Brainwavz HM9 Hi-Fi Noise Isolating Headphones

General Information

The Brainwavz HM9 use 40 mm drivers which have been tuned meticulously to deliver audio with accuracy, high fidelity and a deep bass extension that doesn't suffer from distortion. From the most subtle notes to deep, punchy bass, the HM9 make no compromise to deliver high-quality sound suitable for any genre of music. The large ear pads cover your ears to provide a seal that blocks out almost all outside noise, leaving your ears to hear your music only. The HM9 have been crafted from high grade, light weight aluminum, allowing for durability in any environment. Be it walking outside, relaxing at home or DJ's mixing tracks in a club, no compromise was made in style or comfort. As a plus for compact storage, the HM9 can also be folded up.

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Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Very warm (if you love mid-bass), fatigue free treble, well made, great accessories package
Cons: Very warm (if you are not a fan of tons of mid-bass), dark treble, no 1/4th adapter, weird airplane adapter included instead (??)
An expanded Pros & Cons regarding the HM9:
Pros: Very warm sound signature, so this is a pro if you're after something warm. The treble is subdued, nothing is overlly bright and there's no siblance, so if you're sensitive to treble this is something you'd appreciate. Fairly good sound stage, great set of detachable cabling, well made construction and really great fat ear pads that are thick and soft. The unit folds to a compact nature and again the cables are detachable. Great isolation (given it's compact and portable nature, this is great, as it means you can probably use it in public and it not be a waste of time).
Cons: Very warm sound signature, so this is a con if you're after something neutral or something more analytical. While it's not fair to really call this a con, I felt that it was too in between in terms of being on-ear and being over-ear, because you can certainly fit your whole ear in there unless you have wombat ears, but it's clearly meant to be smaller than over-ear cups generally are, so it's classed more in the size of on-ear (again, not fair maybe, but just had to point this out as it did bother me).
Brainwavz HM9 - Very warm, Compact and Sleek.
The vast sea of headphones these days (hey, it's not the 80's and 90's anymore for some of us, there's actually choices in headphones these days!) is nearly endless it seems, so it's hard for anyone to truly compete for attention when it comes to certain price points. When you clock in at the $100 tier of devices, you have to really have something special, or a great package, or really good marketing to get an audience. Brainwavz is really trying to do all three of these things, offering a very well made product, worth more than it's price suggests, with a very good overall package, again, making it much more attractive than some other items that just show up in a plastic wrapped thing that you have to cut open. And marketing wise, they're doing it right, they're asking the community to tell them what they think, instead of just putting them on easy-endorsement artists or sports celebrities and asking them to wear them on TV. Brainwavz is instead putting them on the heads of audiophiles, real people, and asking for their opinions. You have to respect that approach. But there is still a ton of competition in the $100 tier market. Even with their own other headphones! So it comes down to what you're looking for and if the check list ticks all the right boxes. The HM9 is a compact, portable-class headphone with all the right features: high isolation, very thick, soft ear pads and headband, folding design for compact storage, thick durable plastic so it's not heavy and won't break, detachable cables in three different lengths that are flat instead of round so they do not coil up or twist and lay flat when wearing so there's less movement and thus less sound translated from them, with a nice hard shell carry case. I've looked around, and I've yet to find very many other $100 offerings that supply you with something built as well, with excellent sound quality, that also offers meaningful accessories and features and not just a bunch of nothing, or a bunch of flash that you don't care about. Brainwavz seems to really be doing it right in this aspect.
Quick Reference for the TL;DR folks:
Thick plastic build, some metal
Entry price of $100 on average, which competes with too numerous to count options
Super warm sound signature, with very prominent bass
Relaxed, dark, fatigue-free treble
Very efficient, will run from a potato
Excellent isolation, I couldn't hear my mechanical keyboard while typing this
Flat wires, tangle free, and no transmission of noise from rubbing
Carry case, three cables, and all made very well
What Comes in the Box:
HM9 Headphone
Hard case (fits the headphone folded up, seals with zipper, has room for cables); not crush proof
Three cables: 1) 1.2m flat (portable hi-fi), 2) 1.2m round with microphone (cellphone), 3) 3.0m flat (home hi-fi)
Airplane adapter (why? A 1/4th adapter was not included, but this weird airplane adapter was)
Overall, a nice package if you want functional and useful stuff and only one minor "oops" in the airplane adapter which to me is totally not necessary and near pointless, and would have rather had a 1/4th adapter included to couple with the 3.0m cable for home use. Anyone who cares about audio will NOT be listening to an airplane's in-cabin audio, which is easily the worst audio source on the planet and mono to boot. Maybe in some other countries there is a competitive airline that wants to wow passengers with their higher quality in-cabin audio. But I've yet to be on that airline. Someone can fill me in via comments I hope. Otherwise, again, totally boggled by the inclusion of this airplane adapter. The cables are superb. The two lengths are excellent for their intended use. And the inclusion of the microphone is good for the phone-folk. The case is nice, and everything is well made. Nothing screams cheap. But hey, where's that 1/4th adapter?
