Pros: Sound quality, comfort, build, balance, naturalness, clarity, isolation, price, replaceable cable, accessories, soundstage (for a closed can)
Cons: Pads can get hot/sweaty, bass can be a little hollow/honky
Pros: Sound quality, comfort, build, balance, naturalness, clarity, isolation, price, replaceable cable, accessories, soundstage (for a closed can)
Cons: Pads can get hot/sweaty, bass can be a little hollow/honky
Pros: Quite Neutral, Accessories, Value
Cons: Slightly Bass Light
Brainwavz HM5 Review
The Brainwavz HM5 is a headphone that I have been very intrigued about for quite a long time. I have heard the FA-003 and some other headphones that use the same driver many times and always felt like it had something that really made it stand out. There was always something special and particularly appealing to me when I listened to it and I was curious whether Brainwavz’s version would be any different and hopefully better with their HM5 pads that come in both velour and pleather.
Founded in 2008, Brainwavz has had quite a bit of experience in audio and they have come out with many new products recently, all of which have been rather unique. The HM5, however, is an older model that has been around for quite a few years and I was quite eager to see how they would stack up to the competition today. Despite their somewhat flashy looks, they are by no means tuned for a consumer friendly sound, but one that is aimed at the Head-Fi community.
The HM9 that I reviewed a while back was not quite what I expected. It was really warm and wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I could see many people enjoying that type of sound outside of the audio circles. It was very inoffensive but lacked the excitement that I like so much and was overly warm. From my past experiences, the HM5 was the complete opposite of its brother and has a sound signature that I appreciate much more.
**Disclaimer** These were given to me in return for an honest, unbiased review.
Packaging & Accessories
The packaging is almost identical to the HM9 packaging. It is very simple and has box which contains the case, in which is the headphones and accessories. If I recall correctly, the old packaging for these was a large foam soft case that was similar to the Beyerdynamic cases. I think Brainwavz have changed it to the hard case they are using now. Upon opening the zippered case, there is a pouch with all the accessories. Standard Brainwavz packaging here.
I was quite impressed with the amount of accessories that Brainwavz includes considering the relatively low price of the HM5s. It comes with a 1.3m as well as a 3m cable for portable and home use respectively. They also come with a ¼ adapter as well as an airplane adapter. A strap is also included, but I’m not really sure what exactly that is used for. There is the instructional manual too, of course. There are also extra pads that I forgot to mention before, which is very nice for when the pads wear out. The case is very practical, being a lot smaller than the old case that was huge and probably not as effective. The clamshell style case is very hard and durable.
Design, Isolation & Cable
I find the HM5 a very attractive looking headphone. It looks traditional but still somewhat flashy. The design is a little understated but it is still one of the nicest looking headphones IMO. It is almost completely plastic, but the cups are metal but by no means heavy. In fact, the headphone is actually one of the lightest headphones I have owned. The cable has red and blue on each of the sides that enters the headphone, which is nice for telling which side is which. The headband is indented with Brainwavz and feels very soft and comfortable.
For an over the ear close headphone, the isolation is pretty good, but by no means impressive. They block out some sound, but I would not recommend using them outdoors where it is noisy. They are also quite bulky so it isn’t a great choice for a portable headphone anyway. There are also some other drawbacks from portable use in regards to sound, but that will be covered later.
The cable is just a standard cable that looks very ordinary. The plug has the Brainwavz logo which is a nice touch and as mentioned before, the left and right sides are colour coded. The strain relief on the 3.5mm plug is quite nice and it feels quite durable. The 3m cable is probably a little long for these headphones IMO, maybe 2m or so would have been better. I do appreciate the fact that these are removable and the cable uses 3.5mm mono plugs as connectors so they should be very easy to replace or to build a custom cable for them.
Now I will elaborate on the point of why these may not be the best portable solution. These headphones benefit greatly from amping. When I first received them, I plugged them into my phone and was disappointed by how lifeless and lacking they sounded. The bass seems to be affected the most by the lack of amping and it is not as strong as they are when you amp them. The HM5s are already not bass heavy whatsoever so it may be problematic if you like bass. Adding even a cheap am solves these issues, however. The Brainwavz AP-001 is actually a good choice if you are on a tight budget. For most of this review, I ran them through my iBasso DX90 and D-Zero MKII. I liked the D-Zero MKII pairing more because I found that the D-Zero had a bit more bass. I also put on the velour pads for the review, which are my favourite. Thy must be purchased separately and are thicker than the stock pads as well as being more comfortable. I prefer the velour pads over the stock and the pleather Brainwavz pads. Sonic change is very minimal though.
The HM5 is a headphone that I am very familiar with despite never owning it previously. There are many headphones that are basically the same and use the same drivers. The Fischer FA-003 is one of them but at a much higher price. From what I remember, these two sound essentially identical and you will probably not be able to tell the difference between this and the Fischer. I was a fan of the FA-003 and I was quite certain that I was going to enjoy these as well.
I often hear these being called neutral and whilst I don’t completely agree, I can definitely see why. The bass is very flat, but also lighter than what I perceive as neutral. The impact just isn’t strong or visceral as other headphones I consider to have truly “neutral” bass. Comparing impact with the HD800, which people often claim is somewhat bass-light as well (although I don’t agree) was quite interesting. I was thinking the HM5 was going to have more impact, but surprisingly it had less and I was a bit let down. Moving on from the slightly hollow sounding bass, the speed is very fast and there is no bass bloat whatsoever. Drums are nicely presented and I do enjoy the way that when the track calls for bass it is usually there, but never really affects any of the other frequencies. The detail is quite nice for the price and other than the lacklustre bass tuning, the overall bass on the HM5 is one that is quite attractive. Although I am not a huge fan of the bass-light tuning of the HM5, I suspect many other will enjoy the clean and very fast bass.
