I read a lot of reviews on here, as well as other places, where people talk about spending uninterrupted hours on end listening to music through their headphones. I can only say that I have never been a marathon listener. I listen in small, bite-sized chunks usually less than an hour at a time before taking a significant break. To be honest I just don't like having them on my head for that long. I also tend to experience listening fatigue a bit quicker than most. the point of all of this, and perhaps the greatest thing that I can say about both this headphone's comfort and especially its performance is that I do not like taking them off of my head. I listen to headphone's everyday on the way to work and today for the first time ever I experienced some major misgivings at having to put these headphones away and get on with the work at hand. As we sometimes forget the true measure of a headphone's utility is how much you enjoy listening and how much you enjoy having them on your head, and I will tell you straight away I don't like taking these off of my head one bit. I'll try to get to the reasons why, but first here's the obligatories...
As per usual, and in keeping with Thinksound’s green ethos, the headphone’s packaging is quite minimal. The headphone come’s packaged in a simple, slide out, recycled cardboard box. Inside the box aside from the headphones and accessories there is a form-fitted cardboard insert to protect the headphones.
Included with the on1 is a very nice looking cotton pouch much like a larger version of the cotton pouches included with all of Thinksound’s IEMs, and as was generally the case with the pouch included with the Thinksound IEMs, it’s a very nice touch, a further extension of the company’s dedication to recyclable/sustainable materials, however its functional capacity in protecting one’s headphones is questionable. I’m definitely keeping the pouch and finding a good use for it, if not simply to display, but I think I’m going to use the sturdier pouch which came with my Hifiman HE400 to tote the headphones around in. Also included with the on1 are two 4.5 ft. long, kevlar reinforced, fabric-wrapped headphone cables-- one with a single button mic/music control, and one without. both cables are terminated to a straight 3.5 mm stereo plug. The cable connects to the headphone via 3.5 mm termination into the right cup, as opposed to the left, which tends to be the default in most cases. It’s a fairly secure connection, but the cable can be yanked from the cup with enough force; so far it hasn’t presented itself a s a problem. Lastly, unlike the PVC free cables of Thinksounds IEMs, which Thinksound claimed to be tangle resistant, but were in fact prone to tangling, these cables actually are tangle resistant and appear to be very sturdy. they also look quite sharp.
Because the on1 is very small and light, one might draw the conclusion that it is not a sturdy, resilient headphone. The truth is the on1 is very sturdy. The metal headband is bendable beyond the point of laying fat and keeps its shape well. The wooden earcups feel solid in the hands, and the only plastic to be found on the headphone are where the headband meets the adjustable sliders/yoke of the earcups. All in all the lightness and size of this headphone belies its build quality.
As stated in the previous paragraph, the on1 is a very light headphone, with the mild pressure of the memory foam earpads being the only thing which reminds me that the headphone is on my head most of the time. The clamping force is minimal at best, but because of this, and perhaps other factors don’t expect the on1 to be the perfect headphone to grab for a flight, as it only provides a moderate amount of isolation at loud listening levels. Sound does leak slightly.
For the first few hours of critical listening the on1 was a bit of an anomaly for me, as I couldn’t quite get a grip on it’s sound signature. I was soon able to conclude that the reason for this is that the on1 is very transparent of source, amplification, and especially recording quality. The on1 is transparent in the sense that it allows the music to present itself without adding anything of itself to the sound. If that’s your definition of neutral, then the on1 is neutral, yet somehow extremely engaging. Tonally speaking however, At it’s intrinsic core, the on1 is close to being neutral, but not quite there. Starting with the tso2, Thinksound has marketed their products as being studio monitors. I'm still not quite certain that I would use the on1 to mix or master with, but like the ts02 and the ms01 that fact hasn't intervened in my appreciation of this headphone's performance.
The bass is tuneful and articulate while still managing to play in its own yard, so to speak. By now this has become a big part of the Thinksound’s house sound. I’ve heard the bass as being massive on tracks where the bass was conveyed as such. Conversely I’ve also heard the bass as being well-controlled, tight and articulate on more conservative tracks. The bass tends to reflect what it’s fed and that in itself makes it a very interesting headphone. Bass extension is very good, however impact is fairly moderate. The on1 is not going to rattle your brain with kick drum.
