Thinksound USP1

Rating:
4.25/5,
  1. Cinder
    Thinksound USP1 Review: The King of Warmth Returns
    Written by Cinder
    Published Mar 19, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Durable and attractive (and lead-free) pewter housings, solid by-hand construction, excellent bass performance, good detail retrieval, nice mids timbre.
    Cons - Sorely lacking accessories, occasional sibilance

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    Thinksound USP1: The King of Warmth Returns

    Thinksound’s been on my radar since the first day I started reviewing earphones: their products look great, usually sound great, and are environmentally responsible. Aaron, the designer of Thinksound’s products actually hand-builds each USP1. As such, I had high hopes for their first metal IEM. How would it sound? Would it still be ergonomic? As it seems, my worries were unfounded.

    You can find the USP1 for sale here, on Thinksound’s official website, for $180.

    Disclaimer: This unit was provided to me free of charge for review purposes. These words reflect my true, unaltered, opinion about the product.

    Preference and Bias: Before reading a review, it is worth mentioning that there is no way for a reviewer to objectively pass judgment on the enjoyability of a product: such a thing is inherently subjective. Therefore, I find it necessary for you to read and understand what I take a natural liking to and how that might affect my rating of a product.

    My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, mid-bass. The mids should be slightly less pronounced than the treble, but still ahead of the bass. I prefer a more bright upper range.

    Source: The USP1 was powered like so:

    HTC U11 -> USB-C adapter -> earphones

    or

    Hidizs AP100 3.5mm out -> FiiO A5 3.5mm out -> earphones

    or

    HiFiMAN SuperMini -> earphones

    or

    PC optical out -> HiFiMe SPDIF 9018 Sabre DAC 3.5mm out -> earphones

    All music was served as MP3 @320Kbps or as FLAC.

    Sound Signature
    Initial Impressions:

    The USP1 makes use of a V-shaped sound signature. It has a well-tuned bass presence, reasonably well-expressed mids, and a boosted treble. Its single dynamic driver has a good amount of detail retrieval and no real smudging to speak of. Tonality is rich and slightly warm, a trademark component of Thinksound’s style.

    Treble: Songs used: In One Ear, Midnight City, Outlands, Satisfy

    In One Ear’s high hats were well defined and had a natural timbre and decay. This was an example of a song that didn’t suffer from any treble problems. It was light and airy the whole time, expressing the upper register very well.

    M83’s Midnight City was also pretty free of sibilance. Drums had a nice treble pop to them, and the synths were fully expressed and cohesive. Treble separation was excellent.

    Outlands’s string instruments were naturally toned and very well weighted. Treble detail retrieval was quite good, and many hard-to-pick-up details came through quite easily.

    Satisfy was, predictably, a disaster of sibilance. Every single “sss” syllable was hard on the ears, as was each “f”. While the USP1 is far from the only IEM to not perform well on this track, it is in this case that the poor performance here is parallel to some of the sibilance I had heard on other tracks in my collection.

    Mids: Songs used: Flagpole Sitta, Jacked Up, I Am The Highway, Dreams

    The USP1’s midrange appears to be optimized for genres like rock and alternative: guitars sound simply wonderful. Never once did they smudge out or sound unnatural through the course of Flagpole Sitta. Detail retrieval is above average at this price point, as the USP1 was able to pick up the acoustic guitar strumming in the intro and articulate it well.

    The good news continues into Weezer’s Jacked Up. Guitars and pianos both sound great, as do the drums. The high hats are a bit bled out, and as such have a slightly lower level of texturing.

    Vocals are a strong suit of the USP1’s midrange. Both male and female vocals have above-average intelligibility and are weighted well. The USP1 seems to be mildly partial towards male vocals.

