Pros: Sound quality is pleasing, though not perfectly balanced or refined; Build quality; Accessories and tips; Fits better than expected
Cons: Odd design might not be comfortable for some, but most shouldn't have issues; Cable can be a bit unwieldy and annoying
Disclaimer: I received my R3s for free under the condition I would write a review for them. Purchase price reflects their going rate on a popular online retailer at the time of the review.
The Brainwavz R3 is certainly an interesting IEM in a few ways, but it's the overall design, shape, and style of fit that immediately stand out. I was a little unsure what to expect from a sound perspective, but I was definitely worried these would be impossible to wear comfortably, assuming I could fit them in my ears properly at all. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised in most areas.
Design, Fit, Comfort, Etc.
Admittedly, I had no clue how to wear these at first. I spent a good part of half an hour trying to put them in my ear horizontally, which led to them continuously falling out, a lack of proper fit and seal with the tips, and the cable would just not stay behind my ear. I was almost about to write them off until I discovered they were meant to be worn in a vertical style, if that makes sense. Feeling sufficiently stupid, I put them in the right way. Ah, much better!
Assuming one doesn't make the same mistake I did, the R3s are...surprisingly comfortable. They are definitely on the large and heavy side, so I can't give them high marks on comfort. This also made them a bit more prone to wanting to fall out of my ears. I also can't say they really gave me too many issues, though. It's at the "good enough" level where it doesn't get in the way of how I feel about them overall. However, I do suspect some individuals might have issues getting them to fit comfortably in their ears.
The cable is a bit thick and unwieldy, and even after putting them in the right way, the cable would sometimes give me fits and want to jump out from behind my ears. The cables also had some sort of plastic piece on them that tended to exacerbate this issue and/or produce very mild irritation against the back of my ears. Once you get the cables where they need to be, and assuming you aren't doing anything too physically crazy, it's not too bad.
I thought the R3s did a fairly good job with sound quality. They are not perfect in every way, nor are they perhaps the most balanced sounding IEMs in this price range, but they were certainly pleasing to listen to.
The R3s don't have particularly exaggerated bass. I actually found the bass to be rather balanced and nicely extended. They did seem to have a bit of mid-bass warmth and bloom, but this is something I often find subjectively pleasing if mild and done tastefully.
The R3s have a fairly good balance up through most of the midrange. I did notice a bit of depression in the very upper mids and lower treble, though not to the point where this caused an odd sound. If anything, it gave them a bit of a laid-back nature. Whether or not one finds that tasteful will come down to personal tastes.
Treble response is probably where the R3s are weakest. While overall fairly smooth and detailed, I did seem to notice a bit of glare and bite in a couple narrow band areas. I did not find these troublesome, as they were relatively in line with the rest of the spectrum. Out of curiosity, and after I had spent time listening, I was able to find two measurements of the R3, and it would appear these slight peaks, relative to the surrounding areas, sit around 4-5KHz and 9KHz. I believe it might be the latter that ever so slightly stood out. That said, I am generally pretty sensitive to midrange and treble issues. Since the R3 didn't give me subjective problems or sound displeasing, I suspect very few, if any, will find the treble to present any sort of problem.
In terms of soundstage, I thought the R3s did a fairly good job giving a sense of room space and reverberation, if not a bit on the small side. Perhaps better than what other IEMs I have tested. Clarity and detail was also pretty good across the spectrum, though they're not super resolving or detail monsters.
If I had to summarize the R3's sound, I'd call them decently balanced, a bit warm and laid-back, and ever so slightly bitey in the treble depending on what sort of music you're listening to. I am tempted to say they somewhat remind me of my Oppo PM-2. Similar in some characteristics, but not entirely. Overall, I'd give them fairly high marks in terms of sound quality. Definitely quite enjoyable, in my mind.
I wouldn't have any issues recommending the R3s with some caveats. The thick and unwieldy cable is my biggest annoyance, but with some patience, you can make it work. The design of the IEM itself is unorthodox and might lead to some fit and comfort issues on some individuals, but I will say they weren't too bad in this area and did much better than I expected (once I figured them out!). From a sound quality perspective, I thought the R3s were decently balanced and quite enjoyable to listen to, though not perfect. It is only because of the cable and unorthodox design that I give the R3 a 3.5/5. Otherwise, I'd easily give them a 4/5, which means I'd recommend them (BTW, anything higher than 4/5 for me is very rare).