Sunday, August 30, 2015

Brainwavz Jive: We're Just Getting Started

Intro


TL;DR: Probably one of Brainwavz' best releases yet, the Jive raises the bar for budget IEMs, combining a refined, detailed sound with Brainwavz' signature build quality and accessories.

Before I begin, I would like to sincerely thank Pandora at Brainwavz for providing the review sample of the Jive you see in this review. Please note that I am neither affiliated with Brainwavz or any of its staff, nor am I being compensated in any form for writing this review. All opinions expressed in the following review are strictly my own unless otherwise specified, and all photos are taken and own by me. Finally, please take the following review with a grain of salt.

Brainwavz’ products have always been about value for money. With each new IEM release they push the envelope for product value at each price point. Now, this week we're going to be taking a look at their brand-new IEM, the Jive. It's a $30 IEM marketed as being “tuned to perform like a balanced armature for only $30,” which is a pretty bold statement that, as experience has taught me, shows Brainwavz really has something big going on here. Let's take a closer look after the jump.



== Aesthetics ==

Packaging, Accessories

The Jive arrives in a plastic box of sorts slightly similar to its budget brother, the Delta. The plastic feels quite flimsy and cheap, and shows they low-balled the packaging here. Given its price, however, I guess this would have to be expected. Inside that plastic box is the core of the packaging – namely Brainwavz newly-designed long IEM case, which contains everything in the Jive package.

Again, Brainwavz blows me away with their accessories package that they manage to throw into each of their products. On top of the IEM case, you get two extra pairs of silicone eartips, their now-typical Comply foam eartips, a shirt clip, and a Brainwavz-branded cable tie. Oh yeah, and you get a 24-month manufacturer’s warranty – a recent change that applies to all Brainwavz products. (Yes, even the old Brainwavz products I’ve reviewed have a 24-month warranty now. So basically, as of this writing, I could apply for warranty on them even now.) It’s an impressive package that has outright blown me away, putting much more expensive earphones to shame whilst remaining at a bargain bin price point.


Design, Build, Microphonics

The Jive has a unique, playful design that really appeals to the younger crowds. It comes in three colours – Blood Red, Army Green, and Ink Blue – each of which has a rather flashy look to it. I'm not exactly a fan of the colour palette, but they look decent nonetheless. Their full-metal housings have a horn shape somewhat reminiscent of Final’s (formerly Final Audio Design) higher-end Piano Forte earbud models. Somewhere down the cable of the left earpiece sits the remote and mic, which comes in iOS- or Android-compatible flavours. A neat little detail on the remote are two little nubs on the centre button, which helps out with controlling the remote without looking at it. Down that cable is the ever-robust Brainwavz Y-split that I've come to love. But like their higher-end IEMs, the Y-split on the Jive is quite compact, which keeps the whole assembly quite lightweight.

The Jive, being a (spoiler alert) top-notch budget IEM, checks all the boxes in the high-quality budget IEM category. Full metal housings? Check. Proper strain reliefs? Check. Solidly-constructed connector and Y-split? Check and check. From what I see, the Jive’s build is about as far as one could push the build quality of an IEM before having to make compromises in other areas or increase the price. They may not look the part, but they definitely are capable of holding up to abuse. About the only thing that might need improvement is the cable, which is a little thin above the Y-split and tends to be microphonic when worn straight down. Wearing them around the ear fixes this issue. Otherwise, no complaints here at all.


Fit, Comfort, Isolation

The Brainwavz Jive’s housings allow for an easy fit with just about any type of ear. The three-size selection of silicone eartips should get you a good fit with the Jive, but if that doesn't work, there's the included Comply S-series foam eartips to fix that. The Comply eartips also happen to be the most comfortable out of the bunch, as the silicone eartips’ seal forms a vacuum in my ear which is a little annoying. In either case, both types of eartips on the Jive offer excellent isolation.


