Cheap Tweaks: Brainwavz HM5 Ear Pad Review

December 04, 2014

You guys are going to think I’ve become a Brainwavz fanboy or something if I keep these reviews rolling, but that's not entirely the case. It just so happens that I received their all-new HM5 Thick Ear Pads (fan), Zirconia Headphone Stand (fan) and S0 In-Ear Monitors (not a fan) as a bundle to review. So here we go...

Brainwavz recently redesigned their HM5 Ear Pads. This ear pad is quite popular among modders becase it fits a wide variety of headphones in both stock form and with some simple modifications.

Design-wise, Brainwavz set out to make these ear pads more comfortable than ever before. Not only did they increase the thickness (depth) of the pad, they are now using memory foam that comfortably conforms to your head. For those that would like to add some personal flair to their cans, Brainwavz is also offering the HM5 ear pads in a variety of colors (click here to see them) and materials, including synthetic leather, velour, sheepskin leather, and a hybrid velour/leather option, and they come in standard flat or angled shapes. In other words, there's something for everyone.

If you’re a regular reader of mine here, on Instagram or Head-Fi, you already know that I am a happy owner of the Shure SRH840 headphone, that I use it daily at work, and that I’ve made some mods to it to increase the comfort for all-day listening. So naturally, I wanted to try these pads to see what comfort or sonic gains could be made.

A simple swap of ear pads on the Shures makes noticeable differences. When I went from the stock pleather SRH840 ear pad to the velour SRH940 ear pad, I noticed less heat build-up, more “air” in the soundstage, slightly less noise isolation, but ultimately greater comfort and a nice listening experience. So, the velour SRH940 ear pad has been my daily driver with the SRH840s for several months now. Surprisingly enough, swapping those out for the new HM5 brown pleather ear pads has been an exciting experience so far.

Immediately, I have to say that the HM5 ear pad is more comfortable for several reasons. First off, the padding is supple—not too squishy where it turns to mush on your head, and not too stiff where you get discomfort from pressure points.

Second, the added thickness compared to the stock Shure pads gives both your ears and your music some room to breathe. I’m not experiencing “hot ears” in these like I did with the stock Shure pads. The increased depth of the pad also moves the driver and the internal cover away from the ear. With the Shure pads, my ears touched the internal driver screen; I wouldn’t say that it caused problems per se, but the less contact the better in my opinion. To me, the increased air between the drivers and my ears has also helped to open up the soundstage substantially. There’s greater instrument separation and the overall performance sounds less congested; treble is cleaner, bass is tighter and more impactful, and there’s simply a greater sense of space. The music just sounds better. Again, I think this is a combination of the increased space between driver and ear, but also because Brainwavz uses a thinner driver screen than Shure, so the dampening factor is a bit less—it’s like a veil has been lifted off of the dynamic range.

Lastly, noise isolation is very good, a definite improvement over the Shure velour pad and probably on par or maybe slightly better than the Shure pleather pad.

In my bundle from Brainwavz, I also received a pair of the HM5 ear pads in black velour. The original velour pads on my HiFiMan HE-500s were a bit worn, I didn’t like the quality or comfort (both poor) of their new FocusPads that I tried, and so I took the opportunity to test the HM5 velour ear pad on the HE-500.

NOTE: Making the Brainwavz HM5 ear pad work on HiFiMan headphones, like the HE-500, does require a bit of modification (and destroying the stock pad), but I assure you it is worthwhile, especially if you are unhappy with the quality and comfort of the stock pads.

First thing, remove the stock pad from the speaker and observe the plastic mounting ring stitched or molded to the pad covering. You will need to remove this ring to reuse for mounting the HM5 pad back onto the speaker. Peel the driver screen off the pad and use scissors or other cutting tool to remove the covering along the outside and inside edges. Once you have the plastic ring removed, trim its outer edge by a few millimeters to make the overall circumference a bit smaller. You will need to do this to be able to stretch the HM5 pad onto it. When stretching the HM5 pad onto the ring, be careful not to crack the ring; like most things on HiFiMan headphones, it is fragile. If the ring cracks in half, mission failed. Once you get the HM5 pad secured to the ring, simply remount the pad on the speaker. This sounds like a bit of work, and I guess it is, but it shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes, really.

As for the listening experience, I once again was impressed. Just like with the Shure pads, the HM5’s added thickness compared to the stock HiFiMan pads both gives your ears and the music more room to breathe. I never really had a “hot ears” problem with the HiFiMans, but I absolutely couldn't stand that my ears touched the inner driver screen. I would get pain on my ear tips during long listening sessions from the driver pressing against them. Again, the depth of the HM5 pad immediately alleviates that, which successfully moves the driver much further from the ear. 

To me, again, the increased air between the drivers and my ears seems to have opened up the soundstage of my HE-500s. I wouldn’t say it was as noticeable as with the Shure SRH840s, but there is a sonic improvement to my ears. Instrument separation again becomes a bit clearer and less congested. I didn’t notice any real changes in the bass/mid/treble response, but the soundstage seems to have opened up again. Subtle changes in sound, it does sound better, but the greatest gains with this mod are in the comfort region. The Brainwavz HM5 ear pad is just superior to HiFiMan’s: Better stitching, better padding, more comfortable.

The bottom line here is that the Brainwavz HM5 ear pad should be considered by everyone looking for an ear pad upgrade. It’s affordable, well-made, comfortable, and fits on a pretty wide variety of headphones. I strongly recommend them for Shure headphone owners, and I recommend them to HiFiMan owners that are willing to wreck their stock pads.

For more information, please visit Brainwavz and then grab a set on Amazon. Many thanks to Brainwavz and Audrey for reaching out to me and allowing me to audition (and keep) the new Brainwavz HM5 ear pads.

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  1. Hey man, just wondering if these ear pads are over ears? My 500mk2s are killing my ears with it's stock pads (on-ear for me) and heavy clamping

    1. Yep, they are are over/around-the-ear. The memory foam and added thickness should help alleviate some of the clamping discomfort.

  2. Hi,

    Is the pads you used on the 840 the ones marked "memory foam" on amazon?

    1. Yep, if you click on the Amazon link at the end of the article, those are the new pads sold by Brainwavz.

  3. shure 940 pads or hm5 velour and also hm5 leather or hm5 velour

  4. I'm a little confused by your instructions. Which pad do you remove the screen from? Why do you have to cut around the screen?I ask because I didn't need to cut any thing to remove the ring. I was under the impression you only had to trim the ring down then stretch the HM5 over it. However, it seems with the HM5 screen in places it forces the conical shape.

    1. It may depend on the pad design you have from HiFiMan. Mine was the older design that had the clear plastic ring. The velour cover and driver screen are both stitched/glued to it. So, I removed the velour cover, pad and driver screen from the HFM ring, trimmed it down, left the Brainwavz pad totally intact, and then stretched it onto the ring. I removed the driver screen, because I didn't want there to be two screens (HFM + Brainwavz), which would likely reduce clarity.

    2. Ah, I did figure it out after some help. Mine is the black plastic ring. Thanks.

  5. Save some cash and buy these earpads on the site from the Canadian seller.

  6. How Does pleather sound on open back headphones?

    1. Pad materials generally have similar impact regardless of whether a headphone is open or closed because it's the material that is accentuating certain frequencies or isolating outside noise differently, etc.






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