The Brainwavz HM5 are good critical listening headphones with a bulky but comfortable design. They're well padded and have spacious ear cups you can wear for hours and a balanced sound quality suitable for most music genres and even movies. Unfortunately, since they're fairly large and cumbersome headphones, they won't be portable or stable enough for outdoor use, and they do not block enough noise for commuting. Their build quality also feels a bit cheap compared to other critical listening headphones in their price range.
The Brainwavz HM5 have a slightly bulky over-ear design. They have large, oversized ear-cups that are spacious, well-padded and fairly lightweight for their size. They're also not too tight on the head. This makes them one of the more comfortable over-ears we've tested, although the headband could be improved. They come with two cables and a carrying case which is not common for over-ear critical listening headphones. Unfortunately, their size makes them a bit too cumbersome for outdoors use, and like most similarly designed headphones, they are not stable for sports and lack in-line controls to easily switch tracks while on the go.
The Brainwavz HM5 have a bulky over-ear design that won't be ideal to use outdoors but looks decent enough for most listeners. They have a straightforward build quality that's mostly plastic with a metal frame that supports the headband. The large oval ear cups are well padded with a two-tone color scheme that stands out without being too flashy. Unfortunately, their size might be a deal breaker for some especially if you're looking for critical listening headphones to use while commuting and traveling. However, if you mostly listen to your music at work or at home, then they should be fine.
The HM5 are very comfortable headphones. They have large, deep and spacious cups that are well padded. They're also fairly lightweight for their size and not too tight on the head so you can wear them for hours without feeling any fatigue. The headband isn't as well padded as the cups, but it's a minor issue that only slightly reduces the overall comfort level of these headphones.
These headphones do not have any controls.
The Brainwavz HM5 will make your ears fairly warm even during casual listening sessions. They seal the ear fairly well within the large ear cups which prevents a good amount of airflow. The ear cup pads are also not particularly breathable. On the upside, since the cups are rather spacious, they won't as bad as some of the other over-ear, closed-back designs that we've tested.
The HM5 are big bulky critical listening headphones. The ear cups do not fold or lay flat to make them a bit more portable so they will be quite cumbersome to carry around on your person if you do not have a bag. On the upside, they come with a good, hard case so they will be protected if you put them in your backpack.
The HM5 come with a pretty sturdy hard case not typical for critical listening headphones, especially considering their size. The case has a nice two-tone color scheme and is sturdy enough to protect the headphones from impacts, drops, and scratches while they're in your bag. Unfortunately, it's not the most portable case since the headphones are quite large, to begin with.
These headphones have a decent build quality but feel a bit cheap and plasticky. They have a metal frame that makes their headband sturdy yet decently flexible. The ear cups are also dense enough that they won't get damaged from a couple of accidental drops. Unfortunately, the plastic hinges/yokes are not the most durable, and are more likely to break under moderate stress than the rest of the build. The plastic used for the ear cups also feels a bit cheap, especially when compared to other critical listening headphones around their price range. On the upside, their cable is detachable and replaceable in case it gets damaged by wear and tear.
The HM5 are not stable headphones. They should be fine for casual and critical listening, but if you run with them, they will quickly fall off your head. They're not made for sports and aren't stable enough for physical activity, but on the upside, they're not as heavy as they look, so the big protruding ear cups do not sway as much as some of the other critical listening headphones we've tested for stability. They also have a detachable cable that will disconnect it gets hooked on something.
The Brainwavz HM5 is a good sounding pair of closed-back over-ear headphones. They have a deep and punchy bass, a clear and well-balanced mid-range, a good treble, and very good imaging. This makes them quite versatile and well suited for a wide variety of content, including bass-heavy and vocal-centric music. However, their bass could have a bit more thump and punch, and their treble is slightly on the bright side. So if you want a more of a bass-heavy sound, check out the Audio Technica ATH-M50x.
The bass of the Brainwavz HM5 is great. LFE (low-frequency extension) is 10Hz, which is excellent. Low-bass, responsible for the thump and rumble common to bass-heavy genres, is lacking by 2dB which is subtle. Mid-bass, responsible for the body of bass guitars and punch of kick drums, is within 0.4dB of our neutral target. High-bass, however, is overemphasized by about 2dB, which adds a bit of muddiness to bass.
The Brainwavz HM5 have a very good mid-range. The dip in low-bass thins out vocals a little bit, but also creates more space for the punch of the bass range. Mid-mid and high-mid are quite flat and within 2dB of our neutral, resulting in a clear and well-balanced reproduction of vocals and lead instruments.
The treble is very good. Low-treble is relatively flat but overemphasized by about 3dB. This brings a bit of excess brightness and projection to vocals and leads. Mid-treble shows a dip around 7KHz, which negatively affects the presence of the vocals and cymbals, especially on sibilances (S and Ts).
The Brainwavz HM5 have a below-average frequency response consistency. In the bass range, the maximum deviation across our five human subjects is about 4dB, but happening across a wide region which makes it more noticeable. We also noticed that the biggest deviation was measured on the subject wearing glasses. The maximum deviation in the treble range is about 5dB around 3KHz, which is significant, suggesting the the treble delivery of the HM5 is sensitive to placement and positioning.
The imaging is great. Weighted group delay is at 0.21, which is within very good limits. The GD graph also shows that the entire group delay response is below the audibility threshold. This ensure a tight bass and a transparent treble reproduction. Additionally, the L/R drivers of our test unit were very well-matched. This is important for the accurate localization and placement of objects (voices, instruments, video game effects) in the stereo image.
