Brainwavz B2 Review

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Reviewed Jul 2010

Details: Dual-driver rebrand of the original Fischer Audio DBA-02
MSRP: $159.50 / manufacturer’s page
Current Price: $160 from mp4nation.net
Specs: Driver: Dual Armature | Imp: 43 Ω | Sens: 108 dB | Freq: 20-24k Hz | Cable: 4.2′ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 3mm | Preferred tips: Shure single-flange, Etymotic tri-flange
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (4/5): Single-flange silicone tips (6 pairs in 3 sizes), Comply T100, 6.3mm adapter, airplane adapter, and hard clamshell carrying case
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The shells consist of two layers of plastic and feel slightly cheap to the touch. Some sharp edges are left by the molding process and the strain relief on cable entry, while functional, is quite short. The black-and-white cable is very similar to the twisted cords found on Westone earphones and feels quite sturdy. The Y-split is well-relieved but the 3.5mm straight plug is a bit wimpy
Isolation (3.5/5) – Quite good with single-flange tips and even better with aftermarket triples
Microphonics (4/5) – Present when worn cord-down, almost nonexistent when worn over-the-ear
Comfort (4/5) – The angled-nozzle housings can be worn both cord-down and over-the-ear in the same way as the Klipsch S4 but are quite a bit longer and may not be as fitting for those with smaller ears as the S4

Sound (9.2/10) – From Fischer Audio DBA-02 Review – Despite being a relative newcomer on the international hi-fi scene, Fischer Audio have already caused quite a stir with their highly competitive midrange earphones. The Eterna, which I reviewed previously, won me over with its uncompromising musicality and fun factor despite being so very far from my preferred sound signature. But I’ve never made a secret of being after a far more analytical sound. There are many out there who claim that analytical earphones are antithetical to music enjoyment – that they cause the listener to hear the earphones and not the music. But for me a proper analytical earphone is quite relaxing – it never forces me to focus my attention on this or that to pick up on every detail and I find this more relaxing than listening to an earphone with the sound signature equivalent of a rocking chair (e.g. MTPG).

On that note, I will say that the DBA-02 is one of the best all-around earphones I have heard for the type of sound I am after. I will compare it mostly to the Audio-Technica CK10 as the two share an uncanny similarity but my listening involved lengthy comparisons to the dual-driver Phiaton PS200, Q-Jays, and ATH-CK90Pro as well as the Westone 1 and UM3X and the dynamic-driver-based Monster Turbine Pro Gold and Copper. As with the ATH-CK10, the bass of the DBA-02 is tight, controlled, and well-extended. I find the DBA-02 to be ruler-flat down to the lowest limits of my hearing, beating out the CK100 and a slew of other high-end earphones. The low end is quick and detailed. I do feel that the CK10 is just a hair more immediate in terms of impact and seems to move more air than the DBA-02 does. It should be noted that while I consider both earphones to be very well-balanced, for those used to something like the MTPG or Senn IE8 both will still fall square into ‘bass-light’ territory.

The midrange of the DBA-02 is balanced perfectly with the bass and treble. It isn’t lacking in transparency, clarity, or detail. If anything, it is a bit too crisp and aggressive when it comes to texturing – a bit Etymotic-like in that respect – but this is hardly a negative in my book. The mids of the CK10 sound slightly smoother and have a more liquid nature to them. Moving into the lower treble, the DBA-02 stays fairly smooth and quite articulated. There’s plenty of sparkle to go around but no harshness or sibilance. The DBA-02s are certainly bright earphones but the lower treble is less hot-tempered than that of the CK10s, which are just a tad more prone towards being sibilant. Treble detail is excellent but microdetail is presented with less authority than the somewhat more aggressive CK10 – a role reversal of sorts from the midrange, where the CK10 exhibits a more laid-back character than the DBA-02. Extension is effortless – a characteristic the DBA-02 shares with the CK10 and CK100.

When it comes to presentation, the DBA-02 once again surprises with the amount of air in its spacious stage as well as with the excellent (though not quite UM3X-excellent) instrumental separation. Soundstage width and depth are quite good, though neither the IE8 nor the Phiaton PS200 will feel threatened by the Fischers any time soon. In comparison, the CK10 sounds more enveloping and three-dimensional with better imaging and a capacity for front-to-rear positioning that never ceases to surprise me. The sound of the CK10 has a sort of ambience to it that I have not heard replicated except in the higher-end CK100. On a final comparative note, I feel that both the CK10 and DBA-02 are equally (in)efficient and will both run fine off of portable players and scale relatively well with added power.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that while direct comparisons always make it seem like the two products being compared are extremely dissimilar, the differences between the ATH-CK10 and DBA-02 are fairly small. For all intents and purposes, the two earphones share a general sound signature and I probably wouldn’t want to own both simultaneously.

