The BGVP EST8 is the latest sub-flagship IEM from BGVP, housing 2 Sonion electrostatic drivers and 6 balanced armatures under its cover. It is priced at $779.
You can read up on our previous BGVP reviews on Headfonics here.
Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2020 which you can read up on here.
The EST8 tech is a 6-BA monitor with a 4-way crossover infrastructure coupled with a pair of Sonion electrostatic drivers. These newly developed electrostatic super-tweeters use ultra-light membranes powered by a miniature high-voltage transformer to push treble response beyond a balanced armature or dynamic driver range. Theoretically, this allows incredible treble extension which fortifies fidelity and airy detail.
The EST8 accommodates 2 pairs of dual BAs from Sonion for the low-end and also a Dual BA tweeter from Knowles totaling 8 drivers per side. The four vents in front of the nozzles linked to the sets of drivers confirm the quad-crossover arrangement.
The EST 8 also uses a switchable configuration tech with 3 switches which you can toggle by yourself. Each switch affects staging, high-frequency response, and the low/mid tuning.
This is not the first time we have seen user-tunable knobs/ switches. qdc has been well known for this as have Vision Ears. With the EST8, you could access different tunings easily by activating the switches with the tip of a rollerball pen. Changes in the output are very audible and with the 3 variables together the EST8 switches can create a total of 8 possible tunings.
There are no information in the packaging about the switches so we sought help online. The markings on the switch panel indicate up-switching to be ”On” and the numbered end is ”Off”
- Dynamics/ Sound field
- High Frequency
- Low/mid Frequency
We also received some guidelines on what the switches are for and what configuration best suits what genres of music. It doesn’t cover all the settings but this will shed you some light what in the sound field will be revamped when you do the magic:
- 1 On 2 On 3 On: Rock, hip&pop, male pop vocal, small compilations.
- 1 Off 2 Off 3 Off: suitable for female vocal, ACG
- 1 On 2 On 3 Off: suitable for female vocal, ACG, electronic music
- 1 On 2 Off 3 Off: suitable for dual-band and three brass band music
- 1 On 2 Off 3 On: suitable for string reprise and wind ensemble / pure vocals
- 1 Off 2 Off 3 On: suitable for dance music and DJ
- 1 Off 2 On 3 On: suitable for pop, hip/pop music
It is a fun experience switching on and off to hear different tunings and changes the way how EST8 sound, to match your music preference or your setup. The default settings have the highest quality/ naturalness to me but some settings make it more fun and they do add a bit of sparkle.
The leftmost switch is described as enhancing the dynamics/sound field. It actively presses suppresses the bass response for better clarity and openness but it distorts the imaging slightly. The other two switches control the intensity of mids/treble and are filtered by capacitors. This won’t be a precise tweak like banded equalizers but could be fun at times to tweak the tuning.
The stock tuning favors gaming music, electronic music with its light-paced presentation. It has more of a laid back vocal positioning that is relaxing for pop or streaming content or something that doesn’t steal your focus.
The EST8 is built from resin and it comes in a clear, dust-free finish displaying the electrostatic drivers and also its proprietary transformer. On the front of the IEM sits BGVP’s logos and on the inner side an ”Artmagic EST8 013R/L” engraving, which are individual serial numbers for this pair of EST8.
The electrostatic driver is placed around 1.5cm from the tip of the nozzle, connected to one of its four vents. I don’t see any bubbles or dirt in the transparent shell and everything is neatly installed. This is a good level of build quality for the money.
Looking through the faceplates you will see the huge transformer powering the tweeters. Four capacitors are sported for the tuning mechanism also a lump of drivers/internal wirings right beneath.
The EST8 comes with BGVP’s 6N OCC + silver silk hybrid upgrade cable. This is the same cable we have seen on the DM7 with 2-pin and 3.5mm configuration on the unit sent to us.
The brown-grey octa-core braided cable with glossy black finishing feels incredibly light and soft, no stress on my ears after long listens. On the round chin slider, you will find BGVP’s logo. Decent build quality and attention to the design again.
Comfort & Isolation
The EST8 isn’t the smallest IEM in the market but the shape is carefully designed for good seal and comfort out of the box. It sticks out of the ears quite a bit but cable is light and weight well dispersed so it doesn’t cause any discomfort. If you have very small ears this may be a tight fit, however to BGVP’s credit the cable design works well even when I have my sunglasses on.
