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Brainwavz HM2

Rating:
3.64286/5,
  1. fleasbaby
    Sexy Portable Workhorse
    Written by fleasbaby
    Published Dec 7, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Sturdy build, comfortable pads, easy sound signature
    Cons - Minimum size on headband too large for some, cheap
    Brainwavz have just released a new headphone, the HM2. I was offered the opportunity to review a pair, and accepted. In case you couldn’t tell from my ramblings below, I have received no financial compensation for my thoughts, they are entirely my own.
     
    I am neither old, nor young, and am on the cusp of being or not being a millennial. I have been a lifelong music-listener, with interests that range far and wide, from African Jazz all the way through to EDM, with plenty of stops in between (Tuvan Throat Singing anyone?).
     
    I use a variety of sources. My employer saw fit to equip me with a MacBook Air that sometimes acts as a source for me. I also use a Pono player, iPod Touch (1st gen), Sansa Clip+ and my iPhone 5. At the time I did this review I was also testing the Shanling M2. All of my files are FLAC at 16/44, with a few small exceptions in FLAC again but at higher resolutions, or in MP3 at CBR 320.
     
    The headphones arrived in a nice box, designed and branded for the HM2, nothing generic, but nothing special about it. Inside, in a clear plastic bag, was the hardcase that comes with the headphones. In the hardcase was the headphones, and two cables, one a simple, flat ribbon affair, the other a round one with an analogue volume slider and control button (for taking calls I assume). The case has enough room in it to hold a DAP and/or an amp if they are modestly sized. Nothing mind-bendingly different here, just perfectly adequate. I have not included pictures as Brooko has done a wonderful job of that on his review, and the Brainwavz site has plenty of eye-candy.
     
    I was a little dubious about the ribbon cable. It seemed awfully fragile. I plugged it in though, and it works well. I was a naughty fellow and gave it a few yanks to see if it would snap. Nothing happened though, its rather solid, despite the way it looks and feels. I questioned the logic behind a flat cable for listening until I realized how light, unobtrusive and un-microphonic it was. Nice move Brainwavz design team.
     
    The round cable with the slider and button was nice. I expected the slider to be noisy and difficult to use accurately, but its not. Perhaps with age it might become a little cantankerous, but then again, won’t we all?
     
    The headphones themselves are rather nice looking. Smooth, no sudden angles, and sleek, made from a nice, solid, matte plastic. They have no headband pad, but are so light they don’t need one. The adjusting sliders are solid feeling, and the folding hinges don’t feel like I’ll be snapping them with my clumsy hands any time soon.
     
    Clamping force is in the Goldilocks zone….neither too hard nor too soft, and Brainwavz, being Brainwavz, have equipped these headphones with very comfortable pads. I usually battle a little with supra-aural headphones, these are nicely designed to simply slip on with almost no fidgeting and fiddling required to get a good seat (even on my slightly larger than necessary ears). I was able to wear them for extended periods without significant discomfort.
     
    Soundwise, Brainwavz is pretty open about the signature. It’s smooth and easy going. This means a noticeable tilt towards warm and bassy. The HM2 do really well with EDM. When I listen to EDM, I tend to listen to odd-ball stuff like the Orb, Flying Lotus, Future Sound of London, Four Tet, Boards of Canada and Caribou. The bass doesn’t reach as low as some considerably more expensive headphones, but it has a very comforting presentation, one that bleeds just a tiny bit into the midrange. This was only noticeable on a track that called Flag, off the album Nana by Xavier Rudd and the United Nations. It starts off with vocals only, and then has a rather deep and heavy beat drop in.
     
    I also listen to a lot of Jazz, and some Blues and Folk. Again, that mellow sound signature means these all sound very nice. I don’t hear as much detail as I do on my vintage pink driver SR60 Grados, Sennheiser HD600, or my Yamaha YH-1, but again, these are not made for the same purpose as those, and do not sit in the same price range.
     
    Isolation is so-so. They are closed, but aren’t an anechoic chamber.
     
    Overall the HM2 is a great headphone to buy simply to fling into your backpack for work, or give to your kids to abuse on a daily basis. They are sturdy, easy on the eyes, and made to be worn for extended periods with their excellent pads and easy-going sound. If you’re looking for a nice portable that won’t break the bank (or your heart if you lose it), the HM2 fit the bill nicely.
    1. nmatheis
      Love your reviews. They always make me chuckle. Nice blend of no-nonsense review with an easy-going writing style. And... you listen to A LOT of the same electronic music as I do, dude! BoC, Caribou, Four Tet, FSOL = Awesomesauce! If you really wanna go off the wall, try some Raster Noton stuff like Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kangding Ray, and Mika Vaino. Mindblowigly awesome IMHO!!!
      nmatheis, Dec 8, 2015
    2. fleasbaby
      Thanks :). I always feel like we have a lot of serious reviewers. There's room for a little of a more informal voice.
       
