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Universal Fit item created by nightmancometh, Oct 31, 2013
Pros - great balanced but slightly warm sound, wide soundstage, build
Cons - overbuilt, wide & long nozzle, large "unique" design
Quick Summary: While these earphones have a really “unique” design to them, once you get over this, you will be rewarded with a beautifully balanced sound. I would put them on a similar tier as the very popular, and head-fi favorites Hifiman re400 and the Vsonic GR07. This is very high praise, let’s find out below!
I want to thank Brainwavz for their patience and for sending a pair of these R3 for review:
Click on the link below to see the video review:
The R3s come with a multiple ear tips of different sizes, shapes and even “bore/nozzle width”
3 pairs of Grey (medium bore) (in S,M,L)
3 pairs of black (narrower bore) (in S,M,L)
1 pair of Triple flange
1 pair of Double Flange
1 Pair of Medium Comply T400 eartips
1 ¼ adapter
1 hard carrying case (this is probably the nicest case I’ve ever seen, I’ll probably getting a few for my other earphones)
These earphones look very interesting to say the least. They have almost a big water bottle shape to them. While they won’t win any beauty contests, but in this case its more substance (sound) >style. The size of the housing is conducive to how big and spacious this earphone sounds.
Overall: 5/10 (I did get a few weird looks when walking around the mall, and around town with them, they are quite big as well)
These guys I feel have set the bar for build quality for even many full size headphones out there. It’s certainly, the “Hummer” for earphones. The earpieces are fully made of metal, which makes me feel that they would win a war even against a hammer. The cables is very thick and rugged, I think its on par or even exceeds some full size headphones in this category. Lastly, it has an big and overbuilt 45 degree jack, one that looks like the ones you see with TV cables. I feel headphone manufactures should really take a look at the Brainwavz R3 when building their cables. These earphones will definitely last a while.
Overall: 10/10 (I feel the cable is a bit too thick and heavy at times for an earphone, however in this case I would say its better being overbuilt >underbuilt).
These edges of the R3s are all rounded, but bottom line is that their still very large for earphones, affecting fit (I struggled at times to get a good fit). Brainwavz attempts compensated the size by having long nozzles, which would allow for better, deeper fit. However, the nozzle used are also very wide. My ear canals did feel a bit sore after about an hour or so, however the Comply’s did help with the comfort. As a result, the issues listed above may affect those with small outer ears and smaller ear canals.
Overall: 6.5/10 (If the nozzles were narrower it would help improve the comfort)
There are a number of vents (I count 2). As a result the isolation is just about average. Good enough for day to day use, though not my first recommendation for hardcore commuting.
These were intended to be worn cable up, as a result, almost no cable noise.
Overall: 9/10 (when using these for physical exercises, the physical weight of the cable will cause some cable noise to come through)
I think Brainwavz have a done a fantastic job. It’s a sound that is a “jack of all trades” it has the right balance of bass, midrange and treble. No single part of the sound spectrum screams out for your attention, instead it opts for a more neutral balanced presentation with some added warmth to prevent them from sounding cold or lean. I think in terms of musical preferences, I think these faired better for more acoustic and live pieces, I loved listening to OSTs, and ballads with them, because of its delicate nature and its wide soundstage. I felt it delivered the atmosphere and the emotions from those specific genres of music.
the bass here is rather linear from the midbass with a mild subbass roll off. But the bass here is just a slightly emphasized (providing a soft impact) to allow for some added warmth. Its not anemic, but the bass may not have the impact some are seeking. The bass here is very well integrated with good control with a smooth texture.
I think the midrange, is rather neutral and natural sounding balancing male and female vocals very well. I feel that the midrange has enough richness, that give vocals a bit more body or thickness, though a bit diffuse. The tradeoff for the extra richness in the vocals, is a bit of clarity but it allow for both male and female vocals to have a smoother quality to them. However, as a whole its still a very clear earphone and I would put it just behind the Re400 and GR07BEs.
I think the treble as a whole is relatively clean, smooth, avoiding any siblance. I feel the treble hits a plateau in the mid treble and rolls off shortly after which makes the treble sound a bit just a bit “blunted” which makes the treble have bit of dullness, and a more laid back feel. Thus, the treble lacks a bit of the excitement and a bit air in treble, that I think would allow them to sound more open, and more engaging. The complaints I listed above are very minor, I think the treble as whole executed very well.
Quite big, it’s an out of the head experience with great placement and separation. It’s a bit diffuse sounding and I felt it had better width than depth, making the presentation more flat
Quick comparison :
I think in comparison the Brainwavz R3 is warmer and smoother sounding (and less dry sounding) than the Hifiman RE400 and it has a much bigger soundstage. The bass is smoother sounding and both have that roll off in the subbass but its less noticeable on the R3s. The midrange has more thickness and more weight than the transparent and lean RE400s. The treble is more crisp on the RE400s, and more detailed and clearer as a result. But its so much better built, there is no contest, but the housing is bigger so it be challenge to get a fit for some.
Compared to the VSONIC Gr07 BE, its has a similar width size of the soundstage with a similar sort of diffuse characteristic (so more 2 dimensional). The subbass on the Gr07BE is definitely more emphasized than it is on the R3, as well as the midbass, making it punchier as a whole. Its more midcentric and richer with male vocals. In terms of the treble but its much smoother so those that felt GR07 was edgy and siblant in the treble would just love the smoothness of R3, while still sounding very balanced and detailed as a whole. Those looking for a more v shaped and more exciting sound should look towards the GR07BE.
*added note* I think the Brainwavz R3 is a good alternative (sonically speaking) to the Vsonic GR07(whichever version, i have the BE) and the Hifiman re400. Especially if you need something very rugged, i mean like strong enough to survive a war in your backpack and more.
Sound: 9/10 (the treble was just a bit blunt for me) but aside from that it was a very great take on a neutral, balanced sound signature with a bit of warmth.
