I have now had about two weeks (now five) to gather impressions on these IEMs, and they have been fully burnt in with pink noise/ normal listening. All testing will be done with FLAC files run through Foobar 2000 with the wasapi plugin, through my STX, on the Hi-Fi setting.
First off, however, an introduction to the product in question.
SPECS FROM BRAINWAVZ
Rated Impedance: 40ohms
Frequency range: 20 ~ 20000Hz
Sensitivity: 110dB at 1mW
Maximum input power: 60mW
Cable length: 1.3 meters
The B2s are BrainWavz's foray into the higher caliber audiophile class of audio products. Their previous IEMs were focused on bass, bass, and a lot more bass. They enjoyed great success with their M(1, 2, 3) series, by providing exceptional detail for the price range, and subsequently, went on to create the B2s as their flagship model.
Now, the B2s differ from their previous IEMs in a few ways.
1. Dual Armature: This is probably the biggest difference. By stuffing both a woofer and tweeter into their IEMs, they wanted to create an incredibly balanced and neutral sound.
2. Bass response: While the M2s and M3s had overpowering and clear bass, the response on the B2s is in no way emphasized over the rest of the registers. This lends a lot more clarity to the recordings, and make them much more analytical.
3. Soundstage: BrainWavz claims to have made an effort to do something i had previously thought impossible, create an IEM with soundstage. Now, im sure others accomplish this feat as well, but i have yet to listen to those IEMs (I am more focused on headphones). Now, they have succeeded, to a degree. They offer adequate soundstage when compared to closed back headphones, but exceptional soundstage when compared to IEMs.
After listening to a track from the ultrasone reference CD (The one that comes with ultrasone headphones), specifically, "Sileypud, New Haranni Poison Mixers", I can say that the soundstaging on these is nothing short of amazing. I have no idea how Brainwavz has done it, but the sound seemed like it was coming from at least six to ten feet away from me, to the back right. In fact, the soundstage surpasses my M50s by a fair amount.
4. Price: At an MSRP of $160, the B2s are priced at exactly double the amount of the previous top end model, the M3s. This is a testament to their ambition to move upmarket, but does that mean these are still a great value, as the rest of the BrainWavz product lineup is? Simply put,
Yes: They're a bargain.
No: They are NOT for everyone.
Now, on to the review!
This is one reason I usually do not buy IEMs. Silicon tips are incredibly uncomfortable to me. BrainWavz, making a very good choice, has partnered with Comply, and include Foam Tips in their accessories bundle, along with three different sized sets of silicon tips. Foam tips are superior to the traditional silicon in a few ways, comfort as one of the main ones. The foam expands inside your ear, providing a perfectly contoured tip, and creating an excellent seal, contributing to excellent noise cancelling, and even resulting in a sound quality boost.
The plastic housing may feel cheap, but the rest of the components are quite well built. The braided cable and its connections to both the 3.5mm plug and the IEMs themselves feel quite solid and as if they could withstand a fair amount of abuse before fraying or falling apart, but hopefully, if you pay this much money for some IEMs, you won't be accidentally sitting on them or leaving them on the floor. The tips are well designed so that they slide on to the IEMs with relative ease, but will not fall off unless deliberately removed.
MUSIC - CLASSICAL:
Dies Irae - Giuseppe Verdi
These IEMs love fast music. They have incredibly quick response, and can deliver sound very sharply. This is a boon to music with a staccato voice part, where usually, only the pitch registers, rather than the actual syllable. They do an excellent job providing a stereo effect, and simulating a center channel. There are clear sweeps from right to left, from when the violins take a descending pattern, and it off to the violas, who subsequently hand it off to the cellos, and so on. You can accurately pinpoint where the sound is coming from. Brass is punchy and metallic, as it should be be, lower strings do not drag, and the overall sound signature is incredibly balanced. These are extremely faithful to the original. Having performed in various orchestras, the balancing between the instruments are spot on, while providing great instrument separation.
