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Brainwavz HM100 and Alara announced

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by nraymond, Aug 9, 2018.
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  1. ahmonge
    Well, they ate here. Listening to them for the very first time. I´ll post my first impressions soon.
  2. ahmonge
    Unfortunately, the HM100 is not what i expected. A little subdued bass with some problems in the low mids that make voices sound too thin to my taste. Increasing the volume gives a bit shouty high mids. A pity, taking into account that they are confortable to wear and reasonavilly well built.
  3. Dobrescu George
  4. Asahi Templar
    I bought a pair of Alara since they were on sale for such a great price. Unfortunetely my Alaras right driver had issues and randomly cut in and out so I have had to return them. I decided to give them another try though so here is hoping my next pair works fine.

    From my brief time with them I think these are the most unique (strangest?) headphones I have ever heard and to be honest I spent most the time I had it trying to figure out if liked it or not. They are definitely not neutral sounding, very tilted toward the warm side.

    They are very in your face, soundstage is narrow and everything is just RIGHT THERE, yet because of its warmed sound signature its not tiring at all and sounds relaxed. Its a very strange presentation. Also inspite of it being a quite narrowstage the seperation is somehow very good and you can easily dicern the various instruments. My brain had a hard time processing it.

    The one area that everyone talks about is the Bass and its easy to hear why. The bass on the Alara is simply incredible, it goes all the way down to around 25 hz or so with no real fall off and just needs like a 2db eq at 20hz to make it go all the way down to 20hz flat. Its got a nice punch and is super clean sounding, sounds sort of like a perfected dynamic headphone. Definitely the best bass I have personally heard on a headphone, I have not heard any of the Audeze LCDs but I assume this is what they sound like and I now understand why they are so loved.

    THe one area that I think was very clearly off was the upper-midrange, the area from 1-4k is wonky and it really hurts the attack of certain instruments like lead guitars. I thought it sounded quite boring because of that. However it EQs very well and putting a 4db boost at 2k and a 3db boost around 4.5k made a huge difference. Actually quite enjoyed the sound with that, although there is some of peak in that 4k area that I need to ID to improve the EQ even more. I will try to post my final EQ settings with Q values and such once I get a new pair and can refine it more. The upper mids are the key though.

    I think the drivers in the Alara are quite good, excellent for the price range they are in. Combine the great drivers with the awesome build quality and the Alara seems to be a great value. I hope my next one works!
    slapo, Dobrescu George and Roderick like this.
  5. Roderick
    In every aspect thats is exactly how I felt about Alara.
  6. Asahi Templar
    Well in the end I didn't keep the Alara. I got my new one in and tried to EQ it and it improved quite a bit with EQ, THe legendary Oratory 1990 on the headphones reddit actually calculated the harmon curve EQ for the Quad-ERA 1 and as they use a similiar, likely the same driver I used his EQ as a baseline and modified it for my tastes/ears.

    It definitely made the upper mids pop more and I enjoyed it much more but it still had some issues. Female vocals just didn't sound great on the Alara, they weren't bad by any means but its just too warm for my taste. Even trying to EQ down the lower mids didn't really improve this enough for me to love female vocals on it. Male vocals however sounded amazing and even better after the EQ.

    There was also a really annoying peak or ringing somewhere in the upper to very high treble, and it there even without EQ. I couldn't figure out exactly where it was with frequency sweeps but I found them to be a fatiguing at times because of it, in spite of them being pretty dark overall (though less so with the EQ of course!) It was most obvious when listening to Ocean Soul by Nightwish, the chimes in that song sounded so harsh and shrill on the alara I had to grit my teeth and I couldnt make it through the song even at a low volume. They are irritating on the Sennheiser HD6xx as well but not sonic assault harsh like on the Alara.

    I didnt pick up on that with my inital defective one so its possible that my replacement had an issue too, but I also never played Ocean Soul with it.

    The biggest issue for me though was the earpads, they were really uncomfortable to me after 2 hours or so. They have no memory foam inside so even though the depth is fine at first they compressed a lot and caused my ears to be jammed on the driver after a time. I think I have larger than average ears as I do have this problem with other headphones, but it is very much a dealbreaker for me. I really wish Brainwavz offered more earpads for the Alara, as I think some thicker angeled pads would dramatically improve both the comfort and the sound.

    The Alara came very close to greatness for me, but I cant justify keeping headphones I find uncomfortable over time and I imagine as the earpads become more worn it would have only gotten worse.

    My EQ settings I used for those who want to try it were as follows:

    Preamp -8db
    22hz Q 1.2 Gain +3db
    175hz Q 1.5 Gain -1db
    550hz Q 1 Gain +1.5db
    1075hz Q 2 Gain -3.8db
    2125hz Q.9 Gain +5.5db
    3250hz Q 2.5 Gain -3.5db
    4400hz Q 1 Gain +7db
    5800hz Q 8 Gain -2db
    6250hz Q 4 Gain -3.5db
    8200hz Q 5 Gain -2.5db
    13000hz Q 4 Gain 2.5
    Dobrescu George likes this.
  7. Lurk650
  8. Mshenay Contributor
    Took me a bit but I finally got around to editing and posting my Alara review,

    I have to be 100% honest I wasn't super duper impressed with this. I do see the MSRP has dropped to $399 new, kinda wish it started there

    Dobrescu George likes this.
  9. Brooko Contributor
    18 minutes for a review?
    Comparing second hand (bargain) higher specced headphones with a brand new Alara - to try and argue price point?
    Talking about tube amps and planars - when everyone knows they require current and not voltage?

