Brainwavz S5

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 pagehttp://www.brainwavzaudio.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.