Brainwavz S5 In Ear Headphones

Loquah

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Great bass, very comfortable, well made
Cons: Treble has some holes, flat cable behaves strangely

Overview

 
The Brainwavz S5 is a new IEM priced at around $100 and is getting a lot of exposure thanks to a concerted effort from Brainwavz to push out review units to reviewers just like me. Thank you to Audrey and the Brainwavz team for arranging this pair of S5s for me to review at no charge. I'm really glad that they've decided to make this push too because Brainwavz have never been on my radar, but the S5 is a surprising package that has me seriously interested in their future offerings.
 

Specifications

 
  1. Driver:  1 x 10mm dynamic
  2. Impedance:  16 ohms
  3. Frequency range:  18 - 24,000 Hz
  4. Sensitivity:  110 dB at 1 mW
 

Design & Comfort

 
20140921-20140921-SAM_1193.jpgFor a $100 earphone, the S5s come with plenty of accessories including a good range of silicone tips, a  pair of comply T400 (medium size), a sexy 6.3mm adapter and a great hard case that doesn't look expensive, but is very practical in both size and build because it's a very rigid and compact hard case.
 
The housing of the S5s is a curious cone shape and I have to admit to being quite sceptical when I first looked at them - I couldn't imagine a universe in which they'd be comfortable, but apparently I'm already living in that universe because the S5s are very comfortable IEMs. The tapered shape of the S5s combined with the perfect angle of the nozzles means that the housing sits close to the ear, but not touching which is much better than the IEMs on the market that stick straight out of the ear and look like Frankenstein's bolts. The housings are light despite being solid metal and the cable entry / exit angle is excellent. There's really no flaw in the functional and aesthetic design of the S5s.
 

Cable

 
This is definitely a weak spot for the S5s, but not a deal breaker. I'm yet to experience a good, comfortable flat cable and the S5's cable is no exception. The flat cable seems prone to tangling and refuses to sit flat so I'm not sure what benefit it is intended to impart because I would have much preferred a simple, round cable design. It's not a disaster, but could have been better. On the positive side, the strain reliefs and Y-split are all solid and look good and the cable length is good at 1.3m.
 

Sound

 
When I first listened to the S5s I hadn't yet researched them so had no idea of their price. Suffice to say I was shocked when I later checked to discover that they are $100 earphones - I expected a price tag much higher based on a combination of packaging, accessories and sound quality.
 

Bass

 
20140921-20140921-SAM_1197.jpgThe S5s offer a boosted bass level akin to other v-shaped IEMs like the Atomic Floyd Super Darts and many of the hybrids on the market from T-Peos, Astrotec and Dunu. Despite that comparison, the bass from the S5s isn't quite as tight and perfect as most of those options, but the S5s are also at least one third the price. The S5's bass is punchy with a little bit of extra weight beyond what's natural, but it's still in control enough to be resolving for the most part. I'd describe the bass from the S5s as dynamic and fun with enough control to suit all the music I threw at it. Really tight bass lines may trip up the dynamic drivers a little, but for a $100 earphone they are fantastic.
 
In addition to the weight and speed of the bass, the bass goes deep and creates a really satisfying sub-bass impact when it's needed. Often earphones with a bass boost become all about the mid-bass and sub-bass extension is lost in the boom, but the S5s manage to still rumble deep even while creating some ounchy mid-bass emphasis. For example, listening to Liberation by Outlast (from the Aquemini album) the bass depth and control is excellent - tight and punchy like a great subwoofer.
 

Mids

 
Despite being a V-shaped sound overall, the mids from the S5s are well-placed in the overall mix. There's no doubt your attention will be drawn to the bass and treble first, but the mids aren't pushed back into the distance, they're still front and centre.
 
Mid quality is good with vocals coming through clear and warm for the most part. On tracks that are boomy to start with (e.g. Try by the John Mayer Trio) I found the bass and treble lifts left the mids sounding a little thin with a touch too much upper-mid / lower treble emphasis, but with more balanced recordings I found myself thoroughly enjoying the mids from the S5s. There's a nice warmth and smoothness to the delivery of mids from the S5s, but they also retain good attack and edge to the notes. Really the only complaint I can make about the mids from the S5s is that they occasionally get overshadowed by the sometimes over-eager bass and treble. In other words, the mids from the S5s are really excellent - there is absolutely nothing to complain about with them and given a slightly more balanced overall tuning, these could be mid-monsters (and are when thrown a nice lean acoustic track).
 

Treble

 
20140921-20140921-SAM_1195.jpgThe treble from the S5s is a bit tip-dependent (as with many IEMs) and they can sound a little brittle and splashy with the wrong tips / insertion. With the right tips though (I found the provided tip options to be the best) the treble is quite good, but probably the weakest link in the S5's frequency repertoire. Don't stop reading though - they're not bad, it's just not their strength.
 
The treble from the S5s is a little unbalanced so while they avoid harsh spikes or sibilance, they do sound peaky. What I mean by that is that you can hear some gaps in the overall treble presentation on certain recordings and it makes certain sounds like cymbals sound a little fake and thin - like there's something missing from the overall presentation. On other tracks this problem doesn't present itself at all because of the way the track is mixed and mastered.
 
Once again, in the context of a $100 earphone, the S5s perform very well. My comments above are subjective evaluations regardless of price, but in the scheme of things, the S5s perform very well for their price tag.
 

Staging & Imaging

 
The S5s present a pretty good stage. It's relatively small and contained within the boundaries of the forehead, but it doesn't feel congested. Instruments and vocals are each clearly defined although not razor sharp. Once again, this also depends on the mixing of the track and the bass levels present - more acoustic / lean tracks show good imaging capabilities, but when the bass kicks in the stage size and clarity is reduced. It's important to note that the S5s never offer a bad presentation and retain good clarity and coherence at all times with all tracks. They range from a beautiful, clean image on leaner tracks to refined, but still clear images on bassier tracks
 

Summary

 
20140921-20140921-SAM_1202.jpgAs I mentioned earlier, on my first listen I thought the S5s were a much more expensive earphone (in the $200-300 range I would have said). They reminded me of a "poor man's" IE800. Further listening with a wide range of tracks showed why they're not on the level of something like the $250 Audiofly AF140s or similar $200-300 models, but at less than half the price of the offerings in that price-range the S5s are a brilliant budget IEM that is very well made, packaged with outstanding accessories, and sounds very very good for the money if you like a dynamic and fun sound. I can imagine these being an excellent exercising or commuting earphone due to their comfort, over-ear design and dynamic and engaging sound. I'd definitely recommend auditioning a pair if you get the chance because if your music tastes happen to hit the sweet spot of the S5 you could have yourself a really nice budget earphone.
drbluenewmexico
drbluenewmexico
good review Loguah!  I'm reviewing a set myself, and agree with most of your observations!
a general all around phone that sounds really good out of a smartphone with a good dac chip.
still, there is something missing that makes one crave for increased detail and texture that higher end phones provide....but as Mark Twain said, "you pays your money and you takes your choice" and the S5 is a good choice for those on a budget and wanting a sturdy in pocket phone for travel,etc.  thanks for the in depth review..

thatBeatsguy

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Amazing for EDM. Looks great. Feels great.
Cons: Minor driver flex issue. Too warm for certain tracks. Flat cable is iffy.

Intro​

TL;DR: The Brainwavz S5 is loud, bass-heavy, energetic, and a lot of fun to listen to -- just the ticket for any EDM lover.
 
Before I begin, huge thanks to Audrey (@Salsera) for providing a sample of the Brainwavz S5 in exchange for my honest opinion. My deepest gratitude goes out to her and the guys over at Brainwavz. But let me remind you that I was neither paid to write this review, nor am I an affiliate of Brainwavz or any of its staff. Any and all opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own unless otherwise specified, and these opinions should be treated as nothing more than that. Finally, my impressions of the S5 in this review might conflict with yours; therefore, your mileage may vary.

 

Well, let me just say this: This review is filled with a lot of firsts. I won’t list them all to keep things brief, but the most significant one is how this is the first time I’ve been asked to write a review from a representative of a company. I know, I’m still squealing like a girl since I was sent a PM a couple weeks ago -- but still, it is my first time, so I’ll give it all I got!

 
Anyway, let’s get onto the subject at hand. The Brainwavz S5 is Brainwavz’ latest IEM release, and is now their current S-series flagship IEM. Priced at $100 retail, the S5s look the part, feel the part, and are priced the part, but do they play the part? Read on and find out.

 
Author's Note: This review is a little bit old, so expect some cringe-y parts if you're reading this in 2015 or later. I'm a little too lazy to edit the whole thing, and I want to keep the chronological flow in my reviews as I grow, so you can definitely see the improvements over time.
 
 


== Aesthetics ==​

Packaging, Design, Accessories​

 
When I (still squealing like a girl) opened up the package containing the earphones, I was greeted with a very retail-looking box -- the likes of which I haven’t held in my hands for averylong time. Right on the front of the box, an image of the S5 is emblazoned along with the name BRAINWAVZ and an “S5” on the top-right corner. That front panel actually opens up to reveal the S5s sitting there in a moulded plastic housing, just waiting there for a pair of ears to take them out and put them on. The back of that front panel contains a quick history of Brainwavz and a list of the S5’s features. The other sides of the box had a lot of other information on it, like specifications and whatnot (which eliminates the need for useless literature inside the box, which is a good thing). You should be able to read them with a click on one of the pictures at the bottom of the page.
 

Now, let’s take a good long look at the accessories. When I took a look at the accessories list on their official product page, my jaw dropped to the floor. The Brainwavz S5 actually has -- wait for it -- nine pairs of eartips, including a double-flange, a triple-flange, and even a Comply T400 pair. (I compiled a full list of the accessories in the Specs section below.) The Brainwavz S5 quite literally has its own collection of eartips. In fact, they’re so many that they’re actually more than half of the eartip pairs I already had. Oh, and did I mention they also come with a nifty hard case and a 2-year warranty?


 
 

Design, Build, Microphonics​

 
Now, onto the earphones themselves. I have to say, I was totally surprised to learn that the S5 actually has afull metalhousing, rather than just plastic. To my eyes, I thought it looked like plastic and expected it to be, until I read the description on the box. That was one of the big points that changed my outlook of the S5s completely. The S5s have a flat cable this time, which has their own strengths and weaknesses, which I’ll explain in further detail later. And also unlike all of the other IEMs I’ve reviewed, the S5s have no remote, but has an eye-catchingly large Y-split in its place. I mean, just look at it. It’s freaking huge! But then again, that doesn’t really change anything, does it?

 
If I could sum up the build quality of the Brainwavz S5 in one word, it would have to befantastic. I’m being honest here -- the S5s look, feel, and are very durable. The full-aluminum housings are nice and solid. The huge Y-split in the middle looks to be very durable and should probably last along time. Even the connector, which, given the rather short strain relief, looks well-built.

 

However, I do have some thoughts on the build that I would like to express. First of all, I would suggest Brainwavz to go with a removable cable design for the S5s.I would like a replaceable cable for the S5 since, honestly, they sound really good (more on this later) and since the cable is usually the first thing to break in an earphone.On the other hand, I think I do see why they wouldn’t go with that approach, because with all of the measures they’ve taken to ensure maximum durability for that one cable (I mean, just look at that Y-split), going directly for a removable cable approach would render all their efforts null. Second, the cable itself. The Brainwavz S5 employs a flat cable, which, unlike most round cables, is virtually tangle-free; however, they are a lot harder to manage than round cables, and is much heavier than I’d like. On the topic of cable noise, this is also a great point for the Brainwavz S5. Despite flat cables usually being very microphonic, I’m glad to report that this cable is far from that -- although I would say that it’s the result of the IEMs being worn around the ear. Still, their weight is pretty heavy, though on the other hand, it’s really durable, so I would say that’s a little bit of a trade-off.

 
Finally, and probably one of my biggest issues with the build of the S5, there is the issue of driver flex. Driver flex is as it sounds like--an occurrence in which the driver in an earphone where the driver (speaker) inside flexes due to the air pressure of the ear canal. This results in potential damage to the driver, and damage is something we need to avoid. Then again, it only happens occasionally, but the fact that it does happen is something to worry about. However, I had a quick talk with Audrey and she stated it should just be my own pair, so that’s something less to worry about. In any case, I still feel it’s an issue that I can't simply leave out.


 

 

Fit, Comfort, Isolation​

 ​
I never actually had any fit problems with the S5. It’s been a while since I’ve worn an IEM around the ear, but my ears aren’t as fussy with most universals, so a little caveat emptor there. A peculiar little oddity about the S5s’ fit is how they still fit perfectly fine when worn straight-down, despite them being designed to be worn around-the-ear. Comfort, in my opinion, is pretty variable depending on the eartips; however, the Comply T-400 foam eartips provide the best comfort for the S5 in my opinion. Isolation is also a variable factor that depends on the eartips, but the S5 has generally good isolation with the stock silicone eartips.

 

Anyways, I think that’s about it for the aesthetics of the S5; now, let’s get to the sound!
 
 


== Sound ==​

Specs​

 
Headphone Type
Closed-back, vented in-ear monitor (straight down, around-the-ear)
Driver Type
10mm dynamic, neodymium magnets, CCAW voice coil
Frequency Response
18 – 24,000 Hz
Max. Input Power
20 mW
Sensitivity
110 dB at 1 mW
Impedance
16 Ω
Weight
N/A
Cable
1.3 m flat Y-cord, OFC
Connector
3.5 mm (1/8”) gold-plated, straight TRS
Accessories
Hard carrying case
6 sets silicone single-flange eartips (gray S/M/L + black S/M/L)
1 set silicone double-flange eartips
1 set silicone triple-flange eartips
1 set Comply T400 premium foam eartips
 
There really is nothing much to say here, so let’s move on to the most important question: How do they sound?
 
 

Equipment, Burn-In​

 
The sources I’ll be using consists of a 4th-generation iPod Touch, an iPad 3, and my PC through Headphone-Out. The amp I use is a Yamaha RX-V359 receiver feeding the IEMs through Headphone-Out. Finally, the EQ used for the test is Viper4Windows on the PC. My test tracks are posted here for reference.

 

Also, prior to the review, I have burned-in the Brainwavz S5 for a minimum of 100 hours, to clear any doubts about burn-in. As for the eartips being used, I used the Comply T400 foam eartips and the stock grey eartips interchangeably.

 

So let’s not waste any time, and let’s get to it!


 
 

Sound Quality​

Bass:

The S5’s bass is the star of the show here, having a very heavy, fun, in-your-face presentation that pounds the beat down so hard and so deep you can pretty much feel it in your chest. This has its merits, especially in EDM and bass-heavy genres (Knife Party -- Give It Up), but it doesn’t go without its drawbacks. For one, its quantity tends to overwhelm the rest of the sound, making you hear not much other than the bass at some points. They also tend to blend into the lower midrange, making male vocals and instruments like guitars sound thick and lack articulation.

 

 

Midrange:

The midrange on the S5 is, having a V-shaped signature, is recessed and distant-sounding. However, despite the heavy bass, is surprisingly clear in certain songs (Ed Sheeran -- Runaway). Of course, that last sentence doesn’t redeem it completely -- the S5’s midrange completely flunks solo piano tracks because of their warmth (Isaac Shepard -- Looking Forward). For midrange-focused genres I can easily recommend several other IEMs just as easily as I would recommend the S5 to EDM lovers.

 

 

Treble:

The S5’s treble is lively, snappy, and energetic, providing a nice counterpoint to the thundering bass. It gives the midrange a much needed clarity boost (so at least you can still hear it clearly over the bass), which is a good thing, but at times they do tend to get too lively and bright, which is pretty irritating. This happens in certain tracks, however exactly which ones really comes down to the listener.

 

 

Soundstage/Presentation:
The S5’s soundstage is pretty good for a bassy, consumer-sounding IEM. It’s got decent size and air, which is surprising for the IEM that it is. Its presentation is rather intimate, though, so don’t expect too much out of the S5’s soundstage. For what it does, though, it’s more than adequate.

 
 


Genre Proficiency:

With my description of the Brainwavz S5 in the previous section, it’s easy to see that these things are a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Well, that’s where I’m going to stop you. Yes, they play all genres well, but so far, no IEM has ever made me love EDM more than the Brainwavz S5. Really. They play any type of EDM from dubstep to progressive house exceptionally well, with each aspect of their sound signature playing a part to deliver a club right into your ears. It’s practically like calling up all of your favorite DJs and EDM producers into your house for a party for you, you, and only you.

 

But like I said, these IEMs aren’t all fun and games – they could play classical a lot better than I expected. With Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (played by the Connecticut Early Music Festival Ensemble), the Brainwavz S5 manages to keep up with the dynamics of each track. In a nutshell, it’s really something. The bass doesn’t take too much prominence in the album, which leaves the midrange shining through with warm, clear beams.

 

On the other hand, the Brainwavz S5 is a warm IEM, and that warmth can be off-putting in a lot of classical recordings. In this case, it depends more on the recording and affects some more than others, but it’s a quality of the Brainwavz S5 that cannot be ignored. Then again, they still sound pretty great.

 

 
Summary:

The Brainwavz S5 immediately wowed me from the very start with a fun, lively sound signature. They had a very energetic, life-of-the-party kind of sound that, to my ears, was amazing and a whole lot of fun to listen to. This was the kind of IEM I was looking for -- something that was lively, something that was fun, something that made you get on your feet and dance, even though you’re the only one listening to the music.

 
However, the true value of the Brainwavz S5 really comes down to your musical preferences. If you favour clear vocals and instruments, then you should start looking elsewhere since the Brainwavz S5 is not an IEM that will give you that. On the other hand, if you listen to EDM or rap or just want a heavy, energetic sound signature, then look no further.


 

 

Other Media​

 
I’ve been gaming with the Brainwavz S5 extensively – mostly racing around in Watch Dogs, but pretty extensively nonetheless. The Brainwavz S5s perform undoubtedly well in this department, with the bass making you really feel the gunfire and the roar of the engine as you zip through the Chicago highway. Vocals come through very clearly, as well. Positional audio is good, but I’m iffy on its performance in more competitive gaming scenarios. They should more than suffice for the average gamer, though. As for the movie buff…I don’t know about you, but I’m clearly going to enjoy watching The Desolation of Smaug again with these babies on.

