Current testing methodology is v1.2
December 2, 2021
Small Oval – Micro Suede
6.38 x 5.08 x 0.91 in
So I’m currently waist-deep into my long-term review of the AKG K371-BT, and one of the main concerns I’ve had with them is the feel of their stock earpads.
To avoid harping on them too much here, the short of it was that those earpads used a very squishy foam that, while comfortable, seemed to cause other issues down the line.
Now obviously, I couldn’t test this hypothesis on its own; I was going to need other earpads to test them against.
So that’s what I did—and here I am now with my thoughts on the Brainwavz Small Gaming Earpads.
Brainwavz Small Oval Gaming Earpads
Good upgrade earpads held back by their tricky shape.
“Gaming” moniker aside, these earpads feature soft synthetic suede, Brainwavz’s great memory foam, and cooling gel all in one.
The Small Oval size, however, is made with bad sizing that really detracts from the experience.
- Outer material: Microsuede (synthetic)
- Inner material: Memory foam with cooling gel
- Earpad Size (L/W/D): 100mm / 75mm / 22mm
- Inner Hole Size: 60mm / 32mm
Stuff I like
- Cooling gel works for long enough
- Better isolation
- Slight bass and treble boost
Stuff I like less
- Inner hole too small for most ears
- Shallow pad depth
- Cooling gel less effective in hot climates
Comparable products to consider
Arguably the best earpads for the CD900ST, Japan’s ever popular upgrade earpads work just as well on the AKG K371.
Overview and History
Brainwavz is a Hong Kong-based manufacturer best known for selling headphone earpads and storage solutions like headphone hangers, shelves, and cases.
Early on, they also made headphones and earphones of their own, but these were eventually phased out as it became clear that accessories were the more lucrative market.
The Gaming Earpads are positioned as one of Brainwavz’s premium earpads alongside their sheepskin leather model. As such, they were priced at about ~$25 depending on their size (more on this later).
DISCLAIMER: This review of the Small Oval Gaming Earpads was done using an AKG K371, a headphone that Brainwavz lists as compatible with their earpads. However, your experience will vary depending on the headphones you’ll use with them. Take this entire review with a grain of salt.
The Brainwavz gaming earpads are arguably the most feature-packed model in their catalog, combining their slow-rebound memory foam, micro suede fabric, and a layer of cooling gel all in one package.
Using gel in earpads is by no means a new idea. They’re quite commonly found on noise protection earmuffs thanks to their consistent seal and excellent noise isolation compared to other materials.
From what I can tell, though, Brainwavz has patterned their earpads after the ones made popular by the Razer Kraken Pro V2. The main gimmick here is the introduction of a layer of gel where the earpads make contact with the head.
This gel is supposed to do two things—first, it gives a cooling sensation when you put them on; and second, it draws heat away faster than foam so the earpads stay cooler for longer.
Sizing and Fit
I want to make clear at this point that I’m reviewing the Small Oval size of these gaming earpads. This sizing is very important as it affects all other aspects of how the earpads feel and do their job.
Brainwavz has made these earpads available in all of their standard sizes for their universal earpads, which include Round, XL Round, Oval, and Small Oval.
The Small Oval earpads are 100mm x 75mm x 22mm in size (length x width x thickness) and are mainly designed as replacement earpads for the Sony MDR-7506. This can be a problem for a variety of reasons we’ll get into later.
Unlike their other designs, Brainwavz’ Small Oval gaming earpads use a stitched inner lip (this is the part that hooks or stretches to fit the headphones).
This vastly improves durability over the glued elastic band that Brainwavz has typically used.
The stitching also makes that inner lip thicker, which turns the under-a-minute process of fitting earpads onto my AKG K371 (which has a very narrow earpad groove) into a 5-minute finagling session *per earpad*.
Now, this problem lies a bit more with the K371’s design than anything else, so you likely won’t have any problems installing these on your headphones (assuming they fit, of course).
Let’s get the obvious question out of the way: does the cooling gel work or not?
I’m happy to report that it actually does—for the most part.
The cooling sensation of the gel is there and it feels quite nice, especially on first wear. The gel is firm but relatively thin, so there’s enough give for the pads to conform to my head a bit.
