Just on three months ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing Brainwavz’s B400 IEM – a quad BA in a 3D printed shell for $190-$275 (depending on your choice of cables and colour). It took me back to the days when Brainwavz were on a high with the B2 – a dual hybrid with incredible sound (an IEM I absolutely loved). The B400 was a different tuning – well extended, nicely balanced signature, but with a polite lower treble. For the price and its technical capability, I had no hesitation in grading it a 5 star IEM.
Shortly after its release, Pandora advised me that they were going to redo their B200 with the same 3D printed shells, and asked if I’d be interested in hearing them. I didn’t get a chance to take part in the B200 V1 review round – but evidently it met with positive feedback from a lot of people on Head-Fi. Two of my favourite IEMs are both dual BA. So lets see how good these are ……
Brainwavz Audio was formed in 2008 as a subsidiary of GPGS Hong Kong. Their goal has always been to develop a full range of audio solutions (mostly earphones and headphones) that cater for a variety of different tastes, uses and price brackets. They originally started with predominantly OEM designs from other companies, and more recently have been working to develop their own stand-alone products.
In their own words:
At Brainwavz we have a simple mission, to produce innovative, high quality audio products with a dedicated focus on high-end sound. Our strength, success and product range is built on the unique relationship with our customers. A relationship that has produced a simple and obvious result, we give real users real sound quality.
The Brainwavz B200 V2 IEM that I’m reviewing today was provided to me gratis as a review sample (outside normal tours etc). Pandora has asked me for my subjective opinion and feedback, with no restrictions or caveats. Brainwavz have asked me to keep it for my personal use, or for follow up comparisons, and I thank them for this. The retail price at time of review for the basic model is ~USD 120. Additional upgrade cables can be purchased at time of ordering for $30-$55
If you haven’t read any of my reviews, I suggest starting here, as it will give you an insight into my known preferences and bias.
For the purposes of this review – I used the Brainwavz B200 V2 straight from the headphone-out socket of many of my portables, but predominantly the X5iii, X3iii, X7ii and my iPhone. I did not generally further amp them (I did test them with my Q1ii, XRK-NHB, and E17K), as IMO they do not benefit greatly from additional amplification (YMMV and it may depend on your source). I did spend some considerable time with the XRK-NHB (more on that later). In the time I have spent with the B200 V2, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (break-in). Time spent now with the IEM would be approximately 25-30 hours.
This is a purely subjective review – my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt – especially if it does not match your own experience.
The Brainwavz B200 V2 arrived in an approximately 93mm x 165mm x 45mm retail box with “B200” in embossed red text on a black background. Inside the retail outer is a plastic tray with the longer Brainwavz carry case. Inside this are the B200V2 and the accessory package.
- 1 pair B200 IEMs
- 3.5mm MMCX stereo cable
- 2.5mm MMCX balanced cable
- Brainwavz carry case
- 2 sets of silicone ear tips (S M L)
- 1 set of Comply™ foam tips T-100 Red
- 1 shirt clip
- 1 x velcro cable tie
- Instruction manual & warranty card (24 month warranty)
THE TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
|Model||Brainwavz B200 V2|
|Approx price||$120 – 175 USD (depends on cable options)|
|Type||Dual driver IEM|
|Drivers||Dual Balanced Armature|
|Driver Config||1 x woofer, 1 x tweeter|
|Freq Range||12Hz – 22kHz|
|Sensitivity||110 dB at 1 mW|
|Cable Connection||Standard MMCX|
|Cable Type(s)||SE and Bal ~1.25m, OFC with standard MMCX connector|
|Cable Type (Bal)||~1.25m, OFC with standard MMCX connector|
|Jack||Gold plated, 45 deg angled, 3.5mm SE and 2.5mm Bal|
|Weight (B200 + cable + tips)||~16g|
|Casing material||UV Resin (3D printed)|
The graphs I use are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. Ken Ball (ALO/Campfire) graciously provided me with measurement data which I have used to recalibrate my Veritas so that it mimics an IEC 711 measurement standard (Ken uses two separate BK ear simulators, we measured the same set of IEMs, and I built my calibration curve from shared data). I do not claim that this data is 100% accurate, but it is very consistent, and is as close as I can get to the IEC 711 standard on my budget. I suspect it is slightly down at around 9-10 kHz, but seems reasonably accurate through the rest of the spectrum.
