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Brainwavz S3 IEM Noise Isolating Earphones with Clearwavz Remote and Microphone

Brainwavz S3

Rating:
3.54545/5,
Tags:
  • Brainwavz S3 IEM Noise Isolating Earphones with Clearwavz Remote and Microphone

Recent Reviews

  1. Zelda
    The S3 - Some improvements but not an upgrade
    Written by Zelda
    Published Apr 10, 2016
    2.5/5,
    Pros - Build Quality; Accessories; Smoother and more all-arounder sound than the previous S
    Cons - SQ is about average for the price; Extension; Cable; Fit; Still lacks in tonality; Some Compatibility issues with smartphones
    REVIEW: Brainwavz S3
     
     
    Specifications: (from Brainwavz site)
     
    Driver: 8mm Dynamic
    Rated Impedance: 16 Ω
    Frequency Range:  16Hz - 22kHz
    Sensitivity: 96 dB @ 1 mW
    Cable: 1.3m, Y-Cord, Flat, Copper
    Plug: 3.5mm Gold Plated
     
    MSRP: $79.50
     
    Warranty: 2 years
     
    Official product page: LINK
     
    Packing & Accessories:
     
    The S3 arrives in the same box as the previous S1 and S5 and, as usual, Brainwavz are very generous with their accessories pack:
     
    3 pairs of silicone single wide bore eartips (S/M/L)
    3 pairs of silicone single narrow bore eartips (S/M/L)
    1 pair of silicone bi-flange eartips
    1 pair of silicone tri-Flange eartips
    1 pair of Comply Foam tips T-400 in M size
    1 Shirt Clip
    Case
    Velcro Cable Tie
     
     
    Build & Design:
     
    Like the previous S-series models, the S3 carries a very good (outer) build quality. The cable remains pretty much the same, flat and well relieved on both ends; still, too thick, rubbery and quite springy. Like the S5, the S3's cable also ends in a straight plug. The earpieces are obviously made of metal, but designed for a regular cable-down fit, although less ergonomic and would stick out much more. It has no memory effect but is strong in microphonics, mainly with the cable down fit.
     
    On a short note regarding the phone use, I only got to try it with a Samsung Galaxy model and there wasn't a 100% controls' compatibility.
     
     
    Fit, Comfort, Isolation:
     
    Unfortunately, the S3 fall behind the S5 and even the S1 here. While the S5 were quite good and noticeable better than the S1, I find the S3 to be a bit tricky/finicky to fit correctly. While not really uncomfortable, it's not easy to achieve a proper fit and a lasting seal, regardless the tips in use. The housings have some sharp edges too that might be tiring after some use. The cable is a bit annoying and a shirt clip is recommended. Isolation is decent for a dynamic based earphone and the Comply Foam tips might help a bit more.
     
    Sound:
     
    The last S3 is probably the more balanced model of the Brainwavz S series I tried, with an arguably more natural presentation. The S1 offered a very heavy bass in a quite V-shaped signature, and the S5, while undoubtedly much improved, still carried a lively signature as well. The S3 tends to present things in a more accurate and less colored way. It's not to say  that the S3 could classify as a 'reference' sounding IEM, but in comparison to the older S5 it shows a less artificial tonality, more intelligent positioning and smoother, though not exactly coherent, presentation. Another advantage is that the S3 it don't emphasize a specific frequency over above the others giving a more complete and better rounded overall sound.
     
    The low end on the S3 is tight and punchy, and even though much less in terms of quantity than the most of enhanced bass in-ear which boost a stronger impact, it's still north of neutral. Bass depth is just decent and rolls-off a bit early at the bottom, but manages to keep a good amount of detail and texture, and it's safe from any serious mid-bass bloat and bleed that the previous S models had. It's similar to the Fidue A65 and Soundmagic E50 in bass balance, but those two can offer a more realistic and convincing, and a touch deeper lower end. The closest IEM in bass dept. should be the FA Mini Consonance, even though it sounds less spacious than the S3.

    The midrange presence is very good. While sometimes it could feel as being pushed more forward, it would be more accurate to refer to it as 'not recessed' or 'balanced'. Actually, it is less warm and thick compared to real mid-centered sets. There's some reminiscence to certain BA based in-ears, such as the old HSA BA100 with its slightly thin and cool tonality, but the S3 doesn't lack the traditional dynamic driver sense of warmth. Vocals are just a tad more prominent with some dry tonality. There's no hint of sibilance on upper vocals, but the S3 is not exactly free of certain graininess. Detail and overall midrange clarity are quite decent, just nothing outstanding and do lack some refinement and texture. The S3 is not a Fidue A63's competitor in terms of sweetness, and won't match the E80 with its excellent transparency. Even an Ostry KC06A could make a better option for a more natural midrange presentation.


    The high-end is well rounded and pretty much neutral quantity-wise, not too bright and not smooth either; something in the middle ground. The amount of sparkle and crispiness is well suited for most genres without any notable peak (unlike the S1 or S5), although the highest freq. are rolled-off a bit, lacking in some extension. The main complaint would be the treble unnatural timbre which could be rather annoying and sometimes manages to ruin the whole listening experience. Imaging is about slightly below average at best. Overall detail is not missing but stage dimensions are dynamics could be still better for the asking price.
     
     
     
     
     
    Conclusion & Value:
     
    While this last iteration of the S-series offers a quite different and more pleasant and accurate sound from the previous ones, overall it is still not the best that Brainwavz can offer. As always, the package and build quality is nice, but the design and fit could be considered as a downgrade for some. In terms of SQ alone it is just decent for the retail ~$80 price, and even taken as whole package, including the 2-yrs warranty, there's still room for improvement considering the many other options nowadays.
     
    Thanks to Brainwavz for the S3 review unit.
  2. lin0003
    Good All Round Choice
    Written by lin0003
    Published Jan 24, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Natural Sound, Design, Remote, Build Quality
    Cons - Microphonics

    Brainwavz S3 Review

    First I’d like to thank Pandora from Brainwavz for sending me a review sample of the S3. By now, I’m sure that members of the Head-Fi community will be quite familiar with Brainwavz. They have really established themselves and are on the way to becoming one of the major brands that people look to when considering headphones. Their products have become increasingly popular and I was curious as to see what they had to offer with their latest IEM, the S3.
     
    The S3 is a budget IEM by all means and the price it comes in at is a mere $80 and at the price, the main question is whether they are able to compete with the RE-400 and other top budget IEMs. This end of the market is perhaps the most competitive, with many companies coming out with good sounding IEMs at reasonable prices.
     
     **Disclaimer** These were given to me by Brainwavz in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
     
     

    Unboxing & Accessories

    The S3 doesn’t some with a whole lot, and given the price, it would be unrealistic to ask for more. The packaging is rather protective and did a fine job of getting the IEMs to me unharmed. The S3 comes with a few sets of tips and this includes a pair of complys. It also comes with a shirt clip, which I found to be very useful to reduce microphonics. There is also the clamshell case, which is rather protective and very practical.
     
     

    Design

    The S3 housing is made primarily of metal and they feel very solid, much more than the price would suggest. It is very well finished and looks great. Personally I’m not a fan of flat cables, because cable noise is terrible in every IEM with a flat cable I’ve tried. The S3 is no different. However, the flat design makes them “tangle free”. The strain reliefs work very well with just enough bend on them. The remote seems to work like intended, I had no issues with it whatsoever. A good product from Brainwavz.
     
     

    Sound

    For my sonic tests, I ran them out of an iPhone 6. While it did improve a little with amplification, the target audience of these will likely be using these with their phones, iPods and the like. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the S3 as far as sound went, not having really enjoyed the S5 a lot, but the S3 really surprised me and is one of my favourite Brainwavz releases to date.
     
     

    Bass

    The bass is just right on the S3, and the mainstream target audience will appreciate the slightly boosted, yet punchy bass. The bass sounds rather neutral, there certainly isn’t a whole lot of colouration there, but to me, it does sounds just a little boosted. There is no bloat and the bass remains relatively quick however. Detail is quite good and the bass extends well. There is some bass roll off towards the sub-bass, but there is still an adequate amount of rumble. I did not detect any bass bleed into the midrange and the bass was quite clean on a whole. Overall, the bass is very impressive on the S3 and it has one of the best lower ends of any budget IEM I have tried.
     
     

    Midrange

    I thought that the S3 would be sound somewhat similar to the BLU-100 in the midrange and it kind of does, but not entirely. The midrange is definitely warm, but not in a way that it sounds veiled. The thing I hate most in headphones is an overly warm midrange that masks details, but the S3’s tuning isn’t that. While it is warm, it isn’t overly so, and it is still quite detailed. While it isn’t exactly a detailed IEM, the midrange stays smooth and retains more detail than I expected. Vocals sound clear with no sibilance whatsoever. The midrange will appeal to those who prefer a more relaxed and laid back presentation.
     
     

    Treble

    The treble is the area where I feel the S3 could improve the most. The midrange and treble are all slightly warm, but the treble seems a little too rolled off. While the pulled back treble doesn’t make the S3 dull sounding, it certainly takes away a bit of the treble sparkle. It was, however, very smooth and people who prefer a warmer sound will like this. There was no sibilance at all. However, personally I’m not a fan of the treble, it’s just too rolled off for me. Cymbals lack sparkle and the upper end detail just isn’t as good as other offerings in the same price range.
     
     

    Soundstage & Imaging

    The dynamic drivers were better than I expected and the soundstage was rather expansive, with good width. With budget IEMs, the soundstage is usually the area where they fall short, but this is not the case with the S3. It does lack depth, but it would be unrealistic to expect a 3d soundstage from an IEM of this price range. The imaging is also rather strong. It is on par with the RE-400 and it is generally quite accurate, but in congested tracks it struggles a little.
     
     

    Separation & Detail

    The tuning of the S3 is smooth and not detail oriented, but it does reasonably well as far as detail goes. It is more detailed than your average budget IEM but it doesn’t come close to the RE-400. The separation is quite impressive, for the price it really does sound very good.
     
