Multi driver IEM’s are the talk when it comes to linear armature driver based units. But a dynamic driver based IEM having multiple drivers? Well here we are today with Brainwavz’s new dual dynamic driver in ear monitor. Armed with an acoustic and a bass driver, the piston shaped IEM seems ready to either take on the linear armature competition, or take on the competition for the most unique looking IEM. Whatever it is, the R3 is distinctive, new and different. Let’s take a look at how it is today.
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The unit I received is a pre-production sample. I was notified that some things with the unit itself was being changed possibly. This review will like to alert the user of this. For the purpose of the review and making it as fluid as possible, the current unit I hold and its build will be held to be the ‘real’ thing. All accounts will thus be held to the unit I hold.
One of the first things you will notice about the R3 is it is shaped extremely weird. It almost looks like a piston or hose with valve. However, come great shape comes great build. The metal used on the R3 is very solid, thick and undeniably ‘metal’ at its core but smooth to the touch, and light in its weight. You can see its sheer raw-ness in the straight and almost un-refined cuts down its sides. The thickness and size tells you that it must weigh a lot and that those edges will cut your fingers. The moment you touch them is the moment those ideas are dispelled. The R3’s driver material build is raw, dominating, but ergonomic. Wonderfully crafted and executed by Brainwavz.
There is a slit on the side of the R3 with a wire leading from the bass driver to the acoustic driver. You can visibly and clearly see the wire glued to it. It is unknown to me if this will cause any problems as the wire is exposed to the elements or if it may pose a hazard(doubt it would, but you can never be too careful). The wire is glued flat to the inside so its not something that will come right out rest assured.
The memory cable leading to the ‘regular’ cable is a bit of a different story. If it hasn’t been made clear yet from the first sentence, the pictures or the R3’s official page. The R3 uses memory wire for the first few inches leading from the driver until it reaches a plastic junction point on both sides and then terminating to the regular spaghetti wire. Many users including me have noted that the length of the memory wire is too long and I believe this to be true the more I use the R3. BW’s (Brainwavz) representative noted that they may change the length of the memory to regular cable ratio however that is unknown to me. And as noted. I will be reviewing what I have. As of right now, the memory wire leads all the way to the bottom of my chin even with the R3 in over the ear wearing position. This meant that I had to angle the memory foam forward and mold it to my face so that it wouldn’t poke other objects or my own shoulders. This is quite a nuisance here, if the memory wire could be reduced by 1.5 inches-2 inches (40 to 50mm) , that would be great in my opinion.
The cable itself for the most part then is fluid, thick and well shielded. I have no qualms with it. The plastic jack protectors themselves are also of good thickness and protection without overdoing it.
Unit Fit and Usability:
Will it fit? How does it go in? What tips does it use? Is it annoying? Are some of the most prevalent questions that people will ask when they see these units. The BW representative has been telling many users that the R3’s fit better than they look. And he is absolutely true. Once they are in your ear, and if you are using the right tips, and if the memory foam wires are angled and molded correctly (all of this takes a minute or two of fiddling), the R3’s fit great. Nothing is really hitting and pushing anything else in my ear creating any imprints or un-comfortable areas on them after long usage. The problem however is with putting the R3’s in every time. It is quite a hassle with the current length of the memory wire, comply tips, and the shape of the R3 to put them into your ear each time. It doesn’t take a long time as much as it takes about double the time it takes to jam the regular earphone into your ear(which is short enough already). So while this isn’t a problem as its already a relatively short time to put into your ear (5 seconds), its still much longer than normal. The weird shape, need to get a good fit and memory cable creates this unique situation.
The memory wire, and natural need for a good fit to even use this unit more or less already reduces most microphonics if there were even any. The chin/neck slider gets rid of the rest if there were even any in the first place to begin with.
Isolation and Leak:
Again, this unit unlike many earphones requires a good fit to even be used. With that being said, at that moment that you get a good fit, the unit then isolates very weak. The dual dynamic drivers don’t have any problem isolating, and they don’t have much if any leak as well.
Amp Requirement and Driveability:
The R3 Dual Dynamic Driver IEM’s are very efficient. The common iPhone drove these louder than what I would have wanted with plenty to spare. The R3’s are clarity based so you may use an amp to promote its qualities of being clear rather than using the general consumer based output if you so wish.