I do not claim that the measurements are in any way more accurate than anyone else’s, but they have been proven to be consistent and I think they should be enough to give a reasonable idea of response – especially if you’ve followed any of my other reviews. When measuring I usually always use crystal foam tips (medium bore opening) – and the reason I use them is for very consistent seal and placement depth in the coupler. For the B200 V2 I had to use Shure Olives simply because of the nozzle size, and to ensure a consistent seal. I use the same amp (E11K) for all my measurements – and output is under 1 ohm.
The graphs are provided merely as a point of discussion, and later in the review I’ve included comparisons to other IEMs for similar reference.
Channel matching is extremely good (practically perfect) on the tweeter BA driver from 1 kHz up. Unfortunately the woofer BA is out slightly and on my pair is noticeable with some tracks.
The Brainwavz B200 has a traditional peanut or jelly bean ergonomic shape, and one which is adopted by most manufacturers when they really want a small and completely ergonomic in ear monitor. It is very much a slightly smaller version of the B400 and also reminds me a little of the MEE P1 or Shure standard housings. The B200 V2 I have is clear (or frosty) standard shell, and as far as I am aware is not being offered in other colours (at this stage). It is 3D printed into two halves using the same type of resin usually used for Custom IEMs. These are then populated with the BA drivers, crossover, filters, MMCX socket and joined to become the final earpiece.
The shell is approx 20mm across, 12mm high and 11-12mm deep at its widest point. It is very light, but feels quite resilient. The shell is translucent, and you can clearly see the armatures inside. There is no text on either shell apart from an “L” or “R” adjacent to the MMCX sockets. Apart from that, the only other noticeable point is a small pressure release hole on the internal side next to the L/R indicators.
The shell join is pretty seamless over most of this pair of B200 V2, and there isn’t the same “ridging” that I had on the prototype B400 I reviewed. Both the internal and external surface areas are well rounded with gentle ridges and valleys designed to perfectly fit with the main contours of your ear.
The nozzle protrudes slightly forward and slightly up from the front of the IEM and extends approx 6mm from the main body. It has an external diameter of approx 4mm, a generous lip, but is very small – and takes a Comply T100 tip. The lip really helps being able to use some larger tip sizes, but overall many of the larger tips I have simply won’t fit (more on that later).
At the top rear of the B200 V2 shell is a recessed standard MMCX socket. The socket is firm with both included cables and requires a firm hand to change them.
There are 2 cables included, one single ended and one balanced. The single ended is OFC and features formable ear-guides (which work pretty well for me), and a twisted pair of wires (with PVC sheath) to the y-split. The Y-split is made of flexible black rubber, with good strain relief and a cinch. Below the Y-split, the two twisted pairs become a heavier twisted pair (again wrapped in PVC sheath) as the channels are wrapped around each other. The balanced cable is basically a mirror of the single -ended, except with a 2.5mm jack. Both balanced and single ended jack are ~45 deg angled and have very good strain relief. The cables are pretty flexible and only have mild residual memory. There is slight microphonic transfer with both cables, but this can be alleviated by using the cinch.
FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION
Isolation is generally good with the B200 V2 but ultimately will depend on the tips you use and how good the seal is. The other dual BAs I own (Curve and q-Jays) do ultimately isolate far better, but these will be good enough for most people for public transport. I would guess (based on my experience with the B400) that these should be OK on a flight – eliminating most cabin noise and having the music mask the rest of the ambient drone.
Fit and comfort thoughts are more subjective, and will vary from person to person, and my experience has been one of complete satisfaction. As I mentioned earlier, the B200 V2 has been designed for a completely ergonomic fit. For me they are a perfect, sit flush with my outer ear, and basically disappear within a few seconds of wearing (I could forget they are in). I have slept with them intact, and woken hours later with them still there and no discomfort. The lack of hard edges and the smooth finish contribute to an extremely positive experience. The B200 V2 is designed to only be used cable over ear.
The B200 V2 has an excellent lip on the nozzle, but has quite a skinny nozzle width (similar to Shures SE series). I’ve tried Spiral Dots, Spin-fits, Ostry tuning tips and Sony Isolation tips, and unfortunately while they fit, it was somewhat loose, and I’d leave tips in my ears. The included Comply 100 tips fit the nozzle well, but are too narrow for my big dumbo ear canals. The included silicones would not seal, but I did have plenty of options with a lot of generic small tips I’ve collected over the years.
