Brainwavz M1 Review

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Brainwavz M1
Reviewed May 2010

Details: Latest budget offering from mp4nation’s house brand
MSRP: $40 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $45 from amazon.com; $45 from mp4nation.net
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 32 Ω | Sens: 110 dB | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cable: 4.2’ 45°-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Generic biflanges
Wear Style: Over-the-ear or straight down

Accessories (4/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), shirt clip, and hard clamshell case
Build Quality (3.5/5) – Housings are identical to those used by the Cyclone PR1 Pro – light and sturdy but lacking strain relief. The cable is identical to that of the ViSang R02/R03 and Brainwavz M2– a twisted Cu-Ag alloy cord that is tough yet flexible. Unlike the ViSang earphones, however, the Brainwavz are terminated with a sturdy 45-degree plug
Isolation (3/5) – Very adequate for a ported dynamic IEM, especially with bi-flange tips
Microphonics (4/5) – Slightly noticeable when worn cord-down but wearing them over-the-ear is easy and a shirt clip is included
Comfort (4/5) – Lighter than the R03/M2 and very unobtrusive despite the slightly larger housings. Can easily be worn cord-up or cord-down. Work best with a relatively shallow fit

Sound (7/10) – The sound of the Brainwavz M1 builds on the sound signature of the Brainwavz M2, which I’ve already reviewed at length. The 32Ω impedance of the M1 seems to be the major change from the M2 specs. Aside from needing a bit of extra volume to achieve the same SPL as the M2, the most noticeable thing about the sound of the M1 is that the bass is rather underemphasized compared to the older Brainwavz earphones. They are by no means bass-light but the lack of as great of an artificial boost means that the M1 lacks the bass impact and extension of the M2. The nature of the low end is more punchy and less boomy than with the M2, though the difference is small. The M2 is simply a little more powerful and immediate when it comes to reproducing bass, especially hard bass on rap and D&B tracks. The M1 is more laid back, more balanced. Vocals are placed a bit farther back and so are the drums, which is good for overall balance. The treble is also slightly less sparkly despite the fact that the M2 is nearly devoid of sparkle to start with. Still, the more laid-back presentation at the bottom does make the M1 sound more balanced.

The midrange is similar between the Brainwavz earphones. Smooth and non-fatiguing, it allows for a mellow but engaging listening experience. The M2 sounds a bit thicker and warmer than the M1. In terms off presentation, the M1 has a wider left-right soundstage but a smaller range of depth (meaning it doesn’t convey intimacy quite as well as the M2).

THL Recommended Badge 2014Value (9.5/10) – The Brainwavz M1 is another very strong contender for the bang/buck crown. Like the Brainwavz M2, the M1 is a steal at the $40 mp4nation plans to ask for them. They are neither better nor worse than the similarly-priced ViSang R02 – simply different. The slightly more balanced signature is not as heavy-hitting as the ViSang earphones and Brainwavz M2 tend to be. The warmth of the earphones is reduced and some of the thickness is gone but the soundstage is more evenly spaced and distance is relayed quite well. The lack of a strain relief is slightly disheartening but the cable is extremely solid and the new 45-degree plug is excellent. Comfort, isolation, and microphonics are all what I’ve come to expect from earphones of this caliber. Listening to the M1 makes it perfectly clear to me that we are moving in the right direction – and any earphone that makes me feel this way is well-worth my hard-earned money.

Pros: Class-leading sound quality, great all-around usability
Cons: Cord has a bit of memory character, no strain reliefs on cable entry


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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.

17 Comments

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  3. Anthony on

    Hey joker! First off, thank you for doing these reviews; they’re a great resource and I really appreciate it!

    I currently own the Philips SHE3590 and I like them as a budget, V-shaped IEM. And based on your guide, I also plan on getting a pair of JVC HA-FX101s to cover the budget, basshead IEM part of my collection.

    Now, I’m looking for a budget, balanced sound signature IEM and have somewhat narrowed down my choice to the Brainwavz M1 and either the Etymotic ETY-Kids or the MC5. Which do you think I should go with?

    Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      All good options – the M1 will give you a more conventionally balanced sound that’s smooth, a little warm, and just all-around pleasant. Etys tend to be more “analytical”, with less warmth and a flatter overall response. If you are after accuracy or absolute clarity/transparency, the Etys are probably a better choice, but as a contrast to your other sets the M1 will do just as nicely, if not better.

