For me the brand Thinksound equals attractive wood headphones and earphones with an environmental slant. The name also means to me above average audio for a not too demanding price. I have reviewed both the MS01 and the On1 to date and both of them were actually very good products for the price and attractively made. Most times I have taken these to local meetings the response has been more than positive though given they are not a Senn or a Beyer the final discussion has always been about price and availability. Of course if you are residing in an Amazon sphere of influence these are pretty easy to acquire and the same is true for their new Rain 2 IEM, the $99 successor to the original Rain IEM they launched in almost 5 years ago and the unit that kick started the Thinksound brand to begin with. The original Rain 1 was a rich lush sounding woody IEM also at around $99 and at today’s market price you can pick these up at a bargain $35 off Amazon. The fact it is still selling today 5 years after its release is testimony to the durable popularity of the Rain series of IEMs. If you are after a Rain 2 after this review I would suggest you grab the Rain 1 also for just a few bucks more.
What Do You Get?
Five years down the line and the packaging of the Rain 2 is still in much the same form factor as the original Rain packaging some five years ago. However the Rain 2 has somewhat less of an eco-box feel to the original Rain 2 coming in a more standard glossy white box rather than the aged recycled feel of the older brown box Rain 1. Mind you a quick look at the back and it is a welcome relief to see that the box is still made from recycled materials so thankfully Thinksound has not ditched its core principles in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. I kind of liked the old carton grade box, but certainly the new one has a bit more marketing savvy to it.
Inside though and it is all trademark Thinksound packaging with the recycled paper mache container for the Rain 2 and its accessories. This is quite similar to the MS01 style and a step up from the more flimsy Rain 1 IEM simple single cardboard tray and plastic clip holders. The accessories for the Rain 2 are also quite similar to the Rain 1 packaging with a soap bag style cotton cloth pouch emblazoned with the Thinksound logo, the IEM themselves (with a set of tips already on), three extra silicone tips in small, medium and large and a cord clip for tucking away the cable. The plastic clip holders of the Rain 1 have also been thrown out in favor of a much more ecofriendly cotton cord tie. In 2010 this is about as much as you can expect in quality wooden earphones in terms of accessory kits but considering the likes of RockJaw are churning out woody IEMs with triple filters (Alfa Genus), set of tips, clips and pouch for around $80 these days then the competition is getting a little bit hotter than it used to be. Thinksound are not on their own anymore in this price bracket for wooden earphones.
The Rain 2 form factor is classic Thinksound; small, light and very well made. Instead of opting for the dual color schemes of Silver Cherry or Black Chocolate finish of the Rain 1, the Rain 2 instead comes in the single finish for all units on sale. This time Thinksound have opted for a gunmetal baffle mated to the chocolate-stained wood housing of the Rain 1. Compared to the Cherry finish which is a bit brighter I do actually prefer the more subdued and contrasting colors of the chocolate stained wood housing of the Rain 2. It’s a bit more mature and premium looking in that respect. Cherry just gives off a plasticky feel side by side. Despite housing a slightly smaller dynamic driver, 8mm compared to 9mm, the Rain 2 has also a marginally longer chamber than the Rain 1 which is mostly due to the slightly longer metal baffle on the Rain 2. The wooden chambers themselves are almost the same in dimension.
The Rain 2 still sports a straight down cable connection as per the Rain 1 with similar strength cable resistors going into the wooden chambers. The cable itself is the same length on both units at 4ft long but this time the Rain 2 comes with a much superior angled gold plated 3.5mm jack to the straight 3.5mm jack on the Rain 1. The cable resistor is much sturdier looking also on the Rain 2. Both cables have that nice little aluminum branded barrel at the y split for keeping things tidy also. Note the cable on the Rain 2 is slightly thicker than the Rain 1 and has far less memory retention also meaning there is less chance of spending unneeded time unwinding the Rain 2 from its pouch when you want to plug and play. Microphonics are present on both cables when used straight down and slightly less if you can manage to curve it over your ear. The Rain 2 microphonics is slightly softer and less high pitched than the Rain 1 cable, most likely due to the thickness of the Rain 2 cable. All in all the Rain 2 cable feels a lot stronger and more durable.
Of course fit will depend on your ears and my canals are average to large size with a slight curve in the left making life difficult with the likes of the Fidue A83 which was quite angular. However the Rain 2 with the stock tips fitted perfectly and held their spot well despite many head shakes and rapid jaw movements. The fit and seal was slightly superior to the Rain 1 whose tips were largely the same in size but had a slightly shallower throw than the new tips of the Rain 2. There was a lot more leakage in both ways with the Rain 1 tips than the Rain 2 and background noise was a bit higher also with the older Rain 1 so job done there I think by Thinksound. Comfort was also appreciably superior with the new Rain 2 tips and fit. The silicone tips felt a bit sturdier though still quite pliant but that slight firmness made the seal a lot easier to achieve without hunting for any sweet spot positioning.
