Thinksound ON1 Portable Stereo Headphone update review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Jun 5, 2014.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Youtube video: Thinksound 'On1' Wood-Cup Stereo Headphone (review no. 2) by Dale - YouTube

    Photos:
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Gm1/Headphone_Thinksound_On1_01.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Gm1/Headphone_Thinksound_On1_02.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Thinksound_On1.jpg

    Sources: iPhone5 with Portaphile Micro/PA2V2/Decware Zen Head amps using the LOD, various computers using Microstreamer/Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza DAC/amps.

    Review note: My impressions of the Thinksound ON1's sound are based on direct comparisons to other headphones - the v-moda M80 and M100, the Beyerdynamic DT1350 and T51p, the FAD Pandora IV and VI, and notes I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I describe how I relate to the ON1 (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    I first reviewed the ON1 on 30 November 2013, and so this update covers changes to the physical design as well as my impressions of the sound, on the chance that it may have changed from the first sample I had. Actually I don't hear any significant difference, and this sample may well be identical to the original headphone I got. I won't repeat the physical details from the original review, since that's still accessible from the various headphone sites. What did change was reinforcement of the headband with new die-cast parts to replace parts that could have deformed under stress.

    THIS MAY BE the best small portable headphone available, but since I don't have any special authority to declare that, I'll just give my arguments as to how the possibilities stack up:

    The audible response (see Review Note above) is within +/- 3 db from top to bottom - a quality that would be considered excellent for the better flagship headphones. Unlike some flagship headphones, the ON1 bass is strong, detailed, and goes deep.

    The sound quality (aside from the very smooth response) is essentially free of distortions and resonances, based on listening with my best amps and high-resolution music tracks.

    The soundstage is spacious and airy.

    The musicality is excellent, due in part I'd guess to the wooden earcup design.

    The comfort is among the best I've experienced in headphones, with ultra-soft earpads that don't pinch my ears, and a light headband clamp.

    The portability is perfect, with very good isolation and low leakage, the ability to wear around the neck with no issues when not listening, and folding into a very small package for stowing in backpacks or luggage.

    The fabric-covered cables have the best combination of flexibility, strength, and resistance to kinking that I've ever experienced.

    In previous reviews I've included the following music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the ON1 compares with each individual track.
     
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  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Thinksound ON1 review part 2 - music tracks

    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone with a modest weight, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The ON1 plays this very well.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled very well by the ON1.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can really feel the weight they carry with the ON1. This lower bass result was surprising, since many of my full-size headphones don't perform this well.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The ON1 plays this music smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Good sound quality - this is a great test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled extremely well by the ON1.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The ON1 plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are crisp and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The ON1 reproduces the space, detail, and tonality very convincingly.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the ON1 not only renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly, it makes this track sound more musical than most other headphones I've had.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The ON1 plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are detailed but not sharp or edgy.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sound is as realistic as I've heard with any other headphone since doing these detailed reviews.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The ON1 reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The ON1 plays this music perfectly.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound and feel that indicates a good deep-bass response. Overall, the ON1 plays this music very well.

    Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has very good detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The ON1 does an excellent job with this track.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the ON1. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Human League - Keep Feeling Fascination (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's bass line is very detailed, but the somewhat forward voices don't have quite the "you are there" quality of the Heaven 17 track noted above. Still, the ON1 makes this a good listen.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The ON1 provides excellent detail. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for maximum detail effect. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the ON1 plays those extremely well.

    Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The ON1 plays this so clearly that you can hear/feel the 16 cycle per second "beats" of the fundamental tone.

    Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2014, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the ON1 is an excellent example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is appreciable with the ON1.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The ON1 reproduces those sound effects very well.

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The ON1 conveys as much of that experience as is possible on a typical full-size headphone. The tympani also have good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the ON1 renders the tones and transients perfectly.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are quite strong, and work very well with the horns and other instruments. The ON1 delivers the impacts with great weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a very realistic sound.

    William Orbit - Optical Illusion (Billy Buttons Mix) (Electronic): This is about as close as I want to get to easy-listening music. The string tones beginning at 0:18 are fairly soft, and while the bass isn't very deep, it still adds a good underpinning to the music. The short poetic rap at 4:14, preceded by an etherial female voice, works very well with this track.
     
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  3. sofastreamer

    sofastreamer New Member

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    hi dale,

    i am a long time lurker and since i own the aedle vk1 and like it pretty much as my portable (at home i use the t5p) i wonder, if the thinksound is even better. after reading your reviews to both i cannot come to conclusion. maybe you could say some comapring words. i am only interested in soundquality. if i could change something on the aedles, it might be this:

    1. deeper expansion into sub bass area
    2. better instrument separation and layering in soundstage depth
    3. slightly better resolution and detail

    can i expect that from the thinksound?
     
  4. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    No, unfortunately. The Thinksound is very similar in sound to the Aedle, and while I had the Thinksound for quite some time and did a ear-measurement curve on it, I wasn't able to do that with the Aedle and so I don't have a near-exact response curve of the signature. I think if you enjoy the Aedle you would accomodate both easily, but the Aedle is, ummm - not exactly objective since I don't have either now - the Aedle is still a slightly better resolver. And if we look at aesthetics and build - miles apart.
     
  5. sofastreamer

    sofastreamer New Member

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    so you would consider the aedle as the best on ear right now? i gave the vmoda xs and the t51p a listen at the high end show in munich and was not overly impressed. as i said i am more in analytical sound as my t5p delivers.

    btw your review of the t1 makes me craving for an (semi)open back alternative of the t5p but i am a little afraid of the sub bass roll off on the t1...
     
  6. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    The interesting thing is, the more you move up the quality scale, the more you realize how the imperfections stand out. A good equalizer helps, and the ones in Foobar2000 for Windows or even iTunes on the Mac are great - just a couple of simple adjustments will make a T1** sing and dance like no other....

    For on-ear you could try the ATH ESW9a - a good match for the ON1 or VK1. The Beyer T51p is a very peculiar sound, and the v-moda XS has some issues getting a good fit.

    **I did make extensive comparisons from the T1 to the T90, then to the pricy AKG K812 - no contest. Compared to the T1, the T90 sounds cheap. I apologize for such a crude word as 'cheap', but the comparison is rather stark. The K812 has a fundamental quality that's more comparable to the T1, but the T1 is much smoother, with a more natural sound overall and better soundstage.
     
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