Brainwavz HM100 - Reviews
Pros: + One of the most solid price / performance ratios in the entire world
+ Scales nicely with source
+ Great ergonomics
+ Aesthetics
+ Nice treble extension
+ Good overall detail and clarity
Cons: - Boomy
- Not the most comfy out there
- Lost a lot of value from the moment of release
Brainwavz HM100 Headphones & BLU-300 BT IEMs Review - Two Hands, Two Great



Brainwavz HM100 is a dynamic headphone, priced at 140 USD, while BLU-300 is priced at 40 USD. They will be compared with 1More Triple Driver, ESS 422H, and with AIWA ARC-1, all of which are pretty close in price to HM100. There aren't many BT IEMS in the 40 USD price range, so BLU-300 won't get comparisons this time around. Pairings with iBasso DX120, FiiO M6, and HIDIZS AP80 will be included as well. For HM-100, I included an EQ profile that should work well with all of the pairings that have an EQ built-in, and which should make their sound a bit better.



Introduction

Brainwavz is one of the most popular companies from USA, and they are actually one of my favorites after having reviewed their Alara headphones, which have proven to be a real gem, and since they often go on sale, and have a really good price / performance ratio, I kept a close eye on Brainwavz. HM100 is a headphone they have been planning for a long time, and since it is a wooden headphone, but priced so low, it makes everyone wonder if they should skip more expensive models like Meze 99 Classics, and get the cheaper, yet similarly good looking HM100. The company itself is stellar, quick response, reliable support, and overall a great one. You can get a headphone from them, but here's a quick tip: Those sell so quick, you have to keep a close eye on the stocks, they really have gained popularity lately, and no one returned to complain that Brainwavz isn't good enough as a company.

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Brainwavz, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I'd like to thank Brainwavz for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with Brainwavz HM100 and BLU-300. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Brainwavz HM100 and BLU-300 find their next music companion.



About me

https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/about.html



Packaging


First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:

The package for HM100 is hands-down the best package for a headphone priced at this price range, which is 150 USD. There's simply nothing else out there that comes with two cables, one set of spare earpads, and one hard carrying case. I could say it does better than some headphones that cost three or even ten times its price. I simply love having some extras with the headphones, and Brainwavz delivers













The earcups are also made from wood, making me question just why other headphones are so expensive when they have similar features to brag about.



What to look for when purchasing an Entry-Level Headphone / IEM

https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/what-to-lookl.html



Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort


Now, I only took the pricing for HM100 from Brainwavz own's site, otherwise I may not have believed my eyes either, they really do not have a high price point. They were launched at 200 USD, and for all practical reasons, they are worth that price as well.



The build quality is excellent, they are a combination of metal, wood and plastic, but a high quality one. They swivel a bit, so the fit will work regardless of the size and shape of your head. If anything, they feel slightly loose in build, rather than too tight, but once you have them on your head, you don't notice it.

The weight is not distributed very evenly, and as a result, they feel both a bit tight and a bit heavy. The cables are removable, and there are two cables included in the package, things unseen sometimes with headphones considerably more expensive, for example with LCD-MX4 or Rosson RAD-0.

HM-100 is a single driver, dynamic headphone. The cup is made of wood, and creates a pleasing design, but the wood doesn't give them a specific sound. Compared to Meze 99 Classics, or with ESS 422H, each one of them has a sound of their own, and all are different in fit, comfort and final result.



The headband has enough padding, but it feels a bit loose in comparison to the much better pads. The pads are removable, and you can see the driver if you really want to. Some mods are possible there, if you want to dip your fingers into improving the HM-100, but I didn't get any interesting results after trying to play with them.

The size adjusting mechanism is precise and smooth, and the headband / overall headphone is not very likely to break. In fact, I dropped mine in a drop test, and they survived it really nicely.



There is no microphonic noise that travels down the cable, and the headphone itself isolates you fairly well from the outside noise. They also leak very little noise and can be worn in areas you need to keep quiet, like within the constraints of a library.



Sound Quality

I am not a big fan of boomy signatures, so when I'm describing the HM100 as being fairly boomy, dark, but still having a pretty airy treble, and enough sparkle up top to be interesting, I'm probably going to say I see a lot of potential in them, rather than complain about their signature. For 140 USD, I can't say I know anything that sounds better or even as good as HM100 in terms of dynamics, punch and detail.



You can also notice that their driver hasn't been pushed to its limit, because they sound much better with better sources, so what I would call them, is free real estate. After playing a bit with the EQ, I noticed that they take EQ fairly well, but the simplest way to EQ them was to pair them with an iFi xDSD, and bump both the x-Bass and the 3D Soundstage options. The x-Bass option made the bass deeper, and took out some of the boominess by increasing the sub-low impact. The 3D soundstage, on the other hand, increased the treble, and brought more life to the overall sound.

The simplest way to EQ them, if you don't have anything more advanced at your disposal, is to apply the following, using any Foobar2000, Roon or other softare's built-in EQ.

31 Hz + 5 dB
62 Hz + 3 dB
125 Hz - 5 dB
250 Hz - 3 dB
500 Hz - 1 dB
1 kHz + 0 dB
2 kHz + 0 dB
4 kHz + 0 dB
8 kHz + 3 dB
16 kHz + 5 dB


The sound may be a bit too sparkly, or a bit too mid-recessed for one's liking after this EQ, so if you feel that you need more mids, you should add a few dBs on the 1kHz, 2kHz, and 4kHz sliders.

On the other hand, if this EQ is too aggressive, and if it adds too much treble sparkle, you should add less to the 16 kHz, and to the 8kHz sliders.



Portable Usage

Given the fact that both headphones are in a price range most people will be taking them outdoors, I think that you're best knowing that both are fairly average for portable usage.

HM100 is great because it has a great deal of passive noise isolation, it is fairly easy to drive, but it also gets really warm during normal wearing, and you won't have such a great time if you're wearing them in full blown summer.



A Bluetooth Receiver / DAC like FiiO BTR5 can totally drive HM-100, and you won't have to worry about HM 1000 not having enough dynamics or punch. This being said, BTR5 sounds best while on wired, so there'll still be a clip attached to the end of the cable, unless FiiO decides to make something like the BTA10 for HM100.

On the other hand, if you connect HM100 to a Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, Aune S6PRO, or iFi xCan, you will notice that they scale a lot with the source, so you may want to get them even if you have a pretty high-end setup already, tro have a wooden headphone as a backup.



BLU-300, on the other hand, managed to keep its connection strong at all times, but it has some driver flex, so if you'll be wearing them while out and about, especially while running, they may make a yoyo kind of movement with your ear and eardrum.

This is not desirable, and there are other, better options out there for sports, like the 1More Stylish TWS IEMs, or iBasso IT01S connected to a FiiO BTR3 or BTR5.



Of course, if you really want a TWS IEM, Master & Dynamic also makes their MW07, but they are considerably more expensive than BLU 300, and everything I can recommend that is better is also more expensive than the BLU300, so if you're on a budget, those are a great deal.



Youtube Video

Brainwavz HM100



Comparisons

Comparisons of Brainwavz HM100 and other interesting headphones like 1More Triple Driver, AIWA ARC-1, and ESS 422H are something you're curious about when you have the budget of about 200 USD and want to get something that has solid performance.



Brainwavz HM100 vs AIWA ARC-1 - AIWA ARC-1 is a Bluetooth headphone, and it has a less interesting design, with metal, and a black rounded earpad. This makes it less comfortable than HM100, which is larger, and has more space for your ears inside the cups. On the other hand, ARC-1 has that Bluetooth mode which may come in handy, and it sounds much better when used as a Bluetooth headphone, so if you already have a DAP, HM100 may make a better option, especially if you want to take the time to EQ it. When you're using ARC-1 in Bluetooth mode, you're getting a warmer, more natural midrange, and a smoother treble, that extends only until the 9-10 kHz area, after which it rolls off. By comparison, with HM100, you're getting a more boomy sound, but with better extension in the treble, more air, a larger soundstage, and with more dynamics. The bass is not as thick and heavy, but it has the extension, if you bother to EQ it. The midrange sounds a bit dry, but that can be solved, especially if using AP80 from HIDIZS or a Hiby DAP, like R6, which has an algorithm to correct it hidden in the DSP collection.