    Bass: Songs used: Moth, Gold Dust, In For The Kill (Skream Remix), War Pigs (Celldweller Remix)

    Bass is the main dish of the USP1’s frequency response. While it doesn’t “dominate” the sound signature completely, the USP1’s bass definitely makes itself known, either by expressing itself through an articulate bass guitar such as in Moth or by bringing tons of bass presence to a dubstep drop in Gold Dust. It never loses shape or definition and consistently expresses itself as far down into the 20Hz–50Hz range.

    Bass, even in very bass-heavy songs, never bled into the mids to any reasonable degree. Bass and sub-bass smudging didn’t occur either. La Roux and Skream’s In For The Kill’s bass line reached pretty far down and didn’t bottom out.

    The USP1 has some of the best overall bass performance of any IEM in this price range, at least among those that I’ve tested. It consistently outdoes V-shaped kings like the K3 Pro and Chord and Major 8'13, so listeners looking for a large, but still articulate, dose of bass should be quite satisfied with the USP1.

    Packaging / Unboxing
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    The USP1 makes use of Thinksound’s ecologically-aware packaging. You won’t find any cardboard packaging, just a metal tin with the IEM and all its accessories inside.

    Build
    Construction Quality

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    The USP1 makes use of a metal shell, pewter specifically, that is well finished. The choice of using metal and the design language as a whole assigns the USP1 an industrial feeling. Its grooves in it are finely cut without sharp edges or machining flaws, so I’d imagine a pretty good amount of quality control goes into making them.

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    The USP1’s nozzles are of a medium length and have metal debris filters installed on them. This should keep things like sand and lint out of the interior, and to a minute degree, sweat.

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    The cable is made of plastic, as is the housing of the 3.5mm jack. It’s one of the right-angle + 45-degree hybrids that gets the best of both worlds: the stress relief of the 45-degree angle plug and the drop-resistance of the right angle plug.

    The Y-splitter is made of metal and has the Thinksound logo printed on it. It makes use of ample stress relief given the thickness of the cable and the weight of its components.

    The cable is made from a responsibly sourced plastic and is of a medium thickness. A consistent point of mine across all of Thinksound’s IEMs is that I want to see thicker cables, but considering none of my IEMs (Rain2, Rain3, MS02, TS03) have broken even during rough use it doesn’t seem to be a big problem.

    Comfort

    The USP1 didn’t look comfortable to me at first. After all, it’s just a lumpy mass of pewter, right? Wrong. It’s a well-sculpted ergonomic block of pewter. At least, that’s what I think now. After listening to it for an extended period of time I had no comfort issues.

    The USP1 also appears to be fully sealed, and as such, it performs well in noisy areas. Very little external sound makes its way in, even in crowded environments like public transit.

    Accessories
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    The USP1’s accessory offerings are, as per usual with Thinksound, paltry at best. I gave it a pass with their $90 product. I gave it a pass with their $120 product. But man, I can’t justify so few accessories in a $180 IEM, and at such an average quality no less. Is it cool that you get both a metal tin and a carrying pouch? Yes, it is. But at the very least include some double-flange eartips and some foam ones. I shouldn’t need to spend extra money to complement the accessory package on a $180 IEM. But alas, I suppose that’s what you get when you buy a hand-made, low volume, IEM.

    Summary
    The USP1 is the basshead’s friend, but not the wallet’s. Its excellent bass performance and well-toned mids are tempered a by its occasional sibilance. The durable, ergonomic, and attractive pewter housings are offset by the lack of a well flushed-out accessory package. So as such the USP1 is a mix a compromises: so if you aren’t sensitive to treble peaks like I am, and don’t mind the lack of extra eartips, then the USP1 is a seriously impressive offer.
      hqssui and B9Scrambler like this.
    1. Dsnuts
      Strongly suggest trying out a wider bored tip. I use JVC spiral dots on my reviewed pair. Will balance out the sound even more so. Stock tips aren't optimized for the sound imo. Can't use the stock tips afterwards.
      Dsnuts, Mar 19, 2018
    2. Cinder
      @Dsnuts I don't use external eartips since it isn't representative of the product you get for $180. That renders the review pretty useless imo. It's also why I don't just test my IEMs on my best source, often also test it on my worst to make sure my impressions will be useful to the average consumer who only buys the IEM I'm reviewing, nothing more.
      Cinder, Mar 20, 2018
  2. Dsnuts
    Thinksounds new kings of METAL! The USP1
    Written by Dsnuts
    Published Feb 11, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Exquisite balanced tuning. Excellent detail, imaging and isolation. Pewter brings a new tonal twist to the Thinksound formula. Eco friendly packaging. Made in the USA! Constructed with Heavy METAL!
    Cons - Better sonics through tip rolling. Eco packaging means basic accessories. Minor wind noise when worn outdoors. No interchangeable cable. Constructed with a Heavy METAL!
    Thinksounds new USP1