Value (9.5/10) – The Brainwavz B2 offers nearly unprecedented bang/buck. Though the build quality isn’t fitting of a top-tier earphone, neither is the price, and that really sums up the earphones pretty well – top tier sound quality with middle rung amenities and price tag.

Pros: Astonishingly balanced and capable sound, comfortable, well-isolating
Cons: Average build quality


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

45 Comments

  1. Jordan on

    I currently have a pair of B2’s, but find them fatiguing for long listening sessions (being so bright and I think just being a uiem). So I am looking to try out an entry level ciem, how would these compare to Custom Art Music Ones? What would I gain/lose going from one to the other? Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      The Custom One is definitely less fatiguing in sound and I suppose in fit as well, if that’s a problem for you with the B2, but it has a more mid-centric sound signature and lacks the absolute resolution of the B2’s driver. The result is that the bass is not as tight and level, the clarity is a little lower, the detailing is not as “in your face”, and of course the treble is not super crisp like it on the B2. However, in exchange you get more note thickness and highs that are not bright/harsh/brittle – i.e. it resolves the two complaints you hear most often about the B2.

  2. Paulo on

    Hi Joker,

    Given the current landscape and options, and given that I have a love affair with the B2s for the past 4 years, would upgrading to another universal be a better option than recabling a broken pair? While I would be willing to spend, I do have a wife (which pretty much means there is a currently unknown ceiling on budget). I hope you can help me decide.

    My current options are:

    1. Hifiman HE400i — yes not an IEM and would need amping but I might be able to squeeze in a white lie or two to get wife approval.
    2. Recable — path of least resistance
    3. Cheapest option you can recommend that can be considered a definite upgrade over the B2.

    • ljokerl on

      Not familiar with the HE400i, but as far as IEMs go fixing the B2 is definitely your best option from when I’m sitting. A B2 is almost impossible to upgrade from IF its sound signature works for you. The only thing I can call a *definite* upgrade is the Hidition NT6 at like $1200. It’s very difficult to even match the B2’s performance while maintaining a similar sound signature these days because there are only a few TWFK IEMs left on the market, and some of those are super expensive (like the new q-JAYS).

      Keep the B2 going as long as you can – that’s what I’m doing with my ATH-CK10 and VSonic VC1000 (same driver, same great sound, also long-discontinued).

      • Paulo on

        Thanks. I went with getting the Auglamour RX-1 (for portable use), and Fostex T50RP3 (for home/office use) instead. Seems like one of the drivers of my B2s got busted, and a recable wouldn’t fix it anyway. I’ll still try to ask to have it fixed, though. Love the B2s and would definitely buy them again if they were made available.

        I’ll probably get the Hifiman x Massdrop RE00 too. This is what happens when (near) end game gear gets broken, and are no longer available — what was supposed to be an all-in-one solution has to be replaced by 3 items.

        • Paulo on

          Additionally, given how your list has grown and moved a lot over the years, are the ratings still appropriate for most (if not all) of the items on The List, or should I consider the age of the review and how the top end should have moved scores down?

          • ljokerl on

            I am way behind the times – never even heard of Auglamour (interesting name, though). The Massdrop RE00 seems like a no-brainer backup set, though.

            Regarding the scores, I move them down myself if I think there is an issue, so in theory (barring any mistakes I made) the ratings should not be age-dependent and the scale should be preserved. I would still rather have the B2 than most “modern” IEMs.

            • Paulo on

              Interesting brand as well. ClieOS has that RX1 as just a tier below the MX980. Not bad for $20. At all. Their in ears are also pretty good. The R8 model is much better sounding than the Piston 3 for me, but that one had a really shoddy build and fit.

  3. Scrub on

    Can you suggest an upgrade for the B2? Hopefully the same sound signature. 350$ max budget.

    • ljokerl on

      I haven’t really found anything that I would consider a straight upgrade to a top-tier TWFK set like these. In fact, since these and most other TWFK sets have been discontinued, it’s hard to even stay on par within this particular sound signature.

  4. PBJ Green on

    Hi Joker, can you give a short comparo between the B2, ER4S and the ATH-IM02? I’m really looking into getting one of these from a local shop but they don’t have a set of IM02’s for testing. Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      They’re pretty similar earphones, this would be easier if you just listed your preferences for the sound and I could suggest the one that’s the best fit.