      Thanks for the suggestions...will have a look at them. Am listening to Mbongwana Star's "From Kinshasa" album right now. Great stuff...think Thundercat from Brainfeeder raised in the Congo...
      fleasbaby, Dec 9, 2015
  2. NA Blur
    Brainwavz HM2: A Sleek Bassy Headphone
    Written by NA Blur
    Published Dec 6, 2015
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Great design, deep impactful bass, very portable
    Cons - Large headband, no headband pad, cables feel cheap
    Brainwavz HM2: A Sleek Bass Headphone
     
    HM2_Box.jpg
     
    SPECS
    http://www.brainwavzaudio.com/collections/headphones/products/hm2-headphones?variant=6644195525
    Driver Type                     Dynamic ( 40 mm )
    Plug Type                       3.5 mm TRRS
    Cord Length                   1.2 m Flat and 1.2 m with in-line remote
    Frequency Response     10 Hz – 20 kHz
    Impedance                      32 Ohms
    Sensitivity                       104 dB / mW @ 1kHz

    HM2_Case.jpg
     
    WHERE TO BUY / COST:
    http://www.brainwavzaudio.com/collections/headphones/products/hm2-headphones
    $49.50 new
     
    OVERVIEW
    I have been working with Brainwavz for a while now reviewing a ton of their IEMs and a few of their headphones. I must say this is the first headphone they have produced that caught my eye right out of the box. The HM2 is a wonderfully compact, sleek-looking, simply designed headphone. Brainwavz claims to have captured a “smooth sound with punchy bass” as well as producing a very comfortable headphone. Let’s take a look if they meet these goals.
     
    AESTHETICS
    HM2_Earcup.jpg
    I really appreciate how Brainwavz is not shy of improvement and innovation. So many companies design a headphone and call it good. Brainwavz appears to be listening to their customers and trying to make gear designed for its listeners. The HM2 is no exception in that it is a very clean-looking headphone that keeps comfort at the forefront. The earcups go completely around my ears making the HM2 more comfortable than my more expensive go to portable, the noontec ZORO II HD. The headband easily adjusts and the left/right indicators are easily visible. Thanks! The earcups swivel and contour nicely to the shape the head. The cables are detachable making them easily replaced. My one immediate gripe is the lack of a headband pad. The curve is great, but because our heads vary in shape and size, the lack of pad causes some discomfort. Hopefully we will see a version with a pad that spans the width and length of the headband…at least down to the hinges.
    HM2_Headband.jpg
    The exterior of the headphone looks and feels well made with no obvious signs of cost cutting. The earcups can be replaced and simply pull off. I will note that these are closed headphones and tend to seal around the ears such that they can become very warm. The heat from your head will not easily escape the seal. It is not like they are sweat magnets, but they tend to keep my ears very warm.
    HM2_Cables.jpg
    Provided are two cables. One is flat terminated at both ends with the TRRS 3.5 mm jack plugs. The other is a round cable that holds the remote. The remote is simple. It only has a slider for volume control and a single stop/play button. The flac cable comes with a mic. The remote itself feels cheaply made making me wonder how long it will last in particular the slider, but I had no issues with it during my time with the HM2. The flat cable also feels cheaply made and long-term reliability is a concern, but neither cord posed any problems, save some tangling issues with the flat cable, during testing.
     
    ACOUSTICS
    Sonically the HM2 meets the goals of having punchy bass as well as a kind sound that is not harsh or fatiguing. I tested the HM2 both amped an unamped.
     
    Unamped: With a sensitivity of 104 dB SPL / mW the HM2 is easily driven by portable devices and my iPod touch remained at the 50% volume level for most of my listening. The HM2 is detailed enough unamped to reveal the echoes in Peter Murphy’s My Last Two Weeks on the Love Hysteria album. The bass rumbles, treble is clear, and the midrange stays in check most of the time. I did find that the HM2 sounds tinny from the sub-bass to 1 kHz making the midrange sound unnatural at times. In Chick Corea’s Three Ghouls, Part 1 from the Ultimate Adventure album, is enjoyable and fun, but the woodwind instruments sound flat and lack the detail to bring out the sound of the air flowing through them. On other tracks like Kate Havnerik’s So:Lo on the So:Lo – Single, the HM2 sounds enjoyably. The bass is deep and impactful without drowning out vocals and the treble. I would say that the HM2 sounds better with clean and bassy tracks like jazz and electronic.
     