     

    Conclusion

    The Brainwavz S3 is a solid choice for someone who favours a warmer sound over a more analytical sound. The microphone and controls for iPhone are good and they make a very nice replacement for the stock earpods.  
    1. NA Blur
      Just listened to mine again in order to prepare for a local meet and fell in love with them again. Definitely a fun sounding IEM be it a tad sibilant on some tracks.
      NA Blur, Jan 26, 2016
  3. earfonia
    The Tenor IEM
    Written by earfonia
    Published Jan 4, 2016
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Good midrange clarity, generous accessories.
    Cons - Lean bass, edgy metal housing.
    Many thanks to Brainwavz for the Brainwavz S3 review sample! There are already some other reviews about Brainwavz S3, so I will make this review concise.
     
    01P1160728.jpg
     

    Brainwavz S3 utilizes single 8 mm dynamic driver with 16 ohms nominal impedance, in full metal housing for over the ear design. But I find that the design can also be worn straight down without any problem. The metal housing though pretty light but feels solid with good build quality. Left and Right markings are clearly printed on the earphone metal housing. The 4.5 mm nozzle size ensures compatibility with many generic eartips. From the housing design perspective my only concern is some edges on the metal housing. The edges around the housing near the nozzle always mildly scratch my ears when inserting S3 into my ear canal. While edges at the back of the housing might potentially scratch my DAP or other items when I put them together in my bag. So my advice is to always keep the S3 in the provided carry case. The smooth, no edges design of S0 and S5 is, IMHO, a safer design approach.

    02P1160749.jpg  
    02aP1130849.jpg  


    Brainwavz S3 share similar flat cable design as Brainwavz S0, S1, and S5 that seems to be the trademark for Brainwavz S series. Though flat cable is more tangle proof, but it also increases the thickness of the cable. The cable is equipped with Clearwavz remote that supports Apple iOS Products. For Android devices, the microphone in the remote can be used for phone call, as well as the middle button to play/stop and skip tracks. But the volume buttons don't work for Android. 

    03P1160722.jpg  
     
     
     
    Pros:
    Good detail and clarity, with good midrange and treble response.
    Generous accessories with plenty of eartips and a very nice carry case.
     
    Cons:
    Lean bass. Bass level is moderately lacking.
    Edgy metal housing.
     
    Suggestions for improvements:
    To improve bass response without sacrificing the detail and clarity.
    Avoid edges on the earphone housing.
    Slimmer cable.
    Remote that fully compatible for both iOS and Android devices.
     
     
     
    04P1160751.jpg
     
     
     

    Sound Signature
    Sound signature observation was using the stock translucent grey eartips, after over 100 hours of burn-in. I didn’t notice any significant improvement before and after burn-in, so I would say burn-in is not necessary for S3.
     
    Clarity is the main sonic signature of S3. It is not a warm sounding IEM, and leans slightly, just a slightly, towards analytic in a good way. Bass is lean, but has decent speed and texture. To my sonic preference, the bass is moderately lacking, and IMHO the main weakness of S3. I find the bass is lacking around 6 dB for most of my test tracks. The lack of bass makes S3 fail to deliver sense of musical engagement. Midrange has good clarity with some mild emphasize around the upper mid that makes midrange presentation quite forward. Treble has mild emphasize on the lower treble, but overall midrange to treble frequency response is pretty good, quite balance with good detail, clarity, and texture, without touching sibilant. I observed there is no annoying peak and dip beside the slight upper mid hum. One good thing is, It doesn't have midrange muffledness that I often found in many IEMs in this price range; detail and clarity are basically S3 main strength. The good clarity of S3 makes it a good communication earphone for smartphone, for better speech intelligibility. If only Brainwavz tuned S3 to have more bass, it could be a very close competitor to S5.
     
    I did some simple frequency response measurement using USB measurement microphone MiniDSP UMIK-1 and a DIY acoustic coupler that I made using heat shrink tube. As for the software, I use REW. Brainwavz S3 connected to LH Geek Out 450 headphone output (0.47 ohms), and the earphone side coupled to the measurement microphone as shown in the following pictures. 
     
    05P1190926.jpg
     
    06P1190930.jpg  
    07P1190929.jpg  
     
    I’ve been experimenting on IEM measurement lately, and I found it to be very complicated. I observed the following:
    1. The length and volume of the acoustic coupler greatly affecting the treble response. Longer acoustic coupler will create unnecessary treble peaks.
    2. Room temperature greatly affecting the bass response. Similar measurement done in 25 degree Celsius and 31 degree Celsius room temperature consistently showing around 6 dB differences in bass response. Bass response is higher in lower room temperature.
    3. Loudness level affecting the smoothness of the overall frequency response. Generally measurement done in louder volume showing smoother frequency response.
     
    From my experiments so far, I suggest to always read IEM frequency response measurement result in the context of the measurement environment, as they are mostly useful only as comparison to other IEMs that are measured in the same measurement environment. So please take note that this is not a standard measurement, therefore cannot be used as comparison with other measurement. This measurement is only to show the rough estimation of the frequency response, especially to show the lacking of the bass response in comparison to S0 and S5. 
     
    I used short acoustic coupler to avoid unnecessary treble peaks. Measurement is done in room temperature around 31 degree Celsius (non air-con room in Singapore). Loudness reference is 105 dB at 500 Hz. 105 dB seems high, but it is due to the distant of the earphone that was placed very close to the microphone. The volume level is actually around 90 dB listening level when used on ears. All measurement were done 3 times, by plugging, unplugging, and re-fitting the earphone to the acoustic coupler, and then averaging the result from the 3 measurements. Psycho acoustic smoothing was applied to all measurement.
     
    Besides comparisons with Brainwavz S0 and S5, I also compared S3 with DUNU DN-2000. DN-2000 is so far what I perceived as the flattest sounding IEM that I've ever tried. We might have different preferences for what we call flat / balanced tonality, but for me so far DUNU DN-2000 is what my ears perceived as relatively flat tonality; therefore I use it as my reference for comparison.
     
    Measurement result of Left (Blue) and Right (Red) drivers of Brainwavz S3:
    082015-12-10BrainwavzS3.png
     
    Averaged frequency response of Brainwavz S3 Left and Right drivers:
    092015-12-10BrainwavzS3Avg.png
     
    Frequency response in comparison to Brainwavz S0 (Blue) and S5 (Green):
    102015-12-10BrainwavzS3S0S5.png
     
     
    Frequency response in comparison to DUNU DN-2000 (Green):
    112015-12-10BrainwavzS3DN-2000.png
     
     
     

    Comparisons with Brainwavz S0 and S5
     
    12P1160755.jpg
     
    Comparisons were done using the stock translucent grey eartips.
     
    Brainwavs S0
    In short, S0 has more bass with less clarity than S3. S3 wins on clarity and resolution. S0 has some mid bass emphasize that bleeds a little to the midrange, bass is a little bloated and less textured as compared to S3 lean and faster bass. Midrange on S0 is mildly muffled and less textured, and treble is softer and less transparent. S0 is more forgiving and fun sounding, better option for those who prefer smooth and warm sounding signature. While S3 has better clarity, more linear midrange and treble, but lacking the fun part due to the lean bass. S3 might be preferable for those who prefer clarity.
     
    Brainwavz S5
    S5 has some treble emphasize and sounds brighter and more transparent than S3. S5 has wider frequency range, more extended bass and treble and overall sounds livelier with better detail and dynamic. Beside the slightly smoother treble, S3 is still a level below S5 in almost every aspect. S5 has better resolution and sounds more transparent than S3, with much better bass. Dynamic and speed is also better on S5, faster and more realistic. Though S5 is the better IEM here, but S5 might be a little too bright for the treble sensitive users.
    Between S0, S3, and S5, the older and more expensive S5 is clearly the winner for me. With the right eartips such as the triple flange, S5 treble is tamed resulting an excellent lively and balanced sound signature. S0 and S3 serve different category of audience as mentioned above.
     
    13P1000271.jpg
     
     
     
     
    Eartips rolling
    S3 comes with plenty of eartips for some degree of sonic tuning. Sonic impression of S3 above was using the stock translucent grey (red core) eartips. The following are comparisons of other eartips with the stock translucent grey eartips.
     
    14P1160708.jpg
     
     
    Black small bore with coloured core ('Sony Hybrid' look alike)
    The black small bore eartips is in my opinion the best sounding eartips for S3. It helps to improve the bass response a little, and preferable in comparison to the default larger bore translucent grey red core eartips. Treble also sounds smoother and less peaky using the black small bore eartips. But still, the bass response is less than what I called proper bass level.
     
    15P1160712.jpg
     

    Double Flange
    Sounds more or less about the same as the default translucent grey red core eartips. The only improvement I felt was not in the sound department, but in comfort. The double flange covers the edges near the nozzle that usually scratches my ears a little during insertion, therefore more comfortable during insertion to ear canals.
     
    Triple Flange
    I observed triple flange eartips usually has the largest degree of treble smoothing among other silicone eartips. It could be that it is actually shifted up the treble peak, therefore treble sounds less peaky than other eartips. Treble is a tad smoother than eartips and holographic imaging also improves a little. But unfortunately bass response is the lowest, a tad less from the default translucent grey eartips, therefore the least preferable.
     
    Foam - Comply T400
    The foam eartips performs quite well, and more or less comparable to the default translucent grey eartips, a tad more linear on the treble region, probably more comfortable to some, but no significant differences in sound quality.
     
     
     
     
    Competition in this price range is tough and crowded with a lot of options, and S3 sits in the category around average to good. For sub $100, some of my most favorite IEMs are LZ-A2, Puro Sound Labs IEM500, Alpha & Delta AD01, and Narmoo S1. I hope in the near future Brainwavz would come up with some giant killer IEMs that would compete well with those IEMs.
     
