I am a “head-fi” and I have been focusing on headphones for about 5 years now. I love to read reviews and I am especially impressed with those that are in-depth and impartial as they give me good understanding. However, I usually ended up buying the headphone anyway to review it. Nothing beats owning and enjoying it! I post a picture here to share with you some of my passion!
I recently started venturing into earphones and old habit dies hard. I now own 10 earphones (some models have 2 sets) in 7 months after buying the first pair for a friend’s birthday. I recently purchased the Brainwavz M2 and I would like to share my experience. I will compare it with my other earphones to provide you a better understanding. I hope you will find the review informative and thus help you make your decision.
2. Packaging and Physical Construction
I understand this is the latest packaging from Brainwavz.
The box has a nice laminated matt blue and black shade as seen in the pictures and the printing is crisp and professionally done like any quality product. It does not look cheap nor have any “printing smell” found in some China packaging.
The package comes with a earphone, a pocket hard case, 3 sets of silicone ear tips (S,M,L), 1 set of comply foam tips, 1 pair of ear gliders, shirt clip and 1 warranty cum instruction manual.
2.3 Pocket Hard Case
The case is well built and professional looking with circular metal Brainwavz logo. The case material feels like ballistic nylon but I cannot be sure. The zipper is smooth and sturdy. The space within the case fits the earphone perfectly if you roll it up with 3 fingers as shown. There is also enough room to keep the rest of the ear tips if necessary.
2.4 Silicone Ear Tips
It is very interesting that Brainwavz employs color code to differential the size of each ear tip. It helps pair up the ear tips quickly without any doubt. None of my other earphones use color code and I find it usually hard to pair them especially S and M size.
This is how I would arrange the comfort of the ear tips from soft to hard and I find the softness is mainly due to the thickness of the flange rather than the material.
1. Creative EP650
2. Monster Turbine
3. Brainwavz M2 / JVC HAFX66
4. UE TripleFi10 / Altec Lansing UHP336
5. Philips SHH8008
2.5 Comply Foam Tips
The M2 comply foam is only average compared to UE TripleFi10. I prefer the UE version as it is softer and the foam stay flatten longer when compressed before inserting into your ear canal. The Altec Lansing UHP336 is the worst as it is easily broken when it is removed from the earphone. The rest of my earphones do not come with comply foam.
The overall build quality of the earphone is great but there are some improvements I would like to suggest.
The earphone is made of metal and likely to be aluminum. It is great that Brainwavz is able to employ such material at a relatively low price point. The only other earphone I have that is made of metal is Monster Turbine at around twice the price of M2. The rest of collections are just made of plastic-like material even the most expensive UE TripleFi10. There might be other reasons for using plastic-like material; for example sound quality and so on but from a durability perspective; I will definitely prefer metal over plastics.
The copy of earphone I received has some uncompleted polish as shown.
I am particular about build quality especially the wire joints re-enforcement of earphone that will usually determine its lifespan. The first thing I notice about M2 is the wires coming out of the earpieces are not properly re-enforcement against accidental tug. I wondered why the wires are loose and not “glued” to the rubber sleeves to act as a re-enforcement. If they are “glued”, any accidental tug force on the wire will be distributed to the sleeve and thus reducing the chance of breaking the joint of the wire and the driver inside the earphone.
Exploring further, I noticed how the metal pieces are assembled together as shown. I would like to suggest that after the end joint is finally screwed and assembled together, the long rubber sleeve could be made of some kind of heat shrink material, that will permanently shrunk and “glued” the wire together to create a very strong joint re-enforcement.
Fearing that my new M2 will be broken, I decided to make some modification to strengthen the joints. I fixed the ear gliders onto the wires and use cable ties to “glue” them together. The cable ties ensure that the gliders do not fall off easily and form a very tight fit between the gliders and the rubber sleeves. In this way, any accidental tug force will now be distributed over the gliders and then the connected rubber sleeves before reaching the internal of the earphone joints. I hope this will make it more durable! There might be some questions that you might want to ask.
Will the cable tie spoil the wire if it is so tightly bonded together?
I do not think it will as the glider is made of soft rubber and will provide enough cushion. The overlaps between the glider and rubber sleeve is also around 5mm so there is enough room for cushion.
Will the cable tie make it uncomfortable to wear?