The one tip I do have and which tends to fit me extremely well with shallower fitting IEMs is the Shure Olives. They are perfectly sized for the nozzle, long lasting, and provide a great seal.
Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my X7ii, no EQ, and Shure Olive tips. I used the X7ii simply because paired they not only gave me a very transparent window to the music with low impedance, and more than enough power – but also allowed me to use the balanced option. There was no EQ engaged.
For the record – on most tracks, the volume level on the X7ii (paired with AM3a) was around 35-40 Balanced or 50-55/120 Single Ended (on low gain) which was giving me an average SPL around 65-75 dB. Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list https://www.head-fi.org/f/articles/brookos-test-tracks.17556/
- Sub-bass – rolls off early and is just barely audible (sits well in the background). No real rumble, and no sense of impact.
- Mid-bass – elevated compared to sub-bass and has a very slight mid-bass hump. Impact is light (probably because of the missing sub-bass), and I would describe the bass overall as “polite”. There is some good quality mid-bass there (quick and very clean), and if you like a lighter more mid-focussed signature these may appeal.
- Lower mid-range – very slightly recessed compared to bass and upper treble, but not enough to make vocals distant. Male and female vocal fundamentals are good – with nice weight and overall timbre.
- Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, and there is a very even rise from 1 kHz to the first peak at just over 2kHz. Cohesive transition from lower to upper-mids, and very good euphony for female vocals (the upper mid-range is close to perfect for female vocals IMO).
- Lower treble has a nice overall balance throughout, and is reasonably linear throughout. There is the tiniest bump at 7 kHz which gives good clarity with cymbal strikes, and the subsequent decay is also very good. Because the bass impact is lacking, the lower treble is perfect in this context – smooth but also has good detail.
- Upper treble rolls extends quite well with some decent “air”, but is pretty difficult to capture properly on my budget measurements set-up, and with my “aged” hearing I’d be lucky to notice much over 13-14 kHz anyway.
Resolution / Detail / Clarity
- Clarity overall is really good. Upper-mids and lower treble have enough emphasis to give guitars bite and definition. Micro details are quite evident and this is likely due to the light bass presence.
- Cymbal hits have good clarity and presence but aren’t emphasised and sit quite nicely within the overall mix. Decay is brilliant, and trails off nicely after the cymbal strike.
- Directional queues are good – clean and clear without being over emphasised. Presentation of stage is just on the periphery of my head space with binaural tracks, so not what I would call expansive.
- Lately I’ve been using Lakme’s “Flower Duet” – an excellent live recording which has two sopranos (Netrebko and Garanca) moving to the rear of the stage at the end of the song, and continuing the last chorus from there. This gives me a good medium to capture the impression of stage depth. The B200 captured the transition quite well – a nice ability to present change of stage depth (good imaging).
- The applause section of the same track showed a very good sense of immersion (the sound of the audience flowing around me), and the tonality gave a reasonable touch of realism. Width and depth seems nicely matched.
- “Let it Rain” (Amanda Marshall) gave a nice 3 dimensional feel (the way it is miked) with extremely good guitar definition and nice overall clarity. There was the usual sibilance with Amanda’s vocals – and it should be there because its in the recording, but it wasn’t over done. By now I had to reset my ears as the lighter bass was starting to sound normal – and its quite amazing how good the B200 V2 sounds when you adjust to the overall signature.
- Overall tonality and reasonable (but overall lean) balance of the frequency range.
- Very good imaging and a nice (if slightly intimate) sense of staging.
- Very nice cohesion with lower and upper register vocals
- Good for both female and male vocals.
- Balance between mid-range and lower treble is a real strength.
- The sub-bass is quite clearly deficient / subdued, which is a real pity, because if it was linear, the B200 would be an incredible monitor.
The Brainwavz B200 V2 doesn’t need amplification for overall volume – and because its impedance isn’t overly low, any source with an output impedance of less than 3-4 ohms (to meet damping requirements) should pair OK.
With my iPhone SE around 35-45% volume is more than enough with most tracks, and the FiiOs are generally at around 45-55/120 single ended. I tried the B200 V2 with the Q1ii, A5, E17K and XRK-NHB, but noticed no real differences in dynamics on any except for the XRK-NHB. The second order harmonics with the XRK-NHB were very enjoyable and did tend to add perceptually more weight to the mid-bass (harmonic warmth) which I thought really suited the slightly cool and lean B200.
