This was originally meant for a Dual Dynamic Trilogy comparison with the HAVI B3 in the line-up... unfortunately the B3 I got was not the original PRO version. Instead, I got the enhanced version that is too bassy, muddy, and lacked a bit of sparkle to sound right. It is not worthy of being compared to the likes of Brainwavz' R3 and KEF's M200, both awesome sounding dual dynamics.
The R3 and M200 both have a notorious reputation of potentially ruining ones experience because of fit issues. The M200 with its enormous nozzle plus fiddly ear guides are just as much of a hassle as the R3's unorthodox shape and extremely long ear guides.Those of you who have read my past reviews know that I don't really tackle aesthetics and fit. My reasons being: 1) Issues arising from those factors are fully discussed in dedicated appreciation threads and 2) I believe such issues although problematic for a number of users may not actually be a problem for some. As for these dual dynamic IEMs, they both were a bit troublesome for me personally; fortunately I was able to overcome my issues with them after a few adjustments here and there.
Now that the "fit issue" that is worth mentioning is out of the way, let's find out how these dual dynamics sound!
SETUP: Colorfly C3 > JDS Labs C5
Brainwavz R3 + large grey stock tips (deep insertion)
KEF M200 + Dunu DN-1000 translucent black stock tips (deep insertion)
Test tracks are all in 16bit/44Khz FLAC format.
The KEF M200's sound performance can vary significantly depending on insertion depth and the type of tips used. I find deep insertion + wide bore tips allow better extension and resolution on both low and high ends of the sound frequency.
This is where the major difference between the two dual dynamics lie. The M200 is significantly more boosted at the low end compared to the R3. To my ears, the latter is much closer to a neutral bass presentation with just a little bit of boost and a bit of roll-off in the sub bass; the M200 on the other hand sounds much closer to the level of bass of the Sony MH1/c and extends better into the sub bass region. The M200 is definitely a lot warmer and has more impact than the R3. To give you a better picture of the difference in bass levels: I had to activate the bass boost on JDS labs C5 to get the same approximate bass level of the M200 from the R3. With the bass boost on, the R3's bass extends further plus the impact is just as good as the M200. That being said, one isn't necessarily better than the other because they both perform really well in this department. The M200 bass may sometimes bleed into the mids although this is only apparent when comparing the M200 closely to brighter IEMs such as the R3. Otherwise, listening to the M200 on its own I really can't detect any bass bleed into the mids not unless the song is mastered with exaggerated bass forwardness.
Aside from the bass levels, the feel is also quite different between them. The M200 extracts a lot more air out of those humongous nozzles vs the R3's subdued air. I'm guessing this is because of the unique configuration of the R3 where both drivers are facing each other vertically resulting to a more confined air pressure before leaking out of the nozzles. Very different from the more orthodox configuration of the M200 where in the drivers are faced directly towards your eardrums. NOTE: I'm only talking about the amount of air coming out of the nozzles and how they feel as they reach your inner ear.
Layering is magnificent on both IEMs with the M200 excelling a bit more in terms of resolution. Bass lines are more articulate when listening to the M200 but the R3 is not far behind as long as the bass boost is activated on the JDS labs C5. Without the bass boost, the R3 still sounds clean, punchy, and detailed. Speed and decay is a bit better on the R3 although the M200 is really close. You'll have to listen very closely to hear the minute differences. Timbre is equally excellent and I must say that both dual dynamics are amongst the best sounding bass timbre I've heard in an IEM.
Based on technical ability, the M200 is a bit better but the R3 is really not far behind especially when paired with a decent amp like the JDS Labs C5 and the bass boost switched on. Personally, I like the versatility of the R3... if I need more bass presence because the song requires it, the bass boost switch is just a flick away. The M200 on the other hand... if I feel there's too much bass, there's not much I can do but fiddle with the EQ settings which I really dislike. Most bass reducers are not done right, so one has to painstakingly create his own EQ settings.
