Pros: Comply tips, clarity, soundstage
I received what I believe to be the final packaging for the Brainwavz M4, sans the hardshell case so I'm going to give it a review and if there's any clarification needed I will gladly fix things up. I must say though the M4 arrived in a rather attractive packaging. The gradient red in the middle to the black outside with M4 in the bottom left and Brainwavz in the upper right is clean and efficient. There's some other tidbits of information but they're kept to the corners as to not attract attention away from the upper middle where the plastic window shows the M4. On the back in typical fashion the specifications, accessory list and compatibility are listed on the right while the left has pictures showcasing some highlights of the headphones.
When opened up the real surprise came. The package opens on either the left or right side and slides out to a red cardboard box with no top, instead a semi-hard grey foam in which the M4 are safely sitting in. When the top semi-hard foam is pulled off the accessories are found carefully nestled with another darker protective foam ensuring nothing is moving around and if it is, it's only coming in contact with foam. Under everything is the warranty card. Included are S/M/L single flanged tips, a carrying case (not pictured), a pair of Comply S series tips, a shirt clip, and instruction manual.
The packaging here is a huge step up from the Beta's which I found to be very jumbled. This is sleek and safe and definitely gets my thumbs up. I like the design of the box as well, which is something a lot of people overlook, but to me it's something important especially for the average consumer. The included accessories are nothing out of the ordinary, but the included Comply tips are a nice touch and I applaud Brainwavz for continuing to include them.
Design and Build Quality
When I received my M4 I had concerns about their durability due to the RE0 problems. After over a week of constant use and abuse in varying weather and environments and even accidentally stepping on them they are kicking as if they're brand new. The housing of the M4 won't turn any heads, it's a basic barrel looking housing meant to be worn down. The housing seems to have the same potential breaking point as the RE0 where the seam on the housing is, but honestly after the abuse I've put them through I feel good about their durability. Each housing is stamped with an R or L easily seen and Brainwavz text around the vent on the back of the housing.
The M4 have a more than adequate stress relief leading to the housing which reaffirms my lack of durability concerns. The cable itself seems your run of the mill cable but has little grey accents throughout that definitely caught my eye. The cables lead to a Y split which is still lacking a cable cinch, which I find to be an odd choice given how useful they are. I suppose the shirt clip could be a substitute but I personally find them to be an annoyance. The Y split itself is black and stamped with white text that says, "Brainwavz M4." Terminating the cable is an L shaped 3.5mm gold plated plug.
When worn in the ear the M4 have a semi-deep insertion which keeps them in the ear without problems. With the Comply tips I have more than adequate isolation, about 60% with no music playing and it easily blocks most noises with music at an adequate level. Comfort is decent, I barely notice them in my ears with the Comply tips, but they aren't on the level my q-JAYS are on.
Brainwavz has stepped up their build quality from the Beta's here though there I'm still left wondering why there's no cable cinch. Either way those who are concerned about durability concerns shouldn't have much to worry about here, they seem better built than the RE0 in almost every way.
I gave these at least 50 hours of burn-in and another 100 hours of listening with no noticeable changes in sound throughout.
To describe the M4 in a simple way, they have a slight V-shape with good clarity and frequency response throughout. They aren't the most detailed IEM, but nothing feels as if it's missing, simply just some grain muddling it up. The sound is presented in an intimate manner with good depth to it.
To get more wordy, the bass is absolutely capable of thumping for electronic music with good extension, speed and impact. The bass isn't on a DUNU Hephaes level, nor would I consider it bass head level, but it definitely asserts itself in a good way with a great amount and quality. The bass isn't so prominent though as to over extend itself into the mids, quite the opposite actually. The bass accentuates the mids in rock music adding to the attitude and energy of the guitars and vocals due to its delicate balance. The mids sound a little dry at times, but there's fantastic depth to vocals and excellent clarity. Despite the slightly recessed mids the M4 are perfectly capable of delivering the crunch needed sometimes. The highs are excellent here, a bit sharp at times and a tad grainy, but they are well extended. I've never at one point felt there was anything missing in the highs, or at any point in the frequency spectrum for that matter.
The M4 aren't the most detailed headphones, but I never felt I was missing out on any part of a song, despite how subtle or intricate a part is. The sound stage is rather small and aggressive, but the instrument separation is fantastic and the depth is phenomenal to it. Panning sounds spot on and the depth of the instruments on live recordings makes me feel as if I'm at the concert. Every instruments sounds where it should be. Brainwavz claims the M4 benefit from amping and I have to agree they do sound a bit better with a cleaner source, but I've been enjoying them just as much straight from my iPod as I have with my iBasso D4.
Onto the songs:
Radiohead - Jigsaw Falling Into Place
I love this song, it has good energy to it that doesn't always translate well. The M4 definitely are a headphone that translate the energy well here though. The bassline is rolling along as the kick drum thumps. The hi-hat hits and snare hits are easily heard as the guitar sits in the left ear. The vocals are front and present and don't sound recessed at all, in-fact they sound intimate and very clear. The emotion conveyed through Thom's singing is easily felt through the M4 and it gives me goosebumps. If the M4 have recessed mids it's not apparent here, this song is a very mid-centric song with the vocals being the prominent instrument and the M4 don't disappoint.
The xx - Fantasy
This is largely an atmospheric song relying on a good presentation to sound it's best while having a very intense heavy rolling bass line. The presentation of this song is just wonderful. The vocals and the atmospheric noises in the back sound as if it were recorded in a cave, and I say that with the highest regard I possibly can. The rolling bassline is simply rumbling my ear, resonating in my ears and vibrating around. Then a sparse guitar comes in and the depth the M4 give it is simply phenomenal, it's as if the guitar is moving closer and further and left and right. Outstanding.
Cults - You Know What I Mean
A heavily influenced song by 50s pop, a lot of focus on the highs here. The M4 are somewhat bright and when the chorus comes the song has a somewhat of a sharp edge to it, but throughout the song there's good space. The presentation reminds me of a 1950's high school prom, which is honestly exactly what this song reminds me of. The M4 again show it's fantastic sound stage and positioning.
Bloc Party - Banquet
This song has a lot of energy and a lot to focus on if you really want to. Right away I notice how perfectly separated the instruments are as each guitar has it's separate channel. The drums thud away in the middle with every hit on any drum being easily and clearly heard as each guitar alternates in left or right clearly. The chorus comes and the bass, drums, two guitars and vocals are all easily picked out with no problems. Slight grain shows up but it's nothing more than a small smudge on an otherwise perfectly clear window.
Hot Chip - The Warning
I love the warm fuzzy yet cold feel to this song with a nice build up. The kick drum is thumping as the xylophone loop sounds crystal clear. Once the melody comes in the xylophone loop is still easily heard. The keyboards come in and sound absolutely warm and fuzzy as the cold melody continues. The vocals hit the spot, intimate, hushed and very clear. This song is just fantastic through the M4!
The M4 are simply put a great headphone. I can't find one con to them from build quality to sound quality. The M4 simply are above average in every department. Some describe the M4 as a v-shaped sound, but I don't feel as if the mids are lacking in the least bit. Like the Beta's the M4 show excellent sound stage, maybe not in width but in perception and depth. Are the M4 going to wow anyone from the start? I don't think so. That doesn't mean they aren't fantastic though. What makes the M4 exceptional is the versatility they have. I can't find one genre I don't enjoy through these. I highly recommend these.
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