I have been reviewing Brainwavz products for a while now. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are many folks out there who are still oblivious to the brand. While Brainwavz does not have the marketing might or the advertising budget of bigger brands like Bose, Skullcandy, or Sennheiser, it definitely has some great audio products. In the context of the consumer — i.e. you — what could be more important?
The veiled rant aside, let me just emphasize that Brainwavz makes great sounding earphones that are generally affordable. The Brainwavz Delta, which costs ₹1,599, has been one of my favourite earphones, and I have recommended the same to many of my friends and acquaintances. Recently, the company sent across a review unit of their recent launch in India – the Brainwavz S1. It promises great noise isolation and great audio quality. Let’s find out if it can stay true to its claims.
Brainwavz S1: Design and specifications
With the S1, Brainwavz has tried to differentiate itself from your run-of-the-mill earphone design. In the process, it has ended up making an awkward-looking (and feeling) earphone which might not necessarily go down well with everyone.
The earphones have an aluminium enclosure, which is fine, but it is too large even for my big ears. Moreover, the sound pipe is attached to the body at an angle, making the S1 pop out of the ears more often than I would have ideally liked. What is the point of the great noise isolation claim, if the earphones don’t fit snugly? Having said that, for the duration that the Brainwavz S1 actually manage to stay in my ear, they managed to drown out most of the ambient noise, especially at high volumes. I suggest using the bundled comply foam tip, not only to extract the best sound quality from the S1, but also to ensure a fairly secure fit.
The flat cables, though, are a nice addition because they don’t get tangled easily. However, a rather bulky remote sits on the left cable and weighs down the earphones even more. There are tiny buttons to play/pause music, volume up, and volume down. The flat cable terminates at a 3.5mm gold plug at the end. The plug is not L-shaped, which is a bit of a letdown.
Internally, the S1 uses two 10mm drivers for the audio that can achieve a frequency range of 20Hz to 20KHz. It has a rated impedance of 16ohms, which means that even smartphones and regular digital audio players can power it without any hassle; the S1 doesn’t necessarily need a dedicated amp. On paper, the specifications are pretty impressive, not that it matters much anyway because the sound quality is mostly independent of the tech specs of the earphones.
Brainwavz S1: Performance
Let’s start with the ‘noise isolation’ on the S1: it is so good that even at 40 percent of the volume most of the ambient sound vanished. This is the case provided you find the right tips to ensure a secure fit, like I mentioned earlier.
For testing purposes, I hooked up the S1 to my iPhone 6 and my MacBook Air. I tested tracks across various genres to test the fidelity of the earphones. They included, Hozier’s rock balled Take Me To Church, EDM superhit I’m an Albatraoz by AronChupa, Dave Brubeck’s jazz sensation Take Five, and The Blower’s Daughter by Damien Rice.
The first thing I noticed on the S1 is that it doesn’t sound anything like the Brainwavz Delta or the Brainwavz Jive, which is to say that it doesn’t have the sound signature I’ve come to expect from the company’s products. While the detail and clarity in sound is present, the instrument separation or ‘imaging’ is almost negligible – a trait that is really impressive on Delta. The upper-mid frequencies are extremely sharp on the S1 so much so that at times it tends to overpower other frequencies. Moreover, the bass performance is generally loose and doesn’t have the punch you hear on earphones like the SoundMagic E10 or the Sennheiser CX 300 II.
It’s not all bad though; the S1’s detail and clarity are good for lovers of jazz and classical music. Also, if you listen to a lot of modern day pop, the S1 should serve you well. Although, listeners of EDM might want something with a bit more bite in the bass response. Finally, the microphone on the S1 works fine for phone calls and I have no complaints.
Brainwavz S1: Verdict
The Brainwavz S1 is available for ₹3,199 and to be perfectly honest, it feels overpriced for the performance it offers. The S1 is probably the first Brainwavz product that has left me slightly disappointed with its performance and fit. I think competing products like the Sennheiser CX 3.00, CX 300 II, SoundMagic E10, and the Sony MDR-XB70AP, offer slightly better performance and value-for-money. Heck, even Brainwavz’s very own Delta — which costs exactly half – ₹1,599 to be precise — sounds considerably better than the S1.