Brainwavz Jive: They’ll get your feet a-movin’
Today we are going to be taking a look at the Jive, a funky fresh offering from the people over at Brainwavz.
The Jive popped up around the final quarter of 2015 as another high-quality, low-cost earphone in Brainwavz’s arsenal. It’s clean design, quality accessories, and excellent sound have made it one of my favorite earphones this year, so let’s look at this little gem in greater detail.
I would like to thanks Pandora and Brainwavz for providing the Jive in exchange for a fair and impartial review. I am not receiving any financial compensation for this review and all comments and views within are my honest opinions. They are not representative of Brainwavz or any other entity.
The Jive retails for 28.00 USD: http://www.brainwavzaudio.com/products/jive-noise-isolating-iem-earphones-w-3-button-remote-microphone-black
A Little About Me:
Over the last couple years I decided to dive head first into the world of portable audio. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread and being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own reviews. Fast forward a couple years and I’ve had the opportunity to write about some great products for wonderful companies like RHA, Havi, FiiO, NarMoo, Brainwavz, and Meze. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to an earphone that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done.
The gear I use for testing is pretty basic composing of an HTC One M8 cellphone, Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Plantronics Rig USB amp. An XDuoo X3 (shout out to my cousin Rob!) has recently been added to the crew, and was used for the majority of my testing. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. When it comes to signature preference I tend to lean towards aggressive and energetic, but I try not to limit myself to one signature only. I also tend to listen at lower than average volumes.
Enough preamble. Let us dive into the good stuff shall we?
Packaging and Accessories:
Like the Omega and XFIT XF-200 that I reviewed previously, the Jive arrived in simple yet clean packaging consisting of a basic plastic box. I personally love the aesthetics, giving you a bit of an old world feel through a combination of faded colours, striped textures, and at least on the front, font types that invoke thoughts of the 40s and 50s. It’s a neat introduction, and with a very clean image of the Jive itself shown front and centre, made me pretty excited to try them out.
The rear of the package contains the usual blurb about what to expect, stating “…These earphones are great for any kind of music, especially when listening to rock, jazz, or classical music.” The specifications, which are shown in the following images, and accessories are also listed.
As with the BLU-200, opening the package reveals one of Brainwavz’s excellent hard cases. Sliding out the case and opening it up reveals the Jive, it’s accessories, and instruction manual safely wrapped in a plastic bag. Thankfully there are no plastic inserts to mess about with.
While I prefer the more traditional shape of the case that comes with the BLU-200 and XF-200, I found the Jive’s elongated case better for travel. It’s easier to hold (still too big for most pockets) and it’s dimensions are perfect for keeping the Jive and XDuoo X3 safe during my travels.
While the presentation is simple, I really like it. It’s honest, enjoyable, and does exactly what it needs to do. The accessories are of the high quality I have come to expect from Brainwavz, and while not as generous as some of their other products, it’s still more than you get the majority of from the competition. The inclusion of a pair of Comply S-400 tips is also very welcome.
Build, Design, and Comfort:
Like the packaging, the design of the Jive is simple but effective. They utilize an all-metal, barrel-shaped housing with a smooth slope leading into the nozzle. The nozzle features a prominent lip which holds the tips on very securely.
The cable is very thick below the y-split and a little too thin above, just as it was in it’s application on the XF-200 and Omega. It has also retained a little too much memory for my liking, still filled with bends from it’s initial unwrapping, even after weeks of use. Strain relief is generous at the y-split and 45 degree angled jack. Moving up to the housing everything looks like it will be hunky-dory, but nope. The strain relief up there is just hard, immovable rubber designed more for aesthetics than functionality.
For my ears, the Jive is sublimely comfortable. The pre-installed medium silicone tips combined with low weight and the gentle slope leading to the nozzle meant they slotted into my ears like they belonged. No fiddling around was required to get a good seal, and I didn’t feel the need to wear them over ear to deal with microphonics (cable noise). Still, there is a handy chin slider to help with these things if necessary. I was also thrilled to find that the Jive displayed no driver flex despite the housings lacking any sort of ventilation. Despite the lack of a vent, the Jive isolates no better than your average dynamic driver based earphone, probably due to the shallow fit.
This is how a budget earphone should be built. Quality materials, excellent ergonomics, plus they’re quite attractive in their simplicity.
Microphone and Controls:
It’s always nice to see a manufacturer include an inline mic with full controls at this price. While call quality was fine, it’s the versatility of this unit that impressed me most.
Most inline mic+control setups work with either Android or iPhone, offering only limited functionality in the one it doesn’t specialize in. Brainwavz is more generous than that, giving buyers something a little more versatile. This setup does it all, offering full use of the three button remote on both mobile platforms. It worked flawlessly controlling my HTC One M8, and could be used to start/stop music, end calls, and skip/scan through tracks. While I didn’t get to test call functionality on my iPod Touch, I was able to do everything I could on Android with the added functionality of volume control. Sweet.
I also wanted to note that the two raised dots on the centre button make blind-use of the control unit a breeze. Simple, but really effective.
As noted earlier in the review, my biases lean towards aggressive and energetic. The Jive does a good job of playing into these interests so I’m going to get this out of the way now; I love how these sound.
