Monday, May 22, 2017

Brainwavz B200: Upping the Ante

Intro



TL;DR: The Brainwavz B200 exceeds expectations with its flagship IEM status, providing an excellent all-around package that embodies the very best of Brainwavz.

Brainwavz has long been known for being a manufacturer that consistently releases great-sounding, high-quality earphones at price tags that won't break the bank. This combination has been the core of every Brainwavz release since the very beginning. But what if they decide to take all of that experience and channel it into a set of truly extraordinary earphones? That, my friends, is what I'll be covering here today: the Brainwavz B200.

The B200 is the highest-end model of Brainwavz' brand new balanced-armature B series of earphones, and is priced at a cool $200 – by far the most expensive Brainwavz earphone to date. But does that mean they're the best Brainwavz earphone? Let's find out.

(Disclaimer: the product in review was received free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion. Please take the following with a grain of salt and always try before you buy.)



== Aesthetics ==

Packaging, Accessories



The Brainwavz B200 is packaged in a compact box draped in Brainwavz' classic black and red colour scheme. Details on the box are minimal at best, which gives off a more serious first impression. Interestingly, the packaging is identical to that of the Brainwavz BLU-Delta I reviewed prior, which may be a move by Brainwavz to reduce packaging costs by using the same box for their products. I have yet to confirm this with Brainwavz themselves, so for now this remains my own theory.

Inside is Brainwavz' wide earphone case, containing the B200, five additional pairs of eartips, a shirt clip, and a manual and warranty card. Typical Brainwavz stuff.


Design, Build, Microphonics




At first glance, I had a hard time figuring out what I was looking at. The B200, for a $200 IEM, seemed quite unassuming with its simple, all-black looks. Its construction didn't do much to impress, either, using plastic housings and a non-removable cable setup derived from the XF200 - thirty-dollar IEMs, mind you. However, over the past two weeks I have taken them on a trip out of town, and they held up wonderfully.

From further inspection, I found the B200's build to be focused on being lightweight. The plastic housings place no strain on the cable or the ear hooks, which definitely helps with the lifespan of the cable. The XF200-like cable setup has minimal cable noise and thus allows the B200 to be quite suited to those with more active lifestyles.


Fit, Comfort, Isolation


The custom-moulded plastic housings of the B200 allows it to stay in the ears securely without making any pressure points on the ear. This, coupled with the moulded ear-hooks, makes the B200 by far one of the most comfortable earphones I've ever worn. Being a balanced armature IEM, the B200 also has inherently excellent isolation, which furthers its versatility for active use.


== Sound ==

Specs


Headphone Type
Closed-back in-ear monitor
Driver Type
2x Balanced Armature (1 woofer, 1 tweeter configuration)
Frequency Response
12 – 22,000 Hz
Sensitivity
110 dB at 1 mW
Impedance
30 Ω
Cable
1.3m (~4 ft.) OFC cable
Connector
Angled 3.5mm (1/8") gold-plated connector
Accessories
Carrying case (Wide)
6x sets silicone eartips (S/M/L)
1x set Comply T-100 foam eartips
Velcro cable tie
Shirt clip
Instruction manual & warranty card (24 months)


Equipment, Burn-in


The source devices used for this review are a fifth-generation iPod Touch and an iPad Air 2, as well as a Schiit Fulla hooked up to my PC. The test tracks I use for my assessments are of various genres ranging from classical to electronica, with the audio file formats varying from 256 Kbps AAC to 24-bit FLAC. Some of these test tracks will be linked to in the sound assessments to demonstrate certain points.

Prior to the assessment I listened to the Brainwavz BLU-Delta for at least 30 hours to get more accustomed to the sound – otherwise known as "brain burn-in" – to dispel any "changes" to the sound after a certain amount of time.


Sound Quality


Bass:
Balanced Armature IEMs have long been known to have a flatter, leaner bass response compared to dynamic driver IEMs, but the Brainwavz B200 is a unique exception. The B200 has an unusually noticeable bass punch and a surprisingly aggressive low-end extension, and which might catch some listeners off-guard if they are used to more "traditional"-sounding BA earphones (M2U - Magnolia; Rogue - Ultimatum; Knife Party - Sleaze).

Despite this, the B200 still has a lean response and at times does not appear in songs that normally require it (Savant - Kali 47). This unique flexibility allows it to maintain its inherently smooth midrange tonality without any of the warmth from the bass driver showing through (WRLD - Style, Everything; Haywyre - Do You Don't You). This, from my observations, could be attributed to a well-designed crossover between the two BA drivers, or simply excellent tuning from Brainwavz. Either way, I'm impressed.


Midrange:
Throughout my years of reviewing earphones, balanced armature earphones have always impressed me. One IEM in particular -- the Final (formerly Final Audio Design) Heaven II -- remains in my top 3 IEMs that I have ever heard. In my experience with balanced armatures, there is always a certain quality in its midrange texture and tone that is, to me, captivating if not outright hypnotic. The Brainwavz B200 is no different (Yiruma – Scene from My Window, Indigo).

Despite the bass giving the B200 appeal with electronic genres, it is still a balanced armature IEM. And as with all the BA IEMs I've reviewed, as far as midrange frequencies are concerned, the B200 surpasses my expectations. The way it renders vocals is much like that of the Heaven II -- simple and direct in its tone, but effective in its delivery and rendering of emotion (The Carpenters - Those Good Old Dreams; Coldplay – Shiver). With a midrange like this, the B200 is definitely worth a spot on my top 3 IEMs.