    Amped: Playing pink noise immediately reveals how bassy the HM2 is. The lower registries are definitely emphasized with obvious bass boost and midrange unevenness. Musically the HM2 becomes more alive amped. The bass tightens up and the soundstage moves up making this headphone much more up-front sounding than in the portable case. The kind nature remains intact and the HM2 is not fatiguing amped, but perhaps too bassy for some. Listening to Quentin Durardin’s 1977 track from the Putumayo Presents World Yoga album, the tinny midrange is easily discernible. The lack of reverberation and abundance of coloration in the midrange makes guitar tracks like this hard to listen to. They sound unnatural. Not to say one could not listen to tracks like this, but if the HM2 is compared to more neutral headphones obvious signs of the colored sound signature become apparent. This is one reason amping a headphone is important even if it can easily be driven by a portable device. Doing so often reveals the true sound signature while portable listening tends to hide some of the more delicate and hidden features of the sound signature. Surprisingly this headphone sounds great listening to The City of Prague Philharmonic’s Sute for Orchestra No. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066: on the Sunday Morning Classics: Sunday Morning With Bach album. The bass is definite and clear. The midrange is fun and engaging with clarity on the violins and harpsichord.
     
    The HM2 did work with my XBOX ONE stereo adapter so it can be used as a gaming headset. The sound during gaming was rendered full with the bass emphasis. The mic volume both via phone and XBOX was very faint. The resting position of the mic locates it too far away from the mouth leading to the poor mic volume. I think the mic is decent, but due to its location, is not ideal for conversing. I would like to see the mic functionality reviewed by Brainwavz and enhanced so it sounds more clear and louder during calls or gaming.
     
    It should be noted that the HM2 is sensitive to earcup position and the sound signature changes as the earcups are moved. The seal is also very important for clean bass reproduction. If the sound signature is not to your liking move them around a little and see if that clears things up.
     
    CONCLUSION
    Brainwavz meets their goals of producing a very listenable headphone with thought out bass emphasis. The around the ear seal is excellent making them one of the most comfortable headphones I have worn, but it should be noted that my ears are small and larger ears may find the earcups tight. Aesthetically the HM2 is clean and well-built although a headband pad would be awesome! The remote is easy to use and functions perfectly. At $49.50 the HM2 is a great headphone especially for bass lovers and people that want something that is portable without major compromises.
    1. NA Blur
      December 7th 2015
      Looks like Brainwavz is going to look into making the size average rather than large.
      NA Blur, Dec 7, 2015
  3. Brooko
    Brainwavz HM2 – Street Style & Smooth Sound
    Written by Brooko
    Published Dec 2, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Build quality, lightweight and portable, stylish, good consumer signature (warm and smooth), response to EQ, value
    Cons - No headband padding, default size might be too large for smaller heads
    HM213.jpg
    For larger views of any of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images

    INTRODUCTION

    Brainwavz is a well-established manufacturer of headphones in the value for money category – offering many different options (especially for IEMs) that suit almost anyone’s sonic preferences. I’ve previously had both good and bad experiences with their headphones / IEMs – I previously reviewed and owned their B2 IEMs and HM5 headphones, and I have fond memories of both as stellar performers when they were introduced. I’ve also sampled and reviewed their R1, R3, S5, S0, M1, R3, V2, Jive, and S3 IEMs – and whilst some have been (IMO) solid performers, others haven’t been quite as well aligned with my preferences.

    A few weeks ago Pandora contacted me to ask whether I’d be keen on listening to a new release they were making. The difference this time was that they were just going to a small number of reviewers first. Naturally I was flattered that she’d approached me, and so I definitely said yes. Pandora also warned me in advance that they may not suit my particular sonic preferences – but I couldn’t see that being an issue (if we’re reviewing properly – we should be able to see past that). So two weeks ago, a courier pack arrived, and I got my introduction to the Brainwavz HM2 – a full sized portable headphone. In the last couple of weeks I’ve tried to use the HM2 as much as possible – and I’ve also had my 12yo daughter and 14yo son put them through their paces.

    I’ve listed price at their RRP of USD $49.50 – however this is not what I paid for them (they are a review sample).

    DISCLAIMER

    I was provided the Brainwavz HM2 as a review unit from Brainwavz. I am in no way affiliated with Brainwavz - and this review is my subjective opinion of the HM2.

    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)

    I'm a 48 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (Fiio X5ii, X3ii, LP5 and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). I also use a portable set-up at work – either X5ii/X3ii > HP, or PC > E17K > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1, Sennheiser HD600, and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has been with the Adel U6, Dunu DN-2000J, Jays q-Jays and Alclair Curve2. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).

    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral / balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880.

    I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively redbook 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 48, my hearing is less than perfect.

    For the purposes of this review - I used the HM2 straight from the headphone-out socket of my iPhone 5S, X3ii, and M3.

    In the time I have spent with the HM2, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (break-in), but am aware that I am becoming more used to the signature of the HM2 as I use them more often (brain burn-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 REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

    The HM2 arrived in a quite nicely coloured two-tone grey retail box with red accents, measuring 150 x 206 x 95mm. It has a picture of the HM2 on the front, specifications on the rear, a list of accessories, and a descriptive blurb of the HM2 on either side.

