The Brainwavz R1 in-ear-monitors (or IEM for short) earphones are priced at £25-£30 and around the $39-$44 mark on Amazon. They're cheap, actually they're head scratching cheap when accounting the claims of dual dynamic 8.9mm & 9mm drivers and all the bundled extras included.
The design and build aren't overlay impressive. The plastics feel cheap and the rubber cable issued is generic. I'm not confident of how well these would stand up to a crush or a hard knock and I'm uncertain to how the cable would stand up to being mashed within a pocket constantly. Though the cable does include tug/strain reliefs on either side near the buds and on the auxiliary input, they're very thick and should help prolong the cable and lend a hand against serious pressure. The shape is very odd, even for over-ear or around-ear earphones, yet strangely appealing. The black and red maroon colour scheme makes the R1's appear as a more professional and serious set of earphones, cloaking the sub par build. The build is evidently played down to invest everything on the audio output.
Having said that about the played down design to invest on audio, Brainwavz have included a very nice carry pouch case, a wide range of silicone interchangeable different sized tips and have also included two gold plated auxiliary adapters. Personally I'd rather Brainwavz forgot about all these extras with the exception of the silicone tips and focused further effort on the build, possibly implementing an aluminium enclosure and a chorded cable.
Two versions of the Brainwavz R1's are available. One includes a remote with microphone that specially works with iPhone's, iPods and iPad's. The other model doesn't include this and difference in price is very slim, so I'd recommend the version with the remote and mic. I have the version without and am constantly finding myself reach out for the remote to skip tracks, pause music and adjust the volume. Not having this feature is very annoying. It looks like a standard cherish implementation but it's definitely better than nothing.
The way these are supposed to be worm is with cable pointing upwards and wrapped around the ear. However you can just wear them like a standard set of earphones if you prefer, but they will look very odd. In terms of comfort I found the R1's misleading. I initially had two tips of a small to medium size applied, they fitted perfectly. However after around 30 minutes of usage my ears began to report discomfort, so I swapped these tips for a size which was closer to medium of those supplied. The firmer fit meant the R1 Earphone tips were taking the weight off the extruding Earphone shape, delivering a greatly more comfortable fit. However this fit was far tighter than I usually have with my Earphones, a little odd but it works for me.
Now moving onto the audio performance. Audio produced definitely leans to being on the warmer side. Great accentuation is laid on the mid-highs due to the separation of having two drivers, one dedicated for the highs (9mm) and one for the lows (6.8mm). The buds nozzles are split in middle, emphasising the divided frequencies too. Bass is playful but definitely not brash, it never gets boomy and allows other elements within tracks to breath. Low-mids offer good clarity but can deeply under perform on occasion but the mid-highs offer across the board spectacular detail. Acoustically these are dazzling, I was taken back by how good they performed in this area while listening to 'Jason Mraz's' brilliant 'Only Human' album. Stereo performance is also utterly brilliant, delivering a wide stage of sound and distinctly spreading the vocals and instruments. Vocal performance deserves to be touched on separately, the way the R1's carry out vocals is to be perfectly honest, insane at this price. Vocal performance is rich, ultra defined across genres. These have a quality that I don't always see within this price range and that's the fact they're very enjoyable to listen to. Accompanied by fanciful sound isolation of external audio escaping out and entering in.
If you're on a budget looking for a brilliant pair of IEM's, the Brainwavz R1's are undoubtably the best I've tried. However an improved overall build is very welcome.