The lower mids to my ears are slightly recessed which seems to be one of the things that allows it to pull off a very full, articulate bass without appearing to encroach on the midrange. There is a slight mid-bass hump, but because of the mild lower mid recession, it integrates fairly well. At the same time, the upper mids seem to be a bit forward. The quality of the mids in general seem to strike a balance between being smooth and detailed. They’re accurate and resolving, but never to the point of coming across as being cold or analytical. An interesting side note, one ironic of the on1’s overall tonal signature is that it is almost a complete inversion of the Hifiman HE400’s infamous recessed upper mids and forward lower mids. Whereas this gives the 400s the effect of seeming sibilant by way of the contrast of the upper mids to the treble, the inversion of this gives the on1 the sense of having a somewhat rolled off treble. The treble is slightly relaxed and I find it quite enjoyable, but I will say that despite being forward in the upper midrange, the on1 is not sibilant in the slightest. It does come across as being a bit bright with some recordings however.
The soundstage is very good, yet elastic to the degree that, like the bass, it tends to convey the overall acoustic ambience of the recording. More than anything I’d say that the soundstage is very natural sounding. All other elements notwithstanding, I’d say that the soundstage more deep than wide, but again it does tend to present more the nature of the overall recording than impose anything of It's own. The on1 images quite well. Much like the ts02 and ms01, it's quite beautiful in its dimensionality. If I had any complaint in this area it would be that while instrument separation is good, there’s not a lot of air between instruments.
A note on the on1’s wooden earcups, before receiving the on1 I speculated on what effect the wooden cups would have on the overall sound of the headphone. Most attribute wood to helping a headphone achieve more natural instrument timbre and enhance the resolution and naturalness of subtle room reverberations. I’m pleased to say that the on1 is fantastic at resolving such subtleties. The timbre is pretty dead on, There have been many instances so far where I’ve been able to pick up on subtle reverberations that I haven’t yet heard in recording which I’m quite familiar with. 9lk99One of the big strengths that I’ve so far fallen in love with is the on1’s ability to be quite resolving of low level detail without presenting it in the proverbial sterilized petri dish. the on1 integrates subtle detail quite well with the whole of the music.
At a nominal impedance of 50 ohms, one would think the on1 would be ideal for grab and go portable use and one would be right, almost. I listened to the on1 through all of the sources which were available to me, which include: directly out of the headphone jack of my Macbook Pro, Fiio E17/E09k, iPhone 4s, HTC one, and any and all possible variation of those sources/amps. I will say that the on1 sounds fine straight out of the headphone jack of my iPhone, but as I said early on in the review the on1 is quite transparent of source and as I’ve been able to see, it scales remarkably well with amplification. when given a little extra power for overhead both soundstage and dynamics really open up. To allow the on1 to perform at its fullest potential I strongly recommend an external amplifier, or a powerful DAP for portable use.
The idea of buyer’s remorse was completely out the window before I even received the on1, as I was very keen on supporting Thinksound in their first foray into the world of full(er) sized headphones. Thinksound has been a company that has always put their business integrity, dedication to customer service, and environmental ethos on par with their dedication to putting out a product that sounds fantastic. Because of this, I had no issue whatsoever with paying the $300 dollar price of admission for this headphone. As a matter of fact, I was very keen on the idea of being 'the first kid on the block' to own one. Objectively speaking, do I think it’s worth it? absolutely. For a small light-weight, comfortable, eco-friendly headphone to sound as if it were engineered to sound great with whatever is thrown at it, to exemplify the nature of the the music itself is worth the price in and of itself. While tonally speaking it may not be completely neutral, Aaron Fournier has seemingly provided an entirely new and different definition for the word with a headphone that is so accommodating and chameleonic to genre and recording as to render it almost invisible. The on1 for $300 pulls off the holy grail of all qualities that an audio component can display in that it gets out of its own way and allows the music to speak for itself, and that alone is worth more than the on1’s asking price.
Edited by Mandala - 11/15/13 at 10:11pm