Pros: Price, compact size, light weight, slightly warm, but generally neutral sound
Cons: None at the price
Brainwavz are making another push on their M series earphones and that’s good news for those of us looking for a well-priced, high performance earphone. The M1s use a single dynamic driver in a compact plastic and metal shell to deliver a tiny, lightweight earphone with sound that’s reminiscent of their more expensive R3 model, but in a much more comfortable package. They're not as good as the R3s, but for their price they’re impressive nonetheless.
A big thanks to Audrey and the team at Brainwavz for sending me this pair to review!
- Drivers: 10.7mm dynamic (1 per earpiece)
- Impedance: 32 ohms
- Frequency range: 20 – 20,000Hz
- Sensitivity: 110 dB (at 1mW)
- Cable: 1.3m terminated in a 3.5mm plug
Design & Comfort
The most obvious thing about the M1’s design is how tiny they are. These are some of the smallest IEMs I’ve ever used alongside the Atomic Floyd Superdarts. Despite the diminutive size and price, Brainwavz have still crafted parts of the M1 from metal which is a really nice touch both aesthetically and in terms of how they feel to handle. The metal nozzle assembly makes the M1s look and feel much pricier than they are and although the plastic section of the housing does look a little cheap (in terms of the quality of the plastic) in comparison there is absolutely nothing to complain about in the overall design and build of the M1s.
They come with a solid cable that easily bests the cable on either the S5 or R3 in terms of look and feel. The cable is comfortable to wear and doesn’t seem to tangle. It can be a little loopy at times, but once straightened out it sits well and doesn’t seek to recoil like some braided cables can.
As for fit, the M1s’ tiny size makes them easy to fit, but like any earphones with 4mm nozzles (i.e. most IEMs other than Shure and Westone), those with small ear canals may feel a tiny bit of pressure where the nozzle sits in the ear canal. For the majority of people though, the M1s will fit perfectly with no problems at all and their lightweight and tiny frame will quickly have you forgetting that their in your ear.
As with all Brainwavz IEMs, you receive a nice black semi-hard case, an excellent range of silicone and foam tips (including a pair of medium size Comply tips), and a clip for the cable to secure it to your collar if desired.
As mentioned earlier, the M1s are quite reminiscent of Brainwavz’ oddly shaped, but excellent sounding R3 earphones. Brainwavz market the M1 as an all-rounder that’s equally as good with hip-hop as it is with country and I do think they’ve achieved that brief. I haven’t heard a genre that the M1s struggle with. For the price they do an admirable job of presenting anything and everything with a good balance of all frequencies, detail, and soundstage.
Rather than breakdown the individual sound characteristics of these I’m going to discuss them as an overall picture because they present a nicely cohesive balance with no major flaws, especially when you consider the $50 price tag.
The sound is a little warmer than neutral with a little bit of roll-off in the treble, but nothing extreme. Treble detail is still present and clear, but it’s slightly smoothed over which makes the M1s very easy to listen to on any track. They’re not too warm like the Elements C-12 from Signature Acoustics, but they’re definitely warm and I like that in a budget earphone that’s likely going to be used with mobile phones and similar sources that aren’t designed for flagship IEMs that reveal every last detail, including the limitations of the source.
Other than the slightly rolled-off treble, the M1s present everything else on about the same level. Mids are nicely presented front and centre with no sense of distance or veil and the bass is solid and clean without being over-emphasised. Across a wide range of tracks I never found myself wanting anything more from the M1s – they sound natural, realistic and clean from any source and on any track.
OK, so you might be wondering by now why anyone would ever buy anything that costs more than $50 when the M1s are out there. The limitation in the M1s sound is its absolute fidelity. The sound is nicely balanced and sounds natural, but it is a touch closed in and lacking the transparency of a set like the R3s. Remembering that this is a $50 earphone that’s in no way a knock on the M1s – you get what you pay for and the M1s deliver outstanding bang for buck at the $50 price point, but they’re not going to outperform all higher-priced IEMs (just some of them).
The soundstage on the M1s sounds just a little congested compared to something like the R3. It’s not particularly well defined and fits into a space about as wide as your cheekbones and with limited height or depth. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the M1’s soundstage, but it’s also not going to blow you away. It’s adequate for a $50 earphone and is accurate and coherent so it never draws your attention away from the music which is excellent – better to create an average, but non-distracting presentation rather than swing for the fences with a huge, spacious stage that can become incoherent and distracting. No, despite not being special, I think the Brainwavz engineers got the soundstage just right for a $50 neutral, jack-of-all trades earphone.
It’s not a giant killer, but the M1 is an outstanding IEM for its $50 price tag. If you’re looking for a highly affordable upgrade from the stock earphones that came with your phone or if you want a solid sounding set of ‘phones for gym duty or similar then the M1s should be at the very top of your list. They’re combination of accessories, tiny size and lightweight comfort, with perfectly balanced smooth sound make them a great option that’s going to be very hard to beat for less than $100. Once again Brainwavz has shown how it’s done, producing an incredibly good value IEM that’s well made, well equipped and with great sound – bravo, Brainwavz!