Brainwavz HM5 review: These sound good with everything

This content is rated TV-MA, and is for viewers 18 years or older. Are you of age?
Sorry, you are not old enough to view this content.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Brainwavz HM5 is an excellent set of monitor headphones yet it's still able to make music enjoyable to listen to; the package includes two different-lengthed cables and a spare set of earcups; the build quality is very good and the fit is very comfortable.

The Bad The cosmetics are boring; the sound can lack low-end punch and high-end sparkle, making them not so suited to dance music; and apparent clones are available for much cheaper online

The Bottom Line The Brainwavz HM5s sound great, are very comfortable, and are able to compete with high-end headphones for a relatively affordable price.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Sound quality 8.0
  • Value 8.0

Getting into high-quality sound these days is simpler than it used to be. If you have a computer, for example, you are already halfway there: all you need to do is add a decent-quality output device -- a sound card or a headphone amp/DAC -- and a pair of headphones. You can get great sound for under $250 this way, and you'd have to spend 10 times that to get great sound from a traditional hi-fi. Even the latest mobile phones are good enough to power a decent set of headphones on the move.

The Brainwavz HM5s are an unassuming-looking pair of headphones but have plenty of ability when it comes to presenting music with an even hand. These are true monitor headphones -- designed to bring out details in music without unduly affecting their overall frequency response. All genres of music -- bar the heaviest of dance -- are well-served by these, and at only $130 they're well worth checking out.

View full gallery (10 Photos)
Sarah Tew/CNET

Yes they're relatively inexpensive for hi-fi headphones, and as so, something's got to give. It costs money to make something look attractive, and while the HM 5s are well-made, they have been touched by an ill-favored hand. It seems that unless you're paying over $300 for a pair of headphones looks are the first thing to go. The earpads are covered by a brushed-aluminium panel that should look fine, but when set against the dark gray of the frame the effect is a little drab.

View full gallery (10 Photos)
Sarah Tew/CNET

Comfort though is excellent with "protein leather" earpads that fit around the ear rather than on it, and a padded headband holding them together. While it is winter, I didn't experience any ear sweats or discomfort while wearing the HM 5s for an extended period.

Though the earcups swivel up and down, the headphones fail to fold in any way; if you are foolhardy enough to take these out in public, be sure to make space in your bag. Compared against the Brainwavz's biggest threat -- the Audio Technica ATH-M50 -- build quality is actually a shade better due to the lack of moving parts. The Audio Technica's hinges have an irritating habit of creaking whenever you move your head.

View full gallery (10 Photos)
Sarah Tew/CNET

As with other professional headphones, the cable is detachable and comes with a 1.3-meter or 3-meter cable in the box. There is also a spare set of earcups once you sweat your way through the originals.

Editors' Top PicksSee All


Discuss Brainwavz HM5

Conversation powered by Livefyre