The Brainwavz Hex is the company’s latest 3D-printed triple-driver universal monitor that is both wired and Bluetooth capable. The Hex is priced at a very affordable $99.50.
Disclaimer: The Brainwavz Hex sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at Brainwavz for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about Brainwavz products used on Headfonics click here.
Note, this 2-page review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2020 which you can read up on here.
Following the single driver KOEL, the Hong Kong company Brainwavz releases a new 3D printed IEM called the Hex. This is a triple balanced armature driver universal monitor with an organic housing design with a strong pitch for high levels of comfort.
As explained by Brainwavz, the Knowles balanced drivers used for the Hex are custom-tuned for an audiophile-grade, full-bodied sound. It takes more than a year for Brainwavz to do the R&D making design changes and sound tweaks then finally they are confident the Hex would be the best all-around earphones for the price and outperforming other similar priced alternatives.
Interestingly the Hex now ships with two MMCX terminated cables. The first is a traditional analog cable terminated with a 3.5mm jack and the second is a Bluetooth wireless cable. Will the $100 tagged IEM delivers great value and be suitable for all genres as they claimed? Let us check it out.
The Hex comes in two color options, you could either go Black with a transparent faceplate or “Stay Frosty”, which is a semi-transparent housing finish. We are receiving a black unit with a frosty faceplate 3D printed with a hexagonal honeycomb pattern, showing off the drivers inside when you peek into the see-through cover.
My first impression of having my hands on the Hex is the size being quite a lot bigger when compared to the KOEL, the scaled-up form factor looks like an alien spaceship, there are plenty of space inside to put in more components.
Looking through the faceplates you will see the Hex’s 3 balanced armatures, a huge bass driver with a smaller driver on top which could be the Knowles 3-way system solution. The huge bass driver looks promising for good bass.
Build & Isolation
The build quality is more or less the same as the KOEL and in some ways, they look quite similar. The housing of the Hex is printed by a liquid Resin 3D-printer. This is the same technology that enables the creation of fun and innovative form factors such as the hexagonal honeycomb pattern faceplate.
The Hex is a hefty ‘sci-fi’ form factor and is innovatively built, being one of the largest IEM I have seen so far. It fills up all the space of my outer ear when I put it on. Surprisingly it is not uncomfortable and isolates noise quite well.
Near the nozzle, you will find a vent. This is a possible measure to control the airflow of the bass driver. At some angles, you could observe color marks at the back of the faceplates that hints it is 3D printed. There is also some faint purple tint that can be observed under sunlight which often a signature of some UV resin material used in 3D printing.
The polished earphone body is smooth but you could see some bubbles on the surface. This is not the best 3D-print I have seen but the design is definitely a fun approach and everything is sanded nicely so it feels quite smooth. The noise isolation is quite decent and the nozzle extends fairly deep so it is fairly effective at blocking out street noise.
The Hex stock cable has over-molded parts and uses MMCX connectors. Certainly, it looks like an upgraded from the KOEL stock cable. The y splitter and 3.5 connector barrels have been streamlined with milled aluminum covers and laser-etched branding on top.
Like the KOEL, the Hex stock cable seems very light in weight but also quite durable. It also comes equipped with ear hooks wrapped with heat shrinks which you may reshape by heating with a hairdryer.
Packaging & Accessories
The last time when we reviewed the KOEL there was a fancy paper box but this time the Hex is packed in a lighter, simplified packaging. Inside the packaging, you will find the same sturdy branded hard case supplied with KOEL.
I love their portable case, solid build quality, space, and great strength that will protect the earpieces nicely. Shirt clip, Velcro cable tie, and silicone tips in 5 sizes are also included, not to mention a pair of red-colored comply foams that match the carrying pouch’s color.
There are two cables shipping with the Hex. The first is a 3.5mm TRS and MMCX terminated cable and the second, a BLU-MMCX Bluetooth cable with an in-line mic and control with up to 8 hours battery life. We aren’t getting the Bluetooth cable as Brainwavz just decided to add it as a bonus before we went to publish. Certainly, an excellent value-add to potential buyers and you can read about the cable on the official site.
We paired the Hex with the FiiO M11 using some blues and drums intensive tracks. The initial reaction was the bass almost overwhelming me with its bouncy, energetic signature.
