Pros: Classy color scheme; Durable; High value per dollar
Cons: Rubbery and thick cable; some treble resonance
Disclaimer: I’d like to thank Brainwavz for contacting and offering the review sample.
The Brainwavz S5 is the latest addition to the Brainwavz stable of in-ears. It takes design cues from is sibling S1 but refines them for a more elegant and cohesive aesthetic. It eschews the flashier colors of previous Brainwavz models for a more traditional but stately scheme of simple black and gray.
The S5, like the S1, is built like a tank. The dark gray, slightly rubbery cable is a wide and thick flat cable with oversized and extremely robust black Y splits and strain reliefs. The housings are all metal with shiny black paint with plain white lettering that simply says Brainwavz. While I have no doubts about the construction quality and durability of the S5 package, at the $99 price point, I’d like to see a little more premium feel and elegance to the cables and Y-splits. I’m sure there’s room to offer a bit more aesthetic value here, while not sacrificing much in the way of durability.
The S5 comes with the now standard black and red carrying case, which is on the thicker side of cases but is needed for the bulkier than average Brainwavz cables. Brainwavz offers a nice selection of tips, including: 3 sets of black single flange silicone with narrower bore exits, 3 sets of gray single flange silicone with wider bore exits, 1 set of black dual and 1 set of triple flange silicones, and 1 set of Comply. While the dual flange offers me a little better frequency response, due to a looser seal, I prefer the ease of proper fit with the single flange tips; I particularly find the gray singles to provide the best balance of sound over the black singles. The S5 also comes with a 1/8 to 1/4 adapter.
Brainwavz lists the S5 specifications as follows:
- 10mm Dynamic Driver
- 16 ohm Impedance
- Frequency Range: 18Hz-24kHz
- Sensitivity: 110 db @ 1 mW
- Cable: 1.3m/Y-Cord/Flat/Copper
- Plug: 3.5mm Gold Plated
- Fitting: Over Ear Style
- Warranty: 24 Months
The S5 signature is highly reminiscent of the Panasonic HJE-900 and JVC FX700 - Balanced and V shaped. The S5 comes across as rich, powerful and upfront. Bass is boosted throughout the range and reaches deep into sub bass territory; although it is not as bassy as its S1 sibling, it is still well above neutral. The center of the midrange takes a bit of a back seat the powerful bass and forward treble. There is slight recession around 1.5k to 2k but by 3k is back up in a sharp rise in the lower treble to approximately 5.5k. This peak gives the lower treble a very forward presence in the mix- lots of sparkle and just occasionally a hint of sibilance. I also pick up a bit of lower treble resonance here, that extends treble decay and slightly blurs resolution. After 5.5, the treble has one more peak much further up, around 8.5k to 10k, depending on fit depth. After about 13k the S5 begins it’s steep roll off. The S5 definitely seems tuned to ‘Rock Out’!
- BA200 is more linear and neutral.
- S5 is pretty V shaped in comparison with much greater bass quantity from sub, mid and upper bass.
- S5 treble is much brighter, especially at 5.5k, where I pick up some resonance and extended treble decay. BA200 cymbals sound more realistic and articulate.
- S5 sounds bolder, more aggressive and forward.
- BA200 takes a couple more clicks of the volume to reach the same levels.
- BA200 vocals take more of the focus in presentation when compared to the S5, which tends to put bass guitars and cymbals on equal footing with vocals and occasionally overpowering them.
- BA200 has pretty good distortion guitar bite but S5 have more bite, crunch and edge, due to the rise in FR between 3 and 5.5k. The S5 can really rock out with the various metal genres.
- BA200 sounds more open but S5 sounds bigger/taller and more powerful. More of a rock arena feel.
- Vastly different presentations and it takes some time to readjust; RE400 sounds over damped upon immediate change over from the more forward and brighter S5.
- While the RE400 is much more linear, it has a dip centered at 3k, whereas the S5 is climbing there to its peak at 5.5k, which greatly changes the tonality of vocals between the two. Even though RE400 vocals are more forward and S5’s much more recessed, after a quick change from the S5, the RE400 vocals can sound strangely hollow for a few minutes making the comparison somewhat challenging.
- S5 seems unbridled with raw power next to the more reserved and controlled RE400.
- RE400 has much thinner note compared to the thicker, much bassier S5.
- RE400 lets the vocals lead you through the song; the S5 lets the bass line and drum beat lead you through the song.
- Toms have more snap on the RE400, which have a tendency to get shadowed in the mix with the S5.
There is a lot of stiff competition in the $99 price bracket and preferred sound signature should be a top priority. However none will have the durability and robust build of the S5, which will lend itself towards a better solution for a workout or other outdoor activity IEM. While Brainwavz continues to offer excellent value for the purchasers’ dollar, in future $100+ models I’d like to see Brainwavz put some focus towards a more premium aesthetic in both material and design with cabling, plus perhaps a signature geared a little more laid back and smooth but without losing clarity and detail, while being more on the neutral side of presentations. With the S5, Brainwavz has taken the S1 signature and design to the next level with improved bass control/texture and midrange clarity, while preserving the rich, bold and powerful house sound Brainwavz has amassed in this current line of newer products.