Ready to replace or upgrade the pack-in buds that came with your smartphone? Maybe a more durable set of buds for a teenager? Brainwavz SO earphones make a compelling case, with better audio performance, a durable design, and plenty of accessories—all for under $50.
Instead of a plastic housing that gets gouged and can shatter if accidentally stepped on (subliminal “tidy your room, kids” message), the Brainwavz SO earphones have a sturdy metal shell. They’re not only stronger, the metal housing gives them a more upscale look.
The cable is nearly four feet long, and it’s flat. This makes for a lot less tangling—which, in turn, means kids are less likely to yank the wires out of the buds in an effort to untangle a big mess of cables. The cable terminates in a straight 3.5mm plug that’s gold-plated. Also good to know for parents (and speaking to that sturdy construction): instead of the usual one-year warranty, these earbuds are covered for two-years.
There’s an inline remote for music control, with a microphone that supports taking calls. Brainwavz says the remote was designed for use with iOS devices and may not work properly with Android, but it functioned perfectly on the Android smartphone I tested with. My only issue with the remote is the buttons are a little stiff. Not a problem for me, but kids may have trouble with the force needed.
Apple and other companies include earbuds in the box with their smartphones. The so-called “pack-ins.” While nice to have, the first thing I do with every iPhone I buy is to toss those EarPods in a drawer. Their one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t fit me very well, they sound tinny, and the cables quickly knot. Generally speaking, they’re kind of terrible and the audio is a disappointment.
Switching to the Brainwavz SO earphones results in an immediate and significant upgrade to your music listening experience over most pack-in buds.
They’re not going to convince any audiophiles to drop their Shures, but for less than $50, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they performed. Brainwavz says the 9mm drivers employ a balanced sound signature, and they pretty much lived up to billing. The upper mid-range is a little more prominent in the mix (especially at high volumes), but there is bass to be heard and the highs are also there—all without being muddy or tinny.
Not awesome, but not bad at all, and way better than a pair of Apple EarPods sound.
The audio performance, flat cable, and inline remote/microphone already make the Brainwavz SO earphones better than the buds that come with most smartphones. But Brainwavz also goes all out on the accessories. The SO earphones come with a zippered hard carrying case, a shirt clip and velcro cable tie, six sets of silicone ear tips, silicone bi-flange and tri-flange tips, and a set of premium Comply S-400 noise-isolating memory foam tips.
A three-pack of those Comply tips sells for $15, and having them included with a set of budget-priced earbuds is a real bonus.
The Financial Case
I have three teenagers lurking in the house and have gone through years of replacing earbuds. It’s like they eat those things. The pack-ins that come with an iPhone look okay in that Apple way, but the sound is seldom described as a strong point.
Lose (or destroy) them and the replacement price is $29. Go for a slight sound upgrade and the ability to take phone calls, and the Apple buds will set you back $79.
Brainwavz has aggressively priced its SO earphones at $49.50, putting it midway between the Apple options. However, you get all the features of the $79 Apple earbuds and sound that’s at least as good, if not better—and definitely superior to what you’ll get from the $29 Apple buds. Add all the extras Brainwavz throws in and the SO earphones are a bargain.
A Great Replacement for Those Pack-In Earbuds
Not a fan of the earbuds included with your smartphone? Or maybe you lost or wore out the ones that came in the box. Either way, the Brainwavz SO earphones are a worthy replacement—with a few caveats.
If you’re in the Android camp, the inline remote may not function. And if you have a recent iPhone—one that lacks a headphone jack—you’ll need to use the Lightning adapter Apple included in the box.
But given the audio performance, tangle-free cord design, and all the accessories the company throws in, the Brainwavz SO earphones are a no-brainer as replacement upgrade for those pack-ins. Especially at the under $50 price (even better at $44.50 on Amazon).
Disclosure: Brainwavz provided SO earbuds for evaluation but had no input into this review.