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Brainwavz hm100

Rating:
3.66667/5,
  1. Brooko
    Brainwavz HM100 – Headphone Review
    Written by Brooko
    Published Jan 6, 2019
    4.0/5,
    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)
    [​IMG]
    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:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    • 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
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    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    THE TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
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    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.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    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.

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    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
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    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
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    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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  2. B9Scrambler
    Brainwavz HM100: One with the Wood
    Written by B9Scrambler
    Published Dec 22, 2018
    4.0/5,
    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    IMG_5429_Signature.jpg IMG_5433_Signature.jpg IMG_5442_Signature.jpg

    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)

    images

    1. IMG_5326_Signature.jpg
    2. IMG_5427_Signature.jpg
    3. IMG_5428_Signature.jpg
    4. IMG_5434_Signature.jpg
    1. cerb998
      It's yoke, not yolk.
      cerb998, Dec 29, 2018
      B9Scrambler likes this.
    2. B9Scrambler
      Fixed. Thanks.
      B9Scrambler, Dec 29, 2018
  3. Roderick
    Brainwavz hm100: worthy successor for hm5?
    Written by Roderick
    Published Nov 7, 2018
    3.0/5,
    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.
      B9Scrambler likes this.
    1. 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.
      B9Scrambler, Nov 8, 2018
      PaganDL likes this.
    2. 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.
      Roderick, Nov 8, 2018
    3. dhruvmeena96
      Somehow get the Fischer audio magnesium driver for fa003ti(same as hm5)

      Replace it

      And then mod it
      dhruvmeena96, Nov 23, 2018