Fresh off the factory line for 2017 are the new Brainwavz B100 and B150 balanced armature earphones, both featuring single balanced armature drivers, with different tuning characteristics and price points. Balanced armature drivers are capable of producing highly detailed sound, but only for the frequency range that they have been tuned too, unlike dynamic drivers which can handle the entire frequency range well enough.
Today, we’ll be looking at the B100, which is positioned as an entry point for anyone looking to get their feet wet with balanced armature earphones. The B100 is tuned for “well-rounded” sound, focusing on vocals and controlled bass. It's priced at Rs. 4,199, so let’s see if it can be a good investment.
The Brainwavz B100 is designed to be worn only over the ears, so you’ll have to make that extra bit of effort. The main housings have an unusual crescent shape but none of that matters as they are extremely comfortable once you slip them into your ears.
The housings are plastic, which helps in keeping weight down, but doesn't convey the premium look and feel of metal. The 1.3m cable is long enough for use when at your desk or when travelling. The cable has a simple rubber sheathing over its OFC (Oxygen-free Copper) core. There’s an L-shaped 3.5mm plug at one end, which is gold plated.
Brainwavz gives you six sets of silicone ear tips (two each for small, medium, and large sizes) and one set of Comply foam tips (T-100) which is part of its isolation series for blocking out ambient sound. There's also a shirt clip, a velcro cable tie, a hard case that can accommodate all accessories. The case is well built and provides ample protection for the earphones.
In terms of specifications, the B100s feature a single balanced armature driver in each earbud with a rated impedance of 50 Ohms, frequency range of 15Hz to 22,000Hz and sensitivity of 110dB at 1mW.
Earphone casings can have multiple balanced armature drivers, each tuned to a different frequency range, but that drives up the cost. We tested the B100 with a Xonar U7 DAC plugged into a laptop, and also on an HTC 10 with its BoomSound enhancement switched off. Our test material included a mix of FLAC and MP3 files, and audio streamed from Apple Music.
The first thing we noticed is that the B100 doesn't sound very open, and that takes some getting used to. However, fire up a vocal-heavy track and these earphones really come into their own. The detail in the mid-range is crisp and there’s good separation of instruments too. At higher volumes, we noticed the background instruments tended to overshadow the vocals a bit. Chris Martin’s vocal prowess in Amazing Day is handled with good warmth and depth, and the same goes for Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car and Zero 7’s Destiny.
We didn’t notice any unusual spikes in the higher frequency ranges as the Brainwavz B100 didn't get too shrill even when the volume level was raised. In Michael Jackson’s Dangerous had the right temperament, with individual instruments being clearly identifiable. Bass is controlled well but there’s a clear lack of extension, which is to be expected. In songs like Down by Marian Hill, the bass has a nice kick but lacks the satisfying longevity that dynamic drivers offer. Having said that, we never found the bass getting too muddy or cannibalising the other frequencies.
The B100 also happens to be one of the most comfortable pairs of earphones we’ve comes across recently. Due to its over-the-ear design, you barely feel it once you put it on. The Comply foam ear tips do a fantastic job of isolating ambient noise, and we recommend swapping the silicone tips out for these immediately. The cable feels durable enough for everyday use, although it does tangle easily. We were able to drive these earphones easily using the HTC 10 as we didn't feel the need for any amplification.
The Brainwavz B100 is priced at Rs. 4,199, which is not bad for a pair of balanced armature earphones. It also has a 2-year warranty. The B100 is extremely comfortable to wear even for prolonged durations, can produce excellent details in the mid-range, and ships with very effective foam tips.
For the price, we would have liked metal housings for the drivers. Also, the B100 won’t excite you very much if you’re a bass-head. For those who want to go one step up, Brainwavz sells the B150 for Rs. 7,499, which also features single balanced armatures but a lower impedance rating, and is supposed to have a more balanced sonic signature.
Price (MRP): Rs. 4,199
Ratings (Out of 5)