     
     
     
    16P1130839.jpg
     
    17P1130841.jpg  
    18P1160715.jpg  
    19P1130845.jpg  
     

     

    Specifications:

    1. Drivers: Dynamic, 8 mm
    2. Rated Impedance: 16 Ω
    3. Frequency Range: 16 Hz ~ 22 kHz
    4. Sensitivity: 96 dB at 1 mW
    5. Rated Input Power: 10 mW
    6. Cable: 1.3 m Y-Cord, Copper
    7. Plug: 3.5 mm, Gold Plated

     

    Included Accessories:

    1. Earphone Hardcase
    2. 3 sets of Silicone Ear Tips (S M L)
    3. 1 set of Comply™ Foam Tips T-400
    4. 1 Shirt Clip
    5. 1 set of Silicone Bi-Flange Eartips
    6. 1 set of Silicone Tri-Flange Eartips
    7. Velcro Cable Tie
    8. Instruction Manual & Warranty Card (24 month warranty)

     
     
     
    Equipment Used In This Review:
     
    Earphones / IEMs:
    Brainwavz S0
    Brainwavz S5
    DUNU DN-2000
     
    DACs, DAPs & Headphone Amplifiers:
    LH Geek Out 450
    Fiio X3ii
    Onkyo DP-X1
    Superlux HA3D
    Some recordings used in this review:

     
     
     

    Some recordings used in this review:


      Baycode and Brooko like this.
    1. Baycode
      What a professional review! Congrats @earfonia !  I appreciate all your efforts and I really like to read your honest and detailed information about measurements! Those measurement information in the review definitely needs a separate thread or a post (if you haven't done it). Cheers!
      Baycode, Jan 4, 2016
    2. earfonia
      @Baycode Thank you!
      Actually it is quite complicated to do measurement for IEM, there are many parameters affects the result significantly. Not easy to get measurement result that relates well with what we hear.
      earfonia, Jan 4, 2016
  4. Tom22
    The Lean Silver Bullet
    Written by Tom22
    Published Dec 22, 2015
    3.0/5,
    Pros - open midrange, great brainwavz build quality, solid remote, tangle free cable, accesories!
    Cons - steep bass roll off, treble lacking in extension
    Brainwavz’s introduces the S3 to complement their popular S1,S0 and S5, varying in bass, but were all warm  and punchy, making them a favorite amongst those on a budget.
    The S3 is a departure away from the warm, bassy sound the S-series is known for, taking aim towards those departing from the “consumer sound signature”.  In doing so, they bring a greater diversity to the average consumer, while remaining in the sub $100 price bracket. (Very recently the S3s has been on sale for under $50, which is a steal considering the bundled accessories and superb build that Brainwavz has been known for).
     
    Before I start this review, I would like to thank Brainwavz and Pandora for sending the S3s out for review. My apologies for the delay If you would rather watch the video version of this review, please click on the link below:
    [​IMG]
     
    Accessories:
    A great assortment goodies come along with the S3s.
    3 sets of grey and red hybrid eartips (wire bore)
    3 sets of black hybrids (narrow bore)
    1 set of comply t400
    a shirt clip
    a hardshell protective case with two pouches (one for the earphones and one for extra eartips)
    Overall: 9/10
    20151017_2141130.jpg
     
     
    Design:
    The S3s is reminiscent of a silver bullet with the chrome housing. It’s slightly attention grabbing but not venturing as far as looking gaudy.  The red and black cable is a combination that garners a large following and gives a new dimension to an otherwise boring two-tone colour scheme.
    Overall: 7/10
    20151017_2143200.jpg      20151017_214329.jpg
     
     
    Build Quality:
    The S3s superbly constructed, a consistent trend evident with all my past experiences with various Brainwavz Earphones ( S0, S5, R3, etc). The housing is made with chrome finished metal, a characteristic not often found at this price bracket. The front of the logo is a bit rough around the edge, not necessarily sharp, but could be smoothed off a bit. From the earpieces down, the S3s has a the same flat tangle free cables as the S0s, with compact but more than adequate strain reliefs. Last but not least, the S3s end with a well-relieved straight angle jack.
    Overall 8.5/10
     
    20151017_214423.jpg    20151017_214441.jpg    20151017_2144570.jpg
     
    20151017_214505.jpg
     
     
     
     
    Comfort:
    The S3s have a nice length nozzle, keeping the housing from having any contact in my ears.  The only thing in contact is the silicone eartip. This makes for a fairly comfortable earphone as a whole. However, the opinions of those with smaller ears may differ from mine.
    Overall: 7/10
    20151017_214403.jpg
     
     
    Isolation:
    I would say average at best. This might be due to the vent on the top of the housing, which makes the S3 susceptible to wind noise on a windy day.
    Overall: 7/10
     
    20151017_214341.jpg
     
     
    Sound :
    The S3s seem to have rather conflicting responses as evidenced by the posts on head-fi here.  They have been called anywhere from bassy to lean. I’m not sure why that is though as it seems those are polar opposites.
    For me I find them quite lean, slightly more mid focused.  As stated earlier, they have sound signature I think is quite a departure from other additions in the S-series that I have previously reviewed. (The S0, S5). Their tuning makes them more narrow in terms of the genre preference and demographic.
     
    My ears tell me that the S3s are somewhat abnormal sounding. I find ever so slightly mid centric (in particularly, the lower mids). It images widely, and provides a bit more of a balanced listen, certainly not bassy by any means.
     
    Bass: Their somewhat bassy shy. I find the bass to be neither punchy not deep. The bass is rolled off in the subbass with a slight bump in the upper bass, to give beats a bit more thickness to be heard however is lacking a bit in terms of definition and depth. The bass is more of a restrained kind, that’s done so it does not steal the show from the midrange.
     
    Midrange: Particularly the slight lower midrange emphasis providing a bit more forwardness to male vocals. However, the lack of supporting foundation from the bass, makes vocals generally quite thin, and in a sense “breathy”. This gives the impression of greater vocal clarity and openness, giving the impression of a wider canvas for acoustic music, but doesn’t fair as well as genres such as jazz and blues, where depth and body is key.
     
    Treble: I would say is somewhat dark, lacking some extension. Making the S3s smooth albeit slightly lacking in air and articulation.  Though, I felt the treble did a good job providing a nice sense of clarity without the extending to far to cause sibilance  (for those listening at higher volumes).
     
    Soundstage: I felt in combination with the thinner midrange, gave the sense of a wider soundstage, which was actually quite easy and enjoyable when listening to with acoustic tracks, and meditation music.
     
    The S3s have a very specific type of sound, which may not appeal to everyone. I don’t feel it’s a great all arounder, but more of a complement for an earphone collector, to give you a vastly different kind of tuning or a perspective to your music.
     
    Overall: 6/10
     
    Conclusion:
    While I’m a fan of the build quality that’s consistent throughout the Brainwavz family, and the bundles accessories, unfortunately I’m not quite taken by the sound of the S3. I find a bit hollow sounding in the midrange, despite it being quite clear and airy especially for female vocals.  
     
     Overall- 44.5/60= 74.2%
  5. Brooko
    Brainwavz S3 – The paradoxical IEM in the Brainwavz S series
    Written by Brooko
    Published Nov 14, 2015
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Clarity, iControls, Build, Case, Accessories, Isolation, Presentation of Female Vocals
    Cons - Bass presentation, Cable, Overall Value
    S318.jpg
    For larger views of any of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images

    INTRODUCTION

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

    I’ve had regular contact in the past with Brainwavz, and when originally asked if I wanted to participate in reviewing the S3, I at first chose to sit it out because of the number of reviews that were in my queue. But I was interested in seeing how the S3 was received, so when the first reviews started to arrive, I read them with genuine interest. But when the views were conflicting (from among the reviewers), it piqued my interest enough to contact Pandora to request a review pair.

    The review pair has been with me now for almost a month, and they’ve been “interesting” to say the least, and I can see why there has been a little controversy over them. I even sent my graphs to Brainwavz engineers to have them checked – but more on that in the body of the review. I’ve listed price at USD $79.50 (current MP4Nation price at time of writing) – however this is not what I paid for them (they are a review sample).

    DISCLAIMER

    I was provided the Brainwavz S3 as a review sample. I am in no way affiliated with Brainwavz - and this review is my subjective opinion of the Brainwavz S3. I would like to thank Pandora and Prithvi for making this opportunity available.

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

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

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

    Over the last month – I’ve used the new S3 from a variety of sources, but for this review, I’ve mainly used it with my Fiio X3ii and E17K. In the time I have spent with the S3, I have noticed no change in the overall sonic presentation.

    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.

    THE REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

    The Brainwavz S3 arrived in their 190 x 120 x 50mm book style retail box, which most users of the Brainwavz S series will immediately recognise. On the front is a graphic of the S3 and on the rear is accessory and specification information. On the inside of the cover is driver and build information, and above the actual IEMs is a full graphic describing use of the included in-line remote and microphone functionality. What I really love with Brainwavz packaging is that they make everything so easy read – it is bright and clear, and easy to find. Here is a company that is proud of their product range, and it shows.

    S301.jpg S302.jpg S303.jpg

    S3 "book style" box

    Rear of the retail box

    Inside flap


    Inside the box you then get the typical clear plastic two tray holder – which houses the carry case, S3 and accessories. The accessory package is very typical Brainwavz – very comprehensive. First up you get the Brainwavz carry case – which is a hard fabric covered pouch – and easily carries all your tips and the S3. The case is really good because it does offer a lot of protection to the IEMs – but it is definitely more suited to transport in a jacket pocket or bag rather than a trouser pocket – simply due to its height. This is definitely a quality carry case though.

    S304.jpg S305.jpg S306.jpg

    Flap open to reveal carry case

    Inner tray

    Accessories and S3


    Along with the case you also get a small combined instruction plus warranty information sheet (reverse side), a shirt clip, a huge selection of silicone tips (including single, bi and tri flange), and a genuine set of comply S400 medium tips. The silicone tips include 6 sets of standard tips, 1 set of double flanges, and one set of triple flanges. Also included is the Brainwavz branded Velcro tie which makes bundling and storage of the S3 very easy.


