It's been years since I last participated on head-fi, but felt compelled to write a quick review after my last headphone experience. Quick background: the height of my head-fi participation involved a balanced pair of Lawton Audio D2k's, DACMagic and a RudiStor amp. For me it was pretty much audio heaven. I can recall times where I'd sit there listening to music grinning ear to ear feeling I was in another world. I since sold that setup years back and slowly beginning my ascent back into the headphone world 1 step at a time.
I was seeking a pair of IEMs to use for work, traveling and around the house. After doing some research I came across the Brainwavz B2 headphones. The reviews I read stated that these are a great bang for the buck headphone for around $160 that uses a dual balanced armature driver and are fairly easy to drive. While I enjoy my bass, I am more drawn to overall sound quality, presentation and sound stage. I primarily listen to a wide variety of electronic music from electro house, progressive psy, drum and bass, vocal trance & house, progressive and some dub-step. After reading some reviews and trying to digest this IEM roundup, I was looking in the Tier 2A headphones in the $150 - $250 range. The Brainwavz B2 were tied for the highest sound rating in that category with a 9.2 out of 10. As I searched for them, I ended up finding them on Amazon for $100 and couldn't resist pulling the trigger.
A majority of my listening on the go comes from streaming music on soundcloud or di.fm or youtube, clearly not FLAC quality recordings, which was nearly all I used with my prior setup. As I plugged the Brainwavz B2 into my Galaxy S3, I immediately felt disappointed and asked myself, "This is it?" . The bass response was so minimal for me I almost thought they were defective. I was comparing the B2s to a $20 pair of Sony IEMs I got at Target to use when working out or doing yard work. To me the Sony's were more musical simply because it had some bass presence and were easily driven. I could appreciate the separation of instruments, improved clarity and sound quality of the B2s but not enough to justify a 5x higher price. I requested a return label from Amazon and boxed them up.
In the meantime, I ordered a Leckerton Audio UHA-6S MKII to build up a new mobile rig and improve my listening at the office without having a desktop AMP / DAC that I had to worry about. I also ordered a pair of HE-400s so I didn't have to use IEMs all day at work. The UHA-6S MKII arrived and I plugged my $20 Sony headphones into them and couldn't believe the difference it made. The cheap Sony's really came alive with tighter bass, a larger sound stage and better instrument separation. As crappy as this setup was in comparison to my old Denon rig, it actually left me with a smile. I had the B2s sitting in my car ready to be dropped off at the UPS store and figured, it's worth a shot on the UHA-6S MKII.
Upon plugging in the B2s to the UHA-6S MKII my smile began to grow. Bass was now present, very tight and controlled, but was there. Exactly what I'd want for IEMs that I could potentially be listening to for hours on end. To me the best improvement was the sound stage and instrument separation. I was hearing things in songs that seemed so distant from each other, sometimes making my head spin. I began to appreciate the B2s and could see why they would receive a 9.2 out of 10 rating.
Over the past two days, I have yet to move the volume knob of the UHA-6S MKII past 9 o'clock (starts around 7 o'clock) on high gain. I feel so engaged with the music even at very low listening levels. I can highly recommend this combo to anyone with B2s. In fact, I have only used the DAC via a USB connection which has a max output of 16-bit/48-kHz, so I know it will only get better once I begin listening to my collection of FLAC music using the 24-bit/96-kHz S/PDIF connection.
I'm currently awaiting some Ety tri-flange headphone tips, which I'm hoping will slightly improve the bass response from creating a better seal and deeper insertion. I will update this post once I receive them.
Anyone considering the Brainwavz B2, plan on amping them properly despite some reviews saying they don't need much power. I know I was disappointed and honestly probably wouldn't even justify spending $50 on them if I planned on running them off my Galaxy S3, the cheap-o headphones were a better fit to my listening tastes un-amped.
Highly recommend both the Brainwavz B2 and the Leckerton Audio UHA-6S MKII. If you can get these headphones for around $100, they are a truly steal and one of the best bang-for-the-buck audio investments I've made.
Edited by GeoD - 10/30/13 at 12:48pm