Pros: Outstanding value, great bass layering, clear and airy mids, detailed yet fun, comfortable fit, excellent soundstage and imaging for the price.
Cons: Build and cable quality, slight bass bleed, elevated upper mids/lower treble can be sibilant.
My dad had a big-@$$ hifi stack as tall as the television, so naturally I was born with picky ears. But being raised in a shanty town (a lie), with only basic electricity and water (another lie), my first taste of earbuds and IEMs came from a bookstore (truth!). There would be entry level stuff from unknown Chinese brands, and comparatively higher-end stuff from Sony and Philips that cost the equivalent of USD20-30, locked up in glass cabinets. I saved up for a Philips IEM as a high-schooler, eating white bread for weeks instead of a proper breakfast, and finally landing the Philips. Made sure to get the extra bass too! Putting them in my ears for the first time, confirmation bias at play, they sounded awesome, and validated all those missed breakfasts.
Weeks of bass headaches ensued, and I thought it was just my simpleton ears that needed to adjust to the sound. Even tried that burning-in thingamajig. But eventually I came to realise, the bass was bloaty, muddy, and obscured everything else in the sound spectrum. I had to turn up the volume to listen to the vocals and other details. At the tender age of 14 I dismissed everything in the USD20-30 range, rage quit, and went back to Apple earbuds.
Today, after spending a significant amount of my life savings and retirement funds on Head-Fi (thanks!), I come back to this price bracket. Let me tell you first, spoiler-style, that the Brainwavz Jive made me rethink what USD25 IEMs can do. If I had this in my high-school age, I would definitely not have quitted so ragely, swearing revenge on soul-crushing, ear-splitting IEMs that exchange money for despair.
Shanling M1 > Chord Mojo
KZ ED3c “The Acme”
Adele – 25
Amber Rubarth – Sessions from the 17th Ward
Amber Rubarth – Scribbled Folk Symphonies
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
Jeff Buckley – Grace
Macy Gray – Stripped
The Eagles – Hell Freezes Over
Packaging and Accessories
Everybody buys Brainwavz for their signature black and red zippered case. I think I’ve established that in another review. It looks practical, striking, and has pockets for the accessories as well. If I were reviewing the case it’d end here saying “TOTL case, 5 stars”, because at USD28 you feel at least USD10 was spent on the case. But I digress. There are also 3 pairs of silicon tips (in S, M and L sizes) and a pair of original Comply foamies, medium-sized. A shirt clip completes the accessory set. Basic and practical, and yeah, great case.
"I was running out of photo ideas." -said the reviewer.
Design, Build Quality and Cables
They are available in 5 colour choices (black, blue, green, red and white). I chose blue but seem to have ended up with the secret colour purple instead. I like the look of the shells, a simple horn-shaped design that is easy to hold and insert. Left and right markers are clearly written, and the remote control handles volume nicely. The centre button takes on a few functions. One click plays and pauses, two clicks goes to next track, and three clicks takes you to the previous track. Build quality is so-so, housings are made of metal but feels plasticky, and cables do not inspire confidence. They are thin and tangly, with a rubbery Y-split and chin slider. The rubberized strain reliefs, Y-split and jack are not well-finished, they’re just here to do the job. The angled jack is a nice touch though.
Fit, Isolation and Comfort
They are small enough to just slot in and forget you’re wearing them. Eminently comfortable and lightweight, you don’t feel the weight at all. Isolation is below average, you rely 100% on the eartips for a good seal and yet some outside noise enters. You have to consider that if you’re commuting. For the safety-conscious having outside noise is a blessing as anything can happen while you’re deep in sonic bliss (traffic, road hazards, cats in heat, knife fights).
For less than $30 you get a brilliant IEM case, with a free IEM inside!
The Jive has a U-shaped signature, I hesitate to say that in case readers think the mids are recessed, they are not. Just that the subbass and midbass are lifted, along with upper-mids and lower treble. The mids stay where they are, flat and neutral relative to the rest of the spectrum. It has a fun, energetic tuning, great for modern genres and lively tracks. The mids are not emphasised nor coloured. They are not for vocal or midheads, but I would say this is a well-tuned U-shape that doesn’t hinder the mids, so even in vocal-centric tracks you don’t feel the need to grab another IEM immediately.