In conclusion, while the R3s have this ridiculously robust build and the great sound of the R3s, I feel that the design and the long, wide nozzles would be an issue for others. It’s a good and durable option at this price range as long as you can get past the design and the potential comfort issues.
Below are some pictures of the R3:
Pros - Sounds Good, Relaxing, No Sibilance, Build Quality
Cons - Physical Design
First I’d like to thank Audrey from Brainwavz for sending me the R3 to review. Brainwavz was one of the very first companies I encountered when I joined Head-Fi; their legendary B3 was one of my first higher end IEMs. Since then, I have heard many other Brainwavz offerings and I have enjoyed each of them and none have struck me as off sounding. I had quite high expectations about how the R3 would sound.
The Brainwavz R3 has been an IEM that has received a lot of attention on Head-Fi lately and I have heard quite a few things about it, but I have also read a lot of criticism about its cable. When I first saw the IEM, I immediately thought that the design was very awkward and odd, TBH I wasn’t really sure how it would fit. The cable was also something that I wasn’t really looking forward to, but it didn’t as bad as some people were saying.
The R3 is a dual dynamic driver IEM, which is rather interesting. You don’t see a lot of dual dynamic driver IEMs. There are certainly a lot of multi BA IEMs, but I was very interested in hearing what Brainwavz could do with two dynamic drivers.
**Disclaimer** These were given to me in exchange for an honest review.
Unboxing & Accessories
The R3 keeps with the trend of all Brainwavz products I have tried in terms of the packaging. It is very simple and easy to deal with, but not special in any way as can be expected for its price tag. The box opens on the side and a compartment slides out to reveal the R3, the case and the tips.
It is very nice to see that Brainwavz did not skimp on accessories though. It comes with a very nice hard, rectangular clamshell case which is one of the best cases that I have come across. It is very tough and it is hard to image you damaging the IEMs while they are in the case under normal use. It shouldn’t be a problem even if you sit on them or something like that. It also comes with a very nice and perhaps a little overly large ¼ adapter and a wide range of tips including a pair of complys. Personally I did not really like any of the tips that were in the box and I actually use Meelec dual flanges with these.
Design, Cable & Isolation
Boy, was I let down in this department. I thought that it couldn’t possibly be as bad as some were making it out to be, but it was. Surprisingly, the first set that Brainwavz sent me just did not fit on one side for some reason, I have absolutely no idea why. The second pair fit fine, but came of incredibly easily and the thick and rigid cable did not help at all. The housing is very well built though, with a full metal construction. The cable is well built, but like I mentioned before, terrible to use. The ear guides are also still very annoying despite the revision.
The cable is possibly the worst cable that I have ever encountered. I honestly never thought that something would be worse that the ridiculous cable of the Klipsch Custom 3 that I tried at a meet, but I do feel like the R3 cable accomplishes this feat. The cable is stiff, heavy and mine actually twists in the wrong was from the housing so it is either constantly slipping off my ear or pushing the IEM out of my ear. Either way, I am really not a fan of the cable of the R3.
The isolation is around average, it isn’t great but it should be fine for day to day use. The odd fit and vent makes the isolation a little lacking.
I felt like the R3 scaled surprisingly well for an IEM of its price tag. It performed very well with just my Nexus 5 and Sansa Clip+, but it really improved with my budget Kogan/SAP combo. Adding an amp really lifted the sound and made everything sound clearer and improved the soundstage. I then tried it with my DX90 and I was quite surprised that it scaled so much. The clarity was very good with the DX90 and every area just seemed better. Then I tried them with my Geek Out 1000 and man, these pair well. The review was done with the GO1000.
So far I feel like I have been harsh on the R3, but the sound is actually very good. Despite all the negative things on the design and dreadful fit, the sound is extremely impressive and easily on of the best in its price range. Those who know me will know that I tend to lean towards a neutral sound with slightly bumped up bass for my IEMs and the R3 was actually very enjoyable.
When I first heard this, I was rather shocked at just how controlled and punchy the bass was. I was expecting crazy bass with the dual dynamic drivers that were boomy and muddy, but instead I was asking myself whether Brainwavz had made a mistake and these were really dual BA IEMs. In the $100 price range, the bass from the R3 is simply the best that I have heard, easily surpassing the RE-400 and S5. It is not light by any means, but actually a little heavy, but not too much. The bass is extremely textured for something of this price range. The mid-bass is very fast and the sub-bass has just the right amount of rumble to it. The bass is rather detailed and is much more satisfying than the RE-400’s somewhat lacking bass response.
For some reason I was expecting a dark and recessed midrange, but this was not the case with the R3 despite its dynamic drivers. If anything, I actually find the R3’s midrange to be a little on the forward side and not in the least recessed. It is a little on the warmer side of things, but at no time did I feel like there was any sort of veil that plagues many IEMs. Vocals are excellent, they actually remind me a little of the addictive HE-500 midrange, which was interesting. The vocals are lush and rich, boasting good clarity, but not as good as some other offerings in the price range. There is no sibilance whatsoever with vocals and is much less fatiguing than something like the S5. Instruments are also quite realistic, but a bit too warm for my liking.
The treble is perhaps the weakest part of the R3, and the section that matched my expectations the most. I was expecting it to be dark, very dark, but luckily, it is not. The treble is a bit more subdued than what I prefer, but on the positive side it is very smooth and I don’t see anybody having any troubles with the R3’s treble even if you are sensitive to treble. From memory, the R3’s treble tonality reminds me a bit of the SE215, but crisper, more detailed and just better overall. The clarity is actually notably better than other IEMs I have heard with this sort of treble tonality. Cymbals do not have any sibilance whatsoever, which will be a big plus for long listening periods.
