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Brainwavz B100: An amazing Budget Single-BA IEM - [Review] 🇬🇧

Prolog;

Dies ist meine englische Rezension des Brainwavz B100. Die deutsche Fassung kann hier gefunden werden: http://kopfhoerer-lounge.blogspot.com/2017/01/Brainwavz-B100-Review.html

Preamble:

It is finally happening – Brainwavz Audio is making in-ears with Balanced Armature drivers again.
After they were introduced to the public few months ago, the two single-BA in-ears B100 and B150 are finally hitting the market.
I already had the pleasure to review and listen to a prototype of the B150 with finalised tuning, and the B100 is the next in the line that I got my ears on.
In what ways do the two in-ears differ? And how do they compare with other single-BA in-ears? This will be found out in the course of this review.


Disclaimer: I was offered a free sample of the B100 in exchange for feedback and an honest, unbiased review. Thank you, Brainwavz Audio and Pandora.


Technical Specifications:

Price: $59.50
Driver: 1x BA per side
Impedance: 50 Ω
Frequency Range: 15 Hz ~ 22 kHz
Sensitivity: 110 dB at 1 mW
Cable: 1.3 m Y-Cord, Over the ear, OFC Copper
Plug: 3.5 mm, Gold plated


Delivery Content:

First and foremost, I really like the new package design with the matte black and glossy red colour as contrast.
Inside, one will find the in-ears, a nice and elongated carrying case with the typical black and red colour scheme, a shirt clip, one pair of red medium Comply Foam tips, two pairs of small silicone tips, two pairs of medium silicone tips and lastly two pairs of large silicone tips.



The case is nice and holds enough room for the in-ears as well as some accessories.
The ear tips are the same as the ones I already know from the B150 pre-production prototype with finalised tuning that I reviewed not long ago, however they are now black instead of read. Since the B100 comes with two pairs of tips of each size, I think it would be nice to have half of them in red which I think is a nice colour contrast to the black shells.


Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

The housings are made of black plastic and carry small Brainwavz labels on the outside, along with side markers on the inside. They seem sturdy and well-made, and are sufficiently small.
The cable below the y-split is twisted and then rubber-coated and appears very sturdy and reliable. While it is flexible, it is still very slightly springy. A chin-slider isn’t missing and apart from directly above the y-split, there is good strain relief.


Comfort, Isolation:


The in-ears are intended to be worn around the ears instead of the more commonly found “cable-down” method that is mainly found on most cheaper in-ears. This guarantees for a more secure fit and less cable noise (microphonics).

Due to their small size, the in-ears will very likely also fit people with smaller ears extremely well.

The fit in my large ears is really good with the B100 and as the ear pieces are closed, outside noise is also blocked out really well.


Sound:

My main source devices for listening were my iBasso DX90 as well as the DX80.

The largest included silicone tips were used for listening and testing.

Tonality:

The B100 doesn’t differ greatly from the B150 that I will compare it to further below, however they differ a bit in two rather important areas wherefore they don’t sound similar.

The B100, roughly speaking, will give you a punchy and tight, kicking upper bass, not that much warmth in the lower midrange that has got just a slight drift to the warmer and darker side, and an overall quite smooth treble that doesn’t smooth out cymbal crashes much but won’t trigger sibilance either.

Compared to a really flat in-ear such as the Etymotic ER-4S, the B100, just as the B150, has got a bit more than 7 dB more bass quantity in my ears with a climax that is mainly located around the upper bass.
Although the bass elevation is mainly found in the lower root and upper bass, it is starting to climb around 650 Hz, reaches its climax around 120, keeps this level down to 80 Hz and then slowly loses quantity towards the sub-bass. It is not a strong roll-off though, so the lower midbass and beginning sub-bass at 40 Hz are still audible with good quantity, however there is not much below 28 Hz anymore.
It is a punchy and kicking upper bass, that, while it won’t satisfy the needs of someone who is looking for a really strong and impactful bottom-end mainly found with most dynamic driver in-ears at this price point, has got quite some impact for a single-BA in-ear and doesn’t sound sterile or boring by any means. The cliché of a thin and bass-light sound from a single-driver Balanced Armature in-ear is definitely not true with the Brainwavz.

The midrange is just slightly on the warmer and darker side and less full compared to the B150’s. I wouldn’t call it coloured, but just say that the upper vocal range takes a step back and therefore darkens this range a bit without making it appear artificial yet.

The middle highs around 5 kHz and the rest until 12 kHz show more presence again, and there even is a moderate elevation I can spot between 12 and 13 kHz when listening to sine sweeps. While cymbals are still a little on the smoother side, which certainly isn’t a bad thing, the elevation in the starting super treble above 12 kHz adds a nice and subtle airiness to the sound.