I’m biased and jaded, so here’s what I expected after checking the price. Missing subbass, over-emphasized midbass to compensate, and mud all over the place. I was wrong, the Jive disarmed me with actual subbass rumble and extension that went down my throat. It was tuned for head-bopping fun, nicely elevated, and just enough. The midbass is also elevated, punchy and fun, just a bit flabby but tails off right before there’s any obvious bleed into the mids. I will forgive the occasional bass bleed at this price range because it only happens in really bassy tracks like Like a G6 from Far East Movement. I do however, turn the volume up just to hear the air being moved, it’s a guilty pleasure that the Jive excels at. The bass layering is impressive too, the thick midbass doesn’t hog the limelight and allows the subbass to shine. Just don’t expect much detail and texture, this isn’t the bass tuning you seek.
The mids are clear, detailed, and sounds relatively clinical next to the fun bass. Lower mids are devoid of the midbass thickness except in very bassy tracks where there is some bleed. It is definitely cleaner and leaner in the middle mids. And in a one-two punch combo, I could delineate some air in between the instruments and yet, no mids recession. Good vocals and instrument timbre as well. Nicely done! This is not your sweet mids tuning with alluring vocals, conjuring images of sultry singers writhing around in bed (fully clothed, we are a family-friendly forum), but the thinner notes and space creates some well-needed respite from the bass fullness. The upper mids unravel a bit, there is a lift that brings forward certain instruments (particularly cymbals) and it sounds edgy and tizzy in some tracks. Doesn’t happen often but once it does you can’t help but feel it’s uncharacteristic of the overall signature.
Like the upper mids, the treble wants to grab you by the ears and make its presence felt, which might or might not be a good thing. The lower treble continues where the upper mids left off, elevated with slight emphasis, bringing the details forward but sounding somewhat grainy as a result. There is good treble texture otherwise, amazing at this price, just that sometimes the instrument placement seems unnaturally forward. Hi-hats, bells, high-pitched percussion, they’re all affected. It sounds exciting and energetic, the Jive will never be described as boring or the perfect IEMs for your easy-listening grandma (who secretly likes EDM and would conversely make these perfect for her, you don’t know your grandma!). TLDR: detailed with good presence, but sometimes harsh and grainy.
Soundstage and Imaging
My word, it’s quite spacious. I’m used to a good tuning from budget IEMs, with little or no soundstage. This little guy proved me wrong again. You get a nice impression of space and staging, with music coming from around your head, rather than inside it. It’s a natural, enveloping stage with some air between the instruments, with two minor caveats already covered. One, the full bass prevents the airiness to fully take off, and two, the lower mids/upper treble that is unnaturally forwarded. Otherwise it’s good in the sense that you don’t feel like your head is being attacked. Imaging, given the air and space to work with, is excellent. You get a good impression of width, depth and even a bit of height. Pop in a binaural track and you’ll get what I mean. This isn’t Layla or A12 level of imaging, but at 1% of the retail price, it’s about 40% of TOTL IEM imaging. In real world terms, laser-pointer precision vs swatting a fly with your hand. And how many of us use laser pointers to kill flies anyway? Just take a bath, the fly will leave you alone.
Brainwavz left... Brainwavz left... to where? The subliminals!
Comparisons KZ ED3c “The Acme” (USD10)
The Acme, my favourite KZ, is a $10 wonder with a fun-oriented tuning and tiny soundstage. Bass has more quantity than the Jive, both subbass and midbass, sometimes distastefully thick and bloated. The Jive in comparison handles bass quantity, quality and refinement in another level. The Acme’s midbass bleed hampers the sound further, with tub-thumping, head-throbbing bass taking precedence over mids clarity. The Jive’s mid-neutral tuning with air is more relaxed and accessible than the thick sonic assault of the Acme, you barely have space to breathe screaming “where’s dat air?” The Jive upper mids/lower treble lift seem tame in comparison to the harsher, hotter Acme treble. The soundstage and imaging of the Jive totally obliterates the congestive sound of the Acme, no contest. While good for its price, the Acme is clearly outclassed by the more refined and spacious Jive, which also manages to sound fun as well. Can I say twice as good? Yes, actually.
