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Universal Fit item created by nightmancometh, Oct 19, 2010
Pros - mature sound, resolution, soundstage depth, instrument placement, texture, coherency
Cons - shape, bridge, cable could be a little more flexible, bass a little soft (though texture and control are good)
Before I start with my actual review, I’d like to thank Pandora from GPGSHK and Brainwavz for providing me with a sample of the Brainwavz M3 in exchange for my honest in-depth review.
Brainwavz is a Chinese company that is known for making inexpensive headphones with a good price-performance ratio.
The M3 that has nothing to do with the same-named German car (J) except for the name and is the flagship of the Brainwavz “M”-series. It is also only available with black body and without remote control or microphone.
Drivers: Dynamic, 10.7 mm
Rated Impedance: 20 Ohms
Frequency Range: 20 Hz ~ 20 kHz
Sensitivity: 115 dB at 1 mW
Cable: 1.3 m Y-cord, Silver Plated
Plug: 3.5 mm, gold-plated
The M3 comes in a cardboard box that is designed in the typical Brainwavz colours black and red. On the front, there’s a viewing window allowing you to get a sneak peek on the in-ears. Below is a shiny, sublime shadowy illustration of the M3. Specs, delivery content and additional information about the in-ears are located on the back side of the box.
Breaking the seal, one will find the typical red and black Brainwavz carrying case that contains a shirt clip, a pair of Comply Foam tips, six pairs of colour-coded hybrid silicone tips in three different sizes and last but not least a pair of double-flange ear tips.
The flagship of the M series is mostly made out of high-quality plastic, but there are also nice and decorative aluminium applications on the IEMs’ bodies that are halfway through made out of aluminium as well.
The cable that is twisted and then coated, just like the elder generations of the SoundMagic E10, is thin and lightweight but sturdily made, although it could be just a tad less tough.
Below the y-split is plenty of good strain-relief, however there’s none above it and on the IEMs themselves.
Typical for Brainwavz is the 3.5 mm jack that has got a 45° angle of which I’m not the biggest fan, but as the cable is very flexible and elastic at this place and has got excellent strain relief, I don’t have much concern of it breaking.
Due to the bridge on the body of each IEM, the M3 was probably designed to be worn the “regular way” with the cables straight down, but at least for my ears, it is possible to wear them comfortably over the ear, which improves fit and reduces microphonics, without swapping sides.
In my ears, both methods are possible without any limitations or comfort issues.
Isolation is inferior to fully closed IEMs due to the M3’s bass-reflex bore, but is still upper middleclass in terms of isolation intensity.
Before I started listening, the M3 got at least 50 hours of burn-in, just in case if there were any effects of it.
Listening took place with my iBasso DX90. Music files were mainly CD rips (16 bit, 44.4 kHz), but also Hi-Res files and MP3s (320 kBps cbr). Ear tips I used were the large silicone tips.
The M3’s sound signature could be best described as fairly balanced and well-mannered.
Bass is evenly emphasised and therefore slightly north of neutral, with a focus mainly on mid-bass, but I wouldn’t go that far to talk about a clearly emphasised low range or even bassy sound, as the M3’s low range is just raised as much that it doesn’t sound boring to people that want a neutral-ish sound signature but find truly neutral bass to be not satisfactory enough.
That said, upper bass has a little less level than mid-bass, just as the lowest ranges of sub-bass. Transition from upper bass to the slightly emphasised lower ground tone area is smooth; it can be said that lows are a little on the warm side.
Lows don’t bleed into mids at all which is a nice thing. Speaking about the midrange: to my ears, mids are always present, tonally correct and without any coloration, furthermore they also lack any sharpness and sound never bothersome due to the moderate notch between 1 and 3 kHz (presence area).
From 3 kHz on, level starts increasing again from mid highs to upper highs, where a peak is located at about 8 kHz, adding freshness and airiness to the sound without sounding annoying or harsh at any times. Despite this emphasis, treble sounds natural to me and is never tinny or metallic, which is also due to the high resolution in this area. Cymbals’ decay sounds very clean and crisp. At about 13 kHz, there’s a second peak, but it is rather broad-banded.
A typical thing for IEMs with dynamic transducers the M3 adopts is a broad sonic range, wherefore there’s still sound without much roll-off below 25 Hz and above 17 kHz.
The resolution of the flagship of Brainwavz’ M series is particularly very good in the mids and treble, with proper speech intelligibility at very low listening levels. The M3 surpasses Brainwavz’ R3 that backs on two dynamic drivers per side especially in the midrange where the R3 sounds somewhat coated and woolly.
