Reviewed May 08, 2018 at 11:17 am

BRAINWAVZ HM5 HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.3.1
6.0
Mixed Usage
7.6
Neutral Sound
5.8
Commute/Travel
5.6
Sports/Fitness
6.2
Office
4.6
Wireless Gaming
6.4
Wired Gaming
2.2
Phone Call
Type : Over-ear
Enclosure : Closed-Back
Wireless : No
Noise Cancelling : No
Mic : No
Transducer : Dynamic

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.

Test Results
Design 6.5
Isolation 5.7
Microphone 0
Active Features 0
Connectivity 3.8
Pros
  • Good audio reproduction.
  • Very comfortable fit.
Cons
  • Poor noise isolation.
  • Bulky design.
  • Treble delivery varies significantly across users. Sensitive to positioning.
  1. Update 11/21/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.1.
  2. Update 11/6/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.

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6.5

Design

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.

Style

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.

8.0 Comfort
Weight : 0.7 lbs
Clamping Force
:
0.9 lbs

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.

0 Controls
OS Compatibility
:
Not OS specific
Ease Of Use : N/A
Feedback : N/A
Call/Music Control : No
Volume Control : No
Microphone Control : N/A
Channel Mixing
:
N/A
Noise Cancelling Control : N/A
Talk-Through
:
N/A
Additional Buttons : N/A

These headphones do not have any controls.

6.3 Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference : 6.2 C

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.

5.8 Portability
L : 6.9 "
W : 5.4 "
H : 3.5 "
Volume : 130 Cu. Inches
Transmitter Required : N/A

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.

7.5 Case
Type : Hard case
L : 7.8 "
W : 5.5 "
H : 3.9 "
Volume : 167 Cu. Inches

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.

6.5 Build Quality

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.

6.5 Stability

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.

Headshots 1
Headshots 2
Top

Sound

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.

Sound Profile
Bass Amount
:
-2.96 db
Treble Amount
:
-0.87 db
6.3 Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
:
0.83 dB

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.

8.7 Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
:
1.83 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
:
10 Hz
Low-Bass
:
-2.4 dB
Mid-Bass
:
-0.38 dB
High-Bass
:
2.33 dB

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.

8.6 Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
:
1.87 dB
Low-Mid
:
-1.28 dB
Mid-Mid
:
1.17 dB
High-Mid
:
2.06 dB

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.

8.0 Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
:
3.46 dB
Low-Treble
:
2.84 dB
Mid-Treble
:
-2.11 dB
High-Treble
:
-1.83 dB

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). Also, their treble delivery varies noticeably across users. The response here represents the average response and your experience may vary.

7.7 Peaks/Dips
Peaks
:
1.3 db
Dips
:
1.71 db
8.2 Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
:
0.21
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
:
0.88
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
:
1.89
Weighted Phase Mismatch
:
10.31

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.

6.0 Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
:
2.23 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
:
2.92 dB
PRTF Distance
:
13.21 dB
Openness
:
4.8
Acoustic Space Excitation
:
3.8

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.

8.2 Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
:
0.175
WHD @ 100
:
0.084
5.7

Isolation

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.

5.2 Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
:
Overall Attenuation
:
-13.66 dB
Bass
:
0.6 dB
Mid
:
-9.19 dB
Treble
:
-33.12 dB

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.

6.7 Leakage
Leakage Audio
:
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
:
41.46 dB

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.

0

Microphone

Integrated
:
N/A
In-line
:
N/A
Boom
:
N/A
Detachable Boom
:
N/A

This headphone does not come with a microphone. For a wired headphone with a good in-line microphone, check out the Bose SoundTrue Around-Ear II, the QuietComfort 25 or the Apple EarPods.

0 Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
:
N/A
LFE
:
N/A
FR Std. Dev.
:
N/A
HFE
:
N/A
Weighted THD
:
N/A
Gain
:
N/A

These headphones do not have a microphone and therefore, the recording quality has not been tested.

0 Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise : N/A
Speech + Subway Noise : N/A
SpNR
:
N/A

These headphones do not have a microphone and therefore, the noise handling has not been tested.

