Brainwavz HM2 headphones

Brainwavz have consistently impressed with their range of very affordable earphones including the M1, R3, S3, S5, and Jive models – all of which had a place and purpose. So, when offered a chance to review the HM2 headphones I obviously said “yes please!” The results were surprising…

Overview

SAMSUNG CSCThe HM2 is a budget, portable headphone and retails for around $70 AUD (based on mp4nation.net pricing). At that price, the HM2s are a very appealing option, especially when you consider some of these features:

  • Hard case for travel
  • Folding design
  • 2 detachable cables (with mic and without mic)

The specifications are nothing exciting, but specifications rarely are exciting:

  • Drivers:  40mm dynamic
  • Impedance:  32ohm
  • Frequency range:  10 – 20,000Hz
  • Sensitivity:  104dB at 1mW

So, with nothing more to go on than Brainwavz’ excellent track record with earphones and a list of promising features and “normal” specifications, I opened the box to see what the HM2s had to offer.

Design & Comfort

And here’s where it went all wrong…

Brainwavz HM2 inside cupsThe HM2 are the first of Brainwavz’ products to disappoint me. Sure, there only $70 headphones, but they feel cheap in a lot of ways. They look great, but they don’t feel how they look. The earpads rattle around a bit and feel sort of flimsy, and the ear cups themselves are made of a very cheap-feeling vinyl and are too thin to seal properly against the head (even with average-sized ears). This results in a headphone with average comfort at best and poor isolation at best.

Another apparent issue is that the smallest possible size for the headphones fits me perfectly and I haven’t got a small head, so people with smaller heads will probably find the HM2s won’t fit them. For those with large heads, the HM2s might be a god-send, but overall, the sizing seems wrong to me.

It’s not all bad with the HM2s. They have a nice slide structure for the expanding and contracting headband and the hinges where they fold seem to be sturdy and well made. The headphones are finished in and attractive and nicely tactile, soft-touch black paint with tasteful chrome-style trims and grey highlights on the pads and inside the headband. If they’d just gotten the ear-cups right, these could have been a great looking and feeling headphone. As it is, they’re a little confusing – great in some ways and a real let-down in others.

Cables & Accessories

The supplied cables are perfectly fine and it’s nice to have the choice between having the in-line remote / mic and not so Brainwavz deserve applause for the generosity of cables. Similarly, the inclusion of a nice, hard carry case is a huge bonus. The case looks good and is sturdy without being bulky and heavy. In short, the HM2s provide an excellent package of accessories given their low price.

Sound Quality

Despite the design issues with the cups and the resulting, average comfort and poor isolation, the sound from the HM2s is quite good. I’m not going to write a full breakdown because, let’s face it, you’re not going to buy these for a full audiophile experience, but the HM2s do deserve a detailed description of their sound and you deserve to know what you might be getting if you’re thinking about buying them.

According to the blurb on the box, the HM2s are designed to sound “smooth” with “punchy bass” to give a “comfortable and enjoyable sound experience” and I would say they absolutely, 100% succeeded. The Hm2s are a very easy listen and I mean that in the right ways. They’re not going to be revealing new details in your music, but that’s a good thing because it means they don’t have boosted treble and, trust me, with the low isolation you’ll be needing higher volume levels in noise locations so more treble would not be a good thing.

Overall, the sound from the HM2 is warm and full with good treble, but not prominent treble. The treble sounds a little rolled-off, but that lends itself to the kind of relaxed and easy listening the HM2s are intended to provide. Thankfully, the sound hasn’t drifted into sounding muddy or thick because the other frequencies have been well balanced with the slightly rolled-off upper end. The bass is present and solid, but not overdone either so the result is really quite enjoyable. There’s a slight mid-bass emphasis that adds a slightly lush weight to the sound, but I quite enjoy it – it’s not making the overall sound bloated or loose so to me it’s a tasteful enhancement.

Conclusions

If you asked me, “Should I buy the HM2s?” I don’t think I could honestly say “yes”. Even at their excellent price, the HM2s are undermined by the cup design and resulting average comfort and poor isolation. The sound is good, the accessories are good and the look and feel is good for the most part, but headphones need to be comfortable and portable headphones need to isolate better. I think for the money there are better options on the market that can tick all the same boxes and I hope Brainwavz will find ways to revise and improve on the HM2s as a good start towards an excellent budget headphone because they’re not quite there with the HM2, but they are showing signs.

Lachlan Fennen Written by:

Facilitator, training design consultant, blogger / writer and amateur photographer

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