There truly is no doubting that Thinksound is capable of producing some incredibly beautiful headphones. To me, this is art. I have a thing for woodies and I enjoyed their older On2 model that I had reviewed some time ago just as much as this new OV21.
I am told their aim was to fashion an all-around product that was well suited for musicians, recording artists, and audiophiles alike. It is always lovely to see products that end up being a great bank for your buck treasure, or a can-do-anything type of headphones for us to enjoy in multiple settings.
It seems Thinksound designed this OV21 with a 45mm neodymium magnet type. Fairly standard stuff, but we’ve progressed in recent years in the technology of the classic driver designs.
No longer are the standard driver types like this something to be overlooked, the coiled dynamic magnet style quality has skyrocketed into places I never thought we’d see so soon. For $399, this headphone is not just gorgeous to look at, but also produces excellent sizing and scaling overall with regard to bass and imaging.
The Driver Dampening
The Thinksound trademarked bioplastic Treva design was implemented into this headphone, a company first it seems. This technology is centered around being crafted out of sustainable wood pulp that has the aim of reducing resonance:
“We’re a company that has always had sustainability as part of our mission,” said Aaron Fournier, president, and founder of Thinksound. “Historically, we’ve achieved this by using wood and other natural or recyclable components. That created a challenge with new product development because we had to minimize the use of plastic. Trēva offered us an opportunity to develop headphones in an environmentally responsible way while meeting our rigorous standards for acoustic performance.
Trēva is a USDA Certified Biobased® polymer that offers excellent acoustic properties in addition to the durability, chemical resistance and processability required for engineered applications in consumer electronic devices.” -Thinksound (Source: Eastman.com)
Oh, come on. You know it, I know it. The ov21 is essentially a runway supermodel. The wood panels on the earcups are made of Walnut inlay and it seems, of course, no two sets are going to be the same.
This is not a pressed fiber wood plate; this is a real cut of Walnut. So, each pair with being “one of a kind” as the company cites on their description page for the ov21.
The headband and Y-cup braces are also solid aluminum, so this headphone has a very good build quality to it that doesn’t feel cheap in the slightest. This is pretty much what I want all my endgame headphones to look like.
Some type of variant of woodie plate cups, but with metallic inners that exude a heavy and dense high-quality vibe. I can’t ask for more here. The uild is top-notch. The headphone is fully over the ear, with plenty of space for my ears to not touch the sides of each earpad. It is large, roomy, and comfy.
Comfort & Isolation
The ov21 earpads are leatherette, with real memory foam inside. They seem of high quality just through tactile feel. Sometimes, you can tell which foam cuts are of poor quality and which are of higher quality.
Memory foam qualities vary greatly and it seems this ov21 really put the focus on quality. The pads are supremely supple and have a lot of give to them. They are not firm. A stark contrast to something like the Sivga Robin that I reviewed not too long ago, which had a very thick cut of low-quality foam inside of it.
You can tell it is lower quality due to the density factor and how well it retains shape after pressing on it. As far as Isolation goes, the headphone has no noise cancelation beyond passive. It is a solid closed back, so the natural passive isolation quality is fairly good, all things considered.
Yes, due to it being leatherette and closed back in design, it gets warm fast. Nothing much you can do about that.
Oh, thank the audio gods! The ov21 stock cable is relatively thin and fabric laced, which is my personal preference due to it being completely unobtrusive. It is also only 4.5ft long. So not portable length, but not full-size home usage length, it is right in the middle to suit both needs fairly well without being overly cumbersome.
The headphone cable is detachable, terminated with a standard 3.5mm on both ends. Thank you, Thinksound, for no force proprietary design. If I want, I can swap a custom 3.5mm cable in there so long as the adapter head fits, if you got it, I say use it. It also comes with a 3.5mm to 3-pole mic cable if you want to use that instead. Great to see both covered and included.
Packaging & Accessories
The ov21 box is fairly standard, with nothing much to write off. Standard cardboard inserts, which contain the headphone and some light paperwork. You get a nifty thank you and setup paper set and nothing else beyond the spare microphone cable.