Brainwavz HM100 vs ESS 422H - The 422H is another interesting headphone that has been released quite recently, but managed to impress everyone quite a bit. The package for ESS 422 H comes quite close to the package of HM 100, but it fails short of providing extra pads, and a secondary cable. This being said, the carrying case, while not larger, and not more interesting, is actually more useful, and more practical for 422H. In terms of comfort, 422H is tighter on the head, to the point where it can be a bit uncomfortable, especially for those with larger heads. HM-100 manages to be more general in this aspect, and it doesn't favor small or large heads, it works well for everyone. The passive noise isolation is similar between the two, and both tend to get hot during normal usage for portable usage. The sound of 422H is smoother up top, but more natural, has a better low end impact, and more overall punch. The dynamics of HM100 are once again better, and if you take the time to EQ it, it can sound better, but for those who like something that sounds better out of the box, ESS-422-H is better. The soundstage is deep on 422H, but it is deeper, wider, and with more air in between instruments for HM One Hundred from Brainwavz. It looks like a typical Dynamic Driver can get you a long way, if implemented well.

Brainwavz HM100 vs 1More Triple Driver - The Triple Driver from 1More is a complex affair, which includes both a passive and an active driver, and all of those in a rather small and edgy / modern looking shell. The only part of this entire setup that could be seen as a downside is the fact 1More did their best to make the Triple Driver headphone as small as it was humanly possible, so they are at the exact crossover point of being over-the-ear and being on-ear. This makes HM100 more comfortable from the get-go, and the 3-Driver from 1More ends up being less comfortable. The earpads are also deeper, offer more space on HM100, and it isolates more from the outside noise. The sound is thicker, with more bottom end emphasis on One More Triple-Driver, and there's also a more prominent upper midrange / treble emphasis that can make the sound a bit unnatural. By comparison, HM100 feels more dynamic, more punchy, but also more boomy, has less weight to each musical note, they have a larger soundstage, with more air in between instruments, although you could say that Triple Driver has better instrument separation. The treble extension is better on HM-100, and if you like metal, they should work better for rock and metal.



Recommended Pairings

I have chosen FiiO M6, HIDIZS AP80 and iBasso DX120 for pairing HM100 with. I noticed that they upscale quite a lot with the source, so if you want to get more of them, upgrading to something like FiiO M11, Opus #2, or iBasso DX150 + AMP 9 may be a great idea, but I felt that for a headphone that costs just 140 USD at the moment of writing this review, it is best if I stick to sources that have a price that's closer to the price of the headphone.




One of the products you keep seeing in the photos in this review is the AIO Triangle Connect, which is a Streaming device, but it does a rather poor job when connected to a headphone, because it has a lot of hiss and noise on the 3.5mm output, so I chosen not to include it in the pairings.

Brainwavz HM100 + FiiO M6 - Although it shines with better sources, FiiO's M6, or even M5 are really great examples of what can drive the HM100 without an issue. There was also the M7, and the M3K which also had enough power for HM100, but M6 provides the best overall form, design and features, being the one with the touchscreen that has the best overall ergonomics, relative to its size. M5 is another option, if you need a really tiny source, but M6 is the current most portable DAP that I recommend, because it has a clear, crisp sound with enough clarity and detail to be worth purchasing even if you already have a smartphone. M6 should sound better than your smartphone if you have one, so don't be shy to get one, the only other option you really have at the moment of me making this review, being FiiO's BTR5, which also can drive HM100, and which also sounds great, actually in a similar way to M6. It just crossed my mind, but the way M6 is designed reminds me considerably more of the cheap MP3 players I used to buy when I was a teenager, the ones that ran on AA batteries, rather than of FiiO's larger DAPs, but only in design, because in sound, it sounds as good as you'd expect a FiiO product to.

Brainwavz HM100 + iBasso DX120 - iBasso's DX120 is the next step if you want a really amazing sound, but also don't mind a slightly larger device. It has a much more dynamic sound than M6, considerably more driving power, more detail, and also a pleasing sound that has a magical warmth to it. It is more neutral than M6, which was even warmer, a bit thicker, and a bit smoother in the treble. DX120 offers EQ and you'd have an easier time making a profile to improve the sound of HM100, also the larger display makes it easier to browse your music collection, especially if you have large fingers like me, and if you want to have a device that's closer to a smartphone rather than a tiny DAP device.

Brainwavz HM100 + HIDIZS AP80 - HIDIZS AP80 is the smallest device on this list that can drive HM100, but it does a good job mostly because it is thicker than FiiO's M5, so there was enough space for Jack. Pardon me, enough space for more amplifier circuits. In actual practice, AP80 manages to make a good pair with HM100 because it is a warmer and thicker DAP, but because it also has a simple, yet effective EQ implemented, so you don't have to worry about HM100 being a bit boomy, you can quickly, easily and effectively change their sound so that they reach their true potential with AP80.



Value and Conclusion

When talking about Brainwavz products you can't miss the value, because every single one of their products is top value. This includes the Brainwavz Alara, which was one of those planars that took on the Sundara, but was on a different sonic direction. HM100 is also an incredible value, and there's been an invasion of wooden earcups headphones at this price point, but none with the accessory list and package of HM100.



The BLU-300 is priced very low by itself, and for just 40 USD you get a neckband earbud that's fun to use, you can take to gym and which should last a long time.

The package is great for HM100, but pretty basic for BLU-300. The comfort is great for both though, although I recall having some driver flex with BLU-300, which made them not exactly ideal for gym and sports usage. HM-100, on the other hand, was pretty solid, and although it scaled a lot with the source, was very easy to drive.



The sound was boomy, dark, but had some treble air and sparkle for HM100. BLU-300 was one of those really thick and warm sports earbuds that had a really ferocious bottom end. They lack air and treble extension though, and you're not likely to get too much out of them if you were looking for a more neutral performance.



On the other hand, at the end of this review, if you're looking for a really solid headphone, and if you don't mind it sounding a bit boomy, or if you have the patience to use some EQ, HM100 would make a great long-lasting companion for you, if you manage to find some still in store, and if you keep an eye close to the stocks and catch one while they are available.



As for BLU-300, if you need a really affordable sports around-the-neck BT IEM, and if you like a thick and bassy sound with a strong low-end impact, it should make a great running, jogging and even weight lifting companion.



Full Playlist used for this review

While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you're searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.

Youtube Playlist


Tidal Playlist

https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b

Song List

Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
Eskimo Callboy - Frances
Incubus - Summer Romance
Electric Six - Dager! High Voltage
Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead
Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir
Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow
Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us
Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
Infected Mushroom - Song Pong
Attack Attack - Kissed A Girl
Doctor P - Bulletproof
Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw
Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
Escape The Fate - Gorgeous Nightmare
SOAD - Chop Suey
Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory
Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve
Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop
Crow'sclaw - Loudness War
Eminem - Rap God
Stromae - Humain À L'eau
Sonata Arctica - My Selene
Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
Metallica - Fuel
Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
Masa Works - Golden Japang
REOL - Luvoratorrrrry
Dope - Addiction
Korn - Word Up!
Papa Roach - ... To be Loved
Fever The Ghost - Source
Fall Out Boy - Immortals
Green Day - Know The Enemy
Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge
A static Lullaby - Toxic
Royal Republic - Addictive
Astronautalis - The River, The Woods
We Came As Romans - My Love
Skillet - What I Believe
Man With A Mission - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Yasuda Rei - Mirror
Mojo Juju - Must Be Desire
Falling Up - Falling In Love
Manafest - Retro Love
Rodrigo Y Grabriela - Paris
Zomboy - Lights Out
Muse - Resistance
T.A.T.U & Rammstein - Mosaku
Grey Daze - Anything, Anything
Katy Perry - Who Am I Living For
Maroon 5 - Lucky Strike
Machinae Supremacy - Killer Instinct
Pendulum - Propane Nightmares
Sirenia - Lithium And A Lover
Saving Abel - Addicted
Hollywood Undead - Levitate
The Offspring - Special Delivery
Escape The Fate - Smooth
Samsara Blues Experiment - One With The Universe
Dope - Rebel Yell
Crazy Town - Butterfly
Silverstein - My Heroine
Memphis May Fire - Not Over Yet

I hope my review is helpful to you!