Soundstage & Imaging
Let me start off this section by saying that I have been truly spoiled by the HD800’s soundstage and imaging so this may come off as a little harsh. After making the transition to headphones, I have found that IEMs really just can’t produce soundstage nor image well. The soundstage of the R3 is actually not bad for an IEM of its price. It is quite wide, but doesn’t have too much height or depth to it. It is better than the RE-400 hands down though.
The imaging was just alright, wasn’t particularly impressive or bad. It was a bit blurry for some reason and not compared to the HD800 lol. It seems to have a little bit of trouble focusing on something, a comparison that comes to mind is when a camera doesn’t focus. This is actually consistent, and not just with some tracks. It actually sounds a bit smeared. It is not a huge issue though, and the overall imaging is around average for the price.
Separation, Detail & Clarity
The separation is actually very good and I felt like it was actually a bit better than the RE-400. On most tracks it handled the multiple instruments very well and really impressed me with how well it did with vocals especially. On the track “Some Nights” by Fun, it really sounded terrific. On many of the popular songs it had no issues whatsoever and sounded great. I didn’t feel like anything was lacking here.
The R3 is not the most detailed earphone out there and many other IEMs in its price range beat it, but what the R3 does do is present details very naturally and doesn’t feel like it is forced like some other IEMs. The Alfa Genus and RE-400 are bother better than then R3 in this regard and where I do feel like the R3 is lacking in this area, I do feel like it would lose some of its relaxing texture if the sound was tuned to be more detailed.
Clarity is something that is quite odd with the R3. From the sound signature, it doesn’t seem like the clarity is very good, but when you actually listen, the clarity is rather crisp and much better than it seems from first impressions. The clarity is not something that is highlighted, but presented in a very polite and modest manner.
RE-400 or R3?
I suspect that many people who are reading this will be interested to see how these compare to the RE-400 which has become a benchmark for an IEM under $100 for many people. The RE-400 truly is a spectacular IEM for the price, but the R3 is a worthy competitor. The R3 is better in some areas to my ears. The bass is clearly better IMO, being more solid, detailed and textured. Both IEMs are a bit mid-forward and there is no clear answer as to which one is better. Both are very good for the price but personally I like the RE-400’s midrange a bit more because it is brighter, but many people will prefer the R3’s midrange. The treble is also the same, I prefer the RE-400, but I see a lot of people liking the R3 more. Soundstage and imaging is better on the R3, it simply outclasses the RE-400. If I had to choose one purely on sound, I would probably choose the R3, which is not what I would have expected upon first listening to it. This is just my opinion, keep in mind that it was extremely close though.
The sound is one of the best in its price range, but the question is whether the sound is enough to make up for the dreadful cable and fit. Well, the fit is bearable, but it is really the cable that is causing all the issues. I really wished that Brainwavz would use the B2 cable or something supple like that and just drop the memory wire. It is really a shame that Brainwavz did not put more thought into the design because it really is a very nice IEM, but the entire package is a very flawed one because of the physical design. If Brainwavz can fix the cable issues while keeping the same sound, the R3 will be a winner for sure and I will recommend in a heartbeat.
All these photos were not taken by me so if you ow them and want me to take them down, just tell me.
Pros - Sound quality is pleasing, though not perfectly balanced or refined; Build quality; Accessories and tips; Fits better than expected
Cons - Odd design might not be comfortable for some, but most shouldn't have issues; Cable can be a bit unwieldy and annoying
Disclaimer: I received my R3s for free under the condition I would write a review for them. Purchase price reflects their going rate on a popular online retailer at the time of the review.
The Brainwavz R3 is certainly an interesting IEM in a few ways, but it's the overall design, shape, and style of fit that immediately stand out. I was a little unsure what to expect from a sound perspective, but I was definitely worried these would be impossible to wear comfortably, assuming I could fit them in my ears properly at all. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised in most areas.
Design, Fit, Comfort, Etc.
Admittedly, I had no clue how to wear these at first. I spent a good part of half an hour trying to put them in my ear horizontally, which led to them continuously falling out, a lack of proper fit and seal with the tips, and the cable would just not stay behind my ear. I was almost about to write them off until I discovered they were meant to be worn in a vertical style, if that makes sense. Feeling sufficiently stupid, I put them in the right way. Ah, much better!
Assuming one doesn't make the same mistake I did, the R3s are...surprisingly comfortable. They are definitely on the large and heavy side, so I can't give them high marks on comfort. This also made them a bit more prone to wanting to fall out of my ears. I also can't say they really gave me too many issues, though. It's at the "good enough" level where it doesn't get in the way of how I feel about them overall. However, I do suspect some individuals might have issues getting them to fit comfortably in their ears.
The cable is a bit thick and unwieldy, and even after putting them in the right way, the cable would sometimes give me fits and want to jump out from behind my ears. The cables also had some sort of plastic piece on them that tended to exacerbate this issue and/or produce very mild irritation against the back of my ears. Once you get the cables where they need to be, and assuming you aren't doing anything too physically crazy, it's not too bad.
I thought the R3s did a fairly good job with sound quality. They are not perfect in every way, nor are they perhaps the most balanced sounding IEMs in this price range, but they were certainly pleasing to listen to.
The R3s don't have particularly exaggerated bass. I actually found the bass to be rather balanced and nicely extended. They did seem to have a bit of mid-bass warmth and bloom, but this is something I often find subjectively pleasing if mild and done tastefully.
The R3s have a fairly good balance up through most of the midrange. I did notice a bit of depression in the very upper mids and lower treble, though not to the point where this caused an odd sound. If anything, it gave them a bit of a laid-back nature. Whether or not one finds that tasteful will come down to personal tastes.
