Featuring a Clearwavz remote and microphone, Paul Rigby reviews the S0 IEM earphones from Brainwavz
Offering a measure of noise isolation, the S0 (that’s ‘zero’) earphones feature an all-metal housing and flat, “tangle free” cabling. According to the company, the Clearwavz microphone and remote uses a, “…high precision MEMS (Micro-Electrical-Mechanical System) silicon microphone…” You will also find a three-button control, allowing you to make audio calls as well as audio playback. As such, the earphones support iOS for iPhone use.
Based upon 9mm dynamic drivers with an impedance of 16 Ohms, the 1.2m cord is topped by a gold-plated 3.5mm termination plug.
As a package, the S0 earphones arrives with Comply S-400 foam tips, other foam variants are included. Six sets, in fact, generally fitting the small, medium and large sizings. Other additions include a hard case for transport, a shirt clip and velcro cable tie and manual.
I began with Andrew Gold’s That’s How I Remember You (the late singer-songwriter who should have received far more plaudits and recognition than he did, incidentally) at 16bit/44.1MHz. Gold offered a lead vocal plus double tracked accompaniment and a lazy, rocking instrumental backing.
The sound had an intriguing approach. the S0 didn’t have the dynamic reach of designs £30 or so more in price terms and experienced some roll-off within the upper mids and treble so I didn’t look at the S0 earphones as giant killers, in any way. That said, in its own price slot, there was much to admire. In fact, although the S0 earphones offered a little less definition than I may have liked, the sound output was, if anything, a touch on the warm side. Sonically, they were cuddly, snuggly and I wouldn’t have a problem listening with them over long periods of time. There was no sense of the aggressive with the S0s.
Although clarity was not a highlight, there was enough air in the upper frequencies to project detail from the strumming acoustic guitar and an electric rhythm guitar while bass guitar, that sat at the rear of the mix, remained ‘visible’ due to bass emphasis. Hence, while that warmness might trigger a few alarm bells, overall detail was not masked by assertive instruments.
Bass provided a significant, although not dominant, portion of the soundstage giving the low frequencies a useful foundation. Although lacking some character in terms of definition, the bass output remained strong and massy in its effect.
Switching to a higher resolution track and Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing at 24bit/88.2kHz, which itself exhibits a slightly compressed, rather strident output, the S0 earphones provided a nice balance to the sharp output, keeping the edgy drums in control and affording some discipline to the mids.
Although midrange detail was slightly shaved with dynamic extension snipped off at the furthest points, the bass provided the main star attraction, providing a strong substance to the music, underpinning the entire track and allowing the bass guitar to move out of the mix and be picked up easily by the ear.
I loaded up Muddy Waters’ My Home is on the Delta, at 24bit/192kHz. The point of this track or, rather, the point of this track at this high resolution, isn’t so much the music as the silence in between it. The sense of one man and his guitar with spare and relaxed percussive backing. The S0 might not provide that sense of scale and it might lack the imagery that sets the scene but the mids provided a smooth output while tracking the Waters vocal and guitar easily, providing an almost nostalgic presentation for this classic blues singer.
Hardly open and airy in the mids, there is an element of veiling in this area. That said, the veiling is not too destructive because there’s enough detail available to make any listening session an enjoyable one while bass remains strong, maybe too strong for some.
Where the S0 earphones score is ‘on the road’, battling noise form traffic, screaming babies (old and young), trains and the like. In this environment, the bass accentuation provides a more entertaining and comfortable sonic balance.
BRAINWAVZ S0 EARPHONES
GOOD: mobile use, admirable midrange detail, massy bass, comfort
BAD: veiling mids, dynamic reach, overly strong bass for some users
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