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Pros: Very good Balanced sound, density and details are class leading, Sub-bass is better than most, No obvious dip. All the accessories one can ask for.
Cons: Build can be better, Treble and upper mid energy can put some off.
INTRO:-

Most of us who are into portable gears knows about Brainwavz, they are one of the most active brands in the market with plenty of products with appeal to every type of consumers, let it be beginners, enthusiasts or analyst, they products for everyone. Their Bluetooth earphone are very popular and their BA based earphones too are very impressive. All of them were regularly updated.

What they had not upgraded was their headphone lineup, the extremely popular HM5 had not seen an upgrade or successor since its inception, there were smaller headphones, but they were not up to the mark to replace it. But now Brainwavz has come up with an equally impressive headphone, the HM100 Studio monitor with wooden cups.

It comes in only brown color option and is priced at $200.

It’s a proper upgrade to the HM5 with bigger drivers, 42mm drivers are replaced with 52mm drivers, Power handing capacity has gone up 10 times, from 100mw to 1000mw, so that you can use it with very powerful setups and be assured that the drivers will be able to handle it.

It is bound to face tough competition from the ATH-m50x, Shure SRH-440 and other mid budget headphones. I had the ATH-m50 which in my opinion was not a good headphone, I will compare it from memory, and has SRH-440 and HD598 closed back (leaned from @superuser1) to compare with the HM100. (I had auditioned the HM5 on 2017 June but can't make a firm comparison).

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ACCESSORIES & PACKAGING:-

The packaging box is a neat looking one with required amount of information on it.

The HM100 comes in a huge carry case, which houses the cables, extra pair of pads and padding to keep the wooden cups safe from bumps. It is a hard sided zipper case which can take a bit of beating.

There are two cables in the package, one is an 1.3m or 4ft single ended cable and the other one is a 3.0m or 10ft single ended cable, both have soft rubber layer on them which is neither very supple nor stiff. Both the cables feel good to the hand and the build quality is up to the mark.

There is another pair of Velcro pads out of the box if you want to swap the leather ones. There is a instruction manual and a 6.5mm adapter sums up the list of things in the box.


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BUILD QUALITY:-

If the HM100 has any setbacks, it's in the build quality of the hinges, they squeak, they are not as smooth or sturdy as the HM5 used to be. And yes, the HM5 was not very sturdy either, nor is the SRH-400 or ATH-M50, what is really sturdy is the HD598 or the HD380 pro.

Except the hinges, the adjustable slider too is a bit loose side. The pads are difficult to adjust after you put them on, so make sure you rotate the pads to your comfort before putting it on.

There are three dot like holes which are the driver vents. Putting on pads is moderately easy.

CABLE:-

Both the cables that come with the HM100 are audio cables, no mics or anything remotely close to them are found on them. One of those cables is a 1.3m cables and the other one is a 3m long cables to enjoy movies on larger screens. Both of them have 3.5mm mono terminations which goes into the headphone.

Both of these cables have similar build quality with smooth rubber coating on them. They are not much bouncy but have a bit of microphonics to them when compared to the cables of the HD 380 pro.

COMFORT, ERGONOMICS AND SEAL :-

To be precise, the HM100 is comfortable, more comfortable than the HD 598se as the Sennheiser feels less stable on head. The HM100, thanks to a bit more clamping force feels more stable and as the pads are thicker and softer the clamping doesn’t feel out of proportion, it makes the headphone feel stable on the ears. If you want me to spit it out, yes, Yes the HM100 is a comfortable headphone.

Ergonomically its mot as good as the Hd 380 pro but it gives a nice feel and is comfortable enough as no part of the headphone induces any discomfort or irritation.

Noise Isolation is as good as the HD 380 pro thanks to the softer pads. It's better than the HD 598se and far better than HD 598 open back.

SOUND QUALITY:-

Unlike most of the headphones in this price range the HM100 is tuned to monitoring headphone. It has a very nice balance between bass mids range and treble without giving much emphasis to any of them. It is one of the most neutral and colorless headphones one will comes across in this price range. Its even more neutral compared to the W shaped HD 598 open back. The 598 can be a bit dark but the HM100 is not.

With the power of its 52mm driver, the HM100 delivers very good symphonies, it delivers very accurate and precise notes. I love the balance of it, when I bought the HD 598 open back, I was expecting this type of presentation but I was left disappointed.

I have burned the HM100 for more than 100hrs before writing this review and is using Plenue R and S.M.S.L. SAP-11 amp for this review.

Keep in mind that HM100 is a power hungry headphone and will not sound good enough out of Mobile phones. Proper driving from a DAP or amping yields desirable results.

TECHNICALITY AND MATCHABILITY:-

Driving the HM100 is slightly on the harder side as just average Mobile devices can't deliver required amount of power. The 64ohm impedance and 96db sensitivity is not suited for mobile devices. It does sounds okay out of my Lenovo P2 which has higher loudness than most phones, and sounds crappy out of the new Galaxy A7 2018. If you are using some flagship device, you will be fine as the HM100 it is not a picky headphone.

If you have an aptly powerful source, the HM100 will oblige. It’s a full size Headphone after all and amping it is always recommended. More power brings out the better in it.

BASS:-

Yes the HM100 is not what the ATH-M50 is. Yes the HM100 doesn’t have the bass body of a HD380 pro either. But what it has is the control of a balanced armature earphone. Its very precise about its notes. Not a single note feels out of place, the way it use to sound out of a ATH-M50. In a straight on comparison the M50 has very loose notes, let it be sub-bass or mid bass lr any part of the lower spectrum. Sub-bass rumble is very good with the HM100, M50's sub-bass is drowned under its mid-bass emphasis. Mid bass too on the HM100 is tighter and doesn’t bleed like the M50. If you want bass, EQ, it responds well to EQs.

The HM100 has good extension and sub-bass presence, going as deep as 25hz, it delivers better sub-bass reach compared to the HD 598se and far better than K702, moving more air and delivering a nice slam. The Decay is fast, The HM100 tightens things up, it delivers a very accurate imaging without any loose ends, marginally slower than the AKG K702. The slightly slower decay gives notes a bit more weight and authority to make their presence felt.

Mid bass is where things get snappy, not as snappy as the K702, but faster than HD 380 pro and HD598 Closed back, it moves good amount of air and the bonus is, if you feel the K702 is dry, the HM100 is aptly juicy. Things get flatter with upper bass.

There is little to no sacrifices made when it comes to the balance between presence of bass and the level of details it delivers, it feels more dense and engaging when compared to the HD 598 se and K702. I am loving the lower end presentation of the HM100.

Yes the bass note is not as engaging as the HD 380 pro (I find the M50 bass to be a bit too much loose) but it delivers a very well balanced imaging to the lower end.

MID RANGE:-

As I have always said, for me, the magic happens in the Mid range. It is the part of the spectrum I admire the most, I feel the soul of a auditory device lies within how it delivers the mid range notes.

I have had plenty of headphones in the past. ATH-M50, Sony ZX700, Sennheiser HD 598 open back, AKG K702, Shure srh 440 to name some of them. None of them had the balance I was looking for. Most of them have very good Mid ranges (all of them actually, not the M50). The HM100 is the closest to what I expects from an headphones midrange in this price range.

The transition from upper bass to lower mid is very smooth, there isn't much loss of details or energy, unlike every other headphone (SE598, ATH-M50). It maintains very good amount of energy with the instruments in this transition stage. Most of the Headphones make tend to soften notes and lack transparency here.

Thanks to their W shaped signature both the HD 598 and HD380pro deliver more forward vocals giving a faux feel of better details, but when I tried feeling the notes quality, the HM100 delivered sharper and more textured notes. HD598 has thicker notes presentation which makes female vocals sound less natural.

