Portable electronics aren't particularly known for being environmentally friendly, mainly because of how difficult they are to dispose of and the materials that go into making them. Headphones are usually not low-impact, with their long plastic cords and metal, plastic, and silicone components.
However, Thinksound set out with an aim to change that in 2009 with a line of earphones designed with the smallest eco-footprint possible. Out of the company's first models, our favorite was the TS01, because of its natural, deep bass. Now, a music-phone-friendly follow-up has arrived with an integrated mic and playback controls for the iPhone, most BlackBerrys, the iPod Touch, and some Android devices. The TS02 + Mic stereo headset lists for $89, which is perhaps a tad too high given the potential durability issues, but lovers of natural sound may find it reasonable.
Like other "natural" earbuds we've seen, such as the Ear Pollution Timbre and the Woodees, the TS02 headphones feature earpieces that are constructed of wood. You can choose from two finishes, a lighter silver-and-cherry model and a richer black-and-chocolate model. In keeping with its mantra, Thinksound receives the wood from easily renewable sources. In addition, the packaging that the headphones come in is made from recycled products, and both the cardboard box and plastic window are recyclable. Also, the cable, which measures 50 inches, is PVC-free, and the included pouch is of biodegradable cotton.
Another nice thing about the TS02 headphones is that the earpieces are downright tiny, and Thinksound includes four sizes of silicone eartips in the box, so you have XS, S, M, and L. The downside for some is that the large sleeves may not be quite large enough, but the earphones are a great choice for small-eared users. We were able to achieve a good seal with the small tips and found the earbuds comfortable for several hours, and the light weight kept them in place even with plenty of head movement.
The cable is on the thin side, but it's quite flexible and the gold-plated straight-plug is surrounded by a thick housing for reinforcement. Still, the wire does have a tendency to tangle and catch on things, and the junction of the cord and earpieces seems fragile. We have some concerns for durability.
Like other wood earbuds we've listened to, the TS01 earphones offered a more natural sound during testing, with more resonance than you might experience from plastic or metal 'buds. However, these weren't quite as open-sounding as the Woodees, likely because the earpieces are quite a bit smaller. Also, because there is such a heavy emphasis on the low-end, there can be some distortion issues with some tracks, especially those that are encoded in a poor-quality format. In some cases, highs didn't provide the shimmer we were after, but this wasn't an issue across the board for all tracks.
All in all, we found music to be fairly balanced, with warm and encompassing mids and reasonably detailed highs. The bass is really the star here, though. It was amazingly enveloping and deep for many songs, specifically Dreas' deep electronic track "Navigation Light." In particular, we really enjoyed dance pop, hip-hop, and electronica through these, so if those are the genres you tend to like, the TS01 earbuds are a good choice.