Once again, I don’t really hear the HM5s as being completely flat in the midrange. Despite reading what other people hear, I cannot really fathom how the midrange is warm. To my ears, it is slightly on the colder and brighter side, accentuating those higher midrange frequencies. It is nothing like the warm and liquid midrange of the HM9, but bright in a very positive way. I really did enjoy the midrange, despite the fact that it isn’t the flattest. I did find female vocals a bit too bright, however and didn’t enjoy them as much as some other headphones I have heard in the price range. Male vocals seem to have that extra bit of clarity to them due to the lifted upper mids which I found to be appealing. The midrange is presented in a way that is very slightly laid back but by no means recessed at all. Pianos weren’t bad, but had a little bit of an unnatural and artificial coldness to them. I like the midrange of the HM5 very much and feel like it does indeed outshine other headphones in this price range.
The treble is, not unlike the bass and midrange, close to being neutral, but just a little bit off. I do feel like this is closest to neutral out of all the three main frequencies, however. To my ears, it is just a little pulled back, but not at all dark or warm. While the upper midrange can make the treble sound like it is bright too, I felt like cymbals just didn’t sound as neutral as some other headphones I have heard that I consider neutral. From memory, these are brighter than HD600s, which is a very popular headphone, so if you have tried it and are fine with it, then the HM5 treble should give you no problems. Cymbals not as pronounced as I would have liked, but it didn’t really bother me that much and I didn’t find them to detract from the HM5 at all. Keep in mind that I am a bit of a treblehead and I do like my treble to be a bit bright like the HD800. There is definitely sufficient detail in these to make it a fun and enjoyable listen, but don’t be expecting SRH940 detail. The HM5 does very well here.
Soundstage & Imaging
Obviously you can’t expect the HM5 to have incredible imaging considering the cost and the fact that it is a close headphone, but I feel like it is a very solid performer here. The width and depth especially were actually quite good and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, I did not feel like I was bothered or that the music was being restricted by the HM5’s soundstage at all. The height could be a bit better, but for a little over $100, I am not going to complain about that.
Imaging is likewise quite impressive. With the Brainwavz pads, I felt like this was affected the most. The imaging became a little better and more precise, maybe because of more space in the cups? At times it did feel like the stage was a little crowded, but I have a feeling that that has got more to do with the soundstage than the imaging. The imaging was very precise and reminded me a little of the Hd800 actually; a real feat for the HM5.
Separation, Detail & Clarity
I found that the separation was good, but didn’t really stand out from the wide range of headphones in the sub-$200 range. It is good and handles simpler tracks very well, but when it comes to more complicated tracks, it does struggle and this does become apparent. Instruments are like this more so than vocals. The vocal separation is much better and I feel like the vocals on the HM5 are really a standout. Not bad, but could be improved a little in a few areas.
The HM5 is not a detail oriented headphone, but that is not to say that it is not detailed because it definitely is. The upper mids really brings out the details there, but I feel like the treble could be a bit more detailed. The detail in the bass is actually quite good despite the let down in the tuning. For casual listening or editing, these should be fine, but they won’t really show the small details or flaws in the music if that is what you are looking for.
Although the clarity is indeed very good, I do feel like there is a sense of artificialness about it. Vocal clarity, as mentioned before, is very good, but with female vocals I find it a little bit too much. Instrument clarity is good, but I am left with the feeling that there is a slight edge to it that I notice occasionally with some tracks. Other than that, the clarity is one of the best in that price range.
To clear up any confusion that might be surrounding this, by Brainwavz earpads, I mean the earpads that can be purchased separately and not the ones that the HM5 come with. These come in a variety of colours and in either pleather or leather and at a very reasonable price. They are very thick pads, but also extremely soft and comfortable. My ears have no issues fitting inside the pads completely, but they aren’t the largest pads in terms of space inside the pads. Compared to the similar stock HM5 pads, they are thicker and also softer. I find the velour ones much more comfortable than the stock pleather and the Brainwavz pleather ones. I also found the stock pads to occasionally make the drivers touch my ears and with the other pads, this does not happen.
It terms of sonic change, not much can be reported here. I’m not entirely sure I perceive a difference, but feel like with the Brainwavz velour pads the soundstage was a little bit bigger and imaging was improved a little but the bass was also reduced just a bit. The pleather one was similar to the velour pads, but had a little more bass. To be honest though, the pleather ones don’t really make a large, or any difference to the sound of the HM5, but are an excellent choice if you are looking to replace the pads on your headphone with some plush and comfortable earpads. It is also worth mentioning that there are many different colours available, which is not very common. Usually there are only black aftermarket ear pads available, but Brainwavz offers them in many colours, which is nice.
I realise that I have been somewhat critical in the review so let me begin the summary by saying that I like the HM5 a lot and find it to be a steal at its price. The only real section I can really complain about is the bass impact, which could be a bit stronger, but it is not too bad. The HM5 is a very solid closed headphone that I will happily recommend over other headphones such as the M-50. It gives you a true insight into what high end sound is like, but understandably is a few steps short of reaching it.