0

Active Features

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.

N/A Battery
Battery Type
:
N/A
Continuous Battery Life
:
N/A
Additional Charges
:
N/A
Total Battery Life
:
N/A
Charge Time
:
N/A
Power Saving Feature
:
N/A
Audio While Charging
:
N/A
Passive Playback
:
N/A
Charging Port : N/A

These are passive headphones with no active components and no battery.

0 App Support
App Name : N/A
iOS : N/A
Android : N/A
macOS : N/A
Windows : N/A
Equalizer
:
N/A
ANC Control
:
N/A
Mic Control : N/A
Room effects
:
N/A
Playback Control
:
N/A
Button Mapping : N/A
Surround Sound : N/A

The headphones do not have a dedicated, compatible app for added customization.

3.8

Connectivity

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.

0 Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
:
N/A
Multi-Device Pairing
:
N/A
NFC Pairing
:
N/A
Line of Sight Range
:
N/A
Default Latency
:
N/A
aptX Latency
:
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
:
N/A

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.

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.

0 Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line of Sight Range
:
N/A
Non-BT Latency
:
N/A
9.5 Wired
Analog Audio
:
Yes
USB Audio
:
No
Detachable : Yes
Length : 4.5 ft
Connection : 1/8" TRS
Wired Latency
:
0 ms

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.

PC / PS4 Compatibility
PC / PS4 Analog
:
Audio Only
PC / PS4 Wired USB
:
No
PC / PS4 Non-BT Wireless
:
No
Xbox One Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
:
Audio Only
Xbox One Wired USB
:
No
Xbox One Wireless
:
No
0 Base/Dock
Type
:
N/A
USB Input
:
N/A
Line In
:
N/A
Line Out
:
N/A
Optical Input
:
N/A
RCA Input
:
N/A
Dock Charging
:
N/A
Power Supply
:
N/A

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.

In the box

  • Brainwavz HM5 Headphones
  • Carrying case
  • Audio cables (x2)
  • 1/8" to 1/4" Adapter
  • Additional ear cup pads

Compared to other Headphones

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.

6.0 Mixed Usage

Average for mixed usage. The Brainwavz HM5 are best used for critical listening and will be a bit too bulky for commuting or sports. They also do not block a lot of noise so they won"t be the ideal headphones to use in loud environments. But on the upside, they have a well-balanced sound and a comfortable design that makes them a great choice for casual and critical listening. They also have low latency for watching movies since they're wired but won't have the convening range of wireless TV and gaming headphones.

7.6 Neutral Sound

Good for neutral listening. They are comfortable headphones you can wear for long listening sessions with a balanced sound quality that caters well to all genres. They have a good amount of bass that doesn't overpower instruments and vocals in the mid-range, and their treble is not too pronounced and won't sound overly sharp on some tracks like some of the other neutral listening headphones we tested. Unfortunately, despite their large ear cups, they are closed-back headphones that can't create a soundstage as spacious as the open-back neutral listening models. Overall their sound quality is good enough for neutral and casual listeners alike.

5.8 Commute/Travel

Below average for commuting. They're bulky and do not block enough noise for the loud environments involved in commuting. They also have no additional features, like noise canceling or inline controls, to make commuting easier.

5.6 Sports/Fitness

Sub-par for sports. These headphones are not stable enough to exercise or jog with they also have a bulky design that will hinder your movements during more strenuous physical activity.

6.2 Office

Average for office use. The Brainwavz HM5 are comfortable to wear for hours but do not block a lot of noise. they're also a bit leaky at higher volumes but should be fine at regular volume levels.

4.6 Wireless Gaming

Average for gaming. They have a good sound and a low latency wired connection but are not as convenient as wireless gaming headsets. They have no app support for customization options typical for gaming and they aren't the most breathable headphones. They also do not have a microphone, but on the upside, if you do not need voice chat, then they could be a decent option for consoles and PCs since they will provide audio for both the PS4 and Xbox One.

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