Beta Version 2.0: Different Sound, Different Look
If you’re an old Nationite, you’ll remember MP4 Nation’s first Brainwavz Betas. The strikingly white set with equally striking orange tips that gave you a big sound for their worth – a bang for your buck. Well the Betas are back and this time they have got a totally new look and sound. I have been fortunate enough to burn in, listen and review the new Betas, and have compared them to their predecessor, as well as the Brainwavz Alphas – the pair regarded as the ‘fun’ set and have just as much bang for your buck (a different kind of bang though).
I’ll be writing the review and comparisons as so: a full review on look, feel, sound, specs and more on the new Betas; a brief review on the sound and specs of the old Betas; a brief review of the sound and specs of the Alphas; a comparison of the two Betas; a comparison of the new Betas and Alphas; an overall comparison conclusion of the new Betas compared to the old Betas and the Alphas (if you want to cut through all the kerfuffle, scroll straight down to the last paragraph for your quick-bite comparison).
Please note though that I am by no means an audiophile. I am merely posing as one. Also, my new Beta review is written without any preconceptions to what the Betas – old and new – are suppose to sound like. I had never heard them before this review, or the Alpha, so everything is fresh.
The music I have been using to compare are tracks from Yeasayers’, All Hour Cymbals. They use a multitude of instruments and twiddle with enough technology to allow for good sound stage testing. They’re also a good alternative to classical music that, quite frankly, I’m too young for.
I also used the track, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites (Noisia Remix) by Skrillex, which is a heavy Drum and Bass track to test the bass.
The New Beta
The new Betas took about 20 hours to fully burn in. Before that, the new Betas can give off a slightly ‘cold’ sound, however detail and clarity are clearly evident and stand out, as do the mids and treble (highs). As you do with most IEMs and your hands in the winter time, you warm them up. Doing this allows the new Betas to literally warm up in sound. The bass becomes more evident and the overall sound becomes much more balanced. A wide soundstage fills the space, and the overall experience becomes much more enjoyable. The longer you listen to the new Betas, the better they sound. As for noise isolation, I was using the medium sized tips and found them to have as much seal as the Brainwavz M2s I have, so good isolation. On the other side of the fence you’ll find a tad bit of noise leak, however not anywhere near enough to annoy a fellow bus passenger. Overall, its sound is very good for what it’s worth – balanced with good soundstage, and with clarity and detail, but a need for burn-in. Bass doesn’t insist upon you, so for you bass lovers on a budget, this might not be the set for you.
At first glance the new Betas appeared to be way too big. They have this pyramid, disc-like shape for the housing that resembled some sort of UFO. The UFO bit wasn’t off putting as it actually looked quite interesting. It was just the size and roundness of it that gave me slight apprehension about inserting it in my ear hole. The tip bit that goes in your ear is positioned on the side of the flat surface of the housing that faces your ear, and there are noticeable air-holes on the back of the ear-pieces. The overall shape does look a bit different, but it is by no means an abomination, and once you get use to it, it grows on you. It also doesn’t stick out and make you look like some cyborg Shrek.That is always a plus, unless of course you were going for that.
Once fitted in my ear, I was relieved to find that they actually sit rather comfortably. This was not so for my colleague who has smaller ears than me (the debate continues as to whether his are small, or mine, large – I’m obviously biased in saying that mine are the normal size and that it is he who is the disproportionate gargoyle), and so the new Betas didn’t sit quite well in his ears – to a point of discomfort. As the housing has a fixed circumference on the part that would sit in your ear, the new Betas are unfortunately limited to a certain ear size – the normal ear size, ergo my ears are normal. Once fitted and sitting nicely, the new Betas are as easily forgotten as any other comfortable pair you’ve grown used to. By that I mean they are not uncomfortable and do not keep you conscious of them during your listening experience.The silicone tips are like most others – they squeeze easily into your canal and will collect sweat, oil and/or wax if you so produce them.