== Sound ==

Specs


Headphone Type
Closed-back in-ear monitor
Driver Type
Single 9mm dynamic
Frequency Response
20 – 20,000 Hz
Rated Input Power
20 mW
Sensitivity
98 dB @ 1 mW
Impedance
16 Ω
Weight
N/A
Cable
1.3m (~4’) round rubber-coated OFC cable
Connector
3.5mm (1/8”) gold-plated angled connector
Accessories
3x sets silicone eartips (S/M/L)
1x set Comply S-400 premium foam eartips (M)
Hard carry case
Shirt clip
Instruction manual & warranty card (24 month warranty)


Equipment, Burn-in

The source equipment used in this review is a fifth-generation iPod Touch and an iPad 3 directly running the Brainwavz Jive, and a PC running iTunes 12 and Foobar2k powering the Jive through a Schiit Fulla DAC/Amp. The EQ apps used in their respective test is TuneShell on iOS and Electri-Q on the PC. The eartips used on the Jive are mainly the included Comply eartips, although I will provide a comparison between the two in the following assessment. The list of the test tracks I listen to while reviewing the Jive can be sound here, although I will include links to specific songs in the review for a more direct point of reference.

The Jive was burned-in for at least 50 hours prior to writing this review – or long enough for the brain burn-in to settle. Out of the box I found the Jive to sound quite harsh in the treble region, and I later found that they, like other Brainwavz IEMs, absolutely require burn-in to tame them down. If you’re no believer of burn-in, and you aren’t impressed with the Jive so far, then give them a chance and let them run for at least 20 hours. You should notice a difference. In any case, let's get on with the sound assessment.


Sound Quality

I found the Jive to have a very tip-dependent sound signature that changes quite noticeably depending on the eartips used. I could go on all day comparing their sound signature with the many different pairs of eartips I have, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll be focusing on the ones that come included with the Jive itself. Let’s begin.

Bass:
At first glance, one would think of the Jive as a budget IEM for the masses (sure enough, it is). As such, I expected a bass-heavy sound signature that I probably wouldn’t like. Boy, was I wrong. So, so wrong.

To put things simply, the Jive’s low end is spectacular. There’s really nothing more to say about it without me rambling all day about how good they are. They exhibit great speed and control without the slightest hint of midrange bleed (Daft Punk – Touch). They also provide enough kick and extension for most consumer listeners to find sufficient for their tastes. I’ll say that until now, I’ve never heard a low-end that manages to cater to both consumer and audiophile ears with literally no compromises made. And at thirty dollars, no less.

With the Comply eartips, I found them to trade some of its power and extension in for an even tighter and more controlled bass response. At this point their low-end resembles that of a balanced armature. As  it has a dynamic driver, the Jive obviously doesn’t completely match up to the speed and attack of a true balanced armature IEM, but they sure do come close for a $30 IEM. If this isn’t bass perfection, I don’t know what is.


Midrange:
The Jive’s midrange has exceptional clarity and a rather cold tonality to them that is simply unprecedented for an IEM of this price. No musical instrument – electronic, acoustic, or vocal, you name it – sounds necessarily bad on the Brainwavz Jive. Guitars sound particularly amazing, with pianos coming quite closely. Personally I found vocals to be rather thin-sounding (Coldplay – Shiver), although that seems to be cause by their remarkably cold presentation, which I’m not going to complain about.

However, this is where the sound quality starts to get a little bit shaky. With a few sine wave sweep tests, I found the Jive to have peaks (basically emphasis on certain frequencies caused by housing resonances, driver tuning, etc.) around 3 and 6 kHz, which emphasises the overtones of most instruments. As I'm no acoustics expert, I can't really explain this in more depth, but what these peaks do is make the Jive sound – for lack of a better word – annoying. Instruments tend to sound a little too forward and in-your-face, which makes the listening experience quite fatiguing to my ears (Masashi Hamauzu – Sazh’s Theme). You can hear this emphasis on the stock silicone tips, although I did find the Comply ones to accentuate them even further.

I also found the Jive to not be able to retrieve smaller details very well, but in the end, though, you really can’t complain much about it, given that we’re still dealing with a thirty-dollar IEM.


Treble:
The Jive’s treble is pretty good, with great extension to the very top of my hearing range. It never sounds sibilant, and carries enough energy and edge to satisfy the more treble-oriented listeners. However, I didn’t exactly find them very capable in bringing out minute details in recordings. Then again, this is only with the included Comply eartips – having the stock silicone eartips will bring out more edge in the top-end, and sibilance becomes emphasized to the point of it getting a little irritating. Nonetheless, the Jive still goes far beyond the standards of budget IEMs.


