Brainwavz S3 - Reviews
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.
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.  
NA Blur
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.
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.

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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. 
 
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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
 
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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.
 
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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.
 
 
 
 
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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:


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Baycode
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!
earfonia
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.
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:

 
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
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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
 
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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
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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
 
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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%
Pros: Clarity, iControls, Build, Case, Accessories, Isolation, Presentation of Female Vocals
Cons: Bass presentation, Cable, Overall Value
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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.


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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.


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Brooko
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.
HiFiChris
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.
Brooko
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.
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.
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.
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)
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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!
B9Scrambler
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.
Tom22
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)
Baycode
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
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
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.

Pros: Smooth sound. Rugged build. Great accessories package. 2-year warranty.
Cons: Could use more punch & sparkle. Hard to wear over ear. Driver flex.

Brainwavz_S3__02_grande.jpg


Image courtesy of Brainwavz
 

INTRODUCTION

Brainwavz is a company well-known on Head-Fi for budget-fi IEM with good sound, great accessories, and some quite unusual designs. I was introduced to Brainwavz when I purchased my FiiO X3 Classic from MP4Nation. The original S-series IEM, the S1, was included as a bonus with my X3 pre-order. With their unusual color scheme, flat cable, chunky strain reliefs and y-splitter, and all-metal housing, the S1 were quite different from most of the IEM I'd owned up to that point. I enjoyed them for a fun, v-shaped sound, although they were a bit ragged up top. Then along came the S5. I read pretty good things about those, so I picked them up. With big bass and a warm low end and plenty of sparkle up top, I enjoyed the S5 even more than the S1 as a fun, party-time IEM. Next came S0, which I also heard good things about. I picked it up, as well, knowing that they were taking the S-series in a new, darker direction. These weren't IEM I'd choose for fun, they're what I'd choose for relaxing in front of the fire - warm, dark, and smooth. Now, along comes the S3, the latest entry in the S-series. Early reports were quite divisive. Some felt these had very little bass, some felt these had too much bass, some felt they were very nicely balanced. When I read these varied descriptions, I was intrigued and reached out to Brainwavz for a review sample. They generously obliged, and here we are. So, what do I think of the S3? Read on to find out, but first let's see what Brainwavz has to say about themselves.
 
Established in 2008 with a goal to bring real earphones to real users at realistic prices -A SMALL START WITH BIG RETURNS

Today the range spans across earphones and headphones, a new accessories line and the addition of inline controls for the booming smartphone markets

The future sees the BRAINWAVZ team expanding to more new products, from new designers with fresh ideas - WE ARE HERE TO STAY, so keep listening out for us!

At Brainwavz we have a simple mission, to produce innovative, high quality audio products with a dedicated focus on high-end sound at a realistic price. Our strength, success and product range is built on our unique relationship with our customers and users, a relationship that has produced a simple and obvious result. We give real-users real sound quality. 2014 will see Brainwavz pushing forward with an expanded product line, continuing with unique and innovative products, from earphones to headphones to audio accessories.



 
Brainwavz Website: LINK.
 
Dedicated Brainwavz S3 thread: LINK.
 
 

DISCLAIMER

There is no financial incentive from Brainwavz for writing this review.  I am in no way affiliated with Brainwavz, and this is my honest opinion of the S3.  I would like to thank Brainwavz for giving me a chance to test drive the S3, and I hope my feedback proves useful for my fellow Head-Fi members as well as for Brainwavz.
 
 

ABOUT ME

I'm a 43 year old father who loves music.  While I listen mostly to electronic and metal these days, I do listen to a wide variety of music - from electronic (Autechre, Boards of Canada) to modern/minimalist composition (John Cage, Philip Glass) to alternative rock (Flaming Lips, Radiohead) to jazz (John Coltrane and Miles Davis) to metal (Behemoth, King Diamond) to classic rock (Eagles, Rush).  
 
I'm primarily a portable audio enthusiast. My portable music journey started with the venerable Sony Cassette Walkman and then progressed to portable CD players, minidisc recorders (still have my Sharp DR7), and finally on to DAPs like the Rio Karma, iRiver IHP-1xx, iPod 5.5, iPhones, and the newer crop of DAPs from Fiio and iBasso.
 
Being a portable audio enthusiast, I typically listen with IEMs but am enjoying listening with full-size headphones more and more and tend to like u-shaped sound signatures, although I break out v-shaped IEM & HP from time to time for fun.
 
As with a lot of people my age, I've got some hearing issues.  I've got mild tinnitus and suffer from allergies, which can affect hearing in my right ear.  I'll admit it, I'm not blessed with a pair of golden ears.  That said, I've been listening to portable gear for a long time and feel confident in assessing audio gear - just wanted to be transparent up front.



 
 
SPECS
  1. Drivers: 8mm Single Dynamic 
  2. Rated Impedance: 16Ω
  3. Frequency Range: 16Hz - 22kHz
  4. Sensitivity: 96dB at 1mW
  5. Rated Input Power: 10mW
  6. Cable: 1.3m flat cable
  7. Plug: 3.5mm gold-plated straight plug 
 

 

PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES



Typical Brainwavz packaging and generous accessories. 
 
Front
BrainwavzS3-1.jpg
 
Rear
BrainwavzS3-2.jpg
 
Interior
BrainwavzS3-3.jpg
 
S3 + Accessories
BrainwavzS3-8.jpg

That great Brainwavz IEM case
BrainwavzS3-7.jpg

Tips
BrainwavzS3-9.jpg

In all, you get
  1. Brainwavz case
  2. Heir-style Wide-Bore Silicone Ear Tips (S M L) - Transparent Gray + Red Core
  3. Hybrid-style Narrow-Bore Silicone Ear Tips (S M L) - Black + Color-Coded Core
  4. 1 set of Silicone Bi-Flange Eartips
  5. 1 set of Silicone Tri-Flange Eartips
  6. 1 set of Comply™ Foam Tips T-400
  7. 1 Shirt Clip
  8. Velcro Cable Tie
  9. Instruction Manual & Warranty Card (24 month warranty)

Some general thoughts on the accessories package. As with any S-series purchase, you get a lot of accessories. The case is fantastic, and I've purchased several of them for IEM that didn't come with cases. You get a wide variety of tips, which makes getting a good fit and playing around with sound tuning easy. I quickly identified the size medium narrow-bore hybrid-style tips as my favorites for comfort, stability, and sound. The shirt clip doesn't stay on the flat cable very well. This is too bad because it would help abate microphonics, which can be a problem. The velcro cable wrap is a nice addition but I'd suggest Brainwavz print them so the logo is printed on the soft side of the velcro. As it is the grippy surface is meant to be the exposed / outside surface, and it ends up sticking to the inside of the case. This pulls on the inner mesh pouches, causing them to get pills quite quickly.
 
 

BUILD & ERGONOMICS

The S3 continue the S-series tradition of all-metal housings, flat cable, rugged strain reliefs, and quirky colors. The build quality is quite serious, reminding me a bit of RHA's commitment to build quality. I'll walk through the various design and ergonomic features of the S3 in pictorial format below.
 
Here's a close-up look at the S3 with the tips removed. 
BrainwavzS3-4.jpg
 
I've got a few nitpicks here. First, the nozzles emerge straight out of the housing, which makes them more difficult to fit than the S1 and S5 angled nozzles. The S0 also has straight nozzles, but they're okay because the S0 has a much smaller housing. Second, I find the flat cables too wide and stiff, which makes over ear wear difficult. Third, I'm not a fan of the aesthetics. I'd much prefer flat black or brushed metal. Shiny metal? Not so much.
 
So what do I like? Besides the odd color choice, I like the chunky strain reliefs. I also like the smooth housings, which don't have any sharp edges that come in contact with your ear. The clear L / R markings are an improvement over some of the older S-series models which only had L / R markings on the strain reliefs. Finally, I like the flattened outer edge, which helps you get a good grip on the S3 while inserting and removing them.
 
 
The new Clearwavz mic + remote module. 
BrainwavzS3-5.jpg
 
Being a DAP user, I don't have a use for this and would prefer a version with a narrower cable leading to the earpiece that doesn't have the mic + remote module to make over ear wear easier. For those of you who will use the controls, they're nice and soft and have a pretty good tactile feeling, although the click action is a bit slower than other controls I've used.
 
 
Y-splitter, chin slider, and 3.5mm straight plug
BrainwavzS3-6.jpg
 
I was happy to see the S3 come with the smaller y-splitter the S0 came with instead of the oversized y-splitter my S1 and S5 came with. When not in use, the chin slider is almost indistinguishable from the y-splitter. It doesn't slide up the cable very well, so I like to firmly pinch the cable between the y-splitter and the chin slider to help things along. It does stay put quite well once positioned, and slides back down the cable ver easily. The 3.5mm plug just barely fits into my iPhone's case. I have to give it a good twist to snug it up, and then it works just fine and is very stable.
 
 
Here's the S3 all suited-up and ready for battle!
BrainwavzS3-10.jpg

As mentioned above, I preferred the hybrid-style tips. They stay in my ear much better than the Heir-style tips and also provide greater bass impact. Unfortunately, as others have reported, I'm getting quite bit of driver flex in the left earpiece on insertion when using the silicon tips. Foam tips would help prevent this, but I'm not a fan of disposable tips so I'm stuck with it.
 
 
 
Here's what S3 look like worn down vs. over ear
BrainwavzS3-11.jpgBrainwavzS3-12.jpg
 
For those of you who follow my reviews, you'll notice that after encouraging all you Head-Fi guys to grow your winter beards I've gone and shaved off the beard since my S500i review.  Instead, I'll be growing a mustache in honor of Movember. Join me! 
 
Back to the S3... They're quite obviously intended to be worn down, and wearing them over ear can be an exercise in frustration due to the flat cable design. Either way, they stick out quite a ways from my ears. On the plus side, since these are a symmetrical design, wearing them over ear won't result in channel swap. 
 
 
SOUND
FYI: I mainly listen to experimental electronic and metal and mainly used those genres to evaluate the S3, using the S3 as my sole IEM for several days. During that time, I mainly listened to them out of the brand spankin' new Shanling M2 (LINKand Cayin N5. 
 
Since the S3 are the latest in the well-known S-series, I thought I'd do a bit of compare and contrast with it older brothers.
 
BASS: At first listen with the Heir-stye tips I found the bass on these quite underwhelming. I heard rolled-off bass that lacked punch and rumble. I found that you can get more punch and rumble out of them, but you've got to work for it. Hybrid tips + a bit of EQ are your friend if this is what you're after. Only after switching to the hybrid-style tips did I bring out enough punchiness to satisfy me. Even then, I found it still sounded a bit flat / dull with electronic music. However, it was a good fit for other genres I listen to that don't rely so heavily on well-extended bass. For instance, I found the bass worked quite well for Classic Rock and and a lot of Metal. This is quite a different take on bass than the rest of the S-series, which have oodles and oodles of bass. Despite yearning for less roll-off, I do have to compliment them on making an S-series IEM with bass that will appeal to a lot of budding audiophiles.
 