Pros: Reference-esque SQ, Accessories, Comfort
Cons: Clamp, Size
Brainwavz has done it again! While there are several audio companies offering a nice budget-king-FOTW IEM here, a feature-packed portable amp there, I can't think of many that have put together the streak of high-quality products at affordable prices in the short time the way that the people at Brainwavz have done. Delta: Low Cost Champion. S5: Sub $100 Contender. S0: Budget All-Rounder. Even though it's not their newest, the closed back offering from Brainwavz is yet another strong entry.
Enter: The HM5.
The HM5 is a full-sized, closed-back headphone that performs quite well, regardless of price. It does everything well. It'd be dishonest to fling praises from the mountain tops about it's razor-sharp treble or to schedule a small town parade about the richness of it's sub-bass. However, I've been using it extensively for the last few days and I'm happy to report that not once have I 'wanted' anything else from it. The sound is balanced well with itself and anyone looking for a neutral-ish closed-back headphone for under $300 should seriously consider this guy.
Test Songs (all ALAC either 16/44 or 24/96):
Someone Like You - Adele - Live from Royal Albert Hall
Late in the Evening - Paul Simon - The Essential Paul Simon
Limit to Your Love - James Blake -
What About Me - Snarky Puppy - We Like It Here
Hide and Seek - Imogen Heap - Speak for Yourself
Prelude from Cello Suite #4 - Yo Yo Ma
YYZ - Rush - Exit Stage Left
MacBook Pro > Fidelia > Pan Am Stack
Overall, the HM5 from Brainwavz is one of the best sub-$300 closed headphones I've heard. It bests its rebranded NVX XPT100 in every category. It offers an accessory kit that every other major headphone manufacturer should take note of. And, best of all, it offers exceptional value with regards to sound:price ratio. For anyone who enjoys a clean, mostly neutral sound signature for either personal listening, monitoring, or mixing, the HM5 form Brainwavz is an excellent choice!
***This review unit was provided free of charge. I'm in no way affiliated with Brainwavz or their distributors.***
Pros: Sound Comfert Price
Cons: Build Quality
I bought a pair of HM5s about 6 months ago. They give you absolutely great sound for under $150 but I ran into a big problem. Both sides where the slider connects to the headphones started to crack within a week of one another. A little later pieces of plastic started falling off altogether and now I can't take them off too fast without cutting my ear. Before you buy try searching about the HM5s build quality, lots of complaints. The best part is even though I'm still under warranty no one will return my emails.
Pros: Comfy, comes with lots of accessories
Cons: Not all that neutral, numerous cons in the sound outweigh the positives, build quality is meh
I liked these when I first got them but over time as I listened to more and better headphones realized they are not very good. They're not all bad but I think the cons outweigh the pros. There are already enough hyped up positive comments from tons of people, so I'm just going to list what the problems were for me.
Not really all that neutral. Perhaps more balanced relative to some of the wilder headphones out there and mostly non-offensive, but that's about it. Overall balance is actually a little bit on the dark side. I'm no treble head and hate any spikes in the higher frequencies, but even for me these sounded a little bit veiled and lacking clarity. The treble on its own is very smooth and had the most accurate tonality for cymbals I've heard, but the bass/lower mids are quite muddy and smeary and get in the way. There is a dip in the lower mids and then a hump in the upper bass which I think contributes to this. The muddiness sometimes creeps up into the mids as well unfortunately, because the mids are actually pretty nice. I noticed that frequency response graphs actually confirm the slightly dark balance.
The soundstage is wonky with a hollowed out center image. At first I mistook this for depth, but it's not, it's just shaped weird. Basically, things which are panned in the center sound farther away, while things which are panned in the left or right ears sound closer. Kind of like a "V-shape" where your head is staring down into the point of the V if you can imagine that. Other headphones with more evenly shaped soundstages do not do this so much. I also found these to lack punch and attack both in the bass and the mids/highs. I find too much punch to be fatiguing, but these just sounded kind of flat and boring.
The other thing about these headphones is the cup sound or echo as some have called it. If you take a look at the way the cups in combination with the pads are shaped, you'll notice they form a cylindrical or tube shape. Listening to music on these headphones sounds like that--listening to music through a tube. It sounds like there is some kind of reverb added on to the music, which makes you feel you are listening inside of a cave or a subway tunnel or something. I don't know exactly how to describe it, but frankly it is pretty strange. It is less noticeable on some recordings, but on others it is very obvious and weird if you have other headphones to compare to.
Also while they come with a bunch of neat accessories, the build quality is not all that great. It's not outright bad, but questionable. The sliders for adjusting the length of the headband are kind of loose and wobbly, the cups sometimes snap out of the hinges, and the headband is so rigid every time I stretched it to put these on my head it felt like it was going to snap.
If you can find some rebrands of these for less than $100 and you like a slightly dark and very laid back sound, these might be decent, but overall I don't think I'd recommend them to anybody, especially if you think you're going to get a "neutral champ."
Pros: Easy to EQ, comfortable for long sessions, price!
Cons: None yet.
I stumbled upon these headphones after numerous hours of research. To be quite honest, I'd never heard of this brand before so I was a bit hesitant before making the jump; especially after owning products from major brands such as Shure, Audio Technica and Beyerdynamic. You know what to expect from those brands, but from Brainwavz? Read on to find out more..