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    specifications:

    • Voiced and assembled by acclaimed audio engineer, Aaron Fournier.

    • High-definition precision-tuned 8mm driver for detailed, accurate sound

    • Hand-poured metal pewter housing

    • Compatible with iOS and Android devices

    • Advanced studio acoustics and a full range sound

    • Dynamic driver features 10 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response

    • 97 ±3 dB @ 1KHz 1mW sensitivity

    • 16 ohm impedance

    • 45˚ angled gold plated plug for increased clarity & durability

    • 18g

    • Kevlar-reinforced, tangle-resistant 4 foot long cable

    • Passive Noise Isolation minimizes ambient sounds

    • Sweat-resistant design, perfect for the gym

    • Four flexible silicon ear inserts for a secure fit (s/m/l/xl)

    • Cord clip & carrying pouch

    • One (1) year limited warranty


    First thing first. I have to give due credit for the fine people at Thinksound and Aaron for reaching out to me for this review. What I have to say about these new iems from Thinksound reflects what my opinion is about them. I am in no way affiliated with Thinksound.


    So what your seeing here is the newest from the man that did eco friendly before anyone else thought it was a cool thing to do so. I admire Aarons approach to sonics as he seems to go back to the proverbial drawing board to come up with better and better earphones and headphones. It is always a step forward for the crew at thinksound and the newest USP1 shows this in spades.


    Thus far Thinksound has done iems in the very eco friendly wood housed earphones and to their credit has stuck to that formula. It seems they have moved on from the standard wood housing to something more dense. More metallic. We are talking Pewter! As far as I know I think Thinksound is the first to do so. Haven’t seen Pewter being used on any other earphones. Evidently the masters of sound at Thinksound decided Pewter has some effects on sonics that warrants them to create their newest and as far as I can tell their new flagship earphones in Pewter.


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    I usually don’t take out of box impressions too seriously as I am a huge believer of burning in your equipment be it a new dap or new earphones. However out of the box I found myself actually grinning from ear to ear. What is this?!! Playing one of my favorite Metallica albums with gumption?
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    Sure it sounded a bit rough in the treble department so before doing any more serious listening I threw them on the burn. It also had a tonality I wasn’t expecting out of the box. We are talking rich [​IMG]



    As I continued my weekly ritual of running in new equipement I figured I would burn in a new Audio player I recently got with the USP1 at the same time. The pairing of the new Sony ZX300 and the USP1 seems to be made for each other. No other way to put it. I am a firm believer of synergy. Some pairings just seems to work better than others. Right off the bat I noticed the richer tonality of the USP1 enhances the smooth sound qualities of the ZX300. Upon more listening with this pairing. Listening to Slayers [​IMG] the treble energy and definition is spot on. Quick transients and with an equally quick double drum kick with the perfect amount of decay and aggression from Tom Arayas vocals . Excellent dampening from the pewter makes for quick clean defined notes.


