To describe signal and contrast properties of an isotropic, single-slab 3D dataset [double inversion-recovery (DIR), fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR), T2, and T1-weighted magnetization prepared rapid acquisition gradient-echo (MPRAGE)] and to evaluate its performance in detecting multiple sclerosis (MS) brain lesions compared to 2D T2-weighted spin-echo (T2SE). All single-slab 3D sequences and 2D-T2SE were acquired in 16 MS patients and 9 age-matched healthy controls. Lesions were scored independently by two raters and characterized anatomically. Two-tailed Bonferroni-corrected Student's t-tests were used to detect differences in lesion detection between the various sequences per anatomical area after log-transformation. In general, signal and contrast properties of the 3D sequences enabled improved detection of MS brain lesions compared to 2D-T2SE. Specifically, 3D-DIR showed the highest detection of intracortical and mixed WM-GM lesions, whereas 3D-FLAIR showed the highest total number of WM lesions. Both 3D-DIR and 3D-FLAIR showed the highest number of infratentorial lesions. 3D-T2 and 3D-MPRAGE did not improve lesion detection compared to 2D-T2SE. Multi-contrast, isotropic, single-slab 3D MRI allowed an improved detection of both GM and WM lesions compared to 2D-T2SE. A selection of single-slab 3D contrasts, for example, 3D-FLAIR and 3D-DIR, could replace 2D sequences in the radiological practice.