#Packaging: they come in a relatively small box (compared to the ATH-M50s), inside you'll find:
-A black and red hard shell carrying case that'll hold your headphones and accessories
-A carrying strap for your hard shell case
-The warranty card and instructions
-A spare pair of pleather ear pads
-The headphones themselves
-¼ audio jack
-Two removable cables (1.3m and 3m long)
-An airline adapter
-A pouch to store all the cables and audio jacks
#Design and Build Quality: and I thought my DT770s were big!
They're definitely not like any other set of cans you've seen before, as soon as you pick them up you'll notice how light and sturdy they are. Some parts are made out of plastic, but they don't feel cheaply made.
The ear pads seem to be of top notch quality, they're made out of pleather. If you do happen to break them, Brainwavz was kind enough to include a second pair; they both appear to be identical.
I was actually kind of surprised with the quality of the cables, they appear to be strong and both sets are removable and can be plugged in without any problems.
In my opinion the HM5s look super clean and modern, and I love the metal accents on the ear cups. You will like them wether you're 18 or 45.
#Sound Quality: after burning them in for 72 hours with lossless music and pink noise. Amped with a Fiio E12 Mont Blanc and iPod Classic w/Fiio LOD L9.
I like to buy different headphones because they all offer me different experiences; the ATH-M50s have a particular sound signature, as well as my Beyerdynamic DT770s and my Shure SE215. None of them sound alike, and that was one of the reasons I was in the market for a new set of closed back headphones. I also needed something less colored and more 'EQ friendly'. If you're a music fanatic like I am you will understand what I am saying.
Why do I have the Audio Technicas? Because sometimes I wanna feel the bass (and have my head rattle for a couple of hours with techno and industrial music)
Why do I have the Beyerdynamics? Because sometimes I wanna get that immersive experience without bothering those around me. Some people may disagree with me, but the soundstage on these puppies are outstanding, and not to mention little to no sound leaking.
Why do I have the Shure in ears? Because I also need something more portable and inexpensive but also have the best sound quality for the money.
The HM5s do not disappoint in terms of sound quality. Yes, they are flat, uncolored headphones. But that doesn't mean they're boring. It just means that you can pretty much EQ them in any way and direction you want to. If you're not a fan of EQing then leave them as they are, and you'll hear the music the way the artist intended.
If you've never heard a flat response headphone before then you're in for a treat. No, the bass will not rattle your head, but you will be able to hear the bass as opposed to feel the bass. The mids aren't overpowering and they give the vocals a nice presence. The highs are perfect and I did not experience any sort of sibilance (unlike the DT770s).
The soundstage is phenomenal; all the instruments are well separated.
You will not be bothering those around you either, the HM5s have great passive noise isolation, so there's almost no sound leakage.
I suggest listening to the following songs before you receive your headphones and then again after you burn them in.
Madness - Muse
Speed of Sound - Coldplay
Dreamers - Savoir Adore
Autumn's Monologue - From Autumn to Ashes
Strict Machine - Goldfrapp
House of Cards - Radiohead
Nature Trips - Eyedress
Also remember these are 64 Ohm headphones, so having something to power them is recommended.
#Final Thoughts: they're keepers!
Even if you hate these headphones you have to realize that you paid $129 for them. And not to mention all the great accessories that came with them (the case itself has to be worth at least $20 right?)
I, on the other hand, loved them. I couldn't be happier with them and in my opinion these are right 'up there' with the leaders in the hi-fi audio business.
They've earned a spot in my headphone collection, and I truly recommend them to you as long as you know what to expect.
Pros: Sound Quality, Build Quality, comfort, non-fatiguing, cables
Cons: Not really a con, but would be nice if additional velour pads were included instead of another pleather set.
These headphones are a pretty good value for the money.
Simple clean design, don't look over the top, or tacky.
The build quality is pretty nice with good materials. Plastic parts on the headphone cups have the "soft touch" feel. The pleather ear pads are really comfortable, and I'm glad they come with an extra set. I would've liked an additional velour set for the hot summer season though where heat could become a comfort issue. The headband is nicely padded for better comfort and uses metal for the extension area which should be more durable than plastic.
Comes with some nice accessories. 2 cables.. 1 short, 1 long. The cables seem to be of good quality. Highly flexible, yet very durable. The cable connectors look really nicely done as well. They're color coded to the correct jacks in the headphones for left and right. It's nice that they're detachable from the headphones. Also comes with 2 adapters. 1 large jack adapter, and 1 airplane jack adapter. Of course it's got an extra pair of pleather ear pads which are nice. Luckily I got in on the pre-order so it came with a simple carrying case with foam inserts as well (not spectacular, but better than no case).
Sound Quality is pretty good to me. I've been listening to a mix of acoustic, jazz, jazz/funk, rock, hip hop, you name it. These headphones really do seem like they get better with burn-in. During my first several hours I didn't really like how they sounded with rock. I left it running for several days and came back to a pleasant surprise. My rock sounds much better and clearer now. Shortly afterwards, my FiiO e10 arrived in the mail. Pairing these phones up with the FiiO e10 (I listened with bass boost off) sounds really nice. Every genre sounds even better than when I had this plugged straight into my macbook air.
Pairing these up with the FiiO E10 is a winning combo to me!
Pros: Build quality, comfort, sound quality, removable dual entry cable, price
Pros: Build quality, comfort, sound quality, removable dual entry cable, price
I am unable to comment on the packaging of the HM5 as I have received a loaner model. I can comment on the accessories I've received though and Brainwavz has done a fantastic job here. Included with the HM5 I received were an extra pair of faux leather pads which are good quality here, soft yet firm. Also included was two cables, both being dual entry with a 3.5mm plug and an included 1/4 adaptor. The cables are thick and feel of the utmost quality, I'm thoroughly impressed with them, and the inclusion of a set for each plug rather than the cheaper way out of just giving an adaptor.
