Thinksound MS01 wooden earphones
It's the easiest thing in the world to claim that your headphones or speakers are "studio monitors". It's also all the rage these days, thanks to the likes of Beats. But with most people never having heard audio in a studio, they don't really have a way to tell if what they're hearing is as good as the professionals get blasted into their shell-likes.
The Thinksound MS01s are more than just monitor quality. They're also aimed at people who want their consumer electronics sustainable, as well as high-quality. We took a listen, to find out if they're worth your tree-derived notes with the Queen's head on.
Wood is sustainable and it sounds better are the two arguments for these quirky headphones. And, we have to say, if nothing else they're a talking point, and a marvel of engineering. The wood looks great, it's light too, so the headphones feel a little less bulky than those made of metal, or even plastic.
As for the improved sound quality, we can't say for sure if it makes any real world difference, but as you'll see, we have no real complaints about the sound quality.
One of the interesting things about Thinksound is that it is very keen to maintain as small an environment footprint as possible. We're all for that, of course, and it fits nicely with their wooden earphone ethos, which gives a sort of earthy feel to proceedings.
The packaging they arrive in is all recycled cardboard. It's brilliantly designed, with space for the headphones and accessories cut out of block of card. It's all recyclable too, and the firm urges you to dispose of the packaging in as friendly a manner as possible.
Everything is sustainable, and the wood for the earphones is from trees that will be replanted and the cotton carry case is sewn from renewable sources too. The firms also uses no bleach, keeps plastic to a minimum, and reduces the size and weight of the pack to keep shipping costs - and impact - to a minimum.
In the box
Along with the headphones, you get a pair of "loops" which are designed to keep the earphones in place if you're doing excercise. To be honest, we never felt that these were all that necessary, as the earphones stay in particularly well. There's also a small clip, to attach the headphones to your clothes and keep them out of the way.
There's also a little fabric sack, which you can use to carry the earphones around. This will help protect them, and should stop them from notting up too badly. We've broken earphones by carrying them around in our pockets, so we kind of like this. The bag is a little rough though, but that's almost certainly because it's eco-friendly.
There are also four pairs of earbuds, which means you should get a good fit for your earholes. The MS01s are also compatible with Comply foam tips, which are an optional extra, and cost about £18 for three pairs. That's quite an investment in foam, we have to say, and it's arguable whether they make much difference to the sound.
Passive noise isolation is a simpler version of electronic noise cancellation. Instead of listening to ambient sound and deadening it by sending the opposite to your year, these headphones simply attempt to block sound from reaching your inner ear. We have to admit too, because of the depth you need to sink these headphones, very little sound from outside gets through.
Indeed, we tested it with a ratty two-year-old and found her screams about not being allowed outside to be almost completely deadened. We haven't tested on an aircraft, but they will no doubt do a pretty decent job at 30,000ft too.
While it's not a big deal, we can't help but think that the cable connecting the MS01s to your music source is a bit less than high-end. There's nothing glaringly wrong with it, but everything is moulded and there's no way to replace the cable if it goes wrong. As it's always the cable that breaks in headphones, we can't help think this is a worry for a £115 pair of cans.
That said, in the time we were using them, they never gave us any real concern. But we do LOVE replaceable cables.
It has to be said, the MS01s are certainly comfortable to wear. They're a fair bit lighter than most in-ear headphones, which seems to make them pretty comfortable to wear.
In terms of sound, we have to say we weren't too sure initially. It felt there wasn't a lot of low-end punch to be had. While we're used to quite flat headphones, these seemed to fall a little short of that. However, it turned out that we needed to push them a little deeper into our ear to get the best sound. We also understand that changing the tips will make a lot of difference, so make sure you experiment a bit.
Some people might not be happy pushing the earphones in, but we found them comfortable in place and taking them out again wasn't a problem. With them properly fitted, you do get much better bass and great noise isolation. So it is worth it.
With our test device, a Samsung Galaxy S III, we noted that the sound on the flat EQ setting was very good. More low-end than perhaps most high-end headphones usually offer, but it's a pretty good sound. We enjoyed it more the more we listened.
These earphones really grew on us over the time we were using them. The sound is clean, crisp with plenty of range to it. Mid and high are very well represented, and there's just enough bass for most people too. Some who like a flatter sound may not find them ideal, but for pop, electronic music and rock, they're ideal.
We like that someone in headphones is thinking about the environment, and we're also glad that the wood construction seems to make for both a better planet and a great sound.
They are expensive at £115, although not quite up in the headphone sweet-spot of £150, where everyone seems to be selling headphones these days.