    HM201.jpg HM202.jpg HM203.jpg

    Front of the retail box

    Rear of the retail box

    Side of the retail box


    Opening the box discloses the traditionally red and black Brainwavz carry case – which is oval, and unsurprisingly very close in measurements to the retail packaging (200 x 145 x 85mm). The case is similar in material to their IEM cases, has a mesh outer surface, and gives reasonable protection while also being reasonably portable (I say reasonably – because it is still quite a deep case).

    HM205.jpg HM204.jpg

    HM2 inside the carry case

    Interior of the carry case


    Undoing the zip exposes a mesh pocket, the HM2 nicely folded inside, a warranty card and two cables.

    HM206.jpg HM207.jpg HM208.jpg

    The exterior of the carry case

    Flat cable

    Standard cable with in-line controls



    So from a value point of view – things look pretty good, as most headphones at this price point would not have either the case or the extra cable.

    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

    (From Brainwavz)
    Type
    Sealed circumaural portable full sized headphone
    Drivers
    Dynamic 40mm
    Frequency Range
    10 Hz – 20 Khz
    Impedance
    32 ohm
    Sensitivity
    104 dB at 1 mW
    Max Input Power
    100 mW
    Jack
    Straight 3.5mm gold plated
    Cables
    1.2m flat and 1.2m standard (with inline microphone & controls)
    Weight
    196g (no cable), 216g (with standard cable with inline controls)


    FREQUENCY GRAPH

    The graph below is generated by a new measuring system I’m trialling – using the Vibro Veritas and ARTA software. I don’t have the calibration 100% correct yet – and the graphs are definitely raw data only. I don’t have a dummy-head to allow for measurements at the ear – so it is just taken from a straight microphone. I use the graphs to help me understand what I’m hearing, and also to compare with other headphones.

    Graph1HM2.png Graph5HM2CSD.png

    Frequency response

    CSD plot


    So the graphs below should not be taken as anything other than raw data – no HRTF is taken into account.

    What I’m hearing is an elevated bass response, but good vocal presence, and a little more upper mid-range emphasis than lower mid-range. There is also enough lower treble energy to show reasonable detail on cymbals, but without being over etched or approaching sibilance (the treble is actually relatively smooth).

    BUILD QUALITY

    The HM2 is primarily made of toughened plastic, with metal reinforcing at the hinges and arm extenders. This is why the HM2 is so light, but as time has progressed, I’ve come to notice that the HM2 is also both really flexible, and reasonably strong.

    HM218.jpg HM219.jpg HM216.jpg

    Headband

    Exterior of the cups

    Side view of the cups



    The headband measures 215mm in its top section (from extender to extender), and each extender will give another 28mm in length. The funny thing about this is that the HM2 actually fits me perfectly without extending the arms at all. This does pose the question of fitting for someone with smaller head dimensions than I have. The inner part of the headband has no padding, and although this has not been an issue at all for me, I do think this is perhaps an opportunity that Brainwavz has missed – as even a little p-leather and foam cushioning would have added a little extra comfort.

    HM214.jpg HM215.jpg HM212.jpg

    Metal and plastic extenders

    Internal hinge

    Metallic accent on the outside of the cups



    The actual earpieces themselves are clearly marked (L/R) internally above the cups, and the cups are quite a cleaver design which rotates freely on all axis to allow a perfect fit/seal. The ear pieces are well cushioned and covered with a nice grey p-leather which appears to be soft enough for comfort, but hardy enough for long life. The covers are able to be replaced. The internal dimensions are approximately 60 x 34 mm and the depth is approximately 14mm. I’m a reasonably big guy, and my ears actually fit inside the cups (there is not a lot of room though – and they are touching the inner walls). But they do fit both my teenage kids perfectly.

    HM217.jpg HM220.jpg HM211.jpg

    Closer look at the internal pad dimensions

    Hinged and ready for storage

    Standard cable jacks



    The cables connect on one side only (left cup), appear to be well built with good strain relief, and the standard cable has very low microphonics. The jacks are 3.5mm at both ends. On the standard cable (with in-line remote) it is a standard 3 pole stereo jack at the headphone connector, and 4 pole for plugging into your source. Although Brainwavz lists both cables as being 1.2m, the standard cable with remote is actually almost 1.3m.

    The HM2 has hinged arms, and the cups and lower arms are able to fold in on themselves for portability. The hinges seem reassuringly firm – although only time will tell as to their ultimate durability.

    All in all a solid build and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the HM2 should be in a more expensive price bracket.

    INLINE CONTROLS / MIC

    The standard cable comes with an in-line microphone and remote control unit which features a single button but also a sliding volume control. The single button has the usual functions:

    1. One push = play / pause
    2. Two pushes = next track
    3. Three pushes = previous track
    4. Push and hold (on Apple device) = activate Siri

    HM209.jpg HM210.jpg

    Microphone port

    Control unit - single button plus slider control


    But the interesting thing with the HM2 is the volume control. Rather than activating the source volume controls, it instead uses a variable resistor to attenuate volume – so it will work on any device (including Fiio’s DAPs). It isn’t the easiest to apply really precise volume adjustments, but it actually works pretty well, and is quite handy if you need to quickly cut the volume (just slide the control down). Anyway – it is a quite innovative solution, so kudos to Brainwavz for the inclusion.