Design and Build Quality
The first thing that I noticed about the HM5 was that the build quality was astounding. I picked them up from the soft foam padding they laid in and noticed a nice weight to them and very solid construction even under close inspection. The headphones themselves seem to be clones of the Fischer FA-003, at least aesthetically, and I think that's a great thing. The FA-003 have a very nice clean look to them and Brainwavz has done a great job keeping everything clean while adding it's own little touches.
Starting from the top, the faux leather and soft foam make for a minimal, yet clean looking headband. On the top "BRAINWAVZ" is in a glossy black to accent over the matte black of the faux leather. A little further down you reach the adjustors on the headphones, which is a slightly notches aluminum strip from the right and left that feels very solid when being adjusted in anyway. A click will let you know you've reached each notch and where the adjustor meets the lower half of the headphone there's some room for it to move laterally slightly allowing some flexibility. The adjustors meet with a black matte plastic which almost has a rubber feel to it allowing for better grip. At the top of it there's a red "R" and a blue "L" indicating left or right as well as color coding for the cables. The plastic wraps around the housing and locks in at the sides allowing the HM5 to swivel up and down up to 90 degrees allowing them to point down.
The housing itself has a brushed aluminum siding with a small circle cut out with the Brainwavz logo on either side, the grey brushed aluminum looks beautiful contrasting against the outside of the housing which is the same black matter rubberized plastic that gives the HM5 a sleek look. On the bottom back of each ear cup HM5 is stamped in a light grey. The cables enter from the bottom using a straight 3.5mm plug in each ear. The ear cups are big soft faux leather pads that are not only comfy, but provide good isolation for the HM5. They're also very easy to take off and put on for those who want to try different pads.
The cables were a huge surprise to me, each side has a blue or a red ring around it to indicate which ear it belongs in and is not only thick, but feels surprisingly high quality. The cables are joined by a simple y-split and terminate with a thick, solid, straight plug.
Everything about the HM5 screams high quality. The build quality is easily comparable to any high end headphone. The aesthetics are extremely simple, but beautiful to boot. These headphones are well worth the asking price for this alone, they make my Ad900 feel like a cheap toy.
These arrived from Dragon2Knight with a nice hand written letter explaining these had well over 250 hours of burn-in/use before being used. Therefore I simply listened, I can't speak for any burn-in and I am not noticing any changes throughout my listening.
The Brainwavz HM5 are being marketed as neutral for studio monitoring purposes and I couldn't disagree with this if I tried. The HM5 are almost perfectly neutral to my ears allowing me to pick apart problems with the mix and mastering unlike any other headphone I've used before. That isn't to say the HM5 are the most detailed headphone I've ever used, there's some grain even, but these are the flattest headphones I've used with excellent extension on both sides of the spectrum while having good detail and clarity.
The HM5 are not for bass heads, if you're expecting the bass to rattle your head then look elsewhere. The HM5 have a very flat response across the bass with only the slightest mid bass hump and great extension, there was never a point where I felt I was missing anything in the lows. The mid bass has decent impact, enough to let you know a kick drum is being hit, but it's not bloated or overdone, it's more of a rounded hit rather than a sharp jab. Even on songs with incredible bass the HM5 handle them well. I don't particularly feel the bass but I hear it no matter how low it goes with good detail to boot. The mids are the weakest of everything here, but that's only because I'm used to my Ad900. The mids here are clean and serve as a perfect link between the lows and highs. The mids are polite as to not push out the mids and highs, but are assertive enough to give the vocals good presence and electric guitars a good crunch. The upper mids or low highs do have a slight edge to them, but just like the mid bass it's only the slightest. There's a very slight sense of sibilance, but only on the most sibilant heavy songs. There's a slight grain as well in the highs, but they're well extended without being overly bright.
As I said before the HM5 have good detail, but they're certainly not to be considered analytical, at least in comparison to the likes of the AKG K701 or HiFi Man RE272. I don't feel as if I'm missing anything when listening to these, but they don't have the typical cold analytical presentation. The soundstage on these is decent, there's actually a light air to it. There's good separation throughout and I feel as if I'm at an intimate outdoor concert, if I were to describe it at all. Perhaps yes described as if the stage were enclosed from all except the front, giving a slight air, but still an intimate presentation. As for amping, I definitely recommend something to power these, but they sound rather good even from an iPod or straight from my MacBook Pro.
Onto the music!
The Antlers - Kettering
In this song there's an incredible ambiance and emotion conveyed through the music with a great build up and dynamics. Right away the hushed piano plays the repeating melody sounding very cold and subdued as the vocals take on a very similar tone, sounding hushed and cold while sounding very intimate, as if he were singing a few feet in front of me in a small coffee house. The synth noise rolls in as a precursor to the soon to be change in dynamics. The vocals stop, the piano goes a little higher, then the drums come in with the synth noises vibrating at a high frequency. The song continues to build up giving me the chills. Everything is beautifully conveyed through the HM5 in such a perfect, delicate manner. Very clean with excellent presentation.
