Brainwavz M1 Review
First Impressions: Well they aren’t much to look at, some unimpressive looking generic blobs in a little mini freezer bag but hey looks aren’t everything (of course i dont have the retail set, you will get a pretty box and little case.) These actually look so non descript they really don’t inspire confidence and with their frankly naff looking cable these just look meh. I do like the jack on these, it’s an unusual angle but it’s just perfect for me.
Acoustic first impressions of these is “oh my!” I had been listening to the Visang RO3 (identical twin of the Brainwavz M2) to give my ears time to adjust to something of a similar nature. These are so much nicer and cleaner in comparison, no heavy, thick, warm low end. Clearly these are not a lesser product just a different flavour and by heck it’s a flavour I really think I’m going to like. If they are like their siblings they won’t need a burn in but they are going to get one anyway just in case.
Source 1G iPod Shuffle with a 75 ohm adapter added
Lows: Let’s start with what they don’t get right and the answer to that is not very much. The bass for me is just about perfectly placed in terms of bloom, impact and abundance. The bass is clean and taught with not much in the way of midbass humps. The deepest lows are somewhat absent but the extension that is there is more than reasonable for the cost and it does it without bloating higher up. Pick a song like the Pet Shop Boys “Love Etc.” The bass is vibrant and clear, never getting lost but best of all not dominating either. Impact isn’t massive so some may miss that but neither is it soft and warm like its Brainwavz M2 sibling.
Overall the bass in most respects is right in the middle with a hint of being bass light. I recognise bass lovers will be left wanting more however if you’re happy to hear good bass rather than wallow in it you can do a whole shed load wore than these.
Mids: Oh my once more, for what one could call an el cheapo dynamic these very much surprised me in just how clear they are. (Klipsch with your less than stellar S4 take note.) Immediately upon hearing these the vocals are just great. They won’t appeal to everyone and certainly those that love a V shaped sound signature are unlikely to share my affections but it clean, dry, airy presentation works wonders on breathy vocals. Male and female alike just sound great and such a clean, slightly mid, centric presentation. I must note that where these do fall down a little is if you’re after buttery smooth, rich vocals, these don’t really get there. They don’t sound bad with them but it’s clearly not their forte, Mr Buble doesn’t shine here but is still more than sufficiently good. In the mid range these are near polar opposites from the Brainwavz M2. For a song such as The Hush Sound’s “We Intertwined” and its prominent, yet slightly distant male lead these little things absolutely nail it. The Bird and The Bee, Regina Spector, Owl City etc etc just all sound fantastic. Oh and acoustic guitars? Awesome.
Highs: Here once more I pleasantly surprised and thankful. There is clearly for more treble here than on its siblings which greatly aids in it feeling so much more dry and open. I’m not here to argue the merits of either sound signature be it warm and rich or cool and airy but what I will argue is that cool and airy is the more dangerous road to take. For those familiar with my musings will know harsh treble ravages my delicate little ears, so being more treble abundant can be daring me to pick fault if you don’t get it bang on. Getting it bang on and getting it cheap can often not go hand in hand. There are utterly no worries about that here. The treble here is a bit more abundant than I might ideally like but I can’t fault the quality. Its pin sharp and decays beautifully. What I can readily see as being a problem buying these if you have a lovely mp3 collection which has turned all the highs the brittle sounding glass bottles smashing. If you have low bit rate songs these will show it up and they won’t be terribly gentle about it. Personally I’m inclined to think this is a good thing but if you don’t want to have to lose a week re ripping your CD collection the more gentle M2 may be more of a friend to you. I think these possibly have the best treble out there amongst its contemporaries which is good as it’s also the most abundant too.
Soundstage: While these have a light airy sound the soundstage beats most of it rivals, it depends a lot on the track. Some sound huge, some just don’t, it’s odd.
Comfort: Absolutely fine. YMMV but I really can’t see anyone having big trouble with the fit of this wildly generic design. If it had major problems it would have been addressed long ago.
Fit: Easy to go in, not so easy coming out. The lack of a strain relief on these combined with their shape meant I was always pulling them out by the cable as I couldn’t grip the things. I could see this killing the cable if you’re using these every day.
Cable: I cannot say it’s a pretty cable, it looks rather naff but it feels very sturdy and I have no doubts as to its durability. I really like the not quite 90 degree jack on these. The lack of a strain relief on the buds does make me fear for their long term survival despite it being an otherwise robust cable.
Microphonics: I wear them up and have never noticed any. If you wear them down you may get some but the inclusion of a shirt clip means you really ought not to have much issue here.
Amped/Unamped: Some small improvement, really nothing noteworthy. Additional impedance likewise made no real difference and since they don’t hiss it wasn’t really needed.
Value: You have probably guessed I think these are great value. US$40 is simply a bargain but it’s not an unparalleled bargain. There is a few others out there at a very near price point that are in the same league so it really, really comes down to the sound that you want. Make no mistake you can’t go wrong buying these unless you’re after vast amounts of bass.
Isolation: Well they are dynamics and frankly they all have a similar amount of isolation and these are pretty average. So like I oft say, enough for on a bus but not what I’d want for the tube or a plane.
Conclusion: No prizes for having picked up on the fact I rather like these, these sound like what I hoped the Klipsch S4 would be like. They have a lovely clean midrange that’s just so impossibly good at this price. Well, actually it’s not the PL-50 still reigns there but its more expensive a touch and it is a BA so its bass just will not please a fair number of people out there. So its bass, while its mightily impressive it’s not the most impressive either. Its sibling far eclipses in quantity (but not quality) and the Radiopaq Jazz beats on both accounts. When it comes to treble that’s where these stand the best claim of being the best but their comparative quantity may not to be everyone’s tastes. These clearly are the most treble happy of its immediate rivals (which is because most of them are all skewed to a low end response.) When it comes to looks these certainly aren’t topping the charts, a quick glance at the MEElectronics M6 or Maximo iM-590 tells you that the M2 has clearly taken a whack from the ugly stick in comparison. Not just a whack but a severe beating.
Aesthetics aside there really is much to love here, so very very much. If one was to hear the PL-50 and think “hmm, let’s make that but with a dynamic driver and make the bass more palatable to the common man” then I think you’d be pretty close to what’s here. They have just such a clean sound, so much more so than a cheap dynamic drive has any right to. The clarity and liveliness these have is just spectacular for the cost.
The Brainwavz M1 in my opinion is borderline outstanding. It does every so astonishingly well for its price point that every big brand IEM below US$100 should be worried by performance like this.
Edited by mark2410 - 7/3/10 at 2:34am