Treble response is probably where the R3s are weakest. While overall fairly smooth and detailed, I did seem to notice a bit of glare and bite in a couple narrow band areas. I did not find these troublesome, as they were relatively in line with the rest of the spectrum. Out of curiosity, and after I had spent time listening, I was able to find two measurements of the R3, and it would appear these slight peaks, relative to the surrounding areas, sit around 4-5KHz and 9KHz. I believe it might be the latter that ever so slightly stood out. That said, I am generally pretty sensitive to midrange and treble issues. Since the R3 didn't give me subjective problems or sound displeasing, I suspect very few, if any, will find the treble to present any sort of problem.
In terms of soundstage, I thought the R3s did a fairly good job giving a sense of room space and reverberation, if not a bit on the small side. Perhaps better than what other IEMs I have tested. Clarity and detail was also pretty good across the spectrum, though they're not super resolving or detail monsters.
If I had to summarize the R3's sound, I'd call them decently balanced, a bit warm and laid-back, and ever so slightly bitey in the treble depending on what sort of music you're listening to. I am tempted to say they somewhat remind me of my Oppo PM-2. Similar in some characteristics, but not entirely. Overall, I'd give them fairly high marks in terms of sound quality. Definitely quite enjoyable, in my mind.
I wouldn't have any issues recommending the R3s with some caveats. The thick and unwieldy cable is my biggest annoyance, but with some patience, you can make it work. The design of the IEM itself is unorthodox and might lead to some fit and comfort issues on some individuals, but I will say they weren't too bad in this area and did much better than I expected (once I figured them out!). From a sound quality perspective, I thought the R3s were decently balanced and quite enjoyable to listen to, though not perfect. It is only because of the cable and unorthodox design that I give the R3 a 3.5/5. Otherwise, I'd easily give them a 4/5, which means I'd recommend them (BTW, anything higher than 4/5 for me is very rare).
Pros - build quality, included accessories, great sound separation
Cons - cable, would prefer memory wire back, fitment
This is a review of Brainwavz R3 dual driver headphones. http://www.yourbrainwavz.com/r3.html - an updated version of R3 model originally released about 8-9 months ago.
Usually when I look for in-ear headphones I try to stay away from oddly shaped "objects" that will affect the fitment and create discomfort. I'm more used to a traditional cylindrical shape design with a wire down config or a fancier bean shape design with a wire up behind the ear fitment. When I was offered an opportunity to review Brainwavz dual dynamic driver R3 headphones and looked through some of the pictures, I was intrigued by their shape because I wasn't sure if it could fit my ears. Shaped like something you put on a X-mas tree, these actually contain two drivers in a very unique configuration facing each other inside of an acoustic chamber resembling a shape of a scaled down soda bottle. Let's see what I found.
Very consistent with my previous review of Brainwavz S5, I can confirm this company takes a lot of pride in their products and in showcasing of their design details. They were definitely very proud of the unique shape of these headphones and decided to have a clear display from both sides of the box to show the actual earpieces without a need for pictures. You even get a detailed design description with a diagram of how drivers are placed inside of the chamber, a comprehensive list of accessories, and all the specifications. Among included accessories you get two sets of S/M/L single flange silicon eartips, a pair of bi-flange eartips, a pair of triple-flange eartips, a pair of genuine Comply Foam eartips, 1/4" adapter, and their premium headphone case. I noticed that airplane adapter is no longer included and in my opinion not really necessary.
When it comes to R3 headphones itself, they will definitely going to stand out from the crowd, though you will have to be a judge if it's going to be in a positive or a negative way. R3 wires have a very thick shielding which is great for durability purpose, but not so great when you have to wrap and to store the headphones. Luckily, Brainwavz included their premium in-ear headphone case which is roomy enough to fit these in. Starting with 3.5mm plug, you have a gold plated 270deg connector with a nice strain relief. Going up the cable, you have a heavy duty y-splitter with another set of very durable strain relieves on each side of the wire connection. There is also a chin slider (cable cinch), but due to a friction with a thick cable shielding I had a little bit of hard time keeping it sliding evenly and ended up pulling one or the other cable to even it out. Unfortunately, a cinch in this setup was a must have option for me. Original R3 had a rather long memory wire that received a lot of criticism; I have seen pictures and it was definitely too long. To mitigate this problem, updated R3 design replaced memory wire with just a thinner and more flexible shielding joint to the original thicker shielding. The new shielding piece doesn't have any memory wire, and I guess the idea is that it will stay behind the ears weighted down by the cable. In my case, I had to raise chin slider to keep the wires together and still felt it being a little bit loose behind my ears. Not sure if Brainwavz going to have another update or a similar cable will be used in a future releases, but I suggest to bring back memory wire and to keep it as short as behind-the-ear piece used right now.
Now, this brings us to headphones themselves. It took me a few minutes to figure out what is the best way to put these in, until I realized I have to slide them in a little bit angled. I was actually surprised these went in smoothly and stayed in without a problem using the largest included silicone tips. The seal was not bad, and I actually felt better than average sound isolation. The bottom of R3 vertically aligned shells were actually resting inside of my ear opening. I think that helped with an extra support, so YMMV if you have larger or smaller ears where this could be a problem. All metal shell design was smooth and felt very solid. Closer examination revealed a vertical groove with 2 hidden wires, assuming connection between the top and the bottom drivers since you can't have wires running inside of the acoustic chamber. That could be a little bit of a concern if you are planning to use these headphones a lot outdoors, especially in high humidity.
So how do these sound? Overall R3 headphones have a nicely balanced smooth laid back sound signature. I was actually very impressed with a separation of lows and mids/treble, and it kind of reminded me of dual chamber headphone designs I tested in the past. Low frequency had a good extension down to sub-bass (though you will need a good seal to appreciate that), and mid-bass was not as aggressive, a little slower in attack and sounded somewhat hollow, but still clear. Upper mids were clear, but not too bright which took away some details. The same with treble where I actually felt the roll off was a bit earlier than I expected. All this adds up to a smooth musical sound characteristics which is good for extended listening period without ear fatigue. If you are looking for a faster, brighter, and more detailed sound - these will not suite you. A big surprise was a wide soundstage, both in width and in depth. Another observation, because of the smooth warm sound signature, I felt my lower quality mp3s sounded not as good, so R3 is not very forgiving when it comes to lower quality music compression.