MIDS: The S3 are a mid-centric IEM, again a nod to the budding audiophile. To my ears lower mids are more prominent that upper mids. This made male voices generally more satisfying than female vocals for me. For instance, I found Don Henley sounded great while listening to The Eagles. However, Björk's voice didn't pop for me as much as I would've liked. I would've preferred the opposite, cooling off the lower mids a bit and making the upper mids a bit brighter, but that's just me. Comparing these to the other S-series IEM, S3 mids are most like the S0, whereas S1 and S5 mids sound more recessed. 
 
HIGHS: Relaxed, smooth, rolled-off highs. I could definitely use some more sparkle and pop here. I'm really missing that in some of Björk's songs where there are sharp, twinkling sounds moving about in upper soundstage. With S3, they sound cut-off, muted. Same with some of the metal tracks I listened to. When the music got busy, cymbal work I could typically hear with less rolled-off IEM just got lost in the mix with the S3. Comparing them to other S-series IEM, S3 highs are most like the S0, relaxed and smooth - lacking sparkle. They're like the polar opposite of the very energetic upper end on the S1 and S5. 
 
 
SOUNDSTAGE: Sound is quite a bit better in width than depth or height. Separation and placement are good but not stellar. I think a bit more energy up top would help improve this aspect of the S3.
 

ISOLATION & MICROPHONICS: Isolation is above average. Microphonics can be a bit of problem, and unfortunately the clip doesn't stay on the flat cable well - and they're hard to wear over ear. The makes avoiding cable noise on the go difficult.
 
POWER REQUIREMENTS: The S3 is pretty easy to drive. I've been listening to it at 22/60 on the Shanling M2 and 20/100 on the Cayin N5, which translates to 39/120 on my FiiO X5 Classic, all on Low Gain, of course.
 
 
SUMMARY
So what do I think of the S3? My initial reaction was not very positive. I wasn't expecting a sound signature so far outside of the S-series paradigm. However, after spending some time with them, they grew on me. Despite that, this isn't my preferred sound signature, and I feel they would benefit from a bit more sub-bass and added sparkle up top. I'm thinking that a lower end that falls between S3 and S0, S3 mids, and an upper end that falls between S3 and S5 would be a very nice sound signature for an S-series IEM. Coming back to the S3, I could see using them for music that doesn't call for a lot of bass. Unfortunately, this cuts out about half my music library, so S3 aren't for me. For those of you who don't listen to music with lots of low end, I think you could be pretty happy with the S3.
 
On the plus side, these are a solid mid-centric sound signature, comfortable worn down, built tough, have a great accessories package, and are backed-up by a stellar two-year warranty. They do have some drawbacks though, like straight nozzles, a flat cable which makes over ear wear difficult, a shirt clip that falls off, and a propensity towards driver flex when silicon tips are used.
 
I hope you found this useful and would like to give a hearty thanks to Brainwavz for giving several members of the Head-Fi community a chance to review the S3. I'm a Brainwavz fan and look forward to seeing what the cook up for us in the future, like a new S-series hybrid flagship. Hint, hint...
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Pros: Smooth midcentric signature, Very good resolution and detail, Fatigue free listening experience, Solid build quality
Cons: Rolled off sub bass and treble, Flat cable is microphonic and effects fitment.
At the time of the review, the Brainwavs S3 was was on sale at Amazon.com for $79.50 USD. Here is a link to their listing of the product:
20151027_104341.jpg
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0162C1P9O?keywords=brainwavz%20s3&qid=1445842977&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1
 
Introduction
It seems like every few months Brainwavz has an exciting new product coming to the market. While many will feel that releasing new products this frequently is overkill, I will object to that philosophy in Brainwavz’s case. I say that because there is definitely diversity in the tunings of just about every recently released product. My last Brainwavz review was of the Jive, a twentyfive dollar in-ear monitor that had a U-shaped sound. I was pretty impressed by them. They were my favorite Brainwavz earphone that I had heard before getting the S3. To be honest, it seems like I almost always say this with every new Brainwavz model that I cover. The new S3 now holds that title, and I will explain why in my review.
 
Disclaimer
I was given an opportunity to review the Brainwavz S3 in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with Brainwavz. I would like to take this time to personally thank Pandora over at Brainwavz for the opportunity to cover Brainwavz products. I am appreciative of you giving me an opportunity to experience your products. Thank you so much!
 
My Background
I AM NOT a numbers and graphs audiophile or sound engineer. Personal audio enthusiast? Absolutely! Headphone junkie? Possibly…
 
There’s something about quality DAPs, DACs, Amplifiers and Earphones that intrigues me, especially if they can be had for low prices. I will buy the $5 to $500 earphone that looks promising, in hopes that I will discover that one new gem that can compete with the big names in this industry. If you look at my Head-Fi profile you will see that I have purchased MANY different headphones and earphones, ranging from from dirt cheap to higher end products. For me, this hobby is more about getting great price to performance ratio from a product, and have a variety of different gears with varying builds and sound to mix and match. With personal audio gear, we tend to pay a lot of money for minor upgrades. One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that just because a headphone has a higher price tag, it doesn’t mean that it has superior build and sound quality.
 
I’m always looking for great audio at a great price. I’m after headphones and IEMs that give me the “WOW” factor. I can appreciate different builds and sound signatures as long as they are ergonomic, and the sound is pleasing to the ear. It is my pleasure to share my experiences with audio products and make recommendations based gear I have owned and used.
 
REVIEW
 
20151027_103325.jpg
The S3 comes in a black box with red and white accents reminiscent to previous brainwavz models. The front of the box features a nice picture of the housings and a brief description of the product.
 
20151027_103421.jpg
The front of the box has a flap that opens up to further information on the product along with schematics of the housing, cable and microphone/remote. It also has a clear plastic cutout that reveals the classic black and red brainwavz case.
 
20151027_103350.jpg
The back of the box further describes the product and lists specifications and accessories.
 
One thing I must say, Brainwavz are masters of using their packaging to sell/market/display their product. Everything you need to know about your brainwavz S3 is printed on the box (except maybe a graph).
 
Specifications and Accesories
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
  8. 24 Month warranty

Included Accessories:

20151027_103955.jpg

  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

20151027_104046.jpg

As usual, Brainwavz knocks it out of the park in terms of accessories. If you are considering buying your first pair of Brainwavz earphones, one thing you should know about the company is that no matter what the price point is, they will not fail you on accessories and their clamshell case will be top notch.

All buttons were tested and worked as described. When talking to family and friends, they said my voice came through at a four on a scale from one to five. I did notice that the phone worked better with my wife’s Iphone six than my LG G3. I’m not sure if this was because of the earphones, or the level of reception I was getting with both devices. Either way, the earphones worked great for phone calls on both phones.

Housings

20151027_104341.jpg

I’m a sucker for polished metal finishes. Because of this I find the S3 housing to be fabulous. It is a lightweight polished aluminum from the barrel to the nozzle. The Brainwavz logo is printed in small red letters on the front, and L&R markings on the back. There is a single driver venting hole located on the top of each housing. With an aerodynamic shape and lines that are sleek and sophisticated, they resemble mini jet engines. The nozzles of the S3 are slightly wider than the average in-ear monitor. I do wish they would have angles the nozzle from the housing to promote a more customized fit, the straight nozzle is formidable and I had no real issues with it.

 
Cable, Y-Split, Cable Jack, Strain Reliefs
20151027_104432.jpg
Brainwavz is using the flat noodle style of cable they’ve used in previous models. While it has very little spring, no memory and is probably the most tangle free cable I’ve come across, at the end of the day it’s still a flat cable. I personally don’t care for flat cables because they impair my ability to get a solid over the ear fit and also have considerable microphonics. The Y-Split is a plastic and rubber design that is very sturdy and well done. The Jack is a slim profile straight design that appears to be made out of firm rubber material. Strain reliefs are constructed of ribbed rubber material and are located at each housing, the Y-split, and at the jack.
 
Functionality
20151027_104415.jpg
The S3 has an inline microphone and remote approximately six inches down from the left channel housing. The remote is a three button design similar to some of their previous designs. While the center buttons work for Android, the volume buttons work exclusively with Apple products. Here is a picture of the button layout taken from the front of the Brainwavz packaging.
20151027_103455.jpg
 
Ergonomics, Fit and Microphonics, Isolation
The Brainwavz S3 can be worn cable down or over the ear. The microphone is far enough down on the cable that it shouldn’t make contact with most people’s faces. Please note that any twisting in the cable when wearing them over the ear can impact the S3 fit. When worn down, there is a pretty substantial amount of microphonics. When worn over the ear, microphonics are still noticeable but more under control. Something I’ve noticed with the Brainwavz flat cable is that it very prone to microphonics and cable noise. As far as isolation is concerned, the S3 is fantastic. It doesn’t completely block out all outside noise, but they isolate much better than most in-ear monitors.
 
Sound Review
I did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-G3 with the latest firmware for portable and smartphone use, and either my Shanling H3 or Sony Walkman F806/Cayin C5 amplifier for a high fidelity portable use. For desktop use I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a HIFIMEDIY Sabre ES9023 USB DAC/Bravo Audio Ocean Tube amplifier with a Mullard 12AU7 tube for higher impedance, and a Fiio E18 USB DAC & Amplifier in both high and low gain. Both were run at 24 bit, 96000 Hz. I also tested them with other DAPs and amplifiers as well. I used Google Music downloaded in its highest download quality (320 KBPS) and I also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I also used purchased and downloaded tracks in MP3, FLAC, WAV and DSD. I make sure that any gear I test has sufficient playtime before writing a review.
 
I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
“Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
“Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
“Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
“Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
“Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
“The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
“Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
“Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
“One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
“Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
“Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
“And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
“Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
 
Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to asses and break down the gear’s response.
 
Source Selection
These are single dynamic 16 Ohm drivers designed for smartphone use. They have a signature that’s pretty forgiving with poorly recorded and low bit rate music. They will sound good through your phone or portable rig. Summit-fi desktop rigs are overkill.
 
Sound Signature
Usually when Brainwavz describes their products on the package I end up agreeing to disagree. This time they are pretty spot on. The S3 is a fatigue free midcentric signature that is smooth and enjoyable. There is roll off on both ends of the frequency spectrum but not significant enough to say that it feels necessarily lacking. The overall sound is warm and accentuates midrange sounds. While this type of tuning would be an epic fail, the level of resolution and detail along with a small spike in the 5kHz range makes them sound really decent.
 
The S3 sounds great with vocals, folk, instrumental and live performances. Bass heavy genres will sound a bit bland.
 
