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Brainwavz S5 In Ear Headphones

93% Positive Reviews
Rated #13 in In-Ear

Posted

Pros: Good detail, non fatiguing mids, natural (unique timbre) Build quality.

Cons: Lower treble a little too forward / slightly one noted, cable a little weighty / springy.



Brainwavz are at it again with their new 10mm dynamic driver based IEM named "S5".  I must say I was intrigued to try the new sample and where they'd come from Brainwavs B2 I owned many months ago (and loved). S5 takes on an a new elegant design, rather modern appearance and although a little larger than we've seen still fits the bill nicely with its stealth looking housings. But how does it sound? Well, let's take a look as I think it sounds pretty good.

Let me start off by saying I'd like to thank Brainwavs for the sample it's been a wonderful experience.



 

 

 



Specs:
 

Drivers

Dynamic, 10mm

Shell

All metal

Rated Impedance

16 ohms

Frequency Range

18 Hz – 24 kHz

Sensitivity

110 dB @ 1mW

Cable

1.3m, flat copper cable

Plug

3.5 mm gold plated, straight

Weight

21g (with comply T400s fitted)

Fitting

Over ear

 





Design / Build:

Brainwavs S5 housings are made completely from lightweight metal which is not seen so much for an IEM of this price range, the end results something feeling almost bullet proof in the hand and make a nice "clink" when touching them together. Like others I assumed S5 was made of plastic because it's just the norm with most IEM's in this price category, so I was quite surprised. Although cold to the touch (especially here in Winter Australia), you cannot help feel secure your purchase is going to last and at $99 that's hard to come by.

Taking a look at the strain reliefs and Y spilt you feel just as confident with their reinforced rubber and slightly overly thick approach. I don't think they'll be broken in a hurry and will stand up against throwing the earphones in your pocket, however I do suggest you use the provided carry case!

Although S5 has been designed for over the ear wearing I think it's quite important to state these can be worn down without much problem, you wouldn't think so with the housing angle, but it's quite easy to do and doesn't look goofy, well, not in my opinion. The fit was also no problem obtaining a seal. Another reason I don't like wearing S5 over the ear takes us to the cable design, I simply don't think the flat cable sits well over my ear, so for that reason I opted to wear S5 down.

Hey...no problem!




 




Even down below you can see the overly strengthened Y Spilt and 3.5mm jack giving a feeling of confidence. but it's not all bells and whistles as we move onto the cable. If there's one thing that annoys me about S5 it's the flat cable, well not so much the 'flatness' but more so the weight and flexibility. While I can agree with the beats and "non tangle" approach the cables also adopted quite a hefty weight and thickness which in turn causes some microphonics and memory, the cable can tend to spring around a little on the go. It's not a deal breaker here though when stripping the earphone down you might just want to take a close look.



 


 



Accessories: 

 

As usual the package contains quite an abundance of tips to choose from (including a set of comply), the stock carry case I've seen before on Brainwavs R3 and a 6.3 to 3.5 mm adapter for those who want to use their S5 from a home amplifier. I never tried the comply tips as they simply won't fit my large canals though the "grey stock" tips fit me perfectly.

Tips supplied.

 x3 sets of grey single flange (small bore)
 x3 silicone single flange with (wider bore)
 x1 set of black (dual flange)
 x1  set of triple flange silicones.
 x1 set of comply foam. (T400)

(Please excuse my photo here I cannot find all the tips since a big cleanup, I have borrowed a picture from another review)




 





Sound: 

 

 




Bass:

The low end on S5 is certainly a fraction forward form neutral, although mixed opinions I don't find the bass overbearing or too upfront, while there's some mid-bass emphasis it's not going to be on a bass-head level in either sub-bass or mid-bass but more so a safe amount that tends to balance out well with the mids and highs. You do get a get good sense of mid-bass on EDM and trance tracks which helps fill out the lower mids giving some atmosphere, I wouldn't want any less. There's average speed but with a slight decay that can hang around just a little too long for acoustic tracks. I find the earphones low end in general geared towards all genres though possibly going to excel with EDM. Detail is sufficient as is texture and depth.


Mids:

Here at the heart of S5 you get a decently detailed mid-range with a natural timbre, if not a little metallic sounding but certainly unique.  There is good push in the upper-mid which bring out vocal detail and acoustic guitars well for the price range and one of the more detailed earphones I've heard for $99. I think of course there's limitations but the mids of S5 do show you we're moving forward in technology and driver design. I personally prefer the mid-range of S5 over RE-400 as it has that push in the upper mids and sounds a fraction cooler in tonality, also the bass just matched better with S5's mid-range in comparison. Though keep in mind personal preference is always in the eye of the beholder. Micro detail is at a decent level and in some ways reminds me of that found on some balanced armatures. In short the S5 mid-range does have a balanced armature presence. If I didn't know better I would assume it was one from the clarity levels. (S5 could easily pull this off)


Treble:

On first listen the treble did come across to me as a little harsh, it's well detailed but gains some of that metallic sheen I mentioned above. Personally for me I wouldn't want anymore forwardness in the lower treble, it treads a fine line between enough and 'too much". Despite this never goes all the way out of line and bothers me. I just find it to sound a little strange with some tracks or one toned in that it doesn't really change much with the music taking on a specific shimmer that basically stays the same a lot of the time. Extension is decent and the upper treble has good sparkle, there's just something going on in the lower treble that gives that sense of forwardness. Overal its more than pleasing and neither hides or protrudes on the presentation. 


Soundstage:

For an IEM of this price S5 soundstage is decent but nothing that's going to take any fame from an EX600 anytime soon. There's good stereo separation which helps divide the channels and you'll hear the occasional sample lingering outside your ears. Air is decent which most likely is a relative to the slightly forward treble. While S5 is never compressed or congested anywhere in the frequency range it's not going to be the most open sounding earphone. Keep in mind my opinion much of soundstage width from an IEM is dependent on your source, so this will vary depending on your MP3 players technical aspects.  As I'm listening now from Sansa Clip Zip I've heard a lot less width and I've heard more in other earphones so you be the judge.


Seperation / imaging:


For the price very decent here, each instruments well separated you get a good sense of instruments ticking in time with each other. there's very little if any smearing to talk about. If you throw fast paced EDM at the S5 it may begin to confuse a little due to the mid-bass pushing through though for most parts the entire earphone stays fairly clean and coherent. For the price range I couldn't ask for more in this area, mighty fine clean job.


Conclusion:

In my opinion S5 is a better contender than RE-400 for what its worth, while I thought RE-400 was decent it didn't give me the same wow effect as S5 or enjoyment. Possibly partly due to S5's slightly prominent bass and that push in the upper mid-range bringing out more detail with vocals and guitars. Overall, I find S5 to have better tone. If you put both in-front of me for a fun listening experience I would take the S5 as I simply find it more involving and an enjoyable listen. I don't see S5 having any problem sitting next to earphones like the $200 Dunu DN-1000 or being an alternative for those who want to save some money, because you're not missing terrible amounts here. I think what Brainwavz have done is stay moderately safe while showing people what a dynamic driver in 2014 can offer for just $99. Could I use S5 every day and be happy? Yes, yes I could, and that's what makes an IEM for me worth using, when it can offer up an above normal listening experience without making me feel underwhelmed.


 

 



Again, I'd like to thank Brainwavs for the sample.


​~H20 

Posted

Pros: Excellent built and good soundstage

Cons: Bass can be overwhelming

First of all I'd like to thank Brainwavz and Audrey for giving me a chance to check out the Brainwavz S5 IEM.

 

Built and accessories:

There's already multiple reviews of the Brainwavz S5 here on Head-Fi describing the accessories and built on them so I just cut it short and conclude that the accessory pack is very good with many tips to choose from and a great zippered case to store them in when not in use. Built quality is also top notch and the only thing I'm missing is an L-plug instead of the straight one.

 

The S5 is easy to drive and works great out of portable devices.

 

I've let them play for over 100 hours and I've used them while travelling, while working out, at the office and at home and I've not found any weaknesses to the way they're constructed. I've been using them with my HTC One M7 phone, Nexus 7 tablet, FiiO X3 dap and with my Geek Out720 playing music from my computer.

 

Package:

 

 

S5 with carrying case:

 

 

 

 

 

Sound:

For this review I've used them paired with my FiiO X3 feeding a Cayin C5 amp. The tips used for the review is a pair of random double flange wide bore tips that I've bought on Ebay. I've used these tips because I found them to present the sound from the S5's most to my liking among all the ones I've tried with them.

 

S5 with double flang tips:

 

 

 

Review set up:

 

 

 

The sound signature of the S5 is lively and engaging, a bit on the bright side with pleanty of bass impact. Their strongest points to my ears are the soundstage which is larger than average for an IEM and the separation that is also good. Unfortunately the bass is a bit too much for my liking and overshadows the other frequencies with some music. I'm very sensitive to overpowering bass so that might not necessary be a problem for others. There's also some sibilance present but I'm not very sensitive to that and it only bothered me on a couple of my test tracks.

 

Comparison:

Since there's already so many reviews of the S5 available here I thought I'd  try to contribute with something new by throwing in some comparison with a couple of other well regarded IEM's with similar sound signature and price.

 

The contesters:

 

 

 

Brainwaz S5 ($99) vs Shure SE215 ($99):

The S5 and SE215 are equally easy to drive.

 

They both offer the same amount og bass impact and both are a bit too much for my personal preference. The S5 has better soundstage and also better separation. They're also brighter. In their overall presentation. The vocals are also more forward and has more bite to it on the S5. I prefer the S5 over the SE215.

 

Brainwavz S5 ($99) vs Onkyo IE-HF300 ($129):

The S5 are a bit easier to drive compared to the IE-HF300.

 

The bass of the S5 has more impact but the IE-HF300 has better control on the bass. The S5 again has a better soundstage and separation. The IE-HF has an overall darker and more balanced sound while the S5 is more lively in it's presentation. Vocals on the IE-HF300 are smoother but the highs on the S5 have better extension. I prefer everything but the way the bass are presented on the S5 and since I'm so sensitive to that I call this one a tie.

 

Summary:

The Brainwavz S5 is a good all rounder with a bass impact that might be too much for some. It's very well built and can be used with pretty much any device. It compares well to other well regarded offerings in the same price bracket. For a person that's looking for one IEM to use in many different settings the S5 should definitely be considered.

Posted

Pros: Well balanced sound and excellent build quality at an affordable price!

Cons: The flat rubbery cable may be less desirable to some.

Brainwavz S5 Review: You get more than what you paid for!

 

 

My first experience with Brainwavz was the R3 and to be honest, I really like them despite the negative reception from most users regarding fit and comfort. The R3 sounded mature, well refined, and the timbre was just mesmerising. Now Brainwavz has just released the S5 and I am fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to review their new offering. So lets find out if the new S5 can impress me just as much as my last experience...

