Pros: Balanced sound, bassy but still clear, over ear design
Cons: upper mids are a bit sharp, highs are not that pronounced.
Brainwavz is quite a popular company in the world for budget audiophiles. Their brand is known for good quality, sound and price and their previous products have not disappointed. Brainwavz churns out a lot of products, and people generally have a wide variety to choose from to fit their needs and the S1 is no exception. Today, we have the new Brainwavz S1 here. I wish to thank Brainwavz for the review sample. Now let's see if the S1 fits the bill.
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The first thing you will notice about the S1 is that it's light with an over ear design and that its cable looks like something from a Marvel movie. The matte yet purple coloring of the unit with stripes going through it makes me think of sports earphones, or something that Marvel would come up with. Next onto the drivers. I spent multiple times asking myself if the drivers are metal or plastic or a combo of both. I scratched it with my nail, flicked it, and used a magnifying glass but to no avail. It took BW's website to tell me that the unit driver indeed was fully metal. This was extremely surprising to me. The driver doesn't feel metal nor plastic. This means the metal is so flush that its almost smooth and frictitious as plastic, while still keeping its properties of an metal alloy. The rest of the unit is secured with much cable guides and restrictors/stoppers to stop the cable or jack to wear out from constant use. From the thick angled jack to the flat cables, there isn't much I can say regarding a lack of quality. It's pretty solidly built all around.
The S1 is in a simlar style to the TF10 in terms of it being over ear and that it then protrudes from the ear horizontally. This means you can't sleep with your head sideways to the pillow as easilly, or be in a situation where you may want something covering your ear. This creates un-usable situations for the S1, but it also helps with others. The over ear design and insertion design does make the S1 a bit more stable when moving around as compared to maybe one that uses the outer ear shape to 'stay' in. One of the biggest quirks I have with this are the jack and cable. I am not a fan of flat cables. I will tell you this. They do indeed help a lot with making it so that the cable is easilly untangled, but they create other problems as well. The cables can twist every which way and spiral down from over behind your ear which creates uncomfortability unless you orient the cables to sit flush while it is over your ear. Next, the flat cable design makes it so that the cable slider will always be sidways and twisting. Having the slider up to my chin and neck secures the S1 even more, but at the consequence of the cable slider now being perpendicular to my throat. But what is the greates usability problem with the S1 would be the huge jack and its akward angle. The size of the jack is a tad too big in my opinion and the awkward angle and amount of plastic used to secure it has created some weird fitting problems in my pocket. This was mentioned by BW and others as well.
Even with these usability quirks however, the S1 is still quite good on the go. Addition of flat cables make it so that its easy to untangle your cables. The thick cable tension reducers on the unit driver itself and jack allows you to be a bit rougher with the S1's. It's fully metal unit body allows for a bit more roughness if you wish. Light driver weight, neck sliding, and over ear design and a plethora of tips allows you to have great fit with the S1. Overal, I had no problems with the S1 after I sorted some personal quirks out(such as what tips to use).
Microphonics, or the sound that cables make when you walk around, is nearly non existent in the S1. This is due to its good fit with plethora of tips, light driver weight, over ear design, good flexible flat cables, and especially the cable guide. You may get a bit of sway and noise without the cable guide but it is by no means a huge distraction.
Isolation and leak:
As long as you have the right fit, the S1's isolate and have very good leak properties. I have not had any problems with leak with the S1 so feel free to listen to Miley Cirus if you wish. The good isolation is good against noisy cafe's or even the gym. Harley's and extremely loud sounds are still not fully gone, but I haven't found a UIEM yet that isolates against harley's going down the road.
The S1's do not need an amp. iPod Touch 2G drove it extremely well. The bass is a bit looser on consumer devices and am noticeably looser and almost muddy with high low freq songs with consumer amplification. If you already own an amp. Feel free to use it with the S1. It is not worth it to buy an $100 amp to refine the S1 a bit.