Specifics (the minor numbers):
40ohm Impedance
104dB/mW Sensitivity
What does that mean? They're efficient. They will run from anything just fine. I was surprised they were even 40ohms actually as I expected something like 16ohm to 32ohm, but rather the 40ohm was odd to me, but it doesn't matter, it's just a number. The sensitivity tells you what's up, and they are efficient, so they will get loud from nearly any device. There's zero need for an amplifier here unless you're using a phone that has awful output. But this is expected from a compact-class headphone designed for portability.
Construction, Materials & Comfort:
The build of the headphone is good. It's sturdy, hard plastic, thick where it should be and doesn't creak or crumble. The headphone and ear pads are very thick and soft, like memory foam. They remind me of the old Sony XB pads, super thick and plush. The overall design is just a flat silver and matte black, nothing shiny which is good. No blaring logos either, it's rather subtle in general, which I really respect. Comfort is surprisingly good to me, as I normally cannot stand on-ear design headphones. While these are in-between that, with a size that could be over-ear for many people, but still on-ear for some others, it's a hybrid zone where it swings either way. It worked for me because I could squeeze in and get the over-ear feel and sound that I prefer, as I do not like on-ear in general for comfort purposes. The headband squeeze is not too tight, but it's not loose, just right to me. The pads really are comfortable. They are pleather, so if you're out in the sun, you will get sweaty. But just sitting inside some where, I found them to breath enough to not turn into little ovens, so that was nice.
Sound Characteristics:
I'm a fan of the warmer sound of headphones, as I'm not into the analytical approach for everything, though I like it sometimes, it's not my go-to for at-home-listening. The HM9 is definitely a warm headphone, nearly to a fault. So keep this in mind if you're someone who can't stand very warm headphones, the HM9 is not for you. But for those of you who want a very warm, very lush sound with fatigue-free treble, the HM9 might speak your language. When I first started listening, and then weeks later, the experience was the same for me: lots and lots of mid-bass, upper bass, lower mids. That translates to a lot of warmth. Everything is warm no matter what you do straight out of the box. The treble is fatigue free, which is very nice when you're turning it up, but I found it to be a little on the dark side compared to my tastes (takes that edge out of violin that is supposed to sting a bit, and some piano strikes), but at the same time, zero siblance or hissing so that's great for others. The mids are decent, but definitely a bit recessed, and a touch distant, it reminded me of a recording where the artist was coming through a cloth first, then the blocker in front of the microphone, which takes more of the tiny nuances away from consonant production, but I'm being picky. Vocals were clear, but let's just say I wanted more clarity. When I put on some tracks that were rich with mid-bass content I noticed the congestion built up quickly, which is common for very warm headphones.
The HM9 is fatigue free with treble, you will have no issues with siblance or hissing sounds. It's not quite as dark as something perhaps like the HD650 level of dark, but you get the idea. It's not going to scratch your ears out with treble spikes, like an Ultrasone. So this is a mellow listen from a treble stand point. This is good if you're particularly sensitive to treble. But it can be an issue if you're into certain detail retrieval and want that sting from certain sounds. For me, violin and piano really didn't have the edge that it normally would have, because the treble roll off was significant. This will make it seem like it's less detailed, but that's not the case, it's just less intense. When you couple subdued treble with increased bass, the end result is super warm sound which may or may not be your cup of tea.
