Paul McAleer

The Break-In: thinksound Rain

Paul McAleer

A short while ago I cobbled together my initial thoughts on my thinksound Rain IEMs (in-ear monitors,) my new earbuds. I promised a follow-up once they had been broken in - roughly at the 40-hour mark - and thus, this piece. 

I’d like to take a moment to first give a shout-out to my precocious Beagle, Wally. You see, a week after I bought the Rains I left them out on a side table in my living room. When I left the room Wally spotted them and, having an odd penchant for wood, decided they would make a tasty snack. (Don’t worry; he was all right.) I ordered a replacement pair and waited for this pair’s break-in period to conclude.

The Fit

Something slightly curious: though these were identical IEMs I wasn’t thoroughly convinced that the fit was identical. It may have been psychological, but the same size inserts I had used on the prior pair seemed too loose on this pair. I’m now using the largest inserts in both ears. More than that, though, I’ve made peace with the fact that I may need to experiment more with these to get the best results; note that this may color my opinion a bit.

The Bass

My last pair of Rains were bassy, particularly compared to my previous Sennheiser earbuds, that I was thrilled I hadn’t opted for the TS01s (nee Thunder.) Interestingly I was taken aback by this second pair’s lack of bass. Now, they weren’t anywhere as tinny as the Sennheisers in comparison, but it wasn’t as profound a difference as I initially thought.

This is possibly due to the insert size. My understanding is that the insert has a profound impact on bass: the better the seal, the better the bass.

All told, the Rains are exceptionally well-balanced. Bass remains present and distinct, as do the highs and mids. Separation is killer.

In Practice

These have been my main earbuds on the train and in the office so I’m wearing them for a good 6-9 hours a day with copious breaks. The overall comfort is splendid. As noted in my last piece, the Rains feel mostly like earplugs. They’re very good at blocking outside sounds up to a point: nearby conversations are banished but very loud sounds such as train announcements are merely muffled. Still, there is a marked difference versus conventional earbuds and the result is acceptable given these are passive, not active, noise canceling buds.

Notably, the Rains still extract tiny details from my music even on songs I’ve played until the bits have worn out. Erin McKeown’s excellent Hundreds of Lions has a track, “The Lions,” with a 30-second outro. The outro is something I pretty much wrote off with the Sennheiser buds, but the Rains helped give it more presence. As a result, the outro is now my favorite part of the track.

Overall sound remains warm. Before this pair was fully broken in, I played R.E.M.’s “Tongue” on the Rains and then switched to my Sennheiser buds mid-track (remember that the right bud was showing lots of clipping, but for a quick comparison I felt this was fine.) The Sennheisers in comparison sounded ice cold. While the treble was very nice indeed, the mids and bottom were really lacking. The Rain easily won the comparison for me: again, the entire spectrum was well-represented.

I also compared the Rains to my Sennheiser HD497s, lying dormant on my office desk after years and years of use. The bass on the HD497s is superior, no doubt, but the Rains totally hold their own. Really impressive.

Just One Problem

The key problem I see with the Rains is that there’s no way to easily distinguish which bud is for which ear without looking at the marking on the inside bottom of the bud. My Sennheiser full-size earphones include three raised bumps on the left phone right where one’s hand would naturally go. The three bumps are in the formation of the Braille letter “L” - a cool, subtle design touch that the Rains would benefit from.

So Far, So Great

Make no mistake: the thinksound Rains are excellent. I’m overly pleased with their performance given their reasonable price. If you’re looking for IEMs that not just look good but perform well, and really love listening to music critically, look no further.

thinksound Rain

thinksound TS01