BrainwavzS3LRchannels.png
Here is a graph I made using my Vibro Veritas measuring tool and Arta Software. Although this graph is not %100 accurate, it should give you an idea of what the S3 tuning is like.
 
Bass
Bass is rolled off at sub bass levels. During Daft Punk’s Doin’ it Right and James Blake’s Limit to Your Love lower bass notes were quieter and more distant than mid bass tones. Vocals jump out in front of bass heavy tracks, which is honestly a nice change from what many budget manufacturer's offer. Midbass is forward, but with a slight elevation rather than a hump. There isn’t any sense of bass bleed from what I can hear. There’s enough midbass to make the midrange warm, but not overdone to the point that things get thrown way out of whack.
 
Midrange
Midrange is warm, smooth and forward in the mix. There is nice separation and dynamics, and the midrange appears to have a nice layering of sound. Even during complex musical passages, the S3 maintains a fairly high level of resolution throughout. Some people who don’t care for warm midrange will consider them slightly veiled, while others who don’t mind the added warmth will consider the mids to be relaxed and pleasant.
 
Treble
The S3 has some really well done treble that compliments its warm midrange and maintains a relaxed feel overall. There is a lift in the upper midrange/lower treble (5kHz) that puts a nice finish on vocals. After the upper midrange bump the S3 treble rolls off, making sibilance and harshness non-existent. Cymbal crashes will seem slightly distant but not to the point that they can’t be appreciated. During complex musical passages the S3 trebe did get a little grainy, but because of the rolled off treble tuning it was only noticeable during critical listening. It shouldn’t be an issue for casual listeners.
 
Soundstage and Imaging
The midrange forward tuning in combination with a pretty decent level of resolution and detail makes the S3 sound spacious. Vocals take center stage and leave the band jamming behind them, giving a decent sense of imaging. The S3 is somewhat genre specific, so bass focused music will not excel in this criteria.
 
Comparisons
 
Don Scorpio Bass Colour ($30 to $50 USD on many sites)
This rebranded Velodyne V-Pulse earphone is a bass monster V-signature. They have physical design features similar to the Brainwavz, featuring polished metal housings as well as a flat cable with a 90 degree jack and inline remote. In terms of sound they are very far from each other.
 
The Bass Colour packs a sub bass wallop that makes them a great pick for modern genres like hip hop and EDM. If you listen to these genres, the Bass Colour might be a better option. Just be prepared, the abundance of bass also equates into a healthy amount of bleed in the midrange frequencies. The S3 destroys the Bass Colour in terms of resolution and is a much more natural sounding earphone. If you listen to a variety of music, the S3 is a better option. Their tuning might not burst your eardrums with bass, instead they will treat your ears to a more linear, neutral and open sound that will probably change the way you appreciate your music collection.
 
The S3 isolates better than the Bass Colour and is a much better fitting IEM. Accessories is almost a draw, but the S3 offers a larger variety of tips.

 
T-Peos Baguette ($40 to $80 USD on many sites)
The Baguette caught me off guard. Removing them from the cheap plastic packaging, I wasn’t expecting much from them. To my surprise they are a great performing in-ear monitor. They have nicely balanced sound across the entire range, with nothing sounding outrageously spiked or rolled off.
 
The Baguette provides better extension on both ends than the S3, making it less genre specific. However, I find the midrange of the Baguette to be boring in comparison. There’s a combination of texture, resolution and timbre in the S3 midrange that makes me really enjoy them for vocals more than the T-Peos model.
 
In terms of accessories, it isn’t even a contest. T-Peos offers nothing besides three sets of silicone tips, While the S3 offers an array of tips and their remarkable clamshell case.

 
Conclusion
The S3 is a midrange forward and smooth tuning that is fatigue free and fun to listen to. The inline microphone and remote makes the S3 a great option for anyone who wants to get more serious about their music and want to upgrade from the stock earphones that came with their smartphone.  

Thanks for reading and happy listening!
DJScope
DJScope
Another great one mate! Straight up machine you are.
Pros: Good Build, Well-Rounded Sound
Cons: Straight 3.5 mm Jack, Driver Flux, Slight Fit Issue for My Small Ears, Little Too Smooth Sounding
Introduction:
            Hong Kong based Brainwavz has been making budget oriented IEMs for quite a few years now and has had a presence here on Head-Fi thanks to their generosity with providing review units to Head-Fiers. Their most recent creation, the S3, looks very much like its brothers in Brainwavz’s S line of IEMs, but still has its own unique characteristics. I received the S3 from Brainwavz for the purpose of this review and will, of course, provide an honest review of the S3.
 
Packaging and Accessories:
            Besides the Jive and Blu-100, all of Brainwavz’s IEMs I have received have come with a pretty standard packaging style with very similar, if not exactly the same, sets of accessories. The S3 comes in a well-designed box with a cover that opens up to show the IEMs inside the box as well as information about the IEM like details about the driver, housing, cable, and microphone remote. Inside the box, you find the carrying case with the S3 and a shirt clip inside as well as a bag with a fairly generous number of tips, a set of comply tips, and a warrantee slip. Unlike other Brainwavz IEMs, the S3 does not come with an included 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm adaptor since, with the microphone and remote, the S3 was designed for mobile use.
 
DSCN0012.jpg
Outside of Packaging
 
Build, Design, and Comfort:
            Like almost all Brainwavz IEMs (with only a few exceptions), the S3’s housing is constructed out of metal – more specifically, aluminum. The housing is a nice silver color with “Brainwavz” and the R/L indicators printed in red. There is also a small bass port at the top of the housing.  The S3 housing is solidly constructed and has very good strain relief connecting the housing to the cable. The only complaint I have for the housing of the S3 is that it seems the Brainwavz logo has scratched off a bit on the left housing. I’m not sure if that was my doing or if it came like that out of the box, but I’ve certainly not put the S3 through all that much torture. In fact, they’ve either spent their time on the shelf with my other IEMs or in my ears. They haven’t even left the house yet. I haven’t had the logo scratch out on any of my other Brainwavz IEM so I assume this isn’t a huge problem. As long as you put in some effort to protect your IEM, it should have no problems.
 
            One of my biggest criticisms of Brainwavz has always been their cable. I’m glad to hear that they’ve listened to their reviewers and consumers. Compared to the S5, which I reviewed sometime last year, the cable retains a similar style but is MUCH improved. I heard that Brainwavz uses the newer design of the cable on the S5 as well now, which is a great thing to hear. The cable is flat with a relatively small-sized Y-split and terminates into a straight 3.5 mm jack. Now I really wish Brainwavz would abandon the straight jack altogether. The Jive uses a 45 degree angled jack, so I’m not sure why the S3 doesn’t use the angled jack. My S5 actually ended up having some issues with the cable because of some issues with the straight jack. I would love to see more angled jacks from Brainwavz in the future.
 
            The S3 was designed for mobile use and, thus, comes with a microphone and remote. The remote has a good location on the cable (you’ll be surprised how many companies manage to mess that up) and feels sturdy enough. The remote has a rubbery feel to it that is similar to the cable’s material and the buttons are also slightly rubbery. The buttons have a gentle click when you push them which I rather like as it allows you to know that you’ve activated the button’s function.
 
DSCN0011.jpg
The Remote
 
            Brainwavz’s IEM designs have ranged from very comfortable and low profile, like the Jive, to something completely bizarre looking. Who could forget the time someone compared the R3 to a pair of water tanks? Regardless of how Brainwavz’s IEMs look, they’ve always been comfortable for me. The S3 for me, unfortunately, seems to be the first IEM to deviate from that a bit. The design of the S3 looks like it’s an in-between of the S5 and S0. Its housing is a little longer like that of the S5; however, it doesn’t have the tilted nozzle design like the S5 that makes it an over-the-ear IEM. Instead, the housing sticks straight out like the S0. Because of its additional length compared to the S0, however, the S3 sticks out of the ear a bit more. I’ve found that the S3 doesn’t stay in my ears as well as other Brainwavz IEMs because of this and it also tends to start shifting downwards after a while as well. That’s the one fit/comfort issue that I encountered on an otherwise solidly built and good sounding IEM.
 
            One other little problem I encountered with the S3 was driver flux. Taking the S3 in and out of my ears causes the drivers to make a crinkling sound, which isn’t an issue and is often normal for many dynamic IEMs. The issue is that sometimes a driver would be unable to move because of the pressure that built up from pushing the S3 into the ear canal. In such a case, adjusting the S3 a bit to relieve the pressure and let the driver move again, but it is a bit of a nuisance. It also makes one think about whole ADEL campaign from 64 Audio…
 
DSCN0009.jpg
Close-Up of the Housing of the S3
 
Specifications:
Specs provided by Brainwavz on the box of the S3:
 
-Drivers: Dynamic, 8 mm
-Rated Impedance: 16 Ohms
-Frequency Range: 16 Hz ~ 22 kHz
-Sensitivity: 96 dB at 1 mW
-Rated Input Power: 10 mW
-Plug: 3.5 mm, Gold-Plated
-Cables: 1.3 m Y-Cord, Copper
 
Listening Impressions:
            Listening of the S3 was done with my phone (mostly to test remote functions) as well as my Sony NW ZX2 and Asus Essence III. Both the ZX2 and Essence III are a bit overkill, but I use the Essence III to keep my listening consistent between different products, and the ZX2 is the only DAP I currently have.
 
            There has been a lot of controversy over the sound of the S3.Some people have stated that the S3 bass is bloated and bad, while others have stated that the bass has very poor extension, but is otherwise clean. Other Head-Fiers with the same measuring setup as I do as shown that their S3 unit is indeed lacking in extension, but my unit seems to show decent bass extension. I would say the bass is a bit rolled off, but it’s not 15 dB rolled off below 100 Hz. In fact, the bass on my S3 is actually quite excellent and is neither bloated nor overly thin. I’m not sure what’s going on with the inconsistencies of the S3 as this was not an issue in any prior Brainwavz product I’ve reviewed. Yes, tips matters, but it shouldn’t make as much of a difference as the discussions on the S3 impression thread suggests. But with that in mind, take my impressions of the S3 with a grain of salt as my unit possibly sounds different from yours?
 
            Edit: Brainwavz has chimed in and said that the few people that have reported a poor bass response may have the bass ports impaired or blocked off. That seems like a plausible explanation to me, as very few people have mentioned very poor bass response, and my biggest concern has been how rolled off the bass is. It is somewhat rolled off to me, but others feel that the roll off is very excessive.
 