 

 

Value, Comparison​

 
With Brainwavz listing these IEMs at $100, there’s no surprise that the S5s will face a lot of competition, including many amazing IEMs that have earned their place in Head-Fi’ers’ hearts with ease. And these legends I’m talking about? Oh, I don’t know, the Shure SE215, the Yamaha EPH-100, and the HiFiMAN RE-400 Waterline, to name a few. Like I said, these three IEMs are legendary, and that goes without saying. It’s a shame, then, that I have none of them here with me, since they would’ve made for one hell of a shootout. So for now, you guys will have to put up with what I did get to compare.

 

Versus Monster DNA (~$200)

I always like comparing IEMs with headphones, because aside from their inherent sonic differences, it makes for a great opportunity to see if an IEM has no trouble keeping up with the big leagues. And I’m happy to report that the Brainwavz S5 do just that, and then some.

 

I really like the Monster DNA for its fun, but audiophile-friendly sound signature packed into a Beats-esque, nightclub-inspired package. The on-ear headphones have a moderate V-shape signature, with great bass and crisp treble without sacrificing too much of the midrange. The Brainwavz S5 takes things a little bit further with its stronger V-shape sound that gives it even more bass power, lively treble that gets too sharp at times, and a more recessed midrange. However, the Brainwavz do improve with better tips, and at its best, they sound nicely balanced and fun, making the S5s and the DNAs not too far apart from each other.

 

 

Versus Xiaomi Pistons 2.0 (~$25)

Since I don’t have any proper IEMs that would make fairer matchups for the Brainwavz S5, I thought I’d let my self-proclaimed “King of Ultra-Budget-Fi,” the Xiaomi Pistons 2. Even now, they’re still one of the best all-rounders I’ve ever heard in my audiophile journey, and I know a lot of other Head-Fi’ers would agree with me. They just have this mild V-shaped signature with great clarity in the mids and crisp treble that just blends with the rest of the signature so well. For me, it’s probably the best headphone I’ve ever owned and heard (so far).

 

Against the Pistons, the Brainwavz S5 gives out the same impression I did when I compared them with the Monster DNA – a stronger V-shaped signature, more powerful bass, hotter treble (which lessens with Comply tips), and a slightly more recessed midrange. Oh, and the S5s sound much warmer than the Pistons. Right now, I’m leaning towards the Brainwavz S5, if only for the fact that the pair I compared the S5s with are my sister’s. That, and at the moment, I’m having too much fun listening to Monstercat 015.

 

 

Conclusion​

 
In the end, there’s a lot to like about the Brainwavz S5 – from the look, to the build, to the sound. They’re pretty good all-rounders, and can play all genres fairly well, although you might want to look for something else when you have more specific musical tastes. That means classical lovers, run away – and run away fast. But for someone with an electronic addiction, here’s the doctor’s prescription – take a pair of the Party Pills, once a day, every day. You’ll be having a blast.
 
Category
Score
Comment
Packaging, Accessories
8/10​
Solid retail packaging and a treasure trove of useful accessories make for an amazing starter package.
Design, Build, Microphonics
8/10​
All-metal housings, heavy-duty strain reliefs, and solid cable turn the S5 into a tank of an IEM.
Fit, Comfort, Isolation
8/10​
The S5 in general provides an easy and secure fit thanks to its over-ear design. Comfort and isolation are mostly eartip-dependent, but are pretty good with the stock eartips.
Microphone
N/A​
 
Bass
8/10​
The S5’s bass is heavy, deep, and loud, but tends to be bloated and overwhelming. Great for EDM, but not much for everything else.
Midrange
5/10​
The midrange exhibits good clarity, but is recessed, distant, and overly warm. Not very good by audiophile standards, but should do fine for most consumers.
Treble
7/10​
The S5 has a bright and lively treble, although it does tend to get too bright at times.
Presentation
7/10​
Don’t expect too much out of the S5’s soundstage, although to most ears its soundstage is more than adequate.
Gaming, Movies
7/10​
These aren’t the type of IEMs I would use for gaming with its explosive low-end; however, they do perfectly well with cinematic action movies instead.
EQ Response
7/10​
The S5 is pretty easy to EQ, with a little bass adjustment already going a long way.
Value
8/10​
For $100 there’s little to complain about with the S5’s package -- unless you were looking for better vocals, in which case you got the wrong IEM for the job.
Total
7.4/10​
EDM lovers, gather round -- the S5 is one tough IEM to beat if you’re looking for an energetic, fun, in-the-club experience.
 
 

Shout-Outs, Gallery

First of all, I want to again thank Audrey at Brainwavz for giving me this huge opportunity to review their latest IEM. You can check out some of the other pictures I took of the S5 here, and you can click here for more headphone reviews. This has been thatBeatsguy of DB Headphones; thanks for reading!

 
 

About Brainwavz

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.brainwavzaudio.com


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yalper
yalper
I think S5 has more reviews, than it sells :)
thatBeatsguy
thatBeatsguy
LOL.
To be honest, I can't help but agree.
XD
HawkEye0701
HawkEye0701
I didn't know that they come free with a cute pup XD
Nice review.

razor5cl

500+ Head-Fier
Pros: Brilliant bass, Sparkly Trebles, Wide Soundstage, Good build and fit, Nice accessory selection
Cons: Mids slightly recessed, Treble too harsh for some recordings, Bass can be a little muddy in some songs
Disclaimer: I was sent a sample of the Brainwavz S5 for review. This will not affect my opinion of these IEMs in any way.
You can also find this review(with pictures) on my own blog here.
 
Brainwavz has been making cheap, well made IEMs that punch well above their weight for quite a while now. However I've never owned one before, so when I was approached to make a review I hastily accepted. Considering the price of the S5, and the increasing competition in this price bracket coming from some of the smaller Chinese companies lately, they offer an astoundingly complete package for their price.
 
Packaging and Accessories
 
The S5 come in a fancy book-style box that has been becoming more prolific recently among most tech products and it shows a nice attention to detail from Brainwavz. Large swathes of accessories have been becoming the norm from smaller Asian companies recently, and Brainwavz are no exception to this trend. The S5 comes with 6 sets of standard single flange tips(two sets of Small, Medium and Large, one grey one black), one set of double and triple flange tips respectively and a set of Comply T400 foamies, as well as a rather beefy(not in a bad way) 1/4 inch adapter and a rather snazzy carrying case. This is arguably my favourite part of the package as it is nicer than the one that came with my JVC FX800s that cost 2.5x what the S5 do. It's compact, rigid, zippered and has sorted compartments inside, perfect for carrying the IEMs with a selection of tips and other assorted things you might need on the go. Overall the packaging and accessories get the Brainwavz S5 off to a good start.
 
Design/Build Quality, Comfort and Isolation
 
The S5 are a traditional over-ear IEM: no surprises here. The housings are made of a nice shiny black metal with a simple Brainwavz logo the only adornment. The strain reliefs are adequate but not cumbersome or bulky and the cable is a tagliatelle style flat cable, sleeved in a grey rubber. It is light, and doesn't tangle easily. The Y Split is rather large, similar to that found on Shure IEMs and the cable cinch is also smooth and ergonomic. The jack is of the standard straight variety and strain reliefs on it and the Y Split are reinforced well, important on any IEM. The jack and split also have nice little engraved Brainwavz logos on them, which shows Brainwavz is putting the effort in when it comes to details, very nice to see. 
 
Fit wasn't an issue at all. The small housings and ergonomic shape of said housings makes comfort no problem, and the huge selection of tips provided makes getting a good seal easy, no matter the shape of your ears.  Isolation was very good with both the included sillicone and Comply foamies, able to withstand my daily commute on the train no problem, and as these are over the ear IEMs, microphonics were a non-issue. Build quality is, again, excellent. The metal housings, beefy strain reliefs at the jack and housings and strong y split make the S5 an incredibly well built IEM, especially for the modest price. They feel absolutely miles better than the similarly priced Audio Technica IM50, and I have absolutely no worries as to the longevity of these. 
 
Setups Tested:
 
Nexus 4 -> Brainwavz S5
Nexus 4 -> Fiio E11 -> Brainwavz S5
PC -> Creative X-Fi USB DAC/Amp - > Brainwavz S5
All Music 320kbps
 
Sound
 
I usually listen to more electronic styles of music, but for this review I dug out some classical and rock songs to listen to in order to really get a feel for how these IEMs perform. I found no real difference when amped vs unamped, apart from maybe a little less hiss and noise, although this is mainly due to the fact that these are quite sensitive headphones, and so you'll want to use a cleaner source and decent quality source material otherwise you'll hear bad stuff you wouldn't normally hear.
 
One claim Brainwavz makes in their advertising is "Smooth Bass." While I was expecting this to be marketing drivel, it turned out that these do indeed have smooth bass. Bass is very well extended and deep, and texture is brilliant. Quantity is above neutral, but far from basshead level. It may sound muddy on the cleanest of recordings, but most electronic basslines and percussion, and bass guitars,  sound absolutely sublime. Bass is not as emphasized as the Audio Technica IM50, for example, but the extension and texture make it second to none. The low frequencies are my favourite part about this IEM.
 
The middle frequencies are where things start to slip a little. Mids aren't exactly recessed, per se, but they aren't at the forefront of the music either. They sound a little better than the IM50 or Yamaha EPH-100, for example, but they aren't going to beat any of the Shure offerings for example. Some Trance pads and Hardstyle leads sound decent, whereas others can sound a little overpowered at times, however the mids aren't necessarily bad. They are neither here nor there; neither at the front nor at the very back, somewhere in the middle, a little lacklustre but not an entire deal breaker.
 
Trebles are fantastic on the S5. They sound sparkling and prominent, and very well extended too. Sometimes on more bright recordings they have a tendency to sound a little too strident, bordering on fatiguing, but most of the time the trebles are clear and accentuated nicely. Listeners looking for a slightly more laid back, relaxed treble should look elsewhere, the treble here is bright and adds a nice sheen. Trance and Hardstyle leads stand out and sound rightfully epic, and violins sound just as they should, piercing and sharp but not painful. 
 
Another Brainwavz marketing claim is that the S5 boasts "Rich Detail." I surprisingly found this to be absolutely true. Detail retrieval is brilliant on the S5, and every layer of music can be easily picked apart even in the most hectic of climaxes. Soundstage is also very good on the S5, extremely wide for an IEM, sufficiently deep but not sounding spaced out or too wide. I played a lot of CS:GO using these and the combination of supreme detail, nice trebles, deep bass and wide soundstage made the experience top notch.
 
Conclusion
 
The Brainwavz S5 present a brilliantly rounded package at a very competitive price point. They are built well and come with any accessory you may ever need, fit and isolate well, and sound good with most types of music. Users who listen to unusually mid-heavy genres(unplugged vocals, types of Jazz, etc) may want to look elsewhere, but for everything else, the Brainwavz S5 provides an excellent listening experience.
 

Zelda

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Build Quality, Accessories, Overall SQ
Cons: Cable might be annoying. Slightly artificial tonality
REVIEW: Brainwavz S5





Specifications: (from Brainwavz site)

Driver: 10mm Dynamic
Rated Impedance: 16 Ω
Frequency Range: 18Hz - 24kHz
Sensitivity: 110 dB @ 1 mW
Cable: 1.3m, Y-Cord, Flat, Copper
Plug: 3.5mm Gold Plated

MSRP: $99
Official product page:
http://www.yourbrainwavz.com/s5.html



Packing & Accessories:

The S5 arrives in the same box as the previous S1 and as usual, Brainwavz are very generous with their accessories pack:
3 pairs (S/M/L) of single flange grey tips
3 pairs (S/M/L) of single flange black tips
1 pair of bi-flange tips
1 pair of tri-flange tips
1 pair of Comply Foam T-400 (M size) tips
Carrying case
1/4" Adaptor




Build & Design:

The new S5 is almost identical to the first of the Brainwavz S series, the S1, and as such boosts a very good build quality in every part. Apart from the straight plug and black color scheme, the housings are the main difference, still of aluminum material which is pretty good, but with a more ergonomic design and slightly lower profile. The plug is well relieved, and just the Y-split is a bit large. Probably the main issue would be the flat cable; while sturdy, it's also thick and quite springy and too rubbery. No memory effect but not too well behaved, with average microphonics level. Not a deal breaker for sure, but should be taken in count.




Fit, Comfort, Isolation:

Personally, I find the S5 to be a very good upgrade over the S1. The housings are a bit smaller and easier to fit in both configurations and can be used for long listening without causing discomfort. The cable is a bit annoying and a shirt clip should have been included. Isolation is pretty good, definitely above average for a dynamic based earphone and the inclusion of Comply Foam tips should help even further for some.




Sound:

The S5 is not just better in fit and comfort over the previous S1, but most importantly in sound performance, as should be expected for a new earphone that enters the $100 price tag.
The signature is the very popular V-shaped sound, which is usually very easy to either like or hate, depending the tuning. For a lively sound the S5 performs pretty good, mixing a fun factor with decent level of details.

Bass is pretty strong but not extreme. While it takes a step back in quantity compared to the S1's heavy bass, it's been really improved in quality, showing much better controlled behavior and accuracy. Technically, sub-bass reaches as far as the dominant S1 did, but not as obvious and free. Good layering overall with an added authoritative mid-bass lift for 'fun' but not sure it'll be for everyone liking. It's not as annoying as the last M5 and less noticed than the well regarded budget IEM, Xiaomi Piston 2, but should still be taken into consideration.

Midrange is where v-shaped earphones usually differ from each other. The S5 mids are quite good on their own. They are placed a bit distant as expected but far from being called lost (a certain flaw on the S1). They do carry some fullness (due the bass) but feel somehow cold and dry. The main issue is the tonality, as the S5 leans more to the artificial side of things and lacks in texture, especially in the vocal dept. Much better than older models for sure, such as M5, S1 or Audiofly AF56, but won't put the RE-400, KC06/6A, ZA Tenore or even the ATH-CKN70 in danger anytime soon. The Moe Audio SS-01 (dual dynamic), for example, shows better texture and sounds much sweeter but also feels more closed and intimate against the more spacious S5.

Fortunately, the Treble was taken into another league than the previous Brainwavz models. The S1 I tried had a serious and almost unbearable peak and sometimes extreme harshness. While the S5 is not completely clean sounding, it is much more refined and enjoyable. Extension is pretty good, mirroring the lows to complete the whole balance. Stage is quite wide as expected for a v-shaped signature, and overall detail plays a decent role. Imaging and instrument separation are decent but will feel very average compared to the most resolving and natural sounding RE-400 and Ostry's options.

The included different tips array can help tuning the sound in a certain way, from warmer/darker (single grey tips) to flatter and more spacious (bi-flange tips) to a more V-shaped and sharper sound (single black tips).

As far as SQ goes, the new S5 is a much higher step over the first S1. Is it 5 times better? Well, not exactly (doesn't costs 5X the S1's price, either), but it's a real improvement over the S1 which despite some strong characteristics, had some flaws on the treble dept. and probably in the midrange too.
Targeting the $100 market there's some stiff competition, including BA and Hybrid based sets. But if we take in count the generous accessories pack and robust build quality together with a caring customer service as well, and we get another solid buy from Brainwavz.

JoeDoe

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Design, SQ, Durability, Case
Cons: Treble-hot at times, Y-split?, Tip-dependent
The new S5 from Brainwavz will certainly please most casual listeners. It's sleek design, tangle-proof flat capable, and pop-ready sound signature certainly justify it's price - not to mention probably the best IEM case I've ever seen short of an Otterbox. 
 
Before I get into it, I owe a thank you to the good people at Brainwavz for reaching out to me for a review. They shipped the IEM to me quickly and have been very courteous and communicative throughout the review process. Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with them in any way. 
 
(If you want to read about the packaging and included accessories, check out one of the numerous other reviews, as this one will jump straight to the point: the sound)
 
Out of the box, the S5 sounded a little lackluster. The midbass was a bit muddy and bled into the mids. The treble was very hot and almost unbearable on treble-heavy tracks. But in an effort to remain fair, I gave these guys multiple chances and I'm quite glad I did. 
 
After ~50 hours, the midbass has tightened and the sub-bass has made its presence known. The mids are now much less cluttered and quite listenable. The treble has cooled, although changing to foam tips calmed them more than the burn-in. 
 
So now that they've gotten some more devoted head-time, here's the breakdown.
 
Test Songs (all MP3 320):
 
Someone Like You - Adele - Live from Royal Albert Hall
Late in the Evening - Paul Simon - The Essential Paul Simon
Wake Up Everybody - John Legend and The Roots - Wake Up Everybody!
What About Me - Snarky Puppy - We Like It Here
Firewall - Steve Vai - Real Illusions: Reflections
Hide and Seek - Imogen Heap - Speak for Yourself
Prelude from Cello Suite #4 - Yo Yo Ma
 
Sources:
 
Desktop: MacBook Pro > Fidelia > Pan Am Stack
Mobile: Sansa Clip+ & iPod Classic 160GB > iBasso D-Zero
 
Bass:
Well, in a word: tasty. The sub-bass is present! In my experience, this is someone quite uncommon in sub $100 IEMs. It's nice to hear the low notes in "Late in the Evening" and "What About Me." The midbass is a touch boosted, but certainly not overly so. It adds a little oomph to pop/rock/hip hop, yet doesn't make the classical or jazz stuff sound unnatural. Very well done.
 
Mids:
Rich and in place. Neither forward nor recessed. The mids are very lifelike in they're portrayal of texture and detail. The horns in the Simon and Snarky Puppy are very clear and textured. Vocals sound excellent in "Hide and Seek." Very organic and rich. That's all I have to say about that. :)
 
Treble:
The treble is make-or-break according to the tips (and quality of the source material). I found it a little hot and sibilant in most instances ("What About Me," "Firewall"), although bear in mind, the iPod/D-Zero has a neutral to bright sig. There were a few times with the stock silicone tips that the treble was hot enough to make me skip tracks. However, with a little EQ-ing and a change to the included T400 foam tips, it was pulled back a little to reveal a detailed treble that works well for the same genres that the midbass helps. 
 
Soundstage/Separation:
The soundstage is nothing to write home about. It's on par with similarly priced IEMs like the Shure SE215 and Hifiman RE400. Not large or deep, but not congested either. Instruments are easy to place and pick out individually. A nice bonus for an IEM with a very consumer-friendly signature.
 
