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Brainwavz B200: "BAck on a Mission and ready to ride" - [Review] 🇬🇧

Vorwort:

Neben dem B100 sowie B150 hat Brainwavz Audio aktuell einen weiteren In-Ear mit Balanced Armature Treiber im Programm, nämlich den B200 mit zwei BA-Treibern je Seite.
Jener stellt den Quasi-Nachfolger des B2 dar, welcher vor ein paar Jahren angeboten wurde, jedoch ebenfalls vor ein paar Jahren eingestellt wurde.
In den nächsten Monaten sollen übrigens weitere Multi-BA In-Ears von Brainwavz erscheinen, der B300 und B400, was mich sehr zu hören freut – die Firma wagt es also endlich, den Budget-Bereich allmählich zu verlassen.



Anders als der B2, der angeblich recht neutral abgestimmt war (als ich den B2 kaufen wollte, war er bereits nirgends mehr verfügbar, weshalb ich ihn leider nie gehört habe), soll der B200 jedoch eine im Vergleich etwas wärmere und voluminösere Richtung einschlagen.

Wie der B200 klingt, was er technisch zu bieten hat und wie er sich gegen den B150, Shure SE425, Rose Mini2 sowie the t.bone EP-7 schlägt, zeigt mein nun folgendes englischsprachiges Review.


Erhältlich ist der B200, zusammen mit dem B150 und B100, mittlerweile übrigens auch bei Amazonhttp://amzn.to/2rSEoIP




Introduction:

Brainwavz Audio is no unknown name in the audio world – the Chinese manufacturer of mainly in-ears has been around for some time and is best known for various very budget-friendly dynamic driver models – but this is probably about to change.

Not too long ago, Brainwavz revived the “B” series, a line of in-ears with Balanced Armature drivers, following the success of the dual-BA B2 they offered a couple of years ago but that is already out of production for some time.


Currently, Brainwavz have three BA in-ears in their portfolio – the two single-BA models B100 and B150, as well as the dual-BA called “B200” (https://www.brainwavzaudio.com/collections/balanced-armature-series/products/b200-dual-balanced-armature-earphones) that is the protagonist of this very review. And in the next few months, there is more to come as well (yes, Brainwavz are continuing their B series and will be soon releasing the B300 and B400).

How does the B200 perform and what does it sound like? Let’s find it out!


Full Disclosure:
I was contacted by Pandora who asked me if I was interested in reviewing the B200 after I already reviewed the B150, B100 and several other Brainwavz products in the past. I surely was interested in reviewing the B200, a lot actually, so quickly afterwards, I received a sample of Brainwavz’ latest dual-BA in-ear free of charge for the purpose of writing a review. Thank you for that!


Technical Specifications:

MSRP: $199
Drivers: Balanced Armature (2 per side)
Impedance: 30 Ohms
Frequency Response: 12 ~ 22000 Hz
Sensitivity (@1 mW): 110 dB
Cable: 1.3 m, OFC Copper


Delivery Content:

The B200 arrives in the exact same packaging as the B100 and B150, with the only exception being the model number on it.


Inside, we can find the in-ears, a really nice Brainwavz-themed carrying case that is already well-known from other Brainwavz models, a Velcro cable tie, a shirt clip, one pair of red Comply Foam tips, four pairs of small silicone tips, four pairs of medium silicone tips, and last but not least four pairs of large silicone tips.


While it is nice to have a uniform product line, at least some variance for the dual-driver B200 in terms of package design (such as a white instead of black cardboard box) wouldn’t have been too bad in my opinion.


Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

The B200 looks exactly like the B150 and B100. While this clearly isn’t a bad thing and shows that they are related and belong to the same product line, separating the B200 from the two single-BA models by offering different shell colour options, using a different cable or even a removable cable wouldn’t have hurt.


The shells are pretty small, have got a semi-transparent black colour and feature some nice angles that set them apart from other companies’ products (those angles are however not noticeable when one is wearing the in-ears).
The B200’s cable has got ear guides without steel wire inside, and the cable is twisted and rubber-coated. It is neither super flexible nor super stiff, nonetheless I would have expected something better in the range above $100 – it definitely doesn’t have the flexibility or esprit the B2 was carrying, cable-wise.
Nonetheless, strain relief is nice on all transitions except for directly above the y-splitter, and the B200’s cable does fortunately not lack a chin-slider.




Comfort, Isolation:

Since the in-ears’ shells are really small, almost everybody should be able to find a very good seal and fit – I certainly do not have any problem with than in my large ear canals.


The B200 has to be worn with the cables around the ears, which is the more professional way and can be found in about any in-ear in the medium and high price range except for just a few models. This improves the fit and reduces microphonics (cable noise) that are pleasantly very low anyway and disappear completely once the chin-slider is just slightly tightened.

Exterior noise isolation is pretty good due to the closed shells, which was also to be expected.


Sound:

My main sources for listening were the iBasso DX200 (AMP1 module) as well as Cowon Plenue 2 and HiFime 9018d.
The largest included single-flange silicone tips were used for listening, comparisons and sine sweeps.

