As a professional audio engineer/technician I have been wearing the same pair of Studio Headphones for over 20 years. The earmuffs are a bit worn out, but the cables and drivers perform as well as they did when I first bought them. Today the nice people at Brainwavz sent out their version of my old reliable industry standard Sony MDR 7506. I’ve got a lot of experience using “flat response” headphones so I will be comparing them to what I know to be a reliable, trustworthy work partner. These Brainwavz HM5 Studio Monitor Headphones have the potential to replace my favorite headphones for work and that’s not an easy task: Let’s check them out!
Why Flat Response matters
Why did Brainwavz make the HM5 Studio Monitor Headphones flat response instead of ??? Most consumer headphones are designed to enhance bass response to create a bigger, boomier, club experience. Most of the Over the ear BT headphones I’ve reviewed in the last year have had that exact frequency enhancement, which is great for listening to pre recorded music. That bass enhancement,which is an artificial “bump” at the low end of the frequency scale, is exactly what makes those types of headphones absolutely inappropriate in studio recording and mixing or live mixing environments. Brainwavz has gone against the current and has created the HM5 Studio Monitor Headphones for the consumer, not the professional engineer or FOH sound guy to give the true experience of the mix as created by the original engineer in the studio, to the home consumer. You will only hear what was recorded, in the way the music was meant to be heard, without any artificial enhancement. These headphones are for the Audio purist, not the Club kidz.
The Box which Rox
The first thing I noticed upon opening the Brainwavz HM5 box was the very well constructed Hard shell case. Everything is tucked away in there. Once I unzipped the sharp black with red trim case, I found an extra pair of earmuffs. That’s a great feature (hint Sony don’t play that game) since over the ear headphones do get beat up when used in an industrial or even some home environments. There is of course the Brainwavz HM5 headphones, as well as two lengths of headphone cables; 1.2 meter cable for jogging or bicycling and a 3 meter cable set for home/studio use. The cables are very well constructed with 3.5mm jacks at both ends. The L/R is marked clearly on each cable, as well as on the HM5 headphones so you can easily push in the cables into the muffs correctly. The connections are all gold plated for best conductivity, and there is an included screw on 1/4 inch stereo jack for sound boards. Note: when pushing the R/L connections into the HM5 Studio Monitor headphones, push until you hear and feel a CLICK. It takes a big of strength to get them in, which ensures the plugs will stay in, too. The cables and the 1/4 inch adaptor are inside a red mesh zippered pouch which is velcroed to the case. Both cables are wrapped with handy velcro straps to keep them separated. Also included in the box is a handy strap for the hard shell case, and the instruction manuals.
The Brainwavz HM5 Studio Monitor Headphones are well constructed and very comfortable. The headphones have an adjustable headband which should fit most consumer’s heads. They have larger than usual drivers of 43 mm but that doesn’t seem to have any effect on the performance when used with less powerful portable devices, or my phone. They are dynamic drivers with 64 Ohm Impedance, and a sensitivity of 105dB rated at 1 mW. The HM5 also have a wide frequency range of 10~26.5KHz. That’s about 10KHz higher than most humans can hear and the frequency response of most consumer headphones. They really seem designed with me in mind.
Bottom to Top High to Low
The Brainwavz HM5 Studio Monitor Headphones are priced in line with most flat response professional headphones and have some nice details which make that $109.50 USD easier to swallow. Brainwavz offers an unusual 2 year manufacturer warranty which is a very good sign for their belief in their product’s durability. If you wish to purchase these headphones at Amazon Brainwavz has several coupons and discounts available, too. A great case, extra earpads, and really well thought out cabling option take the entire package over the top: but the real question for me, and probably you is “Do they sound good?” I spent an entire day listening to these headphones on various devices including a digital studio/mixing board. The Headphone User Guide applies to several different models which have very different features, but it does show one how to replace the ear pads.