    I did use the HM2 for a call last week (to clients in the US), and they told me that they had no problems with hearing me clearly – and this was reciprocated on my end. Because they are closed, there will always be a little of that hollow (bone conduction) sound – but generally they were pretty good for making a call.

    STYLE

    I have to admit, I’m probably not their intended audience (at 48 I’m not exactly a fashionista). But what surprised me was when I wore them at work last week, and my colleague (who has a great sense of fashion) was intrigued when she saw the HM2, and commented that they looked really stylish. She was also really surprised when I told her the cost, and when she got a closer look at them. From where she was sitting, she said they “don’t look like plastic”, and she thought that their styling hinted at a much higher price point.

    HM223.jpg HM224.jpg

    Front view of the HM2 (thanks Emma)

    Side view of the HM2


    My 12 yo daughter and 14 yo son both love the HM2, and I’ve shown a couple of pics with Emma wearing the HM2 so you can see fitting, and how they look when worn.

    COMFORT / ISOLATION

    As I alluded to earlier, the earcups are circumaural for me, and despite the lack of passing on the headband, I find the HM2 to be really comfortable. There is also enough clamp for me to move about without dislodging the headphones – and this is true even if I shake my head around. The clamp isn’t excessive though.

    Isolation is dependent on getting a good seal from the pads, so YMMV – but I find for a closed headphone the isolation is about average. With no music playing, you can hear what is happening in the world around you (diminished but still there). With music playing the isolation is quite decent.

    SOUND QUALITY

    The following is what I hear from the HM2. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my Fiio X3ii and E17K (I use the E17K primarily to extend the battery life of the X3ii – and also for some rudimentary EQ at a later stage.)

    HM226.jpg

    Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.

    Thoughts on General Signature
    If I was to describe the signature in a few words – I’d choose the words “warm”, “smooth”, and “relatively clear”.

    I should make note first up that the overall signature of the HM2 is not one that I would normally gravitate to. Usually I like a headphone that is reasonably flat, but very clear, and quite linear bass. The HM2 is quite bassy and a bit warm because of it, but because it has good vocal presence, it still comes across as quite clear and also pretty smooth.

    Overall Detail / Clarity
    Tracks used: Gaucho, Sultans of Swing

    The HM2 renders both tracks reasonably well with a good level of overall detail, nut which is masked slightly by the bass. Cymbals in Gaucho are there but subdued. The sax is quite prominent, as is the bass guitar and the vocals (while clear) do seem to take a very slight step back compared to them. With Sultans, the detail is a little easier to pick-up, and although the bass guitar in this track is more prominent than I’d like, I can see a lot of people really liking this signature. Clear vocals, good bass back-beat, nice guitar crunch, and still some high level detail coming though (though once again subdued). Overall – they capture detail nicely, but they won’t be described as “detail monsters”.

    Sound-stage & Imaging
    Tracks used: Tundra, Dante’s Prayer, Let it Rain

    I started with Amber Rubarth’s binaural track, and the HM2 was quite intimate in its presentation. Directional cues were pretty consistent, but the HM2 are not expansive in depth or width (definitely “in-head” with this track). Enjoyable but did not showcase the full capability of the track.

    McKennitt’s “Dante’s Prayer” was next to play, and although the staging again was very intimate, I really liked the cohesion between piano and cello, and loved the presentation of McKennitt’s vocal performance. In this track, the applause at the end is so well presented that with some headphones (HD600) I can actually close my eyes and imagine myself in the crowd. With the HM2, the immersion factor wasn’t there - I was definitely listening to a recording rather than being there.

    Last was Amanda Marshall’s “Let It Rain” – and I use this track because it has a naturally holographic feel about it (the way it was recorded), and can convey an amazing sense of space with the right headphones. It can also be sibilant at times – so a good test for that. The HM2 had no issues, and this was a really good presentation of this track. No signs of sibilance at all, and the presentation of Amanda’s vocals was really good.

    Bass Quantity and Quality
    Tracks used: Bleeding Muddy Waters, Royals, This is What it Feels Like

    I use Lannegan’s Bleeding Muddy Waters primarily as an indicator for impact and bass bleed. It is a naturally dark and broody blues rock track, and with the HM2 this was conveyed really well. There is a little mid-bass bleed evident, but not enough to concern me too much. Bass is visceral in its intensity and Mark’s vocals are really good with nice texture.

    Lorde’s Royals was up next to test sub-bass, and like the previous track, bass impact was really good. When the sub-bass kicked in, the rumble was there, so the HM2 definitely reaches low enough, and Ella’s vocals were again crystal clear.