Treble on the Jive is detailed, energetic, and surprisingly clean for such an inexpensive product. Extension is excellent, though there may be a little too much emphasis around the 5k region. This peak first popped up somewhere in an early listen to one of the Subsil3nt’s drum and bass mixes that I’ve listened to a trillion times. The particular effect that caught my ear was not supposed to be that forward in the mix, and it took me by surprise. While this peak is not something I would knock them for, it’s something to look out for if you are treble sensitive. Check out Luckbad’s review for an excellent graph; http://www.head-fi.org/products/brainwavz-jive/reviews/14145.
Mids seem to be something that Brainwavz have no issue nailing, regardless of their balance in the overall signature. The Jive is no exception offering up warm and sweet mids that are just a touch on the thin side. Despite being slightly recessed this permits them to maintain a clear and strong presence. They’re never overshadowed or overbearing, just clean, clear and ever present.
When I first tossed in the Jive I thought they were coming up a little bass shy. Silly B9. No, no they’re not bass shy. What they are is well-balanced. When called upon, bass will cascade from these lovely 9mm drivers in quantities that would please most listeners. Where the Jive’s bass is lacking is in texture and slam. It’s presented in a very smooth and slick manner that doesn’t give your music a lot of punch. This presentation is relaxing, not authoritative.
I find the Jive to have a fairly average to slightly-small soundstage, not really giving you much in the way of spaciousness. It’s large enough to not feel constricted or stuffy. These haven’t made me think someone behind me was trying to get my attention when it was really just part of the song. Imaging is similarly just okay, immediately evident on Infected Mushroom tracks which throw sound effects around like they’re caught in a windstorm.
Overall the Jive is an excellent listen presenting you with a lively and high-energy sound that is well-balanced.
Tip-rolling: This review was based on use with the stock medium tips. I tried a number of different options, including the included Comply T-400. Foams and small bore tips such as those provided with the RHA S500i or Sony Hybrids helped tame the treble peak at the expense of some energy. I also tried some JVC tips with a wider bore than stock. Not recommended. The stock bore is about as large as I would go.
Brainwavz Omega (15 USD) – The Omega is currently Brainwavz’s least expensive earphone. When I reviewed it originally I listed ‘versatile tuning’ as a pro. The Jive offers up a similar experience but through a more balanced and significantly more refined/matured sound. While build quality is on par, the vastly improved sonic performance more than makes up for the jump in price. Listening back-to-back, the Omega comes across quite dull, lacking the energy, clarity, and texture of the Jive.
VSonic VSD2 (30-40 USD) – The VSD2 is a pretty solid product and these two compare quite well, though the Jive comes out on top offering up greater clarity, detail, and a more balanced AND fun sound. It also shows how picky the VSD2 can be with sources. Out of my HTC One M8 I thought there was something wrong with the VSD2. It sounded muddy and dull, not at all what I remembered. Moving over to the X3 brought it to life. The Jive sounded similarly excellent regardless of the source. The VSD2 is less fatiguing since their emphasis shifts more towards the low-end. Despite VSonic’s spotty reputation for build quality and the use of all-plastic housings on the VSD2, I would still put it on par with the Jive. It has held up exceptionally well since I bought it on release and shows virtually no signs of wear.
Audio Technica ATH-CKP300 (39.99 USD Discontinued) – The CKP300 has more or less been my go-to earphone for a while now if I’m leaving the house. It’s shallow fit design and silky smooth sound make them easy to wear and even easier to listen to. Treble is more restrained than on the Jive, and soundstage more spacious. Bass is similarly relaxing, not authoritative, but greater in quantity. Mids on both are fantastic. What the Jive brings to the table is greater detail and clarity across the board, and the inline mic and control module makes them the better of the two for everyday use. Build quality on the CKP300 is excellent, though the cable leading up to the all-plastic housings is way too thin for a sports oriented product. I expect the Jive to display greater longevity.
RHA S500i (49.95 USD) – The S500i has long been one of, if not my favorite earphone under 50 USD. The Jive certainly gives it a run for it’s money and then some, offering up a very similar signature and level of build quality at what is not an insignificant price difference. The RHA offers up a slightly more spacious soundstage and similar balance, but really steps thing up with much better imaging. While the S500i’s cable looks nice, it’s cloth coating is horribly microphonic and the inline mic module offers full functionality only with iDevices. The cloth section is also subject to fraying. I would take the Jive’s cable and in-line module any day of the week even if it looks and feels nowhere near as premium. The Jive is also easier to drive.
The Jive is awesome. It’s well-constructed, feature rich, comes with a solid pick of quality accessories, is inexpensive, looks good, is comfortable as heck and even comes in an attractive, albeit basic, retail package. Oh yeah, and there is even a chin slider for those that like them. Yes, they have a potentially irritating treble peak and the cable above the y-split is a little thin, but the treble peak can be addressed through equalization or tip rolling. So really, a thin cable is pretty much all I can complain about.
For 28 USD (less if you look around) the Jive is a steal and without a doubt one of the best products I’ve come across in the under 50 USD category. Thank you Brainwavz for giving me the opportunity to review the Jive. This earphone is an absolute pleasure.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
BT – This Binary Universe
Gramatik – The Age of Reason
Incubus – Movement of the Odyssey Parts 2/3/4
Infected Mushroom – The Legend of the Black Shawarma
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Skindred – Roots Rock Riot
Massive Attack – Mezzanine
wThe Crystal Method – Tweekend
Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach