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Brainwavz B150

Rating:
4.375/5,
  1. shockdoc
    Wonderful offering that expands the reputation and range of Brainwavz
    Written by shockdoc
    Published Dec 29, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Superb sound for a single driver BA, Very comfortable, No mic (a plus to me personally), Brainwavz great warranty
    Cons - Cost compared to some recent multi-driver IEM's, Build materials compared to other IEM's in price range.
    Disclaimer: Brainwavz sent me this pair for my review and honest feedback.
     
    Caveat: I am a big fan of the Brainwavz house sound so bear that in mind when reading my review.
     
    Starting my HeadFi journey a little late I wasn't privy to the Brainwavz B2 years and thus was extremely interested (based on everything I'd read about the B2) in hearing that Brainwavz was again venturing into new balanced armature waters. I've owned more than a couple of BA IEM's over the years but when dynamic drivers really started to come into their own I dumped most of them and didn't look back. So I was a little bit skeptical about how I would find the sound of a single BA driver earphone.
     
    While I don't necessarily consider myself a basshead I DO like a full and robust lower end. My passion is live music and my continuing search in the headphone world is for the sound that gets me ever closer to the stage and to the musicians on the stage. Live music has plenty of bass and headphones that don't include that spectrum of music sound flat and lifeless to my ears.
     
    Upon opening the box I found the usual Brainwavz case and accessories and was pleasantly surprised to find the B150 does not have a mic/control. I know I'm in the minority, but I use my earphones to listen to music exclusively and dislike anything that could potentially get in the way of that. Additionally. I find them hard to work around with cord sliders and shirt clips which I use often. I was a tiny bit disappointed that for the asking price the B150 seemed to be made of the usual (though apparently good quality) Brainwavz plastic and the cord wasn't really anything special in terms of design or materials. 
     
    I quickly tried them in my ears (they are over-ear only) and plugged them into my Chromebook. A quick stroll through several tracks of familiar tunes sounded pretty darn good. Then I switched to a file with a considerable amount of bass and my eyes widened with surprise. I was half tempted to take them out of my ears and attempt to crack the cases and see if there weren't dynamic drivers instead of BA's inside. I'd never heard a BA with this much bass. I quickly switched to my laptop with DAC and amp and cracked open some hi-res files from HD Tracks. Nirvana! I was amazed at the broad, full sound emanating from these little single driver 'phones. Definitely not the thin (if "accurate" sound I was used to with previous BA's. Vocals were surprisingly lush and intimate.
     
    At this point, I should mention that, as usual, I base my impressions of any given headphone or speaker on how closely it resembles real world sound. I've been around live music my whole life and am proficient on the piano, guitar, and trumpet and have sung semi-professionally in college. I've played in bands and orchestras since grade school and know what the timbre of almost all instruments sound like and for that reason most of the music I use to review headphones is acoustic and orchestral. I do love rock as well but other than speaker dynamics don't find it all that useful in reviewing equipment since much of it is electronic. So I won't be throwing around poorly understood esoteric words meant to convey the nuances of musical sound but, instead, I'll be focusing, as much as possible, on how real or better yet "live" the music sounds through these IEM's.
     
    So let's get to it. For the patience-impaired, I'll just say. These IEM's sound really really good. I've always been amazed by how much sound Brainwavz seems to be able to extract from a single driver. And I've never heard a BA with this much low end. Add the speed and dynamics inherent to BA's and this little 'phone checks most of the boxes I look for in an IEM. Additionally, many of the BA's I've owned or heard in the past at times seemed a little more congested than comparable dynamic drivers. These are NOT congested. In fact, compared to one of my current favorite Brainwavz offerings, the S5, they exceed it in width and depth of soundstage as well as instrument separation. They make orchestra music a joy compared to my dynamic driver headphones. At first, I thought I was just noticing the instrument separation and interpreting it as broader soundstage but the more I listened to more tracks, especially older recordings that I know extremely well, it quickly became apparent that they exceed the S5 in both aspects. 
     
    It's rare for me, these days, to hear a headphone and immediately want to go through as much of my music collection as possible to see what differences I can hear. Most IEM's are so competent that sonic differences are fairly small but with the BA150's I definitely wanted to listen to more and more of my files. Also, one of the big things I look for in a new 'phone is if it seems to remove any additional "layers" (for lack of a better term) between me and the artist. On many recordings, these do that as well. If I have any criticism of the general sound signature at all it might be that on some recordings the instrument separation and soundstage width almost sound a little artificial, especially some of my older stuff from the 60's and 70's. Kind of like hearing stereo for the first time with a heightened sense of the separation of left and right channels.
     
    As I mentioned earlier, I'm a tad concerned about build quality since they're plastic but they seem fairly sturdy though they don't "feel" as substantial as the metal S5. I should mention at this juncture that they are pretty much the most comfortable IEM's I've had in my ears. They are massively more comfortable (I suspect the somewhat more rounded housings) that the similarly shaped XF200. Maybe it's just my ears, but I can wear these, literally, for hours with little fatigue or discomfort. Microphonics were non-existent when worn my preferred way with the cord behind my neck, cable cinched and the nice shirt clip attached to my collar.
    2016-12-19_09.43.32.jpg
    2016-12-19_09.47.18.jpg
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    After spending several hours a day for over a week with these earphones I can honestly say that they've easily bumped the S5 and my trusty twin driver TDK IE800 from the top of my listening tier. If this is what Brainwavz has in store for us the future is indeed bright. I can't WAIT to see if they come out with a new dual driver BA earphone and see how it compares to this little beauty. 
     
    So, the bottom line, this is a great little earphone. The sound is very impressive. Instrument separation is excellent as well as placement of each instrument on the soundstage. It definitely had me rolling through most of my music to hear things I hadn't really heard, or if I had it was mashed together with other sounds and instruments. The only real question in my mind is HOW impressive this is compared to many of the new multi-driver options in the same price range that are coming out these days. Personally, I'm glad I didn't discount these 'phones solely based on price, build or features because they certainly sound great to my ears and I heartily recommend you audition them if you get the chance.
    I rate headphones almost entirely based on relative sound quality for the price range and these are very impressive for a solatary driver. So 4 and 1/2 stars. Also, I always edit my reviews if things such as durability issues pop up.
    * I'll also be editing this review after I have a chance to seen how well they isolate (I use my rather noisy gym as my real world reference) and how well they stay in place doing things like running or other activities.
  2. HiFiChris
    B150: Brainwavz is BAck again
    Written by HiFiChris
    Published Dec 14, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - non-"sterile/boring" single-BA sound, smooth and musical, good tonal balance
    Cons - not too many competitors but those that exist are also good
    IMG_2345.jpg

     
     
     
     
    Preamble:

    It is finally happening – a few years after Brainwavz stopped the production of their B2, a dual-BA in-ear, the Chinese company owned by the GPGSHK is back in the game and will be manufacturing Balanced Armature-based in-ears again. This has secretly been quite a big desire of mine, and I am very glad that Brainwavz’ new models are finally ready. Yes, that’s right, I said models: besides a successor of the B2 that I unfortunately never heard myself because it was out of production when I wanted to buy it as a backup for some of my more expensive multi-BA in-ears, Brainwavz is also releasing two single-BA in-ears, the B100 and B150.

    When I got Pandora’s message that some prototypes of the new models with the final production tuning were ready to be shipped to some reviewers, including myself, I was very excited and looking forward to what the in-ear would sound like. Shortly after, I received the B150 and was told that the other one should be sent to me as soon as more quantity is available.


    Disclaimer: I was offered a free sample of the B150 in exchange for feedback and an honest, unbiased review. Although I received a prototype, I was assured that this is the final production tuning and that the production version would only have a more refined build quality and slightly changed accessories.


    Technical Specifications:

    Price: $109.50
    Drivers: 1x BA per side


    Delivery Content:

    My review sample didn’t arrive with a cardboard or plastic box, however with all accessories that are: the in-ears, a Velcro cable tie, a Brainwavz carrying case with the typical black and red colour scheme, a shirt clip, one pair of medium Comply Foam tips, one pair of small silicone tips, one pair of medium silicone tips and lastly one pair of large silicone tips.
    The production model’s ear tips will be black instead of red.
     

    IMG_2340.jpg   IMG_2341.jpg



    Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

    The housings are made of semi-transparent black plastic that seems sturdy and well-made. The production version will have a twisted cable with memory-wire ear guides instead of the prototype’s cable.
     

    IMG_2342.jpg   IMG_2343.jpg
    IMG_2344.jpg   IMG_2348.jpg



    Comfort, Isolation:

    The in-ears are intended to be worn around the ears instead of the more commonly found “cable-down” method that is mainly found on most cheaper in-ears. This guarantees for a more secure fit and less cable noise (microphonics).
    The fit in my ears is good with the B150 and as the ear pieces are closed, outside noise is also blocked out pretty well.


    Sound:

    My main source devices for listening were my iBasso DX90 as well as the DX80.

    The largest included silicone tips were used for listening and testing.

    Tonality:

    IMG_2346.jpg
    Many people often associate a thin, mid-focussed and bass-light or bright sound from a single-BA in-ear. The B150 does certainly not fall into this category. Much rather, it has got a forward bottom-end that is strong, and while it will certainly not satisfy those who are craving for a strong impact and much quantity, it can address the “case of the missing 6 dB” (https://www.etymotic.com/media/publications/erl-0137-1982.pdf) plus a little extra, while it won’t convey the same amount of slam that other multi-BA in-ears do with the same bass emphasis (in fact, it could even be considered as more or less balanced sounding in the lows, as the Logitech/Ultimate Ears UE200 that had around the same quantity was also widely accepted as a quite balanced sounding in-ear because it didn’t reproduce the weight and impact in the lows despite not having little objectively measurable quantity).

    The bass elevation is mainly found in the lower root and upper bass, starting to climb around 650 Hz, reaching its climax around 120, keeping this level down to 80 Hz and then slowly losing quantity towards the sub-bass. It is not a strong roll-off though, so the lower midbass and beginning sub-bass at 40 Hz are still audible with good quantity, however there is not much below 33 Hz anymore.