    Was giving Rob Halfords screaming vocals some serious justice. [​IMG] Wait a sec! These things rock!. I discovered what I am hearing is something a bit more advanced than anything I have heard from Thinksound thus far. The richness in tonality,precise details in the treble with bass authority. What is this? In a word Thinksound is now playing on a different level of Sonics. Wood had its part in Thinksounds history but now my friends we are talking about [​IMG].. Well pewter.


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    Disclaimer.[​IMG] No bats or chicken heads were chewed off doing this review. Copious amount of blood sweat and beer was consumed while enjoying the all METAL that was used for this review and the phones themselves. Have to give props to Aaron for using a unique material for the housing with the added effect of giving an equally unique sound.


    Oh yes my friends. To say these caught me by surprise was a bit of an understatement. These earphones while not touting the latest hybrid tech or multiple drivers per housing. Keeps it simple. A high definition 8mm dynamic driver using pewter for the housing. To me it is all about the tuning that matters most and what you get from these are the Masters of the tuning bringing his art work to anyone what receives it. To me it is very clear. Aaron has thrown his gloves down. These are the best sounding earphones I have heard from the Thinksound crew. Plain and simple.


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    What you get with the simple packaging that is on the USP1 is the now standard tin can box. A pouch. 4 pairs of silicone tips and a shirt clip. And the phones themselves. Not exactly the Kings ransom worth of free bees thrown in the package. Folks that have had thinksound products in the past are not gonna be surprised here but what will surprise you is the sonics that come out of these little earphones. MSRP for these is at a new territory for Thinksound in $179. But once you hear them you will clearly understand the proper pricing of the phones.


    Build is solid as usual and the phones themselves can be worked over the ears for no cord noise or straight down when stationary. It doesn’t have disconnecting cables or the ability to go balanced. But again the sonics is what matters here and that is what these excell at. Isolation due to the pewter housing is excellent. You can throw on some comply tips and get some of the best isolation from these while walking around in a busy street. These did the job admirably. The only negative is that they do have some wind noise when wind kicks up.


    Sonics can be described as rich in tonality with slightly more emphasis for treble and bass. Thinksounds characteristic monitor type balanced sound is present but with a tone that I absolutely love in an earphone. How many earphones have you heard that has a rich dynamic tone to it? From the many I have owned in the past till present. The USP1 has the most unique richly defined tonality to it that gives everything it throws out a more dynamic fullness and a silky end note to the sound that just resonates. Each detail in the tune has a roundness to the sound call it detail but I think the Pewter has done some magic here for the sound.



    I don’t own too many phones and especially earphones that have a darker treble note but these do. And its sounds amazing. Listening to chimes bells symbols all have that richness of note to them and this richness is equivalent to having your vanilla ice cream but with a nice fine drizzle of chocolate sauce on it. Once you hear the addictive qualities of the treble it will make you appreciate how rangy and smooth the treble is compared to other earphones you own with dry flaky brittle treble that has no character or tendencies of stabbing your ears with sharpness.


    Mids take a slight step back from the treble emphasis and does not have any noticeable recession to my ears. Mids has a smooth fluid, liquid quality to it with good clean separation between vocals and instruments. Imaging is the most precise I have heard from a thinksound product. Everything is where is should be. Staging of the earphones is about medium large for earphones in width and has about an average amount of depth but due to the very nice dampening of the earphones from the pewter housing. Definition is quite agile and stout making Testaments [​IMG] Sound quite even from the bass to the high hat notes of Testaments Metal opus. Rise up!


    Vocal performance is simply stunning using these earphones. Be it male [​IMG] or female, the richness in[​IMG] tone makes vocals pop. Instrument timbre is excellent here, guitars riffs will raise the hair on your head.


    Leave it to Thinksound for bringing the goods. In the end it is the tonality of these earphones that make them unique. They take to amping very nicely using my IDSD Micro BLACK SABBATH![​IMG]

    and sound exquisite out of a simple dap. As promised a few choice comparisons against some of todays competing earphones.


    Against the Ibasso IT01.

