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.
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.
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.
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.