Best of the next-gen and previous-gen deals
Being an eco-friendly type while also being a gadget fan is a bit of an awkward fit. It's hard to pass yourself off as a planet-saving greenie when your pockets are stuffed with electronics fresh from the production line of a pollution-belching factory.
But there are plenty of rainforest-saving gadgets out there these days and earphones are particularly fertile ground. Sennheiser, iWave and House of Marley are among those flogging earphone upgrades that will get the seal of approval from your Greenpeace-supporting mates, while Thinksound is a company that does nothing but create earphones and headphones with, the company says, "the smallest eco-footprint possible."
We tried out the thinksound ts02, a lightweight set of earphones with a wood and metal casing. These buds weigh in at around £50 - making them a medium-priced upgrade to the (generally rubbish) buds that come with your MP3 player.
Green from the get go
The earphones' green credentials are on show before you even open the box, with a note on the back explaining that the packaging is made from recycled material. Inside, the earphones are encased within corrugated carboard, while a rough cotton bag is supplied which serves as a case.
The earphones themselves are small, light and really rather lovely. The set we tested had the 'black chocolate' finish, with the body of the earphone made up of dark brown wood and black metal (the wood is from renewable sources). Another finish - silver cherry - is also available. They look elegant and understated. Though they are light they feel solid and well made. Each set comes with four different sizes of ear-tip, to help you get a snug fit. Each is clearly labelled left or right on the base of the earphone body.
There's a one-metre (PVC-free) cable with a 3.5mm gold-plated plug on the end. The cable is described as being tangle-resistant and we found it lived up to that boast fairly well.
Earphones such as these are designed to offer passive noise isolation - which means they block the sound of the outside world in a similar way to sticking your fingers in your ears. How well they do that depends on the snugness of the fit, but we found the ts02 earphones muted the hubbub of our evening train beautifully - even before we turned on our music.
Punching above its pricepoint
Once we did hit play, we were instantly sold. The ts02 earphones offer a deep, involving sound that punches several levels above its pricepoint. They are equally happy with anything from the old-school hip-hop of Lords Of The Underground to the indie mournfulness of Death Cab for Cutie.
Their sound is wide and open - with performance that is more akin to a pair of over-ear headphones.
There is both warmth and clarity to their sound reproduction. Any decent earphones should have you picking out new things in your favourite songs, and that's just what these do. Bass is solid and meaty, without being overwhelming. Their weakness is unearthed, however, with extremely bass-heavy tunes. Performance can become a little muddled (though not seriously distorted) when the TS02s are asked to cope with a lot of low-end.
Overall, however, it's hard to fault the thinksound ts02. They look lovely, sound beautiful and, if you buy some, the polar bears will thank you for it.