This is my initial worry but I do not feel anything when I wear the earphone. You can also hardly see the cable tie when you put it on so it is not too ugly.
Since this is only a cable tie, you can always cut it off if you do not like it. I am sure you will be like me, once you put it on, you will prefer it that way. I always prefer over the ears configuration as it feels more secure and also reduces wire noise when you move around with the earphone like doing gym.
This modification suits me better and if you are able to find some Red and Blue cable ties, they will help to differential the side too; example Red = Right.
It is made of silver plated OFC according to the manual. The overall physical quality of the cable feels durable and springy with a little memory effect but it is good enough not to entangle. It is as strong as my UE TF10, Monster Turbine and Altec Lansing UHP336. The rest of my earphones cables feel more delicate and I need to handle them with extra care.
The splitter joint is standard Y without a loop and the gold plated plug is at 45 degree.
3. Sound Quality
3.1 How is the earphone tested?
All headphones or earphones should be “burn-in” to get the best out of each driver. As such, I have subject all earphones to at least 24-48hrs of “burn-in” before reviewing them. The Brainwavz M2 clocked at least 24 hrs before I write this review.
I have read somewhere (I currently cannot find the article) that researchers find out that our brain cannot remember sound quality we heard after 30 seconds so it makes earphones review inconsistent and difficult to conduct. Therefore, I find a way to help myself perform the review. Only through comparison, I am able find subtle differences in sound quality. I use a jack splitter to connect two comparing earphones together to reduce switching time between earphones (unplug, plug, unplug…). After which I listen to a specific segment of the music for bass, mid or high repeatedly switching between the 2 earphones till I am convinced of getting a consistent result. Occasionally, the volume needs to be adjusted due to different impedance.
I love technical specifications but our listening experience is ultimate. While manufacturers tried their best to produce each earphone to its specification, I have on occasions received same model earphones with different sound quality. My review here for M2 is based on the copy I purchased and I hope it will consistent with yours.
A perfect fit for earphone is paramount before you can make some fair comparisons. Some 5 years ago, I walked in a professional store one day to try on some earphones and all I get is some hollow sound without much quality. The store helper never advise me how to wear them properly as I am inexperience and I walked out of the store and stay away from earphones ever since thinking that earphones are junks. I only started venturing into earphones again because my friend insisted on finding one last November and I realized what I am missing!!!
Here is the review of M2’s bass after close to 2 hours of switching between earphones and repeating segments of different songs looking for bass. M2’s bass is tight, snappy, controlled and impactful but not over. It is distinct but does not intrude into the mid to overshadow it. When you listen to EP650, the bass sounded great but when you switched immediately to M2, you suddenly feel a lack in bass in comparison. The bass of M2 is much more impactful than Creative.
Monster Turbine’s bass is more pronounce and a little over and intrude into the mid in my opinion. I prefer the M2 as it is more balanced in comparison.
UHP336’s bass is there but sounded a little “dead” in comparison. It is not as snappy and lively as the M2. M2 is more enjoyable and fun.
TripleFi10’s bass is more dynamic, well bodied/textured and the extension is better compared to M2. However, you need to put into perspective as TF10 has 3 individual proprietary armature drivers and its price to consider.
M2’s mid-range has good clarity and detail. It is warmth, not bloated and has a good balance of mid, without the bass or treble overshadowing it. In comparison with EP650, EP650’s emphasis on bass intrudes into the mid and it is little too forward for me.
Monster Turbine’s mid is slightly bloated and rollover at the lower spectrum. It sounded a little muddy in comparison to M2. If you do a side by side comparison, the distinction between bass and mid is not as clear as M2.
The mid-range of UHP336 is clear but sounded a little hollow and flat, recessed and less dynamic in comparison. It is not too enjoyable if listen to vocal most of the time and it can also be tiring.
The TF10 is extremely detail, sweet and smooth! It is toward warm side. The mid, bass and treble are all incredibly distinct, well balanced and not overshadowing each other. It is a little better of everything over M2.
M2 has good treble extension and give you a sense of space and openness. It is lively and sparkly (bright if you like) but not piercing making it very comfortable listening especially the higher pitch of violin. It is also well balance; not too forward or recessed. You are able hear all the different instruments distinctly and accurately. If you are listening to guitar, you can pick up the squeaks of chord switching quite clearly!