 

SETUP:  Colorfly C3 > JDS Labs C5D

               iMac 2011 > JDS Labs C5D

               16/44 FLAC

               Using Comply TS200 foam tips.

 

TEST TRACKS:

              Dr. Chesky’s Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc

              Dream Theater - Greatest Hit (…and 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs)

              Tool - Lateralus

              Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

              Avicii - True

              Pink - Greatest Hits... So Far!

              Tina Turner - Greatest Hits

              Boyz II Men - II

              Michael Jackson - Bad (Remastered)

 

 

 

 

The S5 has a single dynamic driver incased in a metal housing that is very well made with smooth surfaces. The strain reliefs are probably amongst the best, if not the best I've seen in an IEM. I wouldn't have a problem tossing these earphones around even when taken outdoors. I believe these can take the test of time and I'm glad that they've taken the same concept they originally had with the R3 but improved on the negatives such as the thickness and weight of the cables. The S5 cables may not be the lightest but they certainly are a lot better compared to the hefty R3 cables. I only wished they've used a less rubbery material and then terminated into an angled plug instead for a more concealed application when using these earphones outdoors. Other than that, there's really not much I can nit pick on the S5's build quality.

 

 

 

 

The SOUND of the S5 is quite pleasing to my ears, positioning itself as one of the top performers in the $100 price range. Not necessarily the best but definitely a lot better than most budget IEMs I’ve heard.

BASS has solid slam and impact but can be too emphasized for some genres such as heavy metal. There’s a noticeable boost in the entire bass frequency which I feel should’ve been minimized in the mid-bass region. At certain times the bass texture is just too thick that it causes a bit of veil over complex bass guitar lines. Fortunately, the quality is good enough with its decay/speed hovering at acceptable levels. Not as fast as balance armature driven earphones but not sloppy either… just a well balanced and natural sounding bass response that doesn’t bleed into the midrange. As a result, other genres sound really good on these! RnB, Rap, Hip-hop, Pop, and Rock Ballads are such a pleasure to listen through the S5.

MIDRANGE is quite intimate, clear, and detailed which I really appreciate considering those are hard to come by at this price range. Vocals are upfront especially with female artists giving an illusion that they’re singing in front of you. Guitar riffs in ballads are pleasantly presented like they’re the main feature of the song… thanks to the slight emphasis in the upper midrange. Clarity is also worth mentioning because it is quite capable and it’s a contributing factor in maintaining a good balance between low and mid frequencies.

HIGHS can be an issue for those who are sensitive to sibilance. There’s an emphasis in the lower treble that can sound harsh with some female vocals, aggressive sounding genres, and poorly mastered tracks. Despite this hurdle, I truly feel the added sparkle is needed to complement the boosted bass. Fortunately, the sibilance issue can be eliminated by using the right type of tips and I find comply foams really effective. Using Comply TS200 tips with the S5 not only eliminates sibilance but also results into a more even treble response with above average detail/resolution. Treble extension is good enough for most tracks but there are times when I feel like it could've benefit with just a little bit more.

IMAGING AND SOUNDSTAGE: Soundstage width is average but it doesn’t detract from a good musical presentation. Some listeners prefer a more intimate experience and the S5 is one of the strong candidates for the job. What makes the overall presentation work is the imaging capability of this budget wonder. Instruments are well placed all over the soundstage with no signs of congestion. The only time I noticed a short coming is when a complex and fast tempo bass guitar riff takes place. The emphasis in the mid bass coupled with its bass decay characteristic seem to veil the imaging and detail a bit. Other than that, the S5 is a solid performer as a budget IEM.

 

R3 COMPARISON: The overall sound is quite warm with enough clarity and sparkle making the S5 a well balanced, fun sounding IEM. Isolation is quite acceptable for outdoor use coupled with a robust build makes this an excellent choice for those who are looking for a daily driver without compromising sound quality. Compared to the older R3 dual-dynamic IEM from the same manufacturer, the S5 is just a little bit behind in terms of bass and treble refinement but it more than makes up for it in terms of fun factor, fit, and comfort. Aside from that, the S5 also sounds much richer in the midrange compared to the more laid back R3. I would say that the R3's inclination towards a neutral sound signature complements really well to the fun and energetic sounding S5. Two very good sounding yet contrasting offerings from Brainwavz!

 

 

 

 

CONCLUSION: The new S5 is an excellent offering from Brainwavz and is an awesome choice for those who are looking for a durable yet good sounding earphones for everyday use. At this price point, it's really a no brainer as I haven't really found a competitor than can out match the S5 in terms of durability and sound quality combined. These IEMs can take a beating and I most definitely recommend these to those who are always on the move and are in need of devices that can withstand vigorous activities.

 

Special thanks to Brainwavz for the S5 review unit.

Posted

Pros: Great bass, very comfortable, well made

Cons: Treble has some holes, flat cable behaves strangely

Overview

 

The Brainwavz S5 is a new IEM priced at around $100 and is getting a lot of exposure thanks to a concerted effort from Brainwavz to push out review units to reviewers just like me. Thank you to Audrey and the Brainwavz team for arranging this pair of S5s for me to review at no charge. I'm really glad that they've decided to make this push too because Brainwavz have never been on my radar, but the S5 is a surprising package that has me seriously interested in their future offerings.

 

Specifications

 

  • Driver:  1 x 10mm dynamic
  • Impedance:  16 ohms
  • Frequency range:  18 - 24,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity:  110 dB at 1 mW

 

Design & Comfort

 

For a $100 earphone, the S5s come with plenty of accessories including a good range of silicone tips, a  pair of comply T400 (medium size), a sexy 6.3mm adapter and a great hard case that doesn't look expensive, but is very practical in both size and build because it's a very rigid and compact hard case.

 

The housing of the S5s is a curious cone shape and I have to admit to being quite sceptical when I first looked at them - I couldn't imagine a universe in which they'd be comfortable, but apparently I'm already living in that universe because the S5s are very comfortable IEMs. The tapered shape of the S5s combined with the perfect angle of the nozzles means that the housing sits close to the ear, but not touching which is much better than the IEMs on the market that stick straight out of the ear and look like Frankenstein's bolts. The housings are light despite being solid metal and the cable entry / exit angle is excellent. There's really no flaw in the functional and aesthetic design of the S5s.

 

Cable

 

This is definitely a weak spot for the S5s, but not a deal breaker. I'm yet to experience a good, comfortable flat cable and the S5's cable is no exception. The flat cable seems prone to tangling and refuses to sit flat so I'm not sure what benefit it is intended to impart because I would have much preferred a simple, round cable design. It's not a disaster, but could have been better. On the positive side, the strain reliefs and Y-split are all solid and look good and the cable length is good at 1.3m.

 

Sound

 

When I first listened to the S5s I hadn't yet researched them so had no idea of their price. Suffice to say I was shocked when I later checked to discover that they are $100 earphones - I expected a price tag much higher based on a combination of packaging, accessories and sound quality.

 

Bass

 

The S5s offer a boosted bass level akin to other v-shaped IEMs like the Atomic Floyd Super Darts and many of the hybrids on the market from T-Peos, Astrotec and Dunu. Despite that comparison, the bass from the S5s isn't quite as tight and perfect as most of those options, but the S5s are also at least one third the price. The S5's bass is punchy with a little bit of extra weight beyond what's natural, but it's still in control enough to be resolving for the most part. I'd describe the bass from the S5s as dynamic and fun with enough control to suit all the music I threw at it. Really tight bass lines may trip up the dynamic drivers a little, but for a $100 earphone they are fantastic.

 

In addition to the weight and speed of the bass, the bass goes deep and creates a really satisfying sub-bass impact when it's needed. Often earphones with a bass boost become all about the mid-bass and sub-bass extension is lost in the boom, but the S5s manage to still rumble deep even while creating some ounchy mid-bass emphasis. For example, listening to Liberation by Outlast (from the Aquemini album) the bass depth and control is excellent - tight and punchy like a great subwoofer.

 

Mids

 

Despite being a V-shaped sound overall, the mids from the S5s are well-placed in the overall mix. There's no doubt your attention will be drawn to the bass and treble first, but the mids aren't pushed back into the distance, they're still front and centre.

 

Mid quality is good with vocals coming through clear and warm for the most part. On tracks that are boomy to start with (e.g. Try by the John Mayer Trio) I found the bass and treble lifts left the mids sounding a little thin with a touch too much upper-mid / lower treble emphasis, but with more balanced recordings I found myself thoroughly enjoying the mids from the S5s. There's a nice warmth and smoothness to the delivery of mids from the S5s, but they also retain good attack and edge to the notes. Really the only complaint I can make about the mids from the S5s is that they occasionally get overshadowed by the sometimes over-eager bass and treble. In other words, the mids from the S5s are really excellent - there is absolutely nothing to complain about with them and given a slightly more balanced overall tuning, these could be mid-monsters (and are when thrown a nice lean acoustic track).

 

Treble

 

The treble from the S5s is a bit tip-dependent (as with many IEMs) and they can sound a little brittle and splashy with the wrong tips / insertion. With the right tips though (I found the provided tip options to be the best) the treble is quite good, but probably the weakest link in the S5's frequency repertoire. Don't stop reading though - they're not bad, it's just not their strength.

 

The treble from the S5s is a little unbalanced so while they avoid harsh spikes or sibilance, they do sound peaky. What I mean by that is that you can hear some gaps in the overall treble presentation on certain recordings and it makes certain sounds like cymbals sound a little fake and thin - like there's something missing from the overall presentation. On other tracks this problem doesn't present itself at all because of the way the track is mixed and mastered.

 

Once again, in the context of a $100 earphone, the S5s perform very well. My comments above are subjective evaluations regardless of price, but in the scheme of things, the S5s perform very well for their price tag.

 

Staging & Imaging

 

The S5s present a pretty good stage. It's relatively small and contained within the boundaries of the forehead, but it doesn't feel congested. Instruments and vocals are each clearly defined although not razor sharp. Once again, this also depends on the mixing of the track and the bass levels present - more acoustic / lean tracks show good imaging capabilities, but when the bass kicks in the stage size and clarity is reduced. It's important to note that the S5s never offer a bad presentation and retain good clarity and coherence at all times with all tracks. They range from a beautiful, clean image on leaner tracks to refined, but still clear images on bassier tracks

 

Summary

 

As I mentioned earlier, on my first listen I thought the S5s were a much more expensive earphone (in the $200-300 range I would have said). They reminded me of a "poor man's" IE800. Further listening with a wide range of tracks showed why they're not on the level of something like the $250 Audiofly AF140s or similar $200-300 models, but at less than half the price of the offerings in that price-range the S5s are a brilliant budget IEM that is very well made, packaged with outstanding accessories, and sounds very very good for the money if you like a dynamic and fun sound. I can imagine these being an excellent exercising or commuting earphone due to their comfort, over-ear design and dynamic and engaging sound. I'd definitely recommend auditioning a pair if you get the chance because if your music tastes happen to hit the sweet spot of the S5 you could have yourself a really nice budget earphone.