Wire and Jack
The new Betas have an over-the-neck wire, so the right earpiece goes around your neck starting from the left, to be put into your right ear, whilst the left earpiece sits with the wire dangling down. This is either a preference or a nuisance depending on the user. Personally, I don’t mind either way, so no problems there. The wire themselves have a rubber coating, the same that is used on the Brainwavz Alphas. It doesn’t tangle that easily and the microphonics are minimal. The jack uses a regular straight 3.5mm gold-plated pin which can be an easier fit in the pocket, but has more chance of getting damaged than an angled pin. It is no real biggy though.
Driver: Dynamic, 13.5mm
Rated impedance: 16oHms
Frequency range: 20Hz – 20kHz
Sensitivity: 107dB at 1mW
Rated input power: 10mW
Maximum input power: 40mW
Cable length: 1.2m Y Cable
Plug: 3.5mm L Plug
The Old Beta (In Brief)
Though an older revision of Beta, the old Betas have aged well – they packed quite a pleasant and smooth sound. It felt full bodied and was somewhat balanced, although the scale would be as such: great treble, good mid and fair bass. The bass sounded as if it had been neutered – it didn’t follow through with much ‘oomph’, making it fall a bit flat – but the bass sound was still very much there. Despite that, the bass, mid and treble were all pretty detailed for dynamic drivers. Overall, I would say the old Betas were decent sounding earphones – it is as simple as that. Its soundstage was fair, but what it made up for that was it’s detail and the fact that they were just damned easy to listen to.
Driver: Dynamic, 11mm, CCAW Drive units
Impedence: 24Ohm ± 20%
Sensitivity: 110 ± 2dB at 1KHz 1mW 20upa
Frequency Response: 15Hz ~ 28000Hz
The Alpha (In Brief)
The Alphas were definitely the ‘fun’ pair, and by that (for all of you who have heard us call them that before, but had no idea what we meant) I mean they had more bass to them – bass that was thick, airy and full, and had an almost re-verb-esque vibe. Like both Betas, the sound isolation was great on the Alphas, however I have yet to experience any pair of Brainwavz earphones that doesn’t have great sound isolation. The soundstage was much tighter, and the general sound of the pair had a slight but definitely muffled sound. Overall they had decent treble and mid, and as mentioned, much more emphasis on the bass that did follow through with an ‘oomph’.
Driver: Dynamic, 8mm, CCAW Drive units
Impedence: 20ohms ± 15%
Sensitivity: 110 ± 2dB at 1KHz 1mW 20upa
Frequency Response: 8Hz ~ 28000Hz
Comparison of the two Betas:
To compare the old Betas with the new: the major difference between the two was that the old Betas seemed more warm, had a more prominent bass and a much airier sound, whereas the new Betas seemed much more clear, clean and lighter in sound. Both Betas maintain balance and detail in sound, however the new Betas have a few more notches in detail than the old. Feel and comfort wise: it felt like the old Beta’s nozzle sits deeper in your ear, creating the illusion of better isolation, however both felt comfortable and did not ruin my listening experience. Isolation was also the same – it was mere trickery from the old Betas.
Comparison of the New Betas and Alphas:
Similar to the old Betas, the Alphas felt more bassy and warm than the new Betas. Again, the new Beta gets the crown for detail and balance. Even though the Alphas were a joy to listen to straight off the bat, the new Betas had a much better sound in the long run with clearer vocals and an overall better sound and soundstage. Slow and steady wins the race! Comfort wise, the point has to go to the Alphas – they were simply the more comfortable pair.
From a direct swap from the other two to the new Betas, it takes a few seconds of getting use to the ‘colder’ sound of the new Betas before it warms to you. With the Alphas and old Betas, you’re use to the sound instantly due to their warmer sounds. All three IEMs are generally balanced with the older Betas and Alphas leaning more towards the lows/bass and the new Beta’s on the mids and highs, as well as clarity and detail.
Each pair had their own sound signature that pandered to different preferences in sound – something that should always be considered when choosing the right pair for you.