Sufjan Stevens - Impossible Soul
This is a really hard song to do well as it is essentially 5 songs, each with different sounds to them, combined into one. I'm going to just take the first movement and talk about the HM5 for it as it's a 30 minute song. I have to say, I don't think I've heard this song as good before as I am now. The synth is polite, soft, and clean as Sufjan's voice matches with good panning and the echoes of his voice being heard perfectly below in the mix. The harp that rolls along pans beautifully back and forth as the drums do as well. Hearing certain hits in the left and the proceeding one in the right keeps my ears open and paying attention, Sufjan knows how to keep a listener entertained in such small ways. There's simply so much going on here that the HM5 replicate so well. The harshly toned guitar solo comes in like a jagged knife, which is definitely intended and the HM5 do a great job giving it the edge Sufjan intended, all the while the harps and drums panning, not once does it feel confused or congested. I could go on, but this song is beautiful through these. It's not easy to have a song with such hectic parts and combinations of electronic, pop and classical sound good. The HM5 are fantastic though!
Radiohead - Idioteque
This song is a perfect example of how good the HM5's bass is. The electronic kick drum thumps enough to be present, while being polite enough to allow the mechanical sounding hi-hat and snare to tick away as the synth sweeps along and the various noises make their appearances. Thom's voice comes in and the kick drum still thumps, but it's clear that the vocals were mixed to be slightly higher here as they wanted them to be the focus. The vocals come in clear and slightly higher than anything else while the backing vocals are panned to the right and hushed behind the rest in the mix, which is a nice contrast going on here having vocals essentially surround the instruments. Everything sounds clean here and I'm enjoying it, just the right amount of thump.
Porcupine Tree - Trains
This song is a great progressive rock song with a good sound. Right away the acoustic guitar shines, clean and detailed, I can pick apart each string loud and clearly. The vocals are perfectly balanced with the guitar and equally clean. The drums and bass come in and are punchy and easily heard, in-fact I don't think I've ever noticed the bass line in this song before. Even the acoustic guitar is still easily heard in conjunction with the punchy drums and bass. As the song continues I really don't have much to say than everything simply sounds clean, there's no grain at all, every instrument has it's own space. I'm enjoying the clarity of the HM5 for this song, especially for the well recorded acoustic guitar.
Sara Bareilles - Bottle It Up
This song is a sibilant heavy song. The sibilance that made this unenjoyable on my q-JAYS is still there, but it's a recording issue more than a headphone issue. The HM5 do show signs of sibilance here, but again this is a recording issue and the HM5 do a great job of making the song listenable still. It's clear though that this song is mastered loudly with a emphasis on the vocals. It's clear that this album is a victim of the loudness wars and the HM5 have no problem revealing this.
You'll see I have no listed cons for the HM5, and deservedly so. For the $120 or so you can pre-order the HM5 for you can't ask for more. The build quality is absolutely top notch from top to bottom, from cable to ear cups. The included accessories is just a huge bonus, Brainwavz didn't need to include two cables, but they did, as well as an adaptor. I think that simply goes above and beyond what they had to. The sound is something that won't immediately please you, it's good out of the box, but it's when you realize the subtleties that make it so good you'll appreciate it. The delicate balance it gives songs that sometimes sound congested on other headphones, the polite yet present presentation is just fantastic.
The HM5 are for the person who wants a musical, neutral, clean and detailed sound. Are these as detailed as the K701 or RE272? No, but never once did I feel like I was missing anything in the music, while enjoying it far more than on either of those headphones that were simply too cold and analytical for me. These are one of the best values in the headphone world.
Come see the rest of the pictures here!
Pros: Sound Quality, Build Quality, Comfort, Features, Affordable.
Cons: Headband, Clamping.
I am penning down my opinion about the Brainwavz HM5 Over ear Studio Monitor headphones. I will try to keep this review as simple as possible and I hope it would be easy to read, and help fellow enthusiasts to understand more about the HM5.
Me : I am an 21 year old Engineering student living in a small town in India. I would like to call myself an music enthusiast, rather than an audiophile. I was inspired by music since childhood, and as the time passed, the passion of music grew in me, and that subsequently led me to join Head-Fi. Eventually, I found the pleasure of listening to music mainly by the HD600 headphones, and realized the true components of recorded music. I usually like to listen to Indian Classical Music along with Bollywood songs.
Intro : Brainwavz, established in 2008, is an renown brand in the audio world. I always have felt that, Brainwavz excels in delivering quality products in an affordable price.The HM5 is the only over ear and closed headphone offering from the house of Brainwavz. HM5 is aimed to function as Studio monitor, rather than solely for Audiophile listening purposes.
Packaging and Accessories : The HM5 arrives packed inside an typical-Brainwavz-style colourful cardboard box, on which features, accessories and other information have been mentioned upon. The box is sealed by Brainwavz factory. Once the box is opened, the HM5 and accessories are packed inside the hard case. Nice step taken by Brainwavz, considering thousands of miles journey the HM5 has to undergo before reaching its destination. The hard case can be unzipped off to reveal the storage compartment, in which all the included accessories are present.
List of accessories in the box, which include the following:
1) 1.3M headphone cable: Practical step taken by Brainwavz, The cable is of short length and suits much better for portable use. The cable terminates in 1/8” jack. I find myself using this cable for most of the time.
2) 3M headphone cable: This cable has extra length, same features, and is intended for non-portable purposes in studio. This cable too terminates in 1/8”.
3) ¼” converter: This converter can be screwed-in directly to both short and long cables for plugging in ¼” headphone jack, and is gold plated.