Posted

Pros: Clarity, detail, Good for almost all genres

Cons: A bit unrefined, Somewhat artificial sounding

Before I begin, I’d like to thank shotgunshane for the opportunity to review these new headphones.

 

My first experience with Brainwavz was when I picked up their M4 a couple of years ago. I was impressed with the company’s effort for being so young and how accessible their CEO was, asking customers for their input and helping them personally with issues they had with their headphones. Since then, I’ve purchased their S1 and while they weren’t my personal kind of sound signature, I liked the tough build quality and the ergonomics. I thought it would be nice if they made an IEM that had the same build quality, but a more detailed and clear sound. To my excitement, the S5 seemed to do just that. 

 

Build/Design/Accessories

 

The S5 comes with a flat cable, which doesn’t tangle easily. It features sturdy, professional looking metal housings which, like the S1 seem like they can take quite a beating. I definitely wouldn’t be afraid to take these out and about. The cable comes to an end with a smaller, straighter jack than the S1. Many people dislike straight jacks, but this one is very well relieved and much improved over the S1’s slightly awkward 130° angle jack. The Y-cable retains the same bulky split as the S1. Nice and rugged, and not too noticeable, but a bit large and odd looking, like something out of a 90’s Sci-fi program.

 

The S5 comes with the same assortment of tips as the S1; 3 gray, 3 black, 1 bi-flange, 1 tri-flange, and 1 pair of Comply T-400s. Out of the bunch, I found the best sounding tips to be the stock gray. Also included is a 1/4 inch adapter which makes me very happy as a musician who often plugs into guitar amplifiers and my digital piano. Brainwavz kept the same sturdy case from the S1, and for good reason; it was and is an excellent case for any pair of IEMs.

 

As far as comfort goes, the S5 are excellent. I had some reservations about the long housings, but rather than stick out, they fit into the curves of one’s ear. Very comfortable for long listening sessions, and even comfortable enough to sleep in. There is driver flex at times, as with every Brainwavz IEM I’ve owned, but otherwise, outstanding job by Brainwavz on the design.

 

Sound

 

I used a selection of different genres to test different aspects of sound. First, some notes on what I’m listening to and what I’m looking for.

 

Metal

  • Galneryus - Silent Revelation
  • Arch Enemy - Nemesis

 

Both of these tracks feature lightning fast double bass drums and drum work with rapid fire guitars and bass. They serve as a great test of bass tightness and how well a headphone can keep up with and control the frantic pace. They also test attack and decay, particularly in the mids and bass.

 

Rock

  • Deep Purple - Lazy
  • Dream Theatre - The Silent Man

 

These tracks both have very good imaging and detail. A good way to test soundstage and clarity. Both should also sound very natural and organic with the right headphones. The Silent Man has a deep sub bass current that plays under the acoustic guitar in the middle of the song; a very good test of bass extension. Male vocals.

 

EDM

  • OceanLab - If I could Fly
  • Leslie Parrish - Remember Me

 

Vocal trance and Eurobeat. These are both highly produced electronic songs, but are good tests of bass impact, extension, and tightness. Even with the production, these are also a good test of the female vocal range and how harsh your treble can get. The former has a bit more natural sound while the second is very artificial sounding. Should be fun and engaging to listen to.

 

Jazz

  • Dave Brubeck - Everybody’s Jumpin’
  • Diana Krall - Devil May Care (Live in Paris)

 

Detail, Imaging, bass, mids, highs. Two Jazz tunes that test just about every feature you could need a headphone to test. The Diana Krall has a nice live soundstage.

 

Classical

Sergei Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 Mvt I (Grygory Cziffra)

Erik Satie - Trois Gymnopédies (Daniel Varsano)

 

The Rach challenges a headphone’s texture, dynamics, and cohesion across the entire orchestral spectrum, where the Satie is a simple, but emotional solo piano score to test detail, harmonics, and piano timbre. 

 

Hip Hop/R&B

  • Public Enemy - Can’t Truss it
  • Utada Hikaru - Fly me to the Moon (2007 Mix)

 

Two different urban styles that test the same things. Bass and vocals. One more powerful and male, the other more musical and female. Utada Hikaru’s take on a classic jazz standard also does some nice things with imaging. 

 

Bass

 

The S5’s bass is decently extended and strong enough to handle any EDM, Hip-hop, or Metal song you want to throw at it. It has a strong mid-bass punch that will satisfy most people looking for a funner low end. It isn’t, however a basshead IEM. The bass also features well in other genres such as Rock and Jazz. It’s not as tight and controlled as something like the VSonic GR07BE, however, and while it isn’t smeared or blurry, the bass has some trouble with faster passages in Heavy Metal tunes. Drums don’t have the best decay and bass guitars can bleed a tad. For most songs, however, they do just fine. 

 

Mids

 

When I first heard the S5, I was coming from a more neutral midrange IEM. As such, the female vocal range sounded somewhat distant and laid back. Male vocals, on the other hand, sound more neutral. This is most likely due to the emphasized bass bridging into the low mids. The overall sound of the mids is somewhat thin, a trend which follows into the upper registers. The mids are well detailed despite the thinness as well as clear, though laid back. Guitars sound very nice and detailed, but piano can sound a bit hollow and lacking dynamically in classical pieces. 

 

Highs

 

The upper range is definitely brighter and has a sort of coldness to my ears. There are a few peaks near 6kHz and 10-11kHz, but nothing that bothered me too much. Bad mp3’s can sound a bit harsh, but nothing overly sibilant or bothersome at normal listening levels. The highs can sound a bit artificial due to their splashiness and thin presentation but, again, this results in clear and detailed sound. This does however get a bit fatiguing after a longer period of listening. Snare drum pops in particular can bother one’s ears. 

 

Soundstage and Image

 

The S5’s instruments are well separated, although not quite as much as some other competitors. The soundstage is fairly wide, but not too deep and high, at least noticeably. The image is good and it’s easy to hear where the producer placed mics and instruments in the stage. Overall a nice and open sound that isn’t congested.

 

A final note: The S5 is easily driven and quite sensitive, so no need to amp it up. Just plug into your favorite source and enjoy.

 

 

Comparisons

 

VSonic GR07 Bass Edition:

 

The GR07 is a bit more warm and full overall and the mids aren’t quite as recessed. The S5 is more artificial sounding while the VSonic is more natural. Detail wise, the GR07 is very slightly ahead, but you won’t miss too much from the S5. Soundstage and imaging is about the same, but the GR07 seems a little more clear and separated than the S5. The GR07 also excels in its tight and controlled note presentation, where the S5 could use a bit of refinement. It’s great to see two of my favorite headphone brands this close though, and the competition between the two is starting to get closer, but it's not quite there yet.. 

 

VSonic VSD3:

 

We’ve looked at a tier higher IEM so let’s look at a tier lower one. The VSD3S is actually quite a good competitor to the S5. The VSD3S is warmer (but less bassy) in the lows and mids and has a fuller sound without some of the bleed that the S5 has. Both have somewhat artificial treble, but the VSD3S is a tiny bit more so than the Brainwavz. Both are also about equal in soundstage with the VSD3S lagging behind the S5 in openness. The S5 also wins in terms of clarity and detail. Overall, not actually too bad of a race, considering the VSD3S is half the price, but the S5 wins out here, as expected. 

 

Brainwavz S1: 

 

Finally, I’d be remiss I didn’t compare the S5 to its little brother, the S1. The most glaring thing is the bass is far less controlled and much bigger in the S1, where the S5 has to come along and teach it a thing or two. On the whole, the S1 is muddy in comparison to the thin and detailed presentation of its family member.

 

Summary

 

Overall, I feel the S5 is a great consumer friendly IEM that shines with genres like Rock, Pop, Hip-hop, Jazz and Electronic. It’s not the best for classical, but this is not where the S5 makes its mark anyway. It’s an all-rounder that does everything well, but not without a few flaws. However, anyone looking for a sturdy, fun, friendly IEM that will handle almost anything without much trouble should enjoy them. They’ll disappear in your ears and make you smile. If you’re a discerning audiophile, on the other hand, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Posted

Pros: Warm, deep rich smooth bass, mids are not recessed, treble has some sparkle to it, very detailed, aluminum build, great accessories.

Cons: Competes with too many titans at $100 price point, treble spikes, metallic mids overall, not neutral, no detachable cables.

Ready for a repeat? Good, because the "short list" of Pros/Cons is too short. I wanted to provide a bit more in that regard. So here's a longer Pro/Con list that should sum it up better as there's a lot going on here:

 

Pros: Warm, deep rich smooth bass, mids are not recessed with the bass presence in a significant way, treble has some sparkle to it, very detailed, good separation of channels, solid aluminum build (metal), flat wires that do not tangle and birds-nest easily, great assortment of accessories (case, tons of tips, 1/4" adapter), very efficient and will run from any source.

 

Cons: Competes with too many well established IEM's at the $100 price point, treble can seem a bit harsh depending on the recording (some spikes around 7khz~10khz noted), sound stage is good (more on the intimate side) but not outstanding (this is a challenge for most IEM's so take this with a grain of salt), wires are not detachable, no volume controls (not a con for me, but for some it may be worth noting), it's not a neutral IEM (this is not a con for everyone), more in the warm and sparkly camp (more similar to a subtle "V" frequency response).

 

On to the showcase, the Brainwavz S5:

 

Brainwavz S5 - Warm, Detailed with some Sparkle

 

The IEM market is a tough market to break into. Brainwavz is no stranger to audio and has some major players in the entry market of headphones and IEMs. The HM5 is no stranger to anyone savy about headphones with it's quality for price point. The new Brainwavz S5 aims to challenge the $100 entry point in the IEM market, which is a very challening group to rub elbows with, such as the mighty Shure SE215 and the neutral Hifiman RE-400. There is a ton of other IEM's that are similar in cost and have other features, so the S5 has to really bring something to the table to grab attention. Some of us love full size headphones even for portable use (myself included), but now and then, a good IEM is just so convenient, easy to power without all those fancy and expensive gadgets that glow in our pockets, and of course the heavenly isolation that can only be provided by an absolute air seal. Let's explore the S5.

 

 

 

Quick Reference for the TL;DR folks:

 

·         Aluminum build (not plastic!)

