Brainwavz Omega Review
Thanks to Brainwavz for the sample.
First Impressions: Ah another plastic box, hmm is this a cost thing? The Omega for sure is right at the cheapest end of the market. The thing is just US$15 and that’s delivered globally. So cheap cheap cheap cheap. Inside the pack I’m a little surprised to see a pair of Comply’s given the cost I can only assume Brainwavz have got some cracking deal with them. I also notice, sadly, there is no little case. I can’t complain given how cheap they are and I’d rather see them skip a case than include one, making people pay for a thing they may not use. (Normally I would say everyone should use a case but at this price I accept many users wont.) The buds are rather nice, metal. Though I’m really not taken with the “Red & Blue” colouring. The red isn’t very red and the blue isn’t very blue. Its marron bits and a midnight/navy blue cable. It’s not that it’s ugly just a little misleading, especially that “red” it’s just not a colour I would ever refer to as “red.”
So in the ears and the first thing to note is the bass. Oh it’s big, seriously big. Not exactly a shocker given its price but it’s so very much more than my ears have been exposed to recently. Oh my it’s shifting a fair old chunk of air. I can feel it squishing my face and sinuses. Hmm it and I may not be the best of friends. Anyway to the burn machine with you.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and a Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.
Lows: Abundant. I know I used them with the included pair of Comply’s (which it was nice to see included at this price given the damn things are like US$5 a pair. I assume Brainwavz get a pretty decent volume discount though. Anyway, bass, yep it’s big. It varies from a bit over big to you’re beginning to get on my nerves big. It’s also not the most linear as we go. There are certain notes where the bass will leap out and rip your head off if you’re not careful. The audio snob in me tuts but actually…… on the whole its rather fun. I mean it’s an earphone that costs US$15 delivered, I’m not expecting some linear Ety like masterpiece. It’s a big bottomed girl who likes to party and so she got a little tipsy and maybe over does the bottom shaking a bit. While you can make them do things a little more mellow, the bass does have rich warmth to it. Sure it does have a bit of a rise and then falls off, softening as it goes but again, that price tag. You know the bass can’t be perfect but it really does have a good old try.
Quantitatively, there is a notable mid/bass boundary elevation and it rises up as it goes down. To a big, big heap of the stuff. Then in the further reaches its starts to flab a little bit all over the place. If you try and star them towards less soft sources your benefit. It does want to turn into a bit of a warm melted puddle if you feed them so.
BTW, firing up The Beautiful South’s “Your Father And I” holy crap!!!!!! The bass roars out you. Its bass line and their bass peak co-inside and I can’t tell if “weeee, this is fun” or oh my god my poor fragile little ears. Beastly.
Mids: Warmly rich, nicely so. The mid/bass region tends to dominate slightly and vocals have a rather flavoured tone. Lots of warmth and richness, smooth, kinda melty chocolaty. If you’re after air and spaciousness then sorry. They don’t sound bad but they haven’t the tonality to do airy or cool and likewise the detail. They do give some level of vocal nuance but they are rather flavoured, richly flavoured and I’m sure more chocolatey type comparisons are going to creep in. Still you get the idea, its thick, heavy and slow moving but you don’t mind. As they say, it’s not a bug it’s a feature.
Quantitatively this means that while the bass isn’t really that far behind where most if the bass lays but its warm characteristics make it not the most obvious. It’s not terribly forthright and thus the bass can somewhat overshadow vocals. I don’t think that’s a problem for its likely users but for me…… I’d have liked more mids. Maybe a little bit cooler tonally for vocals too, give them some space to breathe.
Highs: Staying with that warmly rich, smooth tonality from elsewhere and it sensibly continues. Yey for smooth treble. Detail levels are pretty nice in absolute terms but you won’t be using these in any analytical sense. They are reasonably detailed for the money, nicely so but it’s not thrown at you with any aggression. I’m absolutely good with that. It also means that if you pair it with say, not the best source’s in the world and maybe not the best recorded music, nor the best mastered and then playing at a mediocre bitrate, you’ll still be fine. The edges, bighty jaggy edges are all very mellowed and smoothed. It does what it can to cut through the bass and remain audible but the Omega’s not too big on the treble.
Soundstage: There isn’t all that much in terms of distance, creamy warm stuff tends be more drawn in and intimate. As is this. In terms of scale and power, there is a lot of scope for power. Waaaaaaaay lots of power if you throw power at them. That big old bass will given the chance shake a filling loose.
Fit: Good. In they went and that was me done. They were pretty much at home worn up or down too, nothing fancy or unexpected.
Comfort: Great, no bother. Worn down the cable tugs at your ears which is why I always wear up. Though with prolonged use the bass movement got a little ear tiring.
Aesthetics: I do not know. So they come in black, white, or “red and blue” so I instantly thought, oh right bud red, left bud blue, right? Err no. They are “red” bits of plastic on the buds, “red” jack and “red” Y splitter. I say “red” because it’s really not, its marron. Not that marron is a bad colour it’s just when I see it it’s not a colour I’d ever describe to anyone as red. Then the “blue” well that’s the cable. Now it is a blue but it’s a very subdued, dark navy blue. It’s not that I don’t like it or anything but when I read blue this is not anything close to the colour I pictured in my head. I do actually like the curiosity of the colour contrasts but seriously, look at a pic before you select them. If you read “red and blue” it’s not what you’d think.
