Pros: Strong build. Good sound. Nice group of accessories. Amps well.
Cons: Noodle cord can get microphonic when worn down. Treble peaks.
First off I would like to thank Brainwavz for sending me a pair for review..I think there has been enough written about these for most of you guys to know what they are generally about. I burned them in real good and started to really listen to them about a week ago and it has occurred to me that this sound is perhaps Brainwavz best I have heard to date. These do a lot right when it comes to build, sound and usability but how do they really stack up to the current crop of $100 earphones.? These actually have hung in there with the best that I have in the price range but have one sound trait to them that is holding them back from greatness in my opinion.
I tested the S5 using most of my sources and they seem to sound best with more than your stock player meaning while they are efficient and sound great from a simple source they do sound markedly better with more power..Before I get into the sound aspect of these earphones as much as I wanted to really love the sound there was one aspect that was holding them back for me..I am not as picky of an enthusiast as some around these parts but I do gravitate toward proper. I Love a solid sound be it from a cheapo like a SHE-3580 or something more substantial like the FX850.
Throughout the years I have seen a gradual change in what we consider is a nice phone in the $100 range. I think if these came out several years ago guys would be clamoring to get a hold of these and as they are they are actually pretty solid performers in the $100 category. However the one aspect that happens for the sound of these earphones is in the one flaw that for some reason keeps on rearing it's ugliness to me every time. I want to so love this sound and to be honest out of my ICAN it is 95% sonic euphoria. Great stage sound presence that actually sounds much more expensive than the given monetary value. However even with one of my most musical of sources the sound flaw comes through yet once again..What is that flaw you might ask? More on this later.
So I would like to applaud Brainwavz for continuing to go back to their drawing board to constantly reinvent the earphone sound for their company..With the Brainwavz S5 I can sense a progression of their house sound in the S5s. And they are so close to coming out with something what I would consider special in the earphone realm for the money. Everything what I would consider a good earphone is there. The build for one is of a solid quality. I can see these earphones lasting for a long while with it's solid noodle cord construction. Seeing some of the other reviews there was a few complaints about the noodle cord and how microphonic it can get. True however it becomes a non issue when worn over the ears as I tend to do wearing them outdoors. Using the S5 while cutting the lawn it worked perfectly for out door use. I can see these being a solid choice for active people but only when worn over the ears. Comfort wise, there is no awkward shape on the earphone or any substantial bulk so they sit comfortably either worn down or over ears. Isolation is actually decent using complys. I would say average for in ears and they don't seem to leak if at all so good for using around silent areas.
The group of accessories is standard Brainwavz fair which is actually a good range of tips and one of the best cases for earphones..I must say I absolutely love Brainwavz cases. The tips? Well they are just standard though there was a pair of complys and a pair of triple flange and double flange tips. The more tip variety the better is what I say to manufacturers. So while the stock tip choices are good I ended up using my UE tips. A much wider bored tips that I have counted on to give the best sound for many if not most of my earphones. Now to the important aspect of these earphones. The SOUND.
The S5s sound is a middle ground of good technical ability, enthusiast treble emphasis and consumer oriented bass emphasis..The bass is not of much concern as Brainwavz seems to know how to tune the low end from my experiences with their in ears. It is right smack in the middle from a neutral to basshead levels here and I can see either camps complaining it might have too much or too little depending on what you think is the right amount of bass. So a middle ground is not a bad thing when wanting to tune a phone for the masses. Overall It is more of a consumer oriented sound but with good imaging and clarity more than analytical type tuning. The mids are actually done well here and the mids seem to shine more so with good amping. It is not as forward as I would have liked but it certainly is not in the background of sound either, what is there the imaging and clarity is good in the region. Instruments and vocals are centered nicely on the sound. The stage for in ears is a bit above average and has enough depth to be satisfactory and does not sound closed in or narrow. While not spectacular in the stage arena it does enough to have good separation and show good layering of sound all around.
It is for me the lower treble, upper mids region that has a bit of extra emphasis in the region that is the thorn on the side of the sound on the S5. It is not bad per se. Not like the older CKN70 treble emphasis or some of the older CKM earphones from Audio Technica.. I think what bugs me about the sound is that you hear most of your tunes and actually get lost in the sound and then you land on a forward recorded vocal track and. There it is.. Fairly smooth, coherent, solid sound. Until you hear the SSSSSSsss. CHH.TTT.
The upper treble has a bit too much sheen and start to loose out in resolution of nicer more capable in ears. The irritating factor is that this is barely noticeable on most tracks. But it will be some of your favorite recordings I would say 90% of them will be sibilant free.Out of nowhere .. SSSSsss. Chh. I think you guys get the idea..The funny thing is I am actually not too sensitive to sharper treble. But lately I have discovered for me at least it makes a world of difference when fine tuning a sound. Sound refinement means refinement in all regions and I get why the sound was tuned this way. I get that Brainwavz wanted to incorporate some shimmer in the treble region. Shimmer it has a plenty, perhaps a touch too much but the gamble here is vocal performance is affected.
As I am listening to this combo now it sound utterly fantastic..To this I say it is so close..I think the price is correct on the S5 but being this close to something real special. I would like to encourage Brainwavz in treble refinement. It was the lack of treble refinement or the lack there of on the Brainwavz R3 that held those back as well..Somehow I have faith that future iterations will incorporate more refinement and get better and better..As they are these are fine for the price and is more of a casual listening earphone more so than a critically listening one..But they are so close.
Thanks for taking the time to check out my thoughts on the Brainwavz S5..