·         Entry price point of $100; competes with Shure SE215 & Hifiman RE-400 directly

·         Rich, deep, controlled bass (not earthquake level, but it should satisfy most bass-lovers)

·         Great mids, vocals & instruments are not recessed significantly

·         Sparkly treble, a bit harsh at times, but not overly bright (spikes around 7khz~10khz)

·         Treble comes off with a bit of congestion with the spikes in high energy tracks

·         Detail retreival is excellent, great overall resolution, no congestion in mids & bass

·         Super efficient, will run from a potato

·         Good isolation (note, airport means it's not completely isolated)

·         Flat wires, resistant to tangle and birds-nests, does not transmit tons of noise when rubbed

·         Tons of accessories (case, lots of tip types, 1/4" adapter)

 

A quick summary of what this IEM is all about: Take a neutral response IEM with a typical soundstage, not too wide, not too intimate, but some where closer to the intimate side, and then gently push the mid-bass up a touch to give it warm, while still being able to comfortably drop a controlled 25hz tone like a champ. Keep the mids appropriate so that vocals and instruments sound normal, not overlly recessed or bled out, competing for attention. And then add a dash of sparkle to the treble. Flatten out the wires, throw on some Comply tips that are included and you have the S5.

 

What Comes In the Box:

 

·         The S5 earphones of course

·         Hard case (does not fit in pocket) that seals with a zipper (crush resistant, but not crush proof)

·         Comply T-400 foam tips (these retail at $17 MSRP, can be found for $8; included)

·         6 pairs of typical silicone tips in small, medium & large (meh)

·         1 set of bi-flange tips

·         1 set of tri-flange tips

·         1/4" adapter (this is a great addition actually for using these at home with gear)

 

Overall Brainwavz has packaged a good assortment of gear. I think if you removed the case, all those tips and just included a basic set of tips to get someone started, it could be sold for a more competitive price. The accessories are probably bringing it up to the overall cost of $100. I really appreciate inclusion of the Comply T-400 tips and the 1/4" adapter. Those are the most important accessories to me because the Comply tips smash down and then slowly expand in your ear canal giving you a good seal and "complys" to the shape of your ear, without having to get custom made IEM's that cost a mint. Great tips. The 1/4" adapter, while totally useless for a lot of people who use these with their mobile devices (phones, DAPs, etc) is a very nice addition for the simple fact that a lot of us still like to use these with desktop gear to get great rendering from great gear we already have and not resort down to only using mobile geared equipment. The hard case is not crush proof. It's crush resistant, so if you sit on it, you'll know you did, and hopefully you'll not continue sitting. If you're not a hulk, you may get away without flattening the case. It will survive most things. Unfortuantely it's too big to fit in your pocket, unless you're wearing cargo pants or have big jacket pockets or hoodie pockets. But typical pants/shorts pockets simply will not take the bulky little case. It's a solid inch and a half thick and covered in a vinyl-like material that will have a lot of friction sliding in a pocket.

 

 

 

Specifics of the IEM & Accessories:

 

·         16ohm Impedance

·         110dB/mW Sensitivity

 

What does that mean? It means they're incredibly efficient and will render full resolution with very little energy requirement, so they will run from your smart phone, tablet, netbook, DAP, etc. Anything. Even a potato. That also means they get loud very quickly, so they will be hissy and noisy and reveal noise floors on anything with significant output (don't plug these into your AVR to watch movies, it'll work, but it'll sound like a hiss-fest depending on the model). Can you put these on an amplifier? Absolutely. Will they burn up or something crazy that I read about on the internet? No. I put them on a 2+ watt source at this impedance and while it was hard to get the listening level down, they certainly didn't melt or smoke or catch fire or breakdown (despite their "20 mW" rated input power; I ignore those, as most audiophile folk do anyways, and just throw them on high powered sources and see what happens in our ears). Do they benefit from an amplifier? Sure. Everything will benefit to an extent. If it's a lower powered source, it will help give you a stable signal and provide a higher minimum amount of power during the rendering of the most complex passages in a track that a mobile device may not accomplish as nicely. But that's more academic than anything. I ran the S5 on just normal devices (smart phone, tablet, DAP) and devices with amplifiers (both powerful and very powerful, even a tube amp) just to see how they behaved and sounded. Thanks for that 1/4" adapter!

 

Construction, Materials & Comfort:

 

The build quality is good. It's a metal (aluminum) hull, and flat rubber wires. The Comply tips are very comfortable because they "comply" to your ear cannal and hold that shape instead of forcing a round object into a non-round space. They're light weight, but most IEM's are. The wires are nice being flat. I've had plenty of IEM's that had normal cylindrical cables and they tangle, twist and birds-nest something fierce. These flat wires don't do that as much, they can still tangle up of course, but they're not prone to it and they just seem to fall more naturally and comfortably. These were made to really be able to swing over your ear (the place where the cable attaches to the IEM is faced forward, so that the cable goes forward and naturally is where it should be to allow a cable to wrap around your ear). A lot of us do that because it adds support to the IEM and takes a lot of the pull from the cables off your ear cannal and instead puts it on your nice flexible ear cartiledge. I have a lot less "IEM slip outs" with them draped over my ear. The cable itself feels good and durable, but you still have to be mindful. It's too bad they are not detachable cables, that would have been a huge plus. The IEM itself is not overly flashy, so you don't have a gold grill or goofy symbol flashing in your ears to people, instead, it's a classy piano black finish that simply states "brainwavz" on the side in white. I like the neutral grey cable and black IEM. It'll match anything and doesn't have that silly flashy neon green or orange mess that the kids wear these days (hey, deal with it, if you're that person).

 

 

IEM Wire Tolerance:

 

Anyone wearing IEM's can testify that if a cable rubs a surface or wriggles, it can create a noise that you can hear even when listening to audio. It can be a hugely disappointing thing. I can say that the S5 doesn't seem to have this problem in a large way. The flat rubber cable seems to tolerate a lot of movement and rubbing on your clothing. I think a lot of this has to do with how you wear it. I'm wearing the S5 over my ears, so the cables' movement is transmitted to my ear structure, and not to the IEM which is in my ear canal. This means when the wind is blowing outside, my shirt rubbing the cable, etc, I'm not getting the noise from that through the cabling to my audio. So overall, a very tolerable IEM to the environment and to phsyical contact. This is a massive plus in my book because it's one of my biggest gripes when it comes to IEM's and cabling.

 

Sound Characteristics:

 

Normally I'm very weary putting any IEM in my ear as I'm usually a near full-time full size headphone wearer, as my near permanently attached to my head headphone these days is my Hifiman HE-500 driven from a speaker amp. Putting in an IEM is a total different experience. Or at least, that's what I expect before trying it. I too can appreciate a portable IEM though that can run from my phone or my DAP and still provide good quality sound even in the ambient noise of the environmente out there. Overall I was pleased with the initial impression of the S5. It had everything I would expect at this price point. It did have a few areas of concern though, so I guess Brainwavz took a chance on a few things to see how it would be received market-wise.

Overall I was pleased with the rendering. The bass was rich, warm, controlled, not loose, fast and dropped very low with plenty of authority. The mids were fine, vocals & instruments sounded as they should and didn't sound recessed to the point of distraction. Treble was a bit sparkly, and in really complex passages I noticed a weird congestion of frequencies that after playing with an equalizer, I found they were in the 7khz~10khz regions and were subdued when lowered, so the treble definitely has some odd spikes that are hallmark of "V" shaped frequency responses, but let's call it a "gentle V" and not near the legendary ear-destroying levels of Ultrasone's treble.

 

Treble:

 

The S5 has some sparkle. Expect some fatigue if you're sensitive to treble. For those of you (like myself) that like a bit of extra treble for the sparkle, the sugar on top, the excitement, the attack, you'll appreciate the gentle spikes in most regions of treble. I noticed during complex passages with lots and lots of treble clashing frequencies, there was a congestion of sorts for lack of a better set of wording. Passages with lots of cymbals like metal with repeating crashing of those types of sounds, it was quite fatiguing even for me and lead me to look to an equalizer to figure it out. I found that the 7khz~10khz region is where it was, so I lowered it a bit, and it solved the fatigue for me. I listen to a lot of Denons & Beyers, so I'm quite used to bright treble, so this is no surprise. I generally equalize all my treble-happy headphones a bit so that my hours-upon-hours of listening time doesn't result in too much fatigue. The enhanced treble gives a sense of detail, a bit of sharpness, which can make you think it has more detail. Overall treble is fine, if not a bit bright and easily congested depending on what you listen to. I noticed in metal, I easily heard the issue. But when listening to jazz, EDM, classical and rock, it was less of an issue and sometimes I didn't notice it, at all. But anything that ventures into 7khz~10khz will certainly come across with some sting and too many occurances will just sound like a congregation of noise. So beware if you're a metalhead, this may be a problem. For everyone else, it's likely not a problem.

 

Mids:

 

The heart & soul of any renderer of full range audio is the ability to render mids properly. The S5 accomplishes this nicely. The gently increased warmth in bass and the sparkle from the treble doesn't bleed into the mids or recess the overall appearance of the mids to the point of distraction. Vocals & instruments sound appropriate. They're more on the intimate side of things, not distant at all. If anything there may be a bit of an increase on the upper mids region as it ventures into the treble. Female vocals sound right, and so do males. Overall detail is great. The mids really give you the majority of what you hear, and the S5 delivers that nicely. Listening to passages, I'm hearing little details like a breath, a foot tap, a cough even in some tracks. It's those imperfections that really let you know that you're hearing detail that someone missed or couldn't remove in the studio. Great resolution requires excellent mids, so the S5 performs here well. No genre was unjustly rendered as the mids were capable of keeping up with the fast pace of EMD, rock and metal and even some complex classical, while still keeping it moody and right for jazz. The only thing that is a bit of a concern is the slight metalic sound of the mids. It sort of reminded me of how some Ultrasones sound. Overall not a super warm organic sound, but rather a decisive sharp sound, a bit cold. The added bass balances this out for a more warm appearance, but on a track with little to no bass (like some indie jazz and some passages in classical) you'll notice the colder edge to the mids.

 

Bass:

 

If the S5 does anything extremely well, it's the bass. I know, tons of people clammer over "I need more bass!" endlessly. The S5 will actually appeal to a bit of everyone I think. The bass is very controlled, rich, and fast. It's not a loose rumble that flubs around. It's capable of tight drops, and recovers for other complex drops at the same time. 25hz is not a problem for the S5. And it doesn't roll off quietly, the bass has quite a nice bit of authority. So it will sound normal if listening to something like jazz, but if your EDM calls for a serious earthquake drop, it will deliver that. While the bass is not earthquake worthy, maybe not quite there for someone who is an absolute basshead who will sacrifice all for the purity of just bass, they satisfied me quite well (coming from a planar magnetic, D5000's, etc). I didn't feel the need to equalize for more bass. It seems to respond nicely no matter what I listen to, which is hallmark of good responsive bass. It's not neutral, there is an obvious hump in mid bass, and no roll-off that is apparent in subbass, so the bass comes across on the prominent side. A good thing if you love warmth and rich bass. Too bassy for someone looking for a pure neutral experience or an analytical experience. The nice thing is that the bass, even though it has a hump, does not bleed badly into the mids, so there's nothing recessed to the point of distraction.