Soundstage/Presentation:
IEMs usually have a hard time with soundstage, and as you may have noticed from my reviews, I often don’t go into detail with it. I guess that, in terms of space, I just find them all comparatively similar, regardless of price point. The Jive, however, stands above the rest of its similarly-priced brothers with excellent separation that I would much more often find on IEMs starting $50 and up. Completely unprecedented for its price. Seriously.


Genre Proficiency:
To be honest, I never found the Jive to fail at any particular genre. I found them to take every genre I listen to and still perform beautifully. Acoustic or electronic, the Jive plays them all well. However, I found them to be more suited to slower, lighter music in contrast to heavier genres like dubstep, metal, and grander orchestral recordings. In those genres, I found them to really convey the rhythm and emotion better. That, or the synths in heavy EDM and dubstep just sound too grating to my ears.


Summary:
All in all, I find it very, very hard to nit-pick and complain about the faults of the Brainwavz Jive. Yes, they do have their faults, but I find them completely negligible especially when we consider the fact that the Jive is thirty freaking dollars. The Jive is simply excellent.


Other Media

Games:
When I judge a headphone or IEM on their gaming performance, I’m basically gauging how well they would be put to use as a gaming tool. In competitive first-person shooters and other games which make use of audio cues, a detailed IEM will help to bring out the details that matter in these types of video games (e.g. footsteps, gunfire, etc.). Personally, I feel like the Jive does a pretty good job as a gaming IEM, bringing out ample clarity to hear through the blanket of noise that often plagues large-scale FPS matches. They, of course, are easily outmatched by a number of options up the price ladder, but let's not forget that these reside at the very bottom of that ladder. For that, you can't go wrong with them.


Movies:
I found the Jive to play movies pretty decently as well. Unlike a lot of IEMs at this price that often have overbearing, bass-heavy sound signatures, the Jive takes a turn and heads in the opposite direction towards a cleaner, more clinical sonic approach that more often than not simply presents the sound without doing much else. Not that it’s a bad thing, though – this cleaner sound really helps to hear the details better. It’s no home cinema, but at least you can take them around with you.


EQ Response, Amplification

The Jive is responds to EQ very well, and with a few quick tweaks, hammers out the peaks in the stock sound signature and smoothing it down to a fine, luscious signature that I could listen to for hours on end. Quick 2 dB reductions to 3 and 6 kHz should do the trick.

With regards to amping, the Jive doesn’t need any extra power beyond your phone or MP3 player to be listenable. Sure, better source equipment will make the Jive sound better, but the improvements will only be marginal at best.


Value

The Jive is, as of this writing, priced at $28 at Brainwavz’ parent site, MP4Nation. As I’ve said again and again in this review, the Brainwavz Jive is a completely unexpected IEM at this price. Sound-wise, its level of performance is simply outstanding in the overcrowded and oversaturated budget IEM market that Brainwavz has dropped it into. I mean, with a few tweaks to the build, they could very well be $50 IEMs and they’d still be pretty amazing.


Comparison

To properly judge just how awesome an IEM is, we’re gonna have to pit it against some of the best IEMs in its class. To be honest, though I don’t exactly have those “best IEMs in its class” (Xiaomi Pistons 3.0, Ostry KC06, Havi B3 Pro 1, or whatever the Chinese Brand forum thread hypes about every week), I do have a few notable IEMs that I feel are amazing in their own right. Let’s take a look.

Versus Brainwavz S0 ($50):
So here we go, one of Brainwavz’ own IEMs. Priced at $50, the Brainwavz S0 offered the same level of quality you would expect from a Brainwavz IEM, with a smooth, laid-back sound signature that simply works. However, I found the Jive to edge it out sound-wise with its livelier, clearer sound signature that’s less easy on the ears but definitely brings more energy and life to recordings. Of course, the win for the Jive is a very subjective and preferential one, so these statements are debatable. Nonetheless, the Jive is good. Real good.


Versus MEE Audio A151P Generation 2 ($50):
Another Jive vs. $50 IEM matchup, but this time, the A151P is armed with a balanced armature driver. I thought this would be an interesting matchup since I wanted to see just how closely the Jive comes to performing like a BA as Brainwavz advertises it. And I’m happy to report that it does come quite close.

The A151P is quite like the S0 in that it has a smooth, laid-back sound signature, but with the inherent speed of a BA and a much cleaner midrange. The Jive isn’t quite as speedy as the A151 but it sure does come close, and deeper, stronger bass response and livelier sound signature allows them to play EDM much better in my opinion.

