Pros: Strong build quality, wonderful musical balance, stylish design
Cons: cable is a bit heavy and rubbery, no shirt clip in the package.
Disclaimer: I am reviewing a pair of the S5 I received from Brainwavz for reviewing purposes.
OK, I have reviewed several Brainwavz over the years and they have always managed to nail a great balance between cost and sound quality with only the occasional miss. The S5 manages to continue that trend admirably. I will be blunt, the S5 is their best dynamic based IEM they have created to date. Taking other S series models I have reviewed in the past the S5 takes the best of those IEM's and refines and perfects those qualities. I have not taken a ton of pictures for this review as other more qualified than I, with better equipment have already done so, I will simply stick to a written review.
Packaging and accessories:
The packaging reflects the dedication and quality of this IEM to a tee. It looks fantastic and gives off just enough luxury without coming across as pretentious or over the top. I love how the IEM cable and accessories are all nicely tucked into the Brainwavz standard clam shell case. As usual the IEM comes with pretty much all of the standard minus one thing, there is no shirt clip which would have been a useful item due to the weight and design of the cable.
Build and design:
This IEM is similar to the S1 in regards to the cable and strain reliefs but is slightly less heavy and bulky. Having said that, I hope Brainwavz continues to reduce this area while retaining the durability they have achieved in their products. This IEM utilizes an I jack and does not offer any form of mic or controls so is designed strictly for playing music and as such is as at home with a home desktop rig or portable amplifier as it is with a portable MP3 player or phone. For my review I am using my LG G2 phone for my source. The IEM itself is a curious looking torpedo design with a bend at the end to accommodate the ear. This design looks great in ear in my opinion and is also very comfortable. The isolation is what I would consider average for an IEM, not super isolating but good enough for most situations.
I find the bass of the S5 to be pretty hard hitting and emphasized. The emphasis works with most genres but I did find it to be a bit to strong for some of the jazz I listen to and a bit over powering for some of the older classic rock I listen to. For music designed to have more bass it works very well though and is great in music that does not have a strong bass presence as it does not CREATE bass just emphasizes what is there. It also does not seem to intrude into the midrange even though the mid-bass has a slight hump which is a good thing.
The midrange is clean and nicely present. It lacks a small amount of detail but not enough that you feel there is something missed unless your doing straight up A/B comparisons. The midrange is slightly recessed in comparison to the bass and the treble though. This slight dip has a tendency to make me want to crank up the volume a bit which can then make the bass in particular come across as to strong.
The treble of the S5 is clean and sparkly with little to no graininess and is nicely detailed without becoming hot or to energetic. In all of my testing I never once felt fatigue from the IEM after a listening session even though I did have a tendency to turn them up louder than usual.
The sound stage and imaging of the S5 is slightly narrower than some of the more expensive IEM's I have heard as well as a couple of the cheaper IEM's. But in defence of the S5 the cheaper IEM's all achieved a larger sounding sound stage through sonic trickery that often affected their sonic quality in other ways. While more expensive IEM's were, well considerably more expensive... Overall I find the imaging and sound stage of the S5 to be very good for the price of the IEM and certainly adequate for most of the music I listen to.
Genres of music tested:
I listen to Christian Rock, classic rock, Jazz, country, Celtic, acoustic, New Age, classical and more. The only genres I don't listen to are things like death/speed metal, dub step, trance, and hip-hop. In regards to the genres I listen to the S5 worked very well for Christian Rock, acoustic, New Age, and most classical. It also worked OK for country, classic rock and Jazz but the bass would occasionally be to strong with those genres. The good news is the IEM responds well to EQ'ing so it is very easy to tune down the bass if needed.
I have to say I really think Brainwavz has nailed this IEM very well. It offers a wonderful sound for almost any music and is an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to take their first big step into more expensive gear. I hope it doesn't get lost in the Head-fi shuffle of extremes in regards to signatures, unknown flavours of the month brands, and "new" or "different" technologies that quite often overwhelm just good old fashioned standards and solid design in the forums.