            So as I’ve just said, I found the bass of the S3 to be very good. It’s probably one of the most well balanced bass that’s come out of the labs of Brainwavz. The bass is punchy but fantastically tight, making it also one of the most enjoyable bass I’ve heard from Brainwavz. The bass does start to roll of a little bit below 100 Hz, but only start to take a dive below 50 Hz or so, and only really struggle to produce rumble below 30 Hz. So overall, rolled off – yes, but not to the point where it sounds thin or can’t produce rumble. Instead, it has good impact with clean bass texture. The lower end tends to be the Achilles heel of many more affordable IEMs, but I was actually very happy with the performance of the S3 in the bass department. I didn’t put them on and immediate think “here we go again.” I found that it stands its ground very well.
 
            The midrange is actually where I felt the S3 performs well, but could be better. The midrange balance is very good and has a natural sound and timbre, but is just a bit too smooth sounding for me and can sound just a tiny bit veiled as well. Besides that point, the midrange has good presence, good separation, and good vocal presence as well, for a coherent sound. Vocal detail is also really good, but I do find instruments can be a little smoothed out and lack just a bit in texture as a result.
 
            The treble is smooth without any odd peaks besides having just a bit more energy around 5 kHz. The treble extension is also not fantastic, as the S3 seems to lose quite a bit of energy past 7 kHz or so and struggles past 15 kHz. However, the S3 doesn’t sound dark or suffer too much from a lack of air as a result. The treble does take more of a backseat as a result and isn’t as sparkly as other Brainwavz IEMs I’ve heard and is lacking in energy for someone like me who enjoys a bit more of a kick in the treble.
 
            For an IEM of its price, I thought the S3 performs admirably in terms of soundstage and imaging. Soundstage has a good bit of width with some sense of height and depth, and I would say is just a bit above what you might expect from an IEM in this price (Except maybe the GR07).
 
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Brainwavz S3
 
Ending Thoughts:
            I think the S3 is one of the most well-rounded IEM that Brainwavz offers. There are a lot of good things to say about its sound at its price, although I would say it is a safer and perhaps less exciting tuning. The build quality, as always from Brainwavz, is good, and the only major issue I found with the S3 is its smoother tuning and it’s fit for my ears.
 
            I’m still looking for that one big winner from Brainwavz though. Brainwavz makes good products, and I have no trouble recommending them – the S3 is no exception, but I still haven’t found the “clear winner” from Brainwavz. I do think that with each product release, Brainwavz is getting better at what they do though. Build and design have generally seen an upwards trend, and the tuning of their IEMs are more and more suited to my personal taste as well. Again, I give Brainwavz a thumbs up on the S3, but I still want to see that big breakthrough from Brainwavz!
avitron142
avitron142
Shouldn't quality control be a con? Say someone only ends up reading the pros, cons, and conclusion. He'll have no idea about the radically different-sounding pairs.
Cotnijoe
Cotnijoe
@avitron142 Ahh good catch good catch. completely went over my head on that one for some reason lol... Yea I'll leave QC up there as well. Thanks for the heads up!
avitron142
avitron142
Great review, by the way. Very readable and informative - too many people do the second and not the first xD
Pros: Build quality, Accessories, Relaxed sound
Cons: Nozzle size, Not a great value at current price
[Disclaimer: Pandora from Brainwavz reached out to me for a review. I'm in no way affiliated with the company and frankly, I'm quite humbled that I was asked to post my thoughts!]
 
Short Review
The S3 is yet another sub-$100 offering from Brainwavz (this time with inline controls) that, like its siblings, yields quite a bit of bang for your buck. It has what I'd call 'a conservative' sound signature that is pretty good at most things, but not really great at any.
 
Here's the breakdown:
 
Packaging/Accessories/Build Quality
 
Well, Brainwavz has made a name for itself through it's trademark packaging/accessory kit. The S3 comes with an excellent hard case, good selection of tips, and superb build quality, all per usual. The aluminum housings look and feel very premium. They certainly give these IEMs a very impressive look! Strain reliefs and plugs are all great - just what we've come to expect from Brainwavz.
 
Sound
 
First thought that comes to mind: good, not great. The signature is very reminiscent of the company's S0, their budget offering, but honestly I think I like the S0 better... The S3 is detailed and smooth, but not at any point has it impressed me. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't do anything really poorly, but I don't feel like it excels a lot either.
 
Bass: Similar findings to my thoughts on the S0 "Bear in mind, the bass changed the most with tip-rolling if you ask these ears. With the pre-installed tips, the bass was Grado-esque. Punchy and dynamic, rich in mid-bass, not as much in sub-bass. Present, but not very meaty or terribly thick." This IEM presents a perfect example of what it means for bass to be heard rather than felt. I will say that going to the Comply tips and a pair of double-flanges, the midbass was pushed a bit forward, but because the subbass is weak, made the overall bass sound a little more unbalanced.
 
Mids: Smooth and clean. Definitely the most mature part of the S3's signature. The upper mids are a little more forward than their lower counterparts. Female vocals a la Florence + The Machine or Eva Cassidy are very pleasant and realistic. Male vocals are a little recessed, often blurred thanks to electric guitar or keyboard. Not as much fun for Pearl Jam or Pseudopod here.
 
Treble: In a word: polite. Not very extended, but not so rolled off that things are unlistenable. Hihats in Snarky Puppy are a touch zingy, and unfortunately don't get much better with tip-rolling. For the average Joe, the treble should be just fine.
 
Soundstage/Separation/Imaging: Straight from the S0 review: "Decent but nothing to write home about. L to R placement is accurate and probably better than average at this price point. The sense of space isn't huge, but I never felt like it was collapsed or congested either." Overall, not bad, but I think better can be found in this price range.
 
 
Microphone
I believe that the inline controls are the reason for the slightly higher price tag. They work wonderfully and microphone is certainly better than that found on the iPod Earbuds. If you need a sub-$100 IEM and a microphone is high on your priority list, then I think is definitely a model to consider.
 
Overall, the S3 from Brainwavz is a decent all-rounder that will please the average listener. For head-fi though, my thinking is good, not great. Better sound can be found for the price, but finding a better sound with inline controls and this level of build quality will be tough. If those two are your priority, then I don't think you have to look any further. 
Pros: Balanced, biger sound stage, fatigue free, Build is good.
Cons: Does nothing exceptional. One shouls not complain though for this price.

 Intro:-
 
 None of us need introduction to Brainwavz, we know about this Hong Kong based company for its super value products and for its awesome accessories, Brainwavz have been busy introducing new products lately.
 Last time they came up with a BT headphone for kids, the time around it’s an earphone from their prospering S series lineup. It already has 3 earphones in this line up, S0, S1 and S5 to be precise.
 This time they have the S3 with Clearwavz remote and microphones for apple and possible support for android, Priced $80, slots right between S1 and S5, it’s the first time an “S” series earphone is launched with MIC and remote and now the whole “S” series has this Clearwavz MIC and remote.
 S3 should face tough competition from VSD5, IM-70 and RE-400 and possibly from S5 too and I will compare these with the S3.
 Before we start, let me thank Brainwavz and Pandora for giving me this opportunity to review the S3.
 I am not in a wasting mood, so let’s go full speed!!
 

IMG_20150923_155722.jpg  IMG_20150923_155824.jpg
 
 
 
IMG_20150923_155754.jpg 

 ACCESSORIES and MISCELEANIOUS:-
 
 The whole package is so so “S” series type. Similar black box with a flap which revels some illustrates details about the earphone. Has the ever so common Red black zipper carry case too. You will find 9 pairs of eartips too. 3 pairs of single flange red core and sony style eartips in S/M/L size, one pair of bi and tri flange and a pair of comply T-400 tips. There is a cable clip too.
 Build quality is nothing to fault about. Just like others from S series this one too has all metal housing, but this time its lighter, has a vent on the top of the shell. L/R marking is easy too, put the side with the remote unit in your left ear, simple. Even when t is slightly bigger than average, Ergonomics is nice. You can wear it over ear and cable down with ease. There are some sharp edges at the starting point of the shell and at the back too but not bothering.
 S3 has the exact black cable we saw on the S0, same stress reliever, straight 3.5 mm jack and splitter too. Not heavy, not bouncy hence microphonics is under control, not exactly awesome but not bad with comply tips. Isolation is good too.

IMG_20150923_155920.jpg  IMG_20150923_155946.jpg
 
IMG_20150923_155956.jpg  IMG_20150923_160223.jpg

 REMOTE and MIC:-
 
 Now this is the first “S” earphone that lunched with a remote. It has a Clearwavz remote and microphone. This three button remote unit is specially made for apple devices. I don’t have an apple device to test but I do have some android devices.
 Sadly my Redmi 1s struggled to even recognize it, I had to ground the connection by pressing the middle button and then only 1s reckons that a headphone is inserted, even then on most occasions remote unit does not work, it shows as a headphone only, not head set.
 Thankfully S3 works fine with my Zenfone 2 and Meizu M2 but works like a single button remote. Single press picks and ends calls. If not on a call, single press will play music and another press will pause it, double and triple press results into skipping tracks forward and backward respectively. Easy and simple to operate, sadly you can’t control the volume from remote.

P51020-131719.jpg  P51020-131846.jpg

 SOUND QUALITY:-
 
 S3 does belong to the S series but it sounds more like M1 and R3. Some of my friends found it bass, some found it not so bassy. And we figured out that S3’s signature is really tip dependent. It sounds bassy with narrow bore tips and less bassy with wide bore and Comply tips. For me, it’s a warm, brighter and cozy sounding earphone, where as S0 sounds border line dark, and S5 sounds dark and edgy.
 I am not a huge fan of EQ, still, let me tell you that S3 responds really well to EQs.
 I am using Comply tips for this review and not going to confirm how S3 sounds with other tips as I faced driver flex and vacuum problems with single flange tips and I was not getting a proper seal with bi-tri flange tips.
 
 Here are some tracks that I sued for this review.
 James blunt – 1973(my fav track),
  Adele - set fire to the rain,
  Paul lindford and Chris vrenna – most wanted mash up.
  Plan-B – playing with fire.
 Coldplay – Another’s arms,
 Jessie J- sweet talker,
 Boom Vox - Crave the Change (ft. spose)
The Avener – Castle in the snow (feat. Kadebostany)
 Tinie Tempah- wonderman feat Ellie Goulding,
 George Barnett- super hero in a ball and Down on me (this guy knows what he is doing).
 Breaking Benjamin- Who wants to live forever (Queens Cover, new mix).
 Lupe Fiasco- Adoration of the magi Feat. Crystal Torres
 John Newman and Calvin Harris – blame.
Imagine dragons – Roots and Amsterdam.
 
