Brainwavz M100 Review: A Tuning Blunder
I like Brainwavz’s products. I like Brainwavz’s customer support. I like Brainwavz’s 24 month warranty. I like Brainwavz as a company. I do not like, however, the M100. While it is a pretty enticing IEM from a build-quality perspective, I could not bring myself to justify how it sounds for the price it demands.
You can find the Brainwavz M100 for sale here for $90 on Amazon.
Disclaimer: This review is based upon a sample unit provided to me by a manufacturer or distributor in exchange for my honest opinion and un-edited words. I do not profit in any way from the writing of the review. I would like to thank Pandora at Brainwavz for sending me this review unit.
Preference and Bias: Before reading a review, it is worth mentioning that there is no way for a reviewer to objectively pass judgment on the enjoy-ability of a product: such a thing is inherently subjective. Therefore, I find it necessary for you to read and understand what I take a natural liking to and how that might affect my rating of a product.
My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, bass. The mids should be slightly less pronounced than the treble, but still ahead of the bass. I prefer a more bright upper range.
Source: The M100 was powered like so:
Nexus 6P -> earphones
Hidizs AP100 -> earphones
HiFiMAN MegaMini -> earphones
PC optical out -> HiFiMe SPDIF 9018 Sabre DAC 3.5mm out -> earphones
All music was served as MP3 @320Kbps or as FLAC.
I found my Nexus 6P to be sufficient to drive the M100 at near-peak levels of performance.
The M100 is quite warm. Too warm I might say. Treble is surprisingly dynamic, but lacks overall emphasis in the sound. Upper mids remain unaffected, but everything else from the lower-mids down is cloudy and colored. This doesn’t affect electronic songs that much, but doesn’t tend to shoot acoustically-bound songs in the knee.
As I previously mentioned, treble does perform decently well, and is about the only thing in the sound signature I can praise. High-hats are very clear and well-defined, having a great attack and decay.
Mids have a bit of a problem. While the 1–2Khz range remains largely intact (with only a slightly warm coloring), the rest of the mids are pretty bloated. This extra warmth creates a veiled sound, muffling what is usually the most dynamic and active frequency range of a song. I can largely make out each of the instruments in songs like Flagpole Sitta and Jacked Up, but seldom enjoy the way they sound. Instrumental separation is below-average, as is the electric “crunch” from the guitars.
While I was initially hoping to get some really good bass out of the M100, I was soon disappointed. For all the warmth that Brainwavz added to the M100, none of that emphasis seems to have made it down to the 20Hz-50Hz range, instead clouding up the upper-mid-bass. I was consistently let down across Lights, In For The Kill, and Leave Me, with Gold Dust being the sole exception for good sub-bass performance.
The M100 had below-average performance across the board in terms of general clarity, though it is far from the worst I’ve heard, even at this price-range.
Packaging / Unboxing
The packaging the M100 came in was simple, yet effective. I quite like the no-nonsense approach that Brainwavz takes, as this simplifies the opening experience for the consumer as well as frees up both shipping costs (as the box is relatively small) and the cost of production (as the packaging is quite simple) so that these funds can be redirected back into the actually components of the M100 (or so I’d like the believe).
Construction quality is very good, as the entirety of the M100 feels sturdy in the hand. The driver-housings are made form a cool matte aluminum. As far as I know, there is only one color available: black.
The cable is made from a simple twisted plastic, and is neither especially prone to tangles nor thin-feeling. Despite its sturdy appearance, the cable is quite flexible. The Y-splitter too is built from a matte black plastic. It is flexible, but sturdy, and has a chin-slider than can be “attached” to it should it ever get in your way. The cable terminates in a 3.5mm jack.
Embedded along the cable is a remote, also built from plastic. It is smooth, with textured buttons. The remote features a standard 3-button load-out: volume up, volume down, and pause/play. This remote (thankfully) works fully on every Android phone and iPhone I’ve tested.
Comfort is decent, provided the driver-flex doesn’t bother you. I experience it to a pretty high-degree myself. This alone is a deal breaker for me, as I don’t quite enjoy having to pull suction-cups out of my ears each time I want to talk to someone (nor do I think it is healthy to do so).
The M100 comes well stocked with accessories. Inside the box you will find:
- Earphone Hard case
- 6 sets of Silicone Ear Tips (S M L)
- 1 set of Comply Foam Tips T-400
- 1 Shirt Clip
- Velcro Cable Tie
- Instruction Manual & Warranty Card (24 month warranty)
I like the accessories provided, and find them to be decent for an IEM of this price. The case is especially good, as it is easy to fit the M100, and all of its accessories, into. Furthermore, the case is light and sturdy, all the while not taking up too much space in my pocket.
I don’t really understand why Brainwavz chose to release this IEM. I understand the allure of entering the $90 single-dynamic market, but at the same time I know that they can do so much better in terms of tuning. Had the mids been less colored and the drivers better-vented, I would at least be able to recommend this IEM for some limited use cases. However, I can’t in good conscience do so considering the driver-flex and the price that Brainwavz has set for what is ultimately and underwhelming listening experience.
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