However, the M3 has to surrender against the Logitech UE600vi (formerly known as Super.Fi 5) and Phonak Audéo PFE132, both in-ears with a single Balanced Armature driver in each side, but isn’t far behind them and beats both in terms of treble extension and the UE600vi in terms of mids that sound somewhat tinny. The Sennheiser IE 80 also beats the M3 in terms of treble and mids resolution, but costs triple the money.
Lows are quite controlled and don’t soften towards sub-bass, but it is audible that the M3 uses dynamic transducers, as its bass doesn’t quite achieve the speed and precision of Balanced Armature transducers, which is audible in a slightly soft impact, though control and body are very good. On the other hand, the M3’s bass is still much drier and better defined than the IE 80’s muddy and bloated low range.
The Phonak’s and UE’s BA transducers are definitely faster and more arid in the lows, but also soften towards sub-bass, whereas the M3’s bass doesn’t.
The M3 clearly beats the R3 in terms of bass shape and body.
M3’s expansion to the sides is only good mediocrity and somewhat smaller than the Brainwavz Jive’s, R1’s or IE 80’s. In return, its imaginary soundstage offers a truly impressive and authentic depth with good instrument separation and placement, precise scaling and layering.
Although the M3’s pictured space is overall smaller than the R1’s or IE 80’s, it maintains a more precise scaling and layering in depth.
The UE600vi’s instrument separation is sharper, but the Brainwavz is better in terms of instrument placement and layering. The M3 in this regard also beats the Phonak that never had a coherent stage in my ears.
The M3’s stage is just extremely coherent, authentic and has got a nice airiness.
Brainwavz’ flagship of the M series convinces with a terrific resolution in the mids and highs, an overall balanced sound signature and a fantastic soundstage reproduction that offers a neat instrument placement and spatial depth. Solely the low range that could be a bit more arid for my tastes isn’t free of minor criticism from my side, but I have to say that I’m used to the fast and dry bass from Balanced Armature transducers and always have more or less the same criticism with all IEMs with dynamic transducers, even at Sennheiser’s IE 800 flagship, wherefore this is criticism on a high level (the M3’s bass is definitely faster, drier and tighter than the IE 80’s or the SoundMagic E10’s).
There are definitely way more pro than contra points for this IEM, and for the MSRP, one gets a lot of balanced and grown-up sound for comparatively little money and I have to admit that the M3 is definitely among my favourite dynamic IEMs below $100.
Pros - Sound Quality, Build Quality, Comfort
Cons - Value
Me: I am a 21 year old Engineering student living in a small town in India. I would like to call myself a music enthusiast, rather than an audiophile. I was inspired by music since childhood, and as the time passed, the passion of music grew in me, and that subsequently led me to join Head-Fi. Eventually, I found the pleasure of listening to music mainly by the HD600 and recently, by the seductive LCD2 headphones, and realized the true components of recorded music. I usually like to listen to Indian Classical Music along with Bollywood songs. My main listening genres include classical, vocal, instrumental, jazz and sometimes pop.
Intro: Brainwavz, established in 2008, is a famous and renowned brand across the world. Speciality of Brainwavz is that, they always deliver quality products in an affordable price. The M3 is the flagship In Ear Monitor offering from M series of Brainwavz. The M3 took back seat for quite some time, owing to release of newer S series.
Specifications of M3 as per Brainwavz:
Drivers: Dynamic, 10.7mm
Rated Impedance: 20 Ω
Frequency Range: 20Hz-20kHz
Sensitivity: 115 dB@1 mW
Rated Input Power: 10 mW
Cable: 1.3m, Y-Cord, (Cu/Ag) PUR
Plug: 3.5mm Gold Plated 45°
Let us see what the M3 has got for us,
Packaging and Accessories: As usual, the M3 arrives packed inside a typical-Brainwavz-style colourful cardboard box, on which features, accessories and other information have been mentioned upon. The box is sealed by Brainwavz factory. Once the box is opened, The M3 housing shell is seen resting on a transparent plastic, the rest of cable and the accessories are packed inside the hard case. Nice step taken by Brainwavz, considering thousands of miles journey the M3 has to undergo before reaching its destination. The hard case can be unzipped off to reveal the storage compartment, in which all the included accessories are present.