4) Spare Earpads: One spare set of stock pleather earpads.
5) Hard Case: To store the HM5 headphone and its accessories.
6) Zipper line : It is an long cord with hooks to attach to hard case and can be hung around our shoulder while travelling.
7) Warranty: Contains warranty details of the HM5.
Overall, the packaging and accessories gives an positive first impression. Packaging is secure and practical, with accessories provided being plenty and made up of premium quality. They all have the same sophisticated feel as each and every part of the HM5.
Design and Build : The HM5 has an excellent build quality and has been built with professional grade materials. Metal cups, steel headband, high quality audio jacks, reliable overall sturdy construction. Nothing feels finicky. HM5 is a little smaller than how it appears in pictures, thus making it very portable and nimble. Headband is made up of high grade steel. Headband padding is cushioned and is good enough to keep us comfortable for 1-2 hours on an continuous listen. On the top side of the headband padding, The brand name ‘Brainwavz’ is engraved, giving the HM5 an professional look.,
Headphone cable is made up of good quality materials, 1/8” jack terminal is gold plated and feels high quality. The mono jack ending for the headphone, marked red for right and blue for left, The ¼” converter too has a premium quality. The driver housing cup is light in weight, has metal plated outer finishing, and has clearly visible Left and Right markings. Strain relief on the housing are rigid and well implemented. Headphone cable connector design is simple yet reliable and practical, with mono 3.5mm connector. With an simple push inside the socket, the connector sits snugly in its place.The HM5 feels rubbery when held in and has matt finish, which increases the holding grip, and does not it slip off from our hands.
Another thing to mention about HM5 is that, it is completely modular, with user removable and replace-able parts. Headband, earcups, earpads, and even the driver unit can be removed out of the HM5, which increases HM5’s reliability and durability along with ease of maintenance for the user. The HM5 in overall is made up of high quality materials, also, the HM5 has excellent finishing. A 3D Brainwavz logo embossed on the ear cups looks very attractive!
Specifications of HM5 as per Brainwavz:
Drivers : Dynamic, 42mm
Rated Impedance : 64 Ω
Frequency Range : 10Hz ˜ 26.5kHz
Sensitivity: 105 dB @ 1 mW
Rated Input : Power 100 mW
Over ear Design : Ensures in good fit and comfort, and has oval shaped earcup design to comfortably fit on our oval shaped human ears. Earcups have have plenty of space inside to accommodate larger ears.
Easy to drive: HM5 is rated at 64Ohms and having an dynamic driver, and is easy to drive from most of the portable devices. Which is an plus point of portability.
Detachable cable : HM5 has an simple detachable cable mechanism, which of snug-fit simply push type. Though replacement cable are rare in mono 3.5mm headphone plug, its always convenient to have an detachable cable.
Portability : It is appreciable that, an over ear headphone which is truely portable practically. Most of the over ear headphones are cumbersome to carry around, whereas the HM5 can sit comfortably in its carry case, and is easy to carry around.
Modularity : This feature vaguely reminds me of the HD600’s, just like HD600, the HM5 is modular, with most of its parts user repairable and replaceable. This feature allows us to easily change the earpads, earcups, and allows other modifications.
Comfort : Comfort level on HM5 is good enough. HM5 headphones are very light in weight, does not get dislodged when head is shaken. The HM5 is ergonomically designed, except for the headband assembly and clamping force, which I feel lets the comfort levels down.
Since the HM5 is compactly designed, The headband cushioning is quite mediocre, is very less in length and thickness, and this can cause slight pain or discomfort for larger heads. Clamping was so tight that, I carefully bent the steel supports to suit for my head. But this 'bend' reverses back, to default, once the HM5 is stored back in its hard case. I have to mention, earcup comfort is very good, considering the oval shaped cups suitable for human ears and lots of ear-space inside the earpads.Velour pads may be itchy for sensitive skinned people. The headband screw cover is bare and exposed right besides the headband cushion, and touches my head.
Sound : The HM5 is overall ‘clean and clear’ sounding with very good sound stage depth and decent width, imaging and detail retrieval (for an closed can). Considering the HM5’s overall neutral sound character, It can match up with any genre and with any source without sounding bad in particular. Sound stage depth is very good especially for an closed can, width is decent and good enough. Detail retrieval is excellent. Imaging and dynamics live upto expectations, giving an circular spacious surround sound. Gives an neutral and balanced sonic performance.
The final sonic output in HM5 noticeably changes from different earpads and earcups used:
Aftermarket Pleather earpads : Lows are strong but a little boomy, Highs are a touch smoothened, and soundstage feels congested. sounds dark and muddy when compared to velour pads. Although comfort is very good, and maximum isolation is achieved by this pleather earpad.
Aftermarket Velour earpads : Lows are tighter and are well controlled. the overall sound is more airier with increased soundstage. Sounds much more relaxed than the pleather earpads and is sonically more neutral. Increased wearing comfort and ventilation is an bonus. Though isolation is least in this pad.
Stock earpads : Sounds noticeably inferior compared to the above two, and is relatively uncomfortable, due to its thin padding.
I could imagine that more sonic improvements and neutrality can be achieved with installation of the custom semi open earcups; though I do not have opportunity to try them.
The Downsides :
1) Headband Padding : The head padding provided is minimalistic, and is not very comfortable for larger heads (like mine), causing headaches and sore heads after an hour of continuous listen through the HM5.
