Brainwavz S0 Review
Thanks to mp4nation for the sample.
First Impressions: The bundle as first meets the eye looks great. A good looking and functional case, an array of tips, a shirt clip and a little Velcro cable tie. For a product of this price range it’s good to see such a comprehensive package. Though I find myself thinking what’s with everyone doing black and red things these days? Not that I hate the black and red combo, just seems to be everywhere. Another thought is what’s with the name S0. Presumably its going to share a sound signature with the S5? Positionally sometimes I’m really never sure where products are meant to be in relation to each other.
Anyway, in the ears they go with the complys slapped on. Bass is certainly a plenty here. My ears have pretty much just come from the senn Momentums and the bass seems to sit at a similar realm. i.e. it is massive. Another thing, I know I’ve only been listening for a handful of minutes but am I liking these more than I liked the S5? That can’t be right surely. Hmm, burn in time I think.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-601, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5.
Lows: BIG. Not quite all of “da bass” but rest assured there is way more than enough to go around. Is it my imagination or are they almost identical in quantity as the S5? Hmm they feel remarkably close to the 5 in terms of size and tone. These are a bit slower and the lower registers a bit softer, with a tiny bit of flab. Though given their price I’m rather happier with these. I can’t say these are to my acoustic tastes as the bass here is certainly very big and very hearty. It’s a big mound of sold slab kinda bass. The more I look at it in a technical fashion the more fault I pick with it but it’s not trying to be an audiophile sort of thing. The bass here as a big thumpy, ass shakin Beyonce kinda bass. Its big, its dark, it likes to shake its bottom end and while you know that it should be firmer and finely articulated you don’t especially mind. Either this aural style works for you or it doesn’t, it’s not refined, it’s not particularly grown up or controlled, it’s an IEM that has a great big ass and it likes to hurl it about the place with great vigour. Its likes to thump and party.
Mids: They in a technical, blah blah blah whatever. These are no PL-50’s. Mids are are not unlike the bass, not wildly refined but full of vim and partytasticness. Think the likes of Miss Gaga or the wailing style of Miss Aguilera. The woman likes to go with an undisciplined and casual style that cuts right thorough nicely here. She is a singer who needs to wail out vocals and that it seems is what the S0 has her in mind too. The faintest nuances of whoever aren’t to be found here but the energy and spirit are. Like the bass you can tell the S0 likes to throw itself into a note with zero inhibition.
Quantity wise it’s a bit bellow that big bass but still quite notable in volume. A touch lacking in detail but cuts through every song with ease.
Highs: In quality terms the highs aren’t too bad. They are pretty reduced in quantity though, the bass is whats up front then the mids in the middle and the highs taking up last place. This makes the big hefty bass stand out more without the treble ravaging you. It also leads itself to the treble come across as more refined and delicate. It’s about offering presence and air than it is about ever taking a dominant acoustic role. Even on Owl City and their treble abundant tracks, they won’t really take over. That big old bass likes to get in there and as such the treble just doesn’t wow or impress. Please do keep in mind it’s not trying to impress you, the treble here is a musical accompaniment that serves to fan out the bass and vocals.
Soundstage: Being a dynamic it’s pretty good. A good sense of scale here. The instrument placement and separation are a rather more diffuse but this isn’t an IEM for picking out where the strings section was sitting. It’s about being in a club with the songs thumping their way to you.
Fit: Great. Stuck in ears and that was that, worn up or down both were just fine.
Comfort: Great also, I went straight to the complys and were perfectly comfy in my ears for hours and hours at a time.
Microphonics: Wear them down and you get some, the lack of a neck synch means you can’t control it with ease. Wear up and the issue pretty much is solved.
N.B. I have just had it pointed out it actually does have a neck synch. the design of its just happens to melt into the rest of the Y splitter so much that I never realised it was there!!!
Amped/Unamped: This isn’t likely to get an amp in real life and its fine that it doesn’t really want one either. Sure with more power things gain more solidity, especially the bass, but overall it’s not something to worry about. Though out of little phone, the bass did lose a bit of that playful oomph at the very bottom.
Isolation: Reasonable for a dynamic. Once you have music playing not much should bother you but it’s not one I’d be looking to for a long flight or Tube every day. Its isolation is mostly fine for normal use and still likely more than enough to make you road kill if you don’t pay attention.
Build Quality: Nice. We are starting to get into a more budget price range and the package is a good one. The flat cable isn’t a thing I love but people do like them flat and it feels study. The buds feel nicely solid and looks all well put together.
Accessories: Excellent. So it’s what, 8 pairs of tips plus a pair of complys, the shirt clip and that rather lovely case. Oh and the wee cable wrap strap thing but I don’t see it listed anywhere. Still, is a great wee bundle.
Value: The sound quality is pretty reasonable if a style that’s not really me. So I don’t know if I would pick them but as a bundle goes, Brainwavz are getting pretty good at this. Plenty of tips to pick from and that rather lovely black and red case.US$50 is what, just over £31. That’s not a lot really for a nice bundle that all together feels more costly than it really is. So like most of Brainwavz offerings, it’s a pretty great value proposition.
Conclusion: Do I love these? No I don’t. These are tuned rather like their siblings, the S5 but these I feel are much more of a good value offering. The S5 and 0 with their big ass shaking, party style is a style option. It’s popular with what I’d call the “Style” demographic. They want great big bass and they want the thing to look cool too. It’s a valid choice if that’s what you like. The S5 tried that at a price point where it’s coming up against some truly fantastic technical stuff and at that price point it couldn’t quite keep up. The S0 though is a different proposition. It has that same style but it’s not trying to keep up with some of the best, its competition is in a range where everything is compromised. Like the PL-50, its mids are insanely good but for most they would likely hate its measly bass output. The S0 then realises it can’t be everything and doesn’t try.
When you stop trying to excel everywhere you can do what you do, be good where you’re good and just get on with it. The S0 like to roar away in the low end and blast out a poppy, bouncy vocal line. The highs, well they are like a sprinkling of a glitter over things. Not really part of something substantial but that little hint of sparkle. It plain and upfront about what it can give you. If you like this, then great. If you want a detailed monitor then look elsewhere. It really is all just that simple, it’s so honest about where its abilities lie that I cannot fault it for things it doesn’t claim to be. Brainwavz have aimed the S0 at being a crowd pleaser and it nails it.
So I don’t love the S0, its big hearty bass it’s a bit much for me all the time. The S0, I feel, is the acoustic equivalent of a hamburger. Its good, hearty and utterly without pretence or pretention. It is what it is, it does what it does. It makes for a great big bassed choice that’s easy on the ear and vocally clear. It is a great and solid option that’s perfect for a general listener.