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HIFIMAN BW200 Review: Strictly mediocre

HIFIMAN is a relatively well-known brand in the audiophile circles due to stellar products such as the HIFIMAN Sundara and the exorbitantly-priced HIFIMAN Shangri-La. We even tested the HIFIMAN TWS600, a mid-range true wireless in-ear headphone, that impressed us with its sonic accuracy. In this review, we are testing the company’s new offering, the HIFIMAN BW200, which is a budget wireless earphone. Let’s see if it manages to impress.

Build and comfort

The HIFIMAN BW200 sports a simple wireless in-ear headphone design although it doesn’t have a hard plastic neckband, as seen on many wireless earphones these days. Instead, there’s a flat tangle-resistant wire that goes around the neck and continues down to the earbuds. Each side has a remote box, one with all the buttons and LEDs, and one bare (just for balancing purposes).

HIFIMAN BW200

The left side remote box volume up and down buttons, as well as the multifunction button to turn on and off power and pause and play music. You can also answer or decline phone calls using this button. The buttons have decent tactile feedback but are sometimes hard to find and press since they sit flush with the remote box’s body. This side also features the micro-USB charging port tucked under a rubber flap.

HIFIMAN BW200

In the box, users get two additional silicone tips to choose from. We found that the Medium-sized ear tip fit us the best. The earbuds themselves are pretty ergonomic and fit relatively snugly inside the ear, however, the nozzles aren’t angled, which make them slightly less secure in the ear than earbuds with angled nozzles. The back of the buds are magnetic and attach to one another when not in use, which is a pretty common feature on wireless in-ear headphones, even in the budget segment. The earphones are also pretty lightweight and can easily be carried in pockets or small handbags.

The remote boxes on both sides are well-balanced and the earphones don’t tug on one side due to this. The cable is flat and tangle resistant, which we always appreciate. Overall, the HIFIMAN BW200 are particularly striking to look at but are comfortable and decently-built earphones for the sub-2K price range. 

Features

If you’re looking for a pair of feature-laden wireless earphones, the HIFIMAN BW200 isn’t necessarily the way to go. Even the Redmi SonicBass earphones which cost merely Rs 999 come equipped with a larger feature set than these earphones. The earphones are powered by Bluetooth v4.1, which is pretty dated for 2020-2021. They come with an IPX4 water resistance rating, which means the earphones can endure a few light splashes.

HIFIMAN BW200

There’s no extra codec support such as AAC and aptX, just the standard SBC codec. However, at this price range, it is easy to forgive that. What isn’t that easy to forgive and forget is the lack of voice assistant support, so you can’t control Google Assistant or Siri with the onboard controls on this device, which is disappointing. Moreover, the earphones come with micro-USB charging, when most have moved on to USB Type-C. 

One thing we were impressed with, however, was the battery life. For a pair of budget wireless earphones, the HIFIMAN BW200 has surprisingly decent battery life. Rated at 12 hours of playtime, we performed our own tests to corroborate these numbers and found that the buds last at least 11 hours from a full charge. 

Performance

HIFIMAN is a company well-known for its audio mastery, however, the BW200 doesn’t match the calibre of other offerings from the company. The sound profile is pretty dark, meaning the bass is too boosted and the highs are underemphasised to some degree. This creates a broody and dark sound tone which doesn’t sound good with many genres of music.

Uncompensated frequency response graph – HIFIMAN BW200 (Blue) vs Reference IEM (Orange)

For example, in the track Hysteria by Muse, the drums are too overpowering and they heavily veil the clarity and detail in the mids and highs. The lead guitar and cymbals in this track are heavily veiled causing the song to fall flat on its face. Even in bass-focused tracks, the earphones produce slightly boomy bass which takes away from the entire experience.

The mids on these earphones actually sound pretty detailed and rich, however, heavy auditory masking from the bass regions of the frequency chart mar the quality of the mids. All in all, there are other earphones in this price range that do a better job at balancing the frequencies. For instance, the Redmi SonicBass does come with a bass bias, but the bass doesn’t overpower the mids and highs to a degree where they lose all their detail.

Verdict

Priced at Rs 1,999 but available for Rs 1,490 on other e-commerce platforms, the HIFIMAN BW200 is a relatively well-built pair of headphones that lacks finesse in the sound quality. The sound profile is quite dark and the bass response overwhelms the details and nuances in the mids and highs. The earphones also lack voice assistant support and are powered by the dated Bluetooth v4.1, making these buds slightly hard for us to recommend to users. 

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