However, the winner for this matchup personally goes to the A151 as I think they just sound better. They’re just a smoother and more relaxing IEM to listen to – perfect for those cold nights where you’re listening to The Fragrance of Dark Coffee while having a nice, hot cup of cocoa draped in a warm, cosy blanket. Yeah, that’s what the A151P does so well. And that’s why I love ‘em.


== Conclusion ==



I guess it’s kinda obvious that the Brainwavz Jive is one epic budget IEM. An unprecedented sound quality, encased in a solid beater build, wrapped in the trademark Brainwavz package, makes for one amazing budget IEM. That’s really all I could say. Should you get the Brainwavz Jive? If you’re looking for an excellent beater IEM to take out and about, I don’t see any reason not to.


Category
Score
Comment
Packaging, Accessories
8/10
Carrying case, silicone and Comply eartips, shirt clip, and a two year warranty. You can’t get much better than that at this price.
Design, Build, Microphonics
7.5/10
Solid metal housings and a robust, non-microphonic cable ensure this budget IEM won’t fall apart anytime soon.
Fit, Comfort, Isolation
8/10
The Jive’s small housings allow for an easy, comfortable fit. Isolation is nothing special by IEM standards, but basically that just means they’re pretty good.
Bass
9/10
Simply excellent on all fronts. With a quick, snappy punch that hits home and hits hard, it’s no wonder I love it so much.
Midrange
7.5/10
Pretty excellent in its own right, but has fatiguing resonance issues that prevent it from shining completely.
Treble
8/10
The Jive’s treble is energetic, but can come off as too harsh straight out of the box. Using Comply eartips and/or giving them some burn-in time will rectify this.
Presentation
7.5/10
A good amount of width, decent depth and great imaging is one to impress at this price point.
Gaming, Movies
7.5/10
The Jive’s excellent midrange clarity and subdued low-end response allows them to work very well as a secondary or beater gaming pair. These qualities might not make them very fun-sounding for movies, however.
EQ Response
8/10
Quick tweaks to the resonance peaks smooth down the Jive and really make them shine.
Value
9/10

Total
8/10
All this for under $30 dollars. The decision is up to you. That is all.

Suggestions for Improvement

Smooth out the resonance peaks.
Make an improved, more expensive version. They’ll be a hit.

Shout-Outs, Gallery

Again, I would like to thank Pandora and Brainwavz for providing the sample of the Jive in this review. They have improved immensely over the past year and I’m very, very excited to see what they have in store for us next. You can check out the rest of the photos I took during this review here, and read some more of my reviews here.

As always, this has been thatBeatsguy of DB Headphones; thanks for reading!


About the Company

At Brainwavz we have a simple mission, to produce innovative, high quality audio products with a dedicated focus on high-end sound at a realistic price. Our strength, success and product range is built on our unique relationship with our customers and users, a relationship that has produced a simple and obvious result. We give real-users real sound quality. 2014 will see Brainwavz pushing forward with an expanded product line, continuing with unique and innovative products, from earphones to headphones to audio accessories.

Company website: www.yourbrainwavz.com



Changelog

12 comments:

  1. Hi Ralph I want to buy a Bluetooth headset, is db headphones are made like this or not. Actually I am willing like for Plantronics headphones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You do realise DB Headphones is a review blog, correct? We do not make or manufacture any headphones or earphones.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  2. Hi Ralph, great review out there. I'm about to buy a new budget earphone for myself and I'm leaning towards Brainwavz S1 which is sold for 25$ at amazon. I'm little bit confused after reading your reviews of S1 and Jive given you seem to like Jive a lot more than S1. Which one would you prefer if they were sold for exactly same price. I mostly listen to House/EDM and occasionaly psytrance. I'm also open to other suggestions as long as they are sub 30$.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Darcyn,

      Well, in my opinion, even with the lowered price ($25 from ~$70), I feel the S1 still loses out to the Jive in terms of raw technical capability. However, the Jive might have treble that would come off as too sharp to most ears (myself included). The S1 is not without its merits, either. If you like bass, the S1 has it; the Jive in comparison doesn't have much weight behind each punch. Of course, this is your purchase and therefore it's up to you what to buy, but I would definitely pick the Jive any day.