None of the amps seemed to be adding additional quality (compared to the non-amped DAPs), but what both the Q1ii and A5 were able to add was there hardware bass boost, and this really did add some quite nice impact. The B200 V2 is an easy IEM to drive though, and I think amping (while not necessary) might be the easy choice for hardware EQ tweaks.
RESPONSE TO EQ?
By now you already know where I consider the B200’s weakness to be – that pesky sub-bass. I’d already shown what hardware bass boost would do, so it was time to bring the E17Ks tone controls into play. Even a +4dB bass boost was enough to put more than enough warmth back into the signature, and in my humble opinion completed the overall balance. Using the X7ii’s built in EQ was an even better result, enabling me to initiate more of a change to the sub-bass only.
In reality though, I can get used to the default signature quite quickly – but its nice to know that those wanting a more warmth can do so easily and quickly.
BALANCED VS SINGLE ENDED
I measured these, and there was no difference with the X7ii’s AM3a amplifier module apart from volume. Even the slight change in impedance wasn’t enough to change the overall frequency response. I’m not a great believer in the adage that balanced makes a huge difference. Yes, if the implementation is vastly different you can sometimes notice a difference, but more often than not the changes to cross-talk are already below the audible barrier, and most modern set-ups don’t have crosstalk issues anyway. Its nice to have the option – but sonically I don’t hear any benefits. If you volume match properly, I doubt you will either.
COMPARISON WITH OTHER IEMS
These comparisons were all done with the X7ii, (no EQ) – and volume matched using a calibrated SPL meter and fixed 1kHz test tone first.
For the comparisons I chose the B400 (Brainwavz current flagship), the two other dual BAs I have (q-Jays and Curve), the FiiO FH1 and Meze 12 Classic. This gave a good mix of value, driver configuration and price band.
Brainwavz B200 V2 (~USD 119) vs FiiO FH1 (~USD 75)
The FiiO FH1 is a dual hybrid IEM, which (like the B200 V2) has a very ergonomic design, is very comfortable, and comes with both SE and balanced removable cables. In terms of overall comfort, build, fit etc – this is a pretty even match. The FH1’s finish does look slightly more professional – but that would be splitting hairs.
Sonically the two might look similar on a graph, but are fairly different when in the ear. The difference is of course in the lower and sub-bass where the FH1 has a lot more extension and this translates into a deeper, warmer, richer signature. Both have a similar mid-range, and very similar treble also. To me, the FH1 overall frequency balance is better (even though I’d prefer slightly less overall bass). And when you factor the price difference, and the similarity in build and comfort, I do think the FH1 is the better option (unless you prefer a very neutral/lean bass).
Brainwavz B200 V2 (~USD 119) vs Meze 12 Classic (~USD 79)
The Meze 12 Classic is a single dynamic IEM, which is small comfortable, and shares a pretty similar overall signature. The 12 Classic is comfortable when worn (due to its size), but the B200 V2 is more comfortable, has better ergonomics, and has the benefit of the replaceable cables (the 12 Classic cable is fixed). Both have good build quality.
Both have a very similar sonic signature with neutral/lean bass, slightly elevated upper mid-range and reasonably good extension on the treble without it being highlighted. The B200 V2 sounds slightly thicker through the mid-range, and also has a little less lower treble energy. The 12 Classic in turn has a little lower end impact. The two sound very similar – smooth and slightly lean/bright. In this comparison the two are variations of a common theme. The question is if the B200’s superior fit and replaceable cables are worth the extra outlay – and that will alrgely depend on an individual’s budget and intended use.
Brainwavz B200 V2 (~USD 119) vs Brainwavz B400 (~USD 179+)
I can make this fairly quick. The B400 is Brainwavz’ current flagship quad BA IEM. It is also 3D printed, and the actual shell design is pretty much an exact replica of the B200 V2 (just very slightly larger to accommodate the two extra drivers). Everything else is pretty similar, although you do get a few more accessories with the B400.
In terms of sound, this is a similar situation to the FH1 comparison. The main difference is in the lower and sub-bass again, with the B400 having more extension, and a warmer overall signature. The mid-range on the B400 is also a touch less forward than the B200 V2, and the overall signature is warmer, but also a little more effortless. The obvious question is if the B400 is worth the extra $50, and IMO te answer is definitely yes. For its price, the B400 (in my humble opinion) is one of the best buys currently in the sub $200 category.