Overall, there is no doubt these are very unique in-ear headphones, both in the way how they look and driver configuration arrangement/design. You will definitely going to make a statement wearing these outside, and I'm sure some people will come up asking you about it. They have a specific sound signature which might not be everyone's cup of tea, but others will find it unique and desirable. Also, comfort of wearing might be an issue for some since I don't see R3 having a truly universal fitment. Personally, I'm still flip-flopping if I like them or not because I think the design and fitment is very polarizing. But with all that, you can't take away how well these headphones are built, the amount of included accessories, and a great sound quality relative to their sound signature. So if you are up for an adventure, you gotta check them out!
Here are the pictures.
Pros - Good sound for price, memory wire, bold design that works, good build quality, Comply's
Cons - memory wire too long, driver design may not fit all ears, slightly harshness at times
Multi driver IEM’s are the talk when it comes to linear armature driver based units. But a dynamic driver based IEM having multiple drivers? Well here we are today with Brainwavz’s new dual dynamic driver in ear monitor. Armed with an acoustic and a bass driver, the piston shaped IEM seems ready to either take on the linear armature competition, or take on the competition for the most unique looking IEM. Whatever it is, the R3 is distinctive, new and different. Let’s take a look at how it is today.
The unit I received is a pre-production sample. I was notified that some things with the unit itself was being changed possibly. This review will like to alert the user of this. For the purpose of the review and making it as fluid as possible, the current unit I hold and its build will be held to be the ‘real’ thing. All accounts will thus be held to the unit I hold.
One of the first things you will notice about the R3 is it is shaped extremely weird. It almost looks like a piston or hose with valve. However, come great shape comes great build. The metal used on the R3 is very solid, thick and undeniably ‘metal’ at its core but smooth to the touch, and light in its weight. You can see its sheer raw-ness in the straight and almost un-refined cuts down its sides. The thickness and size tells you that it must weigh a lot and that those edges will cut your fingers. The moment you touch them is the moment those ideas are dispelled. The R3’s driver material build is raw, dominating, but ergonomic. Wonderfully crafted and executed by Brainwavz.
There is a slit on the side of the R3 with a wire leading from the bass driver to the acoustic driver. You can visibly and clearly see the wire glued to it. It is unknown to me if this will cause any problems as the wire is exposed to the elements or if it may pose a hazard(doubt it would, but you can never be too careful). The wire is glued flat to the inside so its not something that will come right out rest assured.
Read More here:
Pros - Oh its so sumptuously and delicately beautiful. Soundstage and scale.
Cons - If you want a V shaped party beast this is not it. The stupidly long memory wire!!!!
Brainwavz R3 Quick Review
Thanks to mp4nation for the sample.
Full review here http://www.head-fi.org/t/701034/brainwavz-r3-review
Brief: Brainwavz do an epically scaled dual dynamic.
Price: £79 or US$130 or €95
Specification: Transducers/Drivers: Dual Dynamic, 10mm, Crossover: Passive, Rated Impedance: 32ohms, Sensitivity: 95dB at 1mW, Frequency range: 20Hz ~ 20KHz, Maximum input power: 2mW, Cable length: 1.4m, Y cord, OFC Copper, professional grade memory cable., Plug: 3.5mm gold plated, 45 degree., 24 month warranty.
Accessories: 1 x Comply foam T-series tip 6 x Silicone tips 1 x Bi-Flage tip 1 x Tri-Flange tip 1 x 6.3mm to 3.5mm audio adapter 1 x Airplane adapter 1 x Earphone carrying case 1 x Instruction manual
Build Quality: Metal and fairly hefty. The cable too looks very substantial.
Isolation: Fairly reasonable. Enough to get you killed or for day to day use, but you know, its still a dynamic so not flight to New Zealand levels of isolation.
Comfort/Fit: Comfort was actually pretty good. The things are massive so I’d have not been surprised if problem’s occurred, they were really comfy though. Fitting them on the other hand, the memory wire is so long it’s a huge pain and just gets in the way. You’ll get used to figuring it out but it’s very annoying.
Aesthetics: These things look huge, and frankly, they look weird. Not bad, just weird.
Sound: Huuuuuuuggggggeeeeeeeeeeee. These have such a soft, delicate, airy wondrous quality to them. The sound stage is vast; the distance these convey is just superb and remind me of the RE-252 and its weird endless sense of distance. These do open and delicate just utterly superbly. This sort of sound really, really is one I found grew on me. At first it’s so incredibly unassuming. It’s near flavourless, unexciting, mild and a tad boring. Then you grow accustomed to its just playing what’s there, mellowing any abrasiveness and letting the most sweet and delicate details come into view. The bass is a tad inflated, and its depth isn’t stellar but it’s so composed and refined. The highs are for this price the most refined and delicately beautiful live heard in a long, long time. (Since the RE-0 was cut to US$100) Then the mids, all that openness and air, the space, it’s all so very detailed and so very, very subtle about everything. I find myself growing to adore the mids here.
The flip side of all this is, its not a thrill machine. The bass isn’t thumping, the highs are crisp, nor do they hurl detail at you. The mids don’t leap out and scream party. Horses for courses and all that.
Value: If you like this sound style, superb. It’s not an “all-rounder” though so some won’t love it the way I do. Also there is lots of other great stuff at this price bracket.
Pro’s: Oh its so sumptuously and delicately beautiful. Soundstage and scale.
Con’s: If you want a V shaped party beast this is not it. The stupidly long memory wire!!!!
