Brainwavz, a company started in 2008 with a goal to “to bring real earphones to real users at realistic prices”. A commendable goal, let’s see how Brainwavz measures up to that goal today with their Brainwavz S3 In-Ear Monitors.
Build and Design: 8.5/10
The Brainwavz S3 shouts premium right from the box packaging to the actual product. You have a box that is well designed that explains everything at one glance. The flap itself has a light magnetic strip that ensures it shuts properly.
I love it when manufacturers make it clear about how their product works without any nasty surprises. Brainwavz from the very beginning makes it clear that the S3 remote functions can only be used with Apple iOS devices whereas with Android devices you can expect only the middle pause or receive call button to work. While this is an inconvenience, I love the clarity, the effort and the presence in which this is displayed for the customer. Brainwavz could’ve just gone with a simple line “Works with Apple devices only” and be done with it, but they didn’t. Commendable!
The earphones look really smart with their silver, red and black finish. The silver comes from the all metal housing with clearly marked R + L earphones. The default ear tips with red and transparent look go really well with the overall design.
The cable is of the flat, tangle free variety and is “made with high purity OFC copper wiring at its core”. The inline remote buttons are made to be operated without looking having buttons with clear protruded markings on it. The 3.5mm jack though quite sturdy isn’t L-shaped for the sake of compactness.
Quite a lot actually. You have a wonderful little hard case box to store your earphones in, a velcro cable tie, a shirt clip and a crazy number of ear tips choices.
If you always complained of improper ear tips; with the Brainwavz S3, you’d be spoilt for choice. You not only have S, M, L sizes of Silicone transparent ear tips, you have all 3 sizes repeated once again in a slightly firmer black variety. You even have weirdly shaped Bi-Flange and Tri-Fangle ear tips for those who are comfortable with these kinds of ear tips. Of course, you also get the premium Comply ear tips that come in a separate packet.
Overall, the sound of these earphones is really good. You can clearly hear the recordings, the nuances or even the little fumbles quite well.
The kind of sound that the S3's naturally incline towards is vocals and acoustic sounds, this very well comes out in Loreena McKennitt - Dante's Prayer. Everything sounded beautiful but there was a distinct lack of bass. Older recordings work really well on these sets, songs from The Beatles for example, which lacked deep bass. These sounded very clean and a lot nicer than on my Audio Technica ATH-M50s headphones.
While the mids, the highs and the clarity are really enjoyable, it's the bass section that really brings this set down. By lack, I don’t mean bad, but the bass lacks punch, lacks that low impact in songs. The absence of this is most felt when listening to rock, pop, rap, hip hop, or techno.
Fiddling with the EQ can bring back some of the bass however, but purists shun the very thought.
Interestingly, the included premium Comply foam tips bring a different sound signature to these earphones. The sound does get more bass (yay!) but at the cost of some clarity and crisp highs (bummer). The Comply premium foam tips did not improve the sound but just changed it; I personally much preferred the regular silicone tips.
Also, the Comply premium foam tips did not feel as durable after some use. Swapping the tips back and forth resulted in visible wear and tear, which is disappointing. When checking the manual, apparently it's recommendeded to replace these just “after 3 months of regular use”. Wow, talk about premium lack of durability!
Call Quality: 8/10
Call quality is good. Voices all sound fine and no distortion is picked up by the mic unnecessarily. Unfortunately, the quality is more limited by the network rather than the capability of the earphones so don't expect to hear your better half's dulcet tones in all their glory over a call.
Verdict and Price in India
Would I recommend these? Yes and no. Yes because these are really good earphones and there is a lot of thought and value that has gone into the whole package. For those who want clean and clear sound, the S3’s will not fail to impress. As for bass, that can be balanced with the right EQ settings.
Those who just want to listen to good earphones with bass and don’t want to spend as much as S3’s asking price, you are better off with Brainwavz' own M1 or Jive earphones, which should suit most people.