    S307.jpg S308.jpg S309.jpg

    Tip selection

    Tip Selection

    The S3 with Brainwavz cable tie


    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS


    (From Brainwavz)

    Brainwavz S3
    Drivers
    Single dynamic, 8mm
    Shell
    Polished aluminium
    Rated Impedance
    16 ohms
    Frequency Range
    16 Hz – 22 kHz
    Sensitivity
    96 dB @ 1mW
    Cable
    1.3m, flat, with mic + 3 button control
    Plug
    3.5 mm gold plated, straight
    Weight
    19g (with comply tips fitted)
    Fitting
    Straight down or over ear


    FREQUENCY GRAPH

    The graph below is generated by a new measuring system I’m trialling – using the Vibro Veritas and ARTA software. I don’t have the calibration 100% correct yet – but the graphs I am getting are relatively close to Innerfidelity’s raw data (on other earphones), and I think are “close enough” to get a reasonable idea of the frequency response for the Brainwavz Jive. My aim is still to eventually construct a pre-set compensation curve so that I can get the graphs more consistent with Tyll’s curves.

    S3graph.png S3csd.png


    Please note that I did send the graphs to Brainwavz engineers, and they confirmed to me that my measurements did reflect the target raw data.

    What I’m hearing:

    1. Somehwat rolled off bass response
    2. Cohesive and well balanced mid-range with good transition between upper and lower mid-range. Very clean and clear vocals. More emphasis on upper mid-range and on the slightly brighter side of neutral. This is accentuated by the missing sub-bass
    3. Clear upper end which falls short of sibilance, but remains detailed but also smooth.

    BUILD QUALITY

    Unlike the S5 and S0 (which looked like plastic, but were in fact aluminium), there is no mistaking the build of the S3. The outer shell is completely made of polished sliver aluminium. The build quality on the S3 appears to be very good – smooth, nicely shaped, and sized almost exactly between the S0 and S5. It is 2 pieces, but with the pair I have, the join is noticeable but seems very secure. The body is very slightly conical, 24 mm from rear to nozzle tip, and approx. 11-12mm in diameter at its widest point. The nozzle is approximately 7mm long with a generous lip and has a membrane protector in place. It is 6mm in diameter and the Comply S400 tips are a good fit. Left and right markings are very clear in the earpieces (red print on silver) – but you can always tell which is which, as the 3 button control is on the left side of the cable. There is a single visible port or vent on the body, directly opposite the cable exit.

    S311.jpg S310.jpg S312.jpg

    Polished aluminium body

    Vent and better view of nozzle

    Opening of nozzle


    There is generous strain relief from the housing exit, and also at the Y split and jack. The cable is a 1.3m flat copper cable in an outer rubbery (TPE) flat sheath. It is very solid, but leads to my only real complaint about the build on the S3. The cable is quite microphonic compared to a lot of the IEMs I’ve tried. It’s not the flat design either (although I’m not a fan of flat design) – it’s simply the rubbery sheath. This can be negated through use of the supplied shirt clip, or using the in-built cable cinch. Another way to alleviate this is to tuck the cable well inside clothing. Whilst there are ways of fixing this, it is unfortunate IMO that the design was not altered (through all of the S series actually). It’s one common trait on the Brainwavz S series I’d really like to see gone. The flat cable is comfortable enough for me to fit over ear – but has to be cinched to avoid flopping.


    S313.jpg S314.jpg S315.jpg

    Good strain relief and general build quality

    The in-line 'i-controls'

    Rear microphone port



    The pair I have has a 3 button iPhone control and mic – allowing volume changing, and also play/pause (one push), next track (two pushes), and previous track (three pushes). A single long push also activates Siri which is really handy. The buttons worked perfectly on my iPhone, and the track controls worked great with my X1 and X3ii (in fact everything worked except the volume controls – nice job Fiio and Brainwavz!). I also did test the S3 with taking a call (with my wife), and it was exceptionally clear at both ends. There was the usual hollow sound on my end due to the isolation and slight bone conduction.

    S316.jpg S317.jpg S322.jpg

    Y split and cinch

    4 pole jack

    The S3 with tips intact



    The Y-split is the smaller one from the more recent models, and has a slider / cinch which works perfectly – even with the i-controls. Other companies should look at this design as it is possible, and is really well implemented.
    The jack is straight, seems to be very solid, and I have no issues fitting it to my iPhone – even with the case intact.

    FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION

    I have one ear canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) - so I tend to find that usually single silicon flanges don't fit overly well. I initially tried the large silicone tips included, and I couldn’t get a proper seal. I also tried a number of other tips including Spinfits, Ostry blacks/blues, Spiral Dots, and my Trusty Sony Isolation tips. Surprisingly, I got great seals with most of the after-market tips I tried (which is not normal for me), but the best results were from the Ostry tips and Sony Isolation (which did have some vacuum issues – so sealing a little too well).

    S319.jpg S320.jpg S321.jpg

    Dunu dual flange and Ostry Blues

    Spinfits and Comply T400

    Sony Isolation tips


    As per usual with the Brainwavz series though, I eventually defaulted to the included Comply foams which continue to give me best all round comfort and seal.


    All the tips I tried stayed intact with the S3 during insertion and removal, so the design of the nozzle definitely gets thumbs up from me. Isolation with the Comply tips is very good, and I’d be OK using them on public transport.
    They are relatively comfortable in my over ear position (I do sometimes find the flat cable annoying), but they do tend to protrude a little, and don’t have the overall comfort of either the S5 (ideal shape) or S0 (smaller size). Sleeping with the S3 intact will depend on your own anatomy – those with bigger ears and who use a deeper insertion may have no problems, but I found them right on the borderline.

    SOUND QUALITY

    The following is what I hear from the Brainwavz S3. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done my Fiio X3ii and E17K.

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

    S323.jpg S324.jpg

    Please note – there has been a lot of conjecture about the default sound of the S3, and I would invite those who can measure them to please present your graphs. I suspect that there may indeed be some driver variation in the production runs – as it seems unlikely that so many of us hear them differently (some saying they are bassy and warm).

    As far as driver matching goes, on my rig there was a slight imbalance in the bass from about 500 Hz down. It is not noticeable with music playing.

    channelsS3.png

    Thoughts on General Signature
    As I outlined above in my comments in the frequency section, the Brainwavz S3 has a relatively balanced mid-range, very mild mid-bass bump, but this contrasts with a rather rapidly rolled off lower bass. There is an upper mid-range peak in the 5-6 kHz range which brings clarity and euphonics to female vocals, but (for me anyway) avoiding sibilance or glare. It is quite a unique sound – detailed, and smooth, but also a little lean – and the one IEM they sound quite similar to is the Brainwavz M1.

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

    The S3 renders both tracks reasonably well with high levels of detail, and enough mid-bass to keep things interesting. I am missing a bit of lower bass – the bass guitar just doesn’t have its normal tonality or volume in Sultans. Higher end detail is easy to catch (cymbals, and micro details like snare hits), but aren’t glary or overly etched. Probably my only complaint is that because of the early bass roll-off, they do tend to sound a little too bright sometimes – almost “jangly” with lead guitar, and it can induce early fatigue.

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

    First up was Amber Rubarth’s binaural track, and the S3 had a really good sense of width, and imaged really well. Depth wasn’t as pronounced as the width – but overall the S3 captured the sense of space with this track reasonably well – just being at the periphery of my headspace.

    McKennitt’s “Dante’s Prayer” was next, and the immediately noticeable thing was how well it portrayed Loreena’s vocals, but equally how lean the cello sounded. Imaging was again good, and although the track was really enjoyable, I personally think a little more depth and extension in the bass is all that is really missing. In this track, the applause at the end is so well presented that with some headphones (HD600) I can actually close my eyes and imagine myself in the crowd. With the S3, the immersion factor wasn’t quite there - I wasn’t quite inside the crowd, but I could place it around me – so again more strengths here with width rather than depth.

    Last was Amanda Marshall’s “Let It Rain” – and I use this track because it has a naturally holographic feel about it (the way it was recorded), and can convey an amazing sense of space with the right headphones. It can also be sibilant at times – so a good test for that. The S3 had no issues, and this was a genuinely enjoyable listen – with a good feeling of space and virtually no audible sibilance for me.

    Bass Quantity and Quality
    Tracks used : Bleeding Muddy Waters, Royals, You Know I’m No Good

    I started with Lannegan’s Muddy Waters, and I use this track primarily as an indicator for impact and bass bleed. It is usually a quite dark and broody blues rock track, but with the S3, bass was clean and quick but weak, and the normal tonality of the track was not the same. There is mid-bass thump coming through – but no visceral impact. Mark’s vocals are pretty good though with nice texture.

    Next up was my sub-bass test, and although I suspected what I was going to hear, Lorde’s Royals soon confirmed it. Mid-bass was pretty good, but the sub-bass a little weak – there but quite light and it should be slamming a bit more. When the low bass started there was a very gentle rumble, and everything was more vocal accentuated. Ella sounded great – but those looking for low bass could be disappointed.

    Last up was Amy Winehouse, and to be fair, the S3 actually did a pretty good job with this track – mainly because it is heavily mid-bass accentuated. It was actually quite enjoyable with good balance with vocals – but again the low impact which normally gives the “slam” was AWOL.

    Female Vocals
    Track used : Aventine, Strong, The Bad in Each other, Howl, Safer, Light as a Feather, Don’t Wake Me Up

    Up first was the hardest track in the repertoire, and credit to the S3, it was rendered the way I like it. Obel’s Aventine was sweet, euphonically presented, and a joy to listen to. The cello actually wasn’t too bad – could have used a touch more depth – but overall pretty good. London Grammar was next with Strong, and at this point I knew that the S3 really handles female vocals brilliantly. A joy to listen to and Hannah’s voice shone with them. With Feist and FaTM (both tracks having good bass slam and really dynamic contrasts), vocals were brilliant, but again the slam was a little subdued, and for me, dynamically – just not quite as enjoyable as some of the IEMs I am more used to.