Isolation with the EST8 is library-quiet with the stock tips. The EST8 blocks out a lot of noise by reason of a tight fit, sealing nearly as good as customs. The stock tips are quite soft so if you want even better isolation you may try switching to denser or more extended tips.
Accessories and Packaging
The EST8 comes in white packaging outlining the EST8, starring also Sonion, Knowles and the Hi-res logo on the bottom of the packaging. You will find the specs of the EST8 behind and opening it up you will find 2 sets of silicone tips, memory foams also a metallic case. The whole design looks professional, not fancy yet neat and practical.
The below impressions are made with QP2R, FiiO K5Pro, FiiO btr5, M11/11Pro, Hiby R6/R6Pro and various other sources. The EST8 is burnt in on the FiiO K3 for around a week with different online content.
Setting the switches on EST8 to “all off ” or 1 on/off 2 off 3 achieves the best coherence or tonal balance to my ears. I recommend using the vocal tips or SpinFit for better control in the bass, however.
On most configurations, the EST8 has a light but notable bass punch with recessed mids that promises fatigue-free listening. The large dual BAs handle mid-bass pleasantly, in particular with instruments like acoustic guitars. This is like having a big guitar amp cabinet so you will need some good sources to power it adequately.
The boosted upper mids, on the other hand, add good clarity and brightness to the output and manages to not be too aggressive or harsh. You will also hear a shy vocal that has a bit of a nasal timbre. To bring forward the vocal presence you have to ramp up the volume. The output quality holds up quite well against higher sound pressure showing no harsh distortion or peaks.
Despite housing 2 electrostatic drivers the EST8 is not a peaky or treble focused IEM. You can hear some crispiness and air added to the treble by the electrostatic driver but overall it stresses the bass performance with its dual BA configuration which sometimes bleeds over the upper frequencies with its overwhelming presence.
Staging and imaging
The EST8 has some good layering and a decent 3D feel in the bass. Instrument separation is moderately decent with good space rendered. Sometimes, it reminds me of a busy coffee shop, where the tuning creates an easy-listening experience that does not steal your focus, and not as critical as I originally expected for an electrostatic IEM.
Vocals are not the highlight of the EST8 unless you like to hear it loud with a lot of bass. The vocalist stands a bit far from stage while acoustic/bass instruments are performing in front of you.
Instead of very distinct imaging, the EST8 goes for a smooth presentation that allows you to enjoy the vibes than revealing a lot of detail or provide pinpoint positioning.
Circulating between DAPs, phones, and amplifiers I found that more power and control are needed to do the EST8 justice on resolution and tonal balance. The specs rated at 28Ω and 109dB/mW SPL definitely requires more voltage to open the curtains. You will still be able to power the EST8 with phones and enjoy overwhelming but less detailed bass.
With most sources, the tuning is quite V-shaped with a moderately fast roll-off. There are some sparkles in the upper mids which aren’t too aggressive and helps reveal more detail in lighter voices. Singers with darker vocal timbre feel a bit light even when being powered on desk setups. In most cases, the tuning has a light and energetic character.
Small Portable Sources
With weaker sources including my Xiaomi Max 2, M6 and FiiO K3 you can feel the EST8 struggling and it is not totally opening up, resulting in an M-shape, flatter presentation with artificially upper mids.
The rich timbre is a bit over presented lower frequencies giving low-end percussion instruments more weight in the mix. It has good impact and a shallow dive which renders good space and speed with dubstep, R&B, and gaming music.
The upper-mids are boosted to push forward higher notes on the guitar notes. The cymbals and the snares are very clean sounding with satisfactory resolution and never gets too hot. Trumpets, however, sounds lacking in body and bass drums are bloomy when underpowered. This makes classical music congested and vocal veiled or distant in positioning.
Switching the “1” and “3” filter on the EST8 clean up the vocal performances while a more powerful source will open it up even more without altering the output in an artificial sounding way.
If you are a Hiby R series user you will find the built-in equalizers option very useful. By pressing down some bass/sub-bass frequencies you will hear a lot more clarity and balance, and less nasal tones which make the vocal sound full.
To max out the potential on the EST8 we are putting it on some stronger outputs. Plugging into the QP2R and M11Pro the EST8 offers forceful punch and much better depth in bass right away, a lot more controlled than when underpowered.
