Brainwavz M5 Review

9


Added Oct 2012

Details: Brainwavz’ fifth M-series in-ear
MSRP: $49.50 (manufacturer’s page); $54.50 for M5+REMOTE with mic & 1-button remote (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $35 from amazon.com / $35 from mp4nation.net for M5; $35 from mp4nation.net$40 from amazon.com for M5+REMOTE
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 103 dB | Freq: 16-18k Hz | Cable: 4.3′ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock (wide channel) single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (4.5/5) – Single-flange wide channel (3 sizes), single-flange narrow channel (3 sizes), and bi-flange silicone tips, Comply foam tips, shirt clip, and hard clamshell carrying case
Build Quality (4/5) – The M5 features lightweight aluminum shells with metal nozzle filters. The rubbery cabling is a bit thin above the y-split but strain relief is excellent all around and the new L-plug seems very durable
Isolation (2.5/5) – Isolation is about average for a dynamic-driver earphone and can be increase slightly with the included Comply tips
Microphonics (3.5/5) – Cable noise is bothersome when worn cable-down. Cable-up wear is recommended
Comfort (4/5) – The housings are lightweight and compact, tapering at the rear to provide a compliant, non-intrusive fit. Flexible strain reliefs and cable cinch allow for over-the-ear wear, though this may not be desirable when a mic/remote is present

Sound (7.6/10) – The newest M-series earphone from Brainwavz, the M5 seems to combine some of the best aspects from the M1 and M2 into a competent and coherent audio package. At the core of the sound is ample bass—the low end of the M5 boasts good depth, plenty of impact, and a mild mid-bass focus. Compared to the older M1, M2, and M3, the bass of the M5 is deeper, more powerful, and more dynamic. It is noticeably more detailed and effortless, and even next to the VSonic GR02 Bass Edition the M5 more than holds its own, providing a deeper, more fleshed-out low end.

Despite the powerful bass, the M5 does a reasonable job of minimizing bass bleed and bloat. Part of the reason is the prominent lower midrange of the M5 – unlike many other bass-heavy earphones the M5 isn’t notably mid-recessed. The lower mids are emphasized and the entire midrange is smooth, dropping gradually in forwardness towards the top. The treble takes a small step back and clarity is pretty much the only aspect of the M5 that doesn’t surpass other earphones in its price range. Still, despite its warmer tone, the M5 is about as clear as the older M1 model. Vocal clarity and intelligibility, especially with female vocals, take a hit compared to the M1 and M2 as well as competing sets like the pricier VSonic GR06. Detail levels are better than average, however, with the M5 sounding more refined and realistic than the M2. The top end doesn’t offer up a whole lot of sparkle but extension is good for a warmer earphone. Harshness and sibilance are nonexistent – in fact, the M5 cuts down on sibilance.

The presentation is affected by the laid-back treble but offers a substantial improvement over the older Brainwavz models. The M5 isn’t very airy and can get slightly congested on busy tracks but has better layering and sounds much more enveloping than the M1 and M2.  The M2 especially sounds exceedingly flat and two-dimensional next to the M5. The pricier VSonic GR06, on the other hand, despite its more forward midrange, is capable of portraying a wider and more open sonic space.

Value (8.5/10) – The Brainwavz M5 is a well-built, well-accessorized, and comfortable earphone with sound that puts it at the top of its game. Its sonic signature won’t do for those looking to maximize clarity but it is sure to please fans of warmer, smoother sound. Better still, the M5 improves in many ways on the older M1, M2, and ProAlpha models without hiking up the price – an amazing accomplishment considering how far ahead of the competition the original Brainwavz earphones were upon release just a few short years ago.

Pros: Good build quality; deep bass and full, smooth sound
Cons: Average clarity


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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.

9 Comments

  1. Nisar on

    Hello ljokerl,

    I am big fan of yours and I follow most of your reviews for my purchases. Most of your reviews were inline with what I hear them myself. I recently bought a pair of M5s feeling that these would be a warm sounding earphones. But, to my surprise I felt them too bright for my taste. Especially when played at slightly higher volumes. I agree that the lows are really good for the price, but, the highs are too bright. I am currently using Brainwavz B2 since last three years and simply love it. But, this M5s feels much brighter than my B2s. I am starting to think if there is any issue with the pair I received. Can you please confirm did you felt that the M5 was brighter than Brainwavz B2? I would love to hear your opinion on this.

    Thanks in advance and Kudos all your efforts.

  2. Saurav on

    I admire the amount of effort you’ve put into this list, joker. It’s the first stop I make when I find any sort of deal on earphones.

    I’ve recently got a deal on the Brainwavz M5 for $15. Do you think it’s a solid buy or nah?

    • ljokerl on

      Thanks!

      If you were after a warm-sounding IEM, $15 is a good price for these. Can’t think of anything that would be better at that price with this sound tuning.

  3. Helias Vieira on

    Hello man, big fan of your work, it has helped me a lot and I really appreciate it. Wish you’d give your opinion on what IEM I should get; I’m looking for something with a sound signature closer to the basshead side (I really like hip-hop and bassy stuff), preferring subbass over midbass (though punchy midbass is really cool, I don’t like the muffled sound midbass focused IEM’s have)

    I just recently bought a ha-fx1x, and while I’m satisfied with it, I also want something that won’t have piercing highs at higher volume and more “open” mids. Durability would also play a big role on it since I’m very careless 🙁 (not proud of that)

    Do you think the M5 would fit that? What other IEMs would fit this description? I’m looking at the VSD3S, some of the T-Peos budget models such as the tank and the popular (I know the popular isn’t that bassy) Fidue A31’s, Soundmagic E10. Thanks a lot dude.

    • ljokerl on

      The M5 may be a little mid-bassy but it’s a better fit than the VSD3S, which is more neutral than basshead. E10 is pretty much in the same boat. For this sort of thing you’d be better off with a Xiaomi Piston 2, which will give you warmth and bass close to the M5 but with more resolution and better soundstaging a-la VSD3S or E10. Pretty good compromise, and it’s only $20 or so.

      The Tank would be ok, but maybe not quite as bassy as would be ideal, and the A31 will sound too warm and treble-shy after the FX1X.

      You could go for something that’s just a little more balanced than the FX1X but still retains that overall sound signature. It won’t be as bassy, but also won’t be as harsh. I am thinking something like the Brainwacvz S1 or Rock Jaw Alfa Genus (in the max bass configuration). Or you could go all our and stretch for a Velodyne vPulse or maybe even a UBSOUND Fighter. These are pretty bassy and not super clear because they don’t have much treble emphasis to balance them out, but they’re not bad for what you’re seeking.

      For something really inexpensive, the Nuforce NE-600X may be worth checking out as well.

      • Helias vieira on

        Thanks for the reply, I’ll most likely grab the s1’s as they’re only $30 at mp4nation 😀

  4. Hinero on

    I’m curious what does actually clarity means in terms of earphones, because I see it everywhere. I owned a pair of m2s and I’m planning to buy those. What will I miss out on with them if you could explain a little bit?

    • ljokerl on

      I don’t think clarity for earphones means anything different than it does for headphones, speakers, etc. To me it means clean sound free of audible distortion/noise, with relatively fast transients and good separation of individual sounds/details. It’s the opposite of “muddy”, “muffled”, “veiled”, and a bunch of other generally negative things.

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