    With slower and lusher tracks (Cilmi / Jones) the S3 again hit its stride and although they might have been a little thinner than I'm used to - ultimately thoroughly enjoyable.

    I finished with La Havas, because the track is naturally warm and euphonic anyway. The S3 captured her vocals wonderfully and when the bass kicked in, the balance was actually pretty good. It was enough to compliment, but leaner than normal and perfectly acceptable.

    Male Vocals
    Tracks used : Away From the Sun, Art for Art’s Sake, Broken Wings, Hotel California, Keith Don’t Go, EWBTCIAST

    This was going to be an interesting contrast with female vocalists as Rock often needs bass impact to really shine. Kicking off with 3 Doors Down, and the S3 actually sounds pretty good. About the only thing I was finding was the tendency to turn up the volume a little – because the bass was less present, but then the mid-range became a little fatiguing because of the louder mid-range. A dilemma that repeated itself with some of the heavier rock tracks I listened to both in my critical listening and also in general listening.

    Surprisingly though, some of the older classic rocks (10CC) and all of the acoustic music was actually really enjoyable. Very clear, very articulate, and although lean, quite easy to listen to at relatively low volumes. Hotel California in particular was really enjoyable, and although it didn’t have quite the normal impact when the drums started, it was still very enjoyable. Not the best I’ve heard, but different and not at all unpleasant.

    My ultimate test for male vocals though has always been Pearl Jam. The S3 again performed pretty well – the presentation was crisp, clean, and enjoyable. Again though it was “different” to what I’m used to, and they didn’t quite manage to capture the richness of Vedders vocals. Enjoyable – but not immersive.

    Other Genres
    I tested the S3 with all of my main listening tracks, and the recurring weakness was with sub-bass presentation. Rather than cover everything in depth, as the message is often the same, here are quick notes pertaining to particular genres:

    1. Alt Rock – good detail, especially with PF and PT – but ultimately missing real depth and impact.
    2. Jazz – actually pretty good. Cymbals and softly brushed snares were great. Double bass enjoyable but lacking a little. Portico Quartet was really good – especially the track “Steepless” with Cornelia on vocals.
    3. Blues – Bonamassa was really good. The S3 does guitar particularly well, and Joe’s vocals were really enjoyable. Again – just a little more bass, and the S3 would be elevated from good to great.
    4. Rap / Hip-hop – no. Weak, lacking impact, just didn’t work at all.
    5. Electronic / Trip / Hop / Trance – again, bass was just a little too anaemic to be really enjoyable. Loved Little Dragon’s vocals – but not the over-all presentation. And Lindsay Stirling’s recording were just too polite to be immersive. Not recommended.
    6. Pop – Very track dependent. Enjoyed Adele’s live performance, but that is mostly her vocals, guitar, piano, and orchestral (strings). Coldplay was pretty good – but again not balanced.
    7. Indie – this has been a real love of mine over the last couple of years, and like some of the other genres it really depends on which artists you’re listening to. Yesper is really more focused on guitar, keyboards and vocal, and it was really enjoyable. On the other hand Wildlight had wonderful vocals with Ayla’s voice being dreamy and euphonic, but where was the bass in the background? Again – it felt as though the track just wasn’t 100% there.
    8. Classical again was a mixed bag. Orchestral pieces (especially violin based) were thoroughly enjoyable, but Kempffs solo (Moonlight Sonata) just lacked any real timbre and depth (and emotion). Netrebko and Garanca’s duets were wonderful, but Keating’s Cello, while good, ultimately failed to be as involving as it can be.

    Edit May 3rd 2016 - I've been back and re-evaluated these, and realised I had been judging them based on the triple hybrids I'd been used to, and many of these have elevated bass. That was unfair of me - and showed bias and unprofessionalism. Listening through again - especially after spending more time with earphones like the 64 Audio Adel U6 - and the S3 is actually quite pelasurable to listen to with most genres. They are a little sub-bass light, but that should not detract from their overall presentation.

    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

    The S3 is very easily powered straight out of virtually any portable device, and I didn’t experience any issues with any of the DAPs I tested (iPhone 5S, or any of the Fiios). With the iPhone I was between 30 and 40% on most tracks, and with the X3ii around 40/120. I did test the X3ii with the Fiio E17K, and I couldn’t say it added anything sonically once volume matched.

    EQUALISATION

    I guess by now everyone’s aware of where I think the S3’s weakness lies, so I decided to try listing the bass with the bass control on the E17K. This has the ability to lift the bass between 20-100Hz by up to 10 dB. Using the tone controls transformed the S3, and even at a setting of 6, there was just the perfect amount of bass to restore balance. The nice thing about using the E17K is that you can rapidly switch the bass up and down while you are playing. With bass adjustment, the S3 becomes an IEM I would definitely consider buying.

    COMPARISONS

    S325.jpg

    The obvious question is going to be how the S3 sounds compared to others in the Brainwavz range – so here are some very brief comparisons. Please note that these are all very subjective, so please take my personal bias into account (see the “about me” section).

    When testing, I volume matched first at 1 kHz using an SPL meter and test tones. The S3 was unequalised. Primary track used was Dire Strait’s Sultans of Swing.


    S3comparison.png S3graph2.png S3M1.png

    All the Brainwavz IEMs

    Just the S Series

    S3 vs M1 - close, but yet still quite different



    S3 $79.50 vs Jive $25.00
    Both are really clean and clear, and actually have similar sounding mid-range. Jive has more upper end vocal energy, and a lot more bass – but it is good quality bass – by no means bloated or slow. When quickly A/Bing the S3 begins to sound very peaky, thin and slightly hollow. My preference = Jive.

    S3 $79.50 vs M1 $44.50
    These two are a lot more similar sounding, but this time it is the S3 which sounds brighter, and definitely a lot thinner and leaner. The M1 has more body to vocals, but a little less crunch, and the difference n bass is again noticeable. I’d again take the M1 and it remains one of the best tuned IEMs I think Brainwavz has ever released.

    S3 $79.50 vs S0 $44.50
    These two are very different. The S0 is very full bodied, quite warm, and with a lot more bass. S3 is more distant, leaner, peakier, and very dry with little bass comparatively. Although I really find the bass a little too much on the S0, at this stage I would still take it over the S3 if I had to decide on default sonics.

    S3 $79.50 vs S5 $99.50
    The first noticeable thing is how V shaped the S5 is, and also how sharp it is in the upper mids / lower treble. Bass comes through with good impact, yet vocals are still really clear. In an ideal world, I’d cut the S5’s bass just a little, and also the peak at 6kHz. In comparison, the S3 have a lot more overall distance (sound more spacious) but also sound incredibly weak. I still like the S3’s mid-range and lower treble presentation though – but it’s just to lean and anaemic to really make me happy.


    Quick note – comparing the same earphones with the EQ added to the S3 and I’d pretty much change my mind in every instance. Oh and the S5 housing is easily the best of the lot. The others are not even close as far as ergonomic fit goes.

    BRAINWAVZ S3 – VALUE & SUMMARY

    The S3 is a polarising IEM in Brainwavz entire line-up, let alone the S series. Looking at the externals, you get their fantastic case and copious accessories, and the S3 is built very robustly. Ergonomically, they are OK – fitting between the S0 and S5 as far as size goes, and some may find this difficult with fit (I didn’t). The in-line controls and mic work well, although I’d be personally rejoicing if Brainwavz would ditch the flat cable.

    Sonically they have a really nice mid-range and lower treble – well balanced, not at all peaky, and very clean and clear. The problem with the S3 is that the bass rolls off early and rapidly – starting to dive at 100 Hz and being almost 10dB down at 30 \Hz. This has the effect of robbing any impact and making the whole signature very lean. With any music not having a lot of bass, the S3 shines (acoustic in particular), but conversely with most other music (to me anyway) sounds anaemic and thin. The interesting thing is that you can get used to this signature quite quickly – but as soon as you start comparing with other earphones you immediately realise what you’re missing. EQ does help (a lot), and I wish Brainwavz engineers had just tweaked this one area of the frequency response, as it takes what should have been a great sounding IEM, and leaving it basically crippled.

    And when you look at value – their own Jive and M1 are unquestionably better (to me), and other earphones like Fiios EX1, Dunu’s Titan, and Trinity’s Hyperion are unquestionably better in almost every area. So what really hurts the S3 is the value tag at $79.50. At that price – even at half of it I can’t really recommend them.

    I really struggled rating these – because overall the package isn’t bad, and with EQ they are actually really nice sounding. But I have to rate based on the overall package – including value – and in their playing field, the most I can give is 2.5 stars. For the asking price, and considering the flaws are so important to the overall sound, it really is difficult to give any higher.

    Revisiting the review in May 2016 and although I still think these are slightly on the high side price wise, they still deliver reasonable sonics. If you aren't hung up on needing a lot of sub-bass and like a mid-focussed signature, they are in fact really pleasant to listen to. I have therefore upped my rating to 3.5 stars. I was wrong to rate them so low to begin with, and I apologise to Brainwavz accordingly.

    Fix the bass, and that 2.5 becomes 3.5 and maybe even 4 instantly (price dependent). Rework the ergonomics (normal cable and use the S5 housing), and you have an absolute winner.

    RECOMMENDATIONS TO BRAINWAVZ


    • Fix the bass. Really. It is the worst part of an otherwise very good IEM.
    • Please drop the flat cable
    • The S5 housing is the best you’ve ever released. I’d love to see this incorporated in another design.
    • Keep doing what you’re doing – although the S3 may have missed its mark, it is a good basis to achieve a great signature with future releases.

    Thanks once again Pandora and Prithvi – I really appreciate the opportunities you give us.

    Final note – I’ve been listening to the S3 for the past hour doing the final edit, on shuffle, out of the X3ii + E17K – but with +6 bass. Thoroughly enjoyable. It shows what potential these have.