Brainwavz has always been generous in case of accessories, by providing good amount of accessories. Over all the packaging and accessories is nicely done (as usual) by Brainwavz.
List of accessories in the box, which include the following:
Eartips: Plenty of good quality eartips are included to fit almost any kind of ears, a pair of comply foam tips are also included.
Shirt Clip: To reduce microphonics and to secure the hanging cable to the shirt.
Hard case: This case is supplied to store and protect the M3.
Warranty card: Contains warranty information.
Design and Build: The M3 has a very good overall build quality. Feels sophisticated and refined. The M3 has a very practical and ergonomic build.
Housing shells are made up of high quality fiber materials. Nozzle is made up of metal. Housing is painted in black gloss colour, Feels good in hand. The housings shell is actually tiny, light in weight.
One peculiar thing a person can see about M3 is that, there is a arm stretching out of the main driver housing. The function of this arm is to hold the M3’s steady while our head is moving (during jogging) and to not allow M3’s to slip deeper into the ear canal.
Cable is braided and has a very good build. It is very similar to the cables of SoundMAGIC E30 earphones. It is light, flexible and does not get tangled. Cables have almost zero microphonics. Plug is 45 degrees angled. This is again more convenient and easier to use than the 90 degree and 180 degree plugs.
My only concern is the absence of strain relief on housings and on Y splitter. Cable is most likely to wear at these two places. We can see here that a cable slider is too not present.
Comfort and Fit: M3 is quite comfortable to wear, its light in weight, ergonomically designed, and its cable is light in weight and not heavy, stiff like the S0’s. No worries about the stretching arm on the driver housings, as their presence is barely noticeable after sometime of wearing it.
My ears are quite large, and the M3’s fit me well. So I would also presume that M3 would fit almost all kind of ears. The presence of protruding arm does not hinder the comfort. Instead it makes sure there is better fit. The isolation provided by M3 is quite mediocre, owing to shallow fit and insertion.
Sound: As for the most important part, th sound. The M3 has a slightly 'V' shaped sound signature.
Lows: are fairly tight and strong; goes deep enough for a good impact.
Mids: are pushed back a little, not a strong point for vocals.
Highs: are sparky and are a touch artificial sounding. There are a few spikes audible in the highs,
Sound-stage width is a little bit congested. Depth is pretty decent. The overall presentation is warm, intimate and closed in. I also remember M3 sounded a touch processed and artificial. This may make one to feel fatigued even after a short listen. Also, the sound of M3 can be manipulated by using different eartips. Sonic results can vary greatly by different ear tips used. But, I found the default tip to be most balanced sounding amongst all included tips.
Comparing the M3 with S0, I feel the S0 definitely outperforms the M3 in terms of neutrality, soundstage. The S0’s are also more pleasant and relaxing to listen to. M3 is slightly warmer and feels congested sounding, whereas S0 is greatly transparent and neutral, with relaxed and natural soundstage. (Also, S0 costs half the price of M3). M3 clearly wins in terms of cable quality, and ergonomics. One cannot simply ignore the fact that, S0’s have tremendous value with them. I was fatigued by M3 in a short amount of time (Spacious sound of S0 spoilt me)
Amplification: The M3 is very easy to drive, and can be driven by almost any sources, smartphones and DAP’s. Although a dedicated low cost amp like a Topping NX100 does increases the sound output noticeably, the difference in quality is minimal. Amplification factor is not important here, but a clean and transparent source is sufficient to drive the M3 to their maximum potential.
Conclusion: M3 is a decent earphone, but I did not quite like its sound presentation. I would instead recommend an enthusiast to consider the popular S0 which costs half the price of M3, with a much more acclaimed and neutral sound quality. The M3 is also comparatively outdated when it comes to value prospect.
1) Build Quality: The M3’s have a very good build quality. Particularly the cables are well built.
2) Sound quality: Sound quality of M3 is relatively warm and intimate. For those who appreciate this kind of sound presentation, they would prefer the sound quality of M3.
3) Comfort: M3 is quite comfortable to wear for a few hours, owing to its light and ergonomic build.
1) Value: I think there are much better performing earphones available within the same price tag as of M3, thus making M3 of having a mediocre price/performance ratio.
2) Not for everybody: The sound quality presented by M3 may not be appreciated by every enthusiast.
Pros - Clarity, Soundstage, Texture, Value
Cons - Shape, No chin slider
Here we go again. It seems like every other review I've done lately has been on some product from this up-and-coming company that is making a name for itself. This one is however, different than all the others. It's just... better.