Rhapsodio Clipper (USD55)
Rhapsodio makes some serious TOTL-level IEMs, and this budget-priced anomaly, so that more enthusiasts can sample the house sound. Like many IEMs in the USD50 and less price range, bass is boosted. Subbass is authoritative and moves more air than the Jive, however the overly-present midbass hump threatens to congest the sound. For me Jive straddles the line between fun and audiophile competently, whereas the Clipper is a verified bass cannon. Midbass bleed, minimum on the Jive, is obvious on the Clipper. Details are lost in comparison to the Jive. Mids are smoother and more coloured on the Clipper, it sounds more natural and euphonic. Clarity is also good, bass bleed aside. Treble, however, sounds muted on the Clipper, compared to the slight lift in the lower treble of the Jive. Soundstage is sufficiently wide, with imaging marred slightly by the midbass predominance. Not as airy as Jive by a long shot. Clipper has a smoother, weightier sound and lovely mids, whereas Jive is brighter and airier. Are they peers? Definitely.
"We are Brainwavz. We send happy wavz to your, uh, brain."
For fun, I asked a non-Headfier friend to listen to the Jive. His favourite IEM is the Jabra Rox Bluetooth with boosted midbass and precious little soundstage. Comparing both he said the Jive gave a very spacious, tuneful presentation that he likes, in contrast to the aggressive, bloated Jabra sound. When asked to guess the price he put it at USD100. His assessment is Jive in a nutshell. The cynical Headfier would never believe an IEM at USD28 would be of this quality, I’m at a loss for words as well. The bass layering, neutral mids, energetic treble, airy soundstage and stellar imaging are worth the price many times over. You must forgive me, for I do not participate in the Chinese IEM thread anymore, where more and more budget-fi wonders are discovered daily. So while I cannot comment on the competition today, the Jive has been a refreshing eye-opener. Many thanks to Pandora of Brainwavz for the review unit.
Pros: sound quality punches way above its class, metal build, 3 button (iOS or Android) remote
Cons: cable, narrow soundstage
Brainwavz Jive - The Budget IEM King?
Full quality images found here: http://imgur.com/a/n36GI
(I was sent the Jive in black, and it looks killer, but the red photographed better)
I was provided a set of Brainwavz Jive IEMs free of charge in exchange for my honest review. That is what follows below. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.
When it comes to IEM’s I own several pairs, and I prefer the sound of a balanced armature drivers. I love an IEM that is neutral with a hint (+3db or so) of bass boost to add some warmth to it, as well as an IEM that provides good detail retrieval. I am treble sensitive, and really don’t care for any IEM that gets sibilant, or that has a large treble spike.
My go to IEM’s are my re-shelled CIEM Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10, a pair of Westone UM3X’s, and a pair of Audeo PFE012 with the green filters. However, I occasionally reach for the classic, and often recommended, Shure SE215.
As is the same with most of you, I have a very eclectic taste in music, so it’s easier to list what I don’t listen too. I avoid modern country, most EDM (i.e.: house, trance, and anything played at a rave), and over produced top 40 pop music (those damn loudness wars!!!)
Lifted directly from the Brainwavz site.
Drivers : Dynamic, 9 mm
Rated Impedance : 16 Ω
Frequency Range : 20 Hz ~ 20 kHz
Sensitivity : 98 dB @ 1 mW
Rated Input Power : 20 mW
Plug : 3.5 mm, Gold-Plated
Cable : 1.3 m, Copper
Phone Call Control
Audio Player Control
Supports TRRS Connector
Supports Apple iOS and Android Devices
The Jive comes in several colors as well. You can get them in black, white, red, purple, and dark green. I own the black, red, and dark green variants, and the colors all look great and the anodizing holds up very well.
The Jive cable includes your choice of an iOS or Android compatible three button remote for controlling playback and volume. I found the mic to work as expected with calls, and received no complaints about the audio from other parties when using it. The three button remote worked well on my Samsung Galaxy S7, as well as with my older LG G3 and Nexus 5 devices.
Copy and pasted again from the Brainwavz product page.
Earphone Hardcase (wide)
3 sets of Silicone Ear Tips (S M L)
1 set of Comply™ Foam Tips S-400
1 Shirt Clip
Velcro Cable Tie
Warranty Card (24 month warranty)
Of note, I really love this wide (longer might be more accurate?) zippered case. So much so, that I purchased two more of them to use with other IEM’s.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in respect to build quality when receiving the budget priced Brainwavz Jive. Upon opening the box, I was very pleased that the full mental house of the Jive is well made and seems very durable. Over the corse of using the Jive for several months now, I have had zero issues with the unit.
