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On1 Sound Evalution and Conclusion

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The On1 sport a 40mm driver with a 50 ohm impedance. This suggests that the On1s should play nice with nearly any source you have. That said, those of you paying $300 for a pair of cans are probably also thinking of external amplification. I tested the thinksound On1 headphones with the Emotiva Stealth DC-1 DAC and headphone amp, the Cambridge Audio DACMagic XS, the headphone output of my Macbook and Galaxy Nexus, and more. With smaller sources like my phone, I had to nearly max out the volume to drown out my kids (which is the point of headphones after all) but other sources had a bit more headroom. The point is that you'll be able to utilize the On1 headphones with any source but they will definitely benefit from external amplification.

on1_bag

"That's the carrying case?" said everyone in disbelief after dropping $300 on these cans

What you want in a studio monitor is for it to get out of the way and give you the sound the artist intended. This means having a fairly flat frequency response among other things. The first thing I did was run the On1 headphones through a few sweeps. It was clear that the On1s have quite a bit of bass extension. While they claim down to 5Hz (they should have said 1Hz, it isn't like anyone can hear that anyhow), I found that anything around 25Hz or lower sounded fairly distorted. They did play something all the way down to 20Hz, however, which is pretty impressive even at this price point. Full range sweeps didn't reveal any dips or obvious emphasis anywhere else in the response range. Overall, they sounded pretty flat to me.

Working from the top down, I found the thinksound On1 headphones to be very forgiving but not at the expense of detail. The top end was well extended but not harsh though it may be a bit rolled off at the very top. Cymbals and other high notes sounded crisp and clean but not at all fatiguing or grating. The midrange was accurate and lush but not overblown. Often, a vocalist will sound different at the top of their range versus the bottom with inaccurate headphones. The On1 exhibited none of this and sounded consist throughout the midrange.

on1_fold

The wood really does look nice

The bass was well extended and rivaled some of the bassier offerings in this price range. I compared them to the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 headphones. The M-100s are a bass heavy headphone that I love to use even if they aren't the most accurate. The V-MODA's range was slightly lower than the On1's but the On1's sounded more accurate. When I compared them on other parts of the frequency response range, however, the differences were much more dramatic. The increased bass on the M-100s tended to overshadow the vocals while the On1s allowed the vocals to shine through.

on1_control_back

Every time you capitalize a letter, a tree is cut down in the rainforest

You can't call yourself a studio monitor and not go up against the very best headphone I have in my arsenal. Well, in the $300 price range, that's the Sennheiser Momentum over-ear headphones (review pending). Sonically, I was amazed at how similar these two headphones sounded. The top end and midrange were almost identical. This is a huge compliment to the thinksound On1 as I didn't expect this level of performance. The On1s had better bass extension than the Momentums but I felt the bass was slightly muddier because of it. While it didn't happen often, when the bass dipped down into the lowest registers, the On1s would introduce noise that the Momentums simply wouldn't. This distortion took away from the soundstage and imaging but it was a rare occurrence. Overall, the sound quality of the thinksound On1 was on par with the best in this price range.

One thing I was worried about with the On1 headphones was the bass. Some of their other offerings were a bit bass heavy and I was afraid I'd find that here as well. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. While the bass was well extended, it wasn't at all boomy. Even the Momentums, which didn't have the extension, would occasionally feel like they were trying to bounce off your head. The On1 headphones were always controlled and never felt like there were either lacking or emphasizing the bass.

on1_plastic

Plastic: Out of place on premium headphones since forever

Conclusion

The On1 headphones from thinksound purport to be a studio monitor in an on-ear headphone. That's a pretty tall order but one that I believe they have fulfilled. The On1's have great top end extension, a lush midrange, and no real emphasis on any specific frequency range. At the lowest registers, they introduce a little noise which did distort the presentation somewhat, but it was only with the lowest bass. While I can't imagine any studio person using an on-ear phone for long term use for comfort reasons alone, the goal of a transparent headphone is one to be lauded. While many like thinksound's Eco focus in their products, I care only about how they sound. The thinksound On1 headphones present accurate sound to rival the best in the price range. This is an easy recommendation for those that are looking for on-ear headphones.

thinksound On1 On-Ear Headphones

MSRP: $299.99

on1_band_top

www.thinksound.com

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStar
SoundstageStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStar
ValueStarStarStarStarhalf-star
About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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