Pros: Environmentally conscious, wood housings, great isolation, removable cable, lightweight, clean sound, good instrument separation, good level of detail.
Cons: Soundstage can seem congested at times, can come off sibilant with Magni, mid-bass can come off as pushy.
Style: Full-sized, supra-aural.
Tonal Balance: Neutral with a slight warmth
Preferred Genres: Progressive rock, jazz, synth pop
Stand-Out Tracks: The Mars Volta - Cicatriz ESP, Wes Montgomery - California Dreaming, Passion Pit - Carried Away
Preferred Amp: Asgard 2
Listening Set-Up: Musicbee -> Schiit Modi -> Schiit Magni/Asgard 2
Design and Build Quality
I’ve had a few people over my house recently where they’ve seen my wall of headphones and one thing that has been remarked is that the thinksound On1 look very nice. This praise has been without any attention given to the headphones on my part, these stand out on their own. I find that the On1 are eye catching headphones as well, after all there aren’t many wooden portable headphones! The uniqueness of the wood will certainly draw up conversation.
When I first looked at the On1 I doubted their build quality, notably in the headband region. The headband is thin and looks rather cheap and fragile. I then gave a look at the documents provided to me and found a letter with some pictures. The letter seemed to indicate that they are aware that the On1 look fragile, but included were pictures of the On1 with the headband contorted in a few stressful positions with no harm done. I gave this a try and sure enough the top of the headband can take some twisting with no harm. The sides of the headbands are still made of plastic though, with metal hidden beneath that the headphone slides up and down to adjust. Adjusting the size of the headband feels sturdy, there’s minor resistance so they will stay in place.
The cups are held to the headband by rigid plastic that looks very susceptible to breakage. They connect into the wooden cups which appear to be made from locally sourced lumber rather than the exotic woods that you’d find on the LCD2, for instance. The cups are finished nicely though with a chestnut stain and a minor gloss. The cups look nice, but they feel well made as well. There are no rough edges to be seen or any imperfections. The cable is removable and enters on a single side as a 3.5mm cable. The port is very slightly recessed into the cup, but looks secure.
Looking at the whole picture my only concern about the durability is the plastic that holds the cups together. One wrong foot placement and they will likely snap. Everything else is solid.
Wearing the On1
The first thing I want to note is that the On1 feel counterintuitive to me when handled. I am used to single ended cables being on the left side, rather than the right, and I am used to the headphones swivelling flatly going forward rather than backwards. The headphones come with an in-line cable though, which makes a lot of sense for the cable to be on the right since most people are right handed.
Aside from that, the On1 are actually pretty darn comfortable for supra-aural headphones. The pads are plush and rather soft with a firm clamp. I find it very easy to get a good seal with the On1, which in turn provides excellent isolation that is on par with any IEM. Leaking is kept to a very bare minimum as well, though I wouldn’t use these in a public library at loud volumes. While the pads are soft, the headband unfortunately isn’t. There is mild padding and the headphones are lightweight, but I feel pressure on top of my head after an hour or so. It’s not painful, but certainly a reminder that I’m wearing headphones.
Amping and Burn-In
I used the On1 with my Schiit Magni and Asgard 2 to compare them back and forth. Overall I feel that they can get by without an amp, but I preferred them most from my desktop set-up. I experienced no burn-in during my time with these.
On the whole I consider the On1’s bass to be a bit north of neutral with good control, texture and extension. When listening to extremely bass heavy songs such as Jay-Z’s Holy Grail or James Blake’s Limit to Your Love I find that the sub-bass is quick, tight and add no distortion. I also find that the quantity of the sub-bass is more than acceptable to those of us who are not bassheads.. While I find the sub-bass to be quality, I find that I’m not fully satisfied when listening to bass heavy songs. I feel that the sub-bass comes off a bit thin, lacking the full weight that bass heavy songs demand. The sub-bass comes so close to having the big bass necessary to fully carry the energy of these songs that it feels a bit of a tease when all is said and done.
As for the mid-bass, I feel that it is slightly warmer than neutral with a muddiness that I find when listening to the On1 through my Asgard 2. The muddiness isn’t consistent, but I find that in many less than stellar mastered albums that the mid-bass can seem congested, pushy, and muddy. The Magni seems to provide more punch and cleanness in this regard, in most cases. I feel that the On1 really shows it’s capabilities when listening to classics like Pink Floyd’s Money though and other classic albums with exquisite mastering and recording techniques. When listening to these recordings I feel the On1 provides a slightly warm mid-bass experience that near faithfully reproduces these frequencies. I find a slight artificial tone to these, but none more than I’ve heard in any other closed headphone.
TL:DR: The sub-bass extends nicely, but lacks the weight to really bring out the energy of bass heavy songs while the mid-bass can come off congested and muddy at times. The mid-bass is very dependant on the quality of the recording.
On the whole I found that the mids can come off mildly recessed depending on the source and recording, it’s a fine line. I feel that the mid-bass has a tendency to fight for the spotlight with the vocals in many instances. I find that this is amplified when listening to the slightly warm Asgard 2 and that I, generally, prefer the Magni when listening to vocal recordings due to the brighter mids and highs. That isn’t to say that the mids are bad though, I find that vocals are intimate with a natural tone to them while guitars are detailed and synths feel weighty. For instance, the guitars in David Bowie’s Moonage Daydream roar from the intro with control and a near goosebump giving energy, while the synths of Crystal Castle’s Untrust Us are appropriately thick and fill out the sound for the vocals to settle into.
The highs are well extended, but even with the Magni I find that they lack the sparkle that I love so much in headphones like the Grado SR80i or the Audio Technica Ad900. I tend to like my headphones a bit on the bright side though, and I feel that the highs are, overall, well represented. Horns and wailing guitars both sound very clean even when at their highest pitches even with the volume louder than normal. I do not find that the On1 increases any discernible sibilance or distortion throughout these frequencies, but I do find that the On1 isn’t shy about showing off flaws in recordings. I don’t find these to be the most detailed headphone, but they do show off a recordings imperfections in upper region distortion or sibilance throughout the mids or highs. This is heightened when listening through the Magni and kept at minimal when listening through the Asgard 2.
TL:DR: The On1 offers clean and intimate mids with clean treble extension that lacks the sparkle and energy of brighter headphones.
I find that the soundstage, separation and imaging qualities of the On1 are slightly better than other closed headphones that I’ve experienced, especially when considering headphones that isolate as well as these. The On1 suffers from what most supra-aural closed headphones do, a slightly narrow soundstage. This is offset by the quality imaging from left to right, imaging depth, and instrument separation. The On1 feels layered, with room to breath, rather than wide, cozy would be a good word. I feel that the sound is front focused though, never fully enveloping me in the sound.
TL:DR: Narrow soundstage that is offset by quality imaging and instrument separation.
Thinksound has made somewhat of a name for itself over the past few years for being environmentally conscious as well as creating a quality product. I first fell in love with their ms-01, once calling them my favorite ~$100 IEM and now I’ve become a fan of their On1. The On1 are a headphone I can really put my support into not only for thinksound’s excellent customer service and ideals, but because they are a beautiful headphone that not only sounds great, but will draw a lot of attention as you attempt to drown the world out. The On1 can be had for $300.
Full album of pictures is available here.