The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

August 13, 2010

I’d marry my thinksound PVC-free headphones if I weren’t already married to Michael

Last month, after I blogged about how my cat destroyed my headphones, FPF reader Andrea suggested I check out thinksound headphones. She wrote, “They’re ridiculously expensive, but maybe they would send you a pair to review on your blog.” So I contacted the company, and they did just that.

PVC-free wooden headphones

Now, no headphones are plastic-free. But some plastics are worse than others. And most electrical cables are insulated with PVC, one of the most toxic plastics. thinksound headphones are unique. The cables are PVC-free, and the housing is made from wood (the company is working on getting FSC certified) and aluminum instead of plastic. In fact, these headphones probably contain the least amount of plastic on the market. Even the ear inserts are made from silicone instead of petroleum-based plastic.

thinksound headphones

Least Plastic Packaging

But what about the packaging? You know I’m all about waste-free plastic-free packaging. Well, it’s not exactly plastic-free, but almost. The headphones were shipped in a cardboard shipping box with shredded paper as packing material.

thinksound headphones

The thinksound box is made from recycled paper. There is a plastic window, which I could do without. The box itself is sealed shut with two tiny plastic stickers. But the insert inside is made from cardboard rather than plastic blister or bubble material. And the carrying pouch is made from unbleached cotton.

thinksound headphones

Inside the pouch are alternative ear inserts in a tiny plastic bag, as well as a tiny plastic clip. The web site says, “Please use the supplied cable clip when doing rigorous activities to limit cable noise and possible tangling of the cables.” But I’m not sure how to use it. Do you know?

thinksound headphones

Amazing sound

If that were all there was to them, I would give away this pair. I had intended to clean out my ears really well, try them out, and then clean the headphones really well and offer them for free on this blog. But that all changed after I put them in my ears and started listening. Holy crap! These things sound great! No wonder they’re so expensive! (Yes, they are expensive. We’ll get to the price further down.)

The web site says that the wood housing makes the sound “less digital and a little more natural than what you’d get from standard earbuds made of metal or plastic.” I believe it. As for the technology, “Passive noise cancellation minimizes ambient sounds. Dynamic driver features 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response.” I don’t know what that means, but I guess it’s good.

The price is high, but like organic food, sometimes good quality eco-friendly products just cost more. I realize not everyone can afford to pay so much for headphones. That’s a fact of life. But I feel that for those who can afford it and who need headphones, investing in the least toxic, best quality choice is important. I’d rather have a few nice things than a lot of crappy stuff.

But what do you think?

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8 years ago

Just tried to use the discount code but it work work :( Any idea why? Thanks

8 years ago
Reply to  Patty

won’t work*

Aaron Fournier
13 years ago

I use them everyday at the gym and I love them. I designed them with working out in mind. There is also an included cable clip to keep the cable from bouncing around and from getting tangled. If you use the correct fittings they work wonderful. I hope this helps.

Best regards,
Aaron Fournier
president and CEO

13 years ago

How well do these earbuds stay in your ear, say while running or exercising? It is always a pain to stop and re-adjust or re-insert. Thanks.

13 years ago

What timing! I was driving through the Rocky Mountains earlier this week, chatting to a friend on my phone and using my ear buds. She said, “I can’t hear you very well.” So I took them out and finished the call holding the phone to my head – so retro!

Well, I have not been able to find my headphones anywhere since. Evidently, I tossed them out the window at 10,000 feet …? In any case, I’m in the market for a new pair and poof! You come through with this post.

Big thanks to Mr. Fournier, who kindly stepped in to answer our questions directly. The company obviously puts a lot of forward thinking into their product and their packaging, which I really admire. Like so many others here, I have a hard time with the earbuds, not comfortable, so I’ll be looking into the memory seals that he mentioned.

Oh, and being a sucker for clear audio is not a weakness, Beth. You are allowed to marvel in gratitude like the rest of us.

13 years ago

I’m actually glad you didn’t offer these as a giveaway because then I would have entered, bookmarked this post, and forgotten about it. Instead I bought a pair yesterday, and today I am using them. I’ve had approximately 2 headphones ever. One was in 1994 when I had a bright yellow walkman for listening to tapes. The other pair was crappy earbuds from an old MP3 player. These are, of course, leaps and bounds better than those. :) Thanks for the heads up!

