Opened the box and found some beautiful S5's waiting for me!
Between purchasing this Blue Box and receiving the package, I purchased:
Mii Piston (whatever the most recent version is, somewhere around $25-30 IIRC)
Havi B3 pro 1 (Approx $60)
I managed to break both during that period. The pistons cable got caught on a door handle, and now the 3.5mm connection is finicky. The housing on the right B3 monitor got crushed or pressured in some way (not sure how), and the housing just... fell apart. Tried a couple methods of repair, starting with using a soldering iron to gently melt the plastic housing back together (worked for a few weeks) then moving on to adhesive once that failed. Anyway, they're unusable now.
Only reason I bring up my propensity for breaking IEMs? I was eagerly, eagerly awaiting this blue box.
Let's talk unboxing. First off, there's a huge rush when opening a grab bag like this, so that may have colored my impressions. Sorry :P. Ignoring the excitement of finding the "top tier" option in my box, these monitors are boxed nicely.
Starting with accessories:
Plenty of different eartips to choose from. I'm personally big on Comply, so I was glad to see the medium foam included. Very nice.
For those multiflange users, these come with a medium-ish size set of dual-flange silicone tips, which fit and isolate quite well. I find multiflange tips end up tickling my ear canals something awful, so I'm not a fan.
Also included are a pair of triple-flange silicon, which I couldn't even get to stay in my ears. Not sure who uses these... if it's you, please comment and let me know if there's some trick I'm missing! Far as I can tell they just don't work for my ear canals.
The majority of the eartips are single-flange silicone, but there are two different sets of 3 sizes each.
One set has a small aperture, the other a wide aperture. The difference is surprisingly noticeable, both in terms of fit/isolation and sound signature. I've never seen an IEM come packaged with different aperture tips, so the ability to choose was neat. The medium single-flange, both small and wide aperture, fit my ear canals perfectly. Instant, fantastic seal. Audible "pop" upon removal. Very nice feel for silicone. The biggest difference between the two apertures is the fit. The wide aperture are absolutely perfect. The narrower aperture don't have quite as solid a seal. I assume this is because of the extra 'firmness' added by the larger-diameter hard silicone center on the wide aperture. You can decide for yourself which you prefer. The important thing is that Brainwavz gives you the choice.
Other accessories include a fairly standard clamshell case and a removable cable cinch/shirt clip. Nothing too fancy.
Let's get to the meat and potatoes: the monitors themselves.
Starting at the 3.5 jack and moving up:
The 3.5mm jack feels solid. It's a straight plug, which I've honestly always preferred. Most of my listening is done from my phone, and it's usually in my pocket. I have an LG G4, with headphone jack on the bottom, so I always place my phone into my pocket with headphone jack pointed up. Angled 3.5mm plugs have a habit of spinning in my pocket and ending up in a position to be crushed by standard leg movements - walking, sitting. I find that in general, barring incidents with door handles and my clumsiness, straight 3.5mm plugs last longer.
The reinforcement on the plug is good, but feels a bit stiff. I'm a little bit worried that it will be a bit brittle, but only time will tell.
Next up is the cable. God damn are flat cables nice. I'm worried that the combination of flat cable and rigid plug supports will lead to fragility, but until then, I'm loving these cables. They're a lovely grey, have a moderately grippy matte rubber texture, and I have experienced absolutely no tangling. Super great.
The splitter between the main cable and the two individual cables to the monitor is beautiful. Lovely reinforcements, solid feel. The inline microphone/controls are solid, tactile, and clicky, which I love. I thought the additional weight on one side of the cable would be noticeable, but it absolutely is not. All around great controls.
The best, best part of the flat cables is the way they enable and improve the over-ear experience. I find that round cables slip off the top of my ears and generally "pull" just a little bit on the monitors, which means the fit, seal, and isolation degrades after about an hour or so, more if I'm moving around, getting on/off the train, etc.
The flat cables prevent this completely. The extra surface area on the back of the ear distributes the cable weight admirably and adds some friction (in a good, solid, "this is staying right where I put it" kind of way). Just lovely.
Alright, the buds, the monitors, the main dish. Wow, these feel well constructed. The housing is solid. The angle is ideal. The fit is great. The "sticking power" of both the tip and cable is absolutely perfect, especially with foam tips. The weight is reassuring, but not uncomfortable. They just feel good in my ears, and I don't feel the need to readjust, reseal, or just rest my ears even after long listening sessions. Fantastic.
In case you didn't pick up on this from the other headphones I purchased recently, I'm no high-grade audiophile. I fit the category of "cheapskate audiophile". I like nice sound, I appreciate nice sound, but I'm definitely a n00b and I'm not yet willing to shell out big bucks for (what I see as) marginal quality increases.
For my purposes? The S5s sound fantastic. Very unique sound signature. My ear isn't experienced enough to put a finger on why they sound so unique, but they do. I'm a big basshead and EDM lover, so my first test was in that vein, listening to Razor Sharp by Pegboard Nerds and Tristam.
The best way I can describe the sound is this: Have you ever listened to a pair of headphones that isn't plugged in completely? You still get sound to both ears, but it feels empty because there's a track missing.
The S5's make me feel like every other pair of IEMs I've owned were only partly plugged in. I heard entire instrumental tracks in the song that simply do not appear on my other monitors. I went and borrowed my roommate's Mee M6 Pro's just to make sure I wasn't imagining it - I wasn't. Strangest aural experience of my life.
The S5's are clear and crisp across the spectrum. The bass feels punchy and satisfying, but these are by no means bass-centric. The mids and treble are beautiful.
My only complaint is that there's a certain type of sound that is just a little too sharp - anything hissy or crashy, like cymbals, hi-hats, or even plosive vocal sounds like T's and S's are just a little bit too pronounced for my ear.
Last thing I want to note is drivability (probably not a word). The S5's are easy to drive. That's not to say you wouldn't get great benefits from a DAC/AMP, but it certainly isn't necessary. I had to reduce my standard listening volume by two full notches. They are loud. They are crisp. They sound great. They feel better.
For $25, I have zero regrets. If the cables last more than a month, I'd be entirely willing to shell out shelf price for another pair.