Brainwavs HM5 Review
Brainwavs are company known mainly for their rather impressive budget IEMs in which I have reviewed one of their older models and although it didn’t actually impress me that much it was still a solid contender for its price. Now I have their flagship headphone for review and this is perhaps the most OEMed headphone that you can find. Fischer Audio for a start do a version and then so do loads of little unheard of companies in the audio world such as studiospares. However I will be reviewing the Brainwavs version and what you get for that price.
It is a headphone that is got great features for the price as well as marketed as having a flat response that sounds very appealing to me and I still have yet to find a negative opinion about these headphones.
They retail for about £75 in the UK.
The set-up I have used is the normal, as I have started using a new portable rig, which is the Hippo CriCri amplifier connected through a LOD to an iPod Nano 3G with Apple Lossless and MP3 on it.
I also used my old set-ups of my iPhone 4, Cowon J3 (with FLAC) and my iMac with my Objective 2 amplifier. I also have paired these with a few other amps such as the MiuAudio MRB.
The design of these is very lush and these are really pleasant to look at. That being said I would not say that these are fashionable by any means. It has a sophisticated look if anything. They are all black with the silver crescents on the cups shrouding the Brainwavs logo.
The build is rather goo considering that these come with two removable cables and a sturdy construction. The cable is terminated in a metal jack that has a gold plug and a massive strain relief. The cable before the split is a dual cable with both channel cables stuck together. The y-split is just a chunk of plastic that is nothing major. The connectors that go into the cups are also sturdy with a nice strain relief to them.
The chassis of the headphones such as the yoke are all a plastic and the headband has an under layer of metal. However what is plastic feels strong and what metal feels stronger. The cups are very nice and the cups and pads can be removed and replaced/modified and you can get the likes of wooden cups for them. However that is if a problem ever occurred with the stock gear which I doubt because the cups seem to have a layer of brushed aluminum that feels great.
You get a slightly different to normal selection with these but are very nice nonetheless.
First off you get some spare ear pads that are slightly firmer and a more memory foam material. This is a very nice addition as it will be handy if the first pads were ever to perish or just because you prefer the sound or comfort of the other ones.
You also get another cable with them. The one is use is the one for portable use and that is at 1.2m and the other one is better for home use at 3m. This is quite handy as the extra extension can come in handy and the short one is great and necessary for on the go.
You also get the usual adapters including a ¼ inch one and a airplane adapter.
Finally there packaging doubles up as a storage case that is padded with foam and is just great for looking after them with a cutout of the headphones inside them.
The comfort of these is a bit iffy to be honest. While the pads are soft and on initial though they have little clamping force, this changes quite quickly and then you start to notice some force and then it can get painful. They are also rather heavy. Another thing is because they are so big on your head and cover so much they can make you really hot.
The isolation is rather impressive. I is not going to isolate music like many of my in ear monitors or the likes of that but these handily will beat any on ear headphones and destroy open backed headphones. The only over the ear headphones that isolate better are my Rock It R-Shield and the Beats Pro also did. However I have noticed little bit of sound leaking in. However this all matters very little as these are not ideal to take out the house.
Microphonics (Cable Noise):
These have very low microphonics that will not trouble anyone and they do not even have the faintest if tapping noises for example. So need to worry about this department.
By what I am about to write I do not want to cause any upsets or arguments as this topic can be seen as a sour subject. These have had roughly 100 hours now of use and burn in combined. As burn in is not scientifically proven this all could be mental and happening in my head but in the case that it does happen I recommend burning them in as in my personal experience I have noted improvements which have a massive impact on my enjoyment factor, so don’t make any irrational decisions after listening to them out the box.
The sound quality is on the thin line between neutral to the bass being ever so slightly emphasized. I say this because the overall sound is a tad dark due to the slight falling behind of the mids and treble. Nothing is horribly behind or muddy and the bass is far from huge and dominant. The overall sound is fairly fast and smooth.
Soundstage and instrument separation:
These are closed headphones and with that there is no denying that the soundstage is a closed one. It is lying on the claustrophobic side and we could definitely do a bit better although there is width and height presents and a slight bit of depth making the sound two-dimensional and on the verge of three-dimensional nothing is more than average and it only just gets out of your head space. It is overall no crying shame and will still do better than any closed or ported on ear headphones I have heard but it is also nothing to be overjoyed about.
The instrument separation on these is not the greatest but nothing sounds like it is coming from identical spots. Then again it is not a headphone that allows you to pinpoint where every little headphone is coming from to clearly. However it is all not muddy or muddled, just not crystal clear.
The is a slight notch in the mid-bass frequencies and they keep flat cleanly into the bass and then start to drop as we get real low into the sub-bass but it maintains it still fairly well. The mid-bass is quite quick and does not damage the midrange hugely. It is on the tighter side though in comparison to the boomy side and is actually really quick. Texture is also very nice with good layering and it makes bass a pleasure.
The extension as I mentioned before is very flat and linear and it does give a nice thump from the deep sub-bass regions. You get a fairly strong rumble and it is very satisfying.
The midrange is slightly tilted behind the bass and the thinnest of veils over it and a little bit of coloration as well. They are also on the warm side ever so slightly but could pass for dry also. Other than that they are rather smooth, not the most detailed but very pleasant and to the point with a very natural tone. I think the mids are very enjoyable because the tad of warmth to them stops them being sooo boring like dry mids can be. Timbre is great and drums are amazing, great impact and speed and beautifully realism and the same thing goes for guitar.
Treble is a bit lacking and it is also a bit on the harsh and tinny sound. It lacks a bit of extension and sparkles and just wants to demand a bit more attention. I would not go as far as saying that it sounds harsh but it sounds a bit wobbly at times and lacks overall smoothness. However there is still enough present to stop these being dark which is good and it is still not awesome, just lacking parts in it.
These are far from a perfect headphone but then nothing is in this price range and the flaws are clearly outweighed by what these do well. These almost hit a completely flat and neutral response and have a very strong signature and that still maintains enough bass for everyone. What we have here is almost a Vsonic GR07 in headphone from with more bass emphasis and warmth, which can not be said as a bad thing. So if you’re looking for a enjoyable headphone bordering on flat around the £100 price point then these are your best bet.
Edited by Swimsonny - 9/14/12 at 1:07pm