Pros - Clarity, over-all sonic signature, soundstage, build quality, accessories, value
Cons - Cable (worst I've ever come across), slight imbalance beteen upper and lower mids, fit
Introducing Brainwavz very uniquely designed dual dynamic IEM
Brainwavz R3 (Comply Tips)Brainwavz R3 Dual Dynamic IEM
I've been lucky enough recently to start reviewing for a few IEM and earbud manufacturers. Raz from MP4 Nation PM'd me a month ago, and asked if I'd be interested in listening to, and reviewing, the new Brainwavz R3 dual dynamic driver IEM. This is one I was really looking forward to for a variety of reasons:
[a] I previously owned and very much enjoyed Brainwavz B2 (dual BA) IEMs , and also their HM5 full sized headphones.
Brainwavz and MP4 Nation (in my personal experience) really try to look after their customers, and their service to me has always been excellent
[c] The R3 was such a unique design that I really wanted to see how they sounded.
They arrived a week ago – and in that time I’ve logged as many hours as I could with them (so that I could get Raz my impressions before Xmas). I have around 20-30 hours with them so far, and they haven't noticeably changed in that time (to my ears anyway). I’ve listed price at USD $100 (current MP4 Nation promtoional price at time of writing) – however this is not what I paid for them (they are a review sample).
I was provided the R3 as a review sample. I am in no way affiliated with MP4 Nation or Brainwavz - and this review is my honest opinion of the R3. I would like to thank Raz at MP4 Nation for making this opportunity available.
Preamble - 'about me'. (This is to give any readers a baseline for interpreting the review).
I'm a 46 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile - just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current mid-fi set-up. I vary my listening from portable (HSA Studio V3 and iPhone4) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP). My main headphones at the time of writing are the Senn HD600, Beyer DT880, and Grado RS1. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs - up till now it has mainly been the Shure SE535 Ltd Ed., Dunu DN-1000 (recent acquisition), or the HSA BA100 IEMs. I have auditioned quite a few entry and mid-tier cans, but have yet to hear/own any real flagships (at current time of writing this review). 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 hard-rock. I also listen to a lot of blues, indie, folk music, classic rock, and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced - with a slight emphasis on the mid-range. I am neither a bass or treble head (you could argue that I do like clarity though). Current amps = NFB12 and LD MKIV. I also formerly owned several portable amps - the most notable being an Arrow 4G and GoVibe PortaTube.
For the purposes of this review - I used the R3 straight from the headphone out socket of both my iPhone 4 and Studio V3. I did not bother with amping them, as IMO they do not require an amp. The Studio 3 has a class A amp anyway - and has no issues driving my full sized cans (including the HD600 and DT880). In the time I've had the R3's I have probably already put around 20-30 hours listening time. In that time I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (I do not believe in 'night and day' burn-in). I will allow that the more time I've have spent with these IEM's, the better they have sounded to me. Personally I think this is brain burn in - but I will respect others choice if they interpret this as physical 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.
Packaging and Accessories
Outer Retail BoxOuter Box And Inner Clear Display
The R3's arrived in a simple retail box - consisting of an outer case over a clear plastic inner - which shows the R3, but hides the supplied carry/storage case, and accessories. The specific sales messages on the box are very much straight forward and to the point:
- twin driver configuaration (tick, definitely true)
- bass and clarity (tick again, but not what I originally expected)
- rugged metal housing design (tick, definitely true)
The box also has a list of specifications on the side, as well as a list of included accessories. On the rear of the box (which is a fantastic touch) is an image of the driver design (cut-away image of the shell). They also have a blurb regarding the design, and what they were aiming for.
Retail BoxRear Of Box With Driver Design Detailed
On opening the outer box, you're presented with the inner clear plastic 'tray' (which is pretty flimsy but funtional) the (fantastic) Brainwavz carry case, and the very shiny and rugged R3's. On opening the Brainwavz carry/storage case you discover the very good accessory range shipped with the R3s.
Inside The Clear PackingIncluded Accessories
For accessories, included is the excellent semi-rigid red and black case (dimensions approx 90x70x45mm). The case is strong enough to fully protect your IEM's, has twin pockets on the inside for tips etc, and is very roomy (you'll see this last part does not apply to the R3 however - more on that later). I still have the original case from my R1s (impulse buy when they first came out) - and although the R1's were given to a friend, I kept the box - simply because I love the design.
3.5 to 6.3mm AdaptorAirline Adaptor Plug
The R3 also comes with an excellent 3.5 to 6.3mm adaptor, two prong standard airline adaptor, warranty form, and a variety of tips. The build quality on both the adaptors is certainly excellent, and in keeping with the very solid build which seems to be a theme with the R3. The R3 warranty card must be a standard warranty/RMA form because it states 12 months on the form - but 24 months on the box. Something which may have to be fixed / clarified in future.
Tip selectionGood Variety Of Types And Sizes
The R3 also comes with a great range of different sized tips including triple flanges, dual flanges, single flange standard silicone (two types in S/M/L, and also some comply foam tips (which were originally in a sealed comply pouch).
All-in-all, the accessories included are highly impressive considering the price. I applaud Brainwavz for this.
(From the packaging)
Drivers : Twin dynamic drivers (10mm x 2)
Crossover : Passive
Impedance : 32 ohm
Sensitivity : 95dB at 1 mW
Rated Input Power : 2 mW
Frequency response : 20hz-20 khz
Jack / cable : 3.5mm angled standard gold-plated jack, 130 cm cable
Build / Fit / Comfort / Isolation
Extremely Rugged BuildAluminium Shell "Built Like A Tank"
The R3 is built like a tank. The shell is an aluminium alloy. It's approx 1.3cm in diameter and 2.7 cm in length, with a further 1.2cm for the nozzle. The IEMs are a little heavier than standard IEMs (because of the shell size), but so far I haven't found the weight obtrusive in any way. The casing is very shiny, and has the Brainwavz logo printed on one side of each casing, with the word "Brainwavz" on the opposite side. At the tip of the IEM shell is a port (bass port?), and there is another one at the taper toward the strain relief. There is an interesting seam above this port where you can see the connecting wires between the two drivers. This is intentional, and Raz assures us that the wires are completely sealed. It all makes for a very interesting design. L&R markings are above this seam, and reasonably easy to find.
