The soiled little secret of my favourite classes of client items — headphones, backpacks, and watches, primarily — is that all of them have offensively fats revenue margins. Their costs was once fairer when producers needed to pay retailers for bodily shelf house, however within the age of on-line procuring, each buy we make is, to some extent, exploitative. Brainwavz is one firm that’s making an attempt to take advantage of the buyer much less by undercutting the larger audio manufacturers on worth whereas sustaining a excessive stage of sonic high quality. The Brainwavz B400 are nonetheless considered one of my favourite pairs of in-ear headphones, performing far past their $199 asking worth. The newest from Brainwavz is an excellent cheaper choice: the $150 HM100.
The Brainwavz HM100 test off a number of objects on the everyday audiophile wishlist: their ear cups are made out of actual wooden, they arrive with a tough carrying case, a alternative of wires, plus a two-year guarantee, and their design conceit is that they provide studio-quality sound.
There’s no denying that you simply get quite a bit to your cash with these headphones, however they fall quick on high quality and refinement, which undermines their declare to being a extra inexpensive model of the pricier stuff. They’re low-cost headphones that really feel like low-cost headphones.
Every little thing in regards to the HM100 design is meant to evoke the feel and appear of high-end headphones. Begin with the two-tone espresso coloration scheme, which is a bit of paying homage to the Focal Stellia, besides Focal makes use of actual leather-based whereas Brainwavz places pointless stitching on its leather-like headband materials. Then there’s the form of the metallic yoke connecting the scarf to the headphones, seemingly ripped straight off Beyerdynamic’s manufacturing line. Japanese headphone producers prefer to put numbered strains on the extendable a part of the scarf, so you’ll be able to all the time know your favored setting, and Brainwavz re-creates that styling however not the performance. There’s no friction to the HM100 enlargement mechanism, in order that they by no means keep mounted at your required dimension setting.
To place these headphones on, you mainly disregard the adjustment choices and simply broaden their dimension by pulling them onto your head. It’s like utilizing a pair of cans with an elastic strap on the high, besides the expertise isn’t as nice. Related issues might be mentioned of the extraordinarily deep ear pads and thickly padded headband: they’re like these of luxuriously cozy headphones such because the AudioQuest NightHawk, however not as good. With the inclusion of plastic bits that simulate a metallic look, however creak, the HM100s full the complete set of fake ornamentation sins. Despite their appreciable bulk, these headphones really feel decidedly flimsy and unconvincing.
The one trustworthy factor in regards to the supplies of the HM100 is the real wooden used on the ear cups’ exterior. It’s a neat contact. If I shut my eyes (and my ears to the creaking), I’d say these headphones present a pleasant and comfy match for lengthy listening periods. You too can take them on the transfer as a result of they don’t have excessive energy necessities and Brainwavz features a quick cable for simply that goal. It’s a very good cable that doesn’t tangle simply, and the passive sound isolation of the HM100s means they do a high quality job of suppressing exterior noise and letting you get pleasure from your music.
The one drawback with the thought of those as transportable headphones? They’re comically massive and indiscreet, lending the wearer an old-school robotic look. I’ve a big head, they usually nonetheless look monumental on me; extra petite people may get solely swallowed up by the HM100s. After which there’s additionally the truth that they don’t collapse down. Must you want to transport them with their offered case, it’d occupy the overwhelming majority of any bag you select to make use of.
The sound of the HM100s partially redeems their bodily shortcomings. It’s crisp and devoted to the music, providing a broad soundstage that’s atypical of closed-back headphones of this type. I assume that’s the advantage of having these cavernously deep ear cups. Brainwavz will get fairly near its advertising and marketing promise of studio-quality efficiency, because the HM100s retrieve a number of element. However their tuning isn’t one which I’d encourage anybody engaged on an expert music manufacturing to depend on.
The treble response of the HM100s is a sliver too sturdy. It’s solely a matter of some decibels, however it’s the distinction between a well-balanced sound and one which’s too sharp and shrieking. With a small bump within the mid-bass — which usually supplies a good sweetener to the music — the HM100s are inclined to recess the mids, deadening a number of the most fascinating elements of most genres of excellent music. The last word result’s a sound that feels competent due to its element, however it’s neither correct nor enjoyable sufficient to suggest.
As a lot of an advocate as I’ve been for value-for-money headphones just like the Standing Audio CB-1, I can’t say that the Brainwavz HM100s supply a very good stability of compromises for his or her attainable worth. Not like the CB-1s, which go for fundamental however sturdy and sturdy plastic development, the HM100s try to fail to look and act like a high-end metal-and-leather pair of cans. Brainwavz does a high quality job of getting respectable efficiency out of those headphones. Nonetheless, their ultimate tuning appears unsure as as to whether it’s meant to flatter and excite the informal listener’s ear or do work as an precise studio monitoring headphone.
The Brainwavz HM100s are an instance of a product that’s designed to test off too many bins and, in consequence, doesn’t adequately fill any of them.
Pictures by Vlad Savov / The Verge
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