When it comes to Upper mid instrument clarity, the HM100 blows the competition like a Leaf blower blows away the leaves. It maintains the most amount of energy and delivers very accurate and precise notes with class leading and mention worthy transparency.

Stage size of the HM100 finds it in between the mix, the biggest stage coming from the HD598 open back with the smallest being the ZX700. IMO the stage sizes are like this:- HD598 open> HD380pro > SRH 440 >= HM100 > HD598 close ATH-M50 > ZX700. But when it comes to density, the HM100 tops the chart just Above the SRH 440.

All in all the HM100 mid range is a performer which relies on accuracy, precision, clarity, level of details and transparency.

TREBLE:-

The biggest complain I had with the SRH 440 was that it lacked some treble stage size which limited the dynamics and some clarity of the treble. This is not the case with the HM100, take the treble of the SRH440, add some more energy and extension, voila, the HM100 treble rises like a Phoenix. This added energy makes the HM100 sound more transparent and clearer compared to competition.

The upper end of the HM100 is fantastic to say the least. It has plenty of energy, spark and details. None of the headphones I have or had this type of extension, energy or treble details.

The transition from upper mid to lower treble is nicely maintained with plenty of details, there no lack of details here, and the region doesn’t have spikes or uncontrolled energy. The actual energy lies at the mid treble region, things can get sharper than most of the headphone, the K702 has sibilance, this can get closer to getting sibilance but I am perfectly fine this amount of energy, in fact this energy keeps me seated, it makes the headphone sound proactive and lively.

Let it be pianos, trumpets or cymbals, they have the very good sharpness to them and the finishing of the note along with the presentation is worth mentioning. Let it be the resolution or imaging, the HM100 doesn’t hold back.

Needless to say that separation and layering is up to the mark with good amount of air and space between instruments, the stage feels full and the density is outstanding for the price.

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COMPARISONS:-

HM100 vs SRH440 vs HD598 closed back:-

HM100 vs Sennheiser HD 380 pro:-

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CONCLUSION:-

The HM100 from Brainwavz is a champion performer, it delivers where other shy away. It pushes the boundary of a $150-200 Headphone.

No part of the spectrum is left behind. It has the whole spectrum with very similar energy and transparency. The ability to deliver something without a single dip or uncomfortable peak in the spectrum is something to write home about. If you want reference sound for under $200 the HM-100 is the answer.

HM100 is a studio worthy stuff, casual users will find it dull with bass power and aggressive with mid range and treble notes transparency and clarity.

Thanks for reading guys, Have a nice time, Enjoy.
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rocksteady65
rocksteady65
Excellent, well laid out, thorough review. Many thanks!
Pros: Close to reference (HD600) signature (for a closed headphone), aesthetics, sound quality, comfort, accessories, value
Cons: Very slightly boomy in mid-bass, upper-mid peak not strictly neutral, clampy at first (can be alleviated)

INTRODUCTION

When I heard about the Brainwanz HM100, the first thing I wanted to know was how closely it related to the HM5. The HM5 was a Yoga OEM clone from the CD-880, which quite a few branded headphone manufacturers used as a base for their own models. This included Fischer Audio’s FA-003, and others from Lindy and Digitech. The Brainwavz HM5 was a real contender for a relatively neutral closed back headphone, and one which in many ways was akin to the lauded Sennheiser HD600 in tonality. When Marlon contacted me to ask if I was interested in reviewing the HM100, the answer was an immediate yes. The HM5 was brilliant – just a little iffy on long term build quality. Could the HM100 maintain the stellar sound, and deliver superior build and overall performance?

ABOUT BRAINWAVZ
Brainwavz Audio was formed in 2008 as a subsidiary of GPGS Hong Kong. Their goal has always been to develop a full range of audio solutions (mostly earphones and headphones) that cater for a variety of different tastes, uses and price brackets. They originally started with predominantly OEM designs from other companies, and more recently have been working to develop their own stand-alone products.

In their own words:
At Brainwavz we have a simple mission, to produce innovative, high quality audio products with a dedicated focus on high-end sound. Our strength, success and product range is built on the unique relationship with our customers. A relationship that has produced a simple and obvious result, we give real users real sound quality.

DISCLAIMER
The Brainwavz HM100 headphone that I’m reviewing today was provided to me freely as a review sample. Marlon has asked me to keep it for my personal use, or for follow up comparisons, and I thank him for this. The retail price at time of review is USD 170 (normal RRP 199).

PREAMBLE
If you haven’t read any of my reviews, I suggest starting here, as it will give you an insight into my known preferences and bias.

For the purposes of this review – I’ve used the HM100 from a variety of devices including (among others) the FiiO X7ii, X5iii, M9, my iPhone and my iFi stack (iUSD, iTube, iDSD). I have also tested them amped (including the Q1ii, Q5, XRK-NHB, and E17K).

In the time I have spent with the HM100, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (break-in). This is a purely subjective review – my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt – especially if it does not match your own experience.

THE PACKAGE
The HM100 comes in quite a large retail outer measuring 250 x 275 x 135mm. The box is predominantly white with some good photographs of the HM100 and a list of specifications and accessories on the back. Inside the box is a sturdy fabric/mesh covered carry case (foam interior). Inside this is the HM100 and accessories. The full accessory pack includes:


  • A pair of HM100 headphones (fitted with pleather pads)
  • The hard carry case
  • 1.3m stereo cable to 3.5mm jack
  • 3.0m stereo cable to 3.5mm jack
  • Screw on 6.3mm adaptor (fits both cables)
  • A pair of velour earpads
  • User guide including warranty card


THE TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

MEASUREMENTS
The graphs I use are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. In this particular case, I used no calibration apart from an adjustment to take the 4k Hz resonant peak of the hardware out. I don’t have a headphone measurement rig, and have no ear simulator – so you can’t use the graph as a representation of how the HM100 sounds. What I use is a head width simulator coupled with a latex soft face (or the headphones) with a hole so the veritas can sit flush.


My main aim is to take a reference headphone – my HD600 – and then compare the HM100 on the same rig and under the same conditions, and show the differences. The graphs are provided merely as a point of discussion, and later in the review I’ve included measurements of different headphones using the same set-up. What is clearly obvious using this methodology is how close the HM100 is to the HD600’s default signature.

BUILD
External
The HM100 looks to me both retro and at the same time elegant. The darker tan of the wood cups contrasts nicely with the lighter tan of the ear-pads, and the silver and black highlights of the rest of the headphone. They are quite large on the head, and they have some heft – coming in at 435 grams (includes the 1.2 m cable).

The headband is nicely rounded with very good soft foam padding encased in the tan leatherette. When worn this sits nicely on my head with no obvious pressure spots. The top of the head-band has the Brainwavz name embossed and is machine stitched. The two ends of the headband terminate in a pair of chrome coloured plastic sockets which are screwed in place.



The headband sliders are stainless steel with a lot of spring, and this is the likely cause of the quite high initial clamp force. The sliders are marked, but also glide smoothly – with no obvious click for each marker. The sliders terminate in another chrome coloured plastic socket which connects to the yoke assembly. The yokes are made from a lightweight but very strong alloy, and are reminiscent of Beyerdynamic’s yokes on the DT880/990 series. The yokes swivel side-to-side in their assembly about 20-25 deg both ways which allows easy seating of the cups onto your head. The yokes end with a black plastic swivel connector to the ear-cups.


The ear-cups are circumaural, and both large and comfortable. Internal measurements on the pads are approximately 75mm x 55mm x 30mm – so plenty of room for each ear. The outer cup measurement is approximately 110 x 85 x 75mm. The pads are attached to a removable plate (simple twist to rotate on or off) which makes pad changing very easy. The cups have a plastic frame, black trim, and wooden rear covers which are nicely finished and are embossed with the Brainwavz brand. At the bottom of each ear-cup is a socket for the replaceable cab’e. The sockets have red or blue internal connectors for easy identification of left and right. They are 3.5mm mono sockets (2 = stereo signal).