Not Falling Flat
Since I first started listening to the Brainwavz HM5 Studio Monitor Headphones I had a bit of a problem getting the right channel to connect properly, but after a few times of removing and replacing the 3.5mm jack into the earpiece, it’s been performing as expected. Probably some crud from the manufacturing process. The first thing I did was plug them into my laptop, went to Iheartradio and put on a Classic Rock Station. Clear separation, and the lack of the bass enhancement is obvious from the first notes. Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight” is really crispy and breathy in a good way. Then I listened to Jazz stations, Classical music and several dozen sound files in my HDD in various sample rates and musical genres including .wav files, .mp3, and .wma. The headphones fit very snugly and there is very little outside noise or sound getting through or interfering with the sound. I am very impressed with the dynamics of the 43mm drivers when listening to Classical music and Jazz. Popular music is usually compressed or normalized to remove those amazing moments from the performance. With the right input/sample rate, etc these can get VERY loud so be careful as with any headphone or earbud.
I Can’t Lie
I sat listening to the biggest variety of music genres and sample rates for hours. The Brainwavz HM5 Studio Monitor Headphones performed exactly as intended: Flat response drivers giving amazingly open stereo imaging and really smooth dynamics when playing Jazz or Classical music. I didn’t find any noticeable ear fatigue from the reasonably lightweight over the ear headphones. When playing my digital music collection in several devices including tablets, laptops and my phone, the performance was unmistakably clear and crispy with great highs and lows but no frequency enhancement. My musical taste runs from the most airy classical arrangements to the crunchiest metal and pretty much anything in between and the HM5 headphones performed brilliantly no matter to what I was listening. I plugged them into a small mixing board and used several input devices including a Shure Beta SM58 microphone, a Fender Strat and an Guild Electromatic Bass guitar. The 1/4 inch adaptor is essential when connecting to any professional sound board so thanks Brainwavz for including it in the package. Unlike many cheaper adapters, the HM5 headphones have the high end screw on adapter which like the rest of the cable jacks is gold plated for conductivity. In the Studio the 3 meter length cable comes in handy and is just the right length for track monitoring. My mic sounds perfect just as it should. Crystal clear, with great dynamics and presence without any weird effects. I added a guitar to the mix and heard great seperation when panning from right to left or leaving the instrument/mic in spatial relationships. The more I played the various instruments the more I noticed the sweat around my ears from the earpieces but that’s typical for over the ears headphones.
Finally We See
The Brainwavz HM5 Studio Monitor Headphones are just that. Studio monitor capable headphones. If you desire to hear the music as it was designed and created in the studio in your home, or when jogging around the neighborhood or on your treadmill, these headphones supply that experience and more. Flexible cable lengths, gold coated connections, spare earpads, a great case and of course that 1/4 inch adaptor bring them closer to what I like in a headphone: Versatility. The last pair of headphones I had with replaceable parts, earpads and cables were Sennheiser HD 414s in the 1980s. Nothing lasts forever. The 2 year warranty is double most manufacturer warranties. They are more bulky than my regular studio headphones and don’t fold up, so I will still be using my Sony’s for years to come on the road. In in my home studio I would be proud, and confident to hand these to any musician working with me that day that what he’s hearing is what we got in the can. These HM5 headphones are worth the money and as I stated earlier: the Amazon linked page has several discount codes and coupons. 9.0 out of ten. Thanks Brainwavz!!
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*Average price is based on the time this article was published
- Neutral sound signature
- Accuracy & Clarity
- Large, comfortable over the ear cups
- Transducers/Drivers: Closed dynamic, 42 mm
- Rated Impedance: 64 Ohm
- Sensitivity: 105 dB at 1 mW
- Frequency range: 10 Hz ~ 26.5KHz
- Rated input power: 100 mW
- Plug(s): 3.5 mm gold plated
- Cable length: 1.3 m
- Cable length: 3 m
- Warranty (24 Months)
- Headphone Hardcase (Large)
- Spare Pair of Earpads
- 1.3 m Detachable Cable
- 3.0 m Detachable Cable
- ¼” Adaptor
- Instruction Manual
- Warranty card (24 Months)
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