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Headphones TNG

Think Sound
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  April 27, 2010


New Hampshire green-tech nerd Aaron Fournier has an undeniable pitch for his new company, Thinksound, and its line of cool-daddy wood-grain headphones: “You wouldn’t want stereo speakers that are made out of plastic,” he says. “Why should your headphones be any different?”

This week, Bull Moose Music stores in Portland, Brunswick, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, are the first anywhere to retail Fournier’s acoustically stellar and environmentally radical products. By the end of this month, InMotion outposts in more than 30 airports nationwide will also be carrying Thinksound.

A game-changer looms on the horizon; if you can’t hear it, perhaps you need to replace those standard-issue plastic iPod earbuds.

“The fact that we’re made out of wood really gets the attention of the audiophiles,” says Fournier, who himself is made of flesh and bone. “But the green piece is important for a lot of people too; when we set out to do this, we knew that we could make a better product in every single way.”

As suggested by the name of his company, which he co-founded with his friend Mike Tunney three years ago, Fournier spent significant time thinking about sound before his headphones became available online in January. Two years as a production manager for Tivoli Audio in China — on top of a three-year stint as a Consumer Reports audio-video tester — gave him ample time to read the market.

“Nobody’s really buying speakers now, so that shifted me to headphones,” says Fournier, whose earbuds are made from Southeast Asian lychee wood harvested near his manufacturer. “Once I knew that much, I realized that most companies are doing everything mechanically rather than testing how their products actually look and sound inside of people’s ears.”

Fournier also took issue with the wasteful packaging used for most comparable products, claiming that some companies have more engineers designing inserts than are improving audio quality. Rather than a plastic sheath that requires a machete to open, Thinksound sets are wrapped in a minimal carton made from recycled materials.

Green goodness aside, even Republicans should jibe with Fournier’s eco-friendly products (so long as they dig clarity). The $74.99 (or $49.97 at Bull Moose for now) hi-def Rain model that the Phoenix test-drove proved to be not just crisp, but downright orchestral-sounding. Indeed, it will take more than just gadget geeks and tree-huggers for Fournier to move as much volume as he hopes to.

“The green market is definitely big, but it’s not something that you can exactly go after with something like this,” he says. “I’d rather go after the mainstream market; more than anything else I want to change the way things are made.”

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