Tonality:

The B200 picks up on the single-drivers’ general tuning, being very smooth and tendentially warm and dark, with just a bit of counteracting upper treble energy, sounding very coherent and without any sterility, boringness or sudden peaks and dips.
A thin, mid-focussed and bass-light sound is definitely not what you get from the B200, however real bassheads, medium bassheads or people who want a whole lot of warmth won’t be satisfied either.

It has got a forward bottom-end that is a bit more on the stronger side, coming in at around 8 dB north of what would be neutral based on the diffuse-field target (that for example the Etymotic ER-4S and ER-4SR are following in the lows). Therefore it can address the “case of the missing 6 dB” (https://www.etymotic.com/media/publications/erl-0137-1982.pdf) plus a little extra quantity on top, meaning that the bass quantity and warmth are not too much north of a balanced sound at all.
The upper bass can definitely kick and has some authority without ever becoming dominant, and the midbass carries the same amount of weight. The sub-bass doesn’t roll off and is present when called upon on the recording, with just very little less absolute quantity compared to the midbass.

The midrange heads into the warmer direction, with a full and rather warm root that does however not feel bloated or unnatural, but rather cosy and intimate.
Some extra body is added to lower male vocals and instruments such as bass guitars and contrabasses
that come more into the foreground, however without getting an unnatural timbre; as a side-effect, vibrations from those instruments feel “almost tactile” sometimes.
Female vocals are on the darker and warmer side as well which is due to a recession taking place in the upper midrange (/presence area) and middle treble, without sounding unnatural or out of place. This exact dip helps for a more relaxed overall presentation and guarantees for fatigue-free listening over a long period of time, however some people might also perceive it as a little overdone and too “sugar-coated”. Interestingly enough, this is not the case for me when listening to the B200, because even though its 5 kHz range is more recessed than my Shure SE846’s that I regularly find a bit too smooth and “sugar-coated”-like sounding because of this exact recession, I don’t perceive the B200 as that relaxed and smooth at all (which might however also have to do that the SE846 has got the more forward midrange and the ultimately worse extension past 10 kHz even though being technically clearly superior in terms of resolution etc. (well, it better be costing 5 times as much)).

The upper treble gains energy again without really crossing the ground line, bringing a little countervailing sparkle without adding sibilance or harshness (in fact cymbals and high notes sound realistic, spot-on and neither skewed to the brighter nor darker side), and extends really well past 10 kHz, something that is very rarely found in this price range for Balanced Armature-based in-ears.


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Talking sine sweeps, the B200’s bottom-end emphasis starts slowly climbing around 750 Hz and reaches its climax around 125 Hz, keeping it all the way down to 20 Hz.
Level is a bit in the background between 2 and 6 kHz but comes back to normal right after that. There are no sudden and noticeable dips or peaks except for a small climax at around 13 kHz, which is a quite remarkable achievement, and even more so for the price.
Extension past 10 kHz is really good and the B200 doesn’t start dropping level before 14.7 kHz.

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The overall presentation, while heading into the warmer and more relaxed direction, appears quite natural and no area sounds artificial or out of place.
Yes, I would definitely say that Brainwavz did a really great job with the B200, since it sounds realistic with some added warmth and smoothness, doesn’t subdue any area, doesn’t make any range sound unrealistic/unnatural/artificial and extends very well in the lows and especially highs, sometimes that is very rare for a multi-BA in-ear costing around $200.

Resolution:

The B200 sounds really nice for a dual-driver in-ear from an internationally known brand below $200 and delivers just the fidelity and details that could be expected.

The bass is well-controlled and tight, and only shows some really minor softness in terms of attack compared to some of the more expensive multi-BA offerings.
Details in the lows are good and the B200 manages to separate single bass lines and fast bass punches very well.

Speech intelligibility and midrange resolution are spot-on as well and again, the B200 delivers a
smooth, detailed presentation for the price. Even though vocals are on the somewhat fuller and mellower side, nothing is covered up here and the dip in the upper midrange and middle treble was not placed to mask anything – yep, there is clearly no hidden graininess in this area at all.

High notes are rendered realistically and sound neither metallic nor subdued. Separation of single notes in the treble is good and instruments are cleanly rendered, however not as cleanly as when comparing the B200 to multi-BA in-ears costing $100 or $200 more. For the price however, the separation in the upper range is more than satisfying, and it is especially nice that the B200 has got a very good extension past 10 kHz that is very rarely found in this price range.



To wrap it up, the overall presentation is really nice and spot-on for the price without showing any audible flaws, neither in terms of tonality or resolution.

Soundstage:

The B200’s soundstage is neither really small nor especially large, and about a little more spacious than average/normally large in terms of dimensions and extension, with a more circular and spherical presentation than being flat and two-dimensional.
Separation of single instruments is plenty good for the price, and notes, single instruments or musicians don’t stick together but are separated nicely and cleanly, even when busier tracks with many musicians are played.