    S326.jpg
      twister6 and Hawaiibadboy like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Brooko
      Yep - they'd probably be the two I like the most too Inks.  I think the S3 would be on the right track if the bass didn't roll off quite so early.
      Brooko, Nov 21, 2015
    3. HiFiChris
      @Brooko
       
      "Revisiting the review in May 2016 and although I still think these are slightly on the high side price wise, they still deliver reasonable sonics.  If you aren't hung up on needing a lot of sub-bass and like a mid-focussed signature, they are in fact really pleasant to listen to.  I have therefore upped my rating to 3.5 stars.  I was wrong to rate them so low to begin with, and I apologise to Brainwavz accordingly."
       
      I am quite happy that you changed your mind on the S3, as I always felt that it was a fairly good/solid product but just not for those who like to have a forward bass or any real presence in the sub-bass (to the IEMs' defense, there is a good number of other products that have a roll-off in the lower registers - earbuds, open-back headphones, loudspeakers, and there is no big complaint about that).
      Imho, the S3 even does some things better than the S5, though both are different on the tuning side. Saying this, I also think the S3 has got a better value than the S5 which sounds overall a little unrefined for its price tag despite it kind of masks these slight flaws with its sound signature.
      HiFiChris, Jul 26, 2016
    4. Brooko
      Thanks Chris - and yes its amazing how a change in perspective can alter things quite a bit. I'd actually love it if Brainwavz kept the S5 shell, switched to a normal cable, and put a nicely balanced driver or dual BA set-up in it.  I should go back and revisit my S5 review when I get the time.  When it was released it was pretty good vaue, and you could look past the tizzy treble a bit.  Nowadays there are much better offerings at similar or less price points.
      Brooko, Jul 26, 2016
  6. commando
    Cord noise spoils an otherwise midrange headphone
    Written by commando
    Published Nov 8, 2015
    2.0/5,
    Pros - Clear mids and highs, good range of tips
    Cons - Bad cable noise, poor bass extension an impact
    Most IEMs are pretty similar, without much to differentiate them. Unfortunately the S3's differentiation point isn't great - the cable noise is some of the worst I've experienced. The low bass is absent and the mid bass that is there doesn't have a lot of impact. The rest of the music sounds pretty good, when the cord noise isn't drowning it out.
     
    All in all my advice is "do not buy".
     
    Disclosure: Brainwavz sent free review samples to HeadphoneReviews for review.
  7. avitron142
    Needs improvement
    Written by avitron142
    Published Nov 6, 2015
    2.0/5,
    Pros - Build Quality, Accessories, clarity, vocals, built-in remote
    Cons - Large bass roll-off, Size, bad fit and comfort, Springy Cable, Quality Control Issues, Pricey.
    Introduction:
     
    Brainwavz has been a strong contender in the IEM market for a while, they don’t need any introduction. However, some of you may not be familiar with their “S”-type line: So far they come out with the S0 (which I had the pleasure of reviewing), the S1, and the S5. As you may have guessed, the higher the number, the better the product gets, and with it the price tag too. However, Brainwavz has stayed truthful to its intended market range, and even the S5 is extremely affordable compared to other company offerings.
     
    So the S3 is a continuation of the already successful “S” product line, and with it Brainwavz has a few goals. The S3, as many head-fi’ers will be delighted to know, is intended for a more audiophile audience, with a wider soundstage, and more accurate sound production – keeping away from the “smooth and warm” sound so many IEM’s tend to fall into. At $80, an analytical-geared IEM is a bit of a stretch, but we’ll see how that works out later in the review.
     
    It’s a bit hard to keep track of which model of which line has which type of sound signature – it would be awesome to see Brainwavz give more of a hint (in the name of a model) as to what type of IEM it is.
     
    [This review is going to be somewhat shorter than usual, and I apologize for that. However, I’ll try to indicate the important things, and get to the point as efficiently as possible]
     
    Packaging:
     
    The packaging here is standard for the “S” line – which to say, it’s very good. The front cover has a flap that open to reveal the S3’s case, and a wealth of information. There’s plenty of information on the covers too, but on the inside cover… well, having that amount of detail before we even open the box is just amazing. Kudos to Brainwavz for that system, it’s working out fantastically.
     
    On the back is a list of accessories, as well as specifications and compatibility. It notes on the back that there’s a 2 year warranty for the S3 – very good for an IEM, and that type of confidence foreshadows great workmanship of the headphone itself.
     
    Build Quality, Design, & Accessories:
     
    The build quality of the shell itself is simply fantastic. The housing is metal, and shiny too - so shiny it’s hard for me to take clear pictures ***. On one side of each shell, there is the Brainwavz logo, and on the other, an L/R marking. The markings are hard to see though, due to the fact that the shiny metal is reflective. As you can see in the pictures though, there is a red-colored stress relief connecting the housing to the cable, which is extremely solid and prevents any chance of tearing the cable near the housing.
     
    The cable itself is flat, which prevents tangling, and has an inline remote. However, the cable is really stiff and springy (due to that it’s thick?), and I do find it harder to control than I would like. The cable ends with a straight jack, which is well-made too. Although I would like to see 90-degree angled jacks, as they are much easier to use, the build quality on the jack here is great, so no complaints here.
     
    The inline remote/mic are placed pretty high up on the cable, which immediately makes it difficult to wear the S3 over-ear (will get to that soon). Other than that, the buttons feel solid, and a mic/remote is definitely convenient for everyday use.
     
    The Y-split is built like a tank; I’m not kidding. Although it’s made of plastic (probably to reduce weight), it’s one of the best made Y-splits I’ve ever seen.
     
    Moving on to accessories, the S3 comes with a nice assortment of tips, including bi/tri-flanged tips and Comply foam tips. In addition, it comes with a very nicely built hard case, and a shirt clip. A nice amount of accessories, and just the ones that are needed, in my opinion.
     
    Microphonics:
     
    There are above average microphonics here; when tapping the cable, it’s impossible to hear the music, and due to its springy nature, microphonics are more common than in most of my other headphones.
     
    Fit & Comfort:
     
    Here’s the section I really don’t want to write, yet I’m going to have to.
     
    I can’t get the Brainwavz S3 to stay in my ears. I just can’t. I’ve tried all the tips, but the housing of the S3 is simply too large and heavy not to fall out when walking. Because of its size, comfort is an issue for me too, having most of the earphone leaning one way or another out of my ear for it to stay snug in my ear.
     
    There’s not much else to say. I’ve tried wearing it over the ear, but because of the flat cable (and inline remote), that position is nearly impossible to get right, and even when I do, it doesn’t stay in my ear, going back to the first problem.
     
    So overall? I hope the fit and comfort can be improved by the next product. Perhaps have a fin option to keep it snug in the ear, and reduce size and weight wherever possible to improve on the usability of the product. As it stands, I can’t use the S3 while moving in any way, which sort of defeats the purpose of an IEM. I can’t help but wonder how the other reviewers got by.
     
    Sound:
     
    This is a mixed bag as well. On the one hand, the S3 has some really detailed vocals, which may not be a sweet or upfront as vocal lovers would like them to be, but are still technically strong nonetheless. The sound is exceptionally clear, which is not something that’s found in every headphone. Highs sometime have a bit of an emphasis and can be quite bright, which is very fatiguing at times. Otherwise, I have no complaints.
     
    At least no complaints on the stuff I can hear. Which singles out the part which I’m not hearing – the bass. My pair has a tremendous roll-off in the lower bass region. I’m not talking about a bit of a roll-off; the S3 has literally no sub-bass I can hear, and that’s coming from bass-light headphones like the KNS8400. Even the upper bass is very light, and makes it impossible to enjoy any genre that has a prominent bass role, such rock, techno/EDM, electronic music, jazz, metal, pop and basically everything except for classical music and pure vocals.
     
    Conclusion:
     
    The Brainwavz S3 does a lot of things right – the build quality and accessories, and in regard to sound quality, the vocals and clarity. However, fit and comfort are abysmal, due to the size and weight of the S3. In addition, the massive bass roll-off makes it hard to enjoy many genres, and downright impossible to enjoy any electronic music.
     
    There’s also the issue of quality control – while people hear differently, the opinions on the S3 couldn’t have been further apart –some have a nice bass response, others have a bloated bass, and others still have no bass at all. Some have highs roll-offs, while mine had bright highs.
     
    So if you’re looking to buy this headphone, proceed with caution – I cannot say which sound signature you will get. Do I recommend this headphone? Unfortunately, no.
  8. Baycode
    S3: The most balanced Brainwavz iem
    Written by Baycode
    Published Nov 6, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Good neutralish and natural sound, good stage, very good mid-range, smooth highs, easy to drive
    Cons - Flat cable, high microphonics when weared cable-down, some hissing with particular sources, value for money (slightly low)
    _BAY4717.jpg
    What is Brainwaz S3?:
    S3 is the latest iem offering from Brainwavz. It is a single dynamic driver (8mm) unit iem which has full aluminum chassis. Cable is flat all the way down to the jack. This iem has a microphone and 3 remote control buttons on its cable. Its gold plated 3.5mm jack is compatible with iPods, iPads, IOS, Android devices and mp3 players.
     
     
    A little about me:
    My age is 42 (as of this writing). I have 24 years of background in listening to music with quality headphones (I don't count the crappy equipment non-serious period) and I am a member of head-fi since 2004. I prefer neutral, natural (organic) and detailed sound with a huge sound-stage and good imaging. I am not bass or treble head. I can never tolerate sibilant and/or fatiguing highs. From new age to classical, hard rock to pop, instrumental to world music I enjoy diverse kinds of music types. For further, please check my profile.
     
     

    S3 Package and Included Accessories:
    The box of the S3 shares many many similarities with its previous models S1 and S5 which I had. There are factory seals all around the top and bottom flaps so you can be aware if someone else has opened the box before you. This seals are a must for any HP/IEM. On the back of the box the accessories that came with S3 are indicated. Also specs and some extra information are there...
     