Mids are pretty much the most important bulk of any range in audio for us, because that's the heart and soul of our natural vocal range, instrument range, etc in terms of the bulk of the average we can hear and while hearing bass & treble changes with our years on this planet, the mids don't change quite as significantly, so mids are critical to get right. The HM9 has ok mids. I was not truly impressed with the range or clarity. I found too much bass bleed, from the massive warmth, to the point where the mids were congested to me, and distant to a degree. I felt like I was being lulled through a cloth in many ways. Mids are a touch recessed, with the massive warmth from the mid-bass. I through on some very fast music with lots of electric guitar and blast beats to test the speed of the HM9 and found it very congested, as a lot of this is in the mid-range, or bleeds into it. So keep this in mind. If you're a mids-head and seek super clarity, the HM9 is not for you. If you're into gobs of warm bass, and fatigue free treble, this will work out for you likely.
These days, bass seems to be super important. I guess it's cultural. I say that as a reverend bass-head myself. I don't always want too much bass. That said, I appreciate quality bass that is well controlled and doesn't just roll off steeply. You'll find the HM9 has a lot of mid-bass and upper bass. It's very warm. No matter what you're listening to, there will be a lot of emphasis on the upper end of bass, to the point of it bleeding into the mids significantly. If you're all about the mid-bass, which there are genres for that, then this may just be what you're after. I found the sub-bass to not have received the attention that the mid-bass received, and the sub-bass is significantly rolled off. I tested some dub just to see if it could land a satisfying 25~30hz drop, and it was not intense and felt distant and loose compared to the mid-bass. Mid-bass can slam your face off though, so if you're into hardcore or other genres with gobs of mid-bass, this will shake your head sufficiently. If you're not into bass and warmth, and seek neutrality, this is not for you at all.
The HM9 delivers nicely with isolation. While it's passive isolation, I found it still did it quite well. While it will not block out a city buss next to you, nor an airliner, and it certainly won't stop the pulses inside an MRI machine, it will at least block out typical noise that would be distracting. I couldn't hear my mechanical keyboard clacking away while I typed this, while listening to music through the HM9 at normal listening volume. That's fantastic. So that means you won't hear non-yelling conversations out in public, or someone's phone conversation, or someone's loud earbuds buzzing in their ear next to you. On this note, the cable doesn't transmit audible noise to you, which is a big deal to me. I can rub the cable on my shirt and I don't hear the vibration or noise, so that's great. Helps you with the idea of isolation when the cable is moving as you walk around as these are portable headphones.
I don't expect a lot from closed headphones for soundstage, if you are reading it as a term of width or spaciousness. It's a closed stereo headphone, so it's not like an HD800. The soundstage is pretty normal to me, not too terribly closed in, but not as wide as something open air. I found it to be fine, and normal enough to where it didn't distract me. There are some that are so narrow in soundstage that it sounds like there's no distance between anything and gives it a flat feel. If you're reading it as soundstage as a term referring to separation of notes, then it has decent soundstage in that regard. Though I found it muddled in several places where the bass-bleed really slowed and congested the mids. I found the aggressive mid-bass hump really took the soundstage (read as separation) down significantly as the intensity of the complexity of a track increased. Translation: if you're listening to metal, you'll find it hard to hear clear separation of instruments. If you're listening to electronica, you probably won't notice as much.
Closing Thoughts:
Overall, I think the HM9 delivers in many ways, but it has some issues that to me are hallmark of today. I think the package is great, you get the right accessories and the headphone itself is well made and comfortable. My one packaging negative mark is the lack of the 1/4th adapter, but a weird airplane adapter was included (seriously who plugs into an airline in-cabin audio system these days?). The case and cables are very good. Pads are wonderful. The other issue that I consider common and hallmark of today's mainstream culture is that these headphones are too warm, too much mid-bass, and it bleeds significantly into the mids. I know there's a big market for this sound. Lots of bassheads will enjoy this headphone. But in the high fidelity crowd, this will be something that is not overlooked and will be a big negative. I'm a basshead, and even I wasn't keen on the mid-bass hump on the HM9. I much prefer sub-bass prominence, and the HM9 has rolled off sub-bass compared to it's very strong mid-bass. I prefer the opposite, as I prefer more sub-bass, and less mid-bass, to avoid bleeding it into the mids and congesting the overall separation and clarity. So take my opinion with that in mind. The treble is too tame for me, but for others it will work well, as I know many are sensitive to peircing treble. It's just a hair too dark for me.
I took a minute to equalize this headphone to something that sounded more neutral to me, and it instantly cleared up the congestion. It was definitely the mid-bass. Way too much prominence of mid-bass and it slowed down the driver recovery and goes muddy. I pulled it back about -6db and clarity came forward quite strikingly. Overall, I dropped 156hz through 440hz by any where from -2 to -6db to round down the mid & upper bass and into the lower mids to get rid of the bleed, and it was still a very warm bassy sound but with much improved mids and clarity. I spiked treble from 3.5khz to 10khz by +2 to +8db and found it having a bit more edge and gave life back to violin and other sounds like that which pierce and are meant to.
