Before I begin, I’d like to thank the folks at Thinksound for sending me a pair of the TS02+Mic IEMs for review.
Thinksound is a company with a mission; to produce great sounding and environmentally conscious products. This started with the Thinksound Rain and Thunder (now named TS01) IEMs, which offered great bang for the buck performance in a world in which wooden IEMs weren’t exactly common. Now, Thinksound has released a new product in the TS02+Mic, which aims to combine the best strengths of the Rain and Thunder in the form of the deep soundstage and well separated presentation and the Thunder’s thunderous (pun totally unintended) bass while also adding increased functionality to users of most modern cellphones such as the iPhone and various Android devices.
Read on for my full review of the Thinksound TS02+Mic IEMs.
Packaging and Accessories
This is a section of the review that I usually gloss over but in this case, I’ll make an exception because the packaging here is so different than what I’m accustomed to. First off, the IEMs arrived in a nice brown box, made entirely of recycled material. One thing that Thinksound does differently from a number of manufacturers is packaging the IEMs in a nice cardboard insert, a stark and welcome contrast to the plastic inserts used by most other manufacturers. Clearly, when Thinksound says they’re committed to protecting the environment, they mean it.
In terms of accessories, the TS02s come with four pairs of silicone single flange eartips (XS, S, M and L), a shirt clip and an unbleached drawstring pouch; all in all, on par with other sets in this price range, if slightly lacking in comparison to headsets from MEElectronics.
Design and Build Quality
The TS02+Mic IEMs, like their predecessors, the Chocolate (TS01) and Rain, feature housings made of wood and aluminum. The TS02 is similar to the Rain in design, featuring long, thin housings which feature aluminum nozzles. The housings themselves are ported and feature stylistic indentations on the sides. The cable is a bit thicker than average, rubbery feeling to the touch, flexible and properly relieved at both ends, which leads me to believe that these could stand up to a decent amount of abuse. One minor quibble I have with the TS02s is that I experienced a fair amount of driver flex when inserting these into my ears. Microphonic noise is about average when worn cable down and lessened when worn over the ear, although the latter wearing style may not be suitable for using them as a headset due to the higher microphone position.
The result of Thinksound’s eco-friendly design is a pair of IEMs that is both aesthetically sound and seemingly practical enough to stand the test of time.
Comfort and Isolation
The conventional, straight barrel design of the TS02s lends itself well to either shallow or deep insertion and I was able to get a comfortable and secure fit with the medium sized eartips, which is a bit odd, considering I usually favor smaller eartips. The reason I chose to go with the medium tips instead of the small tips I usually use is the fact that these seem to be more sensitive to the quality of the seal than most of the other IEMs in my collection. If tight seal is not achieved, these sound rather distant and bass-deficient. Once a good seal is achieved, the IEMs are very comfortable. These are ported at the rear so these don’t isolate as well as many other IEMs but this was not a problem to me in my usage.
Of course, comfort is a wildly subjective thing and thus, your mileage may vary. However, given that Thinksound has included both small and extra small tips, as seen below, I doubt that anyone will have much of a problem with these in terms of fit.
As you can see, the extra small tips are just that. Personally, I’ve never come across a pair of eartips that were this small before so I was a bit surprised and felt compelled to take a couple of comparison images for the sake of showing off just how small these are in comparison to a typical small single flange tip.
Burn-in: These IEMs have been given upwards of 50 hours of burn-in prior to review.
The low end produced by the Thinksound TS02s is very voluminous and impactful. In comparison to some of the most bass-heavy IEMs in my collection such as the MEElectronics M11P+, the TS02s aren’t quite as punchy or as deep, which may be a benefit to fans of more balanced and neutral sound signatures. Extension is definitely impressive, however, as bass rumble was easily discernable around 20Hz and extended with decent linearity into the midrange. Both attack and decay are a bit on the slow side so more bass driven tracks can get a little congested at times but in general, bass is fairly well controlled and tight enough not to creep up to heavily into the midrange. As a fan of Hip-Hop/Rap, Rock and Electronic music, the deep, powerful bass produced by the TS02s is very engaging and fun to listen to.
The midrange is relatively linear, if slightly forward, in their presentation and makes for a very engaging listen. Vocals are clear and carry appropriate timbre and tonal balance throughout the range. The TS02s aren’t as detailed or transparent as my RE0s but they are definitely very capable of articulating finer details of music. In particular, stringed instruments are very natural sounding and the acoustic guitars that factors so heavily into Flamenco and other forms of acoustic music were a treat to listen to. Treble was certainly laid back and relaxed in comparison to the bass and midrange and because of this, lends the earphones a bit of a dark sound signature. Extension is nice, if a bit less than linear at times, and there’s an audible dip in the lower treble region, which likely contributes to the relative lack of sibilance I noticed.
The soundstage produced by the TS02s is among the deepest I’ve ever heard out of an IEM. In terms of lateral width, the stage is a little above average but these do a great job of portraying depth while remaining cohesive and doing a surprisingly good job on keeping things intimate. Instrument separation is, as you’ve likely guessed, quite good with a nice accompanying sense of position within the virtual soundstage.
What struck me most about the Thinksound TS02s the more I listened to them is just how relaxed and easy to listen to these are. Throughout the frequency range, there are hardly any unpleasant spikes to speak of. Even while listening to Eminem’s Recovery album, an album that I can only listen to after bumping down the upper mids and lower treble a few dB with many other headphones due to my sensitivity to sibilance but with the TS02s, I don’t have to do that. They are exceptionally smooth in the mids and treble. While this warm, relaxed and laid back presentation will likely turn off fans of brighter sounding headphones, these make for a very easy-going and non-fatiguing pair of IEMs.
It’s also worth noting that these IEMs tend to his slightly audibly with my sources, including my normally dead silent laptop headphone out and my iPod Touch.
I have tested this with both my second generation iPod Touch as well as my LG Env Touch cell phone and the microphone quality is about in line with other products I’ve used. My voice came through clear and undistorted during regular phone calls on the Env Touch and Skype calls on my iPod Touch.
Thinksound has produced a very nice set of IEMs in the TS02+Mic. The sound quality alone is something special but Thinksound’s commitment to producing not only great sounding but environmentally friendly products is unmatched in the industry. For the retail price of $99.99, you’re getting a great pair of earphones in the TS02+Mic IEMs that can compete with other sets that retail for similar or even higher prices. Everything I threw at these, from Hip-Hop to Jazz and Rock to Classical sounded great. Punchy bass, smooth and slightly prominent mids and delicate, if a tad laid back, highs make for a warm and natural sound signature that is a very pleasant and relaxing listening experience. For users looking for a headset for their iPhone, Blackberry, Android or other phone that functions well as a headset and even better as a way to listen to music, these IEMs come highly recommended.