      Generally speaking, the IM02 will have the darkest tone and the B2 – the brightest (but very close to the ER4S). IM02 and B2 are capable of slightly better bass depth while the ER4S and B2 have the best clarity, detail, and resolution.

      • PBJ Green on

        I’m actually looking for as much detail as I can get from my music when choosing from one of these. Thanks for replying quickly.

        • ljokerl on

          In that case the B2 and ER4S would be my two picks anyway, and it sounds like you are able to demo those two.

  5. Phenol on

    Hi Joker, I’ve read a lot of your reviews and always use this site as a reference when comparing different opinions on IEM’s (though this is my main point of reference since I’ve never found anything here where I would disagree especially about sound). Which DAP/DAC below 200$ do you think would be a good pair to the B2’s? Thanls

    • ljokerl on

      I don’t have a specific recommendation because I don’t have any in that price range, but all you really need for the B2 is a clean signal (no reports of hiss, etc from other users of sensitive BA IEMs) and a low output impedance. I believe the Fiio X3-II, which I’ve tried before, is rated at 0.4 ohms (i.e. low enough), and I was impressed with this DAP overall. I just don’t have any others in that price range to compare it to.

      • Phenol on

        Alright I’ll try that. Thanks a lot!

  6. caaalebbb on

    Hi, I’m looking to replace my old broken Brainwavz B2 – I see that the B2s are now around $250 (are they discontinued?). What would you recommend to replace the old B2 at a similar price point?

    • ljokerl on

      Unfortunately most of the better dual-driver earphones with that type of tuning have been discontinued, but I’d suggest looking around to see if you can find one in your price range. The three to look for would be the Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII, VSonic VC1000, and VSonic GR01. They should be priced under $200, especially the VC1000.

  7. wino lopez on

    Hi!
    Just bought my B2 for $122 (my first BA) and found its treble too much for me to bear, hurts my ears even with only just above average volumes, even when coming from VSD1S which has enhanced treble. Do BA’s generally sound like this?

    Too bad I can’t return it and it’s pretty hard to sell it here in the Philippines. So now I would just like to tame down the treble without spending too much. What’s your recommendation? I’m thinking using other tips (the red comply tips that came with it didn’t reduce it that much and neither do my basic silicon tips). Which tips are the best with reducing the treble, Shure Olives? Ety triflanges? I don’t mind if they would enhance the bass

    Thx in advance! 🙂

    • ljokerl on

      The B2 is a brighter earphone than the VSD1S, which is on the warm side despite being somewhat sibilant. You have to make sure you’re getting a sufficiently good seal and insertion depth – from there it won’t make too much of a difference which tips you use. I like Complys personally.

      • wino lopez on

        Someone offers to have my B2 swapped with UE700, do you have a comparison for these two? I wonder if that’s a good deal. Also worried with durability issues. Thanks!

      • wino lopez on

        If i’ll be losing a bit on the treble performance but in exchange will get deeper bass extension (not necessarily bigger in quantity), with similarly great mids, I think I’m sold.

        • ljokerl on

          There were two different versions of the UE700 – the pre-Logitech Ultimate Ears 700 version, and the Logitech UE700. They sound slightly different (I thought the newer one was better) and have some construction differences as well. Neither is particularly durable, though – they use the same plug and cable as the more popular UE600, and those get quite a few complaints. Also, they use the same driver as the B2 so they sound extremely similar including bass depth – the UE700 just has a sheen over the high end that I found a little bothersome, especially in the first version.

  8. Ryan on

    Hi there,
    I recently got the B2, and they are excellent, exactly the kind of sound signature I have been looking for over several years of trying all manner of gear from the low budget to the absolute top of the line. Are there any earphones at any budget that you would consider to be a direct upgrade of the B2?
    In a previous comment you mentioned that “The B2s are extremely capable earphones, especially considering the price, so there will probably be some trade-offs either way.” But if price and difficulty to drive (I pretty much always use an amp) is no issue, what would you recommend?
    Of course, if the B2 is the absolute finest in its class, that would be a welcome surprise, and I can be content with my 160USD earphones.
    Thank you!

    • ljokerl on

      Yeah, if you like the sound signature of these they are very hard to upgrade from. It’s easier if there’s something you hate about them, like too little bass or too much highs or something 🙂

      If price is no object, the some of the high-end customs that follow a balanced sound signature are definitely an option – for example the JH Audio JH13, Hidition NT6, 1964EARS V6-Stage, or Noble 4S. For instance, I compared the 4S to the VSonic VC1000, which sounds very similar to the B2, here: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/noble-4s/ . As you can see even the $1000 4S doesn’t totally demolish a good dual-driver such as the VC1000 or B2, but it makes for a compelling upgrade option.