Brainwavz B200 V2 (~USD 119) vs Alclair Curve (~USD 250)
This is the first of the dual BA vs dual BA comparisons. The Curve from Alclair is easily the most comfortable and ergonomic monitor I own. When worn they simply disappear. In terms of overall build quality the two are close, with the Curve having slightly better finish aesthetically. The Curve comes with one x 2 pin cable, but it is arguably better quality than the two from Brainwavz.
The Curve is also one of the most balanced monitors I have, with superb extension at both ends, but it is also ever so slightly on the cool side of strictly neutral (probably one of the reasons I like it so much). The bass is there when you need it, but never dominates. Switching between the two, the B200 V2 is both leaner (in terms of impact), and also more coloured (vivid – but clearly emphasised) in the mid-range. The Curve is a little brighter in the lower treble, but this can be easily managed through the use of different tips (Comply tend to cut the 7 kHz small peak).
So is the Curve worth double the admission price of the B200 V2? This is again down to preference. For me the Curve sounds a lot more natural – both with vocals and in term of instruments. The B200 V2 is easy to get used to with its lighter bass and more euphonic mid-range. For me though, the Curve is closer to my individual preferences, and worth the extra outlay.
Brainwavz B200 V2 (~USD 119) vs Jays q-Jays (~USD 289)
Now we get to the second of the dual BA vs dual BA match ups. The q-Jays from Jays Audio is a diminutive dual BA with exceptional design , build quality, and because of its size – fit and comfort. The q-Jays has replaceable proprietary cables which are great quality, but do not come with a balanced option. Overall on build quality, fit, design and aesthetics, the q-Jays are a class ahead, but the B200 is not that far behind, which is very good considering the price difference.
Like the Curve, the q-Jays have a very balanced overall signature, but this time with comparatively more bass extension, and actually sound slightly warmer than the Curve, and definitely warmer than the B200 V2 (which sounds quite this and lean in comparison). Again, when quickly switching, the B200 V2 is comparatively both leaner and also more coloured, with the mid-range sounding quite airy and definitely coloured. The q-Jays do have a 7 kHz peak which some have found problematic (I don’t), but this is easily managed by slightly deeper insertion (it cuts any sibilance).
So again are the q-Jays worth more than double the admission price of the B200 V2? Again this will depend on budget and preference. I really like the q-Jays for their natural tonality, and when A/Bing it is easy for me to pick the q-Jays as closer to my overall preference. But in isolation, the B200 V2 is again quite easy to get used to with its lighter bass and more euphonic mid-range.
This is a tough one to grade. The B200 V2 has a lot going for it in terms of overall build, comfort, accessories, and even its default signature. Yes its bass light, and IMO this is a flaw, but its also an easy fix. I could say the FH1 is better overall value, and it is – but its also exceptional for its price range. The B200 V2 represents above average total value when you look at the total package, and for someone who really appreciates a lighter bass presentation, that value will grow.
BRAINWAVZ B200 V2 – SUMMARY
Its always harder reviewing the flagship of a range first, and then the lower or mid-range offering afterwards. Especially when the flagship is a very good performer like the B400. The good news is that Brainwavz have kept many of the good parts of the B400 (excellent mid-range, well designed and ergonomic shell, good accessory package).
The B200 is comfortable to wear, and its build is pretty good for a sub $150 IEM. The cables are replaceable, and you get a balanced cable as well as single ended. The mid-range is exceptional, and there is some pretty good treble extension without being overbearing. The main issue is that they are noticeably bass light, and for many this will be a turn off. What I did find though was that in isolation (just using the B200 exclusively), once your brain adjusts, they are still a really nice overall signature. And if you use an amp with a hardware bass boost, this can add to the sub-bass that the drivers aren’t delivering.
While they aren’t (to me anyway) massive bargains at their asking RRP, they still represent pretty good value overall, and if you like a lighter, leaner, more mid-focussed signature – chances are these will tick most of your boxes.
For me personally, I think the FiiO FH1 represents better overall value, and I’d probably also look at the Simgot EN700 Pro as another sub $150 value proposition with a pretty nice signature. But definitely its worth the extra money to go straight to the B400.
My thanks once again to Pandora and the team at Brainwavz for their continued faith in me as a reviewer. You have a pretty good IEM here, and one that will definitely appeal to lovers of a lighter signature.
|B200 V2||My Score||Out of||Weighting||Weighted Score|