with the impedance adapter. The bass isn’t quite the same, but the rest of the spectrum works well with the AMP3.
Prodigy 7.1 sound card Speaker out (AD 8397) (5th): More laid back presentation than the rest of the sources transform the Rain to a whole different sound. Also, the bass impact isn’t as great as with some of the other sources, but the detail level seems to increase to close to Mustang levels.
iPod 5.5g HPO (6th): The treble sounds a little rough with this source, as well as some bass roll off moving this to the bottom of the list.


Performance at quiet and loud volumes (tested with the Fuze HPO):
Low volume (1/10 volume): At lower volumes the bass thump is greatly reduced, changing the sound signature to a more bass lite presentation. The rest of the presentation is very similar to moderate volumes
Loud volume (7/10 volume): The Rain maintains the sound it has at moderate levels, with the exception of the treble becoming slightly harsh.

IEM Quick Comparisons (Fuze -> film cap LOD -> Mustang):
thinksound Thunder: The Thunder has a slightly more laid back, wider presentation with more warmth and deep bass oomph. The treble of the Rain is more extended and smoother, and the detail levels of the Rain are higher than the Thunder, but both share similar qualities that include a nice, full midrange, cohesive presentation, and great tone and timbre.

Mingo WM2 silver: The WM2 has more emphasis on both ends of the spectrum, with deeper bass. The presentation of the WM2 is a little more laid back and wider. Detail levels are similar, with easier to pick out treble and bass details on the WM2 due to the emphasis. The Rain sounds more balance across the spectrum, with a more true to life presentation, while the WM2 seems like it was EQed!

Mingo WM2 gold: The Rain presents the music closer. I say closer because the mids of the Rain seem similar in actual width and space, but are placed closer to the listener. There is much more bass weight and warmth from the WM2 (more so than the silver also). The WM2 gold soundstage is fairly similar, with some ability to throw sounds fairly wide. The Rain has a very cohesive presentation across the frequency spectrum while the WM2 in comparison seems to have three separate parts of the spectrum put together, and they aren’t quite as cohesive. The WM2 treble is more accentuated and at the same time, smoother.

HiFiMan RE252: The RE252 has more micro-detail, better instrument separation, a slightly wider soundstage and a more laid back presentation. The Rain has fuller mids and more bass impact, which sounds to be more balanced across the spectrum to my ears.

UE Tripile.fi 10: First thing that jumps out at me is the treble difference, as the TF10 has more treble energy and a somewhat recessed mids in comparison, making the treble of the TF10 stick out like a sore thumb! And comparing the treble of the TF10 and Rain accentuates the Rains smooth treble. The TF10 does have more micro-detail, better instrument separation, and wider presentation, but can seem a little harsh at times. The TF10 is warmer with a little deeper bass, but the slam of the Rain isn’t far off from the TF10. Basically, the filled out mids of the Rain make for a more balanced presentation IMO.

Final Remarks: Considering the reduced carbon footprint of the Rain, it is really a very enjoyable IEM with great balance for the price, so a win for your ears and for the environment! I am amazed at the bass impact for a non-bass enhanced model, which won’t leave people wanting more while still producing great mids and treble. As with the Thunder, the Rain is highly recommended if you value treble over enhanced bass!
post #3 of 168
They're definetly sexy looking!
post #4 of 168
I like the packaging, very earthy indeed.
post #5 of 168
very good ideas for saving the world.
post #6 of 168
hahahaha that's awesome

i'm looking forward to comparisons
post #7 of 168
Quote:
Originally Posted by BLOX View Post
very good ideas for saving the world.
Wait a minute, I thought it was, [/I]"Save the cheerleader, save the world"![I]
post #8 of 168
Thread Starter 
Thinksound has a coupon code for head-fi member good for 15% off and free shipping now through January 16th. Just type in enthusiast at checkout to receive the 15% off.
post #9 of 168
I ordered a Rain and a Thunder, and some spare tips. I can verify coupon code works!

I seem to have tastes which go against the usual head-fi consensus (I'm apparently in the minority about the RE0, for example), but I'll try to note my impressions, for what they are worth.

average_joe, I poked around the Thinksound website but couldn't find where they are located, or where they manufacture / source their 'phones. If you can pass along any info, I'd appreciate it.

Go environment, go natural sounding woody phones!
post #10 of 168
definitely classy.
post #11 of 168
jdc65,

sorry about the location confusion. thinksound is located in Somersworth, NH. We are located about 1 hour from Boston, 15 minutes to the ocean, and just south of the White Mountains. I will have the address up in a few minutes on the contact page and probably on the front page too.

Best regards,
Aaron Fournier
president and ceo
thinksound
post #12 of 168
Thank you Aaron.

May I ask, what type of wood(s) are you using for your enclosures currently? Enquiring head-fi'ers may wish to know.
post #13 of 168
We are actually using lychee wood which is found all over Southeast Asia. I chose this because it is not endangered in any way, its fast growing, and grows near our manufacturing factory. Less travel = lower carbon footprint. I looked at and could have chosen many other woods but none of them had the 'green' aspects that I was looking for. I lived in China for many ears and found out one of my favorite fruits (lychee) was an option. Its a good sounding wood and it is durable enough for what we use it for. Every other type of wood had environmental issues and it made my decision pretty easy.

Thanks
Aaron
post #14 of 168
Getting to know Aaron on FB. He's a real informative and easy person to communicate with about his products. There is a buzz here. I think you will have success Aaron. Good luck and thanks for the communication. I love the concept.

EricP
post #15 of 168
Interesting. Look forward to your review.
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