 

Isolation:

 

IEM's in general isolate rather well. The S5 isolates fairly well. While listening at my listening level, I could not hear my mechanical keyboard in a meaningful way, or the click of my mouse. Really all I can hear, if I concentrate outside of what I hear audio-wise, is my breathing if heavy and of course mouth noises (teeth, swallowing, etc). Normal things when your ears are "plugged." The S5 has an airport on the side, which is how it achieves the wonderful bass that it has. This allows some communication of sound back and forth. The good news is though, like most IEM's, someone sitting next to me doesn't hear what I'm listening to. And I can block out most of the ambient sound in the environment. If you need quiet, critical, private listening, then the S5 will do fairly well. In an absolute quiet environment, it's possible for someone to hear your audio if you're listening at high levels. So keep that in mind. I've heard some kids walking around with their IEM's so loud that I could plainly hear them as they walked by.

 

Soundstage:

 

IEM's are not known for having incredible sound stage width or depth. Most closed audio options exhibit this. There are exceptions, but the S5 is unfortunately not one of them. The good news is that the soundstage is appropriate for a closed source. The separation is excellent, instruments and information is nicely isolated and separated from one another and the channels do not blend uniquely to one central blob in your head. Things do have a nice swing from left to right to give you a sense of space. Intimate is the word I'd use to describe the sound stage. Everything is fairly close and appreciable. The soundstage is not wide, so things do not sound like a cloud of 3D space. But this is very difficult to achieve on a closed source. It's difficult even on open headphones. So keep that in mind.

 

Experiments with Different Sources:

 

While it's common to use an IEM with a DAP, smart phone, tablet or small laptop or netbook, it's not common to see folk plugging their IEM's into desktop level equipment. There are some dedicated serious pieces of kit out there for custom IEM users that cost a mint, so those are a whole different level. But I wanted to give a little something extra and go into some portable and desktop sources to give an impression of how the S5 behaves. I'm not much of a portable listener, so how it behaves at my desk is important to me. Let's play with some odd sources from an IEM perspective.

 

Galaxy S3:

 

 

I still use an old S3. That's right. I tested Pandora because I don't normally use my phone for audio. My collection is FLAC and it's a pain to use FLAC on phones, plane and simple. I typically use a DAP for my portable audio. I'll get to that. When I plugged into my S3 and loaded Pandora (I have Pandora One), I just set it to one of my favorite stations that I've honed over the years. Overall it functioned fine. I pushed the volume to see what kind of current the S3 could push into the S5 and it was able to get well beyond my tolerable listening level, so there's that efficiency doing good work. Everything sounded normal, bass was proper, mids were good, treble had it's characteristic sting. I did notice a bit of lack of resolution and overall body, but that's due to the low quality stream of Pandora One and probably the quality of the internal bits and bolts of my S3. It was listenable. But not up to my normal standards at all. I'm blaming compressed streaming media for 99% of this experience. The major point to take away is that the IEM functions fine from the S3 as a source and can get loud enough without an issue, but this was to be expected based on the specifications.

 

Asus MemoPad HD7:

 

 

I have a MemoPad HD7 as a little 7" tablet. Nice, small and does the job with an IPS panel and great resolution. I've watched movies on this little guy with headphones before. The S5 seems to respond just fine. It supplies plenty of power for the efficient S5 to then render nicely the audio. Movies sounded fine. I have DIVX's of my DVD's loaded on this thing, so I watched some clips from some of my films and they had that theatrical thunderous boom and the sparkle gives it some excitement. Overall a nice experience and great for movies.

 

Sansa Fuze (V2) with & without Fiio E11:

 

 

My typical DAP is my Fuze. And old Fuze, that has line level output so that I can output it's native FLAC playback from a 32Gb SD card as a line level source to my portable amplifier for better handling of the signal, the Fiio E11 in my case. I listened to the S5 both with and without the E11 form the Fuze. Directly from the Fuze, I noticed it had more body, more overall richness that lacked compared to my S3 and MemoPad HD7. I expected this as the Fuze has fairly good output that is meant for audio and has a bit more going in it's favor in that regard. With the E11 in the loop, I was able to better control that signal and it simply helped ensure it never dipped below during the complex passages. I also appreciated the much tighter volume control that I could get "just right" which is more difficult I find with a digital volume control. The quality of the FLAC playback through the S5 is a whole other level compared to listening to the S5 on compressed streamed material on my S3 and even compared to the AC3 of my DIVX. Just a clean, rich, detailed experience. Overall very nice, pleasing. The treble is stillt here, I definitely felt the sting from some trumpets in my jazz. I didn't notice any appreciable noise floor on the E11, and had it set to low gain and no equalization used at all on either device.

 

Fiio E10:

 

 

The E10 is a staple in my book for entry AMP/DAC USB units on a dime. It plugs into my netbook and gives me a great audio experience even when I'm portable, but not using a "portable" solution. The E10 handles the S5 nicely. I kept it on low gain and played FLAC via Foobar2000. I found my volume knob between the 1 & 2 on the E10. So it provides way more power than is needed by the S5. There's that efficiency rearing it's head at us (that's a good thing for most!). When I tested the bass boost switch, it definitely bumps up the overall bass response quite a bit. The S5 handled it nicely, it sounded a lot more like a basshead solution and even simple passages had thunderous bass, so the S5 responds nicely to equalization and isn't topped out already. That's great news if you're a basshead and interested in these.

 

JDS Labs Objective 2 (O2):

 

 

Everyone and their brother has the O2. So why not? It's a good neutral amp that is typically a reference for most people. I noticed I could hear something playing even with the volume all the way to the minimum. When I turned it up to listening level, I was only able to get just past the first dash mark before it would go to untolerable levels. I couldn't listen at the second dash mark as it was noticeably too loud for me (and I like it loud). The overall sound was great. Very rich, great control, great resolution. The treble still had it's sting, but I noticed it wasn't as harsh. Odd to me. Maybe the O2 gently softens treble a bit on the hardware side of things. So that said, it's an obvious good pairing to my ears. The treble still was harsh, mind, so the S5 definitely has those spikes I mentioned.

 

Audio GD NFB12:

 

 

No one needs this level of power for an IEM. But why not? It can output 3.5watts into 25ohms, so it's blasting close to 4 watts at a 16ohm resistance, and the IEM is loaded. The result? Nothing special. That's right. They didn't melt. They sounded fine. In fact, on low gain, I was able to take the volume knob to 9 o'clock and a bit more here and there at my listening level. The NFB12 has great attenuation so you get a long throw from minimum to maximum on that volume. Very handy and allows for very tight control of overall volume. No noise floor as expected here. The sound was superb. It was rich and detailed, but the NFB I think also plays with treble. I noticed it was still on the harsh side and bright, but the congestion feature I noticed earlier wasn't as prominent. So either the NFB also gently handles treble at the hardware level or not. I did notice the bass was not as prominent. It was solid and controlled, but it didn't have the same richness that the O2 provided. Interesting difference on the S5 from a totally different source. Overall pleasant to listen to and it's a great all in one solution being a good DAC and great AMP in one unit. The S5 performed great, and it's efficiency ratings didn't keep me from using my gear.

 

Little Dot MK III:

 

 

That's right, let's put a super efficient IEM on a source that hates to give up current and loves to output high voltage. This tube amp is meant for high impedance. It doesn't perform it's best with low impedance and small loads. But who cares? Let's do it for science. I used my NFB as the DAC and output to the LDMKIII. I set the NFB's line level output to around 9 o'clock initially to see how the tubes would behave. The S5 was silent when both were at minimum. When I took the volume up, I noticed that I was able to take it all the way to nearly 3 o'clock on the Little Dot. Also, I didn't have a noticeable noise floor (I thought I would have one). That's a good thing, because despite the overall match up of the devices, amps perform best at their higher output levels. Granted, the Little Dot was not working hard to output it's small current to this tiny load. Typically this kind of match is frowned upon due to mismatched impedance and output impedance. But, despite all that academic stuff, it sounded great. Atenuated with the NFB to handle a lower line level out, the Little Dot then flexed after warming up and hearing those wonderful little chirps, pops and dings as the tubes get warm, and the S5 started to sing. Right away I noticed something, just how warm and rich the S5 sounded on a tube like this. The upper bass and lower mids were much more rich and prominent, making it super warm sounding. Too warm probably for some. Treble took a step back, so the fatigue went south. Quite a nice match for me. Granted, this is just hardware equalization ultimately, but basically it sounded to me like the treble was toned down and the lower mids and upper bass were enhanced a bit, for a very rich, organic sound. No more metallic mids. It didn't quite sound like the S5 anymore. Pretty interesting. A great listen. Vocals were very much butter and syrup and I probably liked this match up best of all. It makes me very curious to now get a portable tube amp, like a Little Bear, so that's on my want list for right now.

 

Closing Thoughts:

 

Overall I'm pleased with the S5. The accessories and it's performance are pretty close to what I would expect from a $100 IEM. While it lacks some features that I would want at this price point (detachable cables) and it has some characteristics that I'm not a fan of (metallic mids, a bit harsh in the treble), it performed quite nicely every where else. It's an earphone that is definitely source sensitive after playing around. Sure, no one is going to walk around with desktop sources in their pocket. And an IEM is hardly meant for the desktop--or is it? Even without a special source, the S5 was fantastic from my Fuze and E11 and is a very good portable setup that handles my jazz, classical, EMD, metal and indie quite well. It didn't have a genre that it didn't really handle well, it was quite capable. I did note that harsh treble showed up in passages that contained tons of cymbals, like metal. So I think if I had one warning it would be to metalheads to beware unless they love the sting of treble. The S5 should fullful most bass lovers except too. And while not analytical, it definitely had the detail and resolution that made me enjoy taking the time to have a dedicated portable audio rig, as well as high quality media to playback (FLAC in my case). I was able to definitely tell a difference between my media and streamed media, so that tells you a lot about the earphone and it's resolution, it doesn't mask good audio and it doesn't gently render bad audio sources. I still think it has a tough match when it tries to compete at the same price point as the Shure SE215 which has detachable cables and the difference in tone and character is a tough match and it comes down to one's preference. I definitely appreciate the flat cables and the overall fit with Comply tips. I guess my next piece of kit is going to be a portable tube amp by Little Bear as I simply enjoyed too much the way the S5 responded to tubes. I say that as someone who is tyipcally using a tube DAC and a 50 watt solid state speaker amp as my main headphone source. I think if I were to put a price on the S5, I'd probably put it in the $65 region for competition and ditch some of the accessories and package. Does it sound like a $100 IEM? It's pretty much there. The things that hold it back from being perfect are mainly the metallic mids sound and the treble spikes and the minor lack of detachable wires. It has too much competition at $100, so I think at a slightly lower price point, it may be a better fit. Either way, I think it's fair at $100 for the overall package and I'm pleased with the quality of sound at this point and it's interaction with different sources. I'd give it a good thumbs up.