Side Port And "Seam With Connecting Wire"Bottom Port
The cable is (IMO) the worst cable I've ever had with an IEM.
Let me start with the formable wire extending from the strain relief. This is quite rigid because the user is supposed to form them to his/her ears to make fit better. On my Shure SE535 - these are the perfect length of around 8.5cm. On the R3's, this is approx imately 16cm (or twice as long as it should be). I may as well state the obvious now - because this is one of the issues that has blighted an otherwise very interesting IEM ...... unless the designers were designing these for elves, aliens or very large primates - how could they mess this up so bad, when the rest of the design actually works reasonably well? This is not just bad, it's inexcusable. Did they
not try them before they released the design? The issue with the formable wire being so long is that the excess rubs against clothing, either dislodging the IEMs, or causing extremely bad cable noise. The only solution is to fold the excess wire (see photos).
Ridiculously Long Forming Wire SectionCable "Kinking" - Too Thick
R3 vs SE535 Forming WireOnly Solution - Fold The Wire
Next we have the cable itself. It's thick. It's very, very thick. To give you an idea of how thick - it's actually very close in diameter to the cable on my Beyer DT880s. The problem with this is that it's slightly rubbery, and it's very, very microphonic. Even worn over ear (which is pretty much compulsory with this IEM), I still get microphonics when moving. Not only that - when you roll the cable to store the IEMs, it's so big it doesn't fit easily in the case, and because of it's width, it has a lot of memory (ie it remains kinked). I've taken some photos to hopefully show the cable difference between the R3 (awful), my SE535 (as wide as I'd want to go), the DN-1000 (excellent) and HiSound Audio's "Living" earbuds. The 535 and DN-1000, even after rolling reasonably tight, smooth out to a completely straight line again. The Living is very light but still very tough, and only shows light kinking. The R3 with it's 'industrial' design kinks all over the place and will not straighten!
Kinking Cable UnrolledFrom Top = R3, SE535, DN-1000, Living
Coiled (From Left) DN-1000, SE535, R3 Coiled (From Left) DN-1000, SE535, R3
OK - enough about the cable - just one final parting comment on it. If Brainwavz had spent even 5% of their time designing the cable properly, they would have had a potential winner here. Because of this oversight - IMO they don't. Despite it's very good sonics, I would not / could not recommend this IEM because of the cable - that is how bad it is.
Coiled R3 In Carry Case "Fun" Closing The Lid !
Cable relief is very good at all points. The cable cinch is extremely similar to the design on my SE535 and works well. It's at about the limit though on size. Both it (and the splitter/cinch om my SE535) could be smaller. The plug is angled. Some will like it, some will not. Most angled plugs I've come across have the angle closer to 90 degress (ie right angles). This one is quite high. I don't mind either way.
Splitter (similar to 535) Angled Plug
I have one canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) - so I tend to find that single silicon flanges don't fit overly well. The included dual flanges and triple flanges weren't too bad - but I found that another dual flange I had (slightly different design) allowed me the best overall fit. The complies are almost a perfect fit (don't seal 100%), but were easy to insert, and the most comfortable. I also tried Monster gel tips which gave me the best isolation, but became uncomfortable after a while. I'm pretty sure a larger comply tip would be the best solution overall for me - but in the meantime the dual-flanges are a nice compromise.
Comply Tips + Monster Gel Tips Warranty Mix-up?
Once the R3 are correctly inserted, I find them (despite the 'funky design') to be pretty comfortable for short to medium listening sessions. However the (insert appropriate expletive here!) cable does get sore after a while (this never happens with my Shures). In the R3s defense - it's probably because of the folds I have in the ear guides to shorten them. They do however sit flush enough with my ears that I can easily lie down with them still in place - and I think I'd have no issues sleeping with the R3 still intact (if the cable was modified). They are designed in such a way that they can only really be worn cable over ear.
As far as isolation goes - these are 'OK'. They aren't as good as the Shures - but I think this is very much tip dependent. It should be good at eliminating most ambient noise - or at least mitigating it.
So are the sonics worth the hassles of the sub-standard cable ……… ?
The following is what I hear from the R3. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline).
For this I’m using my normal tracks: Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” and Dire Strait’s “Sultans of Swing” as there is a lot of micro detail in both tracks, and the recording quality for both is excellent.
The B3 displays very good detail with a definite (but polite) crispness, and enough balance so that detail is present without having the treble overly highlighted. Cymbals are nicely present – but it's not overdone, and I'm not detecting sibilance.
Sound-stage & Imaging
For this I use a binaural recording – Amber Rubarth “Sessions From The 17th Ward” - “Tundra”. I use this because it’s a pretty simple way to get comparative data on sound-stage. I also use some recorded live performances (including tracks from Joe Bonamassa’s “An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House”).
IMO it’s usually difficult to get a reasonable stage size from an inner ear monitor. The stage is usually quite small / close – with an average impression of space. With the R3 there is an impression of being slightly out of your head. These are surprisingly spacious, not to DN-1000 standards, but better than the intimate stage of the Shures. This is particularly strange with a slightly 'mid-forward' IEM The R3 shows reasonable separation and the imaging seems pretty accurate and precise.
Switching to Bonamassa – and the R3 this time is not quite as spacious - but still sounds very good with this exceptional live blues album. The acoustics of the Vienna Opera Hall are well represented and there is some perception of space - size (width) mainly, but depth is not as well represented.
Rather than referencing tracks – I’m going to give general impressions – as I’ve tried to listen to as many varied genres as I can.