    Last up was AVB’s trance track, and once again the HM2 showed is strength – really good bass line coupled with clarity of the vocals. This is the sort of track where I’m tempted to crank the volume up past my normal safe listening levels and the HM2 responds marvellously.

    Female Vocals
    Track used: Aventine, Strong, The Bad in Each other, Howl, Safer, Light as a Feather, Chelsea

    I’d already suggested previously that the HM2 is pretty good with female vocals, and after I’d heard Obel’s Aventine with them, I knew that the little bump in the upper-mids made them perfect for my preferences. The track was euphonically presented, and a joy to listen to. Next up was Strong (I’m a big fan of London Grammar), and the HM2 was wonderful with the presentation of Hannah’s vocals. The whole track was very enjoyable and mainstream listeners are going to love the HM2 I think.

    With Feist and FaTM, both tracks were perfect with the HM2. Great bass slam and really dynamic contrasts with the sweetness of the vocals. Moving next to slower tracks with more emphasis on vocals (Cilmi / Jones) the HM2 once again continues to “hit it out of the park”. The presentation is full, rich, and lush. And Norah in particular is magical to listen to on the HM2. That deep, almost huskiness of her voice is captured perfectly.

    I finished with Phoebe Bridger’s track Chelsea, because the track is had a great bass, and I adore her vocals. The HM2 did not disappoint and once again I’ve found myself turning up the volume a little and simply rocking out. The HM2 are easy (with the right music) to just lose yourself in the music.

    Male Vocals
    Tracks used: Away From the Sun, Art for Art’s Sake, Broken Wings, Diary of Jayne, Hotel California, , EWBTCIAST

    I expected the HM2 to cope reasonably well with my male vocalists as most of them are Rock or Classic Rock artists. I started with 3 Doors Down, and the HM2 was really enjoyable – good bass presentation, a slightly warmish tilt overall, but vocals were clear and clean. Moving to some older classic rock (10CC), and whilst the track overall was pretty good, some of the bass felt slightly one-dimensional, although everything else was pretty good. From there to some Alter Bridge and again not too much to complain about. Myles vocals were great, the overall presentation was dynamic, and my only nit-pick was that with more complex multiple guitar passages there was the tendency for some of the detail to be lost. So I next played Breaking Benjamin’s Diary of Jayne, and this confirmed what I’d initially suspected – when you get a lot of complex guitar, the HM2 can tend to present a “wall of sound” rather than the individual guitars. To be fair though – this track will bring a lot of headphones to their knees.

    Time for something a little lighter and more delicate – to see how well the HM2 coped with acoustic music. Hotel California was really good – great presentation of finger picking in the opening – and very good presentation of vocals with good command of timbre and tone.

    My ultimate test for male vocals though has always been Pearl Jam. The HM2 was really good with its rendering of Vedder’s vocals, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My personal preference would be for a little less warmth – but this is a presentation that is ultimately easy to listen to.

    Genre Specific Notes
    Again for tracks, albums, artists – please refer to this list: http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks

    Rock – Vocals and clarity are generally good, and the bass is generally fairly dynamic.

    Alt Rock – With Pink Floyd’s “Money” the HM2 unfortunately had a little too much mid-bass and it tended to overshadow some of the finer detail that I know is in the track. Still ultimately enjoyable though – and once again the vocals are really clean and clear. Likewise PT’s Trains was very good – but again my personal preference would be to cut some of the mid-bass to allow the upper end detail to shine a little more.

    Jazz / Blues – Portico Quartet’s “Ruins” is always a first stop for me when testing a new headphone with Jazz, and the HM2 falls just short of the mark for me. For a track where I expect to hear the brushing of cymbals, some of the detail is being slightly masked – it’s still there, but not as clear as I’d personally prefer. Sax is good though, and this sentiment is repeated when I switch to Miles and his trumpet. Double Bass – very good. Trumpet – very good. Cymbals – just lacking that little bit of extension.

    Time for some blues so I first tried Beth Hart’s “Live at Paradiso” album – which is mastered very hot (bright). With the HM2 the presentation was smooth, warm, and quite enjoyable – so I guess this showcases how warm the HM2 is (definitely coloured). Next was a little Bonamassa and boy does the HM2 handle single guitar really well. Couple that with Joe’s vocals – great conveyance of tone and emotion – and you have a really well presented track.

    Hip-hop / EDM / Pop – Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” was really good and I can see bass lovers quite enjoying the HM2. Good impact without losing vocal clarity. Similar story with Little Dragon, although some of the mid-bass was at times becoming a little monotonous (my personal preferences showing again I’m afraid). Both Adele and Coldplay were very good on the HM2 – full, rich, and warm. Again I can see a slightly younger generation absolutely loving this presentation.

