Sound Analysis – EST8.
You would imagine that EST12 and EST8 being siblings 4 drivers apart would be tuned similarly because of having similar tech, but that is not the case.
In comparison to EST12, EST8 is darker, with an intimate soundstage and has a peak presence in 1-2kHz range which primarily differentiates it from EST12. What defines it is a balance tilted slightly towards the lower spectrum with bass and lower mids playing a fun role and a signature that is targeted towards an audience that likes a smoother and intimate presentation with an X-factor, which is resolution without overly boosted treble.
EST8 sounds as if you’re listening to the band in a old wooden room with an intimate audience but with a decently wide soundstage. Very earthy and organic. What may sound contrary to the tech used is the treble being rather smooth even though EST8 uses 2 EST drivers which are specifically designed and famous for treble duties.
Switches – EST8’s switches are not as effective as EST12. Most modes besides 000 did not sound as good to me, so I’m going to keep this simple and write the sound analysis based on the 000 combination which is pretty cool by itself.
Volume power – Before starting the sound analysis, I’d like to point out that EST8 needs more volume power than EST12 and sounds best at average to slightly louder volumes. As soon as you reach its sweet spot, it’ll show you what it’s got with full zeal.
- Bass – EST8 has nice organic and impactful sounding bass. Imagine a nicely aged vintage Gretsch kick drum’s sound. What is cool is that like in EST12, you can precisely hear the boundaries of the room reverb when used in the track, but the feeling of space is different. As I said above, it sounds as if the band is performing in a nice sounding wooden studio room. For example, listen to Niall Horan’s Slow Hands. You can hear the boundaries of the warm drum room in the intro kick drum very accurately. Bass guitar is well present, with sub-bass and mid-bass taking the spotlight more than high-bass. It has good rumble, sustains well but is not as fast as EST12. It gives you the illusion as if a Dynamic Driver is handling bass duties but is actually done by Balanced Armatures.
- Mids – Lower mids are pretty neutral but a little warmer. It doesn’t make anything muddy, just warm. I hear the curve starting a gradual linear dip around 100-120Hz, dipping lowest at around 700-800Hz, very linearly. This keeps the lower mids decently clean from bloat or mud. Post 800Hz, the curve further rises to make up the peak which lies around 1-2kHz. Technically, big peaks in this area tend to make some instruments sound a little honky and vocals a bit nasally, but luckily, EST8’s peak is not too prominent and vocals sound nice, intimate and very organic (Reference – Chris Cornell’s unplugged version of ‘I Am the Highway’ Live at Queen Elizabeth Theatre). Snare body is portrayed with good authority in songs like Muse’s Panic Station and Karnivool’s Simple Boy. They have the smack and presence but not the peaky upper mids which makes you cringe every time a rock snare is slammed in a song when listening at louder volumes. I hear another small peak around 5kHz but again it’s not too prominent and keeps the organic warm character of the IEM intact, though does help stringed instruments like acoustic guitars and orchestral instruments like horns and strings shine. It also helps drum shells with nice attack.
- Treble – Treble is again pretty smooth and warm. It feels a bit rolled off in songs which are demanding of the treble sizzle but then also helps make EST8 a very easy listen without tiring one’s ears in long sessions. It is not for people who look for a bright V-shape sound in an IEM or extra clarity with boosted treble. It is more like how old vinyl records sound; sound that is associated with vintage instruments and analog tubes.
But if you are someone that likes extended treble and some exciting sizzle, EST8 is not for you. You should look towards the EST12 instead because that’s the IEM with great balance, clarity and openness throughout the frequency spectrum.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation.
EST8 on the other hand has a slightly intimate soundstage compared to EST12. Overall the soundstage is still decently wide, wider than average, and has good depth too but the warmer character increases the feeling of intimacy. Imaging and resolution are also very good but fall short of how well EST12 does it. Of course, EST8 is half the price of EST12, yet for the price, EST8 does this section well.