Brainwavz HM9 Headphone Review - PREFACE
The HM9 now accompanies Brainwavz neutral and excellent HM5 as a more portable consumer friendly option. The HM9 sees a new design and styling in line with the rest of Brainwavz new product line. Featuring modern styling, 40mm drivers and a range of accessories its time to see if its any good.
THE MEAT OF THE REVIEW
Brainwavz HM9 - Packaging – (7/10)
Like the rest of the Brainwavz new headphones (R3 and S1) the HM9 packaging follows very similar cues. Its a simple cardboard box with nice design and product description but nothing fancy and overly impressive on the outside. However, open that box and instead of the headphones being held in the vacuum moulded plastic that so many headphones come in you find a huge hardshell carry case.
Brainwavz HM9 - Accessories – (7/10)
The HM9 does not have too many accessories as is the case with most headphones. What it does come with though is an abundance of cable options (1x1.3m Phone Cable, 1x1.3m flat regular cable and a 3m flat regular cable). I really like the idea of this allowing home users to have the use of the 3m while portable users are afforded the choice of the shorter cables with the option to hook up their iphone and some android phones. An airplane adapter and warranty card are included which is standard fare really and then there is the included hard case. I love it when a manufacturer includes a good quality hard case over the often pointless soft cases included with a lot of competitors. It means I can throw it in a backpack without the fear of snapping or scratching. The case itself is black and red and includes a pouch lined with velcro that attaches to the inside its a great idea and perfect for storing the addition cables and/or a medium sized DAP.
Brainwavz HM9 - Looks and Build Quality – (8/10)
The HM9 have styling very akin to that of the original Beats by Dre line of headphones. They absolutely do not look like knock offs, besides the similar shape the HM9 styling is quite different and personally I think a whole lot nicer with its aluminium finish on the headband. It feels like a strong and sturdy set of headphones and the hinge is smooth and appears durable although lacking a lock out mechanisim. Just as was the case on the HM5 the pads on the HM9 are again excellent, they appear very thick when not on the head but compress down once you put them on. As for on the head they are a large set of phones, not overly so as they are not fully circumaural albeit very close.
Brainwavz HM9 - Isolation (9.0/10)
Isolation is very good, the closed back, big comfy pads and perfect clamping pressure from the headband see to the fact that sound is kept out probably as good as any other set of cans out there. Additionally, there is absolute minimum sound leakage, you can have these playing very loud and nobody would notice. For commuters who like full size cans this is a great option.
Brainwavz HM9 - Fit (9/10)
The HM9 have just brilliant fit and can be worn for long periods of time without a hint of discomfort. As mentioned above the clamping force of the headband is just right and the earpads are a real class act. A combination of the padding and material used provides a great feeling and seal without letting your ears heat up as in the case with cheaper models. The headband also has the same ample padding so all in there is very little I can find to fault the HM9 in regards to comfort.
Brainwavz HM9 - Sound Quality (8/10)
In short? The sound is very good and I am having a real hard time finding fault with the HM9. Its should be looked at in regards to a consumer can and not that of a detail monster set of planars. Most genres perform great although it will be lovers of pop, electronic hip hop and rap that are going to get the most out of them. In regards to mainstream competition such as that offered from Skullcandy and Beats the HM9 slay them and this is for a number of reasons. First of all they are more balanced whilst still maintaining a strong but not overwhelming bass presence. Second, the headphones feel a lot more well put together with the balance of the various frequencies, decay and soundstage (which is medium at best) blending into an overall more pleasant listening experience. When compared with audio enthusiast headphones such as the ATH M50 to which many people reference when discussing the HM9 then it is very close. In a brief direct comparison I would say they are very equally matched with the HM9 maybe taking it on better presentation of the treble.
Highs – Whilst the highs on the HM9 don't shine, they don't really offend. There was a couple of tracks such as 1812 Overture on which I noticed slightly peaky treble but then again this is a) a very ruthless track that exposes most headphones and b) one of the most unlikely genres to be played on this set of cans in real world use.
Mids – Mids are good and in test performed well on guitars and vocals alike. They won't blow you away but perform nicely and if you are a fan of smooth mids you should be very happy with these. The warmth in the mids makes them very enjoyable to listen to over long periods of time.
Lows – Bass is where the sound of the HM9 really shines. We here all agree that the bass is tuned just right for the competition that Brainwavz are taking aim at. They have managed to keep it tight and controlled without muddying up the mid range when tested on some very difficult tracks. The most impressive thing about this is its ability to go low on the bass whilst keeping excellent continuity with the rest of the sound spectrum.
Summing up the sound of the HM9 its all very positive. It does a lot of things right and whilst it wont compete with something like a modded Fostex t50rp it isnt meant to. Sonically, its in the region of having the M50 as its main competitor and honestly in that regard, given the HM9's inoffensive treble it is to be preffered. Put the HM9 up against the Beats by Dre, Skullcandy, UE600 etc it hands down destroys them sounding better in every frequency.
Brainwavz HM9 Review - CONCLUSION
Going into the review of the HM9 I was expecting a Brainwavz to have gone in the direction of replacing their HM5 model with an updated take on the same neutral sound. The reality is that its a completely different beast all together and adds something refreshingly new to the Brainwavz line. The HM9 is a great headphone for those looking for a warm, clear, smooth signature with enhanced bass to get the party in your head started. Brainwavz provide good and practical accessories, solid build quality and excellent comfort making it very competitive in its category beating out some stiff and far higher priced options.