LOWS:-
 
 S3 has better bass quality when compared to other from the “s” series, isn’t that overdone, just enough to keep me seated. Not lean by any means, it’s meaty and juicy, has nice body to it too, will show its visceral thump when called upon, but not bass head type. Some of my friends at head-fi found it less bassy than Jive, some found it overly bassy, but not me. For me S3 has a fairly natural sounding bass with more air and thump. It has better slam and rumble. In other words it sounds more mature and evolved.
 I won’t call this bass exactly fast but it’s better than R3, S5 and S0. R3 lacks body with similar decay. And yes, R3’s decay is not exactly fast, doesn’t matter how balanced it is. S5 has slightly slower decay and has bigger boomier bass marred by lack of sub bass and mid bass prominence. S3 does better, has better sub bass presence, and doesn’t stress much on mid bass. Extension is nothing to complain about, goes as deep as 20-25Hz, deep enough.
 S3’s bass has plenty of details, has good control too, unlike A73 which was ill tampered.  Bleeding in to mid range is not a thing to worry about too. the best thing is how this bass feels like a single piece of spectrum, this type of smooth transaction from sub bass to upper bass is something I has not seen from Brainwavz.
 All I can fault about is that bass notes lacks depth, doesn’t bite enough. All in all, bass is done well or say better.
 
MID RANGE:-
 
 Unlike other “S” series earphones, S3 isn’t V-shaped, it sounds balanced, more balanced when compared to IM-70, S5, S0, even E50, Keep in mind that R3 is considered as a Mid centric earphone, Not the case with S3.
 Now you all know how much I admire good mids, and S3 is going to be praised here. I won’t over exaggerate anything but it has loads of details and plenty of texture, Let it be that transparency and accuracy with lower mids and instruments, or let it be its cohesive and precise nature of vocals, S3 has nailed it for its price, thanks to its bigger than usual stage size. Nothing comes close, nothing, nothing. Not even VSD5, what VSD5 has is sharper and deeper notes. When compared to more mid centric earphones like SHE9850, R3 and RE-400, S3 lacks some micro detailing and transparency but makes up with its presentation and imaging.
 When it comes to vocals, I had not heard an earphone sound this accurate and engaging for a while. Last one was RE-400. It has better accuracy when it comes to note’s thickness. Male vocals sound thick, energetic and full bodied, female vocals sound sharp and has better bite. Now I prefer male vocals here, they sound outright manly and pleasing.
 S3 has one of the biggest stage I have heard on an earphone, bigger and deeper than S5, S0, E50, A151p 2nd gen, UE600, RE-400 and even VSD-5. Lacks some height against Titan-1 and R3 but has better depth than R3. This really helps with placement precision.
 Brainwavz deserves a pat on their back for this effort and also for not tuning it like a typical S series earphone. I like it!!
 
HIGHS:-
 
 Highs do take the back seat, does not exactly keeps up with the energy of mid range, highs neither lacking energy nor overly sparky, unlike any other Brainwavz earphones I have experienced, it has some energy and it shows. Transition from upper mids to lower highs is comparatively smooth. Has nice clarity and transparency. Highs have nice presence and sharpness without sounding tiring or bothering, one should forget about sibilance or harshness.
 Highs have enough details and texture, thanks to its bigger stage layering, separation and instrument placing is spot on, clarity is not awesome but more than enough. Extension is good but slightly lacking when compared to R3 or Titan-1. Overall its presentation is smoother than Jive and A151p 2nd gen, not as smooth as RE-400 or R3 but still on the smoother side.
 When compared to others from S series, S3 sounds better. S0 is lacking energy and extension. S5’s highs are splashy and edgy with similar extension.

IMG_20150923_162107.jpg
 
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S3 on right, S5 on Left.
P51020-124525.jpg

CONCLUSION:-
 
 All in all, S3 is a mature sounding earphone when compared to other “s” series earphones. 4 words, balanced, smoother, soothing, and engaging can explain how this earphone sounds. I will even go out and state that it sounds better than earphones like IM-70 and VSD-5. S5 does have some more details but it sounds bassy, dark and splashy and is not as engaging as S3.
 I won’t call it a details monster, but it’s a jack of all trades. Does everything nicely, doesn’t excel at anything.
 When it comes to value, you have to give it a pat on its back, nicely accessorized against earphones in its price range and come with a remote + MIC set up.
 If you are out on the market for a fantastic sounding earphone for your mobile phone, S3 should be on the top of your list for under $100.
 
 You can buy yours from here.
http://www.brainwavzaudio.com/collections/earphones/products/brainwavz-s3-earphones
 http://www.amazon.com/Brainwavz-Isolating-Earphones-Clearwavz-Microphone/dp/B0162C1P9O/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1445328763&sr=8-14&keywords=Brainwavz
 
 Cheers guys, and sorry for not including comparisons. Ask me if you want any.
 
 Have a nice time!! And for we Indians, Happy Dushehera. Enjoy!!

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avitron142
avitron142
What about fit or comfort?
suman134
suman134
Sorry for the delay, comfort is not a problem with comply tips, fairly lite weight and comfortable.
Pros: Great build, good accessories and very pleasant and well balance sound
Cons: Difficult to wear over the ear, a bit of roll of in both ends
I would like to start with saying thank you to Brainwavz and Pandora for letting me check out the Brainwavz S3.
 
The Brainwavz S3 is available from here:
http://www.brainwavzaudio.com/collections/earphones/products/brainwavz-s3-earphones
 
I’m not in any way affiliated with Brainwavz or MP4Nation.
 
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About me:
I’m a 43 year old music and sound lover that changed my focus from speakers to headphones and IEM’s about five years ago. At that time I realized that it wasn’t realistic for me to have all the different setups that I wanted and still house a family of four children and a wife so my interest turned first to full sized headphones and later also IEM’s.
 
My preferences are towards full sized open headphones and I believe that also says something about what kind of sound signature I prefer (large soundstage in all directions, balanced and organic sound).
 
My music preferences are pretty much all over the place (only excluding classical music, jazz and really heavy metal). My all-time favorite band is Depeche Mode although I also listen to a lot of grunge/indie, singer/songwriter/acoustical stuff as well as the typical top 40 music.
I do not use EQ, ever.
 
I’m a sucker for value for money on most things in life, Head-Fi related stuff is no exception.
 
IMG_3012.jpg
 
 
Built and accessories:
The Brainwavz S3’s are a single dynamic driver in ear monitor.
 
It comes “only” in one flavor, silver color with Brainwavz Clearaudio mic/remote for the fruit company devices. The answer/call (same as play/pause) button and mic works great with my Sony Z3compact phone though.
 
The cable has a straight 3.5 mm connector. Although I personally prefer L-shaped (45 or 90 degrees) connectors this one seems very well built and should hold up for a long time. The chin slider is also in place.
 
The cable is flat and quite thick. Although I don’t mind a flat cable I’d prefer it to be thinner and more flexible There’s some microphonics but I’d even say it’s slightly worse than average for an IEM. Unfortunately the placing of the microphone makes it rather difficult to wear them over the ear if you’d like to be able to use the mic as well.
 
The build seems very solid in the way we’re used to from Brainwavz. The housings are all metal and strain relief is in place on all the crucial points. The Y-split is also solid without being overly large.
 
The retail package is nice and feels representative for an IEM in this price bracket.
 
The accessories pack is decent for the price and includes the following:
1 pairs Comply T-400 tips (M)
3 pairs wide bore silicon tips (S,M,L)
3 pairs of narrow bore silicon tips (S, M, L)
1 pair of bi-flange tips
1 pair of tri-flange tips
1 velcro cable tie
1 shirt clip
1 zipped case to store them in when not in use
 
The Brainwavz S3’s are harder than average to drive but still works fine even with my weak (in power) Sony Z3 Compact phone. Isolation is above average.
 
Please note that Brainwavz recently extended their warranty to last for 24 months (earlier it was 12 months) for all their products. Pretty impressive to me, let’s hope that other manufactures learn from this and offer the same in the future.
 
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The specs:
Housing
Metal
Driver Unit
Dynamic 8mm
Frequenzy range
16Hz-22KHz
Sensitivity
96dB
Impedance
16 Ohms
Cable lenght
1.3m
 
Fit and ergonomics:
I find the S3’s to be very comfortable. That being said I would have preferred them to have the angled nozzle and over the ear fit as the S5 has. I find that design even more comfortable and like the over ear fit that helps reduce sibilance significantly.
 
As already mentioned the cable is also a bit too thick for my liking and the placement of the mic makes it difficult to wear the S3’s over the ear.
 
I’d also like to mention that the S3’s a pretty fit and tip dependent in the way they sound, more so than the average IEM. This mean that you might have to play around awhile with them to find your best fit but when you do you’ll be rewarded with an excellent performance.
 
IMG_3026.jpg
The angled nozzle on the S5, makes them extremely comfortable to wear.
 
Sound:
I’ve used these as my main IEM for the last two weeks and they’ve played for well over 100 hours. I’ve used them both around the house and when out and about and I haven’t really found any significant weaknesses in the way they’re designed.
 
I’ve used them with my Sony Xperia Z3 Compact phone, the SHOZY Lancea and the CEntrance DACport Slim and they’ve worked very well with all of them.
 
Demo list:
Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia
Røyksopp (Feat.Susanne Sundfør) – Save Me
Ane Brun – These Days
Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana
Metallica – Die Die My Darling
The Peter Malick Group – Immigrant
Eva Cassidy – Songbird
Thomas Dybdahl – A Lovestory
Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why
Celldweller – Unshakeable
Jack Johnson – Better Together
Seinabo Sey – Younger (Kygo remix)
Dire Straits- So Far Away
Passenger – Let Her Go
Lupe Fiasco - Deliver
Morrissey – Earth Is the Loneliest Planet
 
I like the S3’s best with narrow bore tips since I find them to bring out more bass than the wide bore ones do.
 
The overall sound signature on the S3 is fairly well balanced. The presentation is without any obvious spikes and peaks. Both soundstage width and depth is slightly above average for an IEM.
 
The bass have some roll off and doesn’t reach really low and because of this it lack a bit of impact in the lowest notes. Apart from this bass seems well balanced across the spectrum and there’s very little bass bleeding into the midrange. The bass is pretty fast and well controlled and I find them enjoyable with all kinds of music genres.
 
The midrange is pretty well balanced with the rest of the frequencies. I’d even go as far as saying that they’re mid-forward and that the midrange is the best asset of the S3’s. Mid bass is enough to give male voices good weight but they still sound crisp and clear. Vocals are very well reproduced and come across as clear and forward without ever being shouty.  
 
The treble is nice and full without any hint of sibilance. Although the top-end sparkle’s not the most noticeable and the treble rolls of a bit earlier than I prefer I still find them to have a nice non-intrusive treble presentation.
 
Clarity and micro details are about average for an IEM in this price point.
 
In all I find the sound from the S3’s to be very enjoyable but maybe lack some excitement.
 
Comparison:
Please note that the comments in the comparison section are not in absolute terms but in comparison between subject A and B. This means (as an example) that if subject A is found to be brighter than subject B it does not necessarily mean that subject A is bright sounding in absolute terms. I hope this makes sense.
 
