Thinksound TS03-plus In-Ear Wood-Earpiece Earphone/IEM review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Jul 19, 2017.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    Youtube review:

    Photo: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/iPhone7p/Headphone_Thinksound_Ts03_01.jpg

    Sources: iPhone7+ with Oppo HA-2/AudioQuest DragonFly Red DAC/amps, various computers using the AudioQuest DragonFly Red/Lehmann Traveller DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the Thinksound TS03-plus earphone/IEM (TS03 hereafter) are based on comparisons to other IEM's (Sennheiser IE800, RHA T20, FI-BA-SS etc.), to a few reference headphones, and to notes I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I'll describe how I relate to this IEM (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use these earphones) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    Summary: Of all IEMs I've owned and tested (see below), the Thinksound TS03-plus is as good as any of them, which shouldn't be the case because of its $119 USD price compared to the others costing from $250 to $1500. But unlike full-size headphones which require lots of engineering due to their size and resonance (etc.) issues, IEMs are simpler and much cheaper to make, and the manufacturers who have the skills and experience to tune them correctly have a much better chance of beating the premium competition than manufacturers of the full-size on-ear and around-ear variety. My reviews of previous Thinksound IEMs can be found at the same places as this, and the significant differences with the TS03 are: 1) Better bass. Strong, but not bloated or woofy. 2) Greater treble detail, but the eartip fit has to be perfect or nearly so, otherwise it might sound too bright. 3) The control box and microphone.

    Disclaimer: For me, the sound of most IEM's varies widely depending on the eartips used and how well they seal for bass balance etc. in the ear canals. But, I have a good sense of when I'm getting the proper ear-canal seal, by pushing the earpieces in until the treble drops noticeably, then backing off until it pops back in - crude but effective. I won't try to describe an absolute frequency response for this earphone, because of the variability for different users. For users who are curious about that, I recommend checking the headphone test measurement websites for their response measurement charts. What I want to describe are the tonality and musicality issues, assuming of course that the sound is good hi-fi, and the Thinksound TS03 is indeed good hi-fi. The music tracks listed below were selected to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of this earphone, so hopefully the comments in that list will point up its most important sonic qualities.

    Thinksound and wood-earpiece observations: Recalling my review of the Thinksound On1 and On2 headphones and the Rain3 IEM, a few users have suggested that "all woodies (i.e. wooden-earcup headphones and earphones) are pretty much alike", presumably because there's a glut of those items on the market, and they're almost entirely OEM's of one central manufacturer from China. I don't have any direct knowledge of the manufacturing of Thinksound's earphones or headphones, but I have had several of those OEM products, and their sound in every case is as far from Thinksound's as night and day. The main differences are the steep treble rolloff and otherwise uneven frequency response in the OEM models I've had, so expect a much smoother and clearer sound from the TS03, and a good balance between bass, midrange, and treble.

    My IEM experiences include the Final Audio FI-BA-SS (hard and bright), the Sennheiser IE800 (wonderful), the B&O H3 (slightly bright and a bit lean, but good), the RHA T20 (like the H3), several Soundmagic models (decent sound that varies between a lean bass and an emphasized but woofy bass), the Xiaomi MI-IF Piston (as good as or better than the Soundmagic earphones), and now the TS03. The TS03 impresses me most like the IE800, with solid detailed bass support, very low midrange coloration, and instrument separation and detail that's to die for. Jimmy Smith's Basin Street Blues, a high-resolution download from HDTracks, has those details in horn crescendos that can sound anywhere from mushy to brittle on different headphones, but sound surprisingly good on the TS03.

    Isolation with the TS03 is at least as good as a good closed headphone, and the leakage is effectively nonexistent. The rubberized cable is about 4.5 feet long, with no microphonics that I can detect. There is a one-button box on the right side with a microphone, and the Y-split occurs about 17 inches down from the earpieces. The plug is a 3.5 mm 45-degree angled miniplug. The earpieces are partly or mostly wood, but there's a 1/4 inch wide metal sleeve just ahead of the driver. The cable seems pretty typical for IEM's, not fragile nor extra thick, and there are strain reliefs going into each earpiece, which should increase reliability. The TS03 comes with a small canvas carry bag, 4 extra sets of eartips, a clothing clip to keep the cable secure when in use, and warranty cards.

    In previous IEM reviews I've included the following music samples with comments about how the earphones 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 TS03 compares with each individual track.

    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 well into the background, but you can really feel the weight they carry with the TS03.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track with the TS03 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 clearly identifiable.

    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 TS03 plays this music very well.

    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 TS03. This is a great recording for evaluating whether an earphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many earphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    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 impressive with the TS03.

    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 TS03 reproduces those sound effects with a lighter tonality than my more expensive headphones.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong and work well with the horns and other instruments. The TS03 delivers the impacts with very good weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.
     
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  2. ScottAO

    ScottAO A Class

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    Great write up! Ordered :D
     
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