    Classical / Opera – Probably not the genre that would be the target for most people likely to buy the HM2, but the review wouldn’t be complete without trying it. For my tastes, the HM2 is just a little too warm, and string ensembles just don’t sound quite right – there isn’t quite enough air with the performance. Kempff’s solo piano and Zoe Keating’s cello were both very good though – nice timbre and tone. Moving to Opera and listening to Netrebko and Garanca performing the Flower Duet was very pleasant, but again that “air” and full top-end was slightly missing. Enjoyable – yes, masterful – not quite.

    Indie – a lot of my music lately has been Indie related, so I thought I’d separate this genre out in case anyone shares my appreciation of it. Band of Horses was brilliant – the slightly bright presentation mixed with the natural warmth of the HM2 is a pretty good mix. And Wildlight was equally as good with Ayla’s vocals being almost ethereal.

    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

    The HM2 is very easily powered straight out of the portable devices I have (from M3 to Fiio’s X series or my iPhone), and don’t really need any other amplification.

    Using my X3ii with no EQ, and the volume on the HM2 set to max, only needed around 35-40/120 for a comfortable listening threshold. With my iPhone 5S this equated to 5-6 click or around 30-40%, so the HM2 really is quite a benign load.

    I did compare back and forth with the X3ii solo and with the E17K in the mix, and noticed no obvious signs of improvement with the E17K included.

    RESPONSE TO EQ?

    This was an interesting one because if you’ve noticed so far, I’ve hinted that I’d like to cut some of the mid-bass a little and maybe add just a little more air to the upper end. So I used the E17K’s built in tone controls, and applied a -4 bass cut and +2 treble addition. The HM2 was suitably transformed, and this is now a presentation which I would really personally enjoy. This showcases two things – how versatile the HM2 is, and also what a great little amp the E17K is (especially for someone who wants a quick fix but is not comfortable using EQ).

    COMPARISONS

    HM227.jpg

    Fortunately I have a couple of headphones in the house which are roughly comparable to the HM2 in that they are reasonably portable, although at quite different price points. Once again I have provided graphs for raw response, and these should only be used for comparative date as I am unable to apply HRTF or any other calibration for a proper measurement system. They are simply shown to give a comparative idea of how the HM2 might sound compared to some other well-known headphones

    Graph3HM2UE6000.png

    HM2 $49.50 vs UE6000 $150 (discontinued)
    One of the big differences here is that the UE6000 has active noise cancellation, but my daughter never uses it and in fact we think the UE6000 sound better with it turned off, so I feel it is a fair comparison. The HM2 is bassier, thicker, and darker. The UE6000 is leaner, has more upper end detail, and in direct comparison is probably closer to my preferred signature. The UE6000 is also slightly more comfortable. As far as overall build quality goes, although the HM2 are a lot lighter, I wouldn’t call them substandard in build comparatively. If I was to choose on default signature alone, I’d probably go with the UE6000 for my own preferences. But knowing how good the HM2 responds to EQ, for a third of the price, I’d quickly switch to the HM2.

    Graph2HM2MOE.png

    HM2 $49.50 vs Momentum On Ear $110-150
    This one is a lot more straight-forward. My son has had his pair for almost two years so far, and they are starting to show a bit wear and tear – but he loves them. Sonically the HM2 and MOE are very similar, with the HM2 having a little more bass quantity, but the mid-range presentation of both being surprisingly similar. If anything the HM2 sounds slightly smoother and slightly warmer – while the MOE is a little sharper. Both are clearly V shaped signatures though. Build on both is comparable, but the HM2 wins out on comfort. I’ve never really been a fan of the MOE, so I’d take the HM2 as personal preference and doubly so after EQ.

    HM2 – VALUE & SUMMARY

    When Pandora contacted me to review the HM2, and especially when she told me I would be one of only two people with an early preview unit, I was naturally intrigued. And although the default signature of the HM2 is not to my normal taste, I do recognise what they are bringing to the table with this release.

    The HM2 is a well-built portable headphone which folds to a reasonably compact size, and is comfortable to wear (headband could use some padding though). It is also stylish, and according to some of the comments I’ve received so far, looks good for everyday wear if out and about.

    HM222.jpg HM225.jpg HM221.jpg

    Side view HM2 in natural light

    HM2 in natural light - headband and top profile

    Side view of the HM2 in natural light



    Sonically the HM2 is a well-tuned “consumer” signature with above neutral bass which extends reasonably well. It has a good clear mid-range, and slightly rolled off and smooth highs. It delivers a reasonable amount of detail which can suffer slightly depending on the bass quantity present in the track. It does not need amplification (easily driven out of most portable devices), and responds really well to EQ.

    I guess the natural question is would I recommend this to family and friends, and to answer that question I’ll simply state what my daughter and son have already told me. They’d both like a pair. That in my mind is recommendation enough – even if they aren’t to my own personal taste.

    A solid 4 star rating – really good value proposition.

