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Brainwavz B150: Bringing back the BA - [Review] 🇬🇧

Prolog:

Dies ist meine englische Rezension des Brainwavz B150. Die deutsche kann hier gefunden werden: http://kopfhoerer-lounge.blogspot.com/2016/12/Brainwavz-B150-Review.html


Preamble:

It is finally happening – a few years after Brainwavz stopped the production of their B2, a dual-BA in-ear, the Chinese company owned by the GPGSHK is back in the game and will be manufacturing Balanced Armature-based in-ears again. This has secretly been quite a big desire of mine, and I am very glad that Brainwavz’ new models are finally ready. Yes, that’s right, I said models: besides a successor of the B2 that I unfortunately never heard myself because it was out of production when I wanted to buy it as a backup for some of my more expensive multi-BA in-ears, Brainwavz is also releasing two single-BA in-ears, the B100 and B150.


When I got Pandora’s message that some prototypes of the new models with the final production tuning were ready to be shipped to some reviewers, including myself, I was very excited and looking forward to what the in-ear would sound like. Shortly after, I received the B150 and was told that the other one should be sent to me as soon as more quantity is available.


Disclaimer: I was offered a free sample of the B150 in exchange for feedback and an honest, unbiased review. Although I received a prototype, I was assured that this is the final production tuning and that the production version would only have a more refined build quality and slightly changed accessories.


Technical Specifications:

Price: $109.50
Drivers: 1x BA per side


Delivery Content:

My review sample didn’t arrive with a cardboard or plastic box, however with all accessories that are: the in-ears, a Velcro cable tie, a Brainwavz carrying case with the typical black and red colour scheme, a shirt clip, one pair of medium Comply Foam tips, one pair of small silicone tips, one pair of medium silicone tips and lastly one pair of large silicone tips.
The production model’s ear tips will be black instead of red.





Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

The housings are made of semi-transparent black plastic that seems sturdy and well-made. The production version will have a twisted cable with memory-wire ear guides instead of the prototype’s cable.





Comfort, Isolation:

The in-ears are intended to be worn around the ears instead of the more commonly found “cable-down” method that is mainly found on most cheaper in-ears. This guarantees for a more secure fit and less cable noise (microphonics).
The fit in my ears is good with the B150 and as the ear pieces are closed, outside noise is also blocked out pretty well.




Sound:

My main source devices for listening were my iBasso DX90 as well as the DX80.

The largest included silicone tips were used for listening and testing.

Tonality:

Many people often associate a thin, mid-focussed and bass-light or bright sound from a single-BA in-ear. The B150 does certainly not fall into this category. Much rather, it has got a forward bottom-end that is strong, and while it will certainly not satisfy those who are craving for a strong impact and much quantity, it can address the “case of the missing 6 dB” (https://www.etymotic.com/media/publications/erl-0137-1982.pdf) plus a little extra, while it won’t convey the same amount of slam that other multi-BA in-ears do with the same bass emphasis (in fact, it could even be considered as more or less balanced sounding in the lows, as the Logitech/Ultimate Ears UE200 that had around the same quantity was also widely accepted as a quite balanced sounding in-ear because it didn’t reproduce the weight and impact in the lows despite not having little objectively measurable quantity).

The bass elevation is mainly found in the lower root and upper bass, starting to climb around 650 Hz, reaching its climax around 120, keeping this level down to 80 Hz and then slowly losing quantity towards the sub-bass. It is not a strong roll-off though, so the lower midbass and beginning sub-bass at 40 Hz are still audible with good quantity, however there is not much below 33 Hz anymore.

The midrange is somewhat more on the warmer side (lower mids) and also darker side (upper mids) without being too coloured, while it is indeed somewhat coloured and tuned for a more laid-back, smooth signature, caused by the area between around 1.3 and 3 kHz showing a moderate dip that is responsible here for the non-offensive midrange tuning.

The middle highs around 5 kHz and the rest until 12 kHz show more presence again but have just slightly less quantity than the midrange, adding slight darkness and relaxedness to the sound, and also making cymbals sound non-offensive and lacking aggressiveness.

Resolution:

Let’s make it short here – the B150 sounds nimble and quick, lightweight and detailed, coherent and well-rendered.

The bass, while it is not as tight and fast as with some multi-BA in-ears or the Etymotic ER-4S, definitely doesn’t lack speed and is only slightly (!) on the softer side and still a good bit better controlled and faster than most dynamic driver in-ears.

The midrange has got good speech intelligibility and minute detail retrieval, as it can also be expected from a (single-) BA in-ear.

The treble carries good details and good separation that is not elite-level but good for the price. I don’t really miss much.

The sound is, not really surprising, very coherent, wherefore I would also chose the B150 over the dual-BA Apple in-ears that, while they definitely show an advantage in the midrange and treble in terms of detail retrieval and are a bit more refined overall, don’t sound as coherent as most single-BA in-ears in the low three-digit/high two-digit price range, including the B150 where everything sounds harmonious.

Soundstage:

One will neither get a huge nor a small soundstage with the B150. Who still expects single-BA in-ears to sound congested, which is definitely not the case for a good number of models, will probably be a little surprised that the B150 has got a soundstage that I would say is a little larger than average, with a good width-to-depth-ratio and a good presentation of spatial depth. The positioning of instruments is precise and the separation is good, too, while there is not as much air around single instruments as with higher-end multi-driver in-ears.

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In Comparison with other Single-BA In-Ears:




MEE audio A151 (2nd generation):
The A151, while it is definitely not among the thin sounding single-BA in-ears and carries some warmth and weight in the lows compared to a really flat monitor, has got ca. 3 dB less bass quantity than the B150 while treble quantity is about comparable.
The MEE has got the slightly tighter and minimally faster bass and also sounds slightly more refined in the treble, while I see the B150 slightly ahead when it comes to midrange details and speech intelligibility.

HiSoundAudio HA-2:
While it is not 100% flat either, the HA-2 has got less bass quantity and a little more treble quantity than the B150. It (the HA-2) is definitely the more neutral in-ear out of the two.
The HA-2 has got the slightly faster bass that is a slight bit tighter and is a little more detailed in the treble – it is not a large difference though.
While the B150 has got a good soundstage, the HiSoundAudio’s is larger and airier; it is one of the largest single-BA soundstages I know anyway.

Etymotic Research ER-4S:

The classic – the legend – the king. The Etymotic that is considered as coming closest to the diffuse-field neutrality target (except for its successor that is probably even minimally closer), is easily quite a bit different to the B150, i.e. it sounds more neutral with a very flat bass, a flat midrange with a slight boost in the presence range and a flat and extremely even treble that carries more quantity than the B150’s rather somewhat dark sounding upper end.
The (more expensive) ER-4S is definitely in a higher class when it comes to detail retrieval over the whole frequency range, and has also got the tighter and faster bass.
The Ety’s soundstage is only a little larger than the Brainwavz’ but especially more precise.


Conclusion:

Brainwavz Audio is finally making in-ears with Balanced Armatures again.
The B150 is the right choice for all those who want to have the nimbleness, coherency and speech intelligibility of a single-BA in-ear but don’t want a thin and flat but weightier and richer sound that is still harmonious sounding and not really what could be considered really bassy. The B150’s performance is also good and it offers a good value, however it doesn’t outclass the single-BA class-leaders.




As I can only rate the sound on the B150 pre-production prototype with finalised tuning (the cable will be a totally different one in the production model), I come to a result of 3.82 out of 5 stars in the sound/value department.