Microphonics: It’s the same old story really. If you chose to wear them up you get some, if you wear up you don’t. In fairness it’s pretty slight worn down and the chin slider can cure that.
Amped/Unamped: Well yeah there was a difference, with a big am was better but its not needed. Odds are these will never see any kind of amp even a little FiiO and they have been made with that in mind. Just maybe source wis you want to aim for something clean and cold. Even then there wasn’t a wild variation in play from the phones laying about here.
Phone Use: Well with the Lumia 735 it all worked, even the volume controls worked which while unexpected was nice. On the moto G, sadly no. Why I have no idea, play/pause/skip worked but no volume. However over on the P8 they worked and as a little bonus the P8 managed to push the treble rather more upfront. While I liked the acoustic balance more it did a little show up that IEM’s at this price aren’t going to have the most refined treble in the world. So it gave with one hand and took with the other but hey such is life. As for the Iphone, well I presume it works fine, I didn’t test it. That’s because the jack wouldn’t fit into the hole in the case I use has for the hp out.
Isolation: It’s okay for a dynamic. Having the Comply’s did help a little to get a fuller seal so they were really rather usable for most uses. You know the story, fine for on a bus, out and about but not probably really what you want for a flight or Tube commute. In a pinch its better than nothing, it’s no BA. As ever yes it’s enough to block out typical traffic sounds so you need to remember how your eyes work and use them, or get a donor card.
Cable: Colour aside, because I’m still not sure about the blue, in so much as I didn’t even notice at first it wasn’t black. It’s fine. While for the money I’m absolutely fine with it, the jay and Y-splitter both feel very solid if not super fancy. It doesn’t feel like a Christmas cracker prize but you know next to the Piston 3 and the AM-12 it’s just not as nice as they are.
Accessories: You get a mixed bag, I am all in favour of the Comply’s because cost aside (grumble grumble grumble) they are very nice to see at this price. Sure silicon’s are fine but on the whole, foamy tips are hard to go back from. A little case might have been nice but you know adding a case is going to add a 33% price jump so better that it should be up to the consumer. However, I hope places suggest a case alongside as a bundle because things in cases live longer lives, it’s that simple. You do however get a little Velcro cable tidy thing which you could sort of use but will anyone? Oh and a shirt clip because, err, does anyone use them?
Value: Super-duper stupid good. Granted I can’t say these are leaps and bound “better” than the Piston 3 or AM-12 but that you can get something, for US$15 (about £10) not only bought but posted to you, anywhere on earth pretty much is crazy. How do they even post it for that? Even if it was just an empty box how can you send it halfway round the planet for that much yet the postage company has somehow made a profit and presumably Brainwavz are making something on it too??? Not only that but they are listenable, I could and have sat listening to them for hours reasonably happily. I have much better stuff nearby but these are actually not bad. I can use them and not want to kill myself which is frankly rather mad given their cost. While I’d be hesitant for these to ever be my first choice to anyone they are in value terms outstanding.
Conclusion: You get the idea, it’s becoming all too common, awesome things coming out of China for stupid cheap. Brainwavz have consistently put out product after product that represents superb value for money. The Omega bares its lineage on its sleeve. Is it the most wow earth shattering moistest bestest sound EVAR!!!!!!!! No, of course it’s not. What it is a brand that has steadily kicked and hammed the value ratio in the consumers favour. The sound quality for the tiny, tiny cost you get something that is not just usable but that crazy audio people could use it and be okay with it. Don’t underestimate how huge that is, that you can get something for the price of youthful bottle of wine, something that sounds reasonable enough even audio snobs can cope with it. That is huge!!!!
The Omega, while not perfect makes practically all the sensible moves audio wise and really never falls down anywhere. So it maybe doesn’t excel, unless you’re a bit of a basshead, anywhere either but it takes a capable stab at it. The bass can be a bit over powering for me, it’s a bit of a hump and it moves to much air at times…… yeah its target demographics are just gonna hate that I’m sure. I really can’t find anything to fault them with beyond tiny weird things like, that red is not red, its marron. Which is a weird colour option anyway, weird I think I like it but weird nevertheless.
So should you buy one, hmmm well I am fortunate enough to live in a country that is so rich that state benefits qualify a recipient to be in the top ten percent of the world in income levels. In the “West” + Japan + Anzacland et al we are rich and we forget just how amazingly rich and well off we are. We can say US$15 is nothing but remember that (2008 figures so a bit old) that 80% of the world population live on less than US$10 per day. In a society where we on average earn maybe 20 times that the relative wealth levels mean to some a US$15 earphone is like a rich worlder buying maybe a US$300 earphone. It’s a purchase that you would put some though into. The Omega is I think aimed at those people and I find it highly commendable that people are working to bring reasonable, decent audio quality to the other 5 and a half billion people on the planet.