The cable however, does leave a bit to be desired. The cable has a very rubbery feel to it, and retains a lot of memory, so you will find it loves to kink and coil up on it’s very own. That said, the strain reliefs are well implemented, the Y-split is light and never gets in the way, the included cable slider is a nice addition, and I love that they included a 45 degree 3.5mm plug on the end.
All in all, for the cost, I am happy with the overall build quality of the Jive.
Fit / Confort:
I am lucky to have ears that aren’t too picky with most IEMs, and I rarely have fit issues. Most IEMs I have tried over the years fit ok to really well, and comfort isn’t usually an issue. I typically prefer Comply foam tips to silicon ones, but it really does depend on the IEM and how the tips change the sound signature.
With the Jive, I found the medium silicon tips work best, and was able to achieve a good seal, that kept the IEMs in my ears and did a nice job of passive noise reduction. I am happy to report that comfort was never an issue with the Jive, even on days when I used them for 4 to 6 hours at work.
It’s great that Brainwavz included a pair of S-400 Comply foam tips with the Jive, but I found I didn’t really need them. That said, I can always use another set of Comply tips for other IEMs. For those that want them most noise isolation and secure fit, the Comply tips are the way to go.
I have had the Jive for a few months now, and it has seen quite a few hours of use. I have used the Jive direct out of my Samsung Galaxy S7 (no EQ), with a FiiO E7, FiiO E17K (no EQ), with a FiiO E12A IEM edition, my MacBook Air, iPad Air 2, Monoprice USB DAC/Amp (read: Drangonfly V1.2 clone), and with a SybaSonic SD-DAC63057 (no EQ).
Primary source for music has been Google Music, along with some lossless FLAC files.
The Brainwavz Jive has surprisingly good low end for a budget IEM. The sub bass extends a lot lower then expected. Best of all though, the midbass hump that dooms so many of the Jive’s competition isn’t present. Mid bass is well balance and very pleasing. That fact alone makes these worth the cost (a whopping $28.00 USD). There is super minimal bass bleed into the midrange, and the full spectum of the lowend on the Jive is every so slightly boosted. For me, that is perfect, and fits right in line with my listening preference.
The midrange on the Jive’s is very clear and well detailed, if not ever so slightly recessed. Vocals, both male and female are clear and very pleasing. There is a bit spike in the upper midrange that can give some liveliness to the sound signature, but never becomes harsh or fatiguing.
Treble performance on the Jive is probably the most surprising aspect of this IEM. As with the bass, the treble slightly elevated, and usually I would shy away from an IEM or headphone at that point. But with the Jive it works, and works really well. They tuning is nearly eliminated all sibilance, and the Jive is never fatiguing for my ears. the tuning reminds me a lot of single balanced armature IEMs in its voicing and detail retrieval. It gives the Jive a sparkle I wasn’t expecting and makes them a very fun, yet quality IEM to listen to.
Top performers, for me at least, in the imaging department are usually multi-driver balanced armature IEMs. In most cases, I would say its unfair to compare a budget dynamic driver IEM to those when it comes to imagine, but the Jive gets close, and that is saying a lot. Detail retrieval, instrument separation, and stereo imaging on the Jive is class leading, and punches way above its weight. While not up to the level of multi-driver balanced armature IEM’s, it’s close, and that is very pleasing.
The soundstage of the Jive is one of it’s few weak points. Being an in ear design, its hard to get that sense of air that is achievable with something like the Monk+ earbud. For an IEM it does just ok, and music always seems to feel as if it’s coming from within the head, and not outside it. It does give a good sense of depth to the soundstage, but the width is narrow.
Well, if you haven’t caught on by now, I really do love the Brainwavz Jive IEM. So much so that after being provided a review unit, I have purchased two other pairs of Jive’s for my wife and to keep at the office. Brainwavz markets the Jive as having the high fidelity sound of a balanced armature unit, and while not quite there, its very close. A lot closer than anyone would expect at a cost of $28.00 USD. In fact, for me, its better in some ways. It conveys about 95% of the detail of a balanced armature driver, but with added bass and dynamics that make the Jive a very fun IEM, without sacrificing sound quality. This is one IEM that will please both the audiophile and general consumer alike. Good on ya Brainwavz.
