Reviewed Nov 2011
Details: half in-ear earphone with a good price/performance ratio
MSRP: $28.50 (manufacturer’s page); $33.50 for Beta+remote w/mic + 1-button remote (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $10 from amazon.com / $29 from mp4nation.net (3-pack) for Beta; $10 from amazon.com / $34 from mp4nation.net for Beta+remote
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 110 dB | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cable: 3.9’ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: stock Comply foams, generic bi-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down
Accessories (1.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes) and comply foam tips
Build Quality (2.5/5) – The construction of the Beta is similar to Sony IEMs of yesteryear, with plastic housings and long strain reliefs. The cable is thin and somewhat tangle-prone, similar to what is found on Fischer’s FA-788
Isolation (2.5/5) – Decent for a shallow-insertion design, especially with the included Comply eartips
Microphonics (3.5/5) – Surprisingly mild despite the earphones having to be worn cable-down
Comfort (4/5) – The half in-ear housings of the Beta are lightweight and sit well in the ear. The design mandates shallow insertion and the included Comply tips help comfort further, though replacing them can be a costly affair
Sound (6.7/10) – The Beta is an accurate earphone with fairly neutral tone and surprising range. For a half in-ear design, its bass has impressive depth and impact, both vastly superior to Fischer Audio’s similarly-priced FA-788. It is also punchier than the higher-end M1 model and the pricier Hippo 10EB. The bass is very clean and articulate and maintains impressive resolution for an earphone in the Beta’s price range – those not expecting a bass monster are sure to be pleased.
The mids of the Beta are recessed slightly compared to the bass and come across sounding a touch distant next to the M1 model. Clarity is excellent, however, and exaggerated further by the prominent treble. Detail resolution, too, is impressive for the price and the sound produced is clean, crisp, and edgy. The Beta is not something I would recommend for vocal-centric genres over the M1 but its reproduction of guitars has just the right amount of bite and texture. Whereas the M1 is refined and extremely smooth, the Beta is raw and full of energy.
There is a downside to the wild sound, however – at times the upper midrange and lower treble can come across wildly uncontrolled. The top end can be a touch splashy and sibilance ranges from mild to moderate depending on track, fit, and tips used. The included Complys do a good job of taming most of the treble but the Beta can still be fatiguing at higher volumes. Those who listen with the volume turned down, though, will find sparkly, clear, and moderately extended treble well worth the asking price.
In terms of presentation, the Beta is airy and open-sounding. Soundstage width is excellent and depth isn’t bad, either. Fischer’s FA-788 sounds much smaller and more congested in comparison and even the similarly open-sounding Hippo 10EB can’t match the soundstage size of the Beta. That said, the beta isn’t the most resolving earphone and doesn’t separate quite as well as the Brainwavz M1 does once things get busy. In addition, the space is not quite as cohesive and the imaging lags a little behind the M1. For its price, however, the Beta performs more than adequately and the sheer size of its soundstage is certain to impress.
Value (9/10) – While the old Beta Brainwavz Pro was a great value as an overall package, the new Beta gets by on sound quality alone. Like most entry-level half in-ear designs, it is not the best-built or most isolating set of earphones but for the asking price – and with sound quality this good – it is easy enough to forgive. Simply put, aside from a bit of sibilance the Beta may just be the best-sounding earphone in its price bracket. If that matters more than the functional nuances – as it should to many here at Head-Fi – there is no reason not to buy one.
Pros: comfortable half in-ear design; best-in-class sound quality
Cons: tangle-prone cabling; can be sibilant