2) Clamping : The HM5 has tight clamp force, and my face felt jammed between the earcups of HM5 on the first use. The clamp force did reduced a bit after few hours of use, but not upto to my comfort.
The above two downsides should not be much of an issue for people with smaller or moderate head size.
3) Quality in some areas: Although overall quality of HM5 is very good, but at some places, like inner earcup swing-arm has an hollow appearance. This feels as an compromise in quality. Headband securing screws are completely exposed and have finicky feel to them.
Conclusion: The HM5 is designed to function as an studio monitor, and that explains its closed design to capture every detail in accurate way possible. The HM5 offers very good neutral sound quality along with excellent portability and features, in an affordable price range. The HM5 is an very capable headphone, but one may have to purchase velour earpads and semi open earcups, in addition to the headphone itself, for an more pleasing experience. Headband can be bit of an issue for people with larger heads.
Pros: comfort, tonality, soundstage, neutrality, isolation
Cons: the included case is useless to me, but that is really it.
I need to start by thanking Brainwavz for the HM5 to review. They had sent me their S5 IEM a couple months back to review, and afterwards had asked me if I was interested in reviewing any other headphones of theirs, and I asked for the HM5. I had always wanted to try one, but had never gotten around to it. I am now wishing that I had gotten one when they first came out. I like it a whole lot.
Packaging - accessories:
The packaging is sufficient and includes two different length cables, an extra set of pads, and a semi-rigid carrying case. My only complaint here is the case. In order to use the case, you have to unhook the cables from the headphone and set the headband to the smallest position. I have another case that I had bought years ago that I use with them when I leave the house, so no big deal really. I just don't like the fact that the cables have to be undone to fit the headphone in the supplied case.
Comfort - fit - isolation:
I find the comfort and fit of these to be great. Others have mentioned a tight clamp, but I have a small head. For example my full face motorcycle helmet is a size small, so I do have a small head. So I find the fit of these to be just fine. The pads are nice and soft and deep and seal very well to my head. The headband has good padding where it touches my head as well. No issues with comfort at all after hours and hours of use. They could get a bit hot I'd imagine, but It's fall here, now so I've not had the chance to use them in any temps over 70 yet. Isolation is above average as well. They seal to my head perfectly and block out a good amount of background noise. Not like IEM's, but very good for a full size headphone. I've experienced better isolation, but have also experienced worse.
Build quality - durability:
Seems average or better than average to me. I don't see them failing on me. I have never broken a headphone, and I don't see these being that changing. The construction seems to be all plastic, but they don't feel weak or flimsy or fragile.
Soundstage - imaging:
I'd call them better than average for a sealed headphone when it comes to soundstage depth and width. They do not sound congested like closed back headphones often do. My other full size headphone is an AKG Q701 that I use with the speaker taps of an Emotiva A-100 Mini-X, if that helps to put it in perspective. I'm not saying they are as open sounding as a Q701, but going back and forth the difference isn't disappointing considering the HM5 is closed and isolates very well. Imaging and instrument separation is very good as well for something in this price bracket.
Onto the tonality:
Very close to neutral, but still natural and fun. Nothing seems exaggerated or missing.
The bass is clean and smooth. It is well extended and pretty quick. They are not bass heavy or bass light. It does what the music tells it to do. I have seen people pull the cups apart and do various mods to supposedly "clean up" the bass. I think the bass is fine as it is, and I do not plan to pull th cups apart and mod them.
The mids are right there, not recessed or overly in your face either. Everything in the mid-range gets represented like it should.
Top end is also smooth and present. It can be sparkly and splashy when the music calls for it, but I have yet to hear any sibilance or harshness.
Detail is very good across the whole range. I listen to rock, metal, jazz, and a little bit of electronic music and it does them all very well just like a neutral headphone should.
They are very sensitive and easy to drive to good levels. They do not require a dedicated headphone amp. All of my listening to these was and is done on a Verizon wireless Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone using the Neutron music player app. I have all the good audiophile settings enabled on the Neutron app, but I am not using any EQ on them at all. They sound just the way I like with no EQ. I do not actually even own a headphone amp that I can try them on to compare. For my Q701 I use the speaker taps on an Emotiva Mini-X A-100. To use the HM5 on this amp would require me to make a custom cable/ modify one of the two supplied cables, or make some kind of adaptor. I see no reason to bother at all. These do just fine with the volume at the halfway mark on my S4. The S4 puts out clean power, and has a low output impedance, so it makes a very decent music player. This review would have been done earlier, but I was having some issues with the phone randomly rebooting after a software update which made it hard to listen to and test the headphones when the phone kept rebooting randomly, but quite often. That has been straightened out, so I was finally able to get some good listening done.
I am very very impressed with these. Are they the best sealed headphone out there? I'm sure they are not, but I'm also not sure they can be beat for the price if this is the type of sound signature that you prefer. I do wish I had gotten an HM5 when they first came out. They make a nice sealed headphone that I can use out of the house with a smartphone to go along with my Q701. They sound close enough to the Q701 that I am perfectly happy with them.
Music tested with:
Lots of different rock, metal, and jazz, and a little bit of electronic music. I have never really put together a list of prefered test tracks, I just listen to what I like and enjoy it.
Another big thanks to Brainwavz for the headphone to review. I like these quite a bit and will continue to enjoy them.
|Feature||Large, comfortable over the ear cups|
|Product Type Name||HEADPHONES|
|Title||BRAINWAVZ HM5 Studio Monitor Headphones|