Layering is good as well although compared to some of the better and more expensive multi-BA offerings, there is not as much empty space between instruments – which clearly is no fault though given the price, since the B200 behaves clearly better than expected in this regard, and a good bit of $300 and $400 multi-BA in-ears are no “kings of soundstage and portraying emptiness” either.

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In Comparison with other In-Ears:

Brainwavz B150:

Tonally, these two in-ears are very similar with the B200 ultimately having the better extension towards the lowest registers of the bass and the more forward upper treble that extends further. The B150 has got the slightly more intimate midrange.

In terms of detail retrieval, the B200 clearly is the direct upgrade to the B150 – it sounds tighter, resolves small details better in the midrange and treble, and separates single notes better as well in busy songs. Both sound equally coherent to me, which really speaks a lot for the B200 and the implementation of its two BA drivers (sometimes the more affordable dual-BA in-ears below $200 don’t reach the same coherency as many single-BA in-ears – which is fortunately not the case with the B200).

Its soundstage is larger as well, also sporting the superior separation, layering and portrayal of emptiness.

Overall, it clearly is the more refined sounding in-ear to me with a more forward but still smooth upper treble.

Rose Technology Mini2:The Mini2 is the more neutral in-ear out of the two, sporting the lesser amount of bass elevation in comparison as well as a less recessed lower and middle treble. The B200’s upper treble is a bit more forward to my ears despite measurements interestingly indicating otherwise.

The B200’s bass is ever so slightly tighter while the Mini2 is slightly more detailed in the midrange to my ears. While the B200 is a bit more forward in the upper treble to my ears, the Mini2 manages to have the somewhat cleaner separation up there – the difference is rather small though.

The Rose’s soundstage, to my ears, is somewhat more spacious and has got the more precise layering, separation and placement of instruments.

the t.bone EP-7:

The EP-7 is the OEM version of the JTS IE-6, manufactured for the German music store Thomann and retails for more than $100 less than the original model.
The EP-7 sounds thicker, warmer and darker than the B200. Both have got the same bass quantity while the EP-7’s root appears fuller. Female vocals are more on the darker side when listening to the the t.bone.

Absolutely regarded, detail retrieval in the midrange is about similar and the two in-ears only differ in terms of tuning in this range. Treble details appear about similar. The bass is ever so slightly more detailed and quicker in terms of attack on the B200’s side with the EP-7 having the slightly better control and texture.

The B200’s soundstage is slightly smaller and has got the ever so slightly cleaner separation.

Shure SE425:

The Shure is undeniable the more neutral in-ear in comparison, having just a slight bit of upper bass and root elevation compared to something really flat such as the Etymotic ER-4SR/ER-4S.
The B200 is warmer and bassier in comparison, also carrying a little more fullness, warmth and darkness in the midrange. The B200 however, in contrast to the SE425 that sounds a little mid-focussed and unfortunately rolls off pretty early in the highs, has got some good treble extension and therefore sounds clearly more natural in the highs in comparison to the Shure that sounds a bit muffled when it comes to cymbals and also clearly lacks extension past 10 kHz.

Bass tightness and control is pretty much on the same level between the two, with probably just a very minor advantage for the Shure when it comes to attack tightness but a similarly fast and controlled decay.
Overall resolution is similar in the midrange to my ears, with a slight advantage for the Brainwavz in the bass and highs when it comes to details.

The B200’s soundstage is a bit wider and also deeper – while there is ultimately no huge difference in terms of size (but it’s noticeable, especially in terms of width), separation-wise, the B200 is somewhat cleaner and generates the cleaner “empty space” around single instruments.

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And last but not least, as a bonus, here is a comparative frequency response measurement chart of the Brainwavz B200, Brainwavz B100, Rose Technology Mini2, the t.bone EP-7 and Shure SE425:


Please note that this is what I recorded with my pseudo-diffuse-field-compensated-calibrated Vibro Veritas coupler (you can read more about the graphs and process of how they are taken and the inaccuracy in my measurements following this external link: frequency-response.blogspot.com/p/about-measurement-graphs.html).

It is not ideal yet but should give a rather good idea of what the in-ears sound like when mentally adding some level around 3 kHz as well as 6 kHz where my calibration is rather off.

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Conclusion:



Brainwavz are back at their old glory, offering (really) good performance and a nice tonal tuning for the respective price point – they have definitely got a winner with the B200, following the positive direction that they took when they released the B150 and especially B100.

The only things that do not quite fit to into the picture are the cable and shells that I would expect to be a bit more premium and special at this price point – having different shells (at least colour-wise) and a different cable would have been definitely appropriate to set the B200 apart from the B100 and B150, since the dual-driver clearly manages to achieve that on the technical level; but I guess it will be the upcoming B300’s and B400’s task to set a visual and haptic border to the lower-priced models from the B series.


To wrap it up, the B200 is a really nice, smooth and yet still realistic and very harmonic sounding in-ear that is very convincing on the technical side for its price point, however the cable and visual appearance don’t fit entirely into the while picture.