I used to be one of those box snobs, but this late in the game, I don’t think I care too much anymore. Just give me some great headphones and the basic cables that I need. With that, I’ll be happy.
Most of us have a box full of loose adapters already so having more included seems a waste for audiophiles in general. Although, at this price, I would have liked to at least see a case. Instead, you get a fabric bag holder.
The ov21 is slightly elevated in bass quantity over the mids and treble. So, there is a bit of extra thump there that makes the headphone sound just north of flat.
The fidelity of the bass is well enough in purity for $399 and right on point with what I think a $400-500 headphone should feel and sound like. I do not get any hints of inferior fidelity quality for the price, so I am confident in saying that the ov21 is a good product in terms of price to performance ratio on the low end.
This isn’t a basshead model, so don’t expect that. Do expect a more than passable physical quantity that comes stock without any EQ boosting though.
The ov21’s low-end tonality is dense and engaging. This is not a soft-hitting headphone; this was made for studio mastering so it tends to have a bit of a forceful kick now and then. Is it annoying? Absolutely not, but it is there and not something I regard as gentle.
It is clear Thinksound aimed for middle ground here, I mean Afterall, they did say that was their intent. So, the headphone doesn’t hit overly hard, but it also isn’t soft in physical tactility factor.
The tone itself is more on what I call the dry/natural side than warm or clinical sterile. There are subtle hints of warmth, but also at times, and depending on the track, it can be a bit neutral feeling. So again, the middle ground intent showing its true face here.
Well, this is interesting. The ov21’s vocal experience is pushed back further than what I would consider very forward. (IE: not too far away, not too forward, and in your face).
This model surely feels like is aiming for the middle ground, a stark contrast once again to that SIVGA model I mentioned, which has much more forward mids in its closed-back design.
The same applies to the Beyerdynamic T5 Gen3 that I reviewed not too long ago. But physical placement has nothing to do with purity factor, of course. This is entirely preference, you either like recessed mids, middle placement of the mids, or very forward in your face sounding midrange. Pick your poison sort of thing.
So, what does that mean exactly? Well, it means the ov21’s physical placement for the midrange is neutrally placed. No amount of EQ seems to be able to fix this either, it seems very dead set and stubborn in that regard that no amps or sources, or any level of EQ can alter that nature of the midrange and vocal experience.
This means that a lot of attempts to EQ the midrange to a more distance feel or a more forward appeal do very little to alter the experience.
But as far as raw purity and fidelity go? At $399, this is a great model product. No doubt. The fidelity factor is good for the price and compared to some older gen models from yesteryear from other companies.
The new mid-tier is 2 generations ago upper tier. That seems to be the new formula, every few years, the new tech we get in the middle tier is equivalent to the upper-tier models we had beyond the $500 range from a few years back.
I am personally unfond of the top side of the ov21, and it isn’t so much for fidelity reasoning, but for tonality reasoning. Sometimes, headphones can lack a sense of style and interestingness.
In this case, the top side is overly lacking the evident purity factor of the midrange and the bass, both of which are very nice for the price. The treble though, is overly generic and doesn’t reflect the price tag of a closed back in this tier, at least not in my opinion.
Is that to say it’s bad? No not really. It just lacks engaging qualities in both directions. It is neither tonally interesting, nor is it responsive. I feel like no matter what I listen to, the treble is uninspired and lacks a sense of bite and brightness that I would find appealing.
At the same time, I find it lacking a physicality that is present in the bass and midrange. I think they played it too safe on the treble side, I would prefer some more treble density factor, as this ov21 emits a thinner than I’d like in treble performances.
It needs to feel physically thicker than this and not so thin. Thin and lacking engaging impact factor is something I consider a bit too underwhelming.
The Thinksound ov21 is a solid performer in the sound staging department, but this is a closed-back headphone…so, don’t expect insane imaging prowess. What is there, is just good overall when you consider this is a closed design.
Having said that, the overall width factor is the issue I am picking up on. The coherent bubble of the void, as I call it, does not extend as wide as I would like it to be for this price. But then again, maybe that was their intent as a studio mixing monitor to not have such a wide image, but more of a focus on equal width and height factor.