Final Thoughts:
Overall, I would recommend this IEM to anyone looking for a very durable and comfortable solution for popular music genres. The midbass boost and spicy treble work quite well for electronic, rock, and hip hop-styled genres. However, as mentioned above, the treble can be a little too hot at times, so sensitive ears beware. All in all, this is a solid offering from Brainwavz that will compete quite well with the established in-ears in this price range like the RE400, SE215, and FXT90.
 
Edit:
I've been giving these guys some more head time with some new source material and I have some impressions to add! They've been hanging out with the Fiio X5 (MP3 320) all week and the treble peakiness is almost (but not quite) gone. The thick tasty bass and rich mids are still there too, and the soundstage is a little improved, although the X5's exceptionally black background may be the largest reason for this. In any case, it's good to know that the S5 seems to scale will better gear. I'm not finding the qualms I had with them before in this setup and it's like I'm getting to know them all over again!

NA Blur

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Improvement over the M2, excellent accessories, bass boost
Cons: Flat cable is cumbersome to wrap up and around the ear, not all tips will allow sound to enter the ear canal, bass becomes boomy
The 2014 Brainwavz S5:  A Single Dynamic Driver IEM
 
S5Box.jpg
 
Specifications Found here:  
 
www.yourbrainwavz.com/s5.html
 
Brainwavz_Specs.bmp
 
No measurements for the S5 were available at the time of this review.
 
Initial testing on an iPod touch ( 3rd Gen ) no EQ
iPod.jpg
 
The idea with the iPod is to ensure that the S5 is easily driven and controlled by a portable player.  The S5 having high sensitivity and low impedance is easily driven to very loud levels with a portable and the drivers were nicely controlled although the bass becomes boomy at times.  The S5 sound does improve with amping.  I also noticed that the S5 does sounds more laid back with a portable compared to my home rig.
 
Full review conducted on my home rig:
 
Sources:  PC playing 256kbps AAC or better files, Internal DVD player, iPod Touch 3rd Gen.
DAC:  Grace Design m903 ( 24 bit mode )
AMP:  HeadRoom BUDA in single ended mode
Interconnects:  Kimber PBJ RCA and Seismic Audio Balanced patch cables
 
TEST TRACKS
The Beach Boys:  Surfin’ USA
Chick Corea:  Three Ghouls, Part 1
Karsh Kale: Longing
Maroon 5:  Won’t Go Home Without You:
Michael Jacskon: Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
Patricia Barber:  Dansons la Gigue
They Might Be Giants:  Spiraling Shape
 
ACCESSORIES
S5Accessories.jpg
 
S5Container.jpg
 
 
FIRST IMPRESSIONS
I will compare the Brainwavz M2 and S5 throughout this review.
My history with Brainwavz goes back to the M1 and M2 days.  I am intimately involved with listening to the M2 as it remains my budget IEM of choice.  Glancing at the spec differences between the M2 and the S5 there are a few noteworthy tidbits.  First the frequency response is reported to be wider on the S5 going from 18 Hz – 25 kHz whereas the M2 spans 20 Hz – 20 kHz.  Typically when I see a manufacturer change the specs like this it points me to the fact they are purposely altering the spec because the sound is obviously different than their other models  The S5 holds true to this fact.  In bass sounds extended and the image becomes more up-front under amped conditions.  The impedance and sensitivity are lower, but the M5 reaches ear-blistering loudness on my portables so there are no worries with using either IEM.
 
You can fiddle around with impedance calculations here:
 
http://www.apexhifi.com/specs.html
 
Read more about impedance here:
 
http://www.head-fi.org/t/607282/headphone-amp-impedance-questions-find-the-answers-here
 
The different between the M2, my go to affordable IEM, is significant. 

The S5 is noticeably bassier which at times becomes too boomy and during other tracks is fun.  The S5 also contains a clearer midrange, and a slightly more up-front image.  The S5 improves upon all aspects of the sound signature of the M2 except the loose bass and hint of sibilance in the upper midrange.  I had no trouble sticking with the S5 during my listening sessions as the M2 sounded too mute and laid-back from my home rig after listening to the S5.

 
LET’S TEST THIS THING
 
Check Corea’s Three Ghouls, Part 1:  This track tests quickness, realism, and treble.  It also tests how up-front sounding a headphone can be.  The speed and glistening treble were well reflected with the S5.  The track sounds quick, fun, and responsive to the cacophony of the Three Goals.  The splash of the cymbals was not as true to form and metallic as from a high-end headphone like the AKG K712 Pro, but certainly was not diminished like so many other IEM’s in this price point.
 
Karsh Kale’s Longing is a track I use for general imaging and engagement.  As Tyll will tell you sometimes how a headphone makes you feel tells a lot about the headphone itself.  The image of the S5 collapses during this track detracting from the space and echo.  The general presentation remains intact, but the spacious gravity is almost completely lost as the image becomes too up-front.
 
Maroon 5’s Won’t Go Home Without You is a track I typically use to test crossover issues with speakers and IEMs.  It also gives rise to issues with male vocals and too up-front sounding headphones.  This track reveals some blurring occurring in the S5 as well as slight sibilance.  I found the S5 fatiguing both with my portables and amped rig with this track.
 
Michael Jacskon’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ is a track that tests the up-front nature of headphones.  It also tests treble and vocals as with some headphones like the AH-D2000 and K701 can be harsh.  The treble was surprising soft and laid-back with this track.  I finished the entire track without fatigue.  The upper midrange became a little tizzy at times having a slight buzz sound blending in with the abundance of instrumentation, but nothing that sounded too far out of place for an IEM in this price point.
 
Patricia Barber’s Dansons la Gigue is an excellent track to test separation, bass, and female vocals.  A headphone like the Grado RS-1i struggles here as things become too one dimensional.  The bass blurs into the mids and further into the treble.  The bass sounds awesome with the S5 proving lush and full.  The detail remains clear enough to resolve the full spectrum showing only slight diminution in the upper treble.
 
The Beach Boys’ Surfin’ USA is a track I use to test how even a headphone may sound.  Much like using Pink Noise it reveals any glaring issues like a lack of midrange smoothness, imaging, and even quickness.   The S5 reveals the nice echo and general flow of the track.  However, I did notice a slight sibilance in the upper midrange heard on the letter “S” and when the words “Inside outside USA” were voiced.
 
They Might Be Giant’s Spiraling Shape is a track I use to test male vocals in detail and how the kick drum resonates.  I also use it to reveal the metallic splash of the crash cymbal.  Here the laid-back nature of the S5 becomes obvious.  The track is soft and nice to listen to without any obvious weakness, but no part of the track is especially clear nor exceptionally presented.  The splash of the cymbals is not metallic and the kick drum is a single tone making the S5 sounds unnatural.
 
FORM, FIT, FUNCTIONALITY
The cable of the S5 is flat rather than a twisted pair and the headphones are supposed to be installed into the ear and then the cable routed over the top of the ear.  The problems for me began with the flat cable having too much surface area and pulling the IEM out of ears at time in the recommended orientation.
The IEM can be worn in the cable-down configuration quite comfortably, but they protrude will passed the outer ear which may get attract some unwanted attention.  There is a lack of left/right labeling on the body and how they fit inside the outer ear when installed with the cable up is the only way that I could find which earpiece goes in which ear.  Not a big deal in most instances because we typically just want to listen to music in a general sense while on the move, but for more critical listening a simple red “R” and blue “L” would suffice.
 
The case is well designed and filled with myriad tips.  The addition of some Comply foam tips is a nice touch.  I found the bi-flange tips to be the best sealing and sounding tips.  Brainwavz also provides a slick ¼ inch adapter which easily clicks on and off of the 1/8th inch standard jack plug at the end of the IEM.

The angle of the resonator, the part of the headphone inserting into the outer ear, was only comfortable or adequate with two of the abundance of tips.  The Comply foam tips simply collapsed into my ear canal and completely blocked out any sound coming from the driver making them an impossible combination with the S5.  This is something that the M2 does not suffer from and Comply foam tips are a huge improvement for that IEM.  The accessories cover a wide variety of tips and sizes so finding one that fits should not be an issue, but optimization may be difficult or impossible for some.

 
CONCLUSION
The S5 improves upon the sound signature over the M2 especially in the bass and presentation.  The treble extension remains in check without becoming fatiguing, but is not as extended as most balanced armature driver IEMs.  My biggest complement to the S5 is the up-front image and midrange clarity which Brainwavz keeps improving upon.
NA Blur
NA Blur
July 15th 2016
Updated for wording

DigitalFreak

镇老鹰
Pros: nice mids, good build quality, smooth sound
Cons: not a flat cable lover, overly large Y-split, bass needs more extension and control
Full video review below
 
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HK_sends

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Light-Weight; Supple Cable; Good Bass; Fun Sound; Fit
Cons: Needs Burn/Break-in; Sound very Tip Dependent; Emphasis on Bass and Treble; Indistinct L/R Markings
Disclaimer:  I would like to sincerely thank Salsera and Brainwavz for providing the sample S5 for this review.
 
For most of my audio listening “career”, I haven’t been a big fan of in-ear-monitors (IEMs) or earphone/earbuds, tending to prefer more traditionally designed portable and full sized headphones.  The major issues I had were trying to find the right positioning, fit, and seal to obtain the optimal sound quality.  Earbuds were out because I prefer to block ambient noise and enjoy the music at a level that doesn’t require an upgrade to a hearing aid before I’m 55.  The IEMs I tried before usually came with two or three sets of ear tips that seemed to fit everybody but me and no instructions on how to actually insert the things.  So I never could seem to find the right position for the housings to stay in so the tips could stay sealed so the music could sound good (got all that…?).  Lastly, the overall musical presentation appeared to be geared towards people who prefer to sit between two 20-inch sub-woofers with a 5-inch mid-range speaker pointed at their face (admittedly, the above mentioned factors may have had some bearing on my impressions of the sound).
tongue.gif

 
Then a while back I received a set of Brainwavz R3 earphones as a gift when I ordered an iBasso DX50.  While their design was a bit unconventional, I found them to be an enjoyable introduction to the newer styles and design philosophies of modern IEMs.  First, I somehow managed to get them to fit in my ears without them wanting to fall out.  Second, they came with more ear tips (of multiple designs and materials) than I had ever seen...including some that actually fit!  So along with the fit and seal came number three; sound was head and shoulders above what I experience before, approaching the level of quality headphones.  It was enough to open my eyes to the potential sound quality of in-ear phones being made today.
 
Since then, I have tried several different types to include hybrid dynamic/balanced armature, straight dynamic with replaceable filters, and straight dynamic with different types of ear tips that change the quality of the sound.  I have discovered a new world in universal IEMs with sound quality and comfort approaching the likes of some of the high-end full-sized headphones out there.  When I can turn on the music and forget that I am wearing IEMs (or headphones) and only hear the music, then the manufacturers have done their job well! 
 
Which brings us to the S5 Earphones; a fun little phone that may not hit audiophile heights, but brings some unique character of its own to table.  Coming in a black box with a front opening flap displaying the driver housings and flat cable on the outside and providing some general company detail and cross-sectional info on the driver, cable, and Comply Foam Tips.  On the back is the list of accessories and specifications.
2014-08-23BWS5_00001.jpg2014-08-23BWS5_00002.jpg2014-08-23BWS5_00003.jpg
 
The Build:
 
The S5s look solidly built with metal driver housings and ear tip posts/acoustic filters.  The filters do not look to be replaceable.  There is a flattened, beveled area near the rear of the housing that has “Brainwavz” embossed on it and a small air-port on the opposite side (blocking this port will affect the sound).  The cable attaches to the housings at the top rear side in such a way that the only practical way to wear these is with the cable over the ear.
 
There are tiny, barely readable Left/Right markings at the cable connection point.  Frankly, I don’t know what the point of even having them is.  Unless they are larger and with better contrast, you have to have a magnifying glass and bright light just to see them.  The good news is Brainwavz designed the housings to be fairly intuitive; so as long as the beveled side of the housings face away from your ears and the ear tips point forward and in (and the cables point up), then they are pointed in the right direction.  BUT…if you are going to put L/R markings on an IEM, make them READABLE!
2014-08-26MoreS5_00001.jpg2014-08-26MoreS5_00004.jpg
 
The Cable:
 
I’ve heard about some IEMs having flat cables before but had never had any before.  The R3 cable was rubberized and seemed more like a thick round monstrosity that you would find on a so-called “sport” headphone.  It was very microphonic and not easy to manage at all.  The S5 cable is the polar opposite, with the cable being thin, flat and supple, I find it very easy to route over my ears and thread it through my clothing so it stays put.  While still having a rubberized coating, it is not as thick or nearly as microphonic as the R3.  There is a convenient chin slider at the Y-connector that helps reduce the microphonics even more.  I quite like the cable.
 
The Sound:
 
Disclaimer:  I find that rating sound is very subjective.  There are those that use measurements, there are those that use descriptive comparisons of the frequency ranges in musical passages, there are those that describe the sound qualities of one headphone in comparison to another.  I will offer that none of these are necessarily wrong, but how can I convince you that the sound I hear is what you are going to hear?  I can’t, and I shouldn’t.  I can only offer that the impressions I write down are what I hear based on my listening experience.  Your experiences may be similar, or they may (in all likelihood) be different.  I offer these impressions as an anecdote and as a service.  Feel free to disagree if you wish but that doesn’t make me any more wrong than it does you right.  Okay, enough blathering…
 
I’ll say it upfront; the ear tips made the sound.  I could not get a real good sense of how the S5s were tuned because every time I tried a different ear tip the sound quality changed…and in some cases, dramatically.  So I would like to offer my opinion of the S5’s sound based on each of the sets of ear tips (and only those) included in the package.  My source was an iBasso DX-90 playing some classic rock, folk (acoustic) instrumental, orchestral, and electronica.
 
One other note: Salsera told me ahead of time the S5s needed several hours of burn-in to tame the bass a bit so I burned them in for 30 hours before even trying to listen to them.
 
Silicone Ear Tip, Black, Small Opening:   My least favorite.  Remember my little description of the 20-in subwoofers and 5-in mid-range?  It wasn’t too far from the mark with these tips…okay, maybe 8-in subs, but you get the picture.  They had the soundstage of a shoe box.  I ended up removing and reinserting them in my ears multiple times to ensure I had got them in right but in the end, they were bass heavy with some emphasis in treble and extremely recessed mids…and a super narrow sound stage.
 
Silicone Ear Tip, Grey, Slightly Larger Opening:  Optical illusion?  Those holes look bigger to me.  But the sound..!  I actually listened to these first and the sound stage is much wider than the black tips above.  There is less bass than the black tips and there is a little more of a mids presence.  There is a definite V-shaped frequency response but it is more pleasant.  There is more bass than treble emphasis but the treble is clear and not harsh.  The mids are recessed somewhat but haven’t been overwhelmed by the bass and treble.  I find myself listening with these tips the most.  They bring out the fun in the S5s
 
Comply T-400: Sorry folks, foam tips and I don’t get along and this experience was no different.  The foam interferes with the fit and usually ends up blocking half the sound channel when I try to use them.  If you find that you like them…more power to you!
 
Bi-flange Ear Tip: To me, the most balanced sounding of the bunch!  I admit I do like a slight bass emphasis to my music and the bi-flange tips provide a little of it while bringing the mids forward for the first time and smoothing out the treble.  It was as close to a balanced IEM that I have heard from a dynamic driver and I really liked them a lot.  They are also the first bi-flanged tips that I could get a good seal along with fitting the housing in my ear.  I may start using these as much as the grey ear tips in the future.  I like what they bring to the S5.
 
Tri-flange Ear Tip:  Unfortunately, the tri-flanges took the balance a little too far and removed the slight bass emphasis that I enjoyed so well.  Other than that and the fact the sheer size of the tips made it impossible to fit into my ears properly, these did sound rather nice with some of the acoustical and vocal music I listened to.
 
2014-08-26MoreS5_00006.jpg2014-08-26MoreS5_00007.jpg
 
In summary:
 
Using the ear tips that came with the S5 I managed to find a sound I liked.  With the sheer number and types of ear tips available on the market, the possibilities for customizing the sound signature to fit a person's tastes are almost endless.  I’m sure that it would be possible to find a set offering a sound signature that meets your needs with the S5.  I have at least 20 sets of tips that I can’t wait to try just to see how much more fun I can have with the S5’s sound!

bowei006

Panda Man
Reviewer at Headphone.Guru
Pros: Good bassy sound with detailed mid end
Cons: Slightly fatiguing and a grainy mid

Brainwavz S5 Review: 



There are questions, and then there are questions that you get asked constantly. One of the most common requests of knowledge from me are on if unit X is better than unit Y. And commonly enough, Brainwavz is thrown into that loop every so often. This is probably due to how popular their untis are in the price range and the rave reviews they typically get. And so today, I have the new Brainwavz S5 with me, and I’m wondering if there is truly going to be a new answer to the age old question of what unit people should buy.



Brainwavz is a personal audio company commonly sold through mp4nation. They specialize in making IEMs and headphones – their primary markets – competitive to units that are worth so much more. They compete through their attention to sonic competence and build durability; so far, their ideology is holding up quite well. The newest entry to their seemingly mantra based company is the S5, especially right after successful launches of the S1, R3, and Delta. The S5 takes a little bit from all three and places them into a nice package.



To start off with, the build of the S5 is similar to the S1s’. They are of a slightly ‘thicker’ build due to the girthy flat cable, 3.5mm cable terminator, and the insertion driver design that the S1 also used. It’s seems to have its durable points covered while still allowing for relative flexability. This seems to be because the S5 took the S1’s strong points of being very build heavy, but mixed it with a slightly lighter and less Hulk like design. Almost like a mix between the S1 and the cable end of the R3.



The driver housing seems to be of lighter grade material than the S1. The S5’s are undeniably plastic with their glossy surface and in how light they are  are metal (this has been brought to me as information by the commentor below) I was a bit disappointed to be honest when I first saw it. The S1 took me a few minutes to discern if they were actually metal, plastic, or a hybrid. They were also weighty and felt reliable. That’s not to say the S5 can’t be all of those things. They can indeed still be reliable, and better yet, their lighter weight can help with insertion and keeping the drivers in your ear. I can’t personally say that I take preference to the S5’s build on the driver housing. But I can say, that they are in no ways a con; it’s rather a mix match of what your priorities are. For those that want a lighter housing for ease of inserting and staying in place along with overall weight. These work for those guys. For others that want a unit that even the Hulk can use, you may want to look at the S1 or even the Nuforce NE-700M.