    _BAY4719.jpg
    Specifications:
    1. Transducers/Drivers: Dynamic, 8mm
    2. Rated Impedance: 16ohms Closed Dynamic
    3. Sensitivity: 96dB at 1mW
    4. Frequency range: 16Hz ~ 22 KHz
    5. Rated input power: 10mW
    6. Plug: 3.5 mm gold plated
    7. Cable length: 1.3 meters Flat Cable
     
    Microphone and Remote:
    1. Designed for Apple iOS and Android devices
    2. Phone Call Control
    3. Audio Player Control
    4. 3-Button Remote
     
    _BAY4722.jpg
    Opening the magnetic lid reveals the iem carry case where the S3 lies inside. You can see the simple explanation of the remote button functions for IOS and Android devices. I love these simple yet easy to learn explanation figures.
     
    _BAY4724.jpg
    On the left side of the lid there are information about the Brainwavz company and inner layout of the iem, cable and Comply foam tips...
     
    Included Accessories:
    1. 1 x Comply foam tips
    2. 6 x Pairs of ear tips (S/M/L)
    3. 1 x Shirt clip
    4. 1 x Hard carrying case
    5. 1 x Instruction manual & Warranty card
    _BAY4726.jpg
    Inside the box there are great set of accessories. The only thing that I forgot to include in the photo is the shirt clip which was inside the carry case.
    I love Brainwavz's approach on included accessories. Also the warranty card is located inside the main box.
     
    _BAY4727.jpg
    I absolutely liked the new Velcro cable organizer. This type has been used by Havi and now its with Brainwavz iems.
     
    _BAY4732.jpg
    3.5mm, 4 pole connector type stereo and mic supported jack is gold plated. I liked its build quality. Also strain relief is protective enough. But there is a single "con" for the jack design which might not be a problem if you're not using a case with your phone: The relatively fat front plastic part of this jack doesn't allow me to connect it to my LG G3 while it is inside the Verus hybrid protective case. I wish Brainwavz re-design this part of the jack in the future models. There are many people using their phone inside cases. Jack might be compatible with some other cases... Haven't tried it yet, but I can plug the VE Duke or CKR9 to my phone while its inside the same case.
     
    _BAY4737.jpg
    The strain reliefs are protective enough for the cable. Biggest problem is with the flat cable design which Brainwavz really need to re-think of... Its making whole iem heavy, pulls the iem down, its structure is microphonic and easily catches by the skin or clothes. If the iem is used on the cable-up position microphonics are minimum (very low level). But after some time the flat cable starts to rub annoy the top part of my ears.
     
    Is the cable tangle-free? In to some degree yes, it is tangle free and it seems very durable.
     
    _BAY4739.jpg
     
    Fit and Comfort:
    Left and right earpieces are marked clearly on both iem housings and iem is really easy to fit for my ears. Also I didn't hear any crackling noises while inserting or positioning it (driver flex or crackling sounds were reported by some users).

    The nose of the iem housings have a groove and by the help of this groove structure the eartips rests on their place securely. The eartips don't tend to fall-out... After fitting they sit more comfortable if I use the cable-up strategy.
     
    _BAY4743-Edit.jpg
    Isolation:
    There is a single vent on each earpiece which is located on the top of the body. Thus S3 can allow some outside noise in. But IMO the isolation is still above average which is a good thing for an iem in my book. Also the the iem doesn't allow the sound to escape to surroundings. So it is suitable to use inside quiet environments like libraries or some offices.
     
    _BAY4744-Edit.jpg
     
    _BAY4745-Edit.jpg
    Mic and Remote:
    The microphone and remote are may be least mentioned part for headfiers but I have to say that Brainwavz microphones are one of the best I have ever tried on an iem. Sharing some similarities to the Brainwavz BLU-100 bluetooth iems microphone module, I like the overall design even better on S3. Buttons are easy to operate. Unfortunately the volume up/down button didn't work while playing music and making calls with my LG G3. The middle button works while accepting and rejecting calls. The middle button also served as play/pause/skip while playing music. The volume buttons might be active when used with some other Android and IOS devices. You need to check your own phones compatibility. I wish I could use the volume buttons :frowning2:
     
    Call quality (sending the voice) is great thanks to the Brainwavz microphone technology. The small hole on the left hand side of the Brainwavz letter is the microphone opening. If you use the iem on the cable-up position this remote button/mic part sits on the left side of your head and its located to be somewhere under your cheek. When you use the iem cable-down position this part will be located under your chin. In either position -IMO- using the chin-slider is a "must" to lessen the microphonics and to make the fitting more secure.
     
    _BAY4736.jpg
     
    How it sounds?:
     
    In two words: Balanced and smooth.
     
    Yes, this is the most balanced sound out of the "S" series that I have ever heard (compared to S1 and S5; from the memory). Also highs are extended and detailed enough but also highs region is very smooth. This sound type delivers non-fatiguing listening sessions which I appreciate a LOT!
     
    Soundstage is somewhere between average and above average in all directions. To my ears some inner chamber resonance (probably partly due to non-angled and deep nozzle) is apparent but this is less noticeable after some brain burn-in. At first listen I thought that the sounds were coming from inside a cave but never feel that the soundstage was small. This first perception is very hard to detect these days which might be an indication of brain burn-in as well (getting used to the sound).
     
    The S3 can be regarded as a very balanced sounding iem, but I have to mention, it has a slightly north of neutral bass section. Unlike its predecessor models, mid-bass is not bloated and never spills in to the mids (I appreciate this). Mids are the star of the show and they are beautifully presented. Although compared to some mid-range stars like Duke and B3Pro1, S3's mid-range can be felt slightly veiled and slightly less detailed. But it is still very good (detailed enough) and I love how it represents the human voices. Also general sound is very natural. I feel that Brainwavz really nailed the sound signature this time. I appreciate the smooth high region as well. It never gets fatiguing after extended listening sessions. High region has the needed detail and sparkle but treble-heads need not apply. On my S3 unit bass digs as deep as it can. I can hear down to 20Hz while using seine waves (test tones). And the bass is really beautifully represented. If I break down the bass range into mid-bass, bass and sub-bass categories, it doesn't have a very special emphasis on a specific range, but I have to mention that "bass" section have more presence compared to its "sub-bass". 
     
    In the end, I feel that Brainwavz really nailed the sound signature and they have created a very good sounding iem which "non-basshead headfiers" may enjoy much. Although S3 is priced lower than the S5, I rate its SQ higher than it. This is definitely the best sounding Brainwavz iem to my ears (compared to S1 and S5, never had Jive and S0).
     
    Hissing:
    Since the sensitivity of the iem is very low (16ohm) the S3 will not forgive your sources hissing capabilities. So a DAP or DAC with a less (or zero) noise background will be a better match. But I don't want to mislead the reader here, the S3 doesn't hiss like crazy. I couldn't be able to hear the hiss while playing the music when the S3 was connected to my most hissy DAP (Meizu M3). It was only detectable at the end of the (or between) songs...
     
    Brain and Driver Burn-in Period:
    According to my listening and burn-in experiences this iem needs at least 25h of burn-in. After this period iem sound mostly settles. Especially bass section tightens-up and the iem sounds fuller and slightly warmer to my ears. If you're not a believer of burn-in, then please skip this section...
     
    Selected Comparisons With Some Other IEM's:
     
    Havi B3Pro1
    B3Pro1 stage is wider, highs to midrange sounds slightly cleaner, all freq ranges are equally presented (most neutral iem in my book).
    S3 sounds slightly (a hair) veiled, slightly less airier, bass section is slightly on the north of neutral compared to B3Pro1. But the bass is really easy to get out of the S3 because unlike B3Pro1 you don't need to have a powerful source. Need of a powerful source and good sealing wide-bore eartips makes Havi to reach its potential unpractical.
    General Winner: B3Pro1
    Winner for Compatibility with diverse kind of sources: S3
     
    Sony MH1C
    MH1C is more veiled, can go deeper on the bass range, more bassier. Midrange is muddier on MH1C as well.
    S3 is more balanced, have the ability to go deep on the bass region but not feels bassy like MH1C. Highs and mids region are more detailed and less veiled on S3.
    Both Mh1C and S3 sounds smooth on the high region (biggest similarity).
    Both MH1C and S3 have comparable soundstages.
    Both are equally easy to drive.
    General Winner: S3
     
    VE Duke
    Duke is an 200 USD microdriver iem. So t is not in the same league.
    Duke has wider stage, sounds airier, more detailed on the high and mid-high region. But, bass is not satisfying like its on the S3 and for some midrange might be thinner compared to S3.
    Duke's highs region might be tiring after extended listen due to its extension. Duke is harder to drive.
    S3 sounds fuller, warmer.
    General Winner: Duke
    For bass section only->Winner: S3
    For smooth highs->Winner: S3
    For detailing->Winner: Duke
     
    Quality and Durability:
    Seems that it is built like tank. All aluminum iem shells, strain reliefs, good quality and unnecessarily thick and heavy cable supports this idea. Since I didn't use the iem for a long period of time, please take my words as a grain of salt...
     
     
    Value for Money:
    S1 sells around 60USD, S5 sells around 100USD and S3 is around 80USD. They all have the same or very similar build quality, all have the same or very similar cable and the current S1 and S3 has the mic/remote as a plus. They all have very very similar accessories (if not the same). So thinking these very similar parts on a scale and if I say that the biggest difference is going to be through the sound; to my ears/for my liking, S3 sounds better than both previous models, even better than the S5 even if its priced 20USD more. Plus you get a mic/remote with the S3 which might be a big plus for some users. But compared to the nowadays standards -IMO- it could be better if Brainwavz lovers the S3’s price slightly to make it a more popular product.
     
    Love Factor:
    I have 3 levels for describing my "love" for an audio component: Low, Mid and High. My love factor is somewhere between Mid and High for the S3.
     
