Pros: great balanced but slightly warm sound, wide soundstage, build
Cons: overbuilt, wide & long nozzle, large "unique" design
Quick Summary: While these earphones have a really “unique” design to them, once you get over this, you will be rewarded with a beautifully balanced sound. I would put them on a similar tier as the very popular, and head-fi favorites Hifiman re400 and the Vsonic GR07. This is very high praise, let’s find out below!
I want to thank Brainwavz for their patience and for sending a pair of these R3 for review:
Click on the link below to see the video review:
Accessories: The R3s come with a multiple ear tips of different sizes, shapes and even “bore/nozzle width”
- 3 pairs of Grey (medium bore) (in S,M,L)
- 3 pairs of black (narrower bore) (in S,M,L)
- 1 pair of Triple flange
- 1 pair of Double Flange
- 1 Pair of Medium Comply T400 eartips
- 1 ¼ adapter
- 1 hard carrying case (this is probably the nicest case I’ve ever seen, I’ll probably getting a few for my other earphones)
Design: These earphones look very interesting to say the least. They have almost a big water bottle shape to them. While they won’t win any beauty contests, but in this case its more substance (sound) >style. The size of the housing is conducive to how big and spacious this earphone sounds.
Overall: 5/10 (I did get a few weird looks when walking around the mall, and around town with them, they are quite big as well)
Build quality: These guys I feel have set the bar for build quality for even many full size headphones out there. It’s certainly, the “Hummer” for earphones. The earpieces are fully made of metal, which makes me feel that they would win a war even against a hammer. The cables is very thick and rugged, I think its on par or even exceeds some full size headphones in this category. Lastly, it has an big and overbuilt 45 degree jack, one that looks like the ones you see with TV cables. I feel headphone manufactures should really take a look at the Brainwavz R3 when building their cables. These earphones will definitely last a while.
Overall: 10/10 (I feel the cable is a bit too thick and heavy at times for an earphone, however in this case I would say its better being overbuilt >underbuilt).
Comfort: These edges of the R3s are all rounded, but bottom line is that their still very large for earphones, affecting fit (I struggled at times to get a good fit). Brainwavz attempts compensated the size by having long nozzles, which would allow for better, deeper fit. However, the nozzle used are also very wide. My ear canals did feel a bit sore after about an hour or so, however the Comply’s did help with the comfort. As a result, the issues listed above may affect those with small outer ears and smaller ear canals.
Overall: 6.5/10 (If the nozzles were narrower it would help improve the comfort)
There are a number of vents (I count 2). As a result the isolation is just about average. Good enough for day to day use, though not my first recommendation for hardcore commuting.
Cable noise: These were intended to be worn cable up, as a result, almost no cable noise.
Overall: 9/10 (when using these for physical exercises, the physical weight of the cable will cause some cable noise to come through)
Sound: The sound I think Brainwavz have a done a fantastic job. It’s a sound that is a “jack of all trades” it has the right balance of bass, midrange and treble. No single part of the sound spectrum screams out for your attention, instead it opts for a more neutral balanced presentation with some added warmth to prevent them from sounding cold or lean. I think in terms of musical preferences, I think these faired better for more acoustic and live pieces, I loved listening to OSTs, and ballads with them, because of its delicate nature and its wide soundstage. I felt it delivered the atmosphere and the emotions from those specific genres of music.
Bass: the bass here is rather linear from the midbass with a mild subbass roll off. But the bass here is just a slightly emphasized (providing a soft impact) to allow for some added warmth. Its not anemic, but the bass here may not have the impact some are seeking. The bass here is very well integrated with good control with a smooth texture.
Midrange: I think the midrange, is rather neutral and natural sounding balancing male and female vocals very well. I feel that the midrange has enough richness, that give vocals a bit more body or thickness, though a bit diffuse. The tradeoff for the extra richness in the vocals, is a bit of clarity but it allow for both male and female vocals to have a smoother quality to them. However, as a whole its still a very clear earphone and I would put it just behind the Re400 and GR07BEs.
Treble: I think the treble as a whole is relatively clean, smooth, avoiding any siblance. I feel the treble hits a plateau in the mid treble and rolls off shortly after which makes the treble sound a bit just a bit “blunted” which makes the treble have bit of dullness, and a more laid back feel. Thus, the treble lacks a bit of the excitement and a bit air in treble, that I think would allow them to sound more open, and more engaging. The complaints I listed above are very minor, I think the treble as whole executed very well.
Soundstage: Quite big, it’s an out of the head experience with great placement and separation. It’s a bit diffuse sounding and I felt it had better width than depth, making the presentation more flat
Quick comparison : I think in comparison the Brainwavz R3 is warmer and smoother sounding (and less dry sounding) than the Hifiman RE400 and it has a much bigger soundstage. The bass is smoother sounding and both have that roll off in the subbass but its less noticeable on the R3s. The midrange has more thickness and more weight than the transparent and lean RE400s. The treble is more crisp on the RE400s, and more detailed and clearer as a result. But its so much better built, there is no contest, but the housing is bigger so it be challenge to get a fit for some.
Compared to the VSONIC Gr07 BE, its has a similar width size of the soundstage with a similar sort of diffuse characteristic (so more 2 dimensional). The subbass on the Gr07BE is definitely more emphasized than it is on the R3, as well as the midbass, making it punchier as a whole. Its more midcentric and richer with male vocals. In terms of the treble but its much smoother so those that felt GR07 was edgy and siblant in the treble would just love the smoothness of R3, while still sounding very balanced and detailed as a whole. Those looking for a more v shaped and more exciting sound should look towards the GR07BE.
*added note* I think the Brainwavz R3 is a good alternative (sonically speaking) to the Vsonic GR07(whichever version, i have the BE) and the Hifiman re400. Especially if you need something very rugged, i mean like strong enough to survive a war in your backpack and more.
Sound: 9/10 (the treble was just a bit blunt for me) but aside from that it was a very great take on a neutral, balanced sound signature with a bit of warmth.
In conclusion, while the R3s have this ridiculously robust build and the great sound of the R3s, I feel that the design and the long, wide nozzles would be an issue for others. It’s a good and durable option at this price range as long as you can get past the design and the potential comfort issues.
Below are some pictures of the R3: