Pros: mature sound, resolution, soundstage depth, instrument placement, texture, coherency
Cons: shape, bridge, cable could be a little more flexible, bass a little soft (though texture and control are good)
Before I start with my actual review, I’d like to thank Pandora from GPGSHK and Brainwavz for providing me with a sample of the Brainwavz M3 in exchange for my honest in-depth review.
Brainwavz is a Chinese company that is known for making inexpensive headphones with a good price-performance ratio.
The M3 that has nothing to do with the same-named German car (J) except for the name and is the flagship of the Brainwavz “M”-series. It is also only available with black body and without remote control or microphone.
Drivers: Dynamic, 10.7 mm
Rated Impedance: 20 Ohms
Frequency Range: 20 Hz ~ 20 kHz
Sensitivity: 115 dB at 1 mW
Cable: 1.3 m Y-cord, Silver Plated
Plug: 3.5 mm, gold-plated
The M3 comes in a cardboard box that is designed in the typical Brainwavz colours black and red. On the front, there’s a viewing window allowing you to get a sneak peek on the in-ears. Below is a shiny, sublime shadowy illustration of the M3. Specs, delivery content and additional information about the in-ears are located on the back side of the box.
Breaking the seal, one will find the typical red and black Brainwavz carrying case that contains a shirt clip, a pair of Comply Foam tips, six pairs of colour-coded hybrid silicone tips in three different sizes and last but not least a pair of double-flange ear tips.
The flagship of the M series is mostly made out of high-quality plastic, but there are also nice and decorative aluminium applications on the IEMs’ bodies that are halfway through made out of aluminium as well.
The cable that is twisted and then coated, just like the elder generations of the SoundMagic E10, is thin and lightweight but sturdily made, although it could be just a tad less tough.
Below the y-split is plenty of good strain-relief, however there’s none above it and on the IEMs themselves.
Typical for Brainwavz is the 3.5 mm jack that has got a 45° angle of which I’m not the biggest fan, but as the cable is very flexible and elastic at this place and has got excellent strain relief, I don’t have much concern of it breaking.
Due to the bridge on the body of each IEM, the M3 was probably designed to be worn the “regular way” with the cables straight down, but at least for my ears, it is possible to wear them comfortably over the ear, which improves fit and reduces microphonics, without swapping sides.
In my ears, both methods are possible without any limitations or comfort issues.
Isolation is inferior to fully closed IEMs due to the M3’s bass-reflex bore, but is still upper middleclass in terms of isolation intensity.
Before I started listening, the M3 got at least 50 hours of burn-in, just in case if there were any effects of it.
Listening took place with my iBasso DX90. Music files were mainly CD rips (16 bit, 44.4 kHz), but also Hi-Res files and MP3s (320 kBps cbr). Ear tips I used were the large silicone tips.
The M3’s sound signature could be best described as fairly balanced and well-mannered.
Bass is evenly emphasised and therefore slightly north of neutral, with a focus mainly on mid-bass, but I wouldn’t go that far to talk about a clearly emphasised low range or even bassy sound, as the M3’s low range is just raised as much that it doesn’t sound boring to people that want a neutral-ish sound signature but find truly neutral bass to be not satisfactory enough.
That said, upper bass has a little less level than mid-bass, just as the lowest ranges of sub-bass. Transition from upper bass to the slightly emphasised lower ground tone area is smooth; it can be said that lows are a little on the warm side.
Lows don’t bleed into mids at all which is a nice thing. Speaking about the midrange: to my ears, mids are always present, tonally correct and without any coloration, furthermore they also lack any sharpness and sound never bothersome due to the moderate notch between 1 and 3 kHz (presence area).
From 3 kHz on, level starts increasing again from mid highs to upper highs, where a peak is located at about 8 kHz, adding freshness and airiness to the sound without sounding annoying or harsh at any times. Despite this emphasis, treble sounds natural to me and is never tinny or metallic, which is also due to the high resolution in this area. Cymbals’ decay sounds very clean and crisp. At about 13 kHz, there’s a second peak, but it is rather broad-banded.
A typical thing for IEMs with dynamic transducers the M3 adopts is a broad sonic range, wherefore there’s still sound without much roll-off below 25 Hz and above 17 kHz.
The resolution of the flagship of Brainwavz’ M series is particularly very good in the mids and treble, with proper speech intelligibility at very low listening levels. The M3 surpasses Brainwavz’ R3 that backs on two dynamic drivers per side especially in the midrange where the R3 sounds somewhat coated and woolly.
However, the M3 has to surrender against the Logitech UE600vi (formerly known as Super.Fi 5) and Phonak Audéo PFE132, both in-ears with a single Balanced Armature driver in each side, but isn’t far behind them and beats both in terms of treble extension and the UE600vi in terms of mids that sound somewhat tinny. The Sennheiser IE 80 also beats the M3 in terms of treble and mids resolution, but costs triple the money.
Lows are quite controlled and don’t soften towards sub-bass, but it is audible that the M3 uses dynamic transducers, as its bass doesn’t quite achieve the speed and precision of Balanced Armature transducers, which is audible in a slightly soft impact, though control and body are very good. On the other hand, the M3’s bass is still much drier and better defined than the IE 80’s muddy and bloated low range.
The Phonak’s and UE’s BA transducers are definitely faster and more arid in the lows, but also soften towards sub-bass, whereas the M3’s bass doesn’t.
The M3 clearly beats the R3 in terms of bass shape and body.
M3’s expansion to the sides is only good mediocrity and somewhat smaller than the Brainwavz Jive’s, R1’s or IE 80’s. In return, its imaginary soundstage offers a truly impressive and authentic depth with good instrument separation and placement, precise scaling and layering.
Although the M3’s pictured space is overall smaller than the R1’s or IE 80’s, it maintains a more precise scaling and layering in depth.
The UE600vi’s instrument separation is sharper, but the Brainwavz is better in terms of instrument placement and layering. The M3 in this regard also beats the Phonak that never had a coherent stage in my ears.
The M3’s stage is just extremely coherent, authentic and has got a nice airiness.
Brainwavz’ flagship of the M series convinces with a terrific resolution in the mids and highs, an overall balanced sound signature and a fantastic soundstage reproduction that offers a neat instrument placement and spatial depth. Solely the low range that could be a bit more arid for my tastes isn’t free of minor criticism from my side, but I have to say that I’m used to the fast and dry bass from Balanced Armature transducers and always have more or less the same criticism with all IEMs with dynamic transducers, even at Sennheiser’s IE 800 flagship, wherefore this is criticism on a high level (the M3’s bass is definitely faster, drier and tighter than the IE 80’s or the SoundMagic E10’s).
There are definitely way more pro than contra points for this IEM, and for the MSRP, one gets a lot of balanced and grown-up sound for comparatively little money and I have to admit that the M3 is definitely among my favourite dynamic IEMs below $100.