 

Very best,

Posted

Pros: Build quality, Bass quality

Cons: Flat cable

INTRODUCTION

 

First of all, a big THANK YOU to Audrey from Brainwavz for providing the review unit. It is much appreciated, and my humble ears are feeling so incredibly honoured to be included as one of the reviewers. This is Brainwavz single dynamic IEM, one of the top offering alongside dual dynamic R3 and dual-armature B2.

 

Brainwavz is no stranger when it comes to audio enthusiast and audiophile, offering products that are priced well below their performance. Historically, B2 was my first exposure to Brainwavz product and I absolutely loved it. Since that, I have acquired M3, M4, M5, R1, and R3 mk1.

 

The components that I used for this review are as follows

  • iPod Classic (straight, and through C&C BH)
  • Fiio X5 DAP
  • Desktop (through Aune T1)
  • MacBook Air (straight out, and through Dragonfly)
  • Spotify (highest quality streaming), 320k MP3’s, 16/44 and 24/96 FLAC’s

 

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

 

 

 

 

Packaging is a very nice retail packaging, with a very sharp picture, contrast colours, and especially the display front where it has a magnetic ‘cover’. The box is thicker compared to some of the competitor, and definitely can withhold some abuse without being crushed, dented, and by the feel of it, has some element of waterproofing to prevent water smudging.

 

Accessories wise, in a typical Brainwavz effort, you definitely get a lot. There are 2 types of silicone single-flange, small-bored, and medium-bored, each type with S/M/L sizes. Then there are dual-flanges and triple-flanges silicone, and a pair of Comply T-400 foam. Not to forget the standard 6.3mm adaptor, and a nice black with red lining hard case. In the age of otterbox and Pelican case inclusions,

 

Brainwavz hard case is infact one of my favourite case, as it possesses the perfect combination of size and robustness. Strangely enough airline adapter is not included, though it could be obtained rather cheaply, it would have been nice if it is included.

 

BUILD QUALITY, ISOLATION, AND COMFORT

 

Build quality is just superb, it is made from aluminium alloy, which is typically used for the chassis of standard corporate laptops/notebooks, and as such, it will be able to handle some abuse without being distressed. Absolute perfection for daily use/commuting.

 

 

 

 

The cable, well, let me just start by saying that personally, I am not a fan of flat cable. I just don’t like to look and feel of flat cable, and also, it won’t stay over my ear when worn that way. The quality of the cable however, is very good and strong, and won’t tangle easily, though it is rather noisy (microphonics).

 

 

 

Isolation is average, over ear or straight down. Brainwavz recommends an over ear style wearing, though I prefer to wear it straight down, due to the reason I mentioned above, that flat cable won’t stay over my ear

 

SOUND QUALITY

For the purpose of this testing, I am using a pair of large Comply TS-400, and the good old large UE single-flange, large-bore silicone (pre-Logitech UE, this silicone is possibly my all-time favourite tips). What I found also that like most other IEM’s, bore size will have some effect on the sound signature. None of the included tips give me perfect seal and comfort, and to those who know me, that is completely normal as I have a rather extra-large and extra deep ear canals.

 

The general sound signature, I would describe as balanced and fun.

 

Bass – the bass is warm, thick, and quantity wise, is slightly north of neutral, and there is a slight boost in mid-bass which gives the perception of its warmth and thickness. To me this is the perfect quantity of bass, not too much, not overbearing, but it’s there when called upon. Listening to Deadmau5’s My Pet Coelacanth is such a joy as the bass hits superbly, and the mid-bass lifts the track to a new height

Speed and accuracy is average however, and there is a slightly long decay, which makes it less ideal for rock and metal tracks.

 

Midrange – The midrange is smooth and detailed, however, to my ear it is slightly laid back, however I believe the recession is mostly caused by the slight dominance of the mid-bass. Personally, I do prefer S5’s midrange to that of the AudioFly AF140 which I auditioned a few months ago, and considering the S5 only cost ¼ of AF140, that is an excellent achievement indeed.

 

Treble – The treble is well extended, has a good sparkle, and generally is pretty clean from sibilance and spikes, however, I can hear some metallic tinges a la Sony XBA-3 and XBA-4, though in saying that, it is nowhere as annoying as that of the Sony’s.

As mentioned briefly above, tip selection will play a large part in determining what sort of sound you are getting from the S5. Using a small-bored tips, the metallic tinges are at worst here, as well as some sibilance and peaks. However, when using large-bored tips, I can hardly notice the metallic tinges (it’s still present, however), and overall the treble sounds cleaner and warmer with a bit more air in it

 

PRESENTATION AND AMPING

 

Soundstage is average, it’s nowhere as expansive as Havi B3 for example, but pretty decent overall and not too bad. It is not very revealing either so perfect to listen to Soundcloud/Bandcamp and the likes on the go.

 

Amping, although not necessary, using a good amp does gives a little more oomph in the overall sound, it gives that extra bit of fullness and richness

 

CONCLUSION

 

 

 

Brainwavz is at it again, creating yet another excellent value IEM, to be honest, my faith in Brainwavz was somehow tainted because of R3, but this S5 has certainly gone a long way in restoring my faith.

In one of the most saturated sub-$100 section of the market, it has perform fantastically no doubt, definitely much better than your standard run rate big name consumer offering like Beats, Sol, Marley, etc

 

With its fun signature, it will treat you until the cows come home, and built like a tank too. You can easily throw this in and out of your bag, or in and out of the car, without any worry of damaging the aluminium alloy body

Posted

Pros: built to withstand a war, bassy, fun, mids remain very clear, extended treble, great accessories!

Cons: subbass a bit subdue due to the midbass, Straight jack, chunky Y connector

The Brainwavz S5s is an earphone made to withstand the daily rigors of the city life. Its built like a tank comes with very fun but detailed sound.
I want to thank Brainwavz for sending the S5s. I just wanted to state that everything below is my unbiased opinion and mine alone, as always YMMV! Now onto the review!
Below is my condensed video review on youtube of the Brainwavz S5
 
Accessories: The S5s 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)
Overall: 9/10
 
Design and Features: These earphones are rather understated, the entire housing of the earpiece is black with the exception of the white “Brainwavz” logo. 
This earphone is made to be worn “over the ear”, and it comes with a flat shape cable (preventing tangles). Each earpiece is labeled “L/R” respectively in tiny lettering on the strain relief of each earpiece (with the Left side having a tactile bump, to easily identify which side is which in the dark).
Overall: 7/10
 
Build quality- These things are built like a tank, each of the earpieces are made of entirely metal all the way to the nozzles and just oozes solidity.  Another reasurring aspect of the S5 is the abundance of  plenty of strain reliefs everywhere, from the earpieces, to the v shape connector (which is quite chunky) to the headphone jack.  This is one earphone that I really don’t have to worry about being rough with, they will take a licking and keep ticking, which is exactly what every busy student or urban commuter needs on a daily basis.
Overall:9.5/10 ( I do wish that brainwavz would switch over to a L shape jack but that said is probably sturdiest looking straight jacks I’ve seen).
 
Comfort
In terms of comfort, theses earphones have about a medium insertion and sit fairly comfortably in your ear with the help of its angled nozzle.  My only quibble is that fact that these do stick out of your ear, so its not as low profile and that also means that you can’t sleep on them. 
Overall: 7/10
 
Isolation:
These earphones are vented, so these don’t completely isolate you from the outside from the outside world. That said I’d say these are above average, and I’d be happy to recommend them for commutting purposes, because of the bassy sound signature (which I’ll get to in the following section) it helps cut through the subway wheels screeching and the rumbling air conditioners rather well. 
Overall: 8/10
 
Sound Quality:
These earphones pump out plenty of smooth bass with a clean and extended treble, but it does so without neglecting the midrange. In short the S5 my go to earphone when looking for a fun time while still getting plenty of detail. So lets get started!
 
Bass:  Now I’ll say right off the bat, S5s have a lot of weight in the bass.  Particularly in the mid-bass giving it plenty of punch not yet basshead level (its close but not yet). The bass makes them very warm and exciting. The bass has a rounded chesty quality to it and hits hard and quite fast as well. It is not the tightest bass but it strikes a balance between loose and tight, conveys a smoothness quality to it.  However, I would say that because of the mid-bass emphasis, the lowest octaves of the sub bass loses out on some of that visceral rumble when called upon.
 
Mids: The mids are a bit recessed here, but tastefully done. Its very clear, smooth and integrated very well in between the prominent bass and the crisp treble. However, because of its warm nature, male vocals have more body and it’s more forward in the mix, conveying a more intimate performance. In terms of female vocals many bassy/v-shaped earphones tend to give singers like Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande more emphasis than I would like. Thankfully, the S5s doesn’t suffer from this problem, you won’t find yourself squinting when listening them as it makes their voices rather tolerable. In short, the midrange is executed very well, and I think this is what separates the S5s from all the other bassy earphones out there.
 
Treble: the treble is detailed and there is no sibilance or harshness. It avoids the harshness that many v shape earphones struggle without. The S5s have  some emphasis around the lower treble, to give it some energy while having enough extension to provide a bit of air and space for more stringed instruments. It can get a bit spashy at times for more electronic genres, so i would like more refinement here for  future releases.  This issue can be alleviated to a large degree by using the comply foam tips provided or using sony hybrid tips as well, which would subdue the treble a bit 
 
Soundstage- Its wider in its presentation than average, avoiding another convention for v shape earphone (as bassy as it is) it fairs better than most. Separation is good as well.
Overall: 8.5/10
 
In conclusion, I think Brainwavz have a winner here with the S5s. Its built like a tank, comfortable in the ear, comes with a plethora of accessories and last by not least provide a fun sound without skimping out on detail. I’m extremely pleased! Thank you Brainwavz!!
 
Overall: 50/60= 83%
Below are some pictures of the Brainwavz S5

 

 

 

 

 

 

the different bore widths for the grey and black silicone

 

 

 

 

 

Posted

Pros: Amazing for EDM. Looks great. Feels great. Amazing for EDM.

