Pros: Lightweight, good fit with provided tips, rather clean sound which should respond well to EQ.
Cons: Rather cheap feeling due to the plastic construction, mid-bass is boomy.
Preferred Genres: Trance and some Jazz.
Amp: Not necessary, though the bass has better control through one.
Listening Set-up: Musicbee (Wasapi) -> ODAC -> O2; iPod Classic
When the R1 arrived at my door I was fully expecting the black and blue color palette that the previous Brainwavz headphones I’ve used have come in. I was shocked to find maroon, red and tan colors, very reminiscent of autumn. I very much so like the color change, it’s unique and appealing to the eye for someone looking at the shelves. Upon scanning the outside, the box is set up sleak. On the front R1 is in big letters, also appearing in the upper right corner, with a small window for the IEMs in the bottom right hand side.The sides are rather bare, with the back providing a lot of information from technical specs to the accessory list. At this point I am impressed, the packaging has been completely revamped with a feeling of elegance.
A sleeve pulls off towards the left exposing a box inside that is very minimal in design, it’s simply an outline rendering of the IEMs that wraps around the covered side. Very sleek! From there the box opens from the previously covered part and from here things go back to basics. The IEMs are secured in a clear plastic mold with all of the accessories tucked neatly beneath inside of the carrying case. Included with the R1 IEMs is: an airplane adaptor, 1/4’’ adaptor, a hard case, a set of silicon tips and a pair of Comply tips. The 1/4’’ adaptor indicates that Brainwavz intends these to be used at home as well as portably, which is very interesting and something I haven’t seen in an IEM yet.
Build Quality and Design
The Brainwavz R1 are a step away from Brainwavz’ previous designs in a few ways. The first is the over-ear design. There are meant to be worn over ear, in-fact the only way I could manage to wear them down is to switch the earphones, but even then the body rubs on the outside of the ear causing discomfort. Secondly, the R1 are, to my knowledge, the first IEM to be featured in a color. The R1 feature a black and red body that stands out from the rest of their line-up and hints at possible future deviations. Lastly, these are the first IEMs from Brainwavz that I’m aware of that are solely made of plastic. The housings feel as durable as any of their other IEMs, and are just as lightweight, but it gives them a glossy look.
The housings themselves are rectangle shaped and as I said, they are designed for over ear use. The housings are red on the inner portion of them and black on the outer portion with a contrasting red logo. The nozzle is rather large with no filter at all. There’s a plastic divider that separates the two drivers with no notch to keep IEMs from slipping out if they are a tight fight. The outside has a port for, what I believe to be, only one driver.
Leaving the housing the wire has a short and stiff stress relief. The cable itself is a bit plastic in feel, coming off rigid, but it has put up with a lot of stress and abuse by me. The cable includes a cinch, which I find necessary for over ear headphones. This without the cinch I find that the cables have a hard time staying behind my ears, which makes exercise a pain. The cable terminates into a 90 degree angle flat plug.
I’ve come to very much enjoy the secure fit, as well as the added isolation, of the double flanged tips over the single flanged. The tips fit nicely into my ears, I usually use a medium for both ears, and I’m able to get a great seal. The isolation is above average. Without music playing my keystrokes are muted almost fully, I estimate about 70% isolation compared to the average IEM giving 50% in my experiences. Microphonics are apparent, but the cinch and over ear design block out enough to make it inaudible when music is playing. The fit and good isolation make these good for exercising.
I have thoroughly used the Brainwavz R1 over the few months I have owned them. I have no noticed any significant burn-in changes. I have also not noticed huge benefits from an amp, thus my opinions are taken from a mix of iPod listening and my home set-up. My test track thoughts can be viewed here.
Here’s the skinny on the R1. The R1 are bass focused IEMs with slightly pushy vocals. They have a clean sound that I feel will respond greatly to EQ for those who would like to balance the sound. As they stand though, I feel that the low end is too pushy and takes away the delicate balance in many songs, generally pushing many subtle nuances out of the picture. The vocals can come off a bit pushy, as if they are in a shouting match with the overbearing bass. There wasn’t very much I enjoyed listening to through these, but vocal trance seemed to fit the best. Again though, these will likely respond very well to EQ due to their above average clarity.
The lows are the focus and also the bane of these headphones for me. The bass is always front and center in every song, regardless of genre. From Explosions in the Sky to High Contrast I’ve felt that the bass was too much. The bass has good extension, but carries only a slight rumble. The focus is certainly on the mid-bass, where kick drums are too forward and bass guitars are often put on the same level as guitars when they aren’t supposed to be. The sub-bass has good presence and a mild rumble, but it carries little energy. Overall I feel the bass actually takes a lot of energy away because I am struggling to enjoy the other parts of the music.
The mids are the focus, right behind the mid-bass. Listening to vocal heavy music it’s apparent that Brainwavz wanted to go for an energetic vocal focused IEM with a strong bass presence, but I feel they missed the delicate balance. The vocals often sound strained, as if they are attempting to compete with the bass presence. The mids come off nice and clean though, while horns have a life-like quality about them. One thing I can not complain about is the clarity. These aren’t Sennheiser HD800, but these aren’t $1,500. These are $50 IEMs. When the bass isn’t present I enjoy the overall sound. There’s some things I would change, the mids are a bit thick for one, but overall these sound good in these regions for the price.
The biggest problem after the bass is the rather narrow and forward presentation of the R1. The width is average at best, which congests the sound a bit. This amplifies the problems I have with the bass, as it feels as if it’s competing for space on the narrow stage. The depth of the music is average, certainly deeper than the soundstage is wide. The music comes off layered with nice texture. The sound presentation is a bit lackluster, but then again not many IEMs really do well in this department, especially at this price.
The Brainwavz R1 are an entry level dual-driver IEM that are built to suit a dual purpose. Brainwavz wants these to be your go-to headphone for home use and on-the-go. Unfortunately the R1 does not scale well enough with a proper amplifier and DAC to warrant using them primarily for home uses. The R1 excel at their isolation and fit, which makes them great portable IEMs. Their sound, like many other IEMs in this price range, leans bass heavy with a dual emphasis on the mids. The sound can be congested due to the narrow soundstage and the mids seem strained at times. The good thing is that the sound is rather clear and those that do want to EQ these should have a capable IEM that can fit many needs. The R1 are currently available for $40 on Amazon. This is a good bargain and for those that have a multi-band EQ on their portable device should find a solid budget pair of IEMs. More pictures can be viewed here.