Over longer sessions, though, the gel becomes a bit more annoying. The gel can absorb some heat and draw it away from the head for a time, but this only works to a point.
Once the gel has maxed out its thermal capacity, the pads can get even more toasty than the stock ones, and take longer for the gel pads to cool down.
The micro suede that Brainwavz uses here doesn’t help, either. It’s thankfully not real suede, but it’s a thick and tightly-woven polyester that holds heat in more than velour or other fabrics.
For what’s supposed to be “cooling” gel earpads, I find this kind of unfortunate.
Now, your mileage here will definitely vary (and most likely not be as bad). I live in a fairly hot and humid area, typically hovering in the low-90s (~32 C) with 60% humidity.
As you can imagine, any earpad that has a hard time with heat dissipation will feel like hell for someone that lives in my kind of climate. If you use your headphones in a cooler or otherwise climate-controlled area, these issues become less apparent.
And this is good because Brainwavz’ Small Oval gaming earpads have a much bigger issue.
Recall that the Brainwavz Small Oval gaming earpads are patterned after the Sony MDR-7506. This includes their sizing, which has an inner hole that turns the K371 into an uncomfortably small over-ear.
Even as I try to slip in a spacer of sorts inside the earpads to give my ears a bit more room, they still get uncomfortable after about an hour — and that’s before the temperature issues I just covered.
Those with smaller ears than mine (about 60mm x 35mm) might have a better experience than I have in terms of fit. However, I can’t say the same for those with larger ears; the Small Oval Gaming earpads will definitely just feel like an on-ear.
Where the Brainwavz Small Oval gaming earpads are a definite upgrade is in their isolation.
The gel is a much denser material than memory foam, which makes them quite good at blocking out external noise. This is why they’re used for industrial hearing protection.
That principle still applies to Brainwavz’s earpads here.
The gel layer seals to the head pretty well without introducing too much pressure.
The microsuede also helps by preventing the earpads from actually sticking to the head the way leather and protein leather tends to do.
As with any sound assessment, I strongly encourage taking this section with a grain of salt. In this case, though, I recommend a larger chunk of salt this time.
While earpads do affect the sound of a headphone, they only make small, subtle changes that people may not hear the same way due to differences in fit, seal, and other factors.
Just keep this in mind if you ever buy these earpads based on this review.
From what I can tell, the Brainwavz Gaming Earpads gave my AKG K371 a bump toward a closed, V-shaped sound.
The smaller size and better isolation of the pads seem to contribute to that closed-in effect, but there’s also a stronger bass thump and sharper treble that I can’t quite put my finger on. We can leave that for the smarter people out there to figure out.
At the time of publishing this review, Brainwavz’ Small Oval Gaming Earpads cost about $22.50 retail, which I managed to grab on sale for 30% off.
For what it is, these earpads have a strong value proposition. There are a lot of features and all of them actually work.
That said, the size of these Small Oval ones really holds them back from excellence. This is something you will have to take into account before you buy them for yourself.
The Brainwavz Small Oval Gaming Earpads are perfectly good replacement earpads that should work pretty well for the headphones they’re meant to fit on.
The cooling gel is a bit gimmicky, but it does do what it says on the tin, and would actually be preferable if you use them in relatively cooler ambient temperatures.
Sadly, Brainwavz decided to design these earpads to be used on the Sony MDR-7506 — a headphone with a comfort rating that I could categorize with a technical term called “absolutely horrible”.
This choice makes the earpads better than the stock 7506, sure, but also makes them way too small, thin, and uncomfortable for anyone that wants to use these on most other headphones.
And yes, we do have to point out that these are supposed to be “universal” earpads. Brainwavz even proudly maintains a growing list of “compatible” headphones, of which the AKG K371 was a part and which became the reason I bought these earpads in the first place.
To be fair to Brainwavz, I already expected the fit to not be very good—the shape and marketing for these earpads were dead giveaways.
But for “universal earpads” that are to fit on a couple dozen headphones, from a company that I and much of the audiophile community hold in high regard, I expected just a bit more.
This post was last updated on 2023-12-03 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.