All in all, the design philosophy of the S5 is a victory on the part of principle and that it actually works. In terms of principle, it shows how Brainwavz is actively listening to users of their previous gear and making noticeable and deliberate changes to their product line with speed. I remember remakring in my S1 review on how awkward and thick the headphone jack was and in how the entire unit was slightly on the heavy side. And while some may take issue with the S5 for being lighter and having less perceivable build, the S5 still works and it does its job well. The flat cable, smaller headphone jack, and driver housing inserter are all in great shape and do their job well.



The Brainwavz S5, with the Comply tips, act as great sonic isolators. I’ve used this in loud enviroments, train journeys, and for walking past Harleys. They pretty much can get rid of most of the sound. The thing they can’t get rid of are the very low rumbles that an environment may produce. This can be the hum of the car engine, the rumble of a Harley, or the tracks on a train; all of these are things I’ve experienced. They are still excellet in getting rid of the general noise of the environment though.



Brainwavz knows how to impress, and they do it yet again with their goodie bags. Yep, you know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about all the accessories that Brainwavz showers its owners with. Upon unboxing the unit, I knew I was in for a treat as the red carrying case was bulging under the weight of whatever was in it. Inside were a bag load of siliclne tips, a Comply tip set, a 3.5mm to quarter inch adapter, and warranty information. I was most surprised at the new jack adapter and Comply tips this time. They were both quite fancy and made me feel like they were exotic goodies. For the most part, I’m impressed with what Brainwavz gives its owners and do like their goodie bags.



 
The general sound signature of the S5 can be described as clear with a slightly thick undertone with a palpable timbre in the mid range. It’s almost a sonic mix between the thick S1 and the detailed R3.



The mid range of the Brainwavz is active with a forward presentation. The vocals are quite clear and generally full of detail. They don’t have a veil to it and are entertaining to listen to. They are a good match for the tier of this unit and its performance and I like them. But the issues come in the finer parts. They aren’t completely full; there is a bit of ‘soul’ lacking from them. This exacerbates a slight issue on the part of naturalness that gets amplified due to the lack of fullness to them. They are a bit anemic in regards to how natural the timbre and direction should be. Just slightly off balance, but nothing completely out of place. The last thing to note is that they have a very slight – and rare- instance of sibilance evey so often. It’s not very pronounced or loud, but it does happen.

The instrumental mid range is one of the best parts of the S5. Whereas the slightly colder mid range and a lack of soul extension makes the vocals a bit stale, the insturments benefit from it. Often times, too full a mid range makes the instruments too thick. The S5 gets it just right here as instruments are detailed without the tonal warmth to it that many other units have issues with. The instruments also get their own space apart from the vocals and so its quite a good mixture of the two. Listening to instrumental tracks is a guilty pleasure of mine with the S5. They entertain the listener without getting too sharp or hot, and this is pretty important for a unit at this price.

The kick of the low-end is precise and loud enough that it pleases, but not far enough that it becomes a competitor in car-audio. It doesn’t show up that often, but when the bass is required by the song. It delivers a precision strike of good low-end kick. It was a rewarding instance, to be listening to a clean and mid heavy song, only to wait for the moment a bass drop would appear, and in where the S5 would deliver beautifully.

The highs of the S5 don’t have much to be introduced. They are slightly passive and do deliver a bit when needed, but I did find them a bit dull during the times that they did make an appearance. It’s good to have a high range that isn’t bright, but at the same time, its not good to not have a high range. It’s a fair dilemma and I think that the S5 produces just enough to make it above the imaginary line of what works and what doesn’t.

Overall, the sound of the S5 was detailed and offered itself as a great unit for listening to instrument heavy tracks; they were still quite doable with vocal tracks, but that wasn’t their shinning moment. The unit had a good design and build standard reminescient of the R3, and S1 and it worked quite well. And so what do I think of the question on how this unit stacks to the others? Well, I find the S5 to be a great middleman of having a lot of strong points that the other Brainwavz’s also have. It’s a balanced and middle decision really, and if you want something that is the best of all worlds with a slight loss in a few areas. Then I say that the S5 is your new friend.



Typhoon859

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Great design overall; provided assortment of eartips to match anyone's interests and comfort needs; solid soundstage & imaging; neutral signature
Cons: Fairly sibilant; slightly boomy in the upper-mid bass range; slightly recessed mids (lacking "bite"); buds are made of aluminum but don't feel robust
 
UPDATED REVIEW- *initial mistaken impressions contrasting with this revised version are preserved below or are otherwise struck out
All the ratings for each individual category are relative except for "design" which I've decided to mark standalone (based on its own merit):
Audio Quality: 7/10
Comfort: 8/10
Design: 8/10
Isolation: 8/10
Value: 7/10

 

*I'm not sure if the ratings under "Review Details", off to the left, are supposed to reflect that of my own or just everyone's average.  They obviously don't match what I've listed here (and perhaps this answers my question), but in any case, that's the reason I've written it out.

 

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As it is easy to find pictures which many have already posted, likely better ones than I'd be able to produce anyway given the use of better cameras, I won't clutter the web with redundancy.

 
General Impressions- 
To mention straight from the start, for those unfamiliar with Brainwavz, I regard them as currently one of the best companies which brand and manufacture different kinds of headphones.  They aim for quality and produce their product at prices which many I'm sure would argue are very fair.  Often times they also allow for some great sales!  As an audio enthusiast and sound engineer, they truly do provide a wide variety of products to satisfy needs on every front.  I would say the Brainwavz M2's formerly were and the Brainwavz HM5's are currently the number one value headphones on the market, from every perspective one can think of.  By my standards, the Brainwavz S5 in comparison falls a little short on these fronts.  Although not necessarily entirely bad in the general context of all things, the product is more akin to the design and price of something made by Monster.
 
So now, moving onto the S5's more specifically, upon opening the packaging and opening the case in which they reside, from the beginning I was immediately pleased by everything aesthetically about them.  Having had experience with many IEM designs in the past, I already knew this would be a winner.  I think mostly the cable design is what's to credit, and the obvious choice to make angled eartips.  
 
Upon picking them up, considering the soft quality of the cable, a concern did arise which was that perhaps the cable may rip over time.  Upon further examining, the connections were solid enough that this concern quickly dissipated.  That, plus the slider which connects the earphones at the Y-split, which I finally found to once be useful on a cable, is what also helped this fact.  I would recommend using it as it seemingly also aids in the distribution of tension from any pulling forces.  
 
Apart from this, the cable design is actually very comfortable.  Anybody who may have concerns about the thickness of the cable can drop them now because all this does is help keep it from tangling.  Additionally, in my experience, it actually gets less in the way considering the fact that it doesn't twist out of shape.  The thickness also doesn't otherwise contribute noticeably to the weight of the cable.
 
Finally, this new cable design also handles microphonics quite well (which is when tapping the wire transfers the sound to your ears) though perhaps it isn't the best amongst earphones starting to approach this price range.  All-in-all, it's a more than worthwhile tradeoff for the rest of the benefits imo.  
 
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Sound Quality-

My review of these in-ear monitors is from impressions obtained mostly with use in conjunction with the FiiO E17 DAC/Amp.  I have however tried them with many other devices such as phones and tablets, and for the most part, given their easy-to-drive nature, their signature sound and their frequency response generally remained the same.  Listening was done after 120 hours of burn-in.  It should also be noted that this is all based on listening using the stock medium-sized silicone tips with which they arrive, which are perfect in terms of comfort/size for me (and I imagine is likely the same for most).  Lastly, the music this was tested with was largely varied to encompass the full spectrum of sound including time and frequency; this includes the best produced and recorded pieces of Classical music, Dubstep, other forms of Electronic music, Hard Rock, Metal, Pop, and other genres and unique artists (obviously, all with different production styles). 
 

Upon truly getting comfortable with the Brainwavz S5’s, I came to recognize their full potential.  Going from song to song, if I were to best sum up in one word the way which they sound, it would be neutral.  This wouldn’t be however to say that they sound natural, unfortunately.  One would think the two go together but interestingly, not in this case.  I found the sound to generally give the impression of being sonically layered, and in turn lost some depth. Songs generally retained most of their qualities though the area which I found mostly problematic were the highs.  If there was at all anything these headphones can be claimed to seriously imprint onto the music, it would be very one-dimensional and isolating highs.  This in effect can grow to be tiresome over time, however ignoring this fact, I did find all genres of music to work rather well, very rarely giving the impression of lacking in any of their fundamental frequencies.  They can in cases be unforgiving to music that's poorly mixed or otherwise poorly produced.  Sound-wise, I feel the S5’s would squarely fall into the category of $80 IEMs (at retail value), and would imo be a great deal at a price of ~$65-.  I’d place their true value at around $70, but of course all these values are completely arbitrary and don’t account for any design/manufacturing costs.

 

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Taking note of the good (with exception)-
These have great clarity, soundstage, and separation.  I’d certainly say it’s above average from what you’d come to expect of most in-ear monitors leading up to this price range.  I haven’t had in-depth experience with the RE0’s, but from how I remember them, I would wager that they still lead* on this front (or I guess I should say led* since they're discontinued).  

 

Furthermore, as mentioned, these do work well for pretty much all genres, although I might say with the exclusion of Jazz.  In many songs, the concentration of frequencies falls right into the accentuated ranges of the headphones, giving a sense of really cheap reproduction.  Obviously this applies to any song mixed with sound predominantly in those areas but it appears to be more rare in other genres. 

 

To take note furthermore, there’s never a sense of fatigue from crushed transients.  In terms of their speed, they have a great balance between accentuated notes and sustain.  Problems lie mostly in other areas.

 

Finally, in terms of what stands out, bass guitar in most songs is well defined, clean, and smooth throughout the ranges.  Apart from a certain peak which emphasizes the attack of certain LF sounds, there is little to criticize about.  If “adjusted” right, these IEMs certainly aren’t missing balls.  Just as an example, anyone considering these for EDM would likely be satisfied…

 

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Taking note of the bad-
Because of a sibilance peak I’d wager is around 10 KHz-12 KHz and other frequencies throughout the treble range which also peak (or otherwise dip), the sound of the highs came across as thin and narrowly focused, mostly affecting percussion type instruments like cymbals, shakers, and snare actually as well.  It also gives the feeling of having these instruments taken out of context, especially when they're panned off to the left or right.  In the center, it’s rather distracting and there’s generally a predominance of a harsh-sounding snare over everything else (likely due to another peak at ~5 KHz).  These specific regions give the impression of somewhat sounding distorted, and there is definitely an issue of sibilance in vocals (though it’s not the worst out there, likely due to not as narrow a peak). 

 

In terms of low frequency response, bass may sometimes appear to be bloated, particularly in the 80 Hz & 120 Hz regions (the power frequencies), somewhat more prominent at around the upper-mid bass area.  There is apparently a bump there which, as briefly mentioned prior, tends to mostly influence sounds with a relatively fast attack, like it may with kick drum for example.. 

 

Lower mid-range seems to be present, but often times there seems to be a lack of mid-range bite.  My best guess would be slightly attenuated frequencies between 650 Hz-850 Hz or perhaps they're just somewhat drowned out by other slightly boosted regions.

 

Considering all the above mentioned qualities, this is likely why, as mentioned in my introductory SQ impressions, the sound comes across as layered.  It’s almost as if the lows, mids, and highs are generated from three different sources.   

 

It’s safe to say that clearly, these aren’t exactly flat; however, it would be my personal submission that they don’t also lean towards any one area over the other.  Any of its inconsistencies I would explicitly label as strictly faults.  That being said, any set of headphones as disproportionate in balance as perhaps these are imperfectly tuned in any one area, I’d likely consider as ultimately worse.

 

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In conclusion, I would say these headphones are good for any general purpose; however, I would also say they are the master of none and certainly not the master of all.  If you’re looking for something specific for any casual listening purpose, there would perhaps be options better tuned for whatever that purpose may be.  If you’re looking for IEMs which are simply as accurate as can be but personally aren’t willing to spend much over $100, these may be the way to go. 
 

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*Keep in mind that all estimations of frequencies are nothing more, stated simply for the purpose of conveying some sense of understanding to those at all familiar with how specific frequencies may influence your overall impressions of sound. 

 

 

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Previous Review-
Rating:
★★★☆☆​
Overall Summary: Setting a Precedent in Cable Design; Warmth & Neutrality Left to be Desired in the Sound
Pros: Exemplary design; provided assortment of eartips to match anyone's interests and comfort needs; solid soundstage & imaging; all the pros of good IEMs
Cons: Highly priced for only slightly better than average sound; earphone buds are fully plastic
 
All the ratings for each individual category are relative except for "design" which I've decided to mark standalone (based on its own merit):
Audio Quality: 5/10
Comfort: 8/10
Design: 9/10
Isolation: 8/10
Value: 6/10
 
"
 ...
 
     "
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Sound Quality-
My review of these in-ear monitors is from impressions obtained mostly with use in conjunction with the FiiO E17 DAC/Amp.  I have however tried them with many other devices such as phones and tablets, and for the most part, given their easy-to-drive nature, their signature sound and their frequency response generally remained the same.  Listening was done before and after 120 hours of burn-in, and unlike claimed by some others, it failed to even out the frequencies for me in ranges where it would be considered to be a problem, although I can't claim to have done this test very scientifically.  It should also be noted that this is all based on listening using the stock medium-sized silicone tips with which they arrive, which are perfect in terms of comfort/size for me (and I imagine is likely the same for most).  Lastly, the music this was tested with was largely varied to encompass the full spectrum of sound including time and frequency; this includes the best produced and recorded pieces of Classical music, Dubstep, other forms of Electronic music, Hard Rock, Metal, Pop, and other genres and unique artists (obviously, all with different production styles).
 
It was apparent to me from the start the signature which the S5's impart onto the signal.  After about two songs, everything I further listened to pretty much served only to reinforce my impressions or otherwise increase the degree to which I was able to recognize the projected response onto the music.  I was actually a little surprised that the time they burned in didn't make much of a difference (whether for better or for worse) because my feeling was that the issue here was specifically the drivers.  In any case, what this immediately meant, at least to me, was that regardless of your preferences, their sound would grow tiresome/boring after a while since the sound of every song greatly conforms around them (which if I'm honest isn’t that much different from what I find the problem to be with most headphones/earphones).  In my opinion, the degree to which this is the case here is too much for earphones in the $80+ category.
 
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Taking note of the good (with exception)-

Starting off more with some of the good however, the soundstage I noticed to be slightly better than what you would typically expect from IEM's (though it didn't differ much from what would otherwise be familiar to most) due to noticeably good separation found between frequencies in the mid and lower-mid range.  This also lends itself well to clarity, with exception to certain frequencies in the upper-mid range or perhaps upper treble frequencies even (~4.5 KHz-6 KHz and/or 10 KHz). 
 

Additionally, apart from the mentioned range above, highs appear to be well extended, so e.g., cymbals tend to sound pretty clear on these.  These IEMs certainly wouldn’t be considered to be in any way dark/veiled. 

 

Also quite good I’d say is the bass.  Though it doesn’t extend quite as far as I would’ve liked, where it hits it is clean and accurate.  It is rather neutral I would say but it may not appeal to bass enthusiasts.

 

On another point, transient response is excellent on the S5’s.  Many IEM’s fail to deliver a clear and fast transient response and therefore lend themselves poorly to long listening sessions.  If not for maybe other reasons, the S5’s certainly wouldn’t be fatiguing in this regard.

 
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Taking note of the bad-

The increase in separation may be the illusion of a fault however, which is that the lower-mid range is predominantly missing/scooped out compared to everything else.  In one word, if I were to describe their main fault, it would be their lack of fullness.  This impression can be gotten due to many different reasons, but in this case, it's simply the fault of the relative response of the frequencies (rather than simply sounding overall thin, cheap, underpowered, and/or distorted).  I therefore have a strong feeling this can well be compensated for with some EQ, so if you are an owner of a PMP/DAP with a high quality built-in EQ or your primary use would otherwise be using a media player like Foobar2000 which has the ability to implement all manner of VST plug-ins (out of which there are definitely some great EQs out there), I wouldn’t rule this pair of earphones out just yet. 
 

Apart from essentially the entirety of the lower mid-range being attenuated and the perhaps briefly inferred lack of hard-hitting lows, the extremity of the upper mid-range is rather accentuated.  It falls victim to the quite infamous problem with many IEMs which is sibilance, particularly S’s and T’s pronounced in vocals.  It is to the point of even narrowly sounding distorted in that range.  One thing that’s predominantly noticeable and perhaps more understandable to those less fine-tuned to the implication of certain exaggerated frequencies, in this case specifically, the snare drum in many tracks harshly cuts through practically everything else and is obviously therefore skewed in its relative AND individual balance.  Perhaps this is the thing I found most annoying.

 

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Ultimately, if I were to choose from headphones which perhaps purposely emphasized/deemphasized frequencies for the purpose of emphasis of more fun and/or pleasing frequencies, this would almost be the inverse of what I would consider a nice balance in that regard.

 

If I were to recommend these earphones, it would be to those who perhaps value clarity above all else and prefer the opposite of a signature which may be considered muddy or in any way boomy sounding.

 

 

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*This review will be updated with picture(s) and a description of screenshot(s) of the iZotope Ozone 5 Master Suite plug-in, primarily focused on the EQ section, the purpose of which will be meant to demonstrate the areas which I feel ultimately needed compensation/correction.

ZapX629

1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Clarity, detail, Good for almost all genres
Cons: A bit unrefined, Somewhat artificial sounding
Before I begin, I’d like to thank shotgunshane for the opportunity to review these new headphones.
 
My first experience with Brainwavz was when I picked up their M4 a couple of years ago. I was impressed with the company’s effort for being so young and how accessible their CEO was, asking customers for their input and helping them personally with issues they had with their headphones. Since then, I’ve purchased their S1 and while they weren’t my personal kind of sound signature, I liked the tough build quality and the ergonomics. I thought it would be nice if they made an IEM that had the same build quality, but a more detailed and clear sound. To my excitement, the S5 seemed to do just that. 
 
Build/Design/Accessories
 
The S5 comes with a flat cable, which doesn’t tangle easily. It features sturdy, professional looking metal housings which, like the S1 seem like they can take quite a beating. I definitely wouldn’t be afraid to take these out and about. The cable comes to an end with a smaller, straighter jack than the S1. Many people dislike straight jacks, but this one is very well relieved and much improved over the S1’s slightly awkward 130° angle jack. The Y-cable retains the same bulky split as the S1. Nice and rugged, and not too noticeable, but a bit large and odd looking, like something out of a 90’s Sci-fi program.
 
