Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis
Reviewing audio devices require extensively trained ears and lots of experience. Even for audiophiles, it may prove challenging at times to obtain an accurate evaluation of a product without a thoroughly familiar product to use as a simultaneous reference. While I am not going to even try to claim that I am the only trustworthy or best reviewer for sound, it is fact that most computer review sites have editors that are insufficiently trained in reviewing audio equipment. Give them practically anything and all you will read about goes along the line of "good bass, nice midrange, awesome treble, really clear sound, 10/10". While there are many knowledgeable audio reviewers at various respected online media outlets, these are by far the minority.
As I have mentioned in my past audio reviews, there are really no true objective measurements for speaker sound quality. As the reviewer, however, I will put it through a series of subjective tests to try to come up with the most objective rating possible (Yes, it's quite a paradox haha). The tests were conducted primarily with the SilverStone EB01-E dedicated external digital to analog converter (XMOS XS1 TQ128 USB decoder, TI PCM1798 DAC, TI NE5532 OpAmp) and amplified with the SilverStone EB03 headphone amplifier (THAT 1646W 16-U monolithic audio differential line driver, THAT 1512S14-U preamplifier). Some tests were conducted with the Auzentech X-Fi HomeTheater HD sound card as well (Creative CA20K2 DSP/APU, National Semiconductor LME49720NA OpAmp, JRC NJM4580 signal buffers, Cirrus Logic CS4382A DAC, Nichon MUSE ES capacitors). For portable tests, I have used an Apple iPhone 6. These are some of the best consumer sound equipment out there in the market today, and will reduce its potential to be a limiting factor in our auditioning today.
After over 200 hours of break-in time -- well above typically required period -- we put the thinksound On1 to the tests. All tracks are uncompressed CDs, FLAC, or LAME encoded MP3s at 192kbps or higher.
thinksound markets the On1 as the "monitor series" of their headphone line, and for the most part, this statement is held true. These supra-aural headphones hold true to the music it aims to reproduce, and does so in a faithful manner. Now, if you have been following APH Networks for a while, you will realize we do not normally start an auditioning commentary with the auxiliary characteristics of an audio device. However, the amount of detail, high precision, and clean separation of the thinksound On1 really shines through. Its superior cleanness is demonstrated from the lower midrange all the way to the peak of the treble range. Furthermore, the thinksound On1's frequency separation, for a lack of a fancier term, is excellent. Everything can he heard separately from each instrument; in fact, the thinksound On1 is one of the best I have heard in this category. This in conjunction with a great cohesiveness between the bands create quite an outstanding listening experience.
As far as the sound character is defined, I wrote down "flat-ish" in my APH Networks standard audio evaluation form. Why "flat-ish"? As I have mentioned earlier, the thinksound On1 is said to be studio monitor quality, and they are definitely not wrong to make this assertion. However, compared to the V-MODA XS, which many -- including yours truly -- hail as one of the flattest headphones in the world that would even make Saskatchewan jealous, you will see where the thinksound On1's frequency distribution differs. The bass is slightly enhanced, and the treble appears to be slightly accentuated (It actually is not, but it gives an impression of doing so; more on this later). As such, it is far from being punchy, but it certainly not perfectly neutral either.
The slightly enhanced bass makes the thinksound On1's frequency response to be not completely flat. In fact, its low frequency intensity comes in at a discernibly higher intensity than the V-MODA XS, but still generally carries characteristics of what most audiophiles consider to be good bass. If you are picky enough, there is a small hint of muddiness, but overall, it is deep, relatively solid, round, fairly well defined, and articulate. The midrange is also very clear, but slightly narrowed towards the center. The sound definition, as aforementioned, is very good, but you might pick up a slight roll off at the bottom and a small gap between the upper midrange and lower treble. Now, after listening to the thinksound On1 on a daily basis, and if you already own these headphones, I would agree and say the last comment is rather debatable. My only explanation is while the thinksound On1 is pretty neutral in this area, I would prefer a thicker and richer midrange for better saturation across the band. This will contribute to a warmer sound signature, although, to some extent, this is personal preference.
The treble, especially in the areas where the drum cymbals are, is very nicely reproduced. It is clean, and it is clear. Its sharpness and brightness will surprise you the first time you put them on. As I have mentioned earlier from my subjective audio analysis, the thinner midrange creates an illusion of an accentuated treble; this in conjunction with its center imaged, forward inclination of devices in this midrange makes the upper range more distinct than it actually is. As far as soundstaging is concerned, for headphones of this size, it is about what I have been expecting. It is neither wide nor narrow. The perception and direction of everything is present beyond a shadow of a doubt, but it can use a little bit more of depth and distance. I feel like it performs a little better than the V-MODA XS, possibly due to wooden enclosure on the thinksound On1.
All in all, the thinksound On1 is an excellent pair of over the ear headphones. I would personally prefer something a little more neutral -- especially when it comes to the bass -- and a thicker, better saturated midrange, but generally speaking, it is faithful to the music it aims to play.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis