Sunday, May 01, 2016

Brainwavz XFit XF200: Everyday Fast

Intro


TL;DR: The Brainwavz XF200 is, in and of itself, an excellent sports IEM that will go the extra mile with you and then some.

Before I begin, I would like to sincerely thank Pandora at Brainwavz for providing a review sample of the Brainwavz XFit XF200 in exchange for my honest opinion. I am neither affiliated with Brainwavz or any of its staff, nor was I paid to write this review. All opinions and photos shown in this review are my own unless otherwise specified. Finally, please take the opinions expressed here with a grain of salt. Thanks!

Being a rather indolent person by nature, I never find myself performing anything related to exercise, so I guess sports IEMs are a bit out of my field of expertise. But I guess exceptions can be made for an IEM coming from one of my favourite brands. Brainwavz’ XF200 represents their first product in their new XFit (CrossFit?) line, aimed at active music lovers and audiophiles alike. Will these new runners blaze to the front of the line, or will they be left behind to bite the dust? Read on and find out.



== Aesthetics ==

Packaging, Accessories


Even before the race starts, the XF200 easily catches your attention with bright, flashy colours that adorn its plastic packaging. This packaging is similar to that of the Brainwavz Jive and most of their other products priced under the $50 mark. The sides show Brainwavz’ 24-moth warranty guarantee and a Comply eartip label. On the back are written the specifications and accessories list (see the Specs section for the full list).

Open the box and you’re greeted by one of Brainwavz’ trademark red-and-black hard carry cases. Open that up and you’re greeted by the earphones, seven pairs of eartips, a pair of Comply T-400s (despite the packaging saying it comes with S-400 eartips), a shirt clip, and a manual with a 2-year manufacturer warranty. What’s not to like?


Design, Build, Microphonics



From a glance, the XF200 just has that whole M6 Pro vibe going on looks-wise, which is why I asked for the white/clear model specifically so I can better emphasise their similarities and differences.

Looks- and design-wise, the two IEMs are fundamentally similar – both have an around-the-ear fit, excellent build quality, and not-so-ergonomic housings (more on this later). But despite the similarities, both IEMs are very different when it comes to the finer details – both aesthetically and sonically.

But before we get to the juicy sound stuff, let’s look at the more tangible side of the XF200’s design. Unlike the M6 Pro, their around-the-ear cables lack a memory wire (which is basically a stiff, bendable metal wire built into the ear loops to provide a more “custom” fit). I don’t exactly know why the XF200 lacks this detail, but for whatever reason that may be, the lack of a memory wire in my opinion is a good thing. No more having to mould the wire around your ear when you put them on.

The rest of the XF200’s build seems to be derived from the similarly-priced (and similarly excellent) Brainwavz Jive, sharing identical mic/remote units, cables, Y-splits, and 45-degree angled connectors. With everything said, all that’s left to talk about is the XF200’s housing design, but since my assessment of that will tie in very closely with the fit, scroll down a bit and I’ll explain in the next section.


Fit, Comfort, Isolation


The XF200, as I stated earlier, shares another characteristic with the M6 Pro in this department – that is, both aren’t really comfortable. The XF200 took a couple minutes for me to find a good seal, although the stock eartips do fit the bill and seal quite nicely. Their actual comfort was fine as well, but their almost rectangular outer edge of the housing does tend to press against my ear, which causes a bit of discomfort. As for their isolation, since I lack actual measuring equipment, I estimate it’s also rather similar to the M6 Pro in this regard, so it's on average at best.


== Sound ==

Specs


Headphone Type
Closed-back in-ear monitor
Driver Type
Single 9mm dynamic
Frequency Response
20 – 20,000 Hz
Rated Input Power
10 mW
Sensitivity
95 dB @ 1 mW
Impedance
16 Ω
Weight
N/A
Cable
1.4m (~4’6”) OFC cable
Connector
3.5mm (1/8”) angled gold-plated TRRS connector
Accessories
6 sets white single-flange silicone eartips (S/M/L x2)
1x set white double-flange silicone eartips (M)
1x set Comply T-400 foam eartips (M)
Carrying case
Shirt clip
Cable tie
24 month warranty


Equipment, Burn-in


The equipment used in this review is primarily a 5th-generation iPod Touch directly running the Brainwavz XF200. For the amp test, I run the XF200 through a Schiit Fulla driven from my laptop running iTunes 12 and Foobar 2k. The EQ software used in its respective test is TuneShell on iOS and Viper4Windows on PC. The test tracks I normally use to assess the earphones can be found here, although I will include links to specific songs in the review for quick, easy reference.