Brainwavz S0, S5 and R3 vs Brainwavz S3:
Since I’m sure that a lot of people will be wondering how the S3 will compare to the rest of the S-series I thought I do kind of a short summery of differences and similarities between them here before I compare the S3 to a couple of other offerings. Since I don’t own the S1 I opted to through in the R3 as well.
 
Compared to the S0 the S3 has noticeable less mid-bass while sub-bass and treble is quite similar. I do find the S3 more refined and better balanced in its presentation.
 
Compared to the S5 the S3 has significantly less both sub- and mid-bass impact. The S5 also has a thinner treble with better extension. The S5 is also better with details, soundstage and separation while the S3 offers a much more balanced overall sound.
 
Compared to the R3 the balance of the S3 is pretty similar with a mid-forward presentation that rolls off in both ends. The R3 has a more intimate presentation and S3 has better soundstage width as well as a less warm presentation.
 
IMG_3030.jpg
The siblings: S5, S3 and S0.
  
Soundmagic E80 vs Brainwavz S3:
Compared to the S3’s the E80’s has a similar soundstage width but better depth. Clarity and separation is pretty similar on the two. The E80’s has much better sub-bass extension and impact while mid-bass is quite similar. Midrange on both is very good and is more similar than different.  Top end on them is also pretty similar and none of them are prone to sibilance.
 
I like the fit on both of these and they’re equally comfortable.
 
They’re both slightly harder than average to drive with the E80 being hardest of the two.
 
Isolation is good on both of these.
 
 
Havi B3 Pro1 vs Brainwavz S3:
Compared to the S3 the B3’s has a bigger soundstage in all directions. They also, surprisingly, have an overall fuller sound with more mid-bass presence and the sub-bass reaches lower. The B3’s are also even smoother and more liquid in its presentation. The B3’s has slightly better treble extension and none of them are prone to sibilance.
 
I find the S3’s to be more comfortable and easier to get a good fit with.
 
The S3’s are significantly easier to drive.
 
Isolation is better with the S3’s.
 
Summary:
All together I find the Brainwavz S3 to be a solid offering at its price. It has great build quality, good amount of accessories and a well balance sound that really appeals to me. I’d even go as far as saying that it replaced the R3 as my favorite Brainwavz IEM.
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earfonia
earfonia
Good review and pictures!
peter123
Pros: Brainwavz' signature accessories package. Solid build quality.
Cons: Horrendous bass performance which messes up the rest of the sound signature.
 

Intro

Before I begin, I would like to sincerely thank Pandora at Brainwavz for providing the review sample of the Brainwavz S3 you see in this review. Please note that I am neither affiliated with Brainwavz or any of its staff, nor am I being paid in any form for writing this review. All opinions expressed in the following review are strictly my own unless otherwise specified, and all photos are taken and own by me. Finally, please take the following review with a grain of salt. Thanks!
 
With the recently-released Brainwavz Jive that met universally positive reactions from the audiophile community, many of us there hoped for one thing: a higher-end follow-up to the Jive. With a beautiful sound signature at a thirty dollar price tag, a higher price tag would allow Brainwavz to improve the sound even further and provide a more robust build to make one hell of a competitor in its price bracket. And, well, just about a couple weeks ago, they announced the release of the Brainwavz S3, an 80-dollar IEM that may or may not be that successor the audiophiles have been waiting for. Is it? Find out after the jump.
 
 

== Aesthetics ==

Packaging, Accessories

DSC02644.jpg DSC02660.jpg
 
The Brainwavz S3 arrives in the standard-issue S-series packaging: smooth, solid, fancy box with a flap on the front that opens to reveal the IEM case and the Comply eartips. The rest of the box is labelled with the usual stuff: marketing, features, specifications, pictures, the works.
 
Opening up the box, you get the full Brainwavz accessories package: eight pairs of silicone eartips in various sizes, a pair of Comply T-series foam eartips, a shirt clip, Brainwavz’ standard IEM case, and an impressive two-year warranty. All in all, it’s par for the course with Brainwavz’ latest IEM.
 
 

Design, Build, Microphonics

 
DSC02672.jpg
 
At first glance, there is something that can be universally agreed on: Brainwavz didn't call the S3 the “Silver Bullet” for nothing. I mean, look at it. It might not be an actual bullet, but it's silver, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. I even think they're the best-looking IEMs Brainwavz has made so far. The combination of silver, black, and red is used in such a way that doesn't look too flashy and remains easy on the eyes while still being quite eye-catching. One thing I noticed is that the housings seem to take design elements from the rest of the S series, as you can see in the comparison image above. Looks-wise, they've definitely become one of my favourites.
 
However, I can't say I'd say the same about their design. One of my major concerns is with driver flex – an issue echoed by many other reviewers that have also received the S3 early. The housings, as I found, have only one vent per housing for its single dynamic driver. Though I can't say having only one vent is a problem, I could say it is a problem in this case in particular. To take this into perspective, all of the other Brainwavz IEMs I've reviewed exhibit some degree of driver flex, but none of them has this problem occur in both channels and one that creates a very strong vacuum seal when I insert them normally. Foam eartips seem to rectify the pressure issue, but unless you decide to purchase more, the included Comply eartips will wear out before long, leaving you with the silicone eartips and the driver flex.
 
Nonetheless, the S3 is still built quite impeccably, despite the driver flex issue. The cables, strain reliefs, and Y-split are identical to that used on the S0, and the housings are still made from solid aluminium. The brand-new Clearwavz remote and mic work very well and are built as solidly as the rest of the IEM. The housing is really robust and the buttons have a tactile, audible click when you press down on them. All in all I feel the S3 is more than capable of handling some level of abuse, but the driver flex issue still worries me quite a bit.
 
 

Fit, Comfort, Isolation

The Brainwavz S3 is actually quite easy to fit – however, their driver flex issues tend to cause discomfort due to the vacuum seal of the silicone eartips. As I stated earlier, you could use the Comply eartips to deal with the problem, but either way the S3 is quite comfortable to wear. Their isolation is pretty typical for an IEM – able to block out voices and home ambience to a whisper. So far, nothing too outstanding here.
 
 

== Sound ==

Specs

 
Headphone Type
Closed-back vented in-ear monitor
Driver Type
Single 8mm dynamic
Frequency Response
16 – 22,000 Hz
Rated Input Power
10 mW
Sensitivity
96 dB @ 1 mW
Impedance
16 Ohms
Weight
N/A
Cable
1.3m flat OFC cable
Connector
3.5mm (1/8”) straight gold-plated TRRRS connector
Accessories
3x sets red/grey single-flange silicone eartips (S/M/L)
3x sets black single-flange silicone eartips (S/M/L)
1x set black bi-flange silicone eartips (M)
1x set black tri-flange silicone eartips (M)
1x set Comply T-400 premium foam eartips (M)
Shirt clip
Velcro cable tie
Instruction manual & warranty card (24 months)
 
 

Equipment, Burn-in

The source equipment used in this review is a fifth-generation iPod Touch and an iPad 3 directly running the Brainwavz S3, and a PC running iTunes 12 and Foobar2k powering the Jive through a Schiit Fulla DAC/Amp. The EQ apps used in their respective test is TuneShell on iOS and Electri-Q on the PC. The eartips used on the S3 are mainly the included Comply eartips, although I will provide impressions ohe stock eartips in the following assessment. The list of the test tracks I listen to while reviewing the Jive can be found here, although I will include links to specific songs in the review for a more direct point of reference.
 
I have burned-in the Brainwavz S3 for about 50 hours prior to writing the review, with several listening sessions in between. Over this period I noticed no changes to the sound of the S3, and I doubt anything else would occur after that. Without further ado, let's get to the sound.
 
 

Sound Quality

DSC02665.jpg
 
Bass:
Let's talk about bullets – they're small, fast, and hits quite lightly. Well, in terms of bass performance, the S3 is more akin to that of a Bullet Bill than a bullet. (If you don't know what a Bullet Bill is, it's those cannon shells from Super Mario Bros.) Basically, the S3’s bass is big, sluggish, and has a weighty impact. Now that I think about it, it feels like the S3 took the warmth of the S0 and the impact of the S1 and combined them into one IEM. And the result? One of my most disliked bass responses in any Brainwavz IEM I've ever reviewed so far. 
 
Now, the thing is, I actually really like Brainwavz’ IEMs. The S5 was excellent. The R3 even more so. The Jive I just reviewed even more so than that. And, well, the S3’s low-end response is just so warm and thick that it distracts me from the music. The kick of the bass drum overpowers in quantity and not impact, and acoustic and electric bass notes get emphasised to the point where they ring out through the whole recording (ProleteR – Valentine’s DayMasashi Hamauzu – Can't Catch a Break). And, in addition, the S3 isn't the type of bass that bassheads would prefer. Despite not lacking in sheer quantity, the S3’s bass lacks raw impact and has considerable roll-off at the deep end. It’s more of the bass one would prefer when listening to the bright vintage recordings from bygone decades. And for an EDM freak like me, the kind of bass I'm hearing from the S3 is about the complete opposite of what I'm looking for.
 
 
Midrange:
The S3 had a warm, thick midrange, much like the S1 and a host of other IEMs I've reviewed in the past. And the one thing I found common amongst all of them is that I didn't like any of them. I'll be honest here: I don't like a warm, thick midrange – and especially not one as thick as the S3. It just sounds so warm. Guitars have a very flabby feel to them, lacking the tactility in recordings I hear from joust about every other IEM I have. Pianos, as on other warm IEMs I have, sound horrible as always (Yiruma – Indigo), each song sounding like I'm listening to them from behind ten layers of theatre curtains. Singers just sound like they're gargling pitch. It's just really irritating to the ears having to listen to the warm mess that is the S3.
 
 
Treble:
The S3 seems to take from the treble of the S0 here in that it is also about as laid-back as the latter IEM. This, I think, is why I seem to dislike the S3 so much. It's just so laid-back that the bass overwhelms the rest of the sound. And the thing is, I love my treble sparkly and bright – a contrast to the more weathered ears that are the other reviewers of the S3 on Head-Fi. So there's that. There's really not much more to say here.
 
 
DSC02688.jpg
 
 
Soundstage/Presentation:
The S3 has about as decent of a soundstage as you would expect from an S-series IEM: far from expansive, but not too congested, either. Spatial imaging is good and up to par with Brainwavz’ other IEMs. All in all there’s really not much to say other than it’s decent.

 
Genre Proficiency:
Personally I never found bassy IEMs with smoothed-down treble any good at, well, anything. EDM tracks overwhelm in the low-end, but are mostly decent. Modern pop recordings are also a bit more tolerable compared to the next genres I mention. Slow jazz is almost entirely gobbled up by the acoustic bass on the recordings I listen to (Francisco Cerda – ‘Round Gunpoint). Solo piano recordings sound thick, muddy, and notes are almost lost in the warmth of the S3. And last but not least, we have classical music, which is absolutely horrendous to listen to on the Brainwavz S3 (Gareth Coker – Fleeing Kuro). 
 

