With the somewhat recent addition to the Brainwavz XL family the Microsuede Gel's I was sent some review samples from Marlon from Brainwavz and this is to help anyone who buys the Vibrolabs kit and wants to have a certain sound signature or just wants an overview of the ones listed here. I did not get the protein leathers or perforated but I might get them and add it to this review at a later date.
These are the latest take on the Brainwavz XL design which is a large round pad which uses memory foam and high quality materials. They have been made popular through Zeos Pantera's use of them on several headphones in his reviews and are ideal for headphones with round cups like the Superlux 669's, Modern Retro's all the way to AKG K7XX's.
I am going to run through some of the basic sound properties of each pad and how they differ and to help you make a somewhat informed decision if you take the plunge on a new set of pads. Each pad does share the same basic design and memory foam but each one sounds a little different and may help you tune your headphone one way of another. I'll then focus a little more on the MicroSuede Gel version at the end.
Note the new Vibrolabs finished and DIY kits which are actually designed with the Brainwavz XL in mind and the default pad for the finished units. My particular setup has a combo of the old v1 mixed with the v3 tuning kit. The sound is very airy, spacious and has a warmth to it along with very strong sub bass .
I have fitted it with a fixed TH-900 cable which has been terminated with an XLR connection. I am driving it with a Weiliang E600 amplifier using OPA2604 op amps along with a Topping D10 DAC which has a Burson SS V5i-D op amps.
I’ll start with the tried and trusted velours. Soft to the touch and to me the memory foam feels fairly rigid. Not as soft as the suede but very comfortable and does not sag in anyway. Sub bass is reduced compared to say the lambskin and has a slightly elevated mid bass region but nothing over powering, we have warm sound but does not get thick.
Mids sound great and there is a real sense of air, instruments flow together nicely. Female vocals remain clear and the treble is not bright but you still get nice detail.
These retail for about the same as the velours, I think they are also the default pad for finished Vibrolabs headphones. Compared to the velours warmth is dialed back a bit. Sub bass has a little more of a hit or appears to as the mid bass is reduced.
I think the imaging is also slightly sharper but on a similar level. I like how these sound and can see why Vibrolabs uses them. These might be the most balanced of the bunch and ideal if you like a neutral sound signature.
I don’t know when these were released but I had these for a few weeks and was immediately impressed. They are one of the plushest pads I have ever tried and the suede is softer than other vendor’s suede pads I have tested.
I find them even warmer than than the velour’s and mid bass is probably a few clicks higher. Bass is thick along with smoother mids and highs are never sibilant. If you find rock and metal harsh these are a great choice. I could listen to music all day with these.
The old kid on the block, the premium Daddy pad of the group. Sub bass is probably strongest with these, mid bass not as strong as say the suedes. Mids are recessed ever so slightly as bass and treble are elevated but it still feels like it has a nice balance.
My tuning on the Vibrolabs has some of the strongest bass I have ever heard and with some EQ it can feel like a kick drum on the side of your head. This pad is great if you want punchy bass and I would say it adds more of U shape to the Vibrolabs headphone.
So here is the new Alpha on the street, lambskin might need to be on guard here. The main feature of these is the layer of gel inside the section that touches your head and they are supposed to keep your head cool for long gaming or music listening sessions.
Here is a description taken from Brainwavz's website on the material, technology and idea behind the new version. These are also available in the oval HM5 style which would go great with a T50RP.
"Brainwavz XL Gel earpads use our latest Cooling Gel Technology, coupled with a super soft Micro Suede material to bring you the most advanced and comfortable earpads to date. These extra-comfy pads are not only an indulgence, but almost a necessity, with their innovative cooling gel layer helping to combat “sweaty ears” syndrome and make wearing headphones as comfortable and sweat-free as possible."
So do they feel cool? Yes it's kind of nice especially if like me you live in a hot climate like California. The material is more rigid than the standard pads so it might appear like they won't be as comfortable but don't let that put you off as it seems to contour to the shape of your head after a minute or so. This also creates a better seal than the standard suede pads so it does change how it sounds.
The first thoughts that came to mind was "whoa" these are dark and deep sounding. These share much of the standard suede's sound signature but It almost has an encapsulated feel about it. Highs and upper mids are dialed back in comparison to lambskin but it's nice with tracks that have lots of squealing guitars.
It's a generally non fatiguing sound. The sub bass hits almost as hard as lambskin and it also carries most of the mid bass from the standard suede so it hits very deep but with a slightly delayed decay. You end up with a very thick hard hitting sound and I love it.
The standard suede do feel a bit more open, I would say the sound is somewhere between the standard suede and lambskin variants. Brainwavz decided to use materials in way we have not seen before and kudos to them for the innovation as it certainly works and the result is perhaps the most interesting sound signature of the range of XL pads.
I also noted that the suede was denser looking than the standard suede I am not sure if that was just because of the cut that was used or that a specific grade of suede is used for the gel
I actually find that the sound of these to be my favorite of all the XL pads as it hones in the Vibrolabs T50 to my preferred sound signature and it just seems to work with my particular setup. They are generally a little cheaper than the lambskin but about $10 more than the cheaper variants so the question remains, are they worth it? Absolutely!
Each of the pads here are great and the cheaper variants offer exceptional value. The two premium pads in the lambskin and Microsuede gel are worth the extra ten dollars but the standard suede might be the best value if budget is tight. I think a premium hybrid with lambskin and suede might be an idea for Brainwavz to ponder for the future and would also love to see a angled XL much like the oval pads have the flat and angled variants.
If you were a fan of the velours then for sure you need to at least try the standard suedes and the lambskins are nice if you want to up the detail and sub bass but If your looking for a pad that makes for a smooth sound signature with strong hard hitting bass then the Microsude Gel might just be what you were looking for.
Some of the pads are reduced to $19.99 at time of writing. Grab them while you can, I'm definitely buying the perforated ones.
Brainwavz XL on Amazon
Braninwavz XL Gel