Cable(s)
Brainwavz supplies two cables – a 1.2m and longer 3m cable. Both are copper internals with an outer sheath, and terminate with a 3.5mm straight gold-plated screw threaded jack. This allows the 6.3mm adaptor to be screwed in place for a very secure fit. The 1.2m cable is encased in a dual side-by-side outer TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) sheath.


The end result is a cable which is very malleable, resistant to tangling, and has quite low microphonics. The 3m cable is encased in a cloth like fabric which is a little more difficult to manage, has higher microphonics (the cable material), but ultimately would be more likely to be used for a stationary listening position. The connector jacks are clearly marked left (blue) and right (red) with rings on the connector housings.


Pads
Brainwavz supplies two sets – the fitted tan leatherette, and a pair of black velour. The pads are easy to swap out (rotate mount, remove from headphone, change pads, reattach mount). The changes to sonic signature are smaller than expected (see graph). This may be more to do with the tighter clamp while new. I would expect as the clamp diminishes to see a slight roll-off in sub-bass with the velours. The pads appear well made and are quite comfortable.

All in all, I would describe the build as pretty good – with my only real concerns being with the chrome coloured plastic (IMO metal would have been a better choice). Only time will tell if this becomes a future issue.

COMFORT / ISOLATION
Isolation with the HM100 is about average for a sealed headphone. With them in place and no music, I can still hear the keyboard when typing, but it is muted. With music playing at my normal 70-75 dB level this practically disappears. While I find the HM100 quite good for isolation both ways (noise in and out) in a room with moderate background noise, I would not be recommending them as suitable for higher noise environments (ie planes, sub-way).

Comfort for me is personally is very good. The ear-pads fit completely around my ears, and the foam cushions provide softness without becoming irritable. The headband is nicely curved to minimise individual pressure points. I do find them a little on the heavy side, but to be fair I’ve had some several hour sessions with the HM100 and not felt stiff or sore afterwards.

Clamp is quite high, and as a glasses wearer there is some pressure from the cups (pushing the glasses to the bridge of my nose). I know that the clamp can be adjusted over time (HM5 were the same) simply by carefully bending the steel extenders, or by simply stretching for a few days across some books.

SOUND QUALITY
My testing for this section was done with the FiiO X7ii (AM3A module), no EQ, and the tan pleather pads. I used the X7ii simply because it provides both a very transparent window to the music with low impedance, and also more than enough power.

For the record – on most tracks, the volume level on the X7ii (paired with AM3a) was ~65-70/120 Single Ended (on low gain) which was giving me an average SPL around 65-75 dB (track dependent). Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list.

Relativities
  • Sub-bass – surprisingly good extension, but definitely starts to roll off a little into the sub-bass. The sub-bass rumble in Lorde’s “Royals” is definitely audible, and I find it quite balanced considering the rest of the signature. Definitely no bass bleed from the sub-bass.
  • Mid-bass – good impact, and elevated compared to the sub-bass. There is reasonable thump and my only comment would be that it is slightly resonant. Its not really muddy or anything – there just seems to be a little mid-bass hump, and this adds a slightly boomy quality overall. It is slight though, and does not stop me from enjoying the bass on the HM100 very much.
  • Lower mid-range – very tastefully done and perfectly balanced with the upper mid-range. Male vocals have good presence and richness in timbre and I’m not finding male vocalists thin or lacking.
  • Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range (mainly in the 3-5 kHz area, which helps add euphony in the presence area for female vocals. This tuning isn’t massively overdone, but can benefit (IMO) in a cut with a reasonable Q (covering 3-5 kHz) by about 5-6 dB. Its not necessary, but I personally think this balances things slightly better. There is a very cohesive interchange from low to upper mids.
  • Lower treble – very good extension without dropping off, even after 10 kHz. Cymbals have good presence with a decent decay.
  • Upper treble – seems to be nicely extended. Its hard for me to judge this area, because my hearing tops out around 14kHz nowadays, and the measuring equipment is not accurate enough from about 9 kHz up. No signs of brittleness, and I personally don’t find anything missing.
Resolution / Detail / Clarity
  • Clarity is absolutely excellent, and there is distinct detail in all of my usual test tracks. With Dire Straits “Sultans of Swing”, the micro details such as drumstick clicks are easily heard, and there is no signs of masking from the bass guitar. Pink Floyd’s “Money” is likewise phenomenal with every detail of the registers present, yet perfectly mingled within the music. I think this is attributable to the nicely neutral frequency response.
  • Cymbals hits (especially hi-hats and crash-cymbals) are present, and the trailing decay is audible. If I was nit-picking, I’d say that the decay can be a little splashy. My test track for this is Pearl Jam’s EWBTCIAST, and while good, the cymbals don’t have quite the shimmering tail off I’ve heard from some other headphones.
  • Portico Quartet’s “Ruins” is a good track for checking the overall balance on hi-hat taps and general cymbal decay, and the balance overall in this track is excellent. Cymbal brushes are again easily audible and sustained.
Sound-stage, Imaging
  • My usual first track for checking width, depth and shape of perceived sound-stage is Amber Rubarth’s “Tundra”. While there is projection outside my perceived head-space (violin), the overall impression is more of intimacy than space (so what I would normally expect from a closed headphone).
  • Directionally the track is consistent and stage shape has both depth and width (perhaps slightly more width).
  • Imaging of all 3 instruments is very precise with good sense of separation.
  • I use the applause sections of “Dante’s Prayer” and Lakme’s “Flower Duet” for a feeling of immersion. Very good headphones can give you a real sense of being in the audience. The HM100 manages this quite well with both tracks. There is a life-like sense of of flow around me, although slightly more left / right than front / back.
  • The last go-to track is Amanda Marshal’s “Let it Rain” which has a natural 3 dimensional feel (the way the track was miked). The HM100 handles it well. I also use this track as my sibilance test (its quite a hotly mastered track – and it is present in the recording). The HM100 does reveal the sibilance without any masking. This could be further evidence of a possible small 7-8 kHz peak?
Strengths
  • Overall balance end to end in the frequency response – quite exceptional.
  • Bass balance of impact, timbre and definition.
  • Imaging – very clean and easy to pick directional cues
  • Very good at lower volumes with good clarity
  • Female vocals have a wonderful touch of euphony. Male vocals are still reasonably rich, and display good timbre.
Weaknesses
  • 3-5 kHz peak may be slightly overdone, and may benefit from EQ.
  • Slight boominess / resonance in the bass (can be normal with closed back headphones).
  • Small amount of “heat” – possibly in the 7-8 kHz region. Its not bad, just perhaps slightly overdone.
AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
The HM100 is one of those headphones which looks harder to drive on paper than it really is. The on-line Digizoid Headphone Power Calculator tells me that at 64 ohms and 96 dB sensitivity, it requires 2.26 Vrms, 35.31 mA and approx 80 mW to reach 115 dB SPL (on the verge of pain). This halves if you’re simply wanting to top out at 110 dB. What this means is that virtually all of my current DAPs are easily able to drive the HM100 to very listen-able levels without distortion, and without needing extra amping. This includes my iPhone SE – which manages quite nicely at around 50-55% volume.

So does the HM100 get better with amping? For this I used the Q1ii, Q5, XRK-NHB, and E17K. With each of the amps I didn’t really notice any audible signs of greater driver control (once volume matched). What I did notice was that the slight added warmth of the XRK-NHB was a pleasant addition to the tonality, and with the other amps, some of the hardware EQ (bass boost or tone controls) were fun to play around with. But does the HM100 need a lot of amplification? In my opinion – not really.


RESPONSE TO EQ?
My first go to was the E17K’s tone controls and anything more than a +2 bass did become a little boomy, so for me personally I wouldn’t touch the bass too much. But a -4 treble adjustment (which affects upper mids and lower treble) did seem to nicely adjust the overall signature taking some of the splash out of the cymbals.

Going back to the X7ii’s EQ I dropped the 4 kHz and 8 kHz sliders by 4dB, and for my tastes it was a noticeable improvement. But this will depend ultimately on preference.

COMPARISONS
I found this a really difficult section to write. Most of my other closed headphones have been sold or given to family members. I chose instead to compare directly to the HD600 and HD630VB, and to use FiiO’s A5 amplifier to ensure the HD600 was getting enough power.