    Confused .......
    peter123 likes this.
  10. Mshenay Contributor
    *sigh* Hi Brooko I apologize your confused by the review. So I'll try to summarize it

    I state that I do NOT like Alara on Tubes, multiple times. I even tried my Hybrid Project Ember II which has more than enough current to to power Alara and still didn't like it, in fact I actually like my LCD 2 Pre Fazor and HE 560 on Ember II

    I also mention at the on set of the amplification segment that I prefer strongly the Alara on Solid State. I also talk about enjoying it on the Sound Aware P1 also

    An my point is it under performs... second hand higher specced headphones that are cheaper than it do much better than it. I also felt K702 which is in production and cheaper new on a cheap tube like [the Vali 1 which I had at the time] or the [new Loxjie P20 which I've heard since I shot this and enjoyed] is also a better value than Alara

    It's a shame I didn't have HD 600 an HE 4XX at the time I shot this or the review would have been much much shorter. But your right, it is kinda long an isn't very focused. As I found it hard to rationalize why this costed $499 an felt more time was needed to explain why I am and was SO hesitant to recommend this, I was also organizing the review tour for this before Brainwavz choose to end that too so I was really just conflicted

    BUT It seems it's out of production now although the price was lowered to $399 [on their own website] an honestly it's a shame they didn't keep it at that price from the on set as it would have likely done much better. All in all I guess it was an ok first attempt as it was perfectly mediocre
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2019
  11. Brooko Contributor
    Confusing points:
    1. Dynamics and Planars have different strengths. So why direct comparisons. If you're buying a Planar - its usually because you want those specific traits
    2. Pointless comparing 2nd hand and brand new. No-one knows what a second hand Alara would go for - so the point is moot. And since when was and LCD2 or HE560 new (or HD800 for that matter) anywhere near the $500 mark? Apples with apples.
    3. Why use tubes at all with a Planar? They usually don't suit. [1] Tubes predominantly voltage based and introduce distortion. [2] Planars predominantly need current, and their strength is their low distortion.
    I probably shouldn't comment - but when I see a review which is pushing points which don't really apply, I guess my sanity meter kicks in.
  12. Mshenay Contributor
    I posted that link here so I do appreciate your questioning me! Your perspective is certainly worthwhile and I'm happy to be able to address your points. It's good feedback in some area's. But to be honest I guess my primary goal in posting the review is really to discourage any one from purchasing it and as I said in the review I would recommend any one interested to explore other options as overall I just don't see the value at $499. It would seem even the Brainwavz team recognized that as the price got as low as $339 new

    1 - Hybrid tube designs combine solid state circuitry with tubes, so a Hybrid design has strengths of both in some cases. It's a shame your not familiar with the Ember II it has a fairly long history doing well with Planarmagnetics, although there is a LOT of hybrid tube designs that are common. How are you not familiar with any of them? There's the Massdrop MCTH that is hugely popular and "delivers the current needed for planars"

    Again regarding your second point, it seems they got as low as $339 at one point, even $305 with a coupon. An man at that price They'd have done really well. Considering stuff like HE 560 is still available to purchase for around $450 or so new on Amazon... So I guess calling HE 560 a legacy headphone isn't really accurate either,

    But I can't see any one paying more than $300 second hand given how cheap it got before it went out of stock... especially when the Brainwavz team choose to cut the price NEW down that low

    Finally, there's more overlap between planar's and dynamics than I think your aware of. Especially as of lately, an more importantly the Alara was tuned like a dynamic with an odd midbass hump. So that said I figured I'd compare it to dynamics since they choose to remove the one "trait" that in my mind set's Planars apart. Oh and comparing it to HD 800 is worthwhile, people always want to know about that. Even when it isn't relevant. I think even you mentioned HD 800 in your review did you not? An frankly I don't feel like Alara has any "traits" that make it better than HD 800...

    An regarding "different strengths" I don't feel Alara really embraced any of those, likely not a problem with the driver it self but more of how it was tuned and implemented :/ I had a chance to hear the Quad ERA 1 Planar [which I suspect has the same OEM driver in it as Alara] and it was much cleaner and balanced overall.

    But really your points are valid, and I appreciate the sanity check. I'll have to be more direct in the future with what I think and thankfully I have HE 4XX and HD 600 [An HE 560 too it would seem] so I've got more relevant products to compare all these new $499 headphones to.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2019
  13. Brooko Contributor
    So why didn't you make the comparison between the discounted price of the Alara and the discounted price of the HE560/LCD2? See what you've achieved with that?

    Secondly - there isn't much of a mid-bass hump on the Alara. At most its about 4dB. The bass is still fairly linear - nowhere near as flat as the HE560 or LCD2 though

    Third - of course I've heard of (and tried) hybrids. You mentioned "tubes " in general in your review though. And the purpose of the tube in the path of a hybrid is to add distortion (second order harmonics) - which is weird if you consider the strength of a planar is the lack of distortion. So if adding a tube adds warmth - why would you add one when there is already warmth present? Again - does not make sense.

    Anyway - I'll stop with the critique.

    FWIW - any more than 5-7 minutes and I won't view most video reviews. Reason - most of them are full with fluff and little actual content.
  14. Zachik
    100% agree!! Unfortunately, nowdays most video reviews are 25+ minutes... sigh...
  15. Dobrescu George
    I try to do 10 - 15 minutes for video reviews (?)

    Very interesting work!

    I do think that Alara works better with Solid State, especially if you have something like Aune S6 Pro, they seem to pair well together. Also with Burson Play Basic
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