Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Brainwavz HM5 Earpads: Cheap Tweaks

Intro


TL;DR: The Brainwavz Earpads are one of the best replacement earpads available on the market today – and for good reason.

Before I begin, I would like to sincerely thank Pandora at Brainwavz for providing the HM5 Leather and Hybrid earpads in exchange for my honest opinion. Please note that I am neither affiliated with Brainwavz or any of its staff, nor am I being paid for writing this review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own unless otherwise specified, and all photos in this review were taken by me. Finally, please take my following opinions with a grain of salt. Thanks!

Aside from Brainwavz’ standard fare of headphones and earphones, they also manufacture and sell accessories such as their trademark red-and-black cases, headphone stands, and also earpads. So, why am I here reviewing a pair of earpads? By the time you finish reading this review (or the conclusion, anyway) you’ll find out why I did – and why I feel they’re an absolute essential for any budding headphone collector. Let’s begin.



== Aesthetics ==

Packaging

The earpads come in a translucent zip-lock pouch, allowing you to see the pads in their almost-full glory. A short description is listed on the back. Other than that, there’s nothing else of note, so let’s continue.


Design, Build

The secret to the HM5 earpads’ success – or rather, their compatibility with just about every over-ear headphone that doesn’t have proprietary (i.e. twist-to-lock) earpads – is their durability and flexibility. They can stretch to points where you would almost be certain they would break. From the look alone, you wouldn’t expect the Brainwavz earpads to fit on a headphone with a large earcup circumference such as the AKG K240 Studio; but no, they can and do fit on the headphones with some stretching (just take care not to rip them). The earpads also fit on smaller headphones such as the Takstar Pro 80.

Another factor that gives the earpads their appeal is the materials Brainwavz used. The pleather is soft and supple, and the memory foam has a lot of give and compresses easily when pressed down. For some reason, though, I found the hybrid earpads to feel firmer and slightly stiffer compared to the pleather earpads (not that it’s a problem – the hybrid earpads are still exceptionally soft nonetheless).


Fit, Comfort, Isolation

Brainwavz’ memory foam earpads are soft. Very soft. So soft that I don’t ever want to take my headphones off ever again. No, really, I love the memory foam on Brainwavz’ earpads. Simply phenomenal. Now, forgive me for the hype, but I’m completely new to this whole “earpad rolling” thing, and I don’t exactly have any aftermarket earpads to compare with, but if you’re coming from crappy stock earpads like I am, then you, too, will be amazed.

The earpads, as I stated before, compress easily and as such, they are able to contour to the head very well and form a secure, tight seal. This seal, coupled with their ample space inside the earpads, allows for improved isolation. In short, they’re leagues ahead of stock pads. They feel amazing.


== Sound ==

Equipment

The setup I’m using for this review is my PC hooked up to a Schiit Fulla powering an AKG K240 and a Takstar Pro 80. Of the two, only the Pro 80 has the original stock pads (the K240 Studio has Shure SRH840 pads instead). Both have been used and burnt-in for at least 50 hours prior to the assessment. My test tracks can be found here, although I will include direct links to specific songs in the review for a more direct point of reference.

With that said and done, let’s begin!


Sound Quality

Comparing the Brainwavz Hybrid pad (left)
to the SRH840 pad (right).
To be honest, I was quite confused at first as to what the Hybrid pads were supposed to do. From the name alone, one can assume the Hybrid pads are designed to provide a sort of “best of both worlds” between pleather and velour earpads, but since I don’t actually own any velour pads, I can’t make any direct comparisons and can only speak from what I can remember.

Comparing the stock Takstar Pro 80 pad (left)
to the Brainwavz pleather earpad (right).
From my observations and listening sessions, I found the Hybrid pads to seem to combine the comfort of velour pads without sacrificing the more closed-in seal and sound of pleather pads. Sound-wise the hybrids didn’t sound much (if any) different compared to its pleather counterpart, and as such, my comments on their sound are about identical to the pleather earpads.

That being said, although they present a whole new level of comfort to most headphones on the market, I’m not entirely sure if they make any major improvements to the sound. On the AKG K240 Studio, which already has a large soundstage with stock pads, the Brainwavz earpads’ depth increases the space between your ears and the headphone drivers, pushing back the soundstage. This space also gives the lower midrange more resonance, giving the impression of more warmth. The bass also seems to be rather diminished with the Brainwavz pads, and in turn, the treble frequencies have more emphasis. On the Takstar Pro 80, the changes are a slightly different story (no noticeable increase in warmth, but major emphasis on treble), but in the end the effect is about the same.

With these impressions, I still can’t really say the Brainwavz earpads provide much of an improvement in your headphones’ sound. Some people (myself included) might like it, others might not, but then again, I don’t think one can (rather, should) expect that from a pair of earpads.


Value

The pleather (and velour) earpads retail for $22.50, while the Hybrid (and Angled) earpads both retail for $26.50. All can be bought from Brainwavz’ webpage and storefront. For that price, the Brainwavz earpads are an absolute steal.


== Conclusion ==

With top-of-the-line materials and an accommodating design, the Brainwavz earpads take your headphones’ comfort to the next level. However, if you care a lot about keeping your headphones' sound intact, be forewarned that the earpads can and do have an impact on that, and you might not exactly like the changes. But if you can brush it off for phenomenal comfort, then that's no problem at all.

Category
Score
Comment
Packaging
8/10
It’s a high-quality plastic zipper case. Should you really look for more than this?
Design, Build
9/10
Brainwavz’ use of high-quality materials really shows in the pads’ look and feel.
Fit, Comfort, Isolation
10/10
I have to say this again – these earpads are phenomenal.
Sound Quality
7/10
You can only either like or dislike the way the Brainwavz earpads colour your headphones’ sound.
Value
8/10

Total
8.4/10
Under $30 for a pair? It’s an absolute steal.

Suggestions for Improvement

None that I can think of.

Shout-Outs, Gallery

Again, I would like to thank Pandora at Brainwavz for providing the earpads you see in this review. You could say I took a little too long to review these earpads, but I guess you could also say I was distracted by their awe-inspiring comfort.

2015 has been an epic year, and with the advent of this new one, I hope to be able to improve my writing and churn out more reviews for you guys! 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.brainwavzaudio.com


Changelog

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