These comparisons were all done without EQ, and volume matched using a calibrated SPL meter and fixed 1kHz test tone first. These are very subjective comparisons.

HM100 vs HD600

Build
Both headphones share similar qualities – high clamp when new, but otherwise very comfortable with good padding. Both are also quite modular in design. Materials appear to be well thought out with both headphones, although I would be wary of the chrome coloured plastic on the HM100 (hopefully it is as sturdy as it looks). Both have good quality cables with built in 6.3mm adaptors.

Comfort / Ergonomics
Both are extremely comfortable and very ergonomic – once you get over the new (high clamp) factor. The HD600 are lighter and probably nudge ahead in this area.

Overall Sound Quality
These two are quite close in overall signature. I noticed this also with the original HM5. Both are appreciably balanced / neutral with natural tonality. The HM100 are bassier and slightly boomier through the mid-bass. The HD600 is more open with both a wider and deeper sense of stage. The HM100 also appear to be slightly brighter / sharper. But really (and this is the greatest compliment I could give the HM100), the HM100 is as close (IMO) as you can get to an HD600 closed clone.

HM100 vs HD630VB

Build
Both headphones share similar overall build qualities – reasonably sturdy with a good selection of build materials. The HD630VB is slightly better built (metal hinges), but does not have the replaceable cables or ear-pads of the HM100. The HD630VB does have the variable bass and also the on-cable controls for portability. Both are relatively heavy headphones. I would consider the HD630VB to have better overall build quality, but both to have strengths in additional features.

Comfort / Ergonomics
Both are extremely comfortable and very ergonomic. I do find the HM100 has better headband padding, and is a little better for longer term listening. The HD630VB is better for overall portability – but ultimately the HM100 is more comfortable for me.

Overall Sound Quality
I originally thought these two would also be quite close and I was surprised with the overall differences. The HD630VB has more sub-bass impact but is also a lot weaker through the mid-bass and lower mid-range area. It is also brighter overall (likely to be as a result of the missing mid-bass). This can be corrected to a certain extent via dialling up the bass quantity. Probably the most obvious difference though is in overall tonality. The HM100 have a larger perceived head-space, and are less peaky and more natural sounding. It would be fair to say that before I tried the HM100, the HD630VB have been one of my favourite closed back cans. That spot now goes to the HM100. For my personal tastes – the HM100 simply sounds better.

VALUE
When you look at the overall package of the HM100 – aesthetics, comfort, build, and most of all sound – it would be easy to imagine this headphone in a considerably higher price bracket. For the RRP of $199 you’re getting a truly well balanced headphone with a timeless frequency response.

Yes, parallels can be made with the considerably cheaper HM5, and yes the two signatures are very similar. With the HM100 you get all that was good about the HM5 but in a classier looking overall package. The tweaks might be small but they are IMO worth it:

  • A little extra bass
  • Better overall build
  • Better aesthetics
  • Improved comfort
At the RRP this represents very good value. And if you can find the HM100 at promotional pricing (currently $170), the value proposition increases.

BRAINWAVZ HM100 – SUMMARY
When I first tried the HM5 from Brainwavz, it was an instant hit for me. A beautifully balanced headphone sonically, but with some small deficiencies (eg issue with headphone arms/hinges breaking longer term), and quite an industrial unattractive look. Fast forward to it’s successor today (the HM100) and Brainwavz have addressed a lot of those deficiencies.

The HM100 is an exceptional looking headphone, with a slight retro but still classy look coupled with some design changes which (hopefully) address the issues with overall build quality from the HM5. Couple this with added padding (increased comfort) and some slight tweaks in sound, and you really have a headphone which punches above its weight.

The HM100 is the closest I’ve heard to a closed back Sennheiser HD600, with a very balanced overall tonality, and very good clarity. For the overall package, I consider the asking price of $199 to be very good value, and if you can pick them up cheaper (promotions), they represent excellent value.

I just want to close with thanking Marlon for allowing me the chance to review the HM100.



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rocksteady65
rocksteady65
Excellent, thoroughly informative review. Thank you!
Pros: Beautiful design - Fairly balanced signature with great clarity and extension - Complete accessory kit
Cons: Build could see some improvements - Treble peaks that may bother some; mostly an issue at high volumes in my experience
Greetings,

Today we're taking a look at Brainwavz's newest full-sized dynamic driver headphone, the HM100.

Celebrating their 10th year anniversary this year, 2018, Brainwavz has cemented themselves as a brand known for bring quality sound to the audio community at a wide variety of price points. From entry level earphones like the Jive to neutral monitoring headphone staples like the HM5, they never fail to satisfy. While I never had the chance to hear the HM5 or any of it's rebranded cousins, I was well aware of it's reputation and the very successful series of ear pads that spawned from it. The HM100 seems to aim to build on the success of the HM5, enhancing the line with a new look, more premium build, and with the amazing sound they're known for.

How did they do? Let's find out.

IMG_5417_Signature.jpg

Disclaimer:

A big thanks to Marlon with Brainwavz for arranging and sending over a complimentary sample of the HM100 for the purposes of review. While it doesn't need to be sent back, it will be if requested. All thoughts within this review are my own based on a couple months spent with the HM100. They do not represent Brainwavz or any other entity, nor were they influenced by any form of financial compensation.

At the time of writing, the HM100 retailed for 199 USD. It is currently selling for 169.58 USD as part of their Christmas sale. You can check it out here: https://www.brainwavzaudio.com/coll...0-studio-monitor-headphones-with-wood-earcups

Source:

Despite a fairly high impedance and sub-100dB, the HM100 never came across as particularly difficult to drive, Still, it's a full sized set of headphones meant for use indoors and as such it spent nearly all it's testing time being powered by my TEAC HA-501 desktop amp. My Asus FX53V laptop, LG G6, HiFi E.T. MA8, and the Shanling M0 took turns running source duty. A few instances saw it being powered by the Radsone ES100 which wasn't taxed at all by the HM100.

Personal Preferences:

I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, Brainwavz B400, and thinksound On2 offer varied examples of signatures I enjoy. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when reading my thoughts on how an earphone sounds.

Specifications:
  • Driver: 52mm dynamic
  • Impedance: 64ohms
  • Sensitivity: 96dB +/- 3dB @ 1mW
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 40KHz
  • Max Input Power: 1000mW
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Packaging and Accessories:

The HM100 arrives in a sizable cardboard box. Dominated by a white color scheme, the front contains an image of the headphones mainly showing off the cups, yokes, and pads. Above that image is the usual branding and model information as well as a large logo advertising the generous 24 month warranty. Both left and right sides of the box contain profile shots of the HM100. On the back there is a description of the product along with a list of contents with supporting images, and the specification list. Inside the box is completely dominated by a massive hard shell carrying case holding the HM100 and all accessories. In all you get:
  • HM100 headphones
  • 3m cloth sheathed cable
  • 1.3m rubber sheathed cable
  • Spare velour pads (leatherette preinstalled)
  • 1/4” adapter
  • User guide / warranty card
The case is made with what feels to be a durable nylon exterior with a large rubber grab handle on the back for carrying the HM100 around. Inside on one half, the headphones are secured via a cushy foam cutout which keeps them from sliding around, protecting them from damage due to drops and bumps. The other half contains a mesh lining in which you store all of the accessories.

The shorter 1.3m cable is well relieved with color coded plugs so you know which cable goes where. It is thick but comparatively lightweight in relation to the 3m cable. It has a traditional rubber sheath and is definitely the one you're going to want to use when sitting at your listening station, and outdoors should you be brave enough to wear these outside the house or office. The 3m cable is extremely thick with a dense cloth sheath protecting the wires within. To say it is pretty beastly would be an understatement. It wouldn't be out of place attached to a home appliance. Strain relief is excellent, even if it's probably not needed. This cable forgoes the color coded plugs of the 1.3m cable, intead relying on L/R markings to determine channel.

