Thieaudio, the brand known for excellent IEMs like the Monarch and Oracle, has also released several headphones. These include the Phantom and Wraith, both of which are planar magnetic driver cans that were reasonably good headphones for the money.
And then we have the Thieaudio Ghost, the brand’s first attempt at the more traditional dynamic driver headphones. It’s (arguably) an easier task, but given the vast amount of other competing products with similar configurations, it’s also a much harder space to stand out.
So can the Ghost rise above the rest, or is it as elusive as a…ghost? Read on to find out.
What It Is
The Ghost is a pair of $129 (about RM585) open-back headphones with a 40mm sapphire composite dynamic driver. We received this review unit from Linsoul, and according to the vendor – and collaborator of Thieaudio – the Ghost’s driver consists of layers of cermet (ceramic-metal composite) on a thermoplastic polymer film stabiliser. In short, this tech should result in good sound quality.
In terms of build material, the Ghost has both metal and plastic parts, making it lightweight, but not entirely cheap feeling. The earpads are made from plush velour material, and there’s also soft leather cushioning on the headband for improved comfort.
Speaking of comfort, thanks to its lightweight nature, the Ghost is fairly comfortable on my head. The velour earpads are breathable enough that my ears don’t feel like they’re “steaming up” too much. Clamping force is just right to me, but as I wear glasses, I do experience a bit of discomfort above the ears where the frame of my glasses sit after long listening sessions.
Unfortunately, the Ghost has no folding mechanism of any sort to make it more portable. But on the plus side, Thieaudio was kind enough enough to include a hard shell carrying case with the Ghost; quite good value for a pair of $129 headphones.
Inside said carrying case, you’ll find a 3.5mm cable of the flat variety and a quarter-inch adapter. The other end of the cable plugs into both sides of the Ghost, which also means that you have the option to upgrade the cable if you so desire.
I actually highly suggest doing so, as swapping to a balanced cable, for example, will provide more power and flexibility to the Ghost.
As these are open-back headphones, sound leakage might be something to be wary about with the Ghost. Through my less-than-scientific testing of having someone else put the headphones on, I’d say that others around you should only be able to hear any sound leakage if they’re right next to you, and that’s at about 50% listening volume.
How Does It Sound?
The tuning of the Thieaudio Ghost is mostly neutral and well-balanced, if not a tad bit…boring. Separation and imaging are above average, and it’s quite easy to make out the positioning of instruments – an inherent advantage of open-back headphones.
That being said, soundstage of the Ghost isn’t as wide as I expect from a pair of open-back headphones, but there’s still decent width and depth, especially with a good enough source. Height of the soundstage is a bit lacking, however.
Not surprisingly, the Ghost has low sensitivity, so it does need a bit of juice to drive. They still work fine without an amp, but you’ll hear them open up a bit more with a proper source. You also won’t have to crank up the volume as much.
The bass of the Ghost is on the lighter side, with sub-bass that’s present, but a little “shy” in terms of impact and extension. The mid-bass isn’t much better either, providing what I’d deem as the bare minimum of thump and presence for genres like pop and hip-hop. The low-end as a whole is tight, but isn’t particularly extensive or detailed.
At the very least, muddiness or bass bleeding into the mids is a non-issue.
I’d consider the mids of the Ghost to be its highlight, though that’s not to say it’s perfect in this frequency range. What’s immediately noticeable is the forward presentation that’s clean and neutral-sounding. Male vocals do sound a bit thin to my ears, lacking in body and weight. Female vocals, on the other hand, are intimate and breathy, and there are some raspiness and sparkle that sound pleasantly organic.
However, there’s a bit of a veil that envelops the vocals, which is a bit of a shame considering how natural the vocal section would otherwise sound like. But it’s quite easy to remove the earpads of the Ghost, so perhaps trying pads of other materials might help in this regard.
In the treble region, the Ghost is sparkly with plenty of air; snares and cymbals are clear, though they can also sound a bit sharp at times. Unfortunately, the sparkle doesn’t last too long, and it fizzles out towards the end of the frequency range, showing a lack of extension.
To be fair, this does help control the treble from getting too hot, and it lends to a much smoother presentation. But much like the bass and mids, this relaxed sound signature might be too laid-back for some folks, especially if they prefer a more “exciting” sound signature.
Is It Worth It?
All things considered, the Thieaudio Ghost is a mids-focused pair of headphones with plenty of bite, but not much in terms of warmth. It sounds a bit flat, and it is lacking in overall dynamics and energy. It’s more suitable for instrumentals, ballads, and classical music, basically.
But to be realistic, the Ghost is still just a $129 pair of headphones, so I can’t really be too critical of its shortcomings. The plastic and metal build of the headphones is also decent for the asking price. Paired with the plush velour earpads, it does feel quite nice to hold with good comfort level.
The Ghost is touted as a “reference tuning headphones,” and I do see it fitting that description well enough. But with that in mind, if you want a fun and dynamic pair of headphones, the laid-back Ghost…might just scare you off.