Cons: Minor driver flex issue. Too warm for certain tracks. Flat cable is iffy.

Disclaimer                                                     

 

     First of all, huge thanks to Audrey (@Salsera) for considering me to actually review the Brainwavz S5. My deepest gratitude goes out to her and the guys over at Brainwavz. But let me remind you that I was neither paid to write this review, nor am I an affiliate of Brainwavz or any of its staff. Any and all opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own unless otherwise specified, and these opinions should be treated as nothing more than that. Finally, my impressions of the S5 in this review might conflict with yours; therefore, YMMV.

 

     This review is just a copy taken off of my blog. This one took me a while since Head-Fi's Rich Text Editor either took too long to load, or never did. Well, at least it's now on Head-Fi.

 

 

 

Intro

     Well, let me just say this: This review is filled with a lot of firsts. I won’t list them all to keep things brief, but the most significant one is how this is the first time I’ve been asked to write a review from a representative of a company. I know, I’m still squealing like a girl since I was sent a PM a couple weeks ago – but still, it is my first time, so I’ll give it all I got!

 

     Anyway, let’s get onto the subject at hand. The Brainwavz S5 is Brainwavz’ latest IEM release, and is now their current flagship IEM. Priced at $100 retail, the S5s look the part, feel the part, and are priced the part, but do they play the part? Read on and find out.

 

 

 

Packaging, Design, Accessories

     When I (still squealing like a girl) opened up the package containing the earphones, I was greeted with a very retail-looking box – the likes of which I haven’t held in my hands for a very long time. Right on the front of the box, an image of the S5 is emblazoned along with the name BRAINWAVZ and an “S5” on the top-right corner. That front panel actually opens up to reveal the S5s sitting there in a moulded plastic housing, just waiting there for a pair of ears to put them on. The back of that front panel contains a quick history of Brainwavz and a list of the S5’s features. The other sides of the box had a lot of other information on it, like specifications and whatnot (which eliminates the need for useless literature inside the box, which is a good thing). You should be able to read them with a click on one of the pictures.

 

     Now, onto the earphones themselves. I have to say, I was totally surprised to learn that the S5 actually has a full metal housing, rather than just plastic. To my eyes, I thought it looked like plastic and expected it to be, until I read the description on the box. That was one of the big points that changed my outlook of the S5s completely. The S5s have a flat cable this time, which has their own strengths and weaknesses, which I’ll explain in further detail later. And also unlike all of the other IEMs I’ve reviewed, the S5s have no remote, but has an eye-catchingly large Y-split in its place. I mean, just look at it. It’s freaking huge! But then again, that doesn’t really change anything, does it?

 

     And finally, let’s take a good long look at the accessories. When I took a look at the accessories list on their official product page, my jaw dropped to the floor. The Brainwavz S5 actually has – wait for it – nine pairs of eartips, including a double-flange, a triple-flange, and even a Comply T400 pair. (I compiled a full list of the accessories in the Specs section below.) The Brainwavz S5 quite literally has its own collection of eartips. In fact, they’re so many that they’re actually more than half of the eartip pairs I already had. Oh, and did I mention they also come with a nifty hard case and a 1-year warranty?

 

 

 

 

Build, Fit, Comfort

     If I could sum up the build quality of the Brainwavz S5 in one word, it would have to be fantastic. I’m being honest here – the S5s look, feel, and are very, very durable. The full-aluminum housings are nice and solid. The huge Y-split in the middle looks to be very durable and should probably last a long time. Even the connector, which, given the rather short strain relief, looks well-built.

 

     However, I do have some thoughts on the build that I would like to express. First of all, I would suggest Brainwavz to go with a removable cable design for the S5s. On the other hand, I think I do see why they wouldn’t go with that approach, because with all of the measures they’ve taken to ensure maximum durability for that one cable, going directly for a removable cable approach would basically ruin all their efforts. However, I still would like a replaceable cable for them, since they sound really good (more on this later) and since the cable is usually the first thing to break in a headphone. Second, the cable. The Brainwavz S5 employs a flat cable, which, unlike most round cables, is virtually tangle-free. But they are a lot harder to manage than round cables. Finally, and probably one of my biggest issues with the build of the S5, there is the issue of driver flex. Yes, you read that right. No, I’m not joking. I’m crossing my fingers hoping this is just me or my pair, but otherwise this is an issue that I can’t simply overlook. Then again, it only happens occasionally, but the fact that it does happen is something to worry about. But then, this could just be my pair (I talked this over with Salsera, and I confirmed that it really is just my pair), and if you guys don’t have any driver flex on your pairs, then good for you! (I’m so gonna be jealous of you guys…)

                                                     

     Regarding fit, I never had any issues with it, to be honest. It’s been a while since I’ve worn an IEM around the ear, but it seems my ears really fit okay with most universals, which means good news for both you and me. Comfort, in my opinion, is nothing short of amazing, especially with the Comply T400 tips. A peculiar little oddity about the S5s’ fit is how they still fit perfectly fine when worn straight-down, despite them being designed to be worn around-the-ear.

 

 

 

Isolation, Microphonics

     When I took out the S5s on the night I got them, I took out the regular tips, replaced them with the Comply T400s that they included, and put them on. The isolation of the Brainwavz S5 is amazing – totally outclassing every other IEM and headphone I’ve tried. It’s like that one time when I auditioned the Beats Studio 2.0, but without the ANC, without the weird pressure in my head, and totally without the hiss.

 

     But that was even before I tried out the triple-flanged tips. Sure, they weren’t very comfortable (think silicone drills implanted into your skull through the ears); but the isolation then...I could think up so many words to describe it. Before the music even played, I was teleported to another world. A very quiet, desolate world. Practically everything was silenced, even myself as I stared at the box in disbelief. I may have drills in my ear, but if it’s one way to make me legally deaf without losing my actual hearing, then it’s worth the experience.

 

     The microphonics is also a great point for the Brainwavz S5. Despite flat cables usually being very microphonic, I’m glad to report that this cable is far from that – although I would say that it’s the result of the IEMs being worn around the ear. Still, their weight is pretty heavy, though on the other hand, it’s really durable, so I would say that’s a little bit of a trade-off.

 

 

 

Specs

Headphone Type

Closed-back in-ear monitor [straight down, around-the-ear]

Driver Type

10mm dynamic, neodymium magnets, CCAW voice coil

Frequency Response

18 – 24,000 Hz

Max. Input Power

20 mW

Sensitivity

110 dB at 1 mW

Impedance

16 Ω

Weight

N/A

Cable

1.3 m flat Y-cord, OFC

Connector

3.5 mm (1/8”) gold-plated, straight

Accessories

Hard carrying case
6 sets silicone single-flange eartips (gray S/M/L + black S/M/L)
1 set silicone double-flange eartips
1 set silicone triple-flange eartips
1 set Comply T400 premium foam eartips

 

     There really is nothing much to say here, so let’s move on to the most important question: How do they sound?

 

 

 

Audio: Preamble

     But before we get right onto that, let me first explain how I review my headphones/IEMs. The audio review is split into three parts, namely Sound Quality, Genre Mastery, and Miscellaneous Tests. The first section deals with the basic sound quality of the IEMs, covering such topics as bass, midrange, treble, and so on. The second section focuses on how the overall sound performs with various genres, like rock or classical or electro house. Finally, the third section tests the IEMs’ performance in areas outside of music like games and movies, as well as their capabilities when amplified or equalized.

 

     The sources I’ll be using consists of a 4th generation iPod Touch, an iPad 3, and my PC through Headphone-Out. The amp I use is a Yamaha RX-V359 receiver feeding the IEMs through Headphone-Out. Finally, the EQ used for the test is Viper4Windows on the PC. My test tracks are posted here for reference.

 

    Also, prior to the review, I have burned-in the Brainwavz S5 for a minimum of 100 hours, to clear any doubts about burn-in. As for the eartips being used, I thought it best to explain things in further detail below, but for the sake of brevity, I used the Comply T400 tips and my Pistons 2.1 tips interchangeably.

 

     So let’s not waste any time, and let’s get to it!

 

 

 

Audio: Sound Quality

     The very first thing I noticed with the S5s was how lively they sounded. They had this very energetic, life-of-the-party kind of signature that, in my ears, was fantastic. This was the kind of IEM I was looking for – something that was lively, something that was fun, something that made you get off your feet and dance, even though you’re the only one listening to the music. Though I know it’s kinda embarrassing with people around, that gets thrown out the window when you’re alone. There’s quite literally a party in your head when you wear this, and I’m having one right now.

 

     But these S5s aren’t all fun and games. At first glance, I really didn’t expect much to come out of these IEMs, to be truly honest. But after I spent a few days with it, I realized just how far they could go. Think of a very good employee – he knows how to do his job, and do it well. He knows how to handle all sorts of problems and make adjustments accordingly. And most of all, when he’s not at work, he knows how to party just as much as he knows his job. The S5 is all of those things – and that realization blew me away.

 

     To more properly describe what I’m talking about, let me break it down for you. The bass? Powerful, fast, and with amazing extension. The midrange? Recessed, yes, but not too much, and is particularly clear. The treble? Lively, sparkly, but may be a little sharp for some ears. The soundstage? Intimate, but with a definite sense of space. The imaging? Nothing of note, but it’s great. In all, they’re lively, fun IEMs with a warm tilt to them.

 

     One thing I noticed while I played around with the S5s was how they changed so significantly with tip rolling. Tip rolling, of course, is basically changing out a pair of eartips for another, done mostly because of fit issues, but sometimes because of the sound. My experience with IEMs taught me that eartips do make a difference to the sound – and sometimes even become game-changers. And the same holds true for the Brainwavz S5 when I tested out its various included tips, as well as some of my own. With extensive testing, I compiled a short list of the eartips’ shapes, nozzle diameters, and their effects on the sound signature below.

 

Type

Material

Nozzle Dia.

Bass

Mids

Treble

Black triple-flange

Silicone

3 mm.

+

-

=

Grey single-flange

Silicone

4 mm.

+

=

=

Black single-flange

Silicone

3 mm.

++

-

=

Pistons 2 single-flange

Silicone

6 mm.

=

+

+

Comply T-400

Foam

6 mm.

=

+

-

 

     So, as you can see from the list above, some of the qualities of the tips change the sound in various ways. If you have experience in tip rolling, I’m sure you understand why this occurs, but for the uninitiated, let me break it down for you. When it comes to eartips, nozzle diameter plays a huge part in improving an IEM’s sound, as a larger diameter allows more of the sound to go through, resulting in a clearer, more forward midrange. On the other hand, a narrower nozzle restricts some of that sound that passes through, which increases bass power. The material of the eartips also play a part, since foam tips like Complys often attenuate the treble frequencies as opposed to silicone. I personally switch between the triple-flange tips (for isolation), the grey single-flange tips (for fun), and the Pistons 2 tips (for balance).