Lastly, Brainwavz has been getting some flack for their choice of pads on the HM100. I have set of their memory foam hybrid velour/pleather pads for comparison. Yes, the pads included with the HM100 are a slight downgrade in terms of construction quality, though in my opinion it makes absolutely zero difference when in use, and isn't too noticeable until you start really poking around looking for problems. These pads are fairly deep, plush, and perfectly comfortable. They're just fine and better than the stock pads on the vast majority of headphones I've got.

IMG_5430_Signature.jpg IMG_5431_Signature.jpg IMG_5432_Signature.jpg

Build, Comfort, and Isolation:

From a style standpoint you can't argue the HM100 is a classy looking headphone. The mix of browns and silvers, metal and wood, makes for an attractive and somewhat timeless product that'll look just as appealing in ten years as it does now. While overall I think the material and build quality is good and will stand the test of time, there are a couple niggles I have.

Let's start with their most defining feature, the wooden ear cups. Well, mostly wood. These ear cups are massive (~3” thick) and look fantastic, but only the rear half of the cup features the wood aspect. The stain is quite dark and does a good job of hiding the grain when the light isn't ideal, but when it is ideal, you see the usual swirls and swoops you expect to see from wood. Still, the smooth, velvety finish feels great in hand and with the Brainwavz logo cut just off centre, they look outstanding. The inner portion of the cup is a matte plastic of decent quality. It doesn't look or feel particularly premium, but it doesn't emanate cheapness either. Feels price appropriate more than anything. On the bottom of each cup is the input port for the 3.5m plugs, color coded blue and red to indicate left and right channels respectively.

On either side of each ear cup is a plastic bracket connecting the cups the metal yokes. At first they don't look like anything special, but on deeper inspection they can be unclipped, allowing the cup to fully separate from the headband. Why is this useful? Well, the ear cups are very easy to disassemble. Simply unscrew four Allen bolts and they're apart. This is an excellent setup for modders since they can easily disassemble the HM100 and put it back together without causing any irreversible damage. I bet we'll see some cool mods for these in the months to come.

IMG_5438_Signature.jpg IMG_5441_Signature.jpg IMG_5504_Signature.jpg

Going back to the headband, the yokes are all metal similar is design to those from Beyerdynamic. The yokes connect to the rest of the headband via a pivot that gives the ear cups a wide range of motion. This pivot system uses a combination of metal and a stiff plastic. The plastics look pretty thick and durable, but plastic is plastic and stiff plastics break when enough stress is placed on them. They don't bend. Just be careful not to wrench on these pivots too hard and they should easily last as long as everything else on this headphone. The headband seems to be coated in the same pleatherette material used for the pre-installed pads and is amply cushioned. This plus the puffy pads makes the HM100 very comfortable to wear for long periods, design being huge and a little on the heavy side. That's a positive not only for the obvious reasons, but because these are being marketed as monitoring headphones and long listening sessions are par for the course.

The pads are fully replaceable. Pad swapping on the HM100 is as simple as gripping the base of the pad where the inner ring is and twisting is one direction or the other. The plastic ring inside unclips from the ear cups and the pad them lifts away. Remove the plastic ring from the pads you're replacing, insert it in the new pads, set it on the ear cups and twist it into place. It's a very easy system to work. It would have been nice if Brainwavz included a second set of rings to speed up the swapping process, but I can't complain too hard. Removable/replaceable pads is too valuable a feature to complain about, regardless of the implementation.

If I'm going to levy any complaints at the build, it goes to the adjustment sliders. The sliders on my set are extremely loose to the point that simply picking up the headphones causes them to extend and exhaust most of their travel. Not a huge issue for me since I use the HM100 on it's smallest size settings. Should someone use them on a mid-range length, however, they're going to be constantly adjusting the size which I know from using the AKG K403 can be quite annoying. I could also nitpick the silver rings that separate the wood from the plastic. Part of the ring is smoothed and neatly chromed while the base has been cut with a rough, uneven presentation. I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be like this, but in my opinion if feels terrible rubbing against the fingers and adds a slightly unfinished look to the whole design. If the wood grain of the cups were more prevalent, it would be a better match to my eyes.

When it comes to isolation, the HM100 isn't too bad. There are six small vents on each ear cup, three on each side of the plastic clips that hold the ear cups to the yokes. They let is a bit of noise, quite similar in isolation and effect to a dynamic driver based in ear monitor actually. Sitting here typing, I can hear the dull snicking of my keypad as I type. If I have a video running through the laptop speakers, I can follow along just fine but everything is expectedly muted and muffled. Given how ridiculous these look on me, I didn't take them for a stroll through the city or to my local coffee shop.

The HM100 is a great looking headphone with outstanding comfort that for the most part feels well built. There are a few aspects that give away that it was built to meet a certain price point, and they do stand out, but it still feels pretty nice overall.

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Sound:

Pads: Both pads are quite nice but the velour option is my personal pick. It gives the HM100 an airier, more open sound when compared to the pleather pads. It also seems to bring the mid-range forward, balancing out the signature further. Bass and treble didn't really sound like they were affected much which was nice since they were fine as is with the pleather pads.

The HM100 is billed as an accurate, natural sounding headphone and for the most part I agree. It isn't exceptionally bassy, it's mid-range isn't too forward or recessed, and minus some peaks in the treble comes across quite well balanced.

Treble is quite well extended without any significant roll off at the extremities that I can detect. For the most part, the balance is pretty even from the lower to upper treble. However, I do hear two peaks that I think sit around 4k and 7k which may bother some. For me, I like the 4k peak and do not find it tiring at all. The 7k peak though. That one is fine at the lower volumes I typically listen and help give the HM100 a very airy and open sound, but as the volume increases I find effects get a bit too shimmery, such as the opening cymbals on Michael Jackson's “P.Y.T”. If you are sensitive to treble and tend to listen loud, you might need to bust out the EQ to soften these peaks.

The mid-range on the other hand has a slightly warm tilt to it and outputs very sweet, detailed vocals. Paul William's on Daft Punk's “Touch” sounds memorizing with the 70's-esque guitar work and strings singing along in the background. I don't usually sing along or react much visually to my music, but through the HM100 I found myself mouthing the vocals along with the track. Female vocals work too without coming across shouty and abrasive. The HM100 foes a job job of the three vocal styles present in Jessie J.'s “Bang Bang”. Jessie and Ariana sound powerful and clear while Nicki avoids the nasal-ish sound that so many headphones apply to her vocals. All of this is done sibilance free too, and with a natural timbre that gives guitars a satisfying presentation and crunch.

The HM100's bass digs deep and is quite even from the deepest depths to where you transition into the mid-range. I didn't notice any bleed into or smearing of the mids, even on tracks where deep bass was thundering along during the vast majority of the track, such as on Getter's “Head Splitter”. If you check out that track, make sure you watch it alongside the video which is weird as ever. It's also plenty quick handling the double-bass of Havok's “D.O.A.”, along with everything else for that matter, without missing a beat. I was not expecting this to be all that fun with EDM, but the HM100 was surprisingly versatile with this genre and met my sub-bass needs pretty easily.

For a closed back can, I found the HM100 to have a really nice sound stage. The airy treble gives notes lots of room to play and the distant (not recessed) vocals create a sense of roundness to it all. It comes across quite natural to my ears without any congestion or claustrophobic feeling moments. Channel to channel imaging is accurate and can really sent sounds far to the sides, though I found that happened more with media like movies and gaming than music. Instrument layering and separation is quite competent too with live tracks, like the rendition of King Crimson's “Indiscipline” from the On Broadway compilation showing real depth and distance between artists. Everything about that track sounds pretty epic through the HM100 actually, but the imaging, layering, and separation are standouts for sure.