      From what I've already reveiwed, I don't know much that 'beats' out the Jive in its own game, but I can definitely recommend the Xiaomi Pistons 3.0 as a definite contender in terms of raw FUN. They're an IEM that you can pop into your ears and listen to almost anything unless you're extremely discerning (or picky) about the minute technicalities like a die-hard audiophile. As of now I've yet to find something to surpass the 3.0's fun factor at this price, so there's that.

      Delete
  3. I'm not an audiopile but I can be picky. I was not that picky until I got myself a Vestax Hmx-05 on-ears a few weeks ago. After that, I realized how muddy and breathy my Creative ep-630 is. I've been using them for years and they served me well but its time to replace them.

    I do like bass and my favourite genres are generally bass oriented. I can actually buy Pistons along with one of Brainwavz as they are ridiculously cheap. I can also get myself a Xiaomi Hybrids depending on reviews as I'm really curious about dual drivers. So I'll have Pistons, one of these Brainwavz and possibly Hybrids. So the question is which one would suit that lineup better?

    You'll probably tell me to get a single better IEM instead getting three budget ones but I can't afford that much in one go and it would be devastating if that 60$ IEM gets broken.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Turn your back on the Hybrids and run away. I don't know where the hell you're getting your reviews from, but they are absolutely NOT something I can recommend -- and this is coming from the Pistons fan who started the Pistons Hype Train. I'm not going to go into detail about it here as I'm nearly finished with the review, but no, I suggest you stay away from them.

      Look into my recommendations, read my reviews on them (and read them in full so you don't get "confused"), and if you're still stuck, shoot me a message on Facebook.

      Delete
    2. Hey Ralph, its been a while. I got myself a Piston 3.0 and a VSonic VSD1S which was a killer deal, I couldnt resist it at 14$.

      I'm pretty happy with my Piston purchase. I'd like a bit more bass quantity. I'm not saying that its non-existant, it's there but a bit weaker than my ep-630. Maybe thats because I'm used to listen overpresented mid-basses of ep-630 for years. It has much better bass detail though, so I'd still rate Pistons higher in bass aspect. Mids and highs are not even a contest. Best thing is its much more consistant with volume changes unlike ep-630 which needs different equalizers for different sound levels especially on the treble side. I'd say its way better than my ep-630 overall, not that surprising as ep-630 is fairly outdated nowadays.

      VSonic VSD1S is still on the way, so I can't comment on that. I might get another IEM (probably Jives) if VSD1S fails to meet my expectations. Otherwise I'm done for a month or two.

      I'll be following your blog for sure. Thanks for your recommandations and reviews, those were very helpful to me.

      Delete
  4. I listen to fast paced heavy metal influened EDM/Industrial (Celldweller, Skrillex, Mindless Self Indulgence) as well as fast paced modern heavy metal and hard rock.

    For $25 this IEM is probably the best for these fast paced music.

    I have heard good things about MEE Audio A151P Generation 2. I will upgrade to this after couple of months. Another IEM best for my music preference is Soundmagic E80 which is a bit above $50, but provides exceptional clarity.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey Ralph,

    Can you do a quick comparison between ed9, piston 3, jive and she3590. I have the she3590s, used to have ed9s but lost them. Thinking of getting either the pistons or jives. I'm looking for a sound like the 3590s and somewhat similar to ed9s gold.

    Armaan

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    Replies
    1. Hi Armaan,

      I can't exactly make a comparison with the 3590 anymore as those were one of my first earphones and I'd broken them long before I acquired the other three.

      On another note, though I do have the ED9, I'm not entirely sure of making a comparison as the unit I have seems to be a dud (major channel imbalance, among other issues), so I guess I'll just write from what I remember.

      Both the 3590 and the ED9 (gold filters) have a reasonably bassy sound, and for that I suggest you take the Pistons 3.0. The Jive in comparison has a brighter sound that can get a little irritating to some listeners, so there's a contraindication for you there. In terms of raw sound quality, though, there's no beating the Jive (or the ED9 if you ask the overzealous KZ fanatics). Out of all of them, they just have a much cleaner, clearer, and more refined sound that will please the more discerning listener.

      -- Ralph

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    2. Thanks for your help....the pistons are out of stock and I need a pair of IEMs ASAP. Think I'm gonna go with Jives.

      Just a quick question, any thoughts on Audio Technica's CKX5s?

      Delete