Sound Analysis – EST12.
I want to start with EST12 first because honestly it has become one of my favorite IEMs from my collection. It is one of the cleanest, resolving and versatile IEMs I’ve heard in this segment, not just because of its sound signature but also because of the added advantage of the 3 switches that add substantial color, changing the signature tastefully (more than any other earphone with switches that I’ve tested).
Because of the versatility of the switches, I’d like to break off from the standard format of my reviews and explain the sound based on the switch combinations and their addition of color. I’ve arranged it in the order that makes most sense for an easy explanation as per my tests.
- Stock (000) – Right out of the box, EST12 comes with all switches off. I like to call this ‘000’ switch combination as the CLEAN mode. It sounds exactly like that. It is as if you’re listening to the song in an extremely well treated pro-studio with neutral/reference style monitors. The resolution is so high that you can hear the boundaries of the reverbs used in the track clearly.
Bass – Kicks and bass guitar sound very classy and have high resolution, enabling you to clearly focus on their character. Imagine badass music playing in the background with the bassist and the drummer both dressed up in James Bond style suits. Lol! Jokes apart, bass is very tight and has good speed but it’s not your typical BA bass. It can bring in good punch and impact when the song demands it. Bass extends down low to the lowest and mid-bass based bass tones shine through very well. High bass is also well presented and you can hear the overtones and the fresh string sparkle in the bass guitar when the bass is playing prominently. Overall, bass sounds very refined and classy.
Mids – Lower mids are very neutral and in control. There is no bass bleed nor are the lower mids too emphasized, hence always sounding very CLEAN and avoiding muddiness and boxiness at all times. It lets all the parts in the lower mid spectrum like baritone vocals and overall body of the instruments likes snares, shine clearly. As for upper mids, EST12 luckily does not have the typical peaky Chi-fi 3kHz bump. Instead, the upper mids are very tastefully tuned where all instruments are portrayed with equal poise and refinement. Be it orchestral instruments, acoustic guitars or drums, all of them have their own individuality and have natural tonality and timbre.
I don’t want to use the words loosely but vocals do sound very organic and life-like. Not the boosted-sparkly kind but the kind you hear when a singer sings right in front of you in a concert with a nice delay and reverb. Just listen to Chris Cornell or Bryan Adams’ live unplugged songs with decent volume and you’ll know what I’m talking about. 😉
Treble – Again, treble is very very well done, doesn’t have any erratic peaks, sounds very refined and has high resolution following the clean character of the IEM to the T. It is very airy and open yet smooth and never harsh. If you like upping the volume to enjoy the song, treble or upper mids are not going to come in the way. Be it listening at lower or higher levels, the IEM always sounds very CLEAN, clear and comfortable. Treble also keeps the tonality of the instruments intact and adds a nice sheen to the top, keeping stringed instruments, cymbals and vocals sounding absolutely life-like.
- Switch 2 (020) – If you feel you need to fill up the bass and mids to give instruments more body and intimacy, flip Switch 2 up! It also makes the sound warmer. It is so tasteful that I kept switching it on and off to see which mode I liked more in every song. Honestly, even though I’d ideally like to sway towards the 000 mode more, Switch 2 simply made some songs sound more fun with its bass and lower mids energy.
- Switch (023) – Now if you feel that 020 made the IEM a little warm but you still need the bass and lower mids body, flip Switch 3 up! It adds more treble clarity and sheen to make up for Switch 2’s body, hence giving the IEM a completely new sound identity. I like to call this mode RICH and ENERGETIC.
- Switch 3 (003) – Switch 3 switched on in isolation can make the sound a little trebly but could help in songs which are mixed a bit too warm. Also, results may vary according to one’s liking and preferences.
- Switch 1 (100 or 123) – Switch 1 adds a small boost around 60-80Hz affecting the lower bass in a tasteful way. It rounds off the thump of the kick and bottom of the bass. It is relatively subtle but can be magical in some songs. It works well in both scenarios of 000 and 023.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation.
EST12 has a nice big soundstage which is both wide and deep, dare I say very holographic. Imaging is spectacularly spot on, very precise! Separation and resolution is one of the best I’ve come across recently in this price segment.
I had a funny realisation when I was listening to Green Day’s Jesus of Suburbia with the EST12. Even though ‘American Idiot’ is one of my favourite albums, I had never really realised in full awareness that the drums in the ‘Dearly beloved’ section of Jesus of Suburbia were hard panned completely left, with voice in the centre and acoustic guitar hard panned on the right. I know that it is quite obvious now if you listen to it having read this paragraph, but honestly it grabbed my attention and the awareness of precise placement came with EST12’s wide soundstage, resolution and precise imaging. This shows how good EST12 is and how aware it makes you of all the instruments even when you’re completely lost in the song.