The BW R3 DDD IEM was tested with the custom Project-H unit, FiiO X3, iPod 2G, iPhone 4S. There are about 20+ hours of listening time when this review was used. The changes I noticed during the ‘burn in period’ mainly consisted of the R3’s harshness dieing down and being more well managed. For the section on sound, the R3’s were plugged into the P-H unit with Comply tips on.
Sound Quality Section:
The highs are well presented but do have a roll off. They are not overly active in the song as other IEM’s may be and rather present them only when the song has a ‘real’ high frequency part. And even when those parts do show up, the sharpness and detail of the high frequency is very overwhelming or detailed. It’s an average joe in this case that its present but isn’t a huge part of the song. The high frequency is also a bit blunt in presentation. This is good for some cases in that it can protect hearing and promote a ‘funner’ listening environment without analytical need of the song taken into account. In other cases, it can hurt the accuracy of the song as it was intended to be heard. It really depends on your usage of it.
The Mid instruments are separated well and have a separate space from the vocals. They are more farther back in presentation than where the vocals are for the majority of albums I have listened to. They are detailed but lack clarity. This means that the instruments have a natural sharpness, detail and separation to them in their own space, but don’t shine. They are quite blunt in that they are more warm and laid back then one would expect. This increases musical enjoyment for most users if they are looking for a more musical appreciation sound than a neutral studio accuracy one. Snare’s and upper mid instruments do have a ‘pop’ to them but the ‘hit’ itself is quite rolled off and blunted rather than sharp. I prefer this for laid back situations when I am out and about, but this Is of course problematic for when I want to actively listen to my music.
The vocals are more forward in presentation than the mid instruments. Imagine a stage in front of you. The singer is a few feet in front of you while the band is a few meters back. This is in a sense what the R3’s presentation of vocal and mid instruments is like. The vocals like the instruments have great detail and naturalness to them but lack in raw clarity. There is a layer or some of filter in front of them that rolls off the ‘harsh’ real parts of the vocals and instead molds it to something that is easier to listen to. Imagine the rocky cliffs of Mt. Rushmore, now smooth out all the cracks in the face and cut off the edges that stick out too much. This is similar to what is being heard in a visual representation albeit a bit more extreme. The vocals however retain the clarity for being realistic. These presentation of vocals of this clarity are something you would generally hear on full size headphone cans like the Q701. They aren’t perfect in that the vocals aren’t consistent and are lost in terms of stability at times(more later) but in terms of how ‘real’ they sound. They sound much more real than I would have expected. Now in terms of the clarity and stability I am talking about. Long held notes and different human tones that artists will quickly switch to and from have some problems being presented at times and can lead to a mess of noise at times. This doesn’t happen often though and is hard to tell with most ears.
The bass of the R3’s is similar to a subwoofer you would have below your desk. The sound is separate from the rest rather than a complete set. This means that the vocals and instrumetns have their own presentation and room while the bass rumbles elsewhere in the song. The bass isn’t too tight and operates more like a consumer level one with boomy-ness. It doesn’t get out of hand as the R3’s bass is more of a compliment than a true bass for rap. It has decent response to sub bass and mid bass and does produce the notes that are needed. However the amount it does have isn’t universal to songs. This means that while the bass of the R3’s will fit most classical pieces, it won’t fulfill most pop pieces. The R3’s bass driver responds well to EQ’ing in that it will produce more bass at more levels of EQ, but the bass increase doesn’t make it that much more compatabile with other genres past the ‘clear’ ones(more later).
The R3 is a very genre driven IEM. It’s detail and focus on mids, highs with decent backup from the bass makes it work better with most forms of old rock, classical, and some forms of Jazz along with other clear music. Rap, pop and most other heavy type of music saturated with harsh tones and snares in them don’t fit the R3 well at all. It has a level of clarity that you would expect from higher priced headphones, but the thing that does indeed separate these IEM’s from the upper level big boys would be the refinement and extreme fine tuning to get the vocals just right in that they are thus realistic but also smooth for music among other things. The R3’s represent clear sounding IEM’s that are musical enjoyment based units as its sound signature benefits listening and enjoying rather than using these in a studio environment and listening to what is ‘wrong’.
Drivers: Dynamic 10mm X2 (Passive Crossover)
Impedance: 32 Ohms
Fr Range: 20Hz to 20KHz
Sensitivity: 95dB at 1mW
Cable length: 1.3m Y-Cord w/ Pro Grade Memory Cable
Where to Buy?:
Build Quality: 8.5/10
Usability and Fit: 7.5/10
Sound Quality: 8.5/10