The tuning becomes a lot more similar between these dual dynamics with the M200 just sounding a little bit recessed in the lower mids and a little bit forward in the upper mids. When I say little, it is really small that it's unnoticeable upon casual listening. The R3 is more neutral in the lower mids with a little more forward upper mids. Pretty similar to the M200 but the R3's vocals and guitars are just a little bit more upfront when compared. Nevertheless, both IEMs are rich/full sounding, quite detailed, with above average clarity. The most apparent difference is that the R3 can sound like it has more clarity when compared closely because of the warmer signature of the KEF. The M200 can sometimes sound a little bit grainy which adds some character to vocals like they are coming from standalone speakers. I just love how vocals are produced by these dual dynamics... so lush and mesmerising. In the upper mids, the R3 is bit more revealing giving it the upper hand when playing tracks that present vocals as the main focus. Guitar crunches are also a little bit more edgy and clearer but the M200 is not far behind. TIMBRE is again splendid on both IEMs! I'm quite overwhelmed by how real the vocals, guitars, and piano sound on these dual dynamics.
Despite how similar these dual dynamics are in presenting the mids signature wise, I ended up preferring the R3. Not because of the more forward upper mids but it's more on the overall presentation which will be further explained in the IMAGING/SEPARATION section below.
The M200 has really smooth treble with good detail/resolution. Sibilance is never an issue unless you're listening to a badly mastered track. The only downside I can nit pick is that it doesn't sound as natural as the Dunu DN-1000. Cymbals, hi-hats, and percussion instruments may sound a little bit thin and lacking a bit of reverb to make them ring! Sometimes, you really have to listen closely to hear the hi-hat because it seems to get drowned in the background by the other instruments. Fortunately, the M200 extends really well in the upper frequency... you'll just have to listen very closely to hear the micro details that lie in the background.
The R3 on the other hand is quite impressive in the treble region. Everything sounds so natural and airy with a lot of sparkle, sizzle and ringing. Micro-detail is as good as the Astrotec AX-60 and I commend it for staying within the limits to not sound sibilant. Very transparent, well extended, and excellent in revealing artefacts in crappy/compressed recordings. There are a few peaks here and there but are well controlled and just add definition to the instruments in the treble region. I really love how awesome the cymbals and hi-hat sound on the R3. Probably the best I've heard from a dynamic IEM!
Hands down, the R3 excels in the treble region not just against the M200 but in all other dynamic IEMs I've heard. The R3 can even hold its own against hybrids like the T-PEOS H200, Dunu DN-1000 and Astrotec AX-60 only losing in overall refinement.
Although both M200 and R3 are equally great in detail retrieval, what sets them apart is how one excels in placing vocals and instruments in the right areas and separating them effectively to promote cohesiveness. The M200 has a slight problem in imaging/placement. Most of the time its focus is right in the middle of the stage where it combines vocals, guitars, and piano/keyboard in the same area. As a result, they occasionally sound like fighting for the position/area giving the impression of confusion to the listener. The R3 on the other hand, does a great job at separating the vocals and instruments placing them in areas within the soundstage where they can be heard distinctly. The presentation is well organised giving you the illusion of a real stage.
The M200's soundstage width is decently good to my ears. It has great height but lacks the depth for it to sound more spacious. The R3 is better in width and sounds almost as wide as the Dunu DN-1000. Depth is excellent with acceptable height. Overall, I prefer the more spacious presentation of the R3.
To be honest, I am quite surprised with the outcome of this comparison. I went in thinking that there's no way the Braiwavz R3 can best the awesome sounding KEF M200. Initially I thought that the M200 is the best sounding dynamic IEM I've ever heard but after listening to the R3, the latter didn't only best the M200 but also revealed its flaws that I didn't really discover before. With the R3 priced a lot cheaper than the M200, all I can say is: "Good on you, Brainwavz!"
Special thanks to MP4Nation for making this review happen!
Edited by d marc0 - 2/6/14 at 3:55am