      By the way, the only thing the Etykids have going for them over the MC5 is the price. If you can afford it, I’d go with the MC5 – that way you don’t have to worry about the volume restriction/power requirement for the EtyKids.

      • Anthony on

        Thanks!

        After doing some more research, the JVC FXT90 has caught my eye. My two concerns with them is their fit and comfort because of their oddly-shaped housings and also the fact that I wouldn’t be able to really receive any customer support if they were to break since they’d becoming from Japan.

        I should give you more background on my listening history. I had the FXD80. They sounded very detailed and a lot less warm than what I was used to. Their fit is what lead me to return them; I couldn’t achieve a good seal. I do still think about them from time to time. Their soundstage felt very wide and everything sounded well-layered. I did get sibilance though. I listen to my music on Spotify Premium either through my computer or Nexus 5. I listen to mainly electronic music, rock, and some rap. I currently own the Shure SE215 but will be returning them today. Compared to the FXD80s, they sound congested. Their bass is great, sometimes a bit too much, but nothing unbearable. I just want a bit more clarity and detail with a tad less bass. They also made my ears sore after prolonged listening from the hard memory wire and housings pressing up against my ear.

        I guess I really just want an all-around, comfortable, durable, balanced with a tad bit of warmth and bass around the $50-100 range. It’s hard because their is pretty much always compromise and you can’t get everything you want. The more I research the more complex the decision becomes.

        • ljokerl on

          “It’s hard because their is pretty much always compromise and you can’t get everything you want.”

          Yes, that’s true even of $1000 customs, and certainly true of IEMs under $100.

          The FXT90 is not very balanced-sounding. It’s a lot closer to your SHE3580 in signature than to the M1 or an Etymotic set. It’s also not the smoothest thing out there – certainly not as smooth as an M1 or MC5 – so I don’t think it’s what you’re looking for.

          There are other things in that price range that are better than the SE215 for what you want, in terms of sound while also keeping comfort in mind – for instance the VSonic VSD3 (with the caveat of slightly sibilant treble), HiFiMan RE-400 (very very smooth but bass is not enhanced), Phonak Perfect Bass (kind of hard to find these days, but very comfortable). Maybe some less popular ones worth looking into as well, like the SteelSeries Flux Pro: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/steelseries-flux-in-ear-pro/

          • Anthony on

            The VSD3 and VSD3S have caught my attention.

            I’m not sure which to pick though and whether or not to get the detachable cable or non-detachable cable version. The non-detachable version is a bit more expensive on lendmeurears.com and also sports a silver-plated cable that they claim to offer better sound quality.

          • Anthony on

            The GR07 is also interesting. Sorry for having so many questions and such haha.

          • ljokerl on

            I would not recommend VSonics if you’re worried about sibilance. The VSD3 and GR07 both tend to have some resonance in that frequency range and are really not for the sibilance-sensitive.

          • J.Kevin on

            About the budget balanced IEM, what do you think about Astrotec AM-90? I know it’s older but i think it’s still better than M1, in terms of build quality and sound quality. I’m interested because of it’s low price 40 $ (35€).

  4. Cheapo on

    In terms of bang-for-buck, what would be the better option: these or the SteelSeries Flux?

    • ljokerl on

      Given the same price I’d personally go for the Flux but they sound fairly different. The M1 is more or less mid-centric – very smooth with gently rolled-off bass and treble. The Flux is the opposite – it emphasizes the bass and treble over the midrange a bit for a slightly “v-shaped” sound.

  5. Miskkie on

    These still a very good buy? I had a pair in daily use for nearly 4 years and they now broke. Overall been very happy with them, just wondering if the grass would be greener elsewhere or should I just re-buy the same.

    • Miskkie on

      Oh and price still being <50$.

      • ljokerl on

        I still highly recommend these for a smooth and balanced sound. They’re even included in the current version of my IEM Buyer’s Guide: http://theheadphonelist.com/earphone-buyers-guide/ . There’s nothing in the price range that’s quite like them, so if you were happy with the sound, I would just get another.

        • Miskkie on

          Thanks a bunch. WIll buy the M1’s again. Awesome site btw.

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