Brainwavz HM9 Headphone
Review by TrollDragon
In the following review, I would like to present my impression of the Brainwavz HM9 headphone. The HM9’s have a nice dual functionality where they work as a full sized headphone for home use and will convert to a folding portable for on the road. I would like to thank Audrey for providing me with the review sample of the HM9. Brainwavz is exceedingly generous to the Head-Fi community and it is greatly appreciated.
The HM9’s arrived at the same time as the R3’s I reviewed a while back. As with previous impressions of other Brainwavz products, the packaging on the HM9’s is not as splashy as their IEM packaging. There is no flap to open or no window to display the product in all it’s glory. Since I am a fan of great packaging, the HM9 box was nicely laid out with all the standard information that Brainwavz is known for, but it’s just a box.
Box Front & Back
There is a nice product picture on the front. Detailed specifications of the headphones, connector compatibility and inline microphone description are on the back.
Left and Right Side
The left side of the box has a detailed description of the HM9 headphones with usage suggestions. The warranty information and package contents are found on the right side. I do like the consistency Brainwavz’s puts into the packaging, it doesn’t matter which of their products you pick up to look at. You know exactly what you are getting and what is included, there are no surprises. Until NOW…
When I opened the box all I found was this big egg shaped EVA dual zippered hard case in Brainwavz traditional red and black. I had to recheck the security stickers on the box as I thought I had possibly received a used product. No, both stickers were cut by me and there was nothing inside the box but this big case. I would have figured that the case might have been put inside a plastic bag at least so it doesn’t take people by surprise, thinking they have a used or refurbished headphone. Anyway, this is a very well made large zippered case for storing the HM9’s in with all the included accessories.
Unzipping the “Egg’s” Velcro bottomed storage pouch reveals all the generous accessories that Brainwavz is known for. Inside you will find 3 cables, an airline adapter, warranty card and the shoulder strap for the case.
The three included cables are of a very nice quality with minimal mechanical noise when connected. The smartphone cable with the inline microphone is round, where the short 1.2m and 3m cables are flat. The only thing that I have issue with on these cables is that the headphone end has a custom TRS plug with a small shoulder. This shoulder snaps into the socket on the headphones to make sure the cable stays securely attached when plugged in. If anything were to happen to cause a cable to stop functioning, you would have to get a replacement from Brainwavz as a standard TRS removable headphone cable would not work.
The HM9’s have an exceptionally high build quality that is mostly metal with thick sturdy plastic hinges and ear cups.
Aluminum yokes are made with metal sliders that have a definitive click for each position when adjusting their length. The earcups swivel up and down but not side to side. The HM9 can make a little bit of a clacking noise when taking them out of the case or when folding and unfolding them. Brainwavz has installed little rubber bumpers at the end of the yoke forks and at the top to lessen the noise these make when the cup swivels and hits the yoke. This clacking noise the first time your hear it makes the HM9’s present as a cheaply manufactured product which they are not. A spring inside the cups to provide tension would have been a good solution to stop this noise. It is a very minor issue that I have with the HM9’s and in no way does it affect the operation or sound of these headphones.
A very solid build, with headphones that have a hinge, I am always worried about that being the weak link in the chain as it is the thing that usually ends up breaking first. The hinge on the HM9’s is quite thick and attached with a steel pins. I could not imagine them breaking even with the daily use of being thrown into a back pack with books, etc., instead of packed up back in their case. A heavy duty build does come at a cost though–the HM9’s have a considerable bit of weight to them for a folding headphone.
The attention to detail Brainwavz puts into their gear is quite impressive. I pulled one of the super thick, plush ear pads off to have a look at it and found out that they actually have a locking ring mechanism to hold the pads on.
The ring fits inside of the lip on the back of the pad, you place the pad over the driver baffle and turn till the three little tabs lock in place. Which is a a nice feature for a headphone in this price range. It is too bad that Brainwavz does not offer a velour replacement pad, as pleather pads can get quite sweaty on warm days. If these had velours you could easily just pop them off and put them in a wash when required.
I was also impressed by the model number and driver size on a little plate attached to the baffle that you only see when the pads are taken off. Is there any other company that puts the same level of detail into a product of this price?
Performance and Sound
The Brainwavz HM9 are one of the most comfortable headphones I have worn in a while, considering their size and weight. The headband and ear pads are very thick, soft and plush. There is a light clamping force to the headband which does keep the HM9’s in place during daily activities, I don’t think they would stay on with a serious head banging session though… If you do have a large head the HM9’s might bother the top of your ear/helix area after extended periods of use. This is due to the ear pads being halfway between Supra-aural and Circumaural in size. I didn’t experience any of this during my testing or listening sessions but I understand how it could happen, as full sized pads would have brought the HM9’s to an unsurpassed level of comfort.
Brainwavz HM9 Specifications
Drivers: Dynamic, 40mm
Rated Impedance: 40 Ω
Frequency Range: 10Hz – 24kHz
Sensitivity: 104 dB @ 1 mW
Max Input Power: 1000 mW
Detachable Cables: 1.2m & 3m Flat Cables
Detachable Cable: 1.2m Cables with Remote
Distortion: 0.3% @ 94dB
Channel balance: 2dB (@ 1000Hz)
Plug: 3.5mm Gold Plated
With a Sensitivity of 104dB @ 1mW these headphones are very easy to drive from just about any source you connect them to; an amplifier is not required to bring out the best in the HM9’s. But if you do have an amplifier strapped onto your DAP like I always do, then the added feature of that amplifiers Bass Boost nicely kicks up the low end a notch or two for those that crave a little more Boom Boom.
Brainwavz HM9, Colorfly C3 and FiiO E11K
The cable extensions are attached to the E11K as I usually have this setup in a case on my belt and FiiO decided the volume control should be on the opposite end of the I/O ports, which puts it at the bottom of the case.
Brainwavz HM9, FiiO X3 and E12
Information on the X3’s leather case can be found in my signature.
The sound from the HM9’s is a perfectly mainstream oriented sound. This is a pair of headphones that any member of your family can just put on their head, plug into whichever device they have and hit play.
The HM9’s work with all genres of music, a really fun all around headphone that is very easy to listen to out of any device. There is a good quantity of Bass that is not boomy or muddy, these are not your typical Bass Head quantity headphones but they will respond to a little low end EQ quite nicely. The Mids are warm and very enjoyable, smooth clear vocals and guitar riffs that make you want to crank up the sound. The Treble is tuned just right in my opinion, I am really sensitive to harsh or bright headphones. Even though the treble might be a bit rolled-off for some, it still has a bit of sparkle to it and you will find no fatigue in listening to these for hours at a time. They have a great deal of musicality that is a step above most of the other consumer oriented headphones. And those headphones are available at a much higher cost.
If you are looking for an excellent all round headphone for yourself, a family member or even a friend, and don’t want to worry if they are going to like the look, fit or the sound, then don’t hesitate to pick them up a pair of Brainwavz HM9’s for a $120. (Amazon.com price at the time of this writing.) You will not find a better sounding headphone that just about everyone will enjoy in this price range.
Thanks again to Brainwavz for creating another excellent personal audio product, and to Audrey for the sample used in this review.
Constructive criticism is always welcome,