    Availability: http://www.brainwavzaudio.com/collections/earphones/products/brainwavz-s3-earphones

     

     

    Guarantee: Yes, 1 year warranty provided by Brainwavz!
     
    Acknowledgements: I need to thank Pandora at Brainwavz and Brainwavz company for providing me an opportunity to review their new iem (in return of my honest opinion/review).
     
    Sources Used for This Review:
    LG G3, LG G3+Aegis+NX1, Meizu M3
     
    Test Tracks:
    London Grammar "Stay Awake"
    Dire Straits "Calling Elvis"
    Mercan Dede "800"
    Olafur Arnalds "Gleypa okkur"
     
    Test Procedure:
    Open eye, A-B-C'ing with other iem's while playing music and test tones. All iem's were volume matched at 70dB by the help of a calibrated scientific grade SPL meter (UNI-T brand).  With the S3 I have tried many eartips and finally decided to use the included red-core silicone medium eartips throughout the review period.
     
    Conclusion:
    If S3 has slightly wider stage, slightly more airier sound and, if it didn't have that flat cable I could give 5 stars to this iem. But thinking of the cons I need to cut a star. If you're looking for a microphone bearing iem for your mobile device (especially) S3 might be a very good alternative to keep in mind. I rate this iem's sound quality above both S1 and S5. It's non fatiguing highs, detailed enough high-mid range and good bass presentation without being bloated and, add a slightly above average sound stage you have a very good iem.
     
    I need to drop an information line here: Before your final decision please check every reviewers opinion and the dedicated S3 thread, because there might be some sample or perception variations. I just wanted to make the readers aware of the situation. For my S3 review sample nothing is wrong with the intended SQ of the S3.
     
    Thanks for reading!
     
    Be with music, feed your soul!
     
    Safe Listening!
      Bananiq, peter123 and twister6 like this.
    1. B9Scrambler
      Nice review Baycode! I'm curious to see how they would compare to the NarMoo W1M which while not really neutral (bass boosted a bit too much) has a very smooth sound and mids that steal the show.
      B9Scrambler, Nov 6, 2015
    2. Tom22
      nice review @Baycode  buddy! glad to see you compare them with the havis! brings back some memories! i'm still working on my review on the s3s, and i have similar findings as you but have a different conclusion in the end. I personally prefer the s5s >s3s but the over ear fit of the s5s may not be to everyones liking (at least outside of head-fi anyway). also i wonder about the new cables that brainwavz seem to be pushing with the s0s and the s3s (its still flat, but its a bit more rubbery, and a bit heavier)
      Tom22, Nov 7, 2015
    3. Baycode
      Thanks @B9Scrambler and @Tom22 ! @B9Scrambler, unfortunately I don't have W1M to compare

      @Tom22 oh yes the old Havi days... S3 vs S5; personal preferences my friend
      Baycode, Nov 8, 2015
  9. dweaver
    A beautiful warm sounding midrange lovers delight
    Written by dweaver
    Published Nov 4, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Wonderfully full, warm sounding headphone with treble rolled off just enough to not be fatiguing but present enough to still be engaging
    Cons - Bass is rolled off in the sub-bass range, lip that holds the tip on is sharp enough to shred tips, flat cables are noisy and heavy worn straight down
    First off, I would like to thank BrainWavz for letting me review this IEM and also apologize because I have been a bit tardy getting my review completed. For disclosure purposes I have received the S3 for free in exchange for my unbiased review of the product.
     
    So to get things started I think it important to state up front who I think the target audience is for this particular IEM. This IEM is definitely targeted towards people who are looking for a musically warm midrange oriented listening experience. While the S3 has north of neutral bass it is rolled off in the sub bass region and has a relaxed treble that is never fatiguing. My audio quality score is based on my take for this target audience. At the end of the review I also have rated the audio quality for other target groups.
     
    Before I get into the sound portion of the review I will go over the non sound aspects of the S3.
     
    Build Quality: The overall build quality of the S3 is my mind solid but utilitarian. The IEM body is made from polished aluminum and looks nice but not expensive. The flat cables are thinner than older BrainWavz IEM's but still retain the basic issues that flat cables have in regards to cable noise and weight. The strain reliefs likewise are smaller but tend towards serviceable versus pretty. My only real gripe I have with the build is the lip that hold the tips on. It is so sharp I have had it slice the tip stem on a couple of tips. So please be extra careful removing tips from the S3. Score 3.5/5
     
    Accessories: As usual BrainWavz offer a wide selection of tips and their usual semi hard carry case which is perfect for first time buyers and anyone who likes to look after their gear. There should be enough to make most people happy with only the die hard tip rollers wanting more. Score 4.5/5
     
    Isolation and micro phonics: As mentioned above the cable design does make these noisy when worn straight down but there is enough distance between the mic and the IEM shells that these can be worn over ear which almost eliminates all the noise of the cables. The level of isolation is slightly above average which is good enough for light rail transit and walking around downtown where I live but would probably not be enough for heavy transit or really noisy environments.
     
    Design; The S3 has a basic bullet type design that works well for a lot of people. My preference is an angled tip but these work adequately. I struggled a bit in keeping a good seal consistently with the S3 though.
     
    OK enough talking about the basics lets get down to the sound...
     
    Bass - The overall bass response of he S3 is decently impactful and full sounding until you get to the sub bass regions where it suddenly drops off. For most of my music (Jazz, classical, classic rock, folk) this works well and offers a nice balanced sound that is easy to listen to and keeps my toes tapping. But I did find any electronic bass to be lacking in the bottom end and instruments like Cello's and Kettle Drums lacking in body as well. Score 3.5/5
     
    Midrange - The midrange is the heart of the S3 in my opinion especially if you like your midrange to be a bit on the warm side. I found all vocals to have a nice full sound that was easy to get lost in. The signature is relaxed but not boring, managing to straddle that fine line. Score 4/5
     
    Treble - The treble of the S3 is perfect blend of detail without fatigue. I found myself really enjoying the treble as it gave just enough splash and detail as to give cymbals some life with causing my ears to feel fatigued afterwards. This is one area that potential mid/treble heads will want to cautious of though as they may find this "perfection" rather boring. Score 4/5
     
    Soundstage and imaging - I really like the S3 in this area. I think these have a larger than average sound stage and the imaging also seems above average. Score 3.5/5
     
    On an overall scale I think the sound signature of the S3 deserves a 4 as it is a musical warm signature that anyone outside of the extremes will find enjoyable and worth while.
     
    For the bass heads of the world I suspect you would rate these more like a 3/5 due to the sub bass roll off but anyone who likes bass but not at extreme levels will be satisfied with most of you music. Lovers of electronic bass may be the group most negatively affected by the bass.
     
    For midrange lovers depending on whether you like a cooler/drier midrange or a warmer midrange you will fluctuate between 3.5 to possibly even a 4.5 out of 5 for an over all score.
     
    Midrange/Treble heads I suspect the upper midrange and overall treble response will not be strong enough for your liking and you will score these more around a 2.5 - 3/5
  10. mark2410
    Brainwavz S3 Quick Review by mark2410
    Written by mark2410
    Published Nov 2, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Value. Pleasantness. The whole package.
    Cons - Unthrilling. Cable, if you don’t like flat cables.
    Brainwavz S3 Quick Review
     
    Thanks to Brainwavz for the sample.
     
    Full review here http://www.head-fi.org/t/786430/brainwavz-s3-review-by-mark2410
     
    Brief:  Another Brainwavz.
     
    Price:  US$80 which is about £52
     
    Specifications:  Drivers: Dynamic, 8 mm, Rated Impedance: 16 Ω, Frequency Range: 16 Hz ~ 22 kHz, Sensitivity: 96 dB at 1 mW, Rated Input Power: 10 mW, Cable: 1.3 m Y-Cord, Copper, Plug: 3.5 mm, Gold Plated
     
    Accessories:  Earphone Hard case, 3 sets of Silicone Ear Tips (S M L), 1 set of Comply™ Foam Tips T-400, 1 Shirt Clip, 1 set of Silicone Bi-Flange Eartips, 1 set of Silicone Tri-Flange Eartips, Velcro Cable Tie
     
    Build Quality:  First rate as usual.
     
    Isolation:  Good for a dynamic but not quite up to BA standards.  Fine for walking for on a bus but not really Tube or long flight material.  However easily enough to get yourself run over of course.  Please do remember to use your eyes.
     
    Comfort/Fit:  Very good on both accounts.  Up or down were fine on me.
     
    Aesthetic:  It is nice to see, unlike their S5 siblings, they show you the metal they are constructed of.  It instantly gives you an image of quality construction and frankly bare aluminium just looks good.  While I’ve see more pretty there are still top notch lookers to me.
     
    Sound:  These are a bit of a departure from the S line in that these are rather polite.  The 5 was a bit of a beast, especially in the bass, these are much more refined and laid back.  Not soft, actually a bit coolish and a bit taut but so much more controlled and hesitant.  They are still somewhat bass centric, the bass is what is most prominent however it just doesn’t ever feel like it’s really dominating.  The bass isn’t aggressive or lively enough to become demanding and rambunctious.  It’s well behave and polite despite its relative dominant scale.  The mids are rather pushed back, too much I think for my tastes.  They are good, a little dryish comparatively and once more polite is the word that springs to mind.  It’s just very pleasant.  The highs too have the same attributes, though they are placed between the mids and bass.  They have practically no bight or edge to them, they retain the shimmer after impact but they won’t dance and sparkle like some want.  These are laid back, a most pleasantly pleasant listening experience that flows softly over the ear drum.  Not an especially warm flavour but similarly melodic and restrained.  I rather enjoy it.  If you are however looking for a thrilling party beast, this is not it.
     
    Value:  It from Brainwavz, everything they do has to date been great value, this isn’t bucking the trend.  Very pleasing audio quality for your US$80
     
    Pro’s: Value.  Pleasantness.  The whole package.
     
    Con’s:  Unthrilling.  Cable, if you don’t like flat cables.

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