Thinksound On1 On-Ear Headphones

Thinksound is a company that’s focussed on sustainable and environmentally conscious headphones. In fact, they even offer a recycling program for headphones with a bonus if you recycle their headphones, but I doubt you’ll be doing that any time soon with the On1s – you’ll be hanging on to these puppies with everything you’ve got!

Overview

Thinksound’s On1 headphone is a foldable, portable, closed, on-ear design that retails for roughly $350 (AUD). In Australia you can buy them from Noisy Motel. A big thank you to Billy from Noisy Motel for putting me onto these gems – they continue to amaze me every time I listen to them!

  • Frequency response:  5 – 22,000 Hz
  • Impedance:  50 ohms
  • Drivers:  40mm dynamic
  • Cables:  4.5 feet (2 equal length cable options with / without phone mic and remote)

At $350, the On1s are competing with some outstanding competition from the likes of AKG, Sennheiser, Beats, Kef, Focal, and various other brands, but they more than hold their own with their sound and offer something unique with their striking timber finish.

Design & Comfort

Other than the wooden cups, Thinksound On1 with accessoriesthe design of the On1s is not particularly special, but that’s not a knock on them so much as a simple statement of fact. They are a fairly traditional design with a simple, adjustable headband and swiveling and folding cups, and that’s about it. The wooden cups are engraved with the Thinksound logo, but other than that these headphone don’t really stand out as looking like $300+ headphones – they’re not blingy or flashy and that’s fine by me because they won’t draw attention to themselves or to you and that means you’ll be left in peace to simply enjoy the wonderful sounds caressing your ears.

Some may find the basic looks and finish of the plastics in the On1s to be a bit of a turn-off, but I would definitely encourage you to take a listen before letting that dissuade you. The finish isn’t poor in my opinion, but it also isn’t polished in the manner of something like a Sennheiser Momentum or Beyerdynamic DT1350. The fact that I’m reviewing the On1s though, and not those other products, tells you how much the finish impacts the overall enjoyment of these headphones thanks to their adequate finish and the exceptional quality of their sound.

Accessories

The On1s are supplied with a carry pouch made of a natural cotton along with 2 different cables, both of which are high quality, Kevlar reinforced affairs that feel high quality and resist tangling very well.

You can purchase replacement ear pads from Thinksound if required, but that’s really the only other accessory I can think of for the On1s

Foldability

Thinksound On1The On1s are designed with earcups that swivel to sit flat and also fold inward towards the headband. This means that they can be swiveled and folded into quite a small package. All the joints and moveable parts feel sturdy and solid despite being plastic so the end result is a compact, robust portable headphone that fits nicely in a bag. My only complaint about the folding design is that when the headphones are placed flat on a desk they are the wrong way around. What I mean is that the left earcup ends up on the right hand side if you lay the headphones flat on a table with the padded side down (see images). This is a really minor issue, but it does mean you have to turn the headphones around when you pick them up to put back on your head. It’s not a deal breaker, but I’d much prefer if they just swiveled in the other direction.

Comfort

Comfort with the On1s is pretty good, but they’re still an on-ear so I do find they physically fatigue my ears after an hour or two. Design-wise I think they’re just right from a comfort point of view – they use nice soft, memory foam pads and a good level of clamping force so they’re about as good as an on-ear can ever be and there’s no way to make a headphone this portable if it’s over-ear so no complaints here.

Cables

I’ve already described the Kevlar reinforced cables so the only other things to mention are that Thinksound cleverly kept the phone controls simple enough that they work with most phones, including Windows phones!

The cables are a good length at 4.5 feet (roughly 1.3m) and use a simple 3.5mm mini jack so you can very easily replace the stock (non phone control) cable if you want to. You can see the 3.5mm socket on the right ear cup (shown on the left in many of the photos due to that folding issue I mentioned).

Sound

Thinksound On1This is the bit that really sold me on the On1s, but, if I’m completely honest, the first time I heard them I wasn’t particularly impressed. That was my error, not theirs. The overall sound of the On1s is quite smooth so their quality may not jump out at you on first listen, but relaxing into their slight warmth will reward you with a purely enjoyable experience of accurate, detailed sound presented in an endlessly listenable manner so give them a moment and sink in…

Bass

The On1s go deep, very deep.

One of my favourite test tracks for bass is A Thousand Years from Sting’s “Brand New Day” album and the On1s very accurately convey the massive, sub-bass rumble to start the track and then display appropriate control over the bass line as the song continues. They’re not quite as refined as a top-of-the-line full-size headphone, but the simple fact that they’re close enough to consider that comparison is testament to their very impressive bass performance.

Another track I threw at the On1s is Morning from Beck’s “Morning Phase” album because it presents the challenge of some long, held bass notes at the same time as some drum hits for shorter bursts of bass. Once again, the On1s handled the subtle and not-so-subtle with grace and control. They’re not quite ballerina agile, but they’re also not sluggish or slow. The On1s strike a great balance between smooth, very slightly rounded bass and punchy, controlled bass. For a portable headphone I would much prefer this sort of tuning because it lends itself to use in louder environments and for a wide range of genres (including movies) so the On1s are right on the mark.