Resolution:

Let’s make it short here – the B100 sounds nimble and quick, lightweight and detailed, coherent and well-rendered.
As you might notice, the vast majority of the “Resolution” and “Soundstage” part is identical to what I’ve written in my B150 review, which is mainly because I really think that both are pretty much on the same technical level overall.

The bass, while it is not as tight and fast as with some multi-BA in-ears or the Etymotic ER-4S, definitely doesn’t lack speed and is only very slightly (!) on the softer side and still a good bit better controlled and faster than most dynamic driver in-ears. I also hear it as being a little quicker than the B150’s, which is however not true and just an illusion that is at the latest busted when putting both single-driver in-ears side-by-side, and only appears to be like this because the B100 has got the slightly less emphasised lower vocals.

The midrange has got good speech intelligibility and minute detail retrieval, as it can also be expected from a (single-) BA in-ear.

The treble carries good details and good separation that is not elite-level but good for the price. I don’t really miss much.

The sound is, not really surprising, very coherent, wherefore I would also choose the B100 over the dual-BA Apple in-ears, that, while they definitely show an advantage in the midrange and treble in terms of detail retrieval and are a bit more refined overall, don’t sound as coherent as most single-BA in-ears in the low three-digit/high two-digit price range, including the B100 where everything sounds harmonious.
Being someone who personally prefers in-ears with Balanced Armature drivers over those with dynamic drivers (with just a few exceptions and fields of use), the B100 would also be my personal choice over most similarly priced dynamic driver in-ears because of its higher speed and tightness.

Soundstage:

One will neither get a huge nor a small soundstage with the B100. Who still expects single-BA in-ears to sound congested, which is definitely not the case for a good number of models, will probably be a little surprised that the B100 has got a soundstage that I would say is a little larger than average, with a good width-to-depth-ratio and a good presentation of spatial depth. The positioning of instruments is precise and the separation is good, too, and the presentation also appears quite airy while there is not as much air around single instruments as with most higher-end multi-driver in-ears.

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In Comparison with other Single-BA In-Ears:




MEE audio A151 (2nd generation):
The A151, while it is definitely not among the thin sounding single-BA in-ears and carries some warmth and weight in the lows compared to a really flat monitor, has got ca. 3 dB less bass quantity than the B100, as well as somewhat less quantity in the upper treble. The MEE has got the slightly more forward vocal range.
The MEE has got the minimally tighter and faster bass and sounds ever so slightly more refined in the treble, which I am however only able to make out with very strong concentration on minute details and quick switching between both. The B100 is minimally ahead when it comes to midrange details.
The A151’s soundstage is a bit wider and somewhat better separated.

Brainwavz B150:
To make it short, both sound very similar to me, yet they aren’t identical.
Both have got the same bass quantity while the B100’s upper bass kick is subjectively a bit better distinguishable as it has got slightly less quantity in the lower midrange than the B150 that has got the slightly lusher and warmer vocals in comparison. Both in-ears also sound identical to me in the treble, apart from that the B100 outputs more quantity between 12 and 13 kHz, wherefore it appears airier, less laid-back and more direct in comparison.
In terms of resolution, I definitely see both as being on-par.
Both also sound identical to me when it comes to soundstage dimensions with the B100’s being a little airier which can mainly be addressed to it having more quantity in the starting super treble above 10 kHz.

So my impression is that while the tuning difference isn't significant at all, the B150 is better suited for those who want a somewhat warmer and smoother sound whereas the B100 might be the better choice for those who are looking for comparably less warmth in the lower midrange which makes the upper bass appear to kick a bit more, along with a bit more presence in the upper treble.


Conclusion:

I am happy to see Brainwavz Audio making in-ears with Balanced Armature drivers again.
Their B150 that I reviewed recently managed to convince me on the objective side, and so does the B100, its little brother (judging by the price, as both really are more like twins with slight differences).
Nimbleness, coherency, speech intelligibility, airiness and a punchy, kicking and controlled upper bass whose quantity is higher than with most single-BA in-ears but not overpowered are what the B100 delivers.



While I don’t take personal preference into the final rating of any of my reviews, I personally like the B100 more than the B150 because of its lesser warmth in the vocal range and the less smooth upper treble, however I do take value/the price-performance-ratio into account, and the B100 is just about half the price of the B150 with the same technical performance and can stand up very well against the MEE audio A151 (2nd generation) that I consider as the best single-BA in-ear at this price point, so I think unless the extra warmth and smoothness of the B150 are desired, the B100 is the better choice because its lower price. Don’t get me wrong, the B150 is also worth its price, but at about half of it, the B100 just offers the even greater value.

4.5 out of 5 stars.