Select Comparisons (volumes matched as best I could via my Dayton Audio iMM-6):

AKG K553 Pro: The K553 Pro has been one of my go-to headphones for years now and has a signature I adore. The HM100 is warmer and has less forward and more neutral mids, both in emphasis and sound stage placement. Where vocalists are singing to and for you through the K553 Pro, they're set back and singing to an audience through the HM100. The K553 has more mid and upper bass punch and presence, rolling off pretty early as you head into sub-bass regions where the HM100 is still comfortably thundering along. Treble presence is similar with the K553 Pro showing slightly better extension and a touch more emphasis and sparkle. The K553 Pro definitely comes across skewed towards the middle and upper frequencies whereas the HM100 is more balanced and neutral-bright leaning. The K553 Pro has a pretty good sound stage for a closed back, but the HM100 surprised me by coming across much more spacious, especially in terms of width. I guess that's the sort of difference that should be expected when comparing a relatively broad and flat cup to a more narrow, deep cup. When it comes to clarity and detail, I find the HM100 provides more information in the low end. The K553 Pro draws more micro-detail out of the the mids. Treble is again quite similar and quite clear on both. If you enjoy a strong mid-range the K553 Pro is a great pick, but if you want something more well-rounded the HM100 is the one to take.

Meze 99 Neo: The 99 Neo is a fun headphone less concerned about accuracy more than providing an entertaining listen. You mix on the HM100, then check it out with the 99 Neo. The 99 is slightly warmer than the HM100 with more emphasis placed on the low end. Bass extension feels slightly deeper on the HM100 but there is less mid-bass punch when compared to the 99 Neo. The Neo's mids are similarly balanced but more forward in the staging leading to a more intimate sound. As with the K553, the 99 Neo signs to you while the HM100 sings in your general vicinity. Treble on the 99 Neo is rolled off and as a result lacks the definition and clarity of the HM100, but emphasis is similar in the lower regions. The 99 Neo is another closed back that I felt had a pretty good sound stage, also unseated by the HM100. The more distanced vocals of the HM100 give it an airy and open feel missing on the 99 Neo. This combined with improved imaging, layering, and separation, gives it a clear edge. Clarity and detail is in the HM100's camp due to the extra upper range energy and more balanced signature while the 99 Neo's mid-bass also hinders resolution slightly. If you're less concerned about accuracy, detail, and sound stage and are more interested in a bassy, bouncy headphone with decent technicals, the 99 Neo is a good pick.

Final Thoughts:

Brainwavz is no stranger to high quality audio. With the HM100 you're getting a well balanced headphone with some strategic, though potentially polarizing, treble peaks that boost clarity and give the HM100 an airy feel. It's a rewarding headphone to revisit familiar tracks with since you're likely to pick up new details you might have missed the first time.

In addition to some competent sonic performance, the HM100 is a physically attractive product with a comfortable, timeless design, and acceptable build quality. Add in that it comes with a great carrying case, two durable cables, and a two sets of completely different ear pads, and you've got yourself a great total package. Oh yeah, and there is also that two year warranty that you can fall back, just in case. As I've said numerous times in the past, a long warranty shows a company's confidence in, and commitment to, their product.

Thanks again to Brainwavz for supporting my humble reviews with the chance to check out yet another of their products, and to you for reading and supporting my content. I hope you get something useful out of this, and should you choose to pick up an HM100, that you enjoy it even more than I did.

- B9Scrambler

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Some Test Tunes:

Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)
Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)
Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)
Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)
Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)

Attachments

cerb998
cerb998
It's yoke, not yolk.
B9Scrambler
B9Scrambler
Fixed. Thanks.
rocksteady65
rocksteady65
Great, detailed, thorough review. Many thanks!
Pros: -wood & metal
-big soundstage
-detail retrival on higher frequencies
-accessories
Cons: -build quality
-sibilance and distortion with higher volumes
-bass performance
I've been a fan of brainwavz headphones for a long time. To be more precise I'm a fan of yoga, a taiwanese manufacturer who makes the headphones for brainwavz. Previous yoga/brainwavz headphones have been great performers in the budget category. When I heard hm100 was about to be released I was very eager to hear what they had achieved.

IMG_20181107_134607.jpg

Build quality & accessories.

Hm5 is known for providing nice set of accessories and hm100 is no different. They come with two cables and extra set of velour earpads. Included carry case has been upgraded to a hard case. Shorter cable is similar to the hm5 cable and longer one is a beefy cloth covered one that has a certain high end feel to it.
IMG_20181107_134917.jpg
IMG_20181107_122106.jpg IMG_20181107_122026.jpg
For a $199 headphones these look really nice. Even though wood is more common material in headphones then it was five years ago it still is mostly seen in expensive headphones. In combination with beyerdynamic style metal headband these look exactly like how I like my headphones.

These are pretty big headphones, alot bigger than hm5. Here are dissasembled cups for comparison.
IMG_20181107_124816.jpg

Amphiteather design. Similar Fischer audio uses on their upgrade cups for fa003. IMG_20181107_123712.jpg

Unfortunately craftmanship is not equal to materials used. Wood around the metal ring is poorly cut and the ring itself is not properly brushed. Finishing on the metal hinges is average at best. It's not like one could get a cut but it's not good either.

Biggest problem is how loose the headband sliders are. I need to put the headphones on my head before adjusting them to a final position. First I thought I just got a bad pair but it appears I'm not only one with this problem.

Earpads are also a disappointment. Brainwavz is known for their great earpads but hm100 pads are not one of those. Compared to old hm5 (jaycar version of the same headphone), hm100 pads have different foam. It does not act like memory foam at all. Pleather feels more plasticky and less premium. The attaching part is thinner and I doubt these could take extensive stretching original hm5 pads can.

IMG_20181107_122652_01.jpg IMG_20181107_122402.jpg

Comfort

People who could not take firm clamp of original hm5 will be happy to hear hm100 does not clamp as hard. There is still fair bit of clamping and pressure around ears is not perfectly divided. Headband also has more padding. Like I said pads have been downgraded but they're still comfortable. Hm100 is not uncomfortable headphone to wear but it definately does not disappear on your head either.

Sound

First thing that many people will notice is these are a lot brighter than hm5. There has been a debate if newer hm5's and other rebrands are brighter than old ones but old ones are definately bit on the dark side. Old hm5 is not just dark but does mask a lot off what is going on in the higher frequencies. Hm100 fixes all that. Hm100 sounds extremely detailed. Maybe more than anything I've heard in this price range.

Midrange does sounds quite even.. These sound bit thin maybe and lack some meat around the bones partly because of slightly elevated upper mids and treble. These don't send shivers down my spine but are captivating enough to keep listening.

Bass is bit disappointing. I's hard to describe what is it that I don't like about it but is just don't feel right. It does not go very deep which is not a deal breaker it's just unimpressive in general. Bass lacks punch and sounds too soft, fluffy. Quantity is there but it just does not KICK.

Soundstage deserves an extra mention. These have a very big soundstage. Among the best I've heard amongst closed headphones. Slow paced dire straits songs with guitar far on the horizon sound amazing. Same goes for most peacefull acoustic music.

Take my measurements with a heavy grain of salt. I'm still figuring out things. But I do feel the graph does pretty well show tonal differences between hm5 and hm100.hm100-hm5.jpg

All in all these would not be bad headphones but these have one more fault that pretty much ruins everything. These are only good for low volume listening. When volume increases hm100 becomes sibilant quite fast. To make it worse these start to distort. It's not rattling bass one would expect but it is there on every frequency. Either it is qc problem or hm100 is just a flawed headphone.


Conclusion

With large soundstage and ability retrieve small details these had a lot off potential. Sadly with iffy build quality, disappointing bass performance and sibilance at louder volumes, these fall short of the competition.
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B9Scrambler
B9Scrambler
Fair review. I personally quite enjoy the sound of these but the build is an odd mix of really nice components/materials, and some cheap ones. That and the sliders just don't work, lol. I'll have to give a listen at higher volumes for sibilance. Haven't heard any myself, but I'm a very low volume listener so I wouldn't come across it during my regular listening sessions.
Roderick
Roderick
It is indeed a mixed bag. There is one review on amazon and it also reports the slider problem. So at this point it seems like a very common problem. Sibilance I hear is propably that +10db peak at 4.5khz... If my measurements can be trusted. If I don't get my pair sold I could try some mods. Takstar hi2050 headband might fit these. Some damping in the cups...figure out a way to give bass more body etc.
dhruvmeena96
dhruvmeena96
Somehow get the Fischer audio magnesium driver for fa003ti(same as hm5)

Replace it

And then mod it
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