The rich bass performance steals the show sounding more complete and unaltered, you will hear rich details when the guitarist/bassist pluck the strings and when the bass decays into air.
EST8’s weight in the mid-lows makes vocalists that possess darker voices sounds lighter than normal, voices such as Gregg Allman doesn’t sound as dark as I normally hear. This makes some tunes sound off but works great for electronic music that has fast attacks.
On QP2R, the EST8 sounds smooth with pronounced upper mids, it works well with some pop music but with my rock playlist, I would prefer a little bit more weight for male vocals and better treble extension. This is when M11Pro comes to rescue to give the vocal better weight and texture or you could look into the MSEB menu on your Hiby players.
Despite sounding more balanced the EST8 still has a dark, curtained signature such that you will feel the vocal and instrument imaging far off. It is a bit boxy but you may perceive larger staging for classical music quite alike how Final B1 renders the vocal positioning.
That being said some simple tweaks with multi-band equalizers could enhance articulation, separation, and resolution, if you want an easier solution with clear instructions to tweak the sound, the MSEB tuning system on Hiby players will be my best recommendation this time.
Meze Rai Penta
With the Rai Penta and EST8 to compare there is a lot of contrast between these two in terms of tuning. The Rai Penta is a beautifully designed metallic Hybrid IEM at a similar price bracket to the EST8, packing 4BA and 1DD inside.
There is good air in the treble and a lot of texture in the mids. In contrast, the EST8 sounds smooth, mid-bass centric while the Rai Penta aims for texture and resolution, a more hifi approach. At lower volume, you can hear the Rai Penta showing much more balance. The EST8 will require more volume to reach its sweet spot.
The vocal performance on the EST8 is distanced, like when you are in the middle of a football arena or in a live performance. The Rai Penta stages the vocalist upfront with a careful dip in the lower mids for clarity.
The Rai Penta offers a balanced tuning with crispy highs and great articulation. The EST8 presents your tracks in a different way with the electrostatic driver boosting the treble and emphasizing the bass at the same time. If you are more on the bass-head side or if you are very sensitive to treble peaks guess you will find the EST8 more to your tastes. The tweakable sound is a plus too.
The Prophile 8 is another popular 8 driver, 4 cross-over-per-side IEM with a cool matte black finish. This IEM sounds very realistic and uncolored with precise control and zero sibilance in its airy treble.
Both IEMs sport switches and 8 drivers as well as a 4-way crossover design. Putting the EST8 with PP8 you will notice the PP8 being more responsive to power and the EST8 requires more juice for best performance.
Everything is balanced, controlled with the right weight in the PP8 but you are not getting the full, slightly warm bass response in the EST8 or its relaxing presentation. The Prophile 8 the better higher resolution and a swiftly polished, lush vocal performance. In contrast, the EST8 gives us looser, bouncy bass rumble and a lot more energy in the mid-bass.
Overall the Prophile 8 has higher fidelity, also a superior tonal balance and control. However, at merely half the price. the EST8 contends the PP8 by featuring the latest electrostatic technologies and a more tweakable sound. It also has more premium stock cable and more attractive design.
BGVP has been releasing a lot of different IEMs with a vast selection of driver configurations. The EST8 they created this time is a new attempt with a user tweakable interface.
The sound has a fun character and a sound I didn’t expect for an electrostatic-inside IEM. Its juicy bass is the highlight of the show as well as its powerful attack that matches well with electronic instruments. There is some sparkle in the upper mids and a bit of treble presence to prevent it from sounding dark.
If you are looking for a bass-focused IEM that plays you relaxing background music during your daily commute and enjoy the concept of user-tweakable switches. Or if hybrid designs with electrostatic drivers from Sonion tweak your interest, then give the EST8 a demo.
BGVP EST8 Specifications
- Drivers: Sonion electrostatic controller x 2+ Balanced Armature x 6
- 3 tuning switches; 8 tuning styles available
- Sensitivity: ≥109dB SPL/ MW
- Impedance:28 Ω
- Frequency response: 10Hz-40kHz
- Distortion rate: ≤0. 5% (1 KHZ)
- Channel difference: ≤1 dB
- Rated power:9 mW
- Cable Length: 1.2m ± 5%