Thursday, 27 January 2011

Beta Brainwavz Review

Beta Brainwavz Review

Right, review time.

The box arrives, yey.

First impression. Argh ye gods, the light the blindingly bright light. The letter accompanying these did say they need a burn in and so off they go to the white/pink/brown noise generator. Otherwise known as my old ibook.

Roughly 120 hours later (letter said 100 should be sufficient) it’s time to put these back in my ears and see that they have become. Bass monsters these are not, if you’re a bass head you can stop reading now these are not for you and never will be. In their default state without the extra little filters they have and unamped these things are bright. I mean oh my god they are bright, after a few hours of listening over the course of a couple of days the filters had to go on and they have stayed on ever since. I did briefly try the Betas with my icon mobile, even more super bright so that combo lasted a few minutes never to be seen again.

Tip experimentation leads me to the big bi-flange that came with them. It gave me a great fit and comfortable. The other weird straight rubber tips were comfortable but I never felt they gave me a very snug seal but tips as always are very personal. What works for me might for no one else and vice versa, but no problems at all on that front.

Amp experimentation, you know I actually prefer the E3 with these. Bass boosts and tones down the brightness in the highs in a way the E5 doesn’t. So while normally id ways say the E5 is better in this case I felt the E3 was a nicer match. Of course to deal with the ungodly amounts of hiss it puts out a shure variable attenuator was added to the mix to snuff out that hiss and provide volume control.

Lows: Well unamped they are almost nonexistent I felt. Okay that’s not entirely true they are there but they are so far behind the mids and highs they at first remind me of a 2.1 speaker set up with the sub switched off. No once we throw the magical little FiiO into the mix the bass appears. There is still not a lot of it but it’s there and it’s very tight and deep. For something so cheap it really is very etymotic like bass but even less abundant. Given a little time your ears do get used to it and you know what, the bass is really nice. I might like a little more but it’s very nicely controlled and what I love most about it is its so very very deep and smoothly controlled. Well done you engineers, just a shame it’s so shy.

Mids. Mids are relatively nice, fantastic clarity and detail but if I’m honest too focused, forward and bright. Male voices tend to be better and less in your face in the way that some female vocals do. When Streisand sings softly the Betas convey her voice beautifully but when she starts belting it out and hitting certain notes I find myself grabbing the volume control. Too forward, too bright, too in my face. On softer vocals these really do a wonderful job once you get used to just how forward and focused they are. For what these cost the mids are on the whole very nice just not something I can stick on loud and rock out to.

Highs: Well if I’m honest I’m rather treble sensitive and with these I found myself using the E3 over the E5 for the sole reason that it rather murders the highs. These things have lots and lots of treble. Now for me it’s just too much treble, it makes these just too bright for my tastes so I added the little filter to tone it down and the FiiO to tone it down more and I still find them very bright. However it’s not that treble is badly done actually it’s really not bad at all. Yes it’s not perfect but these not an expensive product. The treble is sharp and crisp. Too much so for me but I cannot in anyway fault its level of detail which is rather good. It feels like it’s trying to be etymotic like in its treble, hard, cold and crisp and I find it all rather fatiguing after any more than a couple of hours.

Soundstage: You know the sound stage I feel is really rather nice. With a little time and brain burn in they really feel as though they fill out. They never feel utterly immersive but they really do give very nice sense of distance and depth. This can vary a lot with the song but just on black and white the high hat and that shaking thingy are rendered very nice indeed and sound like they are in the distance but still sound nice and clear.

Comfort: Absolutely zero problems on that front. Stick in, listen to that’s it really. As with most IEM’s I prefer to wear up and over my ears which they let me do fine. As I said before I do find them a bit fatiguing but physically they are perfectly fine.

Fit: Again much like the comfort they were absolutely fine. As always this will be dependent on how you get on with the tips but you get a nice selection and they are the nice standard sennheiser size. So anything that fits them should fit on these no problem. For me, the big bi-flange they came with was fine and just shove in my ears and that’s that, no fiddling about to get anything just right.

Cable: The cable is fine, nothing special and never managed to annoy me in anyway. So while it’s no denon “magic cable” its no sony or klipsch “aarrggghh I want to bludgeon the man who picked this cable to death” cable. I do rather like the jack on it though, as a nice 45 degree angle, this I greatly approve of so well done Brainwavz (the alpha has it too.)

Unamped: Well, frankly I wasn’t hugely keen on them unamped. For me they were just a bit too bass light and while with a decent DAP this can be EQ’ed away I have an ipod. Like millions of others in fact and as we all know the ipod EQ is the most awful useless piece of crap in the history of the universe so I don’t use it. Seeing as this is available for an extra us$10 to come with a FiiOE5 I say get it with the amp. Really really strongly say get it with the FiiO, bass is so vastly improved by it.

Value: Well yes if you like this sort of sound then these represent great bang for buck. Now I know etymotic don’t make anything dynamic or in the price range, or really even very close to this price range but if these had been handed to me and I was told they were by etmotic for a new price point below the ER6i (which I haven’t heard btw, I only have the ER4P) then I wouldn’t question it for a second. These things (with the FiiO E5) at present I see are us$34.50 delivered anywhere, now that’s bloody cheap if you ask me, I mean that’s like £20.

Oh and also I really like how the nozzles on them are made of metal, should be very durable and a nice surprise. For this price I was expecting just all plastic.

Final Conclusion: These feel like they have set out to emulate etymotic, but with a little less bass. They have that same sound signature but not quite the same level of clarity and detail. Though for the money the detail and clarity I think is really impressive, really very impressive. However if I’m honest the sound signature wasn’t really for me, too bass light which is a shame as the bass is lovely and deep on them and just otherwise too forward and bright. If you are looking for a very clean, bright, focused, crisp, forward sounding IEM on a tight budget then this really has got to figure in your candidates, it really is that ety sound but on the cheap.

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