If you are after a portable, sleekly made bassy headphone, this may be right for you if you're sensitive to treble. It comes with a great package and is made very well.
Ultimately I think there's a lot of competition out there, and the HM9 has a very hard battle to fight. The HM5 to me is superior, and the S5 is superior. I think the HM9 speaks to a certain crowd and will speak well to them. But ultimately at this $100 price tier, there's just too much to compete with and the HM9 doesn't climb above the well-known ones with superior audio (but does have superior accessories and build).
Very best,
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Hi Mal - nice review :)
I'm assuming that the airline adaptor is one of those two prong ones similar to this ( I do a lot of long haul travel (10 hour plus - business class) - and they come in pretty handy if you're watching in flight movies, and want to use a decent set of headphones.  I often use an adaptor with my IEMs for this exact use.
And you're ok with the sound quality in-cabin? Would you not rather just have a high quality movie on a tablet outputting to some good phones with high quality audio, instead of that in-cabin stuff?

That's the adapter. But again, I just can't fathom how that adapter made the box, over a more useful and universal 1/4th adapter.
Most of my long hauls are done with Air NZ or Singapore Airlines - and in Business Class their gear is generally very decent. They also tend to have a wide selection of movies on demand - so yeah, I usually go through 5 or 6 movies in the two weeks I'm away (usually circle the globe so it is a lot of flying). The headphones they supply (while passable) aren't as good as I am used to using - so that is why the adaptor is handy.
I have thought about just using my own tablet - but the quality in the front of the cabin is actually pretty similar .....
Agree on the 3.5-6.3mm adaptor though - should have been included.


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: good build quality; very smooth and non-fatiguing sound
Cons: slightly veiled sound; some layering issues
As usual I have to thank Audrey and Brainwavz for this unit.
Packaging and Accessories
The packaging is pretty standard. No embossing as with recent Brainwavz models. There is an image of the headphones on the front of the box. On the right side there is a list and description of the included accessories and some of the HM9’s features. On the left side of the box there is a bit more detailed description of the HM9. The back is reserved for the specs, compatibility and the design of the headphones.
When you open the box though you are surprised by the egg shaped hard case kinda reminiscent of opening a Kinder Surprise egg eager to see the toy inside.
The case itself is pretty good and obviously made out of the same materials as my favorite Brainwavz earphone cases - just oddly shaped. Once opened it reveals the HM9 and a small velcro pouch containing the accessories. There are 3 different cables inside – one 1.2m flat cable, which I personally use, one 3m flat cable if you need some length and one 1.2m cable with a mic. Also there is an airplane adapter and a strap for the case.
Overall, it’s a pretty complete package.
Build Quality, Design and Comfort
HM9 feels very solid with is mix of aluminum and hard plastic. It is creaking a bit though, which kinda diminishes the impressions of high quality.
The design is pretty contemporary and if you find yourself wearing the HM9 next to a person wearing Beats, for instance, you won’t feel a lesser man – if you care for stuff like that.
Despite its size and heavier frame and size the HM9 is a supra-aural headphone. The pads are thick and provide good comfort but they are still mostly resting on your ears and while the clamping force is not very strong they can get somewhat tiring for longer listening sessions. The padding of the headband is more than sufficient.
The MH9 has over 100 hours of burn-in at the time of writing this review.
For some reason I expected a lot more boosted lower end. The bass is still boosted but has more of a sub-bass tilt. It can get a touch boomy at times but overall is decently controlled and while I would have liked it a bit tighter and faster, it has good punch and depth.
The mids take a step back in comparison to the low end but still have good presence. The tonality is on the warm side but HM9 doesn’t sound particularly colored – its warmth is mainly presenting itself as warm air taking the space between the instruments.  The boosted bass does increase the note thickness but detail retrieval is still good. Overall, the mids are extremely smooth and inoffensive with some nice texture to boot. The area where the HM9 suffers though is clarity as all the warm air makes it sound a bit veiled. It’s a smooth, full and very inviting sound but the purists may find themselves overwhelmed.