      • Ryan on

        Awesome, thanks for the recommendations. With the blessing of the gods of productivity, I’ll be able to briefly try them all out this weekend!

        • ljokerl on

          That’s the best way to go for sure. Nothing like trying them out for yourself.

          • Ryan on

            Unfortunately, I failed to try any of the IEMs i set out to demo, but I did get to try the Lime Ears LE3 with switch!
            They sounded great, yet failed to wow me; there simply was no ‘magic’. I can’t pinpoint exactly what about it didn’t quite click, but at a guess, I’d say they were a tad too polite, or simply weren’t as clear or resolving as the B2.

            Back to the B2…. with further listening, I realise that the only thing I might dislike about the B2 is the spike in the low to mid treble. I have something of a love-hate relationship with this, as on one hand it can be distracting with some songs (though never sibilant), but on the other, I suspect it also grants the B2 its aggressive signature which I love.
            Not sure what you would make of that, but I thought it might be interesting to note.

          • ljokerl on

            The LE3 is very smooth – enough so that it’s a little on the “dull” side. There’s other sets that compromise better between smoothness and energy – the Noble 4S, for example – but that’s more expensive. Generally it’s one or the other.

            The B2 treble character you’re talking about is pretty well-documented in TWFKs. It drives some people batty, but I personally don’t mind it that much compared to the alternatives (especially in the price range).

          • Ryan on

            I see, that explains it. The Noble 4 is getting more and more tempting, and I should be able to acquire a universal fit one for about 310USD. Seems like I’ll be going for it. Any cable recommendations? I’m using a fairly warm source; a modded AK120 similar to the Red Wine Audio AK120-B, to an RSA Intruder. As I’m sure you’ve figured out the kind of sound I’m looking for, I have faith in your experience and recommendations~
            Thanks!

          • ljokerl on

            Keep in mind I’ve only tried the 4S (the silicone-shelled version). Universals should be close, but ultimately may have some differences stemming from fit and materials.

            I’m not too big on cables so can’t help you there. Average_joe could probably chime in with something but he doesn’t have a Noble 4, so the optimal pairing would still be a mystery to him.

  9. Mac on

    how would these compare to the dunu-1000?

  10. JN on

    Hi ljokerl,

    I really enjoy your reviews and agree so much with your evaluations. I like analytic IEMs and really like these IEMs, but it appears they may not to be available any more. Have you heard if they have been discontinued? Which do you prefer, these or the VC1000? Thank you very much for your advice.

    JN

    • ljokerl on

      I haven’t heard anything official about them being dropped but availability has been poor for the longest time. The VC1000 sounds very similar – I do prefer it very slightly to these but without A:Bing them it’s hard if not impossible to tell them apart. The VSonic isn’t as commonly available as it used to be, either, but you can still find it on ebay.

      • JN on

        Thanks for your prompt reply.
        Best,
        JN

  11. John on

    Hey, joker. I’ve been on the hunt for a replacement for my b2s. What would be an upgrade to the sound of the B2s? Would that upgrade be cheaper than buying another B2 and having them reshelled as a custom for $250?
    I use my note 2 as a source, and even though I don’t have anything iems yet, I bought an almost-unused iBasso D42 Mamba.

    • ljokerl on

      An upgrade in what way? The B2s are extremely capable earphones, especially considering the price, so there will probably be some trade-offs either way.

      Also, would that $250 be just for the re-shell or for the earphones and re-shell together? The latter is not a bad deal if whoever is doing the mod can maintain the sound.

  12. Tolec on

    Joker, which one would you choose as the first $100+ IEM for a basshead newbie, Brainwavz B2 and Rock-It Sounds R-50?

    • ljokerl on

      For a basshead, neither. They both have very flat (non-enhanced) bass. There are lots of options with greater bass quantity than those two.

      • Tolec on

        Thanks. Would either be a good upgrade for UE600 then?

        • ljokerl on

          They’re brighter but not less bassy than the UE600. If you’re okay with that, you’ll also get better bass extension, clarity, detail retrieval, etc with the B2 and R-50. UE600 is a very odd choice for a basshead in the first place…

          • Tolec on

            Maybe I shouldn’t have used the word “basshead” to describe myself… I like tight bass with some quantity (but not boomy). Currently I have ue600, in-flux, and ckm-500, and I rank them ue600>in-flux>ckm-500. I guess I am actually more fond of neutral/warm sounding iems?

          • ljokerl on

            Yeah… I’d probably go for something warmer then – maybe a HiFiMan RE-400 or TDK BA200 if you can find one.

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