The Rain 2 is has a warm to slightly neutral u-shaped tonality with a slight emphasis on the midbass response and a sparkle in the upper treble but neither end is too distracting or harsh. It has that sort of forgiving tonality that will sound equally pleasing with compressed or lossless tracks equally. The presentation is full sounding with excellent width in the soundstage and a relatively clean attack but with a longish bass decay so some notes tend to linger a bit too long in the lows making it seem more bass dominant than it actually is. It is not quite as warm and rich as the Rain 1 in that respect but it’s not a flat sounding reference IEM preferring instead to go with musicality and a hint of audiophile sensibilities to keep everything from sounding too shelved down with that forward upper treble range. One thing to note is that after about 30-40 hours burn in the Rain 2 started to sound less warm and more neutral in tonality and also sources can further tinker with the tonality with some pushing out the bass and others helping with a rather relaxed midrange.
A slightly forward bass signature with a clean attack and a slightly longish decay making it a bit soft with so so definition but definitely full sounding. It’s not in your face bass though so rather than bleeding all over the place and sounding boomy it’s a bit more gentile but still rich and thick enough for EDM and other low end dominant genres. The mid bass doesn’t have a huge hump but the slightly recessed midrange does make it sound a bit more present. Sources did have a small influence on the bass response with the DX90 bringing an added sense of dynamics to the bass attack but perhaps filling it out too much and the FiiO X3 Gen 2 pulling it back slightly with a bit of a cleaner but slightly colder presentation. Straight out of the jack of the IPod Classic the bass has a slight upturn in warmth and dynamics but with slightly less control and clarity. Overall though the core bass signature of the Rain 2 is beefy, planted and full but not forceful or too slamming to be too one dimensional.
Out of the box the mids are full sounding also but are slightly recessed with a vocal stage that struggled to keep its head above the water compared to the more forward bass and treble response. However persistence is rewarding and after a few hours burn in the vocal stage is sounds far less submerged and capable but it isn’t that forward and big sounding and feels more ‘in the mix’ with the rest of the midrange. I am a vocal fan so slightly sad that the Rain 2 doesn’t emphasize that area a bit more. Vocals tend to have a tiny bit of glare but they do not suffer from any undue harshness and only occasional sibilance and overall sound relatively clean. Again flicking between sources brought some subtle changes to the character of the midrange with the IPod sounding a bit wider and more dynamic but also a lot grainier in the vocal range and the X3 Gen 2 sounding a lot cleaner but slightly flatter and more brittle and not quite as engaging.
Treble sparkle is obvious on the Rain 2 but it is done in an agreeable manner meaning there is a nothing strident, distracting or in your face coming from the top end. It’s a relatively detailed and certainly that sparkle adds to an overall sense of decent detail, articulation and air. Lower treble is not too peaky either with a decent mid to low end treble transition. Percussion and cymbal sequences on most sources sounding under control and non-too splashy.
The Rain 2 is relatively easy to drive and requires little or no added amplification beyond a decent DAP jack out. That being said, and I have referenced to this a few times already, the Rain 2’s sound signature has some subtle changes depending on which source you prefer to go with. Believe it or not I actually preferred the iPod 7th Gen Classic sound signature more than the X3 2nd Gen’s more clinical and flatter response which tended to bring an added brittleness to the vocal stage that the iPod didn’t bring to the table. Robin’s solo vocals on her stripped down “Eclipse” from her self-titled album sounded just that little bit more natural and musical than on the slightly more brittle sounding X3 2nd Gen.
The DX90 was far superior to both of them in terms of smoothness and control but added perhaps a bit too much bass dynamic in an already full sounding bass response in the Rain 2. Switching to acoustical tracks such as Agnes Obel’s “Brother Sparrow” really allowed the Rain 2 and DX90 match to soar far beyond both the X3 Gen 2 and the iPod Classics capabilities in terms of clarity and a natural vocal presence. If anything all 3 DAPs used seem to enjoy the Rain 2 far more with acoustics and simple spacious tracks with vocals mixed to the fore to give it as much chance as possible to shine.
It’s the 5 year anniversary of the Rain series from Thinksound at the time of writing so in a sense the Rain 2 is a return to the roots or the origins of the Thinksound brand. It’s still all there; the eco stance, the gorgeous wood chambers and a tonality that errs to the warm and musical rather than the cold and analytical. For $99 this is a good IEM but it’s a good IEM for certain genres and certain DAPs. If your using a DX90 and even an iPod the Rain 2 should provide ample casual enjoyment though I dare say with the DX90 you might be sporting some higher end IEM’s to begin with. If you enjoy acoustics, spacious sounding relaxed music then the full sounding u shaped Rain 2 might work quite well and indeed in most of our tracks when the pace slowed down and the bass pulled back a little it’s very pleasurable indeed.
Thinksound’s Rain 2’s main challenge though is the price point. When I first encountered the MS01 it was also close to the $99 point a few years ago and I thought very fair value indeed. The original Rain is selling at $35 right now on Amazon and I actually think that’s a pretty competitive price. The Rain 2 at $99 though might need some more discounting to stand out from the crowd. RockJaw’s Alfa Genus and the Arcana V2 sell much lower these days with the Genus packing in a filter system that belies that $60-$80 price tag. I really enjoyed both of them also and rate them worthy competitors in the sub-$100 woody IEM range. You also have RHA sniffing around this price category with the MA600i and MA750, both of which whilst not wood IEM’s play out very strongly indeed and represent great value for money.