Pros: Build Quality, Clarity, Balance, Treble, Bass Control
Cons: Harshness in some Male Vocals
About Me:I prefer IEMs over full size because of portability and comfort, though I have owned and own a a couple full size cans. I am a 29 year old music lover, i listen to all genres from R&B to Rap, to Rock/Heavy Metal, to Jazz, Oldies, Country, Blues, etc. If its music I will give it a listen!
My gear used for testing is in my sig and my profile
My main tracks & albums for reviewing are:
Chris Jones - Long After You're Gone (FLAC) Toto - Africa (FLAC) Sade - Best Of (Album) (FLAC) Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (ALAC) Lindsey Stirling - Crystallize & Electric Daisy Violin (FLAC) Michael Jackson - Rock With You & Thriller (FLAC) Tamia - You Put a Move on My Heart (FLAC) No Doubt - Hella Good (FLAC) Phil Collins - Face Value (FLAC) System of a Down - Toxicity & Aerials (FLAC) Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit (Remastered FLAC) Ed Sheeran – X (FLAC) Five Finger Death Punch - Bad Company, Crossing Over, Hard to See & Undone (320) Eagles - Hotel California [Acoustic] (320) Incubus - Aqueous Transmission (320) Trifonic - Good Enough (320)
Santana - Maria, Maria & Smooth (Ft. Rob Thomas) (320)
Willie Nelson - Crazy (2001 Digital Remaster) (AAC 256)
Rusko - Everyday (Netsky Remix) (320)
Blackmill - Miracle (Album) (320)
Rittz - Next to Nothing (Album) (320)
Alina Baraz & Galimatias - Urban Flora EP (320)
Gareth Emery Ft. Christina Novelli – Concrete Angel & Dynamite (320)
Today I’m reviewing Brainwaz Jive, special thanks to Pandora @ Brainwavz for sending me the IEM for review. This unit I chose Android capable for the mic/buttons and Green color. It’s a simple budget IEM, ~$25, that isn’t too flashy and gets the job done sound wise. They don’t do too much but don’t do too little, they are nice Goldilocks find. For my listening I settled with Spiral Dot Medium tips.
Like I said, they aren’t flashy. Cone housings, each side has a distinct “Left” & “Right” wording. Long strain relief at the housing that shows no sign of ripping. The cable is moderately thick and doesn’t hold much memory which is great. Left side of cable has the mic/buttons as usual, they seem to function well. The Y-Split is thick and has a chin slider. The 3.5 plug is again very tough rubber and a 45 degree angle. These very much appear to be built to last though they are light weight. The isolation is a bit average, they block out most noise, I’m sure Comply will seal the best.
The sound quality is about average. Not spectacularly clear but not garbled and muffled. They get the job done when I’m driving.
The sound is very pleasant overall, smooth sound sig. The stage is about average but has a nice in head openness, with enough separation and imaging to provide a good mental image of instrument placement. Surprisingly good clarity and details for this price range, with a present bass line that is not boomy like the same price range A&D D2 which can be overbearing at times. I want to call this a balanced v-shape sound sig.
Bass: Digs pretty deep with good mid bass impact. As stated, it doesn’t bleed or interfere with the rest of the frequencies as far as I can tell. I don’t notice it being boomy, pretty well controlled.It has enough rumble and oomph for EDM/Hip Hop and can take a backseat and mellow out for classical or Soft Rock.
Mids: Detailed with great clarity, I don’t notice much, if any, veil in these. Slightly held back but vocals and details still shine though. Guitars and Pianos sound natural. Male and Females both come across as pulled back but still sound very good, males vocals can get a bit harsh but it’s not a huge issue. Female vocals are powerful but not sultry as in say the MusicMaker TK13.
Treble: They seem to teeter on the edge of soft and crisp. They have a good amount of air and sparkle. They float around your head giving you an almost 3D experience at times.
The Brainwavz Jive hold their own in the competitive budget IEM market. They don’t have the bass impact and rumble of my MusicMaker FengYin but they have a bit more clarity and separation. The solid build quality and nicely balanced V sound sig makes for an entertaining yet relaxed listen when sitting around.