Test Songs (all ALAC either 16/44 or 24/96):
Whistle Past the Graveyard - Rolling Jazz Revue - rjr
What About Me - Snarky Puppy - We Like It Here
Hide and Seek - Imogen Heap - Speak for Yourself
Prelude from Cello Suite #4 - Yo Yo Ma
Bass: Full and textured. I've heard several of the sub $100 category from Brainwavz, including the Delta, S0, S1,and M3 and so far the low-end on the M3 is my favorite. The sub-and mid-bass are both excellent. ?uestlove's kick doesn't just sound blobbish. It sounds like a drum! Walker's upright bass in "Whistle Past the Graveyard" is very clean and textured. While the M1 has a little more impact in its low end, the M3 is like the older brother: more refined and experienced.
Mids: From my M1 review "Usually with single dynamic IEM's, especially in the lower price brackets, bass is easy enough to manufacture, and let's face it, a little extra juice in the upper end typically pleases the masses. The midrange however, is the coin toss. Either its way behind the frequency extremes, or so far forward that you can forget about any appreciable low end texture or upper end smoothness." Luckily for us, the mids here are arguably this guy's strength. They aren't RE 2*2 good or SM64 rich, but vocals sound like someone is singing in my ear! Have a listen to Imogen sing her single from back in the day. Just killer!
Treble: Crisp and clean! Don't let their price tag fool you. The upper end is as natural and clear as I've heard in the sub $100 range. The air and separation here is much better than any of the other Brainwavz IEM's I've heard. Intricate cymbal work on the Snarky Puppy tune is easy to hear and the breath in the above video is real enough to make you look left and right. This treble beats the RE400 upper end for realism if you ask me...
Soundstage/Separation: Where this was a weakness in the M3's little brother, I'm happy to note that the village elder has improved here! Accuracy is spot one with regards to L/R placement. There's even an appreciable amount of soundstage depth and width. On some quick classical listenings, I can pick out almost anything I want to at any given moment. Check it.
Qualms: Nothing major. The shape of the housing is a little awkward. Doesn't affect fit, just look. I wouldn't consider myself good-looking, so wearing things that enhance my likeness to some sort of martian are less than appealing. Also, still no chin slider! When will IEM maker's realize that this tiny piece of plastic is a must!?
Conclusion: Copy and paste from my M1 review: I've heard a lot of IEMs in the sub $100 category. From the SE215 to the RE400 and everything lesser known from the likes of Soundmagic, JVC, and Brainwavz, this price bracket is being overrun by offerings diesigned to bring the discerning listener more bang for his buck. I'll tell you straight up that the M3 from Brainwavz will be one of the first I recommend to anyone looking for great sound for less than a hundred. They're pleasantly detailed, natural, and very easy to listen to. Overall, an excellent IEM that deserves a look from anyone looking for an all-rounder in this price range.
***disclaimer: this review model was provided to me by Brainwavz via MP4nation. I'm in no way affiliated with Brainwavz or their distributors.***
Pros - Overall sound quality, decent value
Cons - Some peakiness
I had a pair of M2s that were my beater IEMs for a while, but my years of abuse eventually took their toll and they came apart at the strain relief. I decided to try the M3s since I liked the M2 sound (smooth, warm) and heard they might be an improvement on the sound.
Starting from the bottom, there is a noticeable but not overly distracting mid-bass hump. It adds some nice punch to the bottom end of most songs. Extension is decent, rolloff starts at around 50hz. All in all, I would say the bass is a good balance of fun and articulate.
The mids have some slight peakiness in the 1.5-2khz region which I notice mostly when listening to classical instruments, specifically piano and flute. It gives the notes a sort of unnatural resonance, almost metallic sounding. Sibilance is not a problem I have with these phones. thankfully, so while their upper end is a little more pronounced than the M2, they're not harsh.
Treble is fairly neutral and extends decent as well. The separation and imaging on these IEMs is very good as well, probably the biggest difference from the M2, allowing the treble to breathe and providing a more balanced sound overall.
Isolation isn't that great overall because of the venting, but as is usually the case when music is playing it's hard to hear anything else.
The shape of the driver housing is meant to be worn cable up, I think, as wearing them cable down for an extended period of time can be pretty uncomfortable.
To sum it up, these are a very good option as far as sub-$100 IEMs go. Depending on what sound you're going for or your budget options, you may find the other two models to be better value. If you're looking for a smooth balanced sound these are excellent performers.