BrainWavz HM5 have made me think. I've heard they were contenders for the budget neutral king throne, and that made me question the competition. I've had these cans for more than a month now, using them daily, and I think I spent enough time with 'em to prepare the write-up they deserve.
The HM5 is not a new pair of headphones, quite the contrary, it's been out for a few years now. As such, many a folk have already written small novels about them. This means I might trod on ground that was already leveled and paved, but I'll at least try to my personal touch in this write-up, and take a close look at build-quality, design, comfort and sound (of course) but also discuss the competition, since HM5 is priced at what I'd like to call the goldy-locks zone for 'audiophile' budget cans.
BrainWavz is known for their vast array of IEMs, which makes HM5 a rather odd duck in their line-up. What's even stranger is how these cans share many of their design characterisitcs with a lot of other models on the market, the ones I could name are FischerAudio's FA-003, Lindy HF-100 and NVX XPT100 (and I'm certain they're more). The reason these are all similar is because all versions are based on an OEM build. I can't tell who's the original builder is, but BrainWavz has been supplying them for the longest time now.
I probably spent at least 200 hours with these cans in the past month, using it on a number of devices: ASUS's Xonar Essence One, Fiio's X1 DAP, SilverStone's DAC & AMP combo, and even a smartphone paired with a Fiio E12. I also took my sweet time and looked up modding, since HM5 seems to be one of the most versatile cans I've checked in recent memory, and they seem to be the most moddable in their price-range.
So let's take a look at what makes these headphones work, for whom they're dedicated to, and what sound should you expect from them.