The fun M shape tuning on the Hex is not what I expected coming from the smaller brother KOEL. The KOEL has a more balanced tuning and doesn’t sound as fat in the mid-bass. You will hear easily some mid-bass elevation trying to shape a grand soundstage but not as much sub-bass and vocal frequencies.
The 2-3k frequencies are being lifted with a roll-off coming right afterward that eliminates sparkles. The sensation of listening to the Hex feels like live music after a few drinks in a busy bar with 20″ subwoofers around you. You will feel the rich bass around you and hear that slow decay that favors mixes with a thinner body rendering a very comfortable but heavy vibe.
The vocal performance is ”sweetened” by the roll-off but the openness and accuracy are secondary with the Hex. Voicing sounds slightly hollow and veiled. It may take a few minutes for you to get used to the tuning as a result. This is not an ideal tuning for vocal lovers but I did find it performed well for movies or games in particular when there are explosives scenes, holographic recordings, or when bumblebee turns into a bot.
The Hex is definitely not the most resolving and accurate IEM out there in the market but the warmth in the tuning makes it fairly easy to listen to and will deliver plenty of body into thin-sounding recordings. Likewise, it also thickens the sound too much when there are lots of instruments in the track so chose your genres carefully.
If you are traveling on noisy transports daily and are sensitive to treble peaks and want to replace the noise around you with ‘background music’ you will probably be enjoying what the Hex does.
The Hexis rated at 30Ω and 120dB SPL. On lower powered devices such as smartphones, the tuning on the Hex compensates for the lack of bass some phones seem to deliver these days.
The Hex doesn’t perform well high gain either. The bass will get quite uncontrolled and bleeds all over the mids. The sound is a lot less boomy outdoor when environmental noise comes through and compensates for the tuning.
Also, when it is driven by more powerful devices it will deliver a better level of bass and instrumental texture. Powerful DAPs like QP2R or desktop amps help balance out the tuning as well and give the lower frequencies a solid punch. However, you will still find the treble rolling off and lacking sparkle. Pairing with game consoles, portable phones or low-end DAPs will give the best result.
The KOEL has been brought up a few times throughout this review as this single driver model from Brainwavz we got our hands on earlier sounds very well balanced and left a good impression.
Despite being dynamic and offering a balanced soundstage/extension the KOEL is limited by the single driver design. The Hex is reinforced with two more drivers inside that roomier housing design. This allows the implementation of the huge bass driver to be fitted which pumps out deeper and airier bass when compared to KOEL.
You will find the Hex the more lively and engaging with its denser bass to mids performance. While the KOEL has a lighter, swifter signature. The Hex renders a bigger soundstage as well and the KOEL keeps it more intimate like a private performance. With 2 more BAs in the shell, the Hex’s mids to treble gets more pronounced. However, the vocal performance on the Hex is more laid back and is not as natural as KOEL.
The OH1 was reviewed back in August, with 1 DD and 2 BA in the metallic housing. It is available at a slightly higher price bracket than the Hex. Quite interestingly, the Hex has more bass than the OH1 which uses an actual dynamic driver.
You will find the OH1 is more sensitive, easier to drive, and cleaner sounding. It has a deeper bass extension and a more relaxed treble The OH1 has a faster bass response, it is easier to drive and has more brightness in the upper frequencies. It also has better treble clarity.
The Hex, on the other hand, has much more richness and warmth in its mids. The instrumental bass fundamental has plenty of impact and presence. If you are a gamer or bass lover, you will probably pick the Hex as it pushes out the bass frequencies while keeping the vocal in shape. However, for pop music, vocal lovers that prefer a clean and fast tuning the OH1 is a lovely option.
With the Hex, Brainwavz shows off a clever and fun form factor via 3D printing just like the KOEL. It packs in some juicy large BA woofers in the Hex that really is the signature tuning.
Driving a lot of air the dense mid-bass targets mainstream audiences and will suit video streaming or gaming. The treble is smooth and relaxed eliminating all sibilance even on high power outputs. While it is too boomy to satisfy from an audiophile perspective, bassheads may find the tuning just right.
Overall, the Hex is a fun sounding 3D-printed universal monitor and a handy outdoor solution for different usage scenarios. It is even better value with the additional Bluetooth cable that ships without any additional cost.