Again EP650 sounds good by itself but once you do a very quick side-by-side comparison; the treble sounds a slight lacking in extension and not as sparkly and bright as M2. It is a little forward and sometimes a little piercing and lack control in the higher spectrum.
Monster Turbine has better extension than EP650 and just a tinge behind M2. It is also slightly more recessed than M2.
The treble of UHP336 is more forward than M2. The overall extension, liveliness and sparkly is as good as M2. I guess-predicted this before doing the comparison as it is using a balance armature drivers.
Here comes my favorite as usual for TF10. The treble is only a little more detail and extended than UHP336 and M2. I must say they are all very close.
3.5 Overall Presentation
Here, I sit back, relax and enjoy the entire song and ask myself how much I enjoy the overall presentation without intentionally listening specifically and carefully for bass, mid or treble. I then listen to the same song again to find out why I feel the way I feel. I listened to a variety of songs including vocals, pop, instrumental, and not forgetting my favorite; “Sara” by Starship. I am really surprised how much time I have spent on this section and some surprises.
Frankly, the sound stage of IEMs cannot be compared to headphones in my opinion as they all sound narrower and more forward. None of them sounded as airy, spacious and layered as a pair of good headphone.
M2 has a slightly wider sound stage than EP650 and Turbine that I believe is due to a better distinction of bass, mid and treble. EP650 and Turbine feel like a close-type headphone due to good passive noise isolation. M2 feels more like semi-open type with a weaker seal.
In comparison to M2, EP650 sounded muddier as the mid and bass are mixed. The bass is also less exciting and the overall feeling is something is lacking.
M2 overall is fun and exciting due to a snappier bass. The distinction of bass and mid also makes it sound brighter. It is a well balanced earphone.
If you like bass, the Turbine would suit you better though it sounded a little muddier. Strangely, listening to the Turbine with a slightly muddier mid make it very soothing! I am not sure if this is intentional because if you listen to an entire song and compare it against M2 side-by-side later, you will find the M2 sounds a little “sharp”. I cannot explain why but the Turbine gives a very soothing and more textured overall presentation.
UHP336 is too bright and sharp for me. It even sounds hollow in some part of a song and the lack of mid makes it a little flat. The soundstage however is wider and it projects an image that is spacious and airy. Good isolation of UHP336 makes it more like a close-type headphone.
TF10 has the widest soundstage amount IEMs in terms of three-dimensional image and space. It is airy like UHP336 but not hollow as it has an excellent balance and extension of bass, mid and treble. The extra extension makes it sweet and enjoyable overall. Good isolation also makes it more like a close-type headphone.
For sound quality alone, I will pick TF10, M2 and the Turbine for a different sound signature and listening experience. TF10 has overall excellent sound quality; M2 has snappy and exciting presentation and Turbine has an enjoyable listening experience.
3.7.1 Passive Sound Isolation
All of the earphones produce above par passive sound isolation if you get a proper seal though Philips SHH8008 is slightly lacking. Creative EP650 and TF10 produce the best seal followed by Monster Turbine and UHP336. M2’s seal is okay but a little lacking in comparison to the rest.
Here is what I find out if you prefer to sleep with your earphone. The physical length measurements of each earphone are as follows: EP650 (18mm), M2 (23mm), Turbine (23.5mm), TF10 (30mm) and UHP336 (28.5mm). You can wear either the EP650 or M2 and lie at your head on the side without feeling uncomfortable. The Turbine is just 0.5mm longer than M2 but the earphone is little big so you will feel uncomfortable laying your head on the side.
4. Summary and Conclusion
Overall I am very surprised to find M2 at a very compelling price over performance ratio. If you only have a very limited budget and just want to try out the first earphone, you might pick the Creative EP650. However, if you can afford a little bit more; you would definitely want to consider M2. In my opinion, the M2’s build is better and the cable is stronger making it more worthwhile with a longer lifespan.
Audiophile knows that the performance over price ratio is exponentially decreasing and this is the case for my TF10. Although the overall performance of TF10 is better or even excellent, you are paying a lot more! If you have the budget, you should definitely try it.
I hope you have enjoyed my review and find it informative to help you make your decision.
Lastly, I would like to let my readers know that I am greatly saddened as my late mother was called home to be with the Lord Jesus on 25 June 2011 while I was conducting this review. I would like to dedicate this review to her and thank her for her sacrificial love to bring me up.
Thank you mommy!