Summary:
I will go on record to say that this is probably the worst-sounding IEM I’ve ever heard from Brainwavz.  Yes, I definitely just wrote that, and yes, you’re definitely reading this. The S3’s overall sound signature is a complete mess, with emphasised bass that almost completely covers what’s left of the already laid-back treble. And, unlike other reviewers’ impressions, it seems that, the more I listen to the S3, the more I notice everything I dislike about it, and I end up hating them even more. I don’t think I’ve ever been as disappointed in a Brainwavz IEM as in the S3. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed with a Brainwavz IEM at all. This is definitely a new low for me, and that I’m not going to lie about.
 
 

Other Media

Games:
To be honest, they don't sound too bad with games. Or casual games, at least. FPS games with their bass-heavy explosions are simply intolerable. If you're thinking of playing CS:GO, don't even think about it. You'll do yourself a massive favour. If you play FarmVille, though, I don't see anything that's too wrong with that.
 
 
Movies:
No. Just no.
 
  

EQ Response

The S3, luckily, is responsive enough to be EQ’d to a more tolerable sound signature. A few adjustments to the low-end frequencies really opened up the sound of the S3, and at that point I found myself a little dismayed that this wasn't how the S3 was tuned in the first place. Basically just cut down everything from 400 Hz down to taste if you're lazy and use an iOS device, the Bass Reducer preset works just fine.
 
 

Value

The Brainwavz S3, retails for about $80 at Brainwavz’ parent company, MP4Nation. At this point I'm actually having a lot of trouble gauging the value of the S3 for the money since, as you can already tell, I dislike the IEM to no end. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” after all. So if you happen to like the Brainwavz S3’s sound signature, then by all means, go for it.
 
 

Comparison

DSC02678.jpg
 
Versus Brainwavz S0 ($50):
The Brainwavz S0 is Brainwavz’ cheapest product in the S-series lineup, and one which I hold in very high regard. The S0 did not fail to impress me with its smooth sound signature that was really pleasing to the ear. Against this smooth operator, the S3 did not stand a chance. As I stated earlier, the S3 bore some similarities to the S0 sound-wise, especially in the treble. However, the S3’s bass boost made them sound much darker and more bloated-sounding compared to the S0.
 
 
Versus Brainwavz S1 ($80):
The S0 was Brainwavz’ first IEM designated under the S series, sporting the distinct style and consumer-oriented sound signatures present in later models. The S3 carries both characteristics over quite well, but I really was not fond of the sound signature. Directly comparing the two, I found the S1 to have a rather artificial treble boost around 8-10 kHz, so in terms of the most natural signature the S3 gains the upper hand. But overall the S3’s bass was just too overpowering to bear.
 
 

== Conclusion ==

DSC02696.jpg
 
I have already said it earlier in this review, but I’m going to have to say it again: the Brainwavz S3 is my most disliked IEM from Brainwavz. A horrendous low-end coupled with a sound signature that could only be described as mediocre at best, topped off with major driver flex issues make for an IEM I simply cannot recommend.
 
Category
Score
Comment
Packaging, Accessories
8/10
Brainwavz’ trademark packaging and accessories package still doesn’t fail to impress me.
Design, Build, Microphonics
6.5/10
The S3 combines a sleek look with a solid build – however, the IEM exhibits a driver flex issue at a level I can only describe as dire.
Fit, Comfort, Isolation
7/10
The S3 fits quite comfortably – that is, if you manage to get it fit right without the drivers crackling in your ears all the time. With stock eartips they manage to block out noise pretty well.
Microphone
N/A
 
Bass
5/10
The S3’s low-end is just…horrible. Noticeable sub-bass roll-off, copious amounts of upper bass, and not enough treble to balance it out – if that isn’t the worst bass I’ve ever heard, then I don’t know what is.
Midrange
6/10
The S3’s midrange is about decent at best. It's warm, thick, and overall isn't very good to listen to with anything beyond electronic genres.
Treble
6/10
The S3's treble would actually be okay were it not for the IEM’s overpowering low-end.
Presentation
6/10
Their soundstage is actually quite decent. Good size and imaging, but the low-end echoes through most of it that details are clouded to a degree.
Gaming, Movies
5.5/10
The S3 is an IEM I definitely cannot recommend for either gaming or movies. After all, they sound bad enough with music; why bother?
EQ Response
7/10
A simple EQ tweak really unlocked the potential of the S3 which, sadly, never came to be in the final production model.
Value
5/10
 
Total
6.2/10
The Brainwavz S3 is an IEM I cannot recommend at its $80 dollar price tag.
 
 

Suggestions for Improvement

Sometime during the writing of this review I heard that the Brainwavz S3 would be the final model being released under the S series. With that being said, I don't think I can say much on improving the IEM unless Brainwavz decides to re-release the IEMs with a sort of 2nd-generation moniker. So, I guess ill leave it at that.
 
 

Shout-Outs, Gallery

Again, I would like to thank Pandora at Brainwavz for providing the sample of the Brainwavz S3 for review. As much as I dislike the S3, it’s still no doubt a well-made IEM. In the meantime, you can check out more pictures I took of the Brainwavz S3 here and my other Brainwavz reviews here.
 
As always, this has been thatBeatsguy of DB Headphones; thanks for reading!
 
 

About the Company

At Brainwavz we have a simple mission, to produce innovative, high quality audio products with a dedicated focus on high-end sound at a realistic price. Our strength, success and product range is built on our unique relationship with our customers and users, a relationship that has produced a simple and obvious result. We give real-users real sound quality. 2014 will see Brainwavz pushing forward with an expanded product line, continuing with unique and innovative products, from earphones to headphones to audio accessories.
 
Company website: www.yourbrainwavz.com
 
 
 

Changelog

Pros: Realistic sound signature, sturdy build, Clearwavz mic/remote for iOS, accessory pack
Cons: Less bass than S5, isolation
Disclaimer. I was provided a pair of S3's by Brainwavz for my honest and unbiased review. Second disclaimer, I'm a big fan of the Brainwavz house sound, especially the latest offerings. It amazes me the quality of sound they are able to extract from a single dynamic driver.
 
This, like my other reviews, will be a little different. I won't go into as much detail as some reviewers as the the esoteric minutia of sound science and will instead concentrate on how these sound compared to REAL instruments and live music played in venues from concert halls to clubs to recording studios. I listen to a wide variety of music but skewed heavily toward acoustic. I also listen to a variety of sources, computer>DAC>amp, DAP's and even vinyl through my Denon receiver.
 
A little background. I'm a middle aged audio enthusiast who comes from a very musical family. I proficiently play the piano, guitar, trumpet and have sung semi-professionally in the past. I've played in groups from bands and orchestras to rock and pop bands as well as various singing groups since I was 10 years old and continue to love and seek out live music performances of many genres but most specifically acoustic type music. I don't listen to and won't comment on the use of these IEM's with electronic music. Being an old geezer who remembers the advent of "hi-fi" and lived through the salad days of the music and stereo/revolution I feel like I have a bit of a unique perspective. I've heard great analog music on high end systems and different formats from vinyl to tape (reel to reel) to the dawn of the digital age and now the so called "hi res" music era. As wonderful as digital music is, it has nothing on old school vinyl on a classic system and it's been interesting and enlighening to hear a lot of the same music in so many different formats over the years (including SACD and DVDAudio) and compare them. My first good system was a Dual turntable with a Stanton cartridge played thru McIntosh separates and hand built JBL S6 speakers. Not a Walkman or iPod in sight! 

 
 
So, to begin. The packaging is nice, Typical Brainwavz fare. It's nice to see a somewhat larger selection of tips included than other IEM's often do, although I'm not a huge fan of Complys (but I know many are) and would love to see other styles (or knockoffs of) such as "olives" or something similar to Sony hybrids. Still, I've always done very well comfort and sound wise with the stock silicon tips that Brainwavz includes. Glad to see a shirt clip, which the S5 didn't have included originally but though it seems sturdy and well designed I don't find it works as well as other clips for how I usually wear my IEMs. 
 
I should point out at this juncture that I strongly prefer to wear all my IEM's overear with the cable behind my neck and clipped to the neck of my shirt and the cable running down my shirt and out the armhole to my DAP. This keeps them out of the way for working out and other activities.
 
The build seems quite sturdy which is typical of Brainwavz. I know many don't like the rubbery flat cables but I do like them as they lend themselves well to how I wear my IEM's and don't tangle easlly. I'm pleased that the "Y" split is somewhat smaller/lighter and less obtrusive than the one on the S5's.  The cable slider is the same as theS5.  I like the straight jack and everything else seems of good quality. It appears the vent is on top of each driver housing. The front surface of each housing has a flat surface making it easy to tell simply by feel which is right and which is left. The Clearwavz remote seems sturdy and well laid out though usually don't use my IEM's with my phones. 
 
Now to the meat. Out of the box they didn't sound terrible but I am a firm believer in burn in so I quickly put them on my burn in rig and left them, checking them briefly every 24 hours or so. After 80 hours I listed for maybe and hour but decided to go for an even 100 hours. Boy am I glad I did. Many of the niggling little things that jumped out seemd much better north of 100 hours. 
 
At this point I will reiterate that MY criteria for any speaker or headphone is how well it reproduces the sound of real instruments and the human voice. Also I listen for how it recreates the space where the recording was made and how/where the instruments are positioned and spaced. I also try to judge how close the a live performance they sound. Can I close my eyes and imagine the band or singer in front of me? How many little nuances in the music can I hear in the recording. Can I hear a loose clacking sound of a loose key on a piano? How about the sustain pedal being pushed and released? 
 
The answer to all or most of the above questions is that the S3 does a superb job of reproducing real music and real instruments. Of course taking into account how the music was miked and recorded as well as the mixing and even the file size. I feel like I have a somewhat distinct viewpoint not only being involved in and listening to a great deal of live music performance but also having been in real recording studios and watching sound mixers work. So bottom line, for a single driver IEM moving so little air it sounds very lifelike.
 
The treble is quite good and extends past the highs of the S5. It definitely has some sparkle and "air" that the S5 is lacking. In fact, If I could add that to the S5 without losing the low end it would be close to a perfect 'phone for me.
 
So yes, the bass is also quite good but loving live music I love full rich bass and sub bass. The S5 surpasses the S3 in that area.
 
Midrange is full and lush and female vocals are immediate and present.
 