    This was an interesting comparison as I absolutely love the IT01 and what it has to offer for a hundred dollars. IT01s accessories is outstanding in value and function. Much better round can which is lined to carry the phones in. Much better tip selection and one of the best stock cables I have ever seen on any earphone all comes included with the IT01 so no comparison here for which gives more for your money but sound comparisons is what what people are after so here we go.

    SOUND wise the IT01 has the wider stage but mostly due to the lesser up front mids of the sound profile on them. They have a more lower bass emphasis vs the USP1s balanced upper, mid and low bass profile. USP1 has a more forward mid section while sounding deeper in the mids. Has that rich tonality to it the IT01 sounding much dryer in comparison. The Treble area has a bit of brightness on the IT01 vs the thicker fuller and more defined darker treble note of the USP1. Imaging both excel at but I would give the slight edge to the USP1 here.


    Ecobox Finder X1. Here is another all metal housed earphone. So these were OK when they came out over a year ago but I find the IT01 and the USP1 here has out done these in every way. They have a good sense of space speed stage and detail but the overly U shaped sound does little to engage people that love their vocal/ mids performance. These want to sound high end but ultimately does not. They have an incredible solid build to them with a few tuning filters but in the end they were OK but is quickly outclassed by the likes of a IT01 and don’t come anywhere close to the rich detailed full on sound of the USP1.


    Rhythmos SD7 hybrid. This was an interesting comparison. The cost on these vs the USP1 are identical but what you have here is a DIY type Chi fi unknown iem with more drivers than you can count. Well 5 on the hybrid model and the more expensive SD7 Plus has 7 BAs. What is interesting about these 2 earphones is that not many has heard these or know anything about them. They have been a recent discovery of mine and I have been using these 2 earphones for the past 2 months before I got the USP1. In comparison I am loving the rich tonality of the USP1 and fullness of note vs any other earphone I own including these SD7 earphones. Where the advantage comes for the SD7 is how dimensional they sound due to the many BA drivers they have. They sound almost disjointed in nature due to the full on 3Dness of sound of them. The USP1 sounds excellent in that it is more of your traditional 2D type sound vs the mulilayered multi BA sound that the SD7 poses. I would say SQ is on par with these earphones it will be more of a matter of taste in tonality and what one values in sound quality. Enjoyment wise it is tough to beat the SD7 plus earphones in balanced mode and this is where I would like to see Aaron consider next.


    I honestly believe balanced is the next real sound enhancement for any earphone. Some may not believe or like balanced sound but to my ears there is no question what sounds better. A great sounding earphone is a great sounding earphone but now that I have been experimenting with balanced earphone set ups on my DAPs and AMPs. There is a clear enhancement in sonics I can hear though a good balanced set up. And the one suggestion I have for Aaron and the crew at thinksound. Time to go balanced. Give us the ability to change out cables so we can use our balanced sources and the sonics will go to yet another level. Perhaps in their next phone they would consider such a change.


    SO in closing it is all about enjoying the sound from the earphones that matter and these are made to enjoy your tunes. I know this review is pretty heavy metal biased but hey the phones are in all Metal. So I went with it. It does more than Metal music justice it does everything I own justice. Especially for vocal and instrumental performances of any type. Has great sense of space to give EDM lovers chills when listening their uplifting trance. Jazz is exceptional using these as well. Listening to Chick Corea and Gary Burtons Hot House. I would give the USP1 an A rating for Jazz easily. By golly I think Thinksounds done it. They came up with an all METAL masterpiece of an earphone. I have only heard a few single dynamics that has this type of outstanding performance from bass to treble and these do it with a style of their own.


    And it is all………………………………………………..

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    Well………...Pewter! Thanks for reading. As always happy listening!

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      volly, praetor47, B9Scrambler and 5 others like this.
    1. Lurk650
      Yupp, that's the one thing that keeping me from buying them, the no-balanced option
      Lurk650, Apr 9, 2018
      Dsnuts likes this.