The S5 comes with the same assortment of tips as the S1; 3 gray, 3 black, 1 bi-flange, 1 tri-flange, and 1 pair of Comply T-400s. Out of the bunch, I found the best sounding tips to be the stock gray. Also included is a 1/4 inch adapter which makes me very happy as a musician who often plugs into guitar amplifiers and my digital piano. Brainwavz kept the same sturdy case from the S1, and for good reason; it was and is an excellent case for any pair of IEMs.
 
As far as comfort goes, the S5 are excellent. I had some reservations about the long housings, but rather than stick out, they fit into the curves of one’s ear. Very comfortable for long listening sessions, and even comfortable enough to sleep in. There is driver flex at times, as with every Brainwavz IEM I’ve owned, but otherwise, outstanding job by Brainwavz on the design.
 
Sound
 
I used a selection of different genres to test different aspects of sound. First, some notes on what I’m listening to and what I’m looking for.
 
Metal
  1. Galneryus - Silent Revelation
  2. Arch Enemy - Nemesis
 
Both of these tracks feature lightning fast double bass drums and drum work with rapid fire guitars and bass. They serve as a great test of bass tightness and how well a headphone can keep up with and control the frantic pace. They also test attack and decay, particularly in the mids and bass.
 
Rock
  1. Deep Purple - Lazy
  2. Dream Theatre - The Silent Man
 
These tracks both have very good imaging and detail. A good way to test soundstage and clarity. Both should also sound very natural and organic with the right headphones. The Silent Man has a deep sub bass current that plays under the acoustic guitar in the middle of the song; a very good test of bass extension. Male vocals.
 
EDM
  1. OceanLab - If I could Fly
  2. Leslie Parrish - Remember Me
 
Vocal trance and Eurobeat. These are both highly produced electronic songs, but are good tests of bass impact, extension, and tightness. Even with the production, these are also a good test of the female vocal range and how harsh your treble can get. The former has a bit more natural sound while the second is very artificial sounding. Should be fun and engaging to listen to.
 
Jazz
  1. Dave Brubeck - Everybody’s Jumpin’
  2. Diana Krall - Devil May Care (Live in Paris)
 
Detail, Imaging, bass, mids, highs. Two Jazz tunes that test just about every feature you could need a headphone to test. The Diana Krall has a nice live soundstage.
 
Classical
Sergei Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 Mvt I (Grygory Cziffra)
Erik Satie - Trois Gymnopédies (Daniel Varsano)
 
The Rach challenges a headphone’s texture, dynamics, and cohesion across the entire orchestral spectrum, where the Satie is a simple, but emotional solo piano score to test detail, harmonics, and piano timbre. 
 
Hip Hop/R&B
  1. Public Enemy - Can’t Truss it
  2. Utada Hikaru - Fly me to the Moon (2007 Mix)
 
Two different urban styles that test the same things. Bass and vocals. One more powerful and male, the other more musical and female. Utada Hikaru’s take on a classic jazz standard also does some nice things with imaging. 
 
Bass
 
The S5’s bass is decently extended and strong enough to handle any EDM, Hip-hop, or Metal song you want to throw at it. It has a strong mid-bass punch that will satisfy most people looking for a funner low end. It isn’t, however a basshead IEM. The bass also features well in other genres such as Rock and Jazz. It’s not as tight and controlled as something like the VSonic GR07BE, however, and while it isn’t smeared or blurry, the bass has some trouble with faster passages in Heavy Metal tunes. Drums don’t have the best decay and bass guitars can bleed a tad. For most songs, however, they do just fine. 
 
Mids
 
When I first heard the S5, I was coming from a more neutral midrange IEM. As such, the female vocal range sounded somewhat distant and laid back. Male vocals, on the other hand, sound more neutral. This is most likely due to the emphasized bass bridging into the low mids. The overall sound of the mids is somewhat thin, a trend which follows into the upper registers. The mids are well detailed despite the thinness as well as clear, though laid back. Guitars sound very nice and detailed, but piano can sound a bit hollow and lacking dynamically in classical pieces. 
 
Highs
 
The upper range is definitely brighter and has a sort of coldness to my ears. There are a few peaks near 6kHz and 10-11kHz, but nothing that bothered me too much. Bad mp3’s can sound a bit harsh, but nothing overly sibilant or bothersome at normal listening levels. The highs can sound a bit artificial due to their splashiness and thin presentation but, again, this results in clear and detailed sound. This does however get a bit fatiguing after a longer period of listening. Snare drum pops in particular can bother one’s ears. 
 
Soundstage and Image
 
The S5’s instruments are well separated, although not quite as much as some other competitors. The soundstage is fairly wide, but not too deep and high, at least noticeably. The image is good and it’s easy to hear where the producer placed mics and instruments in the stage. Overall a nice and open sound that isn’t congested.
 
A final note: The S5 is easily driven and quite sensitive, so no need to amp it up. Just plug into your favorite source and enjoy.
 
 
Comparisons
 
VSonic GR07 Bass Edition:
 
The GR07 is a bit more warm and full overall and the mids aren’t quite as recessed. The S5 is more artificial sounding while the VSonic is more natural. Detail wise, the GR07 is very slightly ahead, but you won’t miss too much from the S5. Soundstage and imaging is about the same, but the GR07 seems a little more clear and separated than the S5. The GR07 also excels in its tight and controlled note presentation, where the S5 could use a bit of refinement. It’s great to see two of my favorite headphone brands this close though, and the competition between the two is starting to get closer, but it's not quite there yet.. 
 
VSonic VSD3:
 
We’ve looked at a tier higher IEM so let’s look at a tier lower one. The VSD3S is actually quite a good competitor to the S5. The VSD3S is warmer (but less bassy) in the lows and mids and has a fuller sound without some of the bleed that the S5 has. Both have somewhat artificial treble, but the VSD3S is a tiny bit more so than the Brainwavz. Both are also about equal in soundstage with the VSD3S lagging behind the S5 in openness. The S5 also wins in terms of clarity and detail. Overall, not actually too bad of a race, considering the VSD3S is half the price, but the S5 wins out here, as expected. 
 
Brainwavz S1: 
 
Finally, I’d be remiss I didn’t compare the S5 to its little brother, the S1. The most glaring thing is the bass is far less controlled and much bigger in the S1, where the S5 has to come along and teach it a thing or two. On the whole, the S1 is muddy in comparison to the thin and detailed presentation of its family member.
 
Summary
 
Overall, I feel the S5 is a great consumer friendly IEM that shines with genres like Rock, Pop, Hip-hop, Jazz and Electronic. It’s not the best for classical, but this is not where the S5 makes its mark anyway. It’s an all-rounder that does everything well, but not without a few flaws. However, anyone looking for a sturdy, fun, friendly IEM that will handle almost anything without much trouble should enjoy them. They’ll disappear in your ears and make you smile. If you’re a discerning audiophile, on the other hand, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
Salmonelas
Salmonelas
nice review,i enjoy reading this and i liked the sellection of tracks and why the where sellected.Also can you compare this to Havi and T1E because of all the hype right now?
Great job!!!
ZapX629
ZapX629
I haven't heard those two yet, so I wouldn't be able to make a fair or informed comparison, sorry.
egosumlux
egosumlux
Would be nice to hear that the future S7/8 will be a tad more neutral then Brainwavz will beat the venerable GR07 in technical ability (I could not be fair to campare GR07 to the B2)

lin0003

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Nice Bass, Clarity, Separation, Detail
Cons: Cable
First I’d like to thank Salsera and Brainwavz for sending me a review sample of the S5. Brainwavz are a brand that I am quite familiar with. They have many IEMs that are often praised on Head-Fi and I have had an experience with a few of them. They were established in 2008 and are a relatively new company and their IEMs are priced quite competitively for how they sound from my experience. I also heard their HM5 and was very fond of it. Let’s see what they have in store for us now.
 
I remember the time when I first joined Head-Fi, with my pair of IE8s. Those changed to a TF-10 and eventually, a B2 from Brainwavz. They were one of my first balanced and mid-tier IEMs and I remember them very well. If you have seen my review on it, you will realise that it is not very positive, but I’m starting to think my pair had some kind of filter issue. Anyway, Brainwavz have come out with another IEM, which is called the S5. I was rather intrigued when I first saw it and now I have a pair to evaluate.
 
The S5 is a 10mm dynamic driver IEM that looks very ordinary and is priced at a rather nice $100. With the sub-$100 IEM market becoming more and more competitive, how does Brainwavz’s new entry fare against its competitors? Let’s go on and see.
 
**Disclaimer** These were given to me by Brainwavz in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
 
s51.jpg
 
 
Unboxing & Accessories
The S5 doesn’t come in a very fancy box, but that is to be expected, considering that they are $99. The box is actually quite nice for its price; it’s cardboard and flips open, to reveal the S5s and the case. On the flap, it has some information the earphones, Brainwavz and the Comply tips that are also included in the package. The back of the box has some specifications and information about what’s in the package.

 
IMG_20140817_154022.jpg
 
The accessories are actually very good for the asking price. They come with a wide selection of tips, including a pair of Complys, which is nice. The case is one of the more practical and easiest to use cases I have seen. Nothing like the fancy DN-2000 case which is such a pain to use. There is also a 3.5mm to ¼ inch adapter, which is a little big, but a nice addition nonetheless. It comes with some manuals and a warranty card as well. Overall, they do very satisfactory here.
 
 
Design, Isolation & Cable
The S5s have an extremely understated design and they do not stand out at all. They are over the ear, but you can wear them straight don as well, but the microphonics are pretty bad. Wearing any flat cable IEM cable down has always been like this is my experience. The plug is quite solid, and the strain relief is very good as well. These should be able to get into the phone cases if you plan to use these with your phone. There is also a cable cinch, which is nice.

 
The isolation is just okay, it’s not great, but it’s not bad either. They are fine for outdoors use even on roads with a lot of traffic. The bass heavy sound kind of helps the isolation.
 
I’m not really a fan of flat cables, but they don’t get tangled as easily, which is a plus if you just shove them into your pocket or something. The cable feels a bit thin and cheap, I really wished that they had gone with a thicker, round cable, or even that twisted one that they use in the B2. The strain reliefs are very good though, so the cable breaking doesn’t worry me much.
 
IMG_20140817_154034.jpg
 
 
Testing Gear
Most of my listening was done through an iBasso DX50. I feel like there was a distinct improvement from my Nexus 5 phone to my DX50, but adding an amp really didn’t help the sound. Unfortunately, my DX90 is on loan ATM so I didn’t do much listening on them, but from what I remember, there was not much, if any improvement over the DX50. The S5 hits a brick wall after a while and doesn’t scale too much with better sources. I also really enjoyed the iPod Nano 3rd Gen with them, the bass rolls off a little, which makes the overall sound cleaner. The Clip+ wasn’t bad either. The O2 amp didn’t pair well with them at all and I actually liked the DX50 alone more.

 
IMG_20140817_154311.jpg
 
Sound Quality
It’s been a long time since I last heard a Brainwavz IEM, but I had a very good experience with the HM5 when I tried it, so I had some high expectations for the S5, but I had a feeling that it would not sound anything like the dual BA TWFK B2 that I had a while back since it uses a dynamic driver. Upon first listening to it, my suspicions were confirmed – they sound nothing alike at all from memory. Is it better? Well, it’s not really better, nor is it worse, it is quite simply different, like comparing apples with oranges. They simply sound nothing at all alike.

 
 
Bass
This was the section that really shocked me when I first put them in. I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting, because the B2 and HM5 are both very neutral leaning towards being a little bass light in terms of bass. The S5 hits hard, and has some serious rumble to it! Sure, it is not up to those basshead levels like the DN-1000 was, but for most people this will not be a bad thing, and I can see a lot of S5 followers who will love the bass. The mid-bass is quite elevated and detailed, but not as much as some other similarly priced offerings. What I really loved was the sub-bass, which I found to be a bit north of neutral. It was very detailed with good texture and had a very satisfying rumble to it; not too much that it drowns out the details, but definitely not too little. The speed is actually reasonably good, but don’t expect this to be as fast as the B2 or RE-400.

 
Midrange
Being a dynamic driver IEM, I was expecting warmer mids. Some IEMs that I have heard with warm mids end up getting it very wrong and the entire sound seems to be veiled and muddy. The S5 was luckily not one of them, and immediately I like them so much more than the AF140 I just had on loan a while ago which costs around three times as much. The S5 surprised me here once again, the mids sound much more BA like than I had imagined and are very clear, but just a little bit unnatural. They are somewhat recessed and pulled back a little. The upper vocals have a unique sound to them that may be to your preference, but I’m not too much of a fan. The timbre of the instruments is actually rather impressive and very realistic. Compared to the RE-400’s neutral to warm midrange, these sound a little brighter and have a little more clarity, though it is close. It does very well here and is indeed quite good for the $99 price tag.

 
Treble
It’s been quite a weird and interesting journey with the S5 so far, they have been nothing like I expected them to be (not in a bad way). The treble can really make or break a headphone or IEM and too many times have I heard the treble be incredibly off. Personally, I like my treble just a bit on the bright side, but not too much. The S5 is a bit over what I consider the perfect treble tonality, but it is far from being overly bright and is still very much listenable and enjoyable. The B2 had some treble issues IMO that have been resolved in the S5. The detail is good over here and there is nice clarity, better than the RE-400 in this regard. Occasionally cymbals can become borderline sibilant at higher volumes, but I did not find that to be an issue most of the time. The extension is not bad, but it is nothing special either, it does pretty well for its price. Overall, the treble is pretty impressive once again but I can also see some people finding it too bright.

 
IMG_20140817_153917.jpg
 
Soundstage & Imaging
Soundstage is the area that I feel just a little let down by. I guess I was expecting a larger soundstage than what I got, but it is by no means bad. It is just above average for its price. The RE-400 has a similar sized soundstage while the more expensive DN-1000 (from memory) smashes it here. It is decently wide, but lacks a bit of height and depth to it. Overall it is quite nice and enjoyable though.

 
The imaging is better than the soundstage but isn’t great either. The RE-400s may just be a little bit better here. The S5 images rather well though, being clear and quite precise. It handled many tracks with no problems, but the imaging of bass instruments seem to be a little bit blurred due to the slightly slow bass. Not bad at all, rather impressive, the S5 does well here.
 
IMG_20140817_154156.jpg
 
Details, Clarity & Separation
Ah, in the sub-$100 market, a tone of IEMs are very detailed such as then RE-400 and AX35 as well as the Alfa Genus. Does the S5 do better than all of them here? Well, no, but it does have a unique way of presenting the details, which is just as impressive as it is unique. It is so effortless, it doesn’t feel like it is shoving it in your face like the AX35, but instead, kind of just lets it sink in slowly.

 
The clarity of the S5 is one of its strong areas and it really does do very well here. MO out of the bunch, the clarity of the S5 is probably the best, despite it being not the most detailed. Vocals sound very clear but due to the upper midrange being elevated, they can sometimes sound a bit unnatural. The elevation in the upper midrange carries onto the lower treble, and as a result, there is a sense of more clarity, but it comes at the expense of some minor sibilance. These actually do very well for their price range.
 
The separation of the S5, along with the RE-400 are the best in the under $100 range for me. Some IEMs come close, but no IEMs that I have heard in their price range does separation quite as good as them. The separation of the S5 holds up even in rather complex tracks but I did hear it falter on some tracks that are very hard to get right. They might even do a bit better than the RE-400s actually, but it is too close to call.
 
IMG_20140817_154104.jpg
 
Conclusion
 
IMG_20140817_153835.jpg
 
Wow, it has been one hell of an experience with the S5, they really blew me away in some areas, but fell short in some areas too. One might ask which one is better overall, the RE-400 or the S5 and I would tell them that they are hugely different IEMs and each has a different target audience. The S5 is one for the masses, which tend to like a more V shaped sound signature. Those seeking a more reference and neutral sound signature should go for the RE-400, it does its job extremely well. Brainwavz has created a superb IEM that competes with the best of its price range and I have a feeling the S5 will do very well. It is certainly a very special and unique IEM. 
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d marc0

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Well balanced sound and excellent build quality at an affordable price!
Cons: The flat rubbery cable may be less desirable to some.
Brainwavz S5 Review: You get more than what you paid for!


 
 
My first experience with Brainwavz was the R3 and to be honest, I really like them despite the negative reception from most users regarding fit and comfort. The R3 sounded mature, well refined, and the timbre was just mesmerising. Now Brainwavz has just released the S5 and I am fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to review their new offering. So lets find out if the new S5 can impress me just as much as my last experience...
 
SETUP:  Colorfly C3 > JDS Labs C5D
               iMac 2011 > JDS Labs C5D
               16/44 FLAC
               Using Comply TS200 foam tips.
 
TEST TRACKS:
              Dr. Chesky’s Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc
              Dream Theater - Greatest Hit (…and 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs)
              Tool - Lateralus
              Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
              Avicii - True
              Pink - Greatest Hits... So Far!
              Tina Turner - Greatest Hits
              Boyz II Men - II
              Michael Jackson - Bad (Remastered)
 
 

 
 
The S5 has a single dynamic driver incased in a metal housing that is very well made with smooth surfaces. The strain reliefs are probably amongst the best, if not the best I've seen in an IEM. I wouldn't have a problem tossing these earphones around even when taken outdoors. I believe these can take the test of time and I'm glad that they've taken the same concept they originally had with the R3 but improved on the negatives such as the thickness and weight of the cables. The S5 cables may not be the lightest but they certainly are a lot better compared to the hefty R3 cables. I only wished they've used a less rubbery material and then terminated into an angled plug instead for a more concealed application when using these earphones outdoors. Other than that, there's really not much I can nit pick on the S5's build quality.
 
 

 
 
The SOUND of the S5 is quite pleasing to my ears, positioning itself as one of the top performers in the $100 price range. Not necessarily the best but definitely a lot better than most budget IEMs I’ve heard.

BASS has solid slam and impact but can be too emphasized for some genres such as heavy metal. There’s a noticeable boost in the entire bass frequency which I feel should’ve been minimized in the mid-bass region. At certain times the bass texture is just too thick that it causes a bit of veil over complex bass guitar lines. Fortunately, the quality is good enough with its decay/speed hovering at acceptable levels. Not as fast as balance armature driven earphones but not sloppy either… just a well balanced and natural sounding bass response that doesn’t bleed into the midrange. As a result, other genres sound really good on these! RnB, Rap, Hip-hop, Pop, and Rock Ballads are such a pleasure to listen through the S5.

