Pros: Environmentally conscious, looks great, durability feels reassuring, easy to insert, punchy clean bass, musicality is great, clean sound throughout.
Cons: Cymbals are hidden when contending with mids and bass, oddly though the highs and upper mids also have a tendency to be a bit peaky leaning a tad bright before falling off, soundstage is a bit narrow.
Preferred Music: Rock music, top-40 pop, club music, jazz
Thinksound is a company that cares, not only just about sound, but also about the environment. Their website talks about responsible manufacturing and the packaging mirrors this through the minimal packaging using recycled materials and dye, rather just enough ink to display the information they need to about their headphones in an eye catching manner. The box is a typical cardboard rectangle using earth tones as their color scheme with a large window displaying the wooden IEMs. The back of the box highlights some information on the ms-01 while also noting again that they do their best to be as eco-friendly as possible, which certainly is something to be admired.
The box opens from the top and the housing the IEMs sit in is nothing more than a bunch of cardboard glued together and shaped to hold the IEMs. Included is a carrying pouch that is made of a rough cotton that reminds me of burlap or hemp, 4 pairs of mushroom tips, and ear guides.
Build Quality and Design
Sticking with the environmentally friendly philosophy thinksound chose to use wood for as much of the housing as the design would allow. This not only gives a modern and classy look to the IEMs but also makes them easier to break down since some of the materials are natural. The housings look beautiful with a very small port on the back almost hidden by the thinksound logo with flattened sides for easy grip. The wood meets a gunmetal colored metal that makes up the front portion of the IEM. The nozzle is wide and a non-removable metal mesh filter protects the driver. The ear indicator is located on the bottom of the IEM near the stress relief. The stress relief is made of soft rubber and leads to a thin rubber cable that conjoins to a thicker one after the y-split. The cable terminates into a straight plug and feels a bit bulky compared to other IEMs in the price range I’ve used.
The ms-01 not only look great, but they feel durable as well. I’ve had no concerns with durability while carrying these in my coat pocket, leaving them in my car overnight in the cold, or running with them. These are built as well as they look, which is saying something.
The ms-01 comes with 4 pairs of mushroom tips, which should allow most users to get a good fit. Since they are rather wide nozzled they may not work with many other tips you have at home, I say this because the included tips are a tad itchy and wearing them for 2 hours was about my limit before needing to take them off for a while. This is something to consider. The fit with the provided tips is semi-deep insertion with decent comfort and since they aren’t deep insertion I found them rather easy to insert without worrying about positioning. The comfort is average at best, as I said earlier they start to itch after a little, sometimes in a tickling way and sometimes causing a slight annoyance of a light burning sensation. Isolation is average, it’s what I expect of any IEM at the very least and microphonics are very minimal when worn over ear, which is my preferred way of wearing these.
I let the ms-01 burn in for 50 hours and put around 75 more hours of use through my iPod of through my home set-up. The review perspective will be written from the perspective of my home set-up. Through an iPod, unamped, the bass lacks some punch and feels a bit bloated on occasion compared to through my O2. I enjoy the ms-01 through my iPod but I feel it deserves an amp.
For those who want the quick low-down on the sound here you go. The ms-01 have punchy, clean and well-extended bass, though it can be somewhat too forward at times in the mid-bass and lacks the weight for rumbling in the lows. The mids are clean, full, and warm, but slightly recessed often putting them on the same level as the mid-bass. The highs have some grain, but overall good presence, reminiscent of the Brainwavz HM5. Detail is above-average for the price and while these are somewhat revealing they don’t make me completely cringe at bad recordings. Soundstage is the weak point here, a tad congested and lacking depth.
The first thing I listened to through the ms-01 was Carly Rae Jepsen’s pop hit Call Me Maybe. Now many of you may instantly scoff at this, but I actually quite like this song because it’s a great example of modern pop production with an thumping kick drum with a good amount of texture to it. It’s not the pinnacle of modern mastering, but it’s a fun track to listen to. The thing that impressed me immediately was how the ms-01 brought the song to life through the energy the kick drum. That was the recurring theme I noticed with the ms-01, the amount of energy carried through the mid-bass. The mid-bass is punchy, clean, and has a good tone to it sounding near realistic. These qualities allow the ms-01 to carry energy from the studio right into your ears, to put it simply, I’ve greatly enjoyed listening to the drums in many indie rock songs because of how good they sound. Despite the excellent qualities of the mid-bass I feel that at times it causes the mids to compete with space, the drums have a tendency of being a bit too forward, but I have never felt they have overshadowed the mids.
The sub-bass is no slouch either, my favorite sub-bass test song is James Blake’s Limit to your Love which has a very fast quavering sub-bass line as well as a strong sub-bass rumble at the end of the song meant to shake windows with a sub-woofer. The ms-01 handles the speed of the sub-bass rather well, though I wish there were a little more weight to it, the same holds true with the deeper rumbles later in the song. I can hear every note, clearly, with good presence, but it’s lacking some weight to it. I know I’m not going to get a sub-woofer type presence, but I feel this is leaving me wanting just a bit more weight to it. I’m being picky though, the ms-01 handle bass excellent with good clarity, speed, and presence throughout.
The mids are a mixed bag, on the whole they are clean with a full sound that leans slightly warm. On their own the mids are fantastic, I’m listening to Vince Guaraldi Trio’s Django right now where the primary focus of the song is the acoustic piano and acoustic guitar. Both sound splendid, clean and detailed, every position change the guitarist makes is heard through the scraping of the calloused fingers on the thick metal acoustic strings, and the piano sounds as if I’m in the room with it. Unfortunately the mids truly shine when by themselves. The mids have a slight recession until the upper-mids, which seem a touch bright, which puts the wailing vocals of Cedric Bixlar of The Mars Volta and his afro’d comrade Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s shredding guitar solos seem a touch laid-back. The recession isn’t too much to complain about, but in The Widow by The Mars Volta I’m used to the guitars and vocals over the solo being more forward and more energetic, then again I’m also coming from the Audio Technica Ad2000.
I’m really nitpicking though, the mids are clean and full and on the whole, they are balanced nicely with the overall sound of the ms-01. My only suggestion is to bring the mids up just a touch, give them a little more edge.
The highs are done very nicely here, I think that overall they have a good amount of detail throughout, only a slight grain, and no added sibilance. The highs are great here for the price, they have good presence giving hi-hats and cymbals enough presence while never getting fatiguing, the problem though is that I feel that the highs drop off a little too early. The highs actually remind me a lot of the highs in the Brainwavz HM5/NVX XPT100 for those who want a point of reference. The highs are represented well in comparison to the rest of the spectrum and they rarely leave me wanting more.
The soundstage is nothing out of the ordinary for an IEM in this price range, it’s certainly the weakest aspect of the sound if I were to pick one thing I’d like changed the most. The sound is presented in a rather narrow manner with little depth, this can cause some congestion during more textured parts of songs. The instrument separation is average at best which sometimes can be the savior of a narrow soundstage, but at times things can feel blurred together.
The ms-01 as a complete package are a solid buy. I love that they are conscientious of the environment which is seen in the packaging and material choices in the IEM. The sound is fun and punchy with good overall balance that brings music to life without being picky about positioning in the ear, which makes them great “put in the ear and go” IEMs. I can’t think of one genre I really disliked on these, these make great all-rounder IEMs and are one of my favorite IEMs at the $100 price range. I recommend these to those looking for a clean energetic sound that suits many genres, or even those looking to be environmentally friendly. The ms-01 can be found around $100 on Amazon, which I consider a good bargain and worth buying.
Come see more pictures here.