Brainwavz S5 Review: You get more than what you paid for!
My first experience with Brainwavz was the R3 and to be honest, I really like them despite the negative reception from most users regarding fit and comfort. The R3 sounded mature, well refined, and the timbre was just mesmerising. Now Brainwavz has just released the S5 and I am fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to review their new offering. So lets find out if the new S5 can impress me just as much as my last experience...
SETUP: Colorfly C3 > JDS Labs C5D
iMac 2011 > JDS Labs C5D
Using Comply TS200 foam tips.
Dr. Chesky’s Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc
Dream Theater - Greatest Hit (…and 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs)
Tool - Lateralus
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Avicii - True
Pink - Greatest Hits... So Far!
Tina Turner - Greatest Hits
Boyz II Men - II
Michael Jackson - Bad (Remastered)
The S5 has a single dynamic driver incased in a metal housing that is very well made with smooth surfaces. The strain reliefs are probably amongst the best, if not the best I've seen in an IEM. I wouldn't have a problem tossing these earphones around even when taken outdoors. I believe these can take the test of time and I'm glad that they've taken the same concept they originally had with the R3 but improved on the negatives such as the thickness and weight of the cables. The S5 cables may not be the lightest but they certainly are a lot better compared to the hefty R3 cables. I only wished they've used a less rubbery material and then terminated into an angled plug instead for a more concealed application when using these earphones outdoors. Other than that, there's really not much I can nit pick on the S5's build quality.
The SOUND of the S5 is quite pleasing to my ears, positioning itself as one of the top performers in the $100 price range. Not necessarily the best but definitely a lot better than most budget IEMs I’ve heard.
BASS has solid slam and impact but can be too emphasized for some genres such as heavy metal. There’s a noticeable boost in the entire bass frequency which I feel should’ve been minimized in the mid-bass region. At certain times the bass texture is just too thick that it causes a bit of veil over complex bass guitar lines. Fortunately, the quality is good enough with its decay/speed hovering at acceptable levels. Not as fast as balance armature driven earphones but not sloppy either… just a well balanced and natural sounding bass response that doesn’t bleed into the midrange. As a result, other genres sound really good on these! RnB, Rap, Hip-hop, Pop, and Rock Ballads are such a pleasure to listen through the S5.
MIDRANGE is quite intimate, clear, and detailed which I really appreciate considering those are hard to come by at this price range. Vocals are upfront especially with female artists giving an illusion that they’re singing in front of you. Guitar riffs in ballads are pleasantly presented like they’re the main feature of the song… thanks to the slight emphasis in the upper midrange. Clarity is also worth mentioning because it is quite capable and it’s a contributing factor in maintaining a good balance between low and mid frequencies.
HIGHS can be an issue for those who are sensitive to sibilance. There’s an emphasis in the lower treble that can sound harsh with some female vocals, aggressive sounding genres, and poorly mastered tracks. Despite this hurdle, I truly feel the added sparkle is needed to complement the boosted bass. Fortunately, the sibilance issue can be eliminated by using the right type of tips and I find comply foams really effective. Using Comply TS200 tips with the S5 not only eliminates sibilance but also results into a more even treble response with above average detail/resolution. Treble extension is good enough for most tracks but there are times when I feel like it could've benefit with just a little bit more.
IMAGING AND SOUNDSTAGE: Soundstage width is average but it doesn’t detract from a good musical presentation. Some listeners prefer a more intimate experience and the S5 is one of the strong candidates for the job. What makes the overall presentation work is the imaging capability of this budget wonder. Instruments are well placed all over the soundstage with no signs of congestion. The only time I noticed a short coming is when a complex and fast tempo bass guitar riff takes place. The emphasis in the mid bass coupled with its bass decay characteristic seem to veil the imaging and detail a bit. Other than that, the S5 is a solid performer as a budget IEM.
R3 COMPARISON: The overall sound is quite warm with enough clarity and sparkle making the S5 a well balanced, fun sounding IEM. Isolation is quite acceptable for outdoor use coupled with a robust build makes this an excellent choice for those who are looking for a daily driver without compromising sound quality. Compared to the older R3 dual-dynamic IEM from the same manufacturer, the S5 is just a little bit behind in terms of bass and treble refinement but it more than makes up for it in terms of fun factor, fit, and comfort. Aside from that, the S5 also sounds much richer in the midrange compared to the more laid back R3. I would say that the R3's inclination towards a neutral sound signature complements really well to the fun and energetic sounding S5. Two very good sounding yet contrasting offerings from Brainwavz!
CONCLUSION: The new S5 is an excellent offering from Brainwavz and is an awesome choice for those who are looking for a durable yet good sounding earphones for everyday use. At this price point, it's really a no brainer as I haven't really found a competitor than can out match the S5 in terms of durability and sound quality combined. These IEMs can take a beating and I most definitely recommend these to those who are always on the move and are in need of devices that can withstand vigorous activities.
Special thanks to Brainwavz for the S5 review unit.