13 years ago

Yea! So glad they worked for you (and that you got them free…sweet!)…I only use headphones at work so any noise from my computer doesn’t bother others in cubie land, so I guess I’ll stick with my old, old, old pair from a long-gone Sony Walkman (in which only the right ear works, and that don’t play the sound from YouTube at all, which I haven’t figured out) until they’re totally dead…then I’ll get the ThinkSounds, because it’s good to support companies that are doing the right thing.

PK Shiu
13 years ago

These are very good headphones. Just to clarify the terminology: headphone is the overall term. These are IEM headphones, “In Ear Monitor”, something that you push inside your ear. Some people find these uncomfortable. The good thing about IEM is that they are small, sound better in general because they have more control over what’s between them and your eardrum, and they block out noise.

Earbuds is another general terms, same as IEM. Not trademarked by apple!

13 years ago

I keep supplied with headphones by finding them on the beach/street etc, Of course, quality is no my thing.

I’m glad you love your new thingys and are keeping them!

13 years ago

You are always funny-I like reading your blog-I will surely get me a pair I love listening to music- so good fit for me-Thanks for your great posts

Melissa @ HerGreenLife
13 years ago

I’ve been thinking about getting a good pair of headphones. I don’t wear them much, but they would be useful for listening to webinars at work w/o disturbing my office mates, as well as for travel. I don’t travel much, but due to motion sickness, I can’t read anything, so listening to something would be a nice option (though I guess I would also have to buy some kind of mp3 player — sigh, more stuff).

The comments from people who can’t wear earbuds worry me a bit, because my right ear canal definitely seems to be deformed. It’s an issue when wearing earplugs — left one goes in fine, right one is never quite “right.”

Mary Hunt
13 years ago

Get timing – I’m going to use your write up as an example of what a modern sales experience show look like. You hit all the sustainable zones in this one–or rather they did and which gave you something to echo.

13 years ago

Keep us updated on how long these last for you! I like to use this style of headphones, but I’ve found that regardless of how careful I am with these things and regardless of the quality of the brand I buy, they tend to die in 4 months to a year, depending on how frequently I’m using them. My current pair actually has a “lifetime warranty” that means I can send them back when they break and they’ll send me a new pair that break just as quickly, but it’s what I can afford right now, wasteful as it may be. If I hear that these will last the average user longer than other brands, I’d be happy to fork out the money down the road, but until then I’ll work on getting all the life I can out of the cheaply-made pairs I already own.

13 years ago

The week I received my droid incredible I made a trip to cambridge mass to purchase a set of rain headphones and it was worth the effort.
Overall they work excellent…. high quality all around…

When people ask me why Id spent more money on wooden headphones I say… ever see a plastic violin?

Sandra Lee
13 years ago

Beth, This looks like a terrific product. I love all the details you provide and the photos so we know exactly what is and what isn’t plastic. Thanks!

Elizabeth B
13 years ago

Wow. Interesting product! I’m glad to hear you’re getting such satisfaction from them, Beth. :) And it’s very generous of them to offer a 20 percent discount to FPF readers.

Sadly for me, I find earbuds of the type that create a firm seal to be actually painful to use. Even the smallest-sized eapieces press on my ear canal hard enough that it really hurts after even a relatively brief period. If Mr. Fournier (hello!) is keeping tabs on this post, maybe he could let us know if they have any other products in development for those of us who can’t use this type of earbud? I really hate having to buy the original Apple iPod earbuds because of all the plastic, but Apple is literally the ONLY manufacturer producing that style any longer.

Aaron Fournier
13 years ago

Hello all,

I figured I would answer your questions directly.

1. The plastic window is necessary for retailers. Our new models will have the recycle stamp on the plastic so you will all be able to separate it from the cardboard and recycle both.

2. The plastic bag for fittings was also a requirement to carry the fittings in. We are working on eliminating it in the future.

3. Wire ties that hold the earphones in will be eliminated on new products.

4. the stickers on the box can be recycled right along with the box. They are recycled paper.

5. We do price match. The msrp is $99.99 for the rain and $74.99 for the ts01 but they can be found for much cheaper. I won’t get into details on why the price is high on our site vs everyone else but we will price match. Our new products will not have a such a large fluctuation in price.

