Sunday, August 30, 2015

[REVIEW] Brainwavz S5

Brainwavz needs no introduction. They have been in the IEM market long enough that they have made a name for themselves, especially in the bang-for-bucks section. The S5 has been in the market for a while now, and the price has dropped from the initial US$130 to the current US$100. However, the price tag is still right in the ‘warzone’ as far as IEM goes, where many competitors coming from China are all trying to outdo each other for being the next budget giant killer. So how does S5 fair?





Spec
Drivers: 10mm Dynamic
Rated Impedance: 16 Ω
Frequency Response: 18Hz ˜ 24kHz
Sensitivity: 110 dB @ 1 mW
Rated Input Power: 20mW
Maximum Input Power: 40mW
Cable: 1.3m, Flat Y-Cord OFC
Plug: 3.5mm Gold Plated Stereo



Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality
S5 is beautifully packaged. Then again, I won’t expect anything less from Brainwavz with their outstanding track record. Of course they didn’t skip on accessories as well. You will get a pair of Comply foam tip, a pair of tri-flanges eartips, a pair of bi-flanges eartips, 2 set (S, M, L of a total of 6 pairs) of single flange eartips with slightly different design and material. There is also a good looking hard case as well as a 3.5mm-to-6.4mm stereo adapter. All and all, they really give the S5 a premier feel.



Build quality is top notch as well. The IEM itself is pretty much over-built like a tank, with flat cable, adequate strain relief and overall attention to detail. Though flat cable probably isn’t going to be everyone’s favourite, the over-the-ear design does make the cable much more tolerable in actual use than in a straight-down configuration. I just hope that they had used a narrower flat cable, then it might better appeal to those who really just don’t like flat cable. One area I do want to give credit to the flat cable is that it is hard to get it tangled. There is also no real driver flex to speak of, which is a good improvement over previous Brainwavz models that tend to suffer from some degree of mild driver flex issue from time to time.



Sound Quality
Sound signature wise, S5 is probably best described as U-shaped with good presence on both ends of the frequency response. Bass has very good depth, rumble, texture and quantity - enough to satisfy bass head but still in a well-controlled way that it won’t offend those who don’t particularly enjoy bass. Mid-range however is a little bland – not bad per se, but doesn’t have much to praise of either. Treble has good extension, clarity and crispiness, but the lower treble / upper vocal range has some noticeable peaks that can become rather edgy when the volume is pushed too loud. Soundstage is quite good, might not be the best but definitely well above average.



*Compensated. Measurement accuracy is not guaranteed



*Measurement accuracy is not guaranteed

All and all, the graininess on upper vocal is probably the only real weakness as it makes S5 more appealing to those who like brightness in their music. Tuned that down a bit, maybe by the use of foam tips or extra filter / acoustic dampening, and S5 will shine.



Sum-up
There are some really great sounding IEM coming out of China these days on incredible low price, enough to rewrite everything we know about the ratio of price vs. performance. While S5 won’t win the price war these days, it is still a very solid offering on its own right. As I imagine, Grado fans who usually don’t mind a bit of brightness will probably also enjoy this IEM with their Rock music.

A thanks to Branwavz for the sample.

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Important: All postings are my own personal opinion only and should not be treated as absolute truth. I do get things wrong just like everyone else. Always do your own research!

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