The R3 actually has a very articulate top end with just enough sparkle to make it interesting. There is definitely a crispness to them – but it is not overdone, and with my music, has never bordered on sibilance. I'm finding the top end has excellent clarity - but it's not spotlit like some IEMs. My only issue is with the cohesion between upper and lower mids. Lower mids sound excellent (Bonamassa, Pearl Jam, any male vocals sound perfect). But with some of my female vocalists, the upper mids sound a little too warm (almost contrived). I used Equaliser on my iPhone and gave them a very small boost around 3-5K (only needed about 3dB) and balance was restored.
This could be just my personal preference at play so YMMV.
The mid-range is almost how I like it – relatively balanced with the rest of the spectrum – yet still full and rich. The mids slightly forward. Vocals are very clear – and acoustic guitar has a nice crunch to it. Timbre is reasonable. Male vocals are realistic - with female vocals being a touch on the warm (darkish) side. Bonamassa's live album from the Vienna Opera House was particularly good with the R3. The guitar had nice bite and was well focussed, and Joe's vocals blended really nicely.
The R3 was a surprise to me. I was expecting these to have some good bass - but was expecting more quantity than quality with dual dynamics. The bass is definitely there, and actually very well defined. Almost reminded me more of a BA than a dynamic. My standard test now for bass quantity is Lorde’s new release “Royals” (local girl on the rise internationally) – mainly because the bass absolutely reaches low and has quite a bit of power. It handled the bass very well – good quality and not bad on quantity - without a lot of boominess. I'm pretty impressed with the quality of the bass overall - and the quantity is actually OK in my books - but I can imagine
that for some it may not be enough. I listened to Porcupine Tree's "Trains" as it has a nice mix of cymbal, snare, with intertwining bass guitar - and everything sounded nicely coherent. Thumbs up to Brainwavz.
The R3 is easily powered out of my iPhone4, and on most tracks I am around 50% on the volume slider. With the StudioV3 - the volume is around 11. Comparatively - my Shures need less power. The Studio V3 does have a class A amp - but it's hard to say if my preference for the Studio over the iPhone4 is the extra power at play, or if it is simply that the Studio V3 sounds better. Anyway - I digress. You're not going to need external amplification with the R3 unless you have a very weak source, or if it has a high output impedance.
What About Response To EQ?
IMO - the R3 don't need a lot of tweaking - for my tastes, just a slight lift in the 3-5K area. They responded extremely well to this slight bump, and even elevating the bass worked well.
Quick Comparisons With Other IEMs
For this I'm going to simply use two contrasting tracks (no EQ) - Pearl Jam's "Elderly Woman Behind The Counter" and Beth Orton's "Magpie" - not because they're reference or anything - but more because I know and love these two tracks, plus they give two very different styles and vocal ranges. These four IEMs are in different price brackets - but all have strengths and all are highly rated in my books.
HiSound Audio's BA-100 = extremely well balanced, vocals slightly forward, very clear. Very comfortable and lightweight though - and the more you listen to them, the better they sound.
Shure SE535 Ltd Ed = well balanced, but with much clearer and more upfront vocals. Very full, very clear, sublime really. These do vocals incredibly well. Bass is balanced and textured but sometimes just doesn't have the impact I'd like.
Dunu DN-1000 = very clear, mids not as foward, the most balanced of the four - definitely not as bright as the Shures, yet still very clear. Vocals are great, almost as good as the Shures, bass is better.
Brainwavz R3 - definitely the darkest mids of the four with this track. Bass is lighter compared to the DN-1000, similar to the Shures for quantity. Yet still a very nice presentation overall.
HiSound Audio's BA-100 = again very clear, but with this track, slightly thinner and brighter than the recording should be. Vocals are superb though.
Shure SE535 Ltd Ed = simply incredible. The balance, separation and timbre makes me realise just why these are worth the money I paid for them. Breath-taking with this track.
Dunu DN-1000 = again very clear, and again mids not as foward. Yet again the most balanced of the four. Vocals are great, almost as good as the Shures, but doesn't have quite the timbre and emotion.
Brainwavz R3 - wonderfully clear. Balance is really good with nothing sounding out of place. Could listen to this for hours. Doesn't have the emotion of the Shures, or quite have the overall cohesion of the DN-1000
By track ranking (audio):
Magpie : DN-1000 > SE535 > BA-100 > R3
EWBTC : SE535 = DN-1000 > R3 > BA-100
DN-1000 > BA100 > SE535 > R3
I'd really been looking forward to this IEM as soon as I saw the design, and read some of the glowing reviews. What I'm surprised about is why more hasn't been said regarding the design of the cable.
The R3 has a very pleasant signature, very clear and detailed (almost more like a BA than a dynamic), with a slightly better than normal sound-stage presentation. The odd shape is actually quite comfortable once you get the right tip - although that will be an issue for some (I'm still going to try the slightly larger complies).
Sonically I think there is a very slight mismatch between lower and upper mids (would love to see if anything shows up on a frequency chart) - leaving female vocals sounding slightly unnatural to me. This was easily fixed with EQ. Even without EQ though - the R3 is a very pleasant sounding IEM to listen to.
My issue lies with the cable design which I can't really put a positive spin on. It's awful.
Sonically these are very good for their price. Normally I'd have no problem recommending these to others - however for my personal taste the BA-100 are at least on par (if not better) with their single full range driver and much better comfort. In their current form (with the current cable set-up) I simply cannot recommend the Brainwavz R3 to anyone, let alone family and friends.
Recommendations to Brainwavz
Here is a very short list of what I’d change if I could. Hopefully this may be helpful to you Raz.
Lose the memory wire - you don't need it. Include detachable ear guides if you want - they would be more practical.
The cable needs to be far thinner and made of better material. I'd also make the splitter just a little smaller.
Once again Raz – thanks for the opportunity to try these. I'm sorry I can't be more positive. If Brainwavz do decide to change the cable, can you let me know? With a better cable, and at their current price point - these could be a very good buy.