    The midrange is somewhat more on the warmer side (lower mids) and also darker side (upper mids) without being too coloured, while it is indeed somewhat coloured and tuned for a more laid-back, smooth signature, caused by the area between around 1.3 and 3 kHz showing a moderate dip that is responsible here for the non-offensive midrange tuning.

    The middle highs around 5 kHz and the rest until 12 kHz show more presence again but have just slightly less quantity than the midrange, adding slight darkness and relaxedness to the sound, and also making cymbals sound non-offensive and lacking aggressiveness.

    Resolution:

    IMG_2350.jpg
    Let’s make it short here – the B150 sounds nimble and quick, lightweight and detailed, coherent and well-rendered.

    The bass, while it is not as tight and fast as with some multi-BA in-ears or the Etymotic ER-4S, definitely doesn’t lack speed and is only slightly (!) on the softer side and still a good bit better controlled and faster than most dynamic driver in-ears.

    The midrange has got good speech intelligibility and minute detail retrieval, as it can also be expected from a (single-) BA in-ear.

    The treble carries good details and good separation that is not elite-level but good for the price. I don’t really miss much.

    The sound is, not really surprising, very coherent, wherefore I would also chose the B150 over the dual-BA Apple in-ears that, while they definitely show an advantage in the midrange and treble in terms of detail retrieval and are a bit more refined overall, don’t sound as coherent as most single-BA in-ears in the low three-digit/high two-digit price range, including the B150 where everything sounds harmonious.

    Soundstage:

    One will neither get a huge nor a small soundstage with the B150. Who still expects single-BA in-ears to sound congested, which is definitely not the case for a good number of models, will probably be a little surprised that the B150 has got a soundstage that I would say is a little larger than average, with a good width-to-depth-ratio and a good presentation of spatial depth. The positioning of instruments is precise and the separation is good, too, while there is not as much air around single instruments as with higher-end multi-driver in-ears.

    ---------

    In Comparison with other Single-BA In-Ears:


    IMG_2351.jpg

    MEE audio A151 (2nd generation):
    The A151, while it is definitely not among the thin sounding single-BA in-ears and carries some warmth and weight in the lows compared to a really flat monitor, has got ca. 3 dB less bass quantity than the B150 while treble quantity is about comparable.
    The MEE has got the slightly tighter and minimally faster bass and also sounds slightly more refined in the treble, while I see the B150 slightly ahead when it comes to midrange details and speech intelligibility.

    HiSoundAudio HA-2:
    While it is not 100% flat either, the HA-2 has got less bass quantity and a little more treble quantity than the B150. It (the HA-2) is definitely the more neutral in-ear out of the two.
    The HA-2 has got the slightly faster bass that is a slight bit tighter and is a little more detailed in the treble – it is not a large difference though.
    While the B150 has got a good soundstage, the HiSoundAudio’s is larger and airier; it is one of the largest single-BA soundstages I know anyway.

    Etymotic Research ER-4S:
    The classic – the legend – the king. The Etymotic that is considered as coming closest to the diffuse-field neutrality target (except for its successor that is probably even minimally closer), is easily quite a bit different to the B150, i.e. it sounds more neutral with a very flat bass, a flat midrange with a slight boost in the presence range and a flat and extremely even treble that carries more quantity than the B150’s rather somewhat dark sounding upper end.
    The (more expensive) ER-4S is definitely in a higher class when it comes to detail retrieval over the whole frequency range, and has also got the tighter and faster bass.
    The Ety’s soundstage is only a little larger than the Brainwavz’ but especially more precise.


    IMG_2347.jpg
    Conclusion:

    Brainwavz Audio is finally making in-ears with Balanced Armatures again.
    The B150 is the right choice for all those who want to have the nimbleness, coherency and speech intelligibility of a single-BA in-ear but don’t want a thin and flat but weightier and richer sound that is still harmonious sounding and not really what could be considered really bassy. The B150’s performance is also good and it offers a good value, however it doesn’t outclass the single-BA class-leaders.


    As I can only rate the sound on the B150 pre-production prototype with finalised tuning (the cable will be a totally different one in the production model), I come to a result of 3.82 out of 5 stars in the sound/value department.
      BrunoC, Deftone, Cinder and 7 others like this.
    1. gemmoglock
      Hi, I noticed you mentioned the UE200. How does the sound signature compare? I had a UE200 but it is starting to fray and despite owning more detailed IEMs with better reproduction I thought the UE200 had a very natural and easy-listening signature that is very appealing.
      gemmoglock, Dec 15, 2016
    2. HiFiChris
       @gemmoglock The Brainwavz has got comparable amounts of bass, more warmth in the lower midrange, and a smoother, somewhat less present treble. The UE200 has got a peak in the upper highs that the Brainwavz doesn't have, so it will never tend to sound harsh (but cymbals are therefore also smoothed out a little). In terms of resolution and speed, the Brainwavz is ahead.
      HiFiChris, Dec 16, 2016
    3. gemmoglock
      gemmoglock, Dec 16, 2016