As always, the XF200 was burned in for at least 50 hours prior to writing this review, most of which consists of direct listening time. Over that period I noted no significant changes to the sound, if any.

With all that said and done, let's talk about the sound.


Sound Quality



Bass:
When you’re on the track, or at the gym, or performing any form of physical activity that bathes you in sweat, chances are you’d love some music right now. And not just any type of music – powerful, driving music with lots of bass. And the Brainwavz XF200 fits that bill right down to the penny. They've got ample amounts of punching power designed to emphasise bass registers to really pump up your jam. The deep, rumbling bassline in Haywyre's “Sculpted” is played with authority, with bass you can both hear and feel. But despite their power, they have an impressive level of control in their low end, sounding quite subdued in calmer recordings like Adele’s “He Won't Go.” However this doesn't mean they're neutral or bass-light – their bass emphasis can be heard in midrange-focused genres like Isaac Shepard’s “Looking Forward.” Nonetheless, they're still quite impressive, especially given their design and market pitch.


Midrange:
Typical sport IEMs are often bass-focused and leave much to be desired in other areas. But the XF200 is no typical sport IEM – it's a Brainwavz IEM. In Haywyre’s “Endlessly,” the synthesiser lead is presented with a diamond-like clarity and sheen that sounds as beautiful as the jewel looks. The guitars on Megadeth’s “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” are portrayed with speed and ferocity, with a very smooth note-to-note transition even in the song’s blisteringly fast final section.  But despite their proficiencies in louder music, they still manage to do fine in softer genres. I found their reproduction of Yiruma’s “May Be” was surprisingly pleasing, with a warm but not too weighty tone that isn't perfect but still sounds quite good.


Treble:
The XF200 also maintains great performance even above the 5000 Hertz mark. I found them to extend pretty smoothly, with some treble peaks around 7, 12, and 15 kHz. This results in a treble response that's bright and sparkly, but is far from encroaching on harshness. There is some noticeable sibilance, but it's far from M6 Pro levels of grating, so all in all they're pretty good here.


Soundstage/Presentation:
Their soundstage is I guess what I would call a less-than-strong point. It's not a weak point necessarily, but their soundstage just feels a bit two-directional, lacking some frontal depth in the way it's sound is presented. Daft Punk’s “Touch” is a good demonstration of this point. In retrospect, though, there isn't really much to expect from a simple sport IEM that already sounds as good as it does.


Genre Proficiency:
As with most if not all bassy IEMs, the XF200 excels in bass-heavy genres. I found they take things a step further, however, with their bass control that allows for a broader range of listenable genres. They're also one of the few IEMs of this calibre in which I found piano recordings quite pleasing. All in all, they're quite good as all-rounders.


Summary:

The XF200 is one capable sport IEM. I mean, sure, I haven't really had the chance to wear other sport IEMs extensively, but with my experience with IEMs in general makes me conclude that these IEMs can definitely work as a do-everything IEM.


Other Media

Games:
Despite my earlier comments about their soundstage, I found the XF200 to have a surprisingly decent game performance. Positional cues were well-defined and their overall tonal balance allows for a detailed, yet enjoyable audio experience.


Movies:
The XF200 again satisfies in this department with its clear upper frequencies and explosive bass. If you like watching movies on the run, the XF200 will do quite fine.


Amplification and EQ Response


With 16 ohms of impedance and 95 dB/mW sensitivity figures, the Brainwavz XF200 has no trouble being powered by your MP3 player or phone. As such, I found no improvements from giving them a cleaner, more powerful source. As for EQ, I personally cannot recommend any settings since they already sound good enough to begin with. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Regardless, they respond to EQ fairly well and will handle a bump up in the low-end (or anywhere else, really) without distortion if you’re into that sort of thing.


Value

There really isn’t much more to say other than that the Brainwavz XF200 is one hell of a bargain. For 30 dollars, you get an excellent sport IEM with a solid build, secure fit, great sound, and topped off with the Brainwavz signature accessories pack. What’s not to like?