6. If people have ‘strange shaped ears’ then they have the option of purchasing memory foam fittings through COMPLY whom we have partnered up with to sell some custom fittings.

7. Another thing about the stickers. We actually chose to use stickers because it allows us to use the same box design for both colors which saves us a ton of materials on defects and limits waste.

8. The discount will be good for quite some time. If it does not work email us at and tell us that you want the 20% plastic fish discount and we will set one up for you.

I hope this helps. Email me with any questions.

Aaron Fournier

13 years ago

They are completely lovely-looking, and it’s good to hear you’re getting great sound from them!

Yep, the “review” thing is great, isn’t it? At present, I’m reviewing a few books. Which is awesome, because I get sent free copies of books that I would normally buy anyway, and I all I have to do is write a review. Not a bad deal.

Now – how do I get to review Fair Trade chocolate? :-)

13 years ago

The headphones sound great. I wonder if the recycled paper is BPA free. BPA, widely known to be in many plastics, is also commonly found in toilet paper, pizza boxes made of recycled cardboard, and recycled paper. as well as in canned foods (can lining). BPA is a hormone disruptor.
Source – :

13 years ago

This is really tempting Beth because my earbuds — the ones that came with my iPod — are falling apart and I’ve been putting off getting new ones. Do you think that the “passive noise cancellation” really does help to muffle outside noise?

13 years ago

Hmmm… I don’t actually use headphones. I sort of have my own little mini-protest going in terms of iPods, cell phones etc. Probably just another one of my crazy things, but it just seems to me that the world would be better off if people actually experienced being where they were instead of walking around in their own private sphere all the time.

BUT, I do use telephone headsets regularly, and I have yet to find one that’s really well made. Maybe I’ll go see if they make those too.

13 years ago

How long does the discount last for?

13 years ago

If this is bad to say here – then feel free to delete me, Beth. They are on Amazon for approx $40 – $59. But that’s cool becasue they’d price match if you wanted to buy direct, right?

susanna eve
13 years ago

They look great but please don’t call earbuds headphones because they are not.

My daughter, my husband and I all still use headphones, none of us can stand to use earbuds.

Debra Baida
13 years ago

And to your last sentence I say it’s good to favor quality over quantity…in many things in life!

13 years ago

I think you should keep them, It’s enough that you arranged a discount. Of course let me make a rationalization- I don’t want them as I apparently have deformed ears and cant use ear bud type headphones :(

13 years ago

Hmm, any idea if they plan to make ‘regular’ headphones. I am probably the only person on the planet, but can’t use earbuds…they don’t stay in and are not comfortable to me in the slightest…so stuck with my Sony headband like set…

My husband would love these, though…might have to be an early Christmas gift…thanks for mentioning!

13 years ago

They are actually v. pretty and they just look classy! :)

Isle Dance
13 years ago

I think you’re right on about this.

I’m all for the healthiest choice and since the brain and nervous system are impacted by the quality of what we expose them to, this is a health choice first and foremost.

Plus they’re pretty.

That plastic window, plastic pouch and stickers are unnecessary. But I believe this company will realize this and fix those little blips in no time fast.

Well done.

13 years ago

The clip should have two parts. One would be like a normal chip clip to close a bag. This clips to your clothes. The other part would be a tiny clip that the cord should be able to slip into. This holds your cord in place when clipped to you clothes. This helps prevent noise from the cable moving around.

As for the technical specs. “Passive noise cancellation minimizes ambient sounds.” This means that the silicone ear pieces create a seal in your ear from outside noise. This is different than say a Bose active noise cancellation, whihc uses a mic to generate signals to cancel out the noise.

“Dynamic driver features 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response.” This is a average frequency response. 20hz is your low end, Bass and 20khz is your high end treble. This is an average frequency response. Headphones usually fall within this range. In the price range you may be able to find some that go 18hx to 21khz.

Brenna @ Almost All The Truth
13 years ago

They sound great! Next time I am in the market for new headphones I will have to remember these. For now, the old ones will just have to do. Sigh. ;)

13 years ago

And I JUST bought a pair of cheap Maxell earbuds. My last pair bit the dust and I put off the purchase a couple of months because of the plastic.