I`ll get straight to the point!
A couple of weeks ago my trusted Creative EP-630 earbuds have decided that it`s time to retire. The cable wasn`t touching the jack properly anymore. So I was forced to use the in-ear trashcans from Apple for almost 1 week until I couldn`t bare them anymore and I switched to my Sennheiser HD200 for everyday stuff.
The Apple earbuds are the crappiest piece of hardware that I have had the “pleasure” to use, in my entire life. When I requested them I wanted something with a microphone so that I can answer my phone, while listening to music. Needless to say they were kept in a box for dark days ever since.
But now to my original story… The Creative EP-630 have had a long run (5 years now) by my side and they were by far the sweetest deal I had ever made on audio stuff (right next to the Senns). They were a whopping 36$ in 2007 (discounted from 55$), and the quality of sound was way beyond the price point.
So here I was, stranded in Shanghai, looking to buy a new pair of earbuds. After some extensive reviews and top 10s, I was hooked on buying a pair of in-ear monitors. (the high-end of in-ear audio stuff) My main two choices were the Creative Aurvana In-Ear 3 and the ThinkSound MS-01.
So if you`ve read the title of this entry, you know by now, what choice I`ve made. But the funny story is how I got them!
About a week into the Apple crappy “get well soon”-card speakers ordeal I started looking for a retailer for both Aurvana and ThinkSound, in Shanghai. Needless to say that you can find Aurvanas at every corner, most of them fake, just like the whole series of Beats by Dre that all Shanghainese people are using. Thus I was a bit turned down by the idea that I could buy fake stuff for the price of real ones.
People here don`t yet know about ThinkSound so the chance of finding a fake pair was at minimum.
I went on the ThinkSound contact webpage and I saw an e-mail address. Hmm … I wonder what will happen if I send them a question about retailers in Shanghai (or China for that matter). 2 minutes later I got an e-mail back from them; It was from Aaron Fournier (the CEO of ThinkSound) telling me that he`s currently at his factory in China (north of Hong Kong) and he can send me a pair hot off the production line. Paypal invoice was paid and next thing I now, I get an e-mail that the package has been sent.
3 days later I had them at my office, ready to be put to test.
And now, I`ll tell you about how awesome they are (I know about the burn-in period so they are going to sound even better in a little while):
Right out of the box they come with the medium sized rubber plugs. The first 30 seconds I was disappointed, they didn`t sound as good as I expected. Then it hit me … change the freaking rubber plugs with the bigger ones, you idiot!
I did! And, boy, did the sound changed completely. The full bass that I was craving for. The clear high pitched sounds were like pins dropping on a marble floor. I actually verbalized “this shit has a second guitar in the middle of the song!”
So after the first 3 minutes of amazement I tried to take it slower and a little more objectively. So I opened out iTunes and selected at random 5 of the most played songs of all time (actually, since I installed iTunes on this computer) and (of course) the whole Mothership album from Led Zeppelin.
This way I was listening to songs that I`ve heard through almost every pair of headphones that I have ever owned. And I was impressed!
The sound is clear, the bass is just perfect, the detail in the background noise is something that I was never aware of, and now old-school vinyl sessions have a new depth of perception.
Gaming wise, I can easily play Call of Duty series with these instead of sweating with the Senns on my head. The sound is at least as good. And I`ve always said “it`s more important to have good sound than to have the best mouse on the planet”. The test was simple: 2 mouses (one gaming grade and one cheap laptop mouse) and the MS-01s vs 2.1 speakers. In the end the difference was set by sound quality and the fact that enemies could not sneak-up on me while using these earbuds.
They even come with 2 gizmos to hang them behind your ears. And they actually work (although they get tiresome after long periods of time 2-4 hours).
For me, they are worth every penny of those 99$, but I`m sure many of you will never spend that much on a pair of earbuds. The EP-630 from Creative are still out there for about 40-50$ and they will satisfy a lot of average users. For those that want the best, ThinkSound is definitely a brand worth trying.
And the ultimate objective test was to briefly pass them to some friends and watch their reaction. Needless to say it was priceless. And you know that you got them hooked when the first thing they do is to open up a web-page and search for ThinkSound headphones that fit their budget.
There`s only one thing I would love headphone companies to do from now on. Make it easy for us recognizing left and right, in the dark! I find myself squinting every night trying to figure out how they go, before I start a movie on the iPad. I ended up doing the same thing I`ve done before: I stuck a small piece of gaffer`s tape on the right earpiece, this way I can “feel” which one`s which.
I am, by no means, an audiophile, but I can recognize good gadgets when I see them. And if you were expecting a more thorough test … I`m too busy enjoying my music!