In terms of overall balance in the bass, the On1s are pretty balanced. They boast great levels of sub-bass, but also excellent punch in the mid-bass with no glaring peaks or troughs anywhere to be heard. They probably have a bit of a lift in the mid-bass to give them their sense of warmth and punch, but it’s nicely balanced with everything else so I’m in full favour of that decision.

Mids

Thinksound On1To me, when the mids are done right they’re hard to describe – not in-your-face and not recessed, not raspy and dry, but not creamy and thick. That’s what the mids from the On1s are like – just right. They are well-placed in the mix, but aren’t emphasised so everything just falls together into a cohesive auditory “picture”.

In the overall balance of things, if I absolutely had to make a call, I’d say the mids are slightly less energetic than the bass and ever-so-slightly warmer than neutral, but all in a good way. The On1s are in no way over-polite, but they are incredibly smooth and friendly. They won’t gloss over a crappy recording, but they also won’t scream and shout about it.

Throughout the mid-range frequencies, the On1s often surprise me with little details that I didn’t expect from their overall presentation – a guitar lick here or a drum strike there. The way these headphones deliver everything to your ears, but without making a song and dance about it is quite exceptional. I guess, as I think about it, the presentation from the On1s would best be described as speaker-like in all the best ways possible.

Treble

The overall shape of the On1’s frequency response chart would probably resemble a beginners ski slope so the treble is rolled off slightly, but does so in line with the other frequencies so there are once again no glaring peaks or troughs to attract your attention away from the music. The treble is clean and detailed and not overly polite, but as per the theme of this review so far, there is a refinement and smoothness to the treble that allows it to caress your ears with sound rather than scream and shout.

Consonants from vocals have enough energy to be crisp and clean, but never sibilant and cymbals crash and splash with a natural sense of energy that once again reminds me most of a good set of speakers and that’s about as good as it can get for an enjoyable set of portable headphones in my opinion. Sure, the On1s may not reveal details in the same manner as a pair of HD800s, but they’ll be far more enjoyable to listen to when you’re listening to a wide range of sources and genres in a wide range of environments so the treble is perfect to my ears for this sort of headphone.

Staging & Imaging

Thinksound On1 remoteI think Thinksound could have called the On1s the Thinksound Tardis if they had wanted to. These things have uncanny imaging for what look like basic, portable earphones. Despite the lack of angled drivers or other acoustic tricks to help imaging, the On1s are one of the best staging and imaging headphones I own and they’re closed!!

The stage thrown by the On1 extends beyond the ear cups, has excellent height and is even borderline for projecting sound beyond the boundaries of the forehead – that’s pretty impressive in my book!

Each instrument from the On1 has well-defined space in the soundstage, including a sense of weight and presence that adds to the ambience and enjoyment of the music. The overall presentation of the On1’s stage and image is actually quite holographic and never ceases to be a source of enjoyment for me when I listen to them with any genre.

Summary

SAMSUNG CSCAt $350, the On1s aren’t a cheap headphone, but in my experiences they perform at a level that’s easily twice their price. These have quickly become my favourite closed headphone of anything I’ve listened to (including flagships like the Fostex TH-900). I’m not suggesting that the On1s out-perform flagship headphones across the board, but they do present a uniquely coherent sound that is just so easy to get lost in because nothing is noticeably highlighted or flawed, but they’re also not bland in any sense of the word. No, the On1s are engaging, lively and enjoyable, but they do it all in ways that are hard to pin down.

Writing this review has actually been very challenging because the On1s don’t really stand out in any one way, but they stand out overall. It’s hard to pin anything down with them as being excellent (or flawed), but the overall result is nothing short of brilliant. I’m worried at this point that my blow-by-blow sections above don’t do these headphones justice so I’m hoping this summary will. These headphones are exceptional, amazing and outstanding. No, they are not detail freak headphones like HD800s (for example) and they aren’t completely neutral because they have a definite sense of warmth and bass, but they are just so completely enjoyable and versatile that I have a hard time imagining someone not enjoying these.

If you’re in the market for a portable (or non-portable) closed headphone, please do check out the Thinksound On1 before you buy anything else – it might be the best move you ever make!

Lachlan Fennen Written by:

Facilitator, training design consultant, blogger / writer and amateur photographer

3 Comments

  1. markus
    December 9, 2014
    Reply

    Great review Lachlan,

    I fully accord with the things you’ve written about the On1. It just sounds so right and after few minutes you put them on, you get lost in the music… it’s wonderful
    I am using mine on the go in combination with my DX90 every day, excellent during the cold season. It’s not only warm and musical but at the same time it can be very transparrent, especially after I changed the stock cable with an aftermarket cable (silver + very small amount of gold), now that sound is reference-type in my opinion.

    • December 9, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks Markus! I haven’t tried an aftermarket cable yet, but maybe I should!

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