    RECOMMENDATIONS TO BRAINWAVZ

    First – thanks again to Pandora and Brainwavz for this opportunity:

    1. Consider next time having some padding on the underside of the headband
    2. Re-measure the overall size and have shorter default length with slightly longer extenders to cater for more head sizes

    FINAL NOTE

    I thought I'd add a little addendum as it shows the true versatility of the HM2. As I've been doing the final posting of the review (it usually takes me at least 40 minutes to an hour with formatting etc), I've been using the HM2 with the EQ applied. I'm thoroughly enjoying them. Definitely looks like I'm going to need to buy more than one pair - as I can see me using these more with the EQ applied.
  4. BloodyPenguin
    The Lightest Touch
    Written by BloodyPenguin
    Published Dec 1, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Super Light Weight, Folds Well, Nice Hard Carrying Case, Easy Going Sound Signature
    Cons - Too Big for My Small Head, Slight Sound Veil/Echo
    P1050621.jpg
     
    **Disclaimer, I would like to thank Brainwavz for providing me an early sample of the HM2 for review*



    *Specifications*

    Drivers: Dynamic, 40 mm Rated
    Impedance: 32 Ω
    Frequency Range: 10 Hz ~ 20 kHz
    Sensitivity: 104 dB at 1 mW
    Maximum Input Power: 100 mW
    Plug: 3.5 mm, gold-plated
     
    P1050718.jpg
     


    *Contents*

    - HM2 Headphones
    - Hard Carrying Case
    - 1.2 m Flat Cable
    - 1.2 m Cable with In-Line Microphone

    The carrying case is quite nice; it is clearly a safe spot to store the HM2.  The case is designed well and has a premium feel that has plenty of room for the included cables as well.

    I love detachable cables, it does a few things. First, it is a safety net when/if you snag the headphone cord on something.  Instead of breaking the earphone, the cable will just pop out and you can just put it back in again.  Second, it is great option for those looking to change up the cable to something else.  Either be a longer or higher quality or be designed for a specific purpose.
     
    P1050717.jpg
     
     
     
    *Build*

    I noticed right away how amazingly light weight they feel in the hand.  I don’t think I have ever held a headphone of this size that weighed this little.  The Headphone itself is mostly covered in a soft, black plastic that is nice to the touch.  The HM2 feels solid enough to take a drop or two, while not fretting about breaking it, though for this review I did not test my theory.  The folding hinges are solidly built and show no signs of weakness. 
     
    P1050711.jpg
     


    *Fit*

    Let’s just get this out of the way.  I am short, I actually wanted the username “Stumpy”, but it was already taken.  I am 5’4” on my tippy toes, so the rest of me am proportionally small, like my head.  So when putting on the HM2, even at the lowest setting, I found that they were just a tad too big for my head.  So the ear cups end up resting on the tips of my ears.  Luckily, like I mentioned, these are SUPER light, so the pressure on my ears is still very small.  I feel if there was some padding added to the underside of the headband, that it would help create a better fit/comfort for me.  The headband itself does not flex too much, instead relying on the rotating ear cups to help with the fitment.  The ear cups are on the firmer side, they allow the ears to breath, so they never become overly warm.
     
    P1050712.jpg
     


    *Function*

    These are designed for on the go and for that they do VERY well.  The lightweight build and their feature to fold up make them easy for on the move.

    Normally I would also test the microphone at this point, but unfortunately my sample unit had the cable with the mic mysteriously disappear.  Though knowing Brainwavz quality, I am sure it works extremely well without issue.  I will say that the standard cable hooks up and works perfect though.
     
    P1050722.jpg
     
     
     
    *Sound*

    Bass – I like the lows, I like them because they are not bloated, muddy or otherwise unnecessary exaggerated. There is a touch of sub-bass in the distance and a tad of mid-bass, but both are nicely tame.

    Mids – Vocals have a laid-back approach, while not recessed, there does not seem to be much urgency.   The rest of mids continue to follow the easy going approach that started in the lows.

    Highs – The highs do not offend and roll off early, instead focusing on preserving enough detail without becoming fatiguing. 

    Soundstage – There is a slight narrowing feeling, I would not use the word congested, but there is not a lot of separation between the vocals and instruments. Also there is a slight echo that can faintly be noticed.

    Isolation – The HM2 will block a little bit of outside noise and does not seem to leak outwards. I feel if the ear pads were just a tad softer that it would help create a better seal and better overall isolation.

    P1050715.jpg
     


    *Overall Thoughts*

    The HM2 has an MSRP of $50 and for that price it has a lot to offer for value: Lightweight design, detachable cables, solid build, great carrying case and a smaller footprint due to their ability to fold.

    Sound wise, there is musical clarity that does come through, giving the HM2 a clear overall tone. Bass is mild, but still very much accounted for. Overall presentation is right on target for this price range.

    The HM2 is a good overall headphone that does a lot of things right.
     
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