While MP4Nation’s Brainwavz Beta I reviewed some time ago were ok-ish sounding for their $30 price tag – but didn’t really exceed in any aspect over their similarly priced peers – Brainwavz now upped the ante with the introduction of the M2 in-ear phones.
The M2 are a bit more expensive than the aforementioned Betas, going for around $50, but to my ears they sound at least twice as good, so all is fine.
I am quite impressed by how far Brainwavz have climbed the audio quality ladder since the last time I tried some of their products. Read on to find out more about the M2.
- Brainwavz M2 Specs
- Driver: 10.7mm dynamic
- Impedance: 20 Ohm
- Sensitivity: 115dB/mW
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz
- Cable: 1.3m, Y-style, ca 45° angled gold-plated 3.5mm plug
- Accessories: 3 pairs of silicone tips (S/M/L), 1 pair of foam tips, shirt clip, case with zipper
Accessories, Build, Specs
First thing to get out of the way is that the M2’s packaging promises some accessories that aren’t actually included: there were no ear gliders/guides in my box. Maybe that’s just a mistake with my pair, and other people indeed got their ear guides. Either way, it doesn’t matter much, since the M2 stay just fine in my ears without those guides.
The included silicone ear tips are cloned/counterfeit Sony EP-EX10 “Hybrid” tips, which is quite surprising – and definitely a huge step above most generic silicone tips. Doesn’t matter if the tips are clones – they feel just like the real deal and provide a very good fit. These are the first Chinese OEM phones where I didn’t swap the included tips for some Ultimate Ears or Phonaks right away.
A pair of Comply S-Series foam tips is included as well. This isn’t the usual dense, smooth Comply foam, but a porous, rough one. I find the feeling of these tips quite irritating in my ear canals – but they’re not really needed anyways, since they don’t provide better isolation or fit than the silicone tips. Also, the foam tip size might be too small for many people’s ears – like mine – to provide a really secure seal.
A rigid, woven carrying case and a shirt clip for the cable are also included. The case is quite small, the phones fit snugly in it. The aluminum sticker on my case is already starting to come off, but that doesn’t really matter. I’ve never used a shirt clip, but I’m sure some people might appreciate it for reducing cable noise and the like.
Speaking of the cable: it’s advertised as ‘tangle free’ on the M2’s box. As is often the case with such claims, the opposite is closer to the truth. It tangles at least as much as the next average cable, and it’s actually harder to untangle, due to being rather rigid and having a slightly sticky-yet-slick surface.
Either way, the cable looks and feels like high quality. It’s a twisted three-conductor design, similar to the cables used on Ultimate Ears, Westone, or EarSonics IEMs. The difference with the M2 cable is that it has additional sleeving over the conductors, so it’s a bit stiffer and transmits more cable noise (‘microphonics’) than average. Worn with the cables over the ears this however is no real issue.
According to the box, the conductors in the cable are ‘silver plated oxygen free copper’. This of course is pure snake oil marketing and has no influence on the sound quality whatsoever. I can’t help to gloat a bit – in a positive way – about that factoid though. Seeing Chinese OEM manufacturers using the marketing tricks of the overpriced ‘audiophile’ placebo manufacturer crowd in their inexpensive products surely puts many things into perspective. At least that one doesn’t have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a cable that only has to transmit simple electric signals in the 20Hz – 20kHz range.
The 3.5mm plug is an awkwardly angled one – it’s neither a straight plug nor a 90° angled one. I have no idea why someone thinks it’s a good idea to use plugs that are in between the two standards. In any case, the plug is not truly 45° angled, but closer to 60° or so, which makes it a bit more low profile. It’s also of good build quality, with a sturdy molded strain relief and firm housing. All in all, the M2’s plug is a very welcome upgrade over the horribly sub-par plug that was used on the Brainwavz Beta – same goes for the Y-splitter, which is of equally good quality.
The ear pieces themselves are made of aluminum, the black part appearing to be anodized. They were slightly scratched right out of the box, but they sure look classy, are lightweight and comfortable to wear. They are vented on both sides of the driver, inside and out. The outside vent holes are easy to miss, since they’re right behind the cable exits. Those cable exits are no true strain relieves, they’re just loose rubber tubes that are screwed into the housings. I assume the cables are knotted inside the ear pieces, so that should be sufficient protection. A nice professional touch is the dot on the left strain relief – it makes finding the correct ear bud side easier in the dark.