The highs remain consistent with the overall smoothness of the presentation showing no signs of sibilance or harshness. There is a good amount of sparkle but shimmer is slightly lacking due to HM9’s slightly dark nature. And that dark nature is sort of an exaggeration because at certain times the upper treble extension and presence give the impression of  being insufficient and lacking while at other times the cymbal crashes you thought you wouldn’t hear are right there surprising you.
HM9 is full and relatively airy sounding despite being a bit on the dark side. Imaging is good but width is quite average even for a closed-back headphone. The depth and especially the height are very good though. Separation is good but overall HM9 is slightly leaning towards intimacy due to its narrower imaging and the warmth taking the space between the instruments. The layering is a bit lacking though and at busy passages there is some smearing.
The Brainwavz HM9 is a pretty solid performer both on the build and sound front. It has the type of sound that can seem not very impressive at first listen but can easily grow on you with its smoothness and warm and enveloping sound. Kinda reminds me of Brainwavz R3 covered by a warm blanket.
Pros: Adorable sound signature. Super non fatiguing. Comfy
Cons: Very coloured sound. So so detail retrieval.
Brainwavz HM9 Quick Review
Thanks to mp4nation for the sample.
Full review here
Brief:  Big squisy bassy fun time.
Price:  £85 or US$150
Specification:  Transducers/Drivers: Dynamic, 40mm, Rated Impedance: 40ohms Closed Dynamic, Sensitivity: 104dB at 1mW, Frequency range: 10Hz ~ 24KHz, Distortion: <= 0.3% @ 94dB, Channel balance: =< 2dB (at 1000Hz), Maximum input power: 1000mW, Cable length: Detachable 1.3 meters (2 pairs) & 3 meters, 1 year warranty
Accessories:  1 x 1.3m cable with remote & microphone for phones (TRRS plug, suitable for iPhone, iPad, iPod and some Android phones), 1 x 1.3m cable, 1 x 3m cable, 1 x Airplane, adapter, 1 x Hard carrying case, 1 x Instruction manual, 1 x Warranty card
Build Quality:  Great.  They feel big, bulky and substantive.
Isolation:  Not bad.  Fine for typical use and with music on it easy blocks out everything.  Still for a daily Tube commute I’d be looking at deep IEM’s.  Still plenty sufficient to make you a road stain, look where you walk people!
Comfort/Fit:  Good.  Not stunning as it’s an on rather than over ear, the pads though, soft and squishy so plenty gentle on the ear.  I’ve seen some comment they don’t love the comfort but as on ears go, the pads are particularly soft, so if these are a problem I’d wager all on ears are for you.
Aesthetics:  Nice.  Somewhat plain, understated and simple.  This quite appeals to my sense of the aesthetic, clean and non LOOK AT ME!!!  If you want all the bling bling, these aren’t it.                                                                                                                                                  
Sound:  Thick, warm, smooth, gooey, squishy loveliness.  The bass is grand and warm.  The mids are thick and smooth.  The highs are soft and gently glistening.  If you want neutral, all of detail, dry crystal clarity then you will be epically disappointed in these.  They are all about creating a cosy and enveloping aural environment.  The bass is expansive and weighty, I can see very many likening it a lot.  It’s not particularly agile or skilled but it’s not in the least trying to be, it’s about having a good time.  Poppy bouncy stuff goes grandly together with it.  Mids, well they are a bit over thick low down and faint subtleties are lost but again, its calling is poppy bouncy stuff where vocals are only ever so so at best anyway.  The highs continue the theme, genteel and gently glistening away which does obfuscate the fine detail.  So what?  Most pop is shoddily mastered and dynamically compressed within an inch of its life so you’re hardly losing a lot there.  The HM9 is all about the warmth and entertainment, at that it succeeds.  Big warm bass and is incredibly non fatiguing while doing it.
Value:  Sturdy, warm, gooey goodness.  It’ll make you smile.
Pro’s:   Adorable sound signature.  Super non fatiguing.   Comfy
Con’s:  Very coloured sound.  So so detail retrieval.
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Thanks for the reviews.
I've been searching for my first HiFi headphones for some time. I purchased and returned M50X . I liked the full bodied sound but couldn't stand the irritating trebles. Then I bought hd380 and decided to keep them for their passive sound isolation and nice big cups for my big ears. The sound is good...for monitoring, but it's not a pleasure to listen to them. I see hm9 are hard to get right now.
Are there any other warm, relaxing, non-fatiguing closed cans (similar sound description as with hm9) under about $250?