Soundstage is quite good and while I initially thought it slightly less than the S5 in breadth and depth now I'm not sure it's not equal to the S5. I like to listen to well recorded live concert hall recordings to judge soundstage and listen for things like acoustic echoing off of walls and where the audience seems to "be" when they applaud or cheer. Also, where do the instruments sound like they are on stage and how much space does it sound like there is between them...and yes I understand how amping and microphone placement affects this effect. 
 
Isolation was another area I felt like the S5 surpasses the S3. In a noisy environment like the gym I hear a lot more background noise with the S3 than the S5. Also, when running outdoors in the wind the S5 is much better at attenuating wind noise. Perhaps this is all due to the vent being on top of the housing. 
 
Overall this is a wonderful little 'phone and if it wasn't compared to the S5 would be my daily driver. My biggest complaints are less bass and less isolation than the S5 but I could easily live with those minor faults for the beautiful sound. Brainwavz is definitely on a roll. Add in the spectacular 24 month warranty and they're even more compelling. Good job Brainwavz. When are we going to see a multi-driver flagship IEM? 
 
Pros: Crisp Sound Signature, Amazing Build, Comfortable, Wonderful Accessories, Great Looks
Cons: Almost Bright
This is the first Brainwavz S Series earphone I have heard.  I must say, I was expecting a V shaped signature, not sure why, but I was wrong, very wrong…  More on that soon. 
 
P1040815.jpg
 
 
Should be noted that Brainwavz now has a brand new official site:  www.brainwavzaudio.com 
 
 
 
Now onto the Brainwavz S3 Review:
 
 

*Accessories*

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

The first thing that caught my attention was the accessories, that you see them before the earphones as you open up the box.  Holy Tips Batman!  And even a set of Comply ones!  Most people should be able to find at least one pair that will work well for them.  For me, it was the Comply, love those things.

The earphone hardcase is a thing of beauty; well designed, great build and perfect for carrying around the S3.


P1040817.jpg

P1040813.jpg
 


*Build*
 
Strain reliefs like you’ve never seen.  Wow, this thing is over built.  I’m sure my S3 will be around long after I am gone.  The attention to detail is just fantastic, from the 3.5mm plug to the metal tips; the S3 is just designed so well.  I feel like Brainwavz wanted this thing to withstand the zombie apocalypse (which is coming), at least you will have a nice pair of earphones to listen to.
 
P1040820.jpg
 
 
 
*Fit*

The nozzles slightly protrude from the metal housing, this gives room for insertion without direct contact from the earphone itself.  This all makes the S3 a very comfortable earphone to wear, even for extended periods.  Also, with for mentioned included tips, it basically guarantees that this is going to fit well for everyone that buys this pair.


P1040822.jpg
 
 

*Sound*

The S3 surprised me.  It did not sound like I thought it would and that is a good thing. 

Bass – No bloating, no bleeding, just controlled and accurate.  Bass Neutral.  For those looking for a little more down low, never fear, all you need is a little EQ bump or some bass boost, the S3 can handle it with ease.

Mids – The S3 is ever so slightly forward in the middle.  This makes vocals pop!  The mids are so clear and crisp; accurate and fast, quite impressive.  This is where the real strength of the S3 lies, here in the middle ground, creating a fun sound signature that is great for so many types of music.

Highs – These are not bright, but they almost are.  The highs extend far into the range, but never become tiresome.  To my ears they roll off just before it would become things would become sibilant.  The upper frequencies are like the mids, quite clear, crisp and accurate.

Isolation – The S3 Isolate very well.  That is due to the fact that there is such a variety of eartips, so finding a good seal is very easy.  I found myself actually having to turn the music WAY down if I needed to hear things around me.

Soundstage – This are not open, but the still have a decent amount of separation.  Not sure how Brainwavz managed to pull off this much soundstage, but my ears are happy they did.

 
P1040830.jpg
 


*Overall Thoughts* 

Surprise, is a word that keeps coming back to me, it is a word that describes the quality of the S3.  These are good earphones, very good in fact.  Brainwavz has mastered blending form with function.  The S3 is good looking, tough and great sounding product.  I really am impressed by this little earphone and it really caught me off guard.  Well done Brainwavz, well done (insert slow clap here).


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Salsera
Salsera
Here At Brainwavz's Design Department two of our main concerns when considering a design is Climate Change and Zombie apocalypse.
 
 
Head of Design
Pros: relaxed and non-exhausting signature, decent resolution,better bass speed than M3
Cons: subbass roll-off, soundstage slightly blurry, wide-bore tips thin-walled/floppy/feel cheap, build quality only "good", needs some refinement
Preamble:

Pandora from the GPGSHK, owning company of Brainwavz (which now has a new website including web-shop: http://www.brainwavzaudio.com/), asked me if I was interested in evaluating a new product, so I jumped on that offer and agreed.
The mysterious headphone that it was all about is a new In-Ear model from Brainwavz’ S-series, called S3, which features a flat cable, different styles of ear tips, an in-line remote control including a microphone and silvery shining bodies.

In my following review, you can read my opinion on how the new product from the Chinese company sounds.


Technical Specifications:

Driver: dynamic, 8 mm
Impedance: 16 Ohms
Frequency Response: 16 Hz to 22 kHz
Sensitivity: 96 dB @ 2 mW
Rated Input Power: 10 mW
Plug: 3.5 mm, gold-plated
Cable: 1.3 m, copper


Delivery Content:

The IEMs come in a dark package which has got a picture of the S3 along with a large Brainwavz logo on the front. On the back, there are a brief sound description, a listing of the included accessories, the technical specifications and some small pictures of the included accessories.
The front has got a magnetic flap, which, when it is opened, has got a description of the company and labelled cross-sectioned pictures of the IEMs, Comply Foam tips and the cable. On the upper half on the right side is a picture of the remote control along with pictures that describe how to operate it. Underneath is a small plastic window with the typical black and red Brainwavz case behind it.
Besides the IEMs and the case, there are three pairs of wide bore silicone tips, three pairs of narrow bore silicone tips, one pair of double-flange tips, one pair of triple-flange tips and a shirt clip with a white Brainwavz logo on it included.
 

P1020767.jpg P1020768.jpg
 ​
P1020769.jpg P1020771.jpg

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Aesthetics, Build Quality:

The IEMs have got a flat cable with a straight connector, which is rather untypical for Brainwavz, but I see it as an advantage over the 45° connector.
The strain reliefs near the cable and the IEMs are not bad at all, though a little too stiff, wherefore I doubt that they are that much effective. Nevertheless, the cable seems sturdy and durable and fortunately has got a chin slider above the y-split.
The remote control is made of rather hard matte black rubber and has got three soft rubber buttons which have to be pressed deeply until the buttons are actually pressed – that is better on the Brainwavz Jive.
The IEMs themselves are made of silvery halfway shiny polished metal and have each got a small vent.
Partly, the bodies could have been better deburred.

The standard wide bore tips feel rather cheap, are thin-walled and floppy. The included narrow bore tips however are quite good and thick-walled.
 

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Comfort, Isolation:

Comfort is pretty good, as the bodies are not big and the IEMs can be worn both with the cables straight down and around the ears.
Wearing the IEMs straight down, microphonics are worse than with round cables, but are distinctly reduced when being worn “professionally” over the ears.
As mentioned previously, the wide bore tips don’t really feel well and are quite floppy. Due to this, it takes longer than usual for me to achieve a good fit and seal with them. With the narrow bore tips by contrast, I get a good fit and seal immediately without having to adjust the IEMs several times until they sit perfectly – but on the other hand, it is a bit hard to get the narrow bore tips on the nozzle.

I’d say isolation is upper mediocrity, but it is also tip-dependant, as the narrow bore ones isolate better than the wide bore tips.
Isolation isn’t as good as the Jive’s, but better than the M3’s.


Remote Control, Microphone:

The remote control hasn’t the best haptics and the buttons need a relatively deep press until they are actually pressed, though the pressure point on their “bottom” can be felt and heard, wherefore it is no poking around in the dark.
As expected, the remote control works flawlessly with Apple products, but not with Android and BlackBerry devices, where only the centre button works.
A little uncommon is that the remote control is located on the left side and a little too high when the cables are worn around the ears.

Speech intelligibility and quality are pretty good, although voices are a bit too thin.
 

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Sound:

Source devices that I used were the iBasso DX90 and HiFime 9018d, music files were stored in FLAC and high quality MP3 format. The IEMs were burnt in for at least 50 hours before critical listening was done.

Tonality:

Wide Bore Tips:

Overall sound signature of the S3 is dark, but not overly bassy. Lower ground-tone area along with upper bass and midbass are elevated by about 4-5 dB, therefore not overly present. Compared to the Jive, sounding is done less bassy, though the S3 has definitely got more bass than the M3 and R3. Subbass rolls audibly off.
Mids are present, although not really emphasised (unlike the Brainwavz Jive’s) and tonally pretty well done, although they are moderately on the darker side.
Treble is somewhat in the background, but yet clear enough to not sound woolly, but remaining relaxed. I’d say treble is just a bit more recessed than the R3’s, although slightly uneven in the middle highs, wherefore particularly brass instruments sound a bit compressed and unnatural. Super highs are rolling off more than the R3’s.

Narrow Bore Tips:

With the narrow bore silicone tips, bass is a little more present, but not more than 1-1.5 dB. Subbass rolls off less and the ground tone emphasis reaches higher and stops in the middle ground tone, wherefore lows appear mightier. Earwise, mids remain unchanged; highs improve with the slight unevenness in the middle treble disappearing and the upper highs being a bit less recessed.

Resolution:

As expected from Brainwavz, resolution is pretty good for the price, especially with the narrow bore tips, which appear to reveal slightly more details in the mids and treble.
Although the Jive has got the more prominent mids wherefore they might appear to better resolving at first listening, the S3 is actually higher resolving.
Detail resolution is a bit below the M3’s and about comparable with the R3.

Bass is fortunately a bit faster than the M3’s and especially faster than the Jive’s which is a bit too slow and soft for my tastes. Though, it seems that the M3’s lows reveal more details.
With the narrow bore tips, lows by the way seem a tad more arid.

Soundstage:

Lateral expansion is pretty decent, but the S3 also has got some depth, although comparatively less. One could say that the M3’s depth-to-width-ratio was inverted on the S3 (the M3’s soundstage has got more depth than width).
Compared to the M3, instrument separation seems more blurred, as instruments slightly bleed into each other and are not as sharply separated as on the M3’s stage. Though, soundstage is not bad in any means, but not as precise as the M3’s when directly compared.


Conclusion:

Overall, the S3 is a pretty good In-Ear with a warm, smooth, relaxed but not exaggerated sound signature. Soundstage and resolution are on a good level, although the M3 is a bit better.
Due to the build quality, which could have been better, just like the wide bore tips and the performance that is a bit below the M3’s, the S3 only gets four out of five stars from me. To be higher rated, it would need some refinement, but the current overall package and performance are actually quite good.
 

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