In that regard, it’s a nicely formed slightly elongated rectangle of a physical setup. The imaging depth of field and realism factor is just good overall and not something I would be recommending for imaging enthusiasts, like myself.
In fact, I think that the SIVGA model has better realism and depth of field, but it is also thinner feeling on the low end and mids, so that makes the focus on the treble side feel like the Sivga is more aired out.
Overall, the ov21 is just good at almost everything in the listening experience and the imaging side of this is no different. What is there, is good overall and not lacking in any manner. It is though edging close to that price range where I feel more is needed to justify itself in terms of width and height factor. The sense of air is lacking, likely due to the lacking treble presence.
The Thinksound ov21 is moderately needy at just 50 ohms. With that, you can power it nicely just off your phone. I have a new Sony Xperia 1iii, which has a nifty SD slot and also a 3.5mm jack on it, so I am good to go and do not feel I require any extra portable amping.
I can safely say the ov21 didn’t even change when I plugged into my expensive desktop amp too much. The experience felt the same overall, but one can denote an audible increase in bass fidelity and purity.
However, the mids and treble were nearly totally unaffected by the extra juice and much better source/amp vs just my phone. So, you don’t really need an amp at all to enjoy what this headphone has to offer.
I can say though that warm amps and sterile amp usage did nothing for this model headphone. My very warm amps sounded no different through this headphone than my very neutral and clinical amps and sources. Why? Well, Thinksound designed the headphone to be monitor headphones, so it is not intended to be responsive to warmth and extra bass wooliness.
If you are able, try to find yourself a used XRK portable amp, this amp pairs so nicely with the ov21. But then again, so do most headphones. It just is the best overall portable amp I’ve ever owned and its excessive warmth factor offsets the middle ground tonality of the ov21 better than something like my Burson full-size amps do.
It isn’t much, hardly audible, but that slight extra warmth factor makes me enjoy the ov21 more on this amp than any other amp or source I have in my inventory.
As I said earlier, you don’t really need amping here with this model, it runs great off just a good portable source alone. I really do not hear much of a fidelity increase between my phone, my phone + the XRK, and the full-size amplifiers I have in abundance.
Beyerdynamic T5 Gen3
Ok, true. The T5 is double the price of the ov21 and overall, it’s a tremendously unfair comparison. But it gives me a great reference point for the current value of the $400 tier in the 2022 market.
As mentioned, I feel the old upper tier from a few years ago to be matching the new middle tier of 2022 products. We have not hit that point where the real steals like the T5 are going to be on par with half the price models from this year or next year. But for the most part, outside of those top few models like the T5 in that price tier, we are getting closer to that mark.
The T5 and the ov21 share a similar tone on the bass side, which is why I wanted to talk about them together. They both invoke a sense of middle ground that isn’t overly warm, nor cold. They seem like bass blood brothers and have similar quantity as well.
As I mentioned prior, the Robin feels lighter, airier, more fluffed out, if you will. It also feels physically deeper in imaging. However, the raw fidelity factor across the board is audibly superior on the ov21, this is more than a step up from the Robin, there is no doubt there. One of these is a budget tier, the other is a good performing mid-tier.
The Thinksound ov21 is a stunning-looking woody headphone with an aim for being a generalist, a well-rounded rounded headphone that is suitable for most usages.
It is not a specialized product for any niche, so it doesn’t have a lot of bass, nor a lot of imaging, nor a lot of anything specific. It is just a good overall listening experience that is more than justified in price to performance ratio.
I’d have liked to see a bit more treble quantity on this one, as well as to push that midrange out a bit more forward. But overall, this is a good buy and something I will be using for traveling, I am sure. So, I can recommend it for those who want great-looking headphones with no real serious fidelity issues.
Thinksound ov21 Technical Specifications
Drivers: 45 mm dynamic
Frequency Response: 5 Hz to 22KHz
Materials: Eastman Trēva™, Walnut, Memory foam ear cups, metal headband and frame, gold plated stereo plug
Style: Over-ears passive noise isolation
2 x 4.5′ long detachable nylon-braided tangle-resistant cables (one with microphone and controls, one without)