Comparison


Versus MEE Audio M6 Pro ($50):

Despite looking and feeling quite similar, under the hood the XFit and the M6 Pro about as different from each other as apples and oranges. On one hand you’ve got a fun, lively, pumping sound signature; on the other, you’ve got no-holds-barred detail-wringing that at times does more harm than good (for your ears, at least). I guess, then, that I shouldn’t really go much further into detail with them that I already have, since I’d just be a broken record saying the same things over and over again. Whether you like one over the other is very preferential; so I’ll leave it to you for the final verdict here.


Versus Brainwavz S5 ($100):
The Brainwavz S5 is Brainwavz’ flagship S-series IEM, characterised by its driving, heavy, loud sound signature that, as my most loyal readers can recall, I loved quite particularly about two years back. Boy, how time flies.

I made some parallels between these and the XF200 earlier in this review, and both do share a similar sound on the surface, but I will go on record to say that the XF200 has outclassed the S5. Yes, both have loud, energetic sound signatures, but the XF200 takes the lead with its smoother and more refined tonal balance. The bass is much more controlled on the XF200, and the rather splashy treble on the S5 is non-existent in the XF200. Their midrange is cleaner and smoother, and overall they really just sound better.

On top of that, since the XF200 sounds better than the S5 – which I consider to be the best-sounding of the entire S-series – the XF200 therefore also outclasses the S3, S1, and S0.


== Conclusion ==



So, a question is now raised: What does the Brainwavz XF200 outclassing Brainwavz’ own S-series in one fell swoop do for you, the reader looking for a new recommendation? This only goes to show just how much Brainwavz has improved over the years that I've covered and reviewed their earphones. To be able to provide such a fun, loud, but refined sound signature at a lower price point than Brainwavz’ own flagship S5 shows that they are really pushing the limits of what can be sold in an IEM at this low of a price point.

Don't let the marketing pitch fool you; these IEMs can and will do more than just be your gym buddy for the day. You don't need to be a gym rat to buy one of these. No, sir – you can take these IEMs anywhere and they will gladly follow. Combining solid durability with a uniquely well-rounded sound, Brainwavz has yet again created another winner with the XFit XF200. If you're looking for a new IEM for the gym, the track, the trail, or anywhere really, the XF200 should be on your shortlist.

Category
Score
Comment
Packaging, Accessories
9/10
Brainwavz’ familiar accessories package will more than equip first-time buyers for their basic eartip needs.
Design, Build, Microphonics
8.5/10
Sport-ready design, a robust build, and a supple cable make for a solid adventurer’s IEM.
Fit, Comfort, Isolation
7/10
Despite being rather fiddly to fit at first, they provide a secure and comfortable fit once you get the seal right.
Bass
8.5/10
Paradoxically both powerful and controlled, the XF200’s bass hits hard enough to satisfy most listeners, but doesn't blow the rest of the music out of the water.
Midrange
8/10
Fierce, feisty, and crystal-clear, the XF200’s midrange breathes energy into EDM like nothing else has a right to.
Treble
8/10
Sparkly and smoothly extended, the treble serves as the zesty lime topping to a lemonade – appropriate, complementary, and sounds oh so good.
Presentation
7/10
Good spatial width but a slight lack of depth makes their soundstage decent at best.
Gaming, Movies
7/10
Great positional accuracy and tonal balance make for an enjoyable overall experience.
Amp and EQ Response
7/10
Doesn't scale much with better equipment, but can handle EQ tweaks without much trouble.
Value
9/10

Total
7.9/10
An audiophile-approved, sports-ready IEM at $30 dollars. What's not to like?


Suggestions for Improvement

None comes to mind.


Shout-Outs, Gallery

I would like to again thank Pandora at Brainwavz for sending out a sample of the excellent XF200 for review. I’ve been out of the earphone loop for quite some time now, so this is quite the refresher for me. With that said, be sure to check out some of my other reviews here, and stay tuned for more coming from yours truly!

This has been thatBeatsguy of DB Headphones; thanks for reading!


About the Company

Brainwavz provides high-end earphones specifically designed for high-quality sound and tailor-made to provide the user with a solution that can be used across a wide range of audio genres and styles at affordable prices. Brainwavz believes in the idea that sound is a deeply personal experience, and strives to provide users with earphones that match their personal inclinations, to inspire with intensity. The Brainwavz name is known in many countries across the globe, and the company is continually committed to providing the best products at the best value.

At Brainwavz we have a simple mission, to produce innovative, high quality audio products with a dedicated focus on high-end sound. Our strength, success and product range is built on the unique relationship with our customers. A relationship that has produced a simple and obvious result, we give real users real sound quality.”




Changelog

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