MUSIC - METAL:
The Sleep - Pantera
While slower than most metal, I wanted to see how they stood up to long sustained notes, and thick and overpowering guitar solos. In case you wanted to know about faster metal, I'll just straight up say they are excellent. What i notice a lot on these IEMs is their ability to both create a tone quickly, and let it decay quickly, if so called for. When a note on the guitar is muted it dies off almost instantaneously, as opposed to a slower, drawn out reduction. Drums are one of my favorite things on these IEMs, providing lots of impact on kicks, and sparkling, clear cymbals. Guitars, sound powerful on chords, but really are incredible on long solos and trills, where notes fly by at a speed that a more relaxed headphone would struggle to keep up with. These keep the notes tight, and easily distinguishable from the rest.
MUSIC - ALTERNATIVE ROCK:
What's Now is Now - Cake
Presenting thinner textures than the other music reviewed, this offers a chance to analyze vocal reproduction, and clarity of individual elements within the song to a higher degree. This song in particular was a catalyst to one of my revelatory moments with these IEMs. Listening to the strummed guitar, and hearing the pluck of each individual string in the making of the chord was something that even my ATH-M50s, which have quite decent speed of response, were not able to reproduce to the same level of fidelity of my B2s. When you hear things you have never heard before, especially in that level of detail, it really makes for a special experience. Similarly, the level of balance in the sound make them a perfect choice for this genre, neither emphasizing the vocals, or letting them hide beneath the bass, guitar, and percussion. By keeping the levels of each instrument in balance, the harmonies they create between each other have a much more tangible resonance with each other.
MUSIC - JAZZ
Blue Rondo A La Turk - Dave Brubeck
Jazz is a nice place to test natural sound reproduction, and various timbres within a reasonable frequency range. A few things that impressed me off the bat were the upright bass, and percussion. As I continue listening with these IEMs, i find that they are incredible for percussion. The cymbals have just enough impulse to give a good feeling of contact, and decay beautifully, with a really nice metallic sound. The un-snared snare bounces nicely and has a nice round tone to it, with a solid but in no way overwhelming impact. The bass has a nice laid back presentation, and is surprisingly warm for an analytical IEM like this. This is a very nice addition, especially in jazz, which favors a more natural sound. The fact that the drivers can adapt (to an extent) to fit the genre is an interesting feature, and one I like. The piano puts out staccato, sharp chords, with easily distinguishable notes when doing harmony, and when taking over the ornamented melody does very well in speed and clarity throughout. The flute sits nicely above the rest of the instruments, clearly audible apart, but still harmonizing with the rest. It has a more jazzy feel, with slow attack, and quick cutoffs, really simulating the unmistakable jazz feel. This genre begs to be listened to with the B2s.
MUSIC - DUBSTEP:
Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites - Skrillex
No. If dubstep is your genre, turn away now. These are IEMs are not at all designed for this genre. These are designed for natural frequency response. If an instrument can make the sound, then so can these, and rather well. However, delving into sub-bass, these are no better than some ~$20 Meelec IEMs i used previously. They distort, and become somewhat grainy. I emailed Brainwavz about it, and got a prompt and courteous response akin to,
"We are sorry, but the B2s are not designed to be able to handle large quantities of bass."
Now, this does not mean these are bad IEMs, quite the contrary. They just cannot handle large quantities of bass. If this is your genre of choice, check out the BrainWavz M2s, or the Klipsch S4s, which will do much better than these for a fraction of the cost.
These same warnings apply to hardstyle, or any bass heavy genre.
These IEMs are absolutely perfect for instrumental music, loving fast runs equally as much as slower, lyrical sections. Balanced sound and adequate soundstage contribute to excellent instrument separation, making these ideal for analytical listening, as opposed to a more 'fun' IEM. However, i believe there is a certain fun to the sheer dynamicism and clarity of these IEMs. For $160, they're great, for the $130 listed on amazon, they're a steal. These are highly recommended for lovers of clarity and speed.
Soundstage (relative to the general amount in an IEM)
Somewhat cheap feeling housing
Sub-bass has a fair amount of distortion
Housing can pick up fingerprints with relative ease, but can be cleaned easily.
Comply tip wears out quickly, only one included.