MIDRANGE is quite intimate, clear, and detailed which I really appreciate considering those are hard to come by at this price range. Vocals are upfront especially with female artists giving an illusion that they’re singing in front of you. Guitar riffs in ballads are pleasantly presented like they’re the main feature of the song… thanks to the slight emphasis in the upper midrange. Clarity is also worth mentioning because it is quite capable and it’s a contributing factor in maintaining a good balance between low and mid frequencies.

HIGHS can be an issue for those who are sensitive to sibilance. There’s an emphasis in the lower treble that can sound harsh with some female vocals, aggressive sounding genres, and poorly mastered tracks. Despite this hurdle, I truly feel the added sparkle is needed to complement the boosted bass. Fortunately, the sibilance issue can be eliminated by using the right type of tips and I find comply foams really effective. Using Comply TS200 tips with the S5 not only eliminates sibilance but also results into a more even treble response with above average detail/resolution. Treble extension is good enough for most tracks but there are times when I feel like it could've benefit with just a little bit more.

IMAGING AND SOUNDSTAGE: Soundstage width is average but it doesn’t detract from a good musical presentation. Some listeners prefer a more intimate experience and the S5 is one of the strong candidates for the job. What makes the overall presentation work is the imaging capability of this budget wonder. Instruments are well placed all over the soundstage with no signs of congestion. The only time I noticed a short coming is when a complex and fast tempo bass guitar riff takes place. The emphasis in the mid bass coupled with its bass decay characteristic seem to veil the imaging and detail a bit. Other than that, the S5 is a solid performer as a budget IEM.



 
R3 COMPARISON: The overall sound is quite warm with enough clarity and sparkle making the S5 a well balanced, fun sounding IEM. Isolation is quite acceptable for outdoor use coupled with a robust build makes this an excellent choice for those who are looking for a daily driver without compromising sound quality. Compared to the older R3 dual-dynamic IEM from the same manufacturer, the S5 is just a little bit behind in terms of bass and treble refinement but it more than makes up for it in terms of fun factor, fit, and comfort. Aside from that, the S5 also sounds much richer in the midrange compared to the more laid back R3. I would say that the R3's inclination towards a neutral sound signature complements really well to the fun and energetic sounding S5. Two very good sounding yet contrasting offerings from Brainwavz!
 
 

 
 
CONCLUSION: The new S5 is an excellent offering from Brainwavz and is an awesome choice for those who are looking for a durable yet good sounding earphones for everyday use. At this price point, it's really a no brainer as I haven't really found a competitor than can out match the S5 in terms of durability and sound quality combined. These IEMs can take a beating and I most definitely recommend these to those who are always on the move and are in need of devices that can withstand vigorous activities.
 
Special thanks to Brainwavz for the S5 review unit.
Hungryhoss
Hungryhoss
If a manufacturer supplies a range of different size silicone tips and a single pair of comply tips with their IEMs - as Brainwavz do with the S5 - that would suggest to me that they have voiced the earphone with the silicone tips in mind. Indeed, why have the medium tips ready installed on the 'phones in the box, if that is not the case?  Comply and foam tips really are the last resort of the desperate, especially as you have to keep replacing them over time.  
d marc0
d marc0
I really can't answer that question as only the manufacturer knows such a thing. One thing to consider though is the cost? I for one am not a big fan of the foam tips because they are quite costly for me. Unfortunately, some IEMs like the S5 just sound better with them.
egosumlux
egosumlux
A 100 bucks IEM should not be considered a budget option . I guess that considering the price, the peaky treble is unnaceptable for there are a lot of contenders that suffer no such tunning problem.
Pros: Weighty and potently heavy bass. Solid construction.
Cons: Bass dominates and mids lack any air or presence.
Brainwavz S5 Quick Review
 
Thanks to mp4nation for the sample.
 
Full Review at http://www.head-fi.org/t/730586/brainwavz-s5-review
 
Brief:  Where the only thing flat about them is the cable.
 
Price:  US$100 or £60 at today’s exchange rates.
 
Specification:  Transducers/Drivers: Dynamic, 10mm, Rated Impedance: 16ohms Closed, Dynamic, Sensitivity: 110dB at 1mW, Frequency range: 18Hz ~ 24kHz, Distortion: <= 0.3% @ 110dB, Channel balance: =< 1dB (at 1000Hz), Rated input power: 20mW, Maximum input power: 40mW, Plug: 3.5 mm 45-degree gold plated, Cable length: 1.3 meters Y cord (CU/Ag) PUR, 1 year warranty, Dimensions (Packaging): 160 x 135 x 38mm, Net Weight: 10g, Gross Weight: 140g
 
Accessories:  1 x ComplyT-400 medium foam tips, 6 x Pair silicone tips (S/M/L), 1 x Bi-Flange silicone tips, 1 x Tri-Flange silicone tips, 1 x 6.3mm audio adapter, 1 x Hard carrying case, 1 x Instruction manual & Warranty card
 
Build Quality:  It looks and feels most sturdy.  The buds are aluminium so short of stamping on them should stand significant abuse.
 
Isolation:  Quite good.  By dynamic standards it’s one of the better so should suffice for most use cases and normal day to day activities.  Not really flight to New Zeeland stuff but would do dandy for short haul flights.  Naturally easily enough to make you a road stain of you don’t look where you’re going.
 
Comfort/Fit:  Exceedingly good.  The angle they sit at is just perfect for my ears and even the flat cable didn’t get in my way.  Full marks.
 
Aesthetics:  Visually they are fine, a bit nondescript but..... mostly I’m miffed they are painted.  I would have much rather had lovely bare aluminium.  Oh well.
 
Sound:  Well I am sorry to say but they just weren’t for me.  The bass is big, roundly rambunctious and moved enough air to get rather tiring to my delicate little ears.  The bass isn’t bad per say but it’s just too voluminous and eager to waggle its big fat ass all over the place.  My ears are sensitive and pressure sensitive (I have crap sinuses and its hayfever season.)   With all that air movement it got really tiring and then the lower range treble spike kept leaping out and the recessed mids.  It was hiding the bits I wanted and spiking just where I didn’t.  I’m sure my sister would love its big, jiggley, fat lower end and the excitable upper but it was killing me.  It’s a wants to hurl itself about and force you to party whether you do do or not and its distant yet thickened mids wasn’t for me.
 
Value:  Its sturdy, comfortable fitting and has heaps of thick, heavy bass.  I can see why some would certainly want it.
 
Pro’s:   Weighty and potently heavy bass.  Solid construction.
 
Con’s:  Bass dominates and mids lack any air or presence.
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egosumlux
egosumlux
Way too expensive to be that far from audiophile taste. I guess the NuForce NE600 sounds much better

kova4a

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: solid build quality, clarity, detail retrieval, 2-year warranty
Cons: somewhat plasticky cable, needs a bit thicker note presentation, bass lacking some depth and control, peaky highs
 
First off, I want to thank Brainwavz and Audrey for this S5 unit.
 
Packaging and Accessories
 
IMG_20140813_004246.jpg
 
 
With the package in front of you the first thing that catches the eye is the embossed image of the S5, which pops up with the help of its glossy finish. Once you’re finished running your fingers over it and looking it at a different angle you can move your attention to the embossed Brainwavz inscription followed with their description – Rich Details, Smooth Bass and Over The Ear Design.
On the back of the box there is a short description of the S5 followed by a list of the contents of the package and the S5’s specs and compatibility.
Once you open the magnetic flap you are greeted by the S5 and the Brainwavz case and a detailed description of the iem’s and cable’s construction and Brainwavz’ mission on the inside of the flap.
The box is pretty standard but I personally am a fan of this type of presentation with the front opening up and revealing the product.
 
 
IMG_20140813_003958.jpg
 
Inside the box reside the S5 and the Brainwavz case. I’ve mentioned multiple times that this is my favorite iem case. It’s quite tough and specious and can easily fit a pair of iems and a small DAP like a Sansa. Inside one of the red pockets there is a nice quarter inch adapter and small gray bag with the included tips. There are 2 different types of single flange tips. Black ones made of a touch thicker silicone and gray ones, which are softer and have a slightly wider bore. The single flange silicone tips come in 3 sizes. There is also a pair of bi-flange and a pair of tri-flange tips, which come in only one size. As usual with Brainwavz a pair of comply foam tips packaged separately is included to complete the package.
 
Build Quality, Design and Fit
 
IMG_20140813_004505.jpg
 
 
The Brainwavz is a pretty solid iem with a nice metal housing which has a nice smooth feel in the hand. The cable is flat and seems pretty sturdy. I personally am not a huge fan of the current flat cable trend but it has its positive sides. A bit softer and smoother sleeving of the cable would have been better though as it feels a bit plasticky and sticky.
 
The strain reliefs are quite substantial and some people might find them a bit over-engineered, especially the Y-splitter. I personally have no issues with them. The straight plug is small and has slightly flattened sides for better grip and overall seems solid. An L-plug might have been a better choice and more in line with the whole tough look of the S5 but it’s mostly a personal preference and I’m fine with it.
Design-wise the S5 reminds me quite a bit of a larger version of their B2 model. Initially I was going to complain about the angle of the nozzles, so the S5 could have a flusher fit but for most people the length of the housing will be too big to fit inside the outer ear, so with that design of the housing it seems that the engineers have made the right call. Also props for the flattened part of the housing, which not only provides a place for the Brainwavz inscription but also provides a better grip for the fingers when inserting or taking them out.
The fit is good with most of the provided tips but the included bi- and tri-flanges might be too big for most people. I settle with the stock black single flanges mostly due to the sound difference in the tips rather than the fit.
The S5 can also be worn straight down but the housing will stick out more. Microphonics are low when worn cable up the cable up but a lot more audible cable down due to the plasticky cable. There is no driver flex.
 
Sound
 
The S5 has over 100hours of burn-in at the time of writing this review.
The bass is boosted but not really to basshead levels. It does lack a bit of depth and is softer on the impact but overall is relatively punchy and with big mid-bass slam. It does not sound muddy or bloated but could benefit from better control and a tighter and more solid body. Its speed is good with not too slow decay and has decent attack.Overall for a bass-enhanced iem the S5 is competent but I would like a flatter and tighter bass from the future higher-end Brainwavz models.
 
The mids are recessed but the boosted bass adds some warmth to the male vocals and they don’t sound too distant and have good presence and nice tone. The note presentation is on the thin side but paired with the emphasized highs leads to clearer and more detailed sound. Clarity is impessive though and makes a lot similarly bassy iems sound muddy and congested in comparison. There is a lift in the upper treble adding crispness but it’s not too aggressive and overall the mids are fairly smooth. The overall tonality is a a bit on the bright side and slightly cool, so while I'll call it neutralish, it is a bit colder than neutral in my opinion and is not the most natural sounding. Female vocals lack a bit of body and life (as they don't have the benefit the male vocals get from the bass warmth) due to the thinner sound and some dryness in the lower treble but also are not too distant sounding. Also they are a bit affected by the treble issues at higher volumes. 
 
The highs are emphasized and there is good amount of energy and sparkle. The upper treble is a bit too emphasized and somewhat peaky, which leads to the cooler and brighter tone of the S5. The treble is not too prone to pointing out sibilance at moderate volume but is a bit splashy, especially at higher volumes and can become fatiguing. It’s also on the dry side due to the overall thinner presentation of the S5. 
 
The S5 sounds airy and fairly open. It has good center imaging and overall positioning is very good. Depth is about average and the same goes for the height. Instrument separation is good but the sense of space between the instruments is a somewhat lacking probably due the increased upper treble adding a bit too much air on top and reducing the blackness of the background. 
 
Summary
 
IMG_20140813_004445.jpg
 
Despite my criticism the Brainwavz S5 is a solid performer for its price with an even more solid build quality. It's greatest strength sound-wise is its clarity and I reckon that it has the type of sound that can impress right away a lot of people, especially the general consumers looking for something with emphasized bass and won't expect this level of clarity and will be pleasantly surprised. Add to that the tough exterior and the 2-year warranty and it becomes a great buy for the more active people or the younger buyers. And overall a good recommendation for people looking for both bass quantity and clear and detailed sound.
 
For the more seasoned "audiophiles' though I think the S5 will fall short in several aspects, the highs probably being the main one. The competition in this price range is very stiff and the S5 needs some more control and refinement to be able to compete sq-wise with the best and be easier to recommend to more people.
 
 
Shawn71
Shawn71
Yes the highs......Nice review kova. How does it compare to our fav vsd1LE and 3S..TY.
Bintouch
Bintouch
Superbly review Kova...
cheers

TrollDragon

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Build Quality, Nice Case, Accessories, Easy Fit, Good Isolation
Cons: Flat Rubbery Cable, Sharp Treble for Some

Brainwavz S5 Impressions by TrollDragon​

I was contacted by Audrey from Brainwavz inquiring if I would like to review a pair of the new S5 IEM's.  As I have not heard any of their other products I immediately jumped at this generous offer. I my opinion, more companies should do public relations work like this with the new products they are releasing--it gives those of us who are not fully experienced in the mind boggling array of available IEM's, a chance to sample quality products.
 
Thanks to Audrey and Brainwavz for providing the S5 sample for this review.
 

First Impressions

(I have not taken any pictures of the packaging, case or contents as there are many pictures here already that are top notch.)

Upon opening the FedEx box I was very impressed with the S5's packaging, an eye catching box with a magnetic front flap. Opening the flap reveals a nicely presented product and carry case behind plastic windows. On the opposing face of the flap there is a bit of Brainwavz history and an impressive mission statement. Detailed exploded view's of the S5 driver unit, a Comply T series tip and wire cross-section fill the remaining area of the front flap. Turning the box over you are presented with a description of the S5's, an accessory list, specifications, small device compatibility list and picture diagrams of the accessories. Accented graphics on the box emphasize that there are Comply tips included and a two year warranty from Brainwavz. You don't see many warranties these days that are past 90Days, so the first thing that comes to mind is that the build quality on these must be impressive to warrant a two year warranty. I spent a good bit of time looking at all the information on this well presented packaging.
 
Included is a very nice little EVA Dual Zippered case that has two web pouches inside holding all the accessories included with the S5.
  1. 1 pair of Comply Premium T-400 Medium Tips.
  2. 6 Pairs of Silicone Tips in S/M/L
  3. 1 pair of Bi-Flange and Tri-Flange
  4. 1 3.5mm to 6.35mm Adapter
A generous supply of accessories are included with the S5's, all of the tips are of good quality and the 6.35mm adapter is an all metal design that looks good but does not have that solid holding click that some of the better quality adapters do.
 

Build Quality

The S5's are a durable looking, all aluminum machined IEM that has a flat area on the side of each body where they have painted the Brainwavz name. This flat area isn't just for brand recognition, it also provides a fool proof way to orient the S5's for the right ears without looking at the miniscule L & R raised in the rubber of the well designed strain relief. Just keep the cable up and the flat spot out and you are good to go.
 
The 3.5mm plug is gold plated and covered in a rubbery plastic that is small enough to fit in my X3's headphone jack with its leather case on. There is a large, thick, flat Y splitter with a smoothly operating chin slider for those that use them.
 
That finally brings us to the cable, this is the first IEM I have tried with a wide rubbery flat cable that is made to be worn behind your ears. It takes a bit of getting used to and there is no shirt clip provided, which will cause the cable to lift and move behind your ears depending on your movements.  The chin slide would alleviate this but I am not a fan of sliders. I have tried wearing them down and it does work but wearing them up is the best and I have done this all week at work with no cable mishaps during the day.
 

Sound Impressions

Unlike most others here on Head-fi, I can't tell you if a tone is a 1/4dB louder than it should be or where and at what exact frequency the spikes reside. Some can hear the second violinist in the third row play the Eb instead of the E# but that is not me. So these impressions are from someone who just appreciates music without analyzing it to death.
 
The bass on the S5's is very nice; I like the quantity and quality it provides, not overpowering or drowning out the mids. Male vocals sound excellent, James Hetfield's vocals and growls come through just perfectly, the same with M. Shadows and David Draiman's vocals, excellent!
 
Now the treble, that is a whole other issue.  I found the S5's to be very bright out of the box--I am somewhat treble sensitive and when a headphone or IEM is too sharp I don't enjoy it or listen to it too long as I find it too fatiguing. In an attempt to find out if others found these a bit on the bright side, I read through the S5 thread that recommended leaving them for burn-in.  Three days later, after continuous random music played from my computer, I tried them again. Nope, same thing, sharp bright treble that was painful to listen to. All my favourite AC/DC tracks and quite a bit of other music would make me wince at certain spots in the music. The next recommendation was changing tips.  So I began the tip rolling quest from the provided ones and a collection that I have here from other IEM's. I require a large tip of the silicon variety to get a good seal so that left out the Comply's as they were a medium I just couldn't get a good seal with those. The Bi-Flange were a no go and the Tri-Flange seemed to bring the treble under control, but I am not a fan of the deep insertion required with Tri-Flange tips; it just felt to strange to me. I ended up with the provided large black silicone tips to give me the best results.
 
I tried the S5's on a variety of sources like iDevices, the Colorfly C3 and the FiiO X3.  I even ran them from my tube amp just for fun and they actually worked very well on the OTL Little Dot MK IV. My main player is the X3 either with or without the E12 attached, depending on which headphones I am using that day. Since I had been on a Classic Rock / Metal kick, I decided to switch things up with a little PsyTrance. I fired up the Infected Mushroom album, "The Legend of the Black Shawarma", and was taken aback by the sound from the S5's--the bass was powerful, synth mids were right there in your face and not any painful treble, at least not on that album. I ran through the rest of my IM collection and enjoyed every minute of it, the same with Blackmill, some ASoT and others. So I have decided to use these as my EDM IEM's. A week later I decided to try some my favourite AC/DC tracks again and Brian Johnson's voice on "Who Made Who" cut through my head like a knife, so I've come to accept that the treble on the S5's is just to bright for me.
 

