Brainwavz Beta v2 Review
Thanks to mp4nation for the review sample
First Impressions: The box is reasonable enough but is a little creased from its round the word travels. The packaging is reasonably nice but clearly this is not what you’d call a premium product. Inside there isn’t too much but one interesting thing I see is some faux complys. Looks wise these really remind me of the Sony MDR-EX85 and the corresponding 300 million pretend ones that the Chinese OEM market produced. I’ve got to say it’s not giving me high expectations, I know the Sony ones were well loved but well, oh you know what I mean. So hesitantly I decide I’d better shove them in my ears. Not at all what I expected. Damn these are really nice, whoever it is that tweaks Brainwavs stuff for balance should get a raise. They consistently manage to nail it in such a way as to get the absolute best from their stuff. Burn in time.
Source 1G iPod Shuffle with a 75 ohm adapter added
Lows: I can see the low end being a bit controversial as such cheap stuff tends to go by the rule, the more bass the better. The Beta’s don’t do this. Now I’m not saying they can’t do a low because they can and they do with a grace and poise that would put many to shame. They can take a rich low note and happily hold it, smoothly and gently without running out of breath. They do the best they can to stay quick and nimble too for the faster stuff, so they aren’t the most agile ever what do you want for this kind of money, the moon on a stick? A whirl with Pendulum’s “Propane Nightmares” and they maybe aren’t giving the punch they should or really conveying the explosive power and magnitude of where the bass should be but I cannot fault them. They don’t go to hell and become a huge flab of bass farting all over the place. Quantity wise I can see people wanting a bit more as the bass really doesn’t stand out the way it often does on low end stuff, they aren’t what I’d call bass light though. They are what I would describe as evenly balanced, the bass is pretty much in line with the mids and maybe a touch above the highs. Still they come from a big dynamic driver so if you really want more go nuts with the EQ and it will move the air you want.
Compared to its stable mate the M1, these have a touch more bass which seems sensible since they were just a hint on the bass light, Brainwavz are really taking the middle space and dominating it.
Mids: Superb. Vocals are light and airy and have a smoothness that belies their bargain basement credentials. They are immensely pleasant to hear. I can’t deny though they do favour a slower and more liquid sounding voice as they just don’t have the clarity to really show you the detail needed for dry and airy. As I said previously I cannot fault them for this as they are so cheap and it’s not like anything at or near this price can really do that level of detail. These are not really mid centric but the mids are pretty prominent. When it comes to acoustic guitars they do slip a little. They don’t quite manage the crisp snap that they should but for the money they do so very, very well. Still I must admit the M1 does them better, it’s dryer and crisper sound gives them more of clarity. The M1 is of course 50% more expensive though.
Highs: Anyone familiar with my musings will know that this is where I tend to fault most things and the Beta’s are no different. They don’t quite get things right and let’s be honest, they don’t have anywhere near the detail to nail it either. So they don’t really try to and what’s better is they don’t dial up the treble and dial up its edginess to pretend they have more detail than they really do. The Beta’s put on a fine show and give you a great rendition of what should be there. From what I remember it’s a far gentler proposition than the old v1. Quantity wise it’s a touch behind the mids but nothing wildly so, the highs are still easily audible and clear. However they will get increasingly muddled and lost as the music gets faster and louder. After all this end a product at the bottom of the market and it cannot keep up but it does a pretty good job. If you music is all pretty slow then it does a great job, if not then you maybe want to move up to the M1 which is clearly quicker.
Soundstage: They are moderately big sounding, possibly due to their huge drivers and that they must sit pretty shallow in the ear. They do sound pretty big and have a pretty impressive level of sound separation. Again though once things start getting too fast and complex that separation does noticeably suffer. Lovely though on slower stuff.
Comfort: Well it was fine for me. The buds are pretty weirdly shaped though so it wouldn’t surprise me if it did cause issues for some. That said I don’t recall ever seeing anyone complain of issue with the shape of the Sony one. They are pretty weightless too so that helps.
Fit: I can’t say I loved their super shallow fit, I’m used to shoving things in deep and obviously the shape of these means that’s not an option. They demand to sit shallow and they are pretty weightless. I found also I could wear these up, actually I found that more comfortable than wearing down. So actually their fit was very good for me.
Cable: As I said before these aren’t a premium product and it shows a little in the cable. It is thin-ish and reasonably flimsy to the touch. Not that I think there is anything really wrong with it but it clearly pales in comparison to the great cable used on the M1.
Microphonics: This will greatly depend on if you wear these up or down, up you get none down you get plenty. It’s not terrible down but the lack of shirt clip and chin slider means there isn’t going to be much you can do to alleviate it.
Isolation: Erm well if there was one place these fall down its here, if you want a lot that is. They aren’t really all that isolating. To me that’s fine as I’d rather things lack isolation than seal a dynamic and get nothing but air pressure/venting issues. Still if you want something for the tube of long flights, this really is not it. I’m not even sure I’d be happy using these on a bus, I’d hear others and I be concerned I was being that annoying bottom hole who is blasting music out on earphone and annoying everyone else. I think they would be great for situation where you need to hear things though, if you were out jogging or something.
Amped/Unamped: Honestly these kinda did like more power as you would expect a dynamic to but these aren’t ever going to meet an amp in the wild. If they ever do (thinking FiiO E5 or 6, maybe even a 3) then it will likely be because the people who buy things at this price want them wore for their bass boosting qualities than anything else.
Value: Playing devil’s advocate, if you look at things as for only US$16 more you can get xyz then I can see pretty good reasons to step up. If you look in terms of percentages then US$16 more is a huge increase. Also a quick flick round the net and I can see the M6 for practically the same price and they are both just outstandingly good for the money. I can’t say the Beta is the better of the two, they do things differently and for me and my tastes the Beta is the better suited. Still both are just stupendous value, just amazingly good.
Conclusion: The first Beta, hand on heart, I didn’t really like. Not that it was crap or anything; it just wasn’t suited to me. It was a cheapo trying to do something really hard (Ety esq treble) and it while it really, really tried it just didn’t manage it. The new Beta is doing none of that. It’s taken the middle ground that Brainwavz seems to be dominating, going for a balance that is undramaitic and unexciting but is something that you can hear every day, day in day out and enjoy. They are nailing that balance and offer a smattering of things all around it. The M1 a touch on the bright and dry, the M2 on the thick and warm. The M3 in pretty much the middle, possibly a touch middy. The beta here sits almost bang in the middle, maybe a touch middy and tiny touch treble reduced. It makes for an immeasurably enjoyable sound that can frankly turn its hand to anything and everything. Sure it’s still dirt cheap so it can’t offer you the same level of detail and clarity the M3 can. Still it does offer a superb level of emotional expressiveness. It’s beautiful and enjoyable in a way that so few very cheap things can. As I mentioned earlier whoever it is that is tuning these things for Brainwavz deserves a raise because they are doing the most amazing job of it. Low end things are supposed to be all about the colour and flavour (often big bass or a strong V shape) and these manage to do everything with a level of poise and refinement that they shouldn’t have. Now granted if you make them work too hard, too fast and too loud, then they will get rather flustered and somewhat become a gibbering heap but who can honestly fault them for that? I’m a grumpy misery and I can’t.
I think these are just fantastic for the money. They deal with everything as best they can and never in anyway cause offense. They do everything better than they ought to for the money and sound so much more grown up than their price point implies. If you are new to the world of quality audio and taking their tentative first steps to see what out there then trust me, you really cannot go wrong with a pair of these.