 

     Well, it looks like I’ve been droning on about tip rolling for too long, haven’t I? Well, I don’t want to waste your time any longer, so let’s move on.

 

 

 

Audio: Genre Mastery

     With my description of the Brainwavz S5 in the previous section, it’s easy to see that these things are a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Well, that’s where I’m going to stop you. Yes, they play all genres well, but so far, no IEM has ever made me love EDM more than the Brainwavz S5. Really. They play any type of EDM from dubstep to progressive house exceptionally well, with each aspect of their sound signature playing a part to deliver a club right into your ears. It’s practically like calling up all of your favorite DJs and EDM producers into your house for a party for you, you, and only you.

 

     But like I said, these IEMs aren’t all fun and games – they could play classical a lot better than I expected. With Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (played by the Connecticut Early Music Festival Ensemble), the Brainwavz S5 manages to keep up with the vivid expressions of each track as it goes from pianissimo to fortissimo (and whatever musical terms they use to refer to those expressions). In a nutshell, it’s really something. The bass doesn’t take too much prominence in the album, which leaves the midrange shining through with warm, clear beams.

 

     On the other hand, the Brainwavz S5 is a warm IEM, and that warmth can be off-putting in a lot of classical recordings. In this case, it depends more on the recording and affects some more than others, but it’s a quality of the Brainwavz S5 that cannot be ignored. Then again, they still sound pretty great.

 

 

 

Audio: Miscellaneous Tests

     I’ve been gaming with the Brainwavz S5 extensively – mostly racing around in Watch Dogs, but pretty extensively nonetheless. The Brainwavz S5s perform undoubtedly well in this department, with the bass making you really feel the gunfire and the roar of the engine as you zip through the Chicago highway. Vocals come through very clearly, as well. Positional audio is good, but I’m iffy on its performance in more competitive gaming scenarios. They should more than suffice for the average gamer, though. As for the movie buff…I don’t know about you, but I’m clearly going to enjoy watching The Desolation of Smaug again with these babies on.

 

     As with all sorts of other IEMs I’ve tried, the Brainwavz S5, too, doesn’t really change when subjected to more power. However, with some equalization, a whole lot of things change. One thing of note is how well they adapt to a simple bass reduction (and by simple, I mean the iOS’ default Bass Reducer preset), which fleshes out more of that sweet midrange and treble. It’s actually pretty easy to EQ the S5s into a more balanced IEM, which is a quality I consider a plus.

 

 

 

Value, Comparison

     With Brainwavz listing these IEMs at $100, there’s no surprise that the S5s will face a lot of competition, including many amazing IEMs that have earned their place in Head-Fi’ers’ hearts with ease. And these legends I’m talking about? Oh, I don’t know, the Shure SE215, the Yamaha EPH-100, and the HiFiMAN RE-400 Waterline, to name a few. Like I said, these three IEMs are legendary, and that goes without saying. It’s a shame, then, that I have none of them here with me, since they would’ve made for one hell of a shootout. So for now, you guys will have to put up with what I did get to compare.

 

Versus Monster DNA (~$200)

     I always like comparing IEMs with headphones, because aside from their inherent sonic differences, it makes for a great opportunity to see if an IEM has no trouble keeping up with the big leagues. And I’m happy to report that the Brainwavz S5 do just that, and then some.

 

     I really like the Monster DNA for its fun, but audiophile-friendly sound signature packed into a Beats-esque, nightclub-inspired package. The on-ear headphones have a moderate V-shape signature, with great bass and crisp treble without sacrificing too much of the midrange. The Brainwavz S5 takes things a little bit further with its stronger V-shape sound that gives it even more bass power, lively treble that gets too sharp at times, and a more recessed midrange. However, the Brainwavz do improve with better tips, and at its best, they sound nicely balanced and fun, making the S5s and the DNAs not too far apart from each other.

 

 

Versus Ivery IS-1 (~$25)

     I know, I know, I’m comparing a $100 IEM with a cheapo. Yes, I understand how crazy this is price-wise, but sound-wise, maybe not so much. I thought it’d be great to compare my IS-1s with the Brainwavz S5s since the IS-1s are my current reference point for analytical, detail-whoring ‘phones. And when I did compare them, I realized just how far apart these two IEMs were.

 

     The IS-1s have a very cold, analytical signature, with some of the best mids I’ve heard in an IEM, but at the cost of horribly piercing sibilance. On the other hand, they make for the best-sounding IEMs to play classical and acoustic genres with, because of their detail-whoring tendencies. The Brainwavz, however, is worlds apart, with a warm, V-shaped signature that kinda does the opposite. But again, with a wide-nozzle tip, their midrange does step forward a tad, but it’s still better off in its own realm.

 

 

Versus Xiaomi Pistons 2.0 (~$25)

     Since I don’t have any proper IEMs that would make fairer matchups for the Brainwavz S5, I thought I’d let my self-proclaimed “King of Ultra-Budget-Fi,” the Xiaomi Pistons 2. Even now, they’re still one of the best all-rounders I’ve ever heard in my audiophile journey, and I know a lot of other Head-Fi’ers would agree with me. They just have this mild V-shaped signature with great clarity in the mids and crisp treble that just blends with the rest of the signature so well. For me, it’s probably the best headphone I’ve ever owned and heard (so far).

 

     Against the Pistons, the Brainwavz S5 gives out the same impression I did when I compared them with the Monster DNA – a stronger V-shaped signature, more powerful bass, hotter treble (which lessens with Comply tips), and a slightly more recessed midrange. Oh, and the S5s sound much warmer than the Pistons. Right now, I’m leaning towards the Brainwavz S5, if only for the fact that the pair I compared the S5s with are my sister’s. That, and at the moment, I’m having too much fun listening to Monstercat 015.

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                            

Conclusion

     In the end, there’s a lot to like about the Brainwavz S5 – from the look, to the build, to the sound. They’re pretty good all-rounders, and can play all genres fairly well, although you might want to look for something else when you have more specific musical tastes. That means classical lovers, run away – and run away fast. But for someone with an electronic addiction, here’s the doctor’s prescription – take a pair of the Party Pills, once a day, every day. You’ll be having a blast.

 

     And now, for the scores. Please take note that the scores reflect their performance within their price range (say, above its price by 50 dollars or so).

 

Category

Score

Comment

Appearance, Design, Accessories

9/10

 

With a full aluminum housing, the Brainwavz S5s definitely are the looker. Add that to its collection of 9 pairs of eartips, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a package.

 

Build, Fit, Comfort

8.5/10

 

The aluminum housing is not only a looker, it’s also very solid. Fit is nothing short of plug-and-play, and comfort is amazing. The driver flex issue still worries me, though.

 

Isolation, Microphonics

9/10

 

Isolation can go from great to amazing depending on the tips used. Microphonics is hardly an issue because of the around-the-ear style.

 

Microphone

N/A

 

The Brainwavz S5 doesn’t have a microphone, though I’d love to see one with a remote on…Brainwavz S5i, anyone?

 

Audio: Sound Quality

8/10

 

These IEMs have a sound signature that relies a lot on the tips, so that can go from great to awesome as well. With stock tips, though, they have a strong, warm V-shaped sound.

 

Audio: Genre Mastery

8/10

 

The Brainwavz S5s work amazingly well in their home court – electronic genres. Outside of it, they perform pretty well, but their warmth can make some genres sound too full.

 

Audio: Miscellaneous Tests

8/10

 

I’m glad to report that these IEMs play pretty well with games and movies. I don’t really have a solid opinion on their performance when amped, but what I can tell you is that they are really easy to EQ.

 

Value

8/10

 

For $100 retail, I definitely would buy these IEMs for myself. However, there are a lot of other highly competitive choices that might fit my broad tastes better.

 

Total

8.4/10

 

The Brainwavz S5s are overall an excellent choice for electronic lovers. Those who listen to mostly classical will have to look elsewhere, but if you want to have your favorite DJs playing their sets for you and only you, take the black pill.

 

 

 

Shout-Outs, Gallery

     First of all, I want to again thank @Salsera for giving me this huge opportunity to review their latest IEM. Also, I’d like to thank my sister for again providing us with all of these beautiful images. Also, I wanna give a shout-out to all of the other guys who reviewed this IEM and maybe ask: Am I in the big leagues now?

 

     Anyways, here are the rest of the images taken during the photo-shoot. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted

Pros: nice mids, good build quality, smooth sound

Cons: not a flat cable lover, overly large Y-split, bass needs more extension and control

Full video review below

 

 

Brainwavz S5 In Ear Headphones
Description:

The Brainwavz S5 are dynamic driver based earphones fitted into a sleek all-metal housing with their speakers tuned for a balanced, detailed sound with a smooth bass. They are designed to be worn over the ear for professional grade fit and better sound isolation. The over- the-ear design and flat cable allow the S5 to sit securely in your ears even during physical activities. The S5 are suitable for any genre of music. Features: Balanced sound, good detail and clarity with a smooth bass. All metal housing in a over the ear design. Flat cable for less tangle. Comply foam tips included. Specifications: Transducers/Drivers: 10mm Rated Impedance: 16ohms Sensitivity: 110dB at 1mW Frequency range: 18Hz ~ 24KHz Maximum input power: 40mW Cable length: 1.3m, Y cord, OFC Copper, flat cable. Plug: 3.5mm gold plated, 45 degree. 24 month warranty. Included Accessories: 1 x Comply foam T-400 medium series tip 6 x Silicone tips 1 x Bi-Flage tip 1 x Tri-Flange tip 1 x 6.3mm audio adapter 1 x Earphone carrying case 1 x Instruction manual

Details:
DetailValue
BindingElectronics
BrandBrainwavz
ColorBlack
EAN0728028299472
FeatureBalanced audio signature with smooth bass. All metal housing in a over the ear design with special finish to give a smooth, slick feel. Flat cable for less tangle and easy to wear. The cables are made with high purity OFC copper wiring at its core. Comply T-400 foam tips included. The best premium foam ear tips that can be found, provides for perfect seals and enhanced bass response. Other included accessories: 6 pairs of silicone tips, 1 pair of Bi and 1 pair Tri-flange tips, hard carrying case to protect your earphones.
LabelBrainwavz
ManufacturerBrainwavz
MPNBWAVZ-S5
PublisherBrainwavz
StudioBrainwavz
TitleBrainwavz S5 In Ear Headphones
UPC728028299472
Package Height2.1 inches
Package Length7.4 inches
Package Weight0.35 pounds
Package Width4.8 inches
PartNumberBWAVZ-S5
ProductGroupCE
ProductTypeNameHEADPHONES
UPCList - UPCListElement728028299472
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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