The Brainwavz HM5 have a below-average soundstage. The PRTF graph shows decent accuracy in the response, and a decent 10KHz notch either, but not a lot of activation overall. This and the closed-back design results in soundstage that is perceived as relatively natural sounding, but not large, open, or spacious.
The HM5 has a very good harmonic distortion performance. The overall amount of harmonic distortion is quite low. In the bass range, there is not a big rise in distortion at higher volumes, which is great. In the treble range, the sharp peak around 3KHz could make the sound of that region a bit harsh.
The BrainWavz HM5 are passively isolating headphones. They're able to block some high-frequency noise thanks to the quality of the seal they create around your ears. But, unfortunately, they will not block enough noise for the loud environments involved in commuting. They also leak a little at high volumes which may distract those around you in quieter conditions but should be okay at moderate levels.
The isolation performance of the Brainwavz HM5 is sub-par. These over-ear headphones don't have ANC (active noise cancellation) and isolate passively, therefore, don't achieve any isolation in the bass range. This means they will let in all the rumble of airplane and bus engines. In mid-range, important for blocking out speech, they achieve 9dB of isolation, which is about average. In the treble range, occupied by sharp sounds like S and Ts, they isolate by more than 33dB, which is good.
The leakage performance of the HM5 about average. The significant portion of their leakage is spread between 400Hz and 2KHz, which is a relatively broad range. The overall level of the leakage is not loud either. With the music 100dB SPL, the leakage at 1 foot away averages at around 41dB SPL and peaks at 53dB SPL, which is about the same as the noise floor of an average office.
These headphones do not have a microphone and therefore, the recording quality has not been tested.
These headphones do not have a microphone and therefore, the noise handling has not been tested.
These headphones have no active features and therefore do not require a battery. They also do not have a dedicated app or software for added customization options.
These are passive headphones with no active components and no battery.
The headphones do not have a dedicated, compatible app for added customization.
The Brainwavz HM5 are simple wired headphones with no in-line remote or microphone on their cable. This means they will only have audio support when plugged into your PC, Xbox One or PS4 controller. Also, since they're wired they won't have the convenient range of a wireless headphone, but on the upside, they have practically no latency for watching movies and videos.
These headphones are wired and do not have a Bluetooth connection. If you want a good Bluetooth headset for more casual use, check out the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2.
These headphones come with two cables, but both audio cables do not have in-line remotes or microphones. This means the HM5 will only provide audio when connected to your PS4, Xbox One or PC.
These headphones do not have a dock. If you need a headset with a dock that also has a wired connection for gaming or watching movies, then consider the SteelSeries Arctis 7.
The HM5 do not have a wireless range since they're wired. If you want a good wireless headset for critical listening, consider the Bose QuietComfort 35 II.
The Brainwavz HM5 have practically no latency since they have a wired design. Unfortunately, this also means that they're limited by the range of the audio cable.
The Brainwavz HM5 are comfortable critical listening headphones with a slightly bulkier design than most. They're one of the more comfortable over-ears we've tested, and they deliver a balanced sound on par with much pricier headphones. Unfortunately, since they are closed-back headphones, they won't have the soundstage of some of the other critical listening models we've measured and their oversized design is a bit more cumbersome to use outdoors than some of the competing closed back models below.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M70x are the highest tier of the ATH-M series that we've tested so far. They do not sound quite as balanced as the BrainWavz HM5 since they lack a bit of bass. They also sound a bit sharp with already bright tracks, but on the upside, they have a more durable design that feels high-end although the cups are not as spacious as that of the BrainWavz. Unfortunately, the M70x are almost twice the price of the HM5 which may be a deal breaker for some. If you're a fan of the Ath-M line up, then maybe consider the cheaper and better-sounding ATH-M50x but the M70x are also a good option that are considerably smaller and easier to use outdoors than the HM5.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are above-average closed-back critical listening headphones. They have an excellent and slightly better-balanced audio reproduction than the HM5. They're also better built and more durable but won't be as comfortable since their ear cups are a bit shallow and not as well-padded as the Brainwavz. They're a great choice if you're looking for simple and straightforward headphones for enjoying your music that can also use outdoors. However, if you do not mind the size of the HM5 and mostly listen indoor or at home, then they're a more comfortable and slightly cheaper alternative.
The Sennheiser HD 598 Cs are the closed back variant of the popular HD 598. They have a decently balanced sound that's a bit more forward with instruments and vocals compared to the HM5. They have a comfortable over-ear fit, and they're well-padded, although their ear cups are not as spacious as that of the HM5. On the upside, the 598Cs come with an audio cable that has an inline remote and microphone, which makes them more compatible with consoles and gives you a bit more control over your music. This makes the Sennheiser a bit more suitable for outdoor use and commuting, although they do not have the best isolation. If you are looking for a pair of critical listening headphones that you also plan to use with your phone regularly, then get the 598Cs instead of the Brainwavz.
The Beyerdynamic DT 770 are a closed-back alternative to the similarly designed DT 990 Pro. They're a lot sturdier than the HM5 and have a more balanced sound quality but can sound a bit sharp with already bright tracks. They have well-padded ear cups that are decently comfortable but they're much tighter on the head than the Brainwavz so you won't be able to wear them for as long. They're both relatively bulky and won't be the best headphones to use outdoors but the DT 770 block a bit more noise. If you want the more comfortable headphone and you're a bit sensitive to high frequencies, then get the HM5s. However, the DT770 are way more durable and less likely to break in the long run.