Conclusion

The S5 is a very well built, all metal IEM that has a flat rubbery cable you'll get used to. A sound signature that has great bass and mids but a treble that might be a little too bright if you are in any way treble sensitive; if you are not then they would be a very good every day IEM that is easy to wear.
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Dsnuts

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Strong build. Good sound. Nice group of accessories. Amps well.
Cons: Noodle cord can get microphonic when worn down. Treble peaks.
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First off I would like to thank Brainwavz for sending me a pair for review..I think there has been enough written about these for most of you guys to know what they are generally about. I burned them in real good and started to really listen to them about a week ago and it has occurred to me that this sound is perhaps Brainwavz best I have heard to date. These do a lot right when it comes to build, sound and usability but how do they really stack up to the current crop of $100 earphones.? These actually have hung in there with the best that I have in the price range but have one sound trait to them that is holding them back from greatness in my opinion.
 
I tested the S5 using most of my sources and they seem to sound best with more than your stock player meaning while they are efficient and sound great from a simple source they do sound markedly better with more power..Before I get into the sound aspect of these earphones as much as I wanted to really love the sound there was one aspect that was holding them back for me..I am not as picky of an enthusiast as some around these parts but I do gravitate toward proper. I Love a solid sound be it from a cheapo like a SHE-3580 or something more substantial like the FX850.
 
Throughout the years I have seen a gradual change in what we consider is a nice phone in the $100 range. I think if these came out several years ago guys would be clamoring to get a hold of these and as they are they are actually pretty solid performers in the $100 category. However the one aspect that happens for the sound of these earphones is in the one flaw that for some reason keeps on rearing it's ugliness to me every time. I want to so love this sound and to be honest out of my ICAN it is 95% sonic euphoria. Great stage sound presence that actually sounds much more expensive than the given monetary value. However even with one of my most musical of sources the sound flaw comes through yet once again..What is that flaw you might ask? More on this later.
 
So I would like to applaud Brainwavz for continuing to go back to their drawing board to constantly reinvent the earphone sound for their company..With the Brainwavz S5 I can sense a progression of their house sound in the S5s. And they are so close to coming out with something what I would consider special in the earphone realm for the money. Everything what I would consider a good earphone is there. The build for one is of a solid quality. I can see these earphones lasting for a long while with it's solid noodle cord construction. Seeing some of the other reviews there was a few complaints about the noodle cord and how microphonic it can get. True however it becomes a non issue when worn over the ears as I tend to do wearing them outdoors. Using the S5 while cutting the lawn it worked perfectly for out door use. I can see these being a solid choice for active people but only when worn over the ears. Comfort wise, there is no awkward shape on the earphone or any substantial bulk so they sit comfortably either worn down or over ears. Isolation is actually decent using complys. I would say average for in ears and they don't seem to leak if at all so good for using around silent areas.
 
The group of accessories is standard Brainwavz fair which is actually a good range of tips and one of the best cases for earphones..I must say I absolutely love Brainwavz cases. The tips? Well they are just standard though there was a pair of complys and a pair of triple flange and double flange tips. The more tip variety the better is what I say to manufacturers.  So while the stock tip choices are good I ended up using my UE tips. A much wider bored tips that I have counted on to give the best sound for many if not most of my earphones. Now to the important aspect of these earphones. The SOUND.
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SOUND
The S5s sound is a middle ground of good technical ability, enthusiast treble emphasis and consumer oriented bass emphasis..The bass is not of much concern as Brainwavz seems to know how to tune the low end from my experiences with their in ears. It is right smack in the middle from a neutral to basshead levels here and I can see either camps complaining it might have too much or too little depending on what you think is the right amount of bass. So a middle ground is not a bad thing when wanting to tune a phone for the masses. Overall It is more of a consumer oriented sound but with good imaging and clarity more than analytical type tuning. The mids are actually done well here and the mids seem to shine more so with good amping. It is not as forward as I would have liked but it certainly is not in the background of sound either, what is there the imaging and clarity is good in the region. Instruments and vocals are centered nicely on the sound. The stage for in ears is a bit above average and has enough depth to be satisfactory and does not sound closed in or narrow. While not spectacular in the stage arena it does enough to have good separation and show good layering of sound all around.
 
It is for me the lower treble, upper mids region that has a bit of extra emphasis in the region that is the thorn on the side of the sound on the S5. It is not bad per se. Not like the older CKN70 treble emphasis or some of the older CKM earphones from Audio Technica.. I think what bugs me about the sound is that you hear most of your tunes and actually get lost in the sound and then you land on a forward recorded vocal track and. There it is.. Fairly smooth, coherent, solid sound. Until you hear the SSSSSSsss. CHH.TTT.
The upper treble has a bit too much sheen and start to loose out in resolution of nicer more capable in ears. The irritating factor is that this is barely noticeable on most tracks. But it will be some of your favorite recordings I would say 90% of them will be sibilant free.Out of nowhere .. SSSSsss. Chh. I think you guys get the idea..The funny thing is I am actually not too sensitive to sharper treble. But lately I have discovered for me at least it makes a world of difference when fine tuning a sound.  Sound refinement means refinement in all regions and I get why the sound was tuned this way. I get that Brainwavz wanted to incorporate some shimmer in the treble region. Shimmer it has a plenty, perhaps a touch too much but the gamble here is vocal performance is affected.
 
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As I am listening to this combo now it sound utterly fantastic..To this I say it is so close..I think the price is correct on the S5 but being this close to something real special. I would like to encourage Brainwavz in treble refinement. It was the lack of treble refinement or the lack there of on the Brainwavz R3 that held those back as well..Somehow I have faith that future iterations will incorporate more refinement and get better and better..As they are these are fine for the price and is more of a casual listening earphone more so than a critically listening one..But they are so close.
 
Thanks for taking the time to check out my thoughts on the Brainwavz S5.. 
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MalVeauX

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Warm, deep rich smooth bass, mids are not recessed, treble has some sparkle to it, very detailed, aluminum build, great accessories.
Cons: Competes with too many titans at $100 price point, treble spikes, metallic mids overall, not neutral, no detachable cables.
Ready for a repeat? Good, because the "short list" of Pros/Cons is too short. I wanted to provide a bit more in that regard. So here's a longer Pro/Con list that should sum it up better as there's a lot going on here:
 
Pros: Warm, deep rich smooth bass, mids are not recessed with the bass presence in a significant way, treble has some sparkle to it, very detailed, good separation of channels, solid aluminum build (metal), flat wires that do not tangle and birds-nest easily, great assortment of accessories (case, tons of tips, 1/4" adapter), very efficient and will run from any source.
 
Cons: Competes with too many well established IEM's at the $100 price point, treble can seem a bit harsh depending on the recording (some spikes around 7khz~10khz noted), sound stage is good (more on the intimate side) but not outstanding (this is a challenge for most IEM's so take this with a grain of salt), wires are not detachable, no volume controls (not a con for me, but for some it may be worth noting), it's not a neutral IEM (this is not a con for everyone), more in the warm and sparkly camp (more similar to a subtle "V" frequency response).
 
On to the showcase, the Brainwavz S5:
 
Brainwavz S5 - Warm, Detailed with some Sparkle
 
The IEM market is a tough market to break into. Brainwavz is no stranger to audio and has some major players in the entry market of headphones and IEMs. The HM5 is no stranger to anyone savy about headphones with it's quality for price point. The new Brainwavz S5 aims to challenge the $100 entry point in the IEM market, which is a very challening group to rub elbows with, such as the mighty Shure SE215 and the neutral Hifiman RE-400. There is a ton of other IEM's that are similar in cost and have other features, so the S5 has to really bring something to the table to grab attention. Some of us love full size headphones even for portable use (myself included), but now and then, a good IEM is just so convenient, easy to power without all those fancy and expensive gadgets that glow in our pockets, and of course the heavenly isolation that can only be provided by an absolute air seal. Let's explore the S5.
 
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Quick Reference for the TL;DR folks:
 
·         Aluminum build (not plastic!)
·         Entry price point of $100; competes with Shure SE215 & Hifiman RE-400 directly
·         Rich, deep, controlled bass (not earthquake level, but it should satisfy most bass-lovers)
·         Great mids, vocals & instruments are not recessed significantly
·         Sparkly treble, a bit harsh at times, but not overly bright (spikes around 7khz~10khz)
·         Treble comes off with a bit of congestion with the spikes in high energy tracks
·         Detail retreival is excellent, great overall resolution, no congestion in mids & bass
·         Super efficient, will run from a potato
·         Good isolation (note, airport means it's not completely isolated)
·         Flat wires, resistant to tangle and birds-nests, does not transmit tons of noise when rubbed
·         Tons of accessories (case, lots of tip types, 1/4" adapter)
 
A quick summary of what this IEM is all about: Take a neutral response IEM with a typical soundstage, not too wide, not too intimate, but some where closer to the intimate side, and then gently push the mid-bass up a touch to give it warm, while still being able to comfortably drop a controlled 25hz tone like a champ. Keep the mids appropriate so that vocals and instruments sound normal, not overlly recessed or bled out, competing for attention. And then add a dash of sparkle to the treble. Flatten out the wires, throw on some Comply tips that are included and you have the S5.
 
What Comes In the Box:
 
·         The S5 earphones of course
·         Hard case (does not fit in pocket) that seals with a zipper (crush resistant, but not crush proof)
·         Comply T-400 foam tips (these retail at $17 MSRP, can be found for $8; included)
·         6 pairs of typical silicone tips in small, medium & large (meh)
·         1 set of bi-flange tips
·         1 set of tri-flange tips
·         1/4" adapter (this is a great addition actually for using these at home with gear)
 
Overall Brainwavz has packaged a good assortment of gear. I think if you removed the case, all those tips and just included a basic set of tips to get someone started, it could be sold for a more competitive price. The accessories are probably bringing it up to the overall cost of $100. I really appreciate inclusion of the Comply T-400 tips and the 1/4" adapter. Those are the most important accessories to me because the Comply tips smash down and then slowly expand in your ear canal giving you a good seal and "complys" to the shape of your ear, without having to get custom made IEM's that cost a mint. Great tips. The 1/4" adapter, while totally useless for a lot of people who use these with their mobile devices (phones, DAPs, etc) is a very nice addition for the simple fact that a lot of us still like to use these with desktop gear to get great rendering from great gear we already have and not resort down to only using mobile geared equipment. The hard case is not crush proof. It's crush resistant, so if you sit on it, you'll know you did, and hopefully you'll not continue sitting. If you're not a hulk, you may get away without flattening the case. It will survive most things. Unfortuantely it's too big to fit in your pocket, unless you're wearing cargo pants or have big jacket pockets or hoodie pockets. But typical pants/shorts pockets simply will not take the bulky little case. It's a solid inch and a half thick and covered in a vinyl-like material that will have a lot of friction sliding in a pocket.
 
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Specifics of the IEM & Accessories:
 
·         16ohm Impedance
·         110dB/mW Sensitivity
 
What does that mean? It means they're incredibly efficient and will render full resolution with very little energy requirement, so they will run from your smart phone, tablet, netbook, DAP, etc. Anything. Even a potato. That also means they get loud very quickly, so they will be hissy and noisy and reveal noise floors on anything with significant output (don't plug these into your AVR to watch movies, it'll work, but it'll sound like a hiss-fest depending on the model). Can you put these on an amplifier? Absolutely. Will they burn up or something crazy that I read about on the internet? No. I put them on a 2+ watt source at this impedance and while it was hard to get the listening level down, they certainly didn't melt or smoke or catch fire or breakdown (despite their "20 mW" rated input power; I ignore those, as most audiophile folk do anyways, and just throw them on high powered sources and see what happens in our ears). Do they benefit from an amplifier? Sure. Everything will benefit to an extent. If it's a lower powered source, it will help give you a stable signal and provide a higher minimum amount of power during the rendering of the most complex passages in a track that a mobile device may not accomplish as nicely. But that's more academic than anything. I ran the S5 on just normal devices (smart phone, tablet, DAP) and devices with amplifiers (both powerful and very powerful, even a tube amp) just to see how they behaved and sounded. Thanks for that 1/4" adapter!
 
Construction, Materials & Comfort:
 
The build quality is good. It's a metal (aluminum) hull, and flat rubber wires. The Comply tips are very comfortable because they "comply" to your ear cannal and hold that shape instead of forcing a round object into a non-round space. They're light weight, but most IEM's are. The wires are nice being flat. I've had plenty of IEM's that had normal cylindrical cables and they tangle, twist and birds-nest something fierce. These flat wires don't do that as much, they can still tangle up of course, but they're not prone to it and they just seem to fall more naturally and comfortably. These were made to really be able to swing over your ear (the place where the cable attaches to the IEM is faced forward, so that the cable goes forward and naturally is where it should be to allow a cable to wrap around your ear). A lot of us do that because it adds support to the IEM and takes a lot of the pull from the cables off your ear cannal and instead puts it on your nice flexible ear cartiledge. I have a lot less "IEM slip outs" with them draped over my ear. The cable itself feels good and durable, but you still have to be mindful. It's too bad they are not detachable cables, that would have been a huge plus. The IEM itself is not overly flashy, so you don't have a gold grill or goofy symbol flashing in your ears to people, instead, it's a classy piano black finish that simply states "brainwavz" on the side in white. I like the neutral grey cable and black IEM. It'll match anything and doesn't have that silly flashy neon green or orange mess that the kids wear these days (hey, deal with it, if you're that person).
 
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IEM Wire Tolerance:
 
Anyone wearing IEM's can testify that if a cable rubs a surface or wriggles, it can create a noise that you can hear even when listening to audio. It can be a hugely disappointing thing. I can say that the S5 doesn't seem to have this problem in a large way. The flat rubber cable seems to tolerate a lot of movement and rubbing on your clothing. I think a lot of this has to do with how you wear it. I'm wearing the S5 over my ears, so the cables' movement is transmitted to my ear structure, and not to the IEM which is in my ear canal. This means when the wind is blowing outside, my shirt rubbing the cable, etc, I'm not getting the noise from that through the cabling to my audio. So overall, a very tolerable IEM to the environment and to phsyical contact. This is a massive plus in my book because it's one of my biggest gripes when it comes to IEM's and cabling.
 
Sound Characteristics:
 
Normally I'm very weary putting any IEM in my ear as I'm usually a near full-time full size headphone wearer, as my near permanently attached to my head headphone these days is my Hifiman HE-500 driven from a speaker amp. Putting in an IEM is a total different experience. Or at least, that's what I expect before trying it. I too can appreciate a portable IEM though that can run from my phone or my DAP and still provide good quality sound even in the ambient noise of the environmente out there. Overall I was pleased with the initial impression of the S5. It had everything I would expect at this price point. It did have a few areas of concern though, so I guess Brainwavz took a chance on a few things to see how it would be received market-wise.
Overall I was pleased with the rendering. The bass was rich, warm, controlled, not loose, fast and dropped very low with plenty of authority. The mids were fine, vocals & instruments sounded as they should and didn't sound recessed to the point of distraction. Treble was a bit sparkly, and in really complex passages I noticed a weird congestion of frequencies that after playing with an equalizer, I found they were in the 7khz~10khz regions and were subdued when lowered, so the treble definitely has some odd spikes that are hallmark of "V" shaped frequency responses, but let's call it a "gentle V" and not near the legendary ear-destroying levels of Ultrasone's treble.
 
Treble:
 
The S5 has some sparkle. Expect some fatigue if you're sensitive to treble. For those of you (like myself) that like a bit of extra treble for the sparkle, the sugar on top, the excitement, the attack, you'll appreciate the gentle spikes in most regions of treble. I noticed during complex passages with lots and lots of treble clashing frequencies, there was a congestion of sorts for lack of a better set of wording. Passages with lots of cymbals like metal with repeating crashing of those types of sounds, it was quite fatiguing even for me and lead me to look to an equalizer to figure it out. I found that the 7khz~10khz region is where it was, so I lowered it a bit, and it solved the fatigue for me. I listen to a lot of Denons & Beyers, so I'm quite used to bright treble, so this is no surprise. I generally equalize all my treble-happy headphones a bit so that my hours-upon-hours of listening time doesn't result in too much fatigue. The enhanced treble gives a sense of detail, a bit of sharpness, which can make you think it has more detail. Overall treble is fine, if not a bit bright and easily congested depending on what you listen to. I noticed in metal, I easily heard the issue. But when listening to jazz, EDM, classical and rock, it was less of an issue and sometimes I didn't notice it, at all. But anything that ventures into 7khz~10khz will certainly come across with some sting and too many occurances will just sound like a congregation of noise. So beware if you're a metalhead, this may be a problem. For everyone else, it's likely not a problem.
 
Mids:
 
The heart & soul of any renderer of full range audio is the ability to render mids properly. The S5 accomplishes this nicely. The gently increased warmth in bass and the sparkle from the treble doesn't bleed into the mids or recess the overall appearance of the mids to the point of distraction. Vocals & instruments sound appropriate. They're more on the intimate side of things, not distant at all. If anything there may be a bit of an increase on the upper mids region as it ventures into the treble. Female vocals sound right, and so do males. Overall detail is great. The mids really give you the majority of what you hear, and the S5 delivers that nicely. Listening to passages, I'm hearing little details like a breath, a foot tap, a cough even in some tracks. It's those imperfections that really let you know that you're hearing detail that someone missed or couldn't remove in the studio. Great resolution requires excellent mids, so the S5 performs here well. No genre was unjustly rendered as the mids were capable of keeping up with the fast pace of EMD, rock and metal and even some complex classical, while still keeping it moody and right for jazz. The only thing that is a bit of a concern is the slight metalic sound of the mids. It sort of reminded me of how some Ultrasones sound. Overall not a super warm organic sound, but rather a decisive sharp sound, a bit cold. The added bass balances this out for a more warm appearance, but on a track with little to no bass (like some indie jazz and some passages in classical) you'll notice the colder edge to the mids.
 
Bass:
 
If the S5 does anything extremely well, it's the bass. I know, tons of people clammer over "I need more bass!" endlessly. The S5 will actually appeal to a bit of everyone I think. The bass is very controlled, rich, and fast. It's not a loose rumble that flubs around. It's capable of tight drops, and recovers for other complex drops at the same time. 25hz is not a problem for the S5. And it doesn't roll off quietly, the bass has quite a nice bit of authority. So it will sound normal if listening to something like jazz, but if your EDM calls for a serious earthquake drop, it will deliver that. While the bass is not earthquake worthy, maybe not quite there for someone who is an absolute basshead who will sacrifice all for the purity of just bass, they satisfied me quite well (coming from a planar magnetic, D5000's, etc). I didn't feel the need to equalize for more bass. It seems to respond nicely no matter what I listen to, which is hallmark of good responsive bass. It's not neutral, there is an obvious hump in mid bass, and no roll-off that is apparent in subbass, so the bass comes across on the prominent side. A good thing if you love warmth and rich bass. Too bassy for someone looking for a pure neutral experience or an analytical experience. The nice thing is that the bass, even though it has a hump, does not bleed badly into the mids, so there's nothing recessed to the point of distraction.
 