A minor nitpick: the metal meshes that protect the drivers from dirt are held in place by some yellow glue. I would suggest that Visang/Brainwavz change their glue recipe since it looks like the M2’s nozzles are full of ear wax right out of the box.
Aforementioned vents don’t really affect isolation from outside noise, the M2 isolate about as much as the next average IEM. I didn’t find their noise rejection to increase by using foam tips, but they should be fine either way on-the-go, without having to turn up the volume to overly unsafe levels.
The M2 go loud enough with any weak portable player, and they don’t hiss much either, despite their 20 Ohm impedance being on the lower side and their rather efficient 115dB/mW sensitivity.
As usual, I gave the phones – and my brain – some time to ‘settle down’, but I didn’t notice any difference in their sound quality right out of the box and 100 hours later.
On the M2’s box it says “intense, detailed bass”. This is quite true, the bass is certainly prominent, but it is not overbearing. It has a pleasing timbre to it, and lacks distracting resonances – perhaps a side effect of the aluminum material used for the housing. The bass doesn’t bleed into the midrange; it stays in its place. I wouldn’t categorize the M2 as basshead phones – they do have a generous amount of bass, indeed, but they’re not as bass-heavy as the Hippo VB or the JVC FX700. The M2’s bass quantity (and quality) is more along the lines of the Radius “DDM2” or the Panasonic HJE900.
The midrange is quite pleasing on the M2. It’s rich and full, and for the price range certainly one of the more resolving ones. I’m happy that it’s no scooped-out, v-shaped midrange, as is often the case with phones in this market segment. One notices that the driver in the M2 might not be among the very fastest ones, but instrument separation is quite good, and the textures of instruments and voices are convincing. It’s a natural, ‘musical’ midrange that goes easy on the ears.
Treble is a bit recessed on the M2, making it a somewhat ‘dark’, ‘laid back’ sounding affair. This is certainly beneficial if one gets fatigued by forward treble, and there’s no sibilance to be found in the M2 either. However, they might likely be too ‘dark’ and ‘warm’ sounding for certain people’s tastes. When I’m listening critically at lower volume levels I’m certainly missing out on some treble details in many audio tracks – but the M2’s treble still matches the rest of its frequency response quite well, giving a coherent sound representation in all its relaxedness. Thanks to Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Munson, when one turns them up to louder levels, the treble gains some clarity and detail.
On Brainwavz’ website the M2 are described as having ‘exciting’ sound. Well, ‘exciting’ is certainly a very subjective matter, meaning a lot of different things to different people. For me, ‘exciting’ means that a phone has a great dynamic range and is punchy, snappy, and ‘fast’ – no matter how its frequency response is tuned. In that aspect the M2 are about average at lower listening levels – their dynamics are more ‘polite’ than ‘exciting’ until one turns the volume up to louder levels. The M2 have clearly better dynamics than the Ecci PR401 or any Etymotic product, but they’re not on par with pricier dynamic driver IEMs like the Sennheiser IE8 or the Radius DDM2. Still, there’s not much to complain, considering the M2’s price point.
Stereo imaging and instrument separation is quite nice on the M2, probably due to their drivers being vented. Their sound is nicely distributed to the left and right, not just a blob in the middle of one’s head.
Well, this about sums it up. I’m quite impressed by the engineering efforts that went into these IEMs, and thanks to Brainwavz/MP4Nation the world outside of China can enjoy them as well.
The M2 are well worth their price if you’re looking for a natural, relaxed sounding IEM with good clarity and detail that doesn’t make your piggy bank cry.
So far my favorite inexpensive dynamic driver IEMs are the Hippo VB and the Panasonic HJE900 (considering they could be had for around $70 before they were discontinued), but the Brainwavz M2 sure made their way up there in my list of recommended non-wallet-breaking IEMs, as an alternative to the aforementioned two, with a sound that’s somewhere right in between them.
- Natural, relaxed, clear sound with forward yet refined bass
- Good fit and comfort
- Nice looks, nice choice of materials
- Included silicone tips are very good, clones of Sony EP-EX10
- Great value for the price
- Treble might be a bit too recessed for some tastes, at least at lower listening levels
- Dynamics could be a bit better at lower listening levels
- Cable tangles easily and is more microphonic than average
The Brainwavz M2 can be bought from MP4Nation for around $50, from AMP3 UK for around £35, or from other stores listed on YourBrainwavz. They come with a 12 month free replacement warranty if they should stop working for any reason (except for damage caused by abuse).