Treble:
The Brainwavz B200's treble stands out a bit less in terms of quantity, but does its job of perfectly rounding out the B200's sound signature. It has just the right amount of shine to give you all the details and overtones at the top-end of the frequency spectrum, but not too much that it produces listening fatigue (Sungha Jung – On Cloud Nine). The notable roll-off at the very high frequencies may disappoint those who want more treble extension, but I feel it's a perfect fit for an IEM that does so well with laid-back music.



Soundstage/Presentation:
The B200's soundstage is no DUNU Titan 1, but it's not bad either. Its dual balanced armature drivers do a respectable job of rendering the illusion of space in various songs. However, it does a particularly good job of presenting instruments in that said space (Eagles - Hotel California).


Eartips:
With the included Comply T100-tips, the B200’s sound becomes much more like one would expect from a balanced armature IEM – beautifully midrange-focused while retaining treble crispness. So for the most part it loses much of the bass punch from the silicone tips, but still has some of the sub-bass rumble in some songs.


Summary:
The Brainwavz B200 takes a very brave path with its unusually boosted low-end. However, by whatever sorcery Brainwavz has done in its tuning, the B200 exhibits impressive bass control while allowing its inherent balanced armatures to sing its own brilliant tune. It is a very well-rounded sound signature that very accurately represents the best that Brainwavz has to offer.


Other Media




The B200's versatility extends beyond music, with its smooth sound signature proving itself well with both games and movies. I personally found them to be a blast while playing games, with its great detail retrieval and positioning capabilities combining for an enjoyable gaming experience. However, while enjoyable, they still have its own shortcomings against headphones in this area, particularly in its rendering of space. But if you don't have much else, the B200 will do just fine.


Amp & EQ Response


Because of its low impedance and high sensitivity, the B200 is designed to work with low power sources such as phones or tablets. Because of this they performs well enough without an external amplifier. However, when powered by the Schiit Fulla, the B200's overall sound becomes more intense – the bass gains a more aggressive punch, the midrange gains a slight bit of space, and the treble extension and crispness is improved. With an equaliser filter one can also achieve a similar effect – the B200 is fairly responsive to EQ and can handle most tweaks within reason.


Value




The Brainwavz B200 retails for about $200 on Brainwavz' official website, which thereby makes it the most expensive Brainwavz earphone to date. Now, at this price, is it still a good buy versus, say, the similarly priced MEE Audio P1? I'll make a more direct comparison later, but right now I'm finding the B200 to be a slightly tougher sell than most of Brainwavz' offerings. This is mostly because of the non-removable cable design, which means your B200 has a definite lifespan – once the cable breaks, your $200 is as good as gone. However, I cannot find any fault with the B200 from other angles, so as long as you take care of it, they should last you quite a while. And from my experience, Brainwavz earphones have always been very reliable.

Comparison




Versus MEE Audio Pinnacle P1 ($200):
One of the main reasons I was particularly excited to write this review was because I wanted to see how the B200, Brainwavz' top of the line earphone, would match up against the MEE Audio P1, MEE's top of the line earphone. Knowing that they are both at the same price point, the matchup only becomes more significant in terms of figuring out which earphone to get. But let's not beat around the bush here – all things considered, the P1 is the shinier of the two gems. Simply put, the P1's overall package does so much more for the same price, from its use of premium materials, sophisticated package, and a sound that does so well with everything.

Of course, that does not mean the B200 is without its merits – some listeners may find the P1 to have too harsh of a treble response, for which the B200 would be a better fit. Others may find the P1 to be too heavy to run around in, making the B200's lightweight build more appealing. Others still might not have an amp and would rather have an IEM that does not need one. Ultimately, your choice of earphone will boil down to personal preferences, so always weigh out the pros and cons before you make your purchase.

== Conclusion ==



The Brainwavz B200 is the epitome of great-sounding, high-quality products that are the foundation of all Brainwavz products since their founding. No detail of the B200 was left without purpose. Every facet of its build, every curve in its design, and every nuance in its tuning was done deliberately -- in a way only a company with comprehensive knowledge of their market can. And all of it to make me and you say, "The Brainwavz B200 is the best Brainwavz earphone I've ever heard".

Category
Score
Packaging, Accessories
8.5/10
Design, Build, Microphonics
8/10
Fit, Comfort, Isolation
9.5/10
Bass
10/10
Midrange
9.5/10
Treble
9/10
Presentation
8.5/10
Gaming, Movies
9/10
Amp & EQ Response
9/10
Value
8.5/10
Total
9/10


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.



Changelog

2 comments:

  1. The blog has all the required description and pictures that one would need before buying a product. The headphones seem to be of a good quality

    ReplyDelete
  2. I just read your review about Brainwavz B200 and found it very informative for those who are looking to buy a new pair of headphones. This product looks comfortable and stylish but still I suspect the sound quality of these headphones. While there are many different options available in the market that are offering 7.1 dolby digital sound quality. So, why should one invest in this pair of headphones. Well, if you are looking to buy the best one then I'd recommend to take a look at this list of best over ear headphones once before buying.

    ReplyDelete