Isolation:
 
IEM's in general isolate rather well. The S5 isolates fairly well. While listening at my listening level, I could not hear my mechanical keyboard in a meaningful way, or the click of my mouse. Really all I can hear, if I concentrate outside of what I hear audio-wise, is my breathing if heavy and of course mouth noises (teeth, swallowing, etc). Normal things when your ears are "plugged." The S5 has an airport on the side, which is how it achieves the wonderful bass that it has. This allows some communication of sound back and forth. The good news is though, like most IEM's, someone sitting next to me doesn't hear what I'm listening to. And I can block out most of the ambient sound in the environment. If you need quiet, critical, private listening, then the S5 will do fairly well. In an absolute quiet environment, it's possible for someone to hear your audio if you're listening at high levels. So keep that in mind. I've heard some kids walking around with their IEM's so loud that I could plainly hear them as they walked by.
 
Soundstage:
 
IEM's are not known for having incredible sound stage width or depth. Most closed audio options exhibit this. There are exceptions, but the S5 is unfortunately not one of them. The good news is that the soundstage is appropriate for a closed source. The separation is excellent, instruments and information is nicely isolated and separated from one another and the channels do not blend uniquely to one central blob in your head. Things do have a nice swing from left to right to give you a sense of space. Intimate is the word I'd use to describe the sound stage. Everything is fairly close and appreciable. The soundstage is not wide, so things do not sound like a cloud of 3D space. But this is very difficult to achieve on a closed source. It's difficult even on open headphones. So keep that in mind.
 
Experiments with Different Sources:
 
While it's common to use an IEM with a DAP, smart phone, tablet or small laptop or netbook, it's not common to see folk plugging their IEM's into desktop level equipment. There are some dedicated serious pieces of kit out there for custom IEM users that cost a mint, so those are a whole different level. But I wanted to give a little something extra and go into some portable and desktop sources to give an impression of how the S5 behaves. I'm not much of a portable listener, so how it behaves at my desk is important to me. Let's play with some odd sources from an IEM perspective.
 
Galaxy S3:
 
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I still use an old S3. That's right. I tested Pandora because I don't normally use my phone for audio. My collection is FLAC and it's a pain to use FLAC on phones, plane and simple. I typically use a DAP for my portable audio. I'll get to that. When I plugged into my S3 and loaded Pandora (I have Pandora One), I just set it to one of my favorite stations that I've honed over the years. Overall it functioned fine. I pushed the volume to see what kind of current the S3 could push into the S5 and it was able to get well beyond my tolerable listening level, so there's that efficiency doing good work. Everything sounded normal, bass was proper, mids were good, treble had it's characteristic sting. I did notice a bit of lack of resolution and overall body, but that's due to the low quality stream of Pandora One and probably the quality of the internal bits and bolts of my S3. It was listenable. But not up to my normal standards at all. I'm blaming compressed streaming media for 99% of this experience. The major point to take away is that the IEM functions fine from the S3 as a source and can get loud enough without an issue, but this was to be expected based on the specifications.
 
Asus MemoPad HD7:
 
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I have a MemoPad HD7 as a little 7" tablet. Nice, small and does the job with an IPS panel and great resolution. I've watched movies on this little guy with headphones before. The S5 seems to respond just fine. It supplies plenty of power for the efficient S5 to then render nicely the audio. Movies sounded fine. I have DIVX's of my DVD's loaded on this thing, so I watched some clips from some of my films and they had that theatrical thunderous boom and the sparkle gives it some excitement. Overall a nice experience and great for movies.
 
Sansa Fuze (V2) with & without Fiio E11:
 
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My typical DAP is my Fuze. And old Fuze, that has line level output so that I can output it's native FLAC playback from a 32Gb SD card as a line level source to my portable amplifier for better handling of the signal, the Fiio E11 in my case. I listened to the S5 both with and without the E11 form the Fuze. Directly from the Fuze, I noticed it had more body, more overall richness that lacked compared to my S3 and MemoPad HD7. I expected this as the Fuze has fairly good output that is meant for audio and has a bit more going in it's favor in that regard. With the E11 in the loop, I was able to better control that signal and it simply helped ensure it never dipped below during the complex passages. I also appreciated the much tighter volume control that I could get "just right" which is more difficult I find with a digital volume control. The quality of the FLAC playback through the S5 is a whole other level compared to listening to the S5 on compressed streamed material on my S3 and even compared to the AC3 of my DIVX. Just a clean, rich, detailed experience. Overall very nice, pleasing. The treble is stillt here, I definitely felt the sting from some trumpets in my jazz. I didn't notice any appreciable noise floor on the E11, and had it set to low gain and no equalization used at all on either device.
 
Fiio E10:
 
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The E10 is a staple in my book for entry AMP/DAC USB units on a dime. It plugs into my netbook and gives me a great audio experience even when I'm portable, but not using a "portable" solution. The E10 handles the S5 nicely. I kept it on low gain and played FLAC via Foobar2000. I found my volume knob between the 1 & 2 on the E10. So it provides way more power than is needed by the S5. There's that efficiency rearing it's head at us (that's a good thing for most!). When I tested the bass boost switch, it definitely bumps up the overall bass response quite a bit. The S5 handled it nicely, it sounded a lot more like a basshead solution and even simple passages had thunderous bass, so the S5 responds nicely to equalization and isn't topped out already. That's great news if you're a basshead and interested in these.
 
JDS Labs Objective 2 (O2):
 
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Everyone and their brother has the O2. So why not? It's a good neutral amp that is typically a reference for most people. I noticed I could hear something playing even with the volume all the way to the minimum. When I turned it up to listening level, I was only able to get just past the first dash mark before it would go to untolerable levels. I couldn't listen at the second dash mark as it was noticeably too loud for me (and I like it loud). The overall sound was great. Very rich, great control, great resolution. The treble still had it's sting, but I noticed it wasn't as harsh. Odd to me. Maybe the O2 gently softens treble a bit on the hardware side of things. So that said, it's an obvious good pairing to my ears. The treble still was harsh, mind, so the S5 definitely has those spikes I mentioned.
 
Audio GD NFB12:
 
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No one needs this level of power for an IEM. But why not? It can output 3.5watts into 25ohms, so it's blasting close to 4 watts at a 16ohm resistance, and the IEM is loaded. The result? Nothing special. That's right. They didn't melt. They sounded fine. In fact, on low gain, I was able to take the volume knob to 9 o'clock and a bit more here and there at my listening level. The NFB12 has great attenuation so you get a long throw from minimum to maximum on that volume. Very handy and allows for very tight control of overall volume. No noise floor as expected here. The sound was superb. It was rich and detailed, but the NFB I think also plays with treble. I noticed it was still on the harsh side and bright, but the congestion feature I noticed earlier wasn't as prominent. So either the NFB also gently handles treble at the hardware level or not. I did notice the bass was not as prominent. It was solid and controlled, but it didn't have the same richness that the O2 provided. Interesting difference on the S5 from a totally different source. Overall pleasant to listen to and it's a great all in one solution being a good DAC and great AMP in one unit. The S5 performed great, and it's efficiency ratings didn't keep me from using my gear.
 
Little Dot MK III:
 
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That's right, let's put a super efficient IEM on a source that hates to give up current and loves to output high voltage. This tube amp is meant for high impedance. It doesn't perform it's best with low impedance and small loads. But who cares? Let's do it for science. I used my NFB as the DAC and output to the LDMKIII. I set the NFB's line level output to around 9 o'clock initially to see how the tubes would behave. The S5 was silent when both were at minimum. When I took the volume up, I noticed that I was able to take it all the way to nearly 3 o'clock on the Little Dot. Also, I didn't have a noticeable noise floor (I thought I would have one). That's a good thing, because despite the overall match up of the devices, amps perform best at their higher output levels. Granted, the Little Dot was not working hard to output it's small current to this tiny load. Typically this kind of match is frowned upon due to mismatched impedance and output impedance. But, despite all that academic stuff, it sounded great. Atenuated with the NFB to handle a lower line level out, the Little Dot then flexed after warming up and hearing those wonderful little chirps, pops and dings as the tubes get warm, and the S5 started to sing. Right away I noticed something, just how warm and rich the S5 sounded on a tube like this. The upper bass and lower mids were much more rich and prominent, making it super warm sounding. Too warm probably for some. Treble took a step back, so the fatigue went south. Quite a nice match for me. Granted, this is just hardware equalization ultimately, but basically it sounded to me like the treble was toned down and the lower mids and upper bass were enhanced a bit, for a very rich, organic sound. No more metallic mids. It didn't quite sound like the S5 anymore. Pretty interesting. A great listen. Vocals were very much butter and syrup and I probably liked this match up best of all. It makes me very curious to now get a portable tube amp, like a Little Bear, so that's on my want list for right now.
 
Closing Thoughts:
 
Overall I'm pleased with the S5. The accessories and it's performance are pretty close to what I would expect from a $100 IEM. While it lacks some features that I would want at this price point (detachable cables) and it has some characteristics that I'm not a fan of (metallic mids, a bit harsh in the treble), it performed quite nicely every where else. It's an earphone that is definitely source sensitive after playing around. Sure, no one is going to walk around with desktop sources in their pocket. And an IEM is hardly meant for the desktop--or is it? Even without a special source, the S5 was fantastic from my Fuze and E11 and is a very good portable setup that handles my jazz, classical, EMD, metal and indie quite well. It didn't have a genre that it didn't really handle well, it was quite capable. I did note that harsh treble showed up in passages that contained tons of cymbals, like metal. So I think if I had one warning it would be to metalheads to beware unless they love the sting of treble. The S5 should fullful most bass lovers except too. And while not analytical, it definitely had the detail and resolution that made me enjoy taking the time to have a dedicated portable audio rig, as well as high quality media to playback (FLAC in my case). I was able to definitely tell a difference between my media and streamed media, so that tells you a lot about the earphone and it's resolution, it doesn't mask good audio and it doesn't gently render bad audio sources. I still think it has a tough match when it tries to compete at the same price point as the Shure SE215 which has detachable cables and the difference in tone and character is a tough match and it comes down to one's preference. I definitely appreciate the flat cables and the overall fit with Comply tips. I guess my next piece of kit is going to be a portable tube amp by Little Bear as I simply enjoyed too much the way the S5 responded to tubes. I say that as someone who is tyipcally using a tube DAC and a 50 watt solid state speaker amp as my main headphone source. I think if I were to put a price on the S5, I'd probably put it in the $65 region for competition and ditch some of the accessories and package. Does it sound like a $100 IEM? It's pretty much there. The things that hold it back from being perfect are mainly the metallic mids sound and the treble spikes and the minor lack of detachable wires. It has too much competition at $100, so I think at a slightly lower price point, it may be a better fit. Either way, I think it's fair at $100 for the overall package and I'm pleased with the quality of sound at this point and it's interaction with different sources. I'd give it a good thumbs up.
 
Very best,
appsmarsterx
appsmarsterx
nice review Mal
Makiah S
Makiah S
Always a nice review Mal thanks man :3 

shockdoc

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Amazing sound from a single dynamic driver. Great isolation and comfort. Bass signature gives a "live" performance presentation. Lush vocals.
Cons: Possibly a little too much bass for flat response/detail freaks. Might wish for just a little more sparkle on the top end. A shirt clip would be nice.
Rather than go into the esoteric aspects of the sound signature (not really sure if all the nomenclature actually means the same thing to everyone) I'm going to approach this review from a little more practical (everyday use and listening) aspect. Also I won't add any photos as they are in almost all the other S5 reviews and it would be redundant. This will be rather brief and to the point.
 
First things first. The usual great packaging and accessories selection that Brainwavz is known for. Decided to do most of the review with the installed tips as they fit and sealed well for me. These have a wonderful sturdy build. Just first rate. I would like more IEM makers to maybe put a little bit of red or something on the right strain relief (or cord) to make it easier to know which way they should be inserted. Of course this isn't necessary for overear 'phones like these as they usually insert just one way but for noobies to overear 'phones it would be helpful I think. The flat rubbery cord is likely an either love it or hate it kind of deal. I actually quite liked it for lack of tangles and how well it stayed in place while running, etc.. 
 
Out of the box the bass was definitely noticeable. Possibly because few IEM's delve into the lower registers this well...but it's a little jarring at first. After some burn in (and brain burn in) the sound (especially the bass) mellowed and really grew on me. Shortly after I started really listening to these and while going through my usual audition list I had the occasion to attend several live concerts in my area. That's when it sort of "clicked" for me. What these 'phones do really well, and what many of my other IEM's are missing, IS the lower register that makes for the "live" sound you would hear seeing an artist in person. But I did have to turn off any and all bass boost on my DAP's and amps because the bass was already so present with these.
 
I can't vouch for how well they do on electronic music (EDM or dubstep or whatever) but on real musical instruments and voices they are very very good. I do think they lack just a tiny bit of upper register harmonics, perhaps certain things like on a high hat cymbal or guitar strings or maybe what many would call "air" but it's very little that is lacking.
 
The midrange is quite lush and smooth. I mentioned in the S5 thread that I thought these would make good inexpensive stage monitors for vocalists and I stand by that assertion. Many of the things I try to hear in my own voice as an amateur singer/musician are things that these reproduce very well. On many tracks it feels like you are right there with the vocalist singing directly to you. Very involving and intimate. 
 
Soundstage is very good for this price range comparing well to most others in width and surpassing them in depth a little bit. 
 
Now to the more practical. I'm an avid runner/gym rat and am always looking for better sound during my workouts. Worn the way I wear them (overear, behind my neck with the cord running down the back of my shirt to my iPod ) these have VERY little microphonics from the flat rubbery cord. I would like to see a shirt clip to keep the rather heavy "Y" from pulling the cord down while running but that's minor as I have plenty from other IEM's that I could rig up if these were my own phones. They isolate against outside noise very well also, even to wind noise, which most don't very well, when running outdoors. Of course that much isolation is dangerous when running near traffic but I loved just hearing my music and almost nothing else.
 
Edit 8/12/14: I've been running with these almost exclusively for several weeks now and this morning I went back to my previous go to running/gym IEM's, my TDK EB950's. It was pretty shocking to hear how much more noise I heard while running. Not necessarily a great deal more outside noise but cable microphonics and the sound of the slight movement of the 'phone in my ear canal with each foot strike. These just stay put and don't move around as much with the jarring of running as others do (again worn the specific way I wear them). I'm going to play around with my other IEM's and see which shirt clip I can cannibalize from another 'phone and use on these babies to make them the best, to date, running IEM.  :)
 
Bottom line these are great 'phones and it's amazing what a single driver can do these days. Since I auditioned them I've noticed that I now bump up the bass boost on all my other headphones to try to reproduce that beautiful lower register that makes music sound like a live performance. I could easily see a 'phone like this becoming my go to IEM for everyday use on anything other than extremely critical listening. Well done Brainwavz. Definitely four and a half (maybe higher?) stars for a 'phone this well built with a compelling sound signature at this price point. 
 
Edit 3/14/15: They sorta "broke". About 2 weeks ago I noticed a fairly prominent drop off in the bass. At first I thought it was a tip issue and started rolling tips but soon realized it was something more. Now I'm pretty careful with my gear but I do use these as my go to 'phone for running and for the gym. After careful investigation there seems to be something loose (a rattle anyway) in the left housing. I'm hoping this is an aberration and not a manufacturing defect or QC problem. I'll contact Brainwavz and see if they want me to send them back to them to do an autopsy. I'm pretty bummed as I feel like these are a spectacular little "everyday" IEM that excel with my 2nd gen Nano unamped. :frowning2:

DannyBai

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Great overall build and sound
Cons: Thick flat cable and monstrous y-split
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I was provided a review sample and appreciate the generosity and opportunity to listen and review the Brainwavz S5.
 
I've owned many Brainwavz earphones ranging from the Beta through the B2 and enjoyed them all except the B2.  I find Brainwavz to produce excellent value to performance so I was quite excited to hear the new S5.
 
Packaging and accessories are well presented and generous.  To keep this part of the review short, I give it an A grading.
 
Build, aesthetics and ergonomics:  The earphones are built to last.  From the jack to the earphones, all parts feel and look heavy duty.  Housings are all metal and the cable is thick.  Strain reliefs and the jack are minimal in size compared to the rest of the earphone but feel strong.  Aesthetically, the earphones themselves look great.  All black housing that is on the bigger side but fit excellent either over the ear or hanging down.  The only major drawback is the thick flat cable and monstrous y-split.  The cable is very microphonic wearing down but wearing over ear can alleviate this.  Plus side of things is that it is built like a tank so it should take a lot of abuse and keep ticking.  Overall grade, B
 
Sound:  Overall sound has a pretty good balance with emphasis on bass and treble.  The bass has great kick with some emphasis in mid-bass.  After some days of burn-in, the sub-bass came out which balances out nicely with the mid-bass.  This earphone will make any bass lover happy.  Bass is controlled quite well and does not sound loose and overall quantity stays shy of basshead levels.  Well done in my book.  Vocals do take a backseat to the bass and treble but is not recessed by any means.  Voices are clearly heard and there is an added sparkle in vocals that allows female vocals to shine.  One part to note is that somewhere in the lower treble region, I did detect slight sibilance, which ended up going away for the most part after a couple hundred hours of burn-in but is still present.  Treble is very sparkly and top heavy.  Upper registers of the treble are tuned without piercing your ears with needles but come close.  This should please the treble lover.  I actually prefer a smoother treble but do not find the S5’s treble to be much of an issue.  Occasionally I’ll hear cymbal hits getting close to cringing levels but thankfully stays just below that level unless the volume is turned up loud.  Soundstage isn’t any sort of out of head experience but there’s good spaciousness and placement is quite good.  Overall grade on sound, B+
 
When I look back and try and remember every Brainwavz earphone’s I’ve had, I can’t think of one that sounds as good as the S5.  The S5 sounds like the bigger brother to the S1 and if Brainwavz can tweak this sound a little better and fix that cable while keeping the price within the same range, I think they’ll have a major contender. 
 
 

sfwalcer
sfwalcer
Good stuff Danny!!! :  )
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