The BW S1 was tested with the X3, iPod Touch 2G, iPhone 4S, Custom Project H(Objective 2+ CS4398). It was used on the go during my daily routine as well as sitting down at the computer enjoying music. There are about 20 hours on the S1 when this review was written, I didn't notice much changes throughout. I switched from regular tips to comply tips very early through testing as a way to calm the upper mid happy sound. I do not have full evidence that the hours I put on calmed the upper mids down as the Comply's did that as well but it is a hypothesis.
The high frequency range of the S1's are quite rolled off but still hold clarity. I love this design in sub $100 earphones. Many manufacturers get to happy in trying to fit everything into low cost earphones and this typically leads to a piercing high that is extremely uncomfortable and is actually counter-intuitive to neutral or even audiophile sound. The highs are there on the S1 but do not expect them to be extremely pronounced. They are for the most part dulled off in presence and have a bit of a roll off. The highs for the most part keep their consistency, but it is noticeable that the S1 has a bit of a problem keeping a stable high freq sound that doesn't fluctuate. This isn't too much of a problem for the S1 in that its a common quality for earphones here, but it of course isn't re-designing the market as well.
-present high frequency that has less presence but protects hearing, unstable at times, but delivers for the price range-
I initially had a lot of problems with the mid vocals and instruments in rock due to how harsh the upper mids were. Using comply tips and letting the S1 burn in for about 20 hours or so has helped considerably with this. Sibilant letters, and rock no longer makes me want to rip my ears out. I am a very sensitive person to upper mid spikes so let this be known. But now that I am using the correct tips and let the S1's settle. The mid vocals are extremely mellow. This means that they aren't active and in your face but laid back a bit. Testing with multiple known albums by me, also shows mid instruments having a light boost in presence as compared to the vocals. But the biggest thing I noticed was that the mid instruments and vocals will often fight together on more complex recordings for room. This wasn't that noticeable on modern mellow pop, but more noticeable on rock, and oldies where singing and extreme instrument playing was done at the same time. The vocals are also a bit flat in terms of the singers voice. They are laid back, and don't constitute too lifelike of a presentation. A bit un-realistic, but perfectly fine for the price range.
-slightly unreal vocals, but for the most part well articulated and mellow as is the S1's sound-
Instruments for the most part have decent seperation. They are not nearly as sharp as one will find compared to expensive equipment, but what they do have is very good. They do not fight with the mid vocals and compliment them rather than fighting for the space that many other earphones will tend to do. The upper mid spikes + comply tips + good audio interface creates some extremely impressive displays of instrument presentation. This allows string instruments to shine throughout the song. The upper mid instrument spikes are a tad too bright for me to prefer on the go or in a mellow state, but benefits active listeners a lot.
-great seperation, doesn't compete with the mid vocals, and gives a great boost to string instruments-
The lows are quite present. These work quite well with a lot of genres. Classic rock, classics, rock, pop, hip hop. The low end works well to adapt so as not to give too much or too less. However, it is to be noted that they are quite loose. The bass on the S1's are similar to the bass on consumer speakers. Where it produces the bass 'sound' and muddy rumble to go with the sound. This makes it actually quite prefereable for modern hip hop and rap, and doesn't pose much problems to the classics because the low end is good at not appearing when it doesn't need to be. The bass is quite on a consumer level, but it works well.
-good bass presence, if not a bit muddy, works well for many genres though-
Overall, for $60, I think this can appeal to a lot of people. The S1 is a well balanced IEM fit for people that like to listen to many different genres. The sound is fun with the bass and it just works for any type of music I tried. The pulled back and less 'clear' vocals make some songs easy to listen to if they are of bad quality or if they are very harsh rock songs, while the upper mid sparkle helps bring instruments out(depending on song, this could be a bit too much, but genreally is not).
As an overal package, I am impressed now that I have had time to get accustomed to the comply tips and that the upper mid spike has settled.
Drivers: 10mm dynamic
impedance: 16 ohms
Sensitivity: 93 dB @ 1mW
For more information, please check out the product page here:
Build Quality: 9/10
Sound Quality: 8.5/10