When I first sat down to listen to the Thummim I had great anticipation and was expecting to be wowed as soon as the music started, but instead I was actually more confused. Coming straight from more neutral, fairly uncolored IEMs, the Thummim were shockingly different. This told me that I needed some time to adjust to them and that is also something I will advise anyone demoing the Thummim: Allow yourself time to adjust. The Thummim are unapologetically bold and musical, with a warm signature that still manages to produce a lot of detail and texture. Most of all, the Thummim genuinely have what MMR describe as an “inconceivable spherical soundscape”. The stage is among the biggest I have heard and wraps around the head in a unique way where at times sound feels like it is coming from all possible directions. The whole presentation is one of energy and fun at a very high technical level. The dynamics of these is incredible and it is a joy to listen to something like Wolf Alice’s ‘Your Loves Whore’, which displays that dynamics really well. A deep hitting bass, thick and warm, great vocals and sparkling highs, all set inside this incredibly spherical stage where the thick notes fill up the space to completely envelop you in music. Play something like Melokind’s ‘TschonniBonni’ and you get a real sense of what the Thummim can do in terms of imaging. Notes will dance around your head like the monitors pose no physical restriction to them.
It is a testament to the technical capability of the Thummim that they are able to resolve as much detail and texture as they do considering the level of warmth in the signature. People who enjoy a moderately warm and technical sound like that of the 64 Audio U12t will likely find the Thummim too warm. I can really enjoy it, but will draw the line at classical music. While I love a big stage for classical music, I find the Thummim are too warm and the bass too dominant for something like classical symphonies. The signature is simply too dark and while instruments are separated exceptionally well, I find they lack the crisp clarity that I have come to prefer for classical music. The tonality is also a bit off with some instruments such as woodwinds, where I think they loose a little of their distinction due to the warmth. That is however offset by sweet, alluring vocals, which are wonderfully smooth. No prominent lower treble lift to give them articulation, just smooth and somewhat sweet vocals with great density so they separate well, even against the powerful bass. The treble is really well done with a lovely sparkle, great extension and what I personally consider a very natural tone.
I have used the term once before and the Thummim again remind me of Marmite (a food spread popular in Britain). If you don’t like this sort of sound, it might all be too much, but if you do, you will absolutely love it and there will be nothing quite like it.
This is probably the most polarizing aspect of the tuning, as the Thummim have a warm and muscular bass that does not seem to have a soft peddle. It can dig very deep and has a meatiness to it that makes sure its presence is known. For classical music this is, in my opinion, too much because the bass section comes too far forward and it warms up midrange instruments a bit more than I like. Favorite symphonies of mine, such as Beethoven’s 5th, loose nuances that are key to the emotion of the piece. There is however an incredible amount of detail and texture to the bass and, sticking with classical music, listening to an instrument such as the cello is quite something else. With solo pieces it is almost like sitting inside the body of the cello where you can sense every vibration running through the instrument.
In reality though I think it is best to avoid classical and instead let the Thummim loose on something with a bit more energy. They seem to be all about musicality and that thumping bass works a treat with something like the Rolling Stone’s album ‘Blue & Lonesome’. It has been a long time since I last heard this album with such a tangible image of the performance taking place in a smoke filled bar. Here the bass adds colour in the most musical way and I absolutely love that. It is a raw, heavily textured bass with great physicality to set a pace. Sometimes that pace is quite articulate, at other times it feels more resonate and slow to emphasize the mood of the song. It feels a lot like a live performance with chunky subwoofers. It also provides a superb sense of raw power to metal such as Device or Disturbed. Oh yes, no wishy-washy feebleness, but enough grunt to make a One Direction fan cry inconsolably… okay, that might not actually be such a special feat. Let’s just say it is the most grunt I have ever heard. And how about Within Temptation! It is jaw dropping! “Grand” isn’t the word. It is a magnificent metal symphony with an incredible balance between that raw power and the clear vocals of the ever-stunning Sharon den Adel. Play to the Thummim’s strengths and they treat you to a genuinely unique experience.
Speaking of vocals, the Thummim do those very well. Vocals are a bit on the sweeter side with great density to separate them clearly against whatever else will be going on. So Sharon den Adel’s voice is clearly distinct from the powerful instruments alongside her. You might think that due to the warmer signature female vocals will end up being too warm, but I am impressed by the clarity those maintain. Soprano voices are genuinely soprano and reach sky high, although the slight sweetness tones down the natural sibilance that might occur. With large choral pieces the Thummim layer the voices really well and female vocals are not drowned out by the deep and powerful male vocals. It is not a subtle distinction between the voices like you get with more neutral IEMs, instead the Thummim give power to every voice. Combined with the huge stage and its spherical shape, the Thummim once again manage to create a unique image of choral music and I actually enjoy it a lot more than I do classical symphonies.
To get back to symphonies, I feel the mid range is just a bit too warm and lush, which makes especially woodwinds warmer than I would like them to be. I will admit here that I have recently gravitated towards IEMs that are less warm than I previously used for classical and so for some people the Thummim might well be exactly how they like it. The thicker mid-range notes make for a bolder and more dramatic presentation that is incredibly dynamic and feels very physical. With most other music I think the Thummim are superb. They have some incredible guitars that have crunch like the bass has grunt and much like I found with the Jomo Trinity, the Thummim build up the layers in the music by giving each layer a ton of energy and texture. Details in guitars are great and you pick up the techniques used surprisingly clearly.
Because of the muscular bass the Thummim must have something powerful at the other end of the spectrum to provide balance and they do indeed have it in the treble. The treble is wonderfully natural sounding to my ears and extends very well, adding enough air to blow away most of the warmth that would otherwise cause congestion that would make Central London at rush hour feel deserted. It is a great balance where the treble does not come across as splashy at all. I never found any harshness or anything like that, although a mere hint of brightness can be found with lower quality recordings. With good quality music (lossless CD rips and up) it sounds heavenly and cymbals like in Wolf Alice’s ‘Blush’ have a wonderful sparkle and natural resonance. It is a little on the sweeter side, so not an overly crisp and clear sparkle, and very well positioned within the image to provide a thoroughly comfortable listening experience hour after hour without a hint of fatigue. Detail in the treble is also excellent and there is a great sense of texture to it.
Usually I like to include a number of different aftermarket cable pairings and one of my selection criteria is that the cables should synergise well. Cables can make changes to the sound, but it is not always predictable what those will be because it depends on all the elements in the chain and especially how a cable pairs with the IEMs. For this review I tried out a number of different cables including the Effect Audio Cleopatra, the PlusSound Exo Gold-Plated Silver, the PlusSound X6 Tri-Copper and the Effect Audio Eros II 8-wire. Most cables I felt emphasised the already prominent bass and that was (in my opinion) too much of a good thing. Only the Eros II 8W had a somewhat decent synergy, with a more mid-centric and smoother result. I initially thought about writing about that cable in more detail, but ended up deciding against it because I found it took away so much of what makes the Thummim special that I could not consider it worthwhile. It took away a lot of the spherical character of the stage, reduced bass extension and sparkle in the treble. Switching between the cables I felt that the Eros II 8W made the Thummim boring (not really, but relatively speaking) and every time I went back to Plato a smile came back on my face… “Oh yeah, that’s the stuff!” Given the special nature of Plato, it might well be that this pairing is key to producing the unique characteristics of the Thummim. That is however just a suspicion and I would have to try more cables to say something sensible about it, but I don’t have access to any of the cables I think might be contenders (eg. PW Audio 1950s).