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 realization when I was listening to Green Day’s Jesus of Suburbia with the EST12. Even though ‘American Idiot’ is one of my favorite albums, I had never really realized in full awareness that the drums in the ‘Dearly beloved’ section of Jesus of Suburbia were hard panned completely left, with voice in the center 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.
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.
I’ll be comparing both EST8 and EST12 with all switches in off position (000) and add pointers wherever required.
64 Audio U12t ($2000) – U12t has 12 BAs and is one of the most popular and well acclaimed IEMs in the world. It comes with 64 Audio’s famous Tia and Apex tech.
- vs EST12 – Since U12t is more expensive than EST12, I’m going to keep this comparison between these two only and not the EST8.Build wise, U12t has a metal shell while EST12 has resin based shells. I dig both equally. Sound wise, both are very clean sounding IEMs. EST12 has a better bass presentation than U12t as it is more present, defined and rounded. U12t has good sub-bass but drops off slightly in low-bass and mid-bass. As for mids, both U12t and EST12 have very good clean and detailed mids but U12t sounds more V-shaped in comparison. Upper mids in both are very good and I can’t decide which one I like more. Both have peaks around 2.5kHz but U12t has the second peak around 5kHz whereas EST12 has it around 4kHz. As for treble, EST12 has it cleaner and can offer more versatility with its switch combinations. With EST12 in 000 mode, both IEM’s soundstages are very wide. Maybe U12t sounds wider in some songs but I can’t say for sure as they’re both pretty wide. EST12’s soundstage reduces very slightly in 020 mode as compared to 000 because of fuller mids in 020. Both have very good resolution, imaging and separation between instruments.
64 Audio A6t ($1299) – A6t has 6 BAs and like the U12t comes with Tia and Apex tech.
- vs EST12 – Again, since it is in EST12’s price segment, I’m going to keep the comparison between these two only. A6t has good sub-bass presence but EST12 does low-bass and mid-bass better, where A6t starts a V-shape fall off. Both are very clean, impactful but EST12’s bass is more defined and refined. Mids are a strong suit of both but EST12 mids have higher resolution and sound more life-like. Both do treble really well but EST12’s treble is natural and lively with more resolution whereas A6t’s lower treble is cool with nice sparkle in the 6-7.5kHz region. A6t has a nice soundstage but EST12 has a holographic soundstage with it being both wider and deeper.
Custom Art Fibae 7 (€1100) – Fibae 7 has 7BAs and uses tech which enables it to have flat impedance and phase. FYI, FIBAE stands for Flat Impedance Balanced Armature Earphone.
- vs EST12 – Again, I think Fibae 7 is a great competitor to EST12, both in terms of price segment and sound capabilities, so I’ll keep this section between the two. Both Fibae 7 and EST12 are very impressive in the first listen and have a wide and deep soundstage. Fibae 7’s bass has more slam and is more present. EST12’s bass on the other hand is tighter with equally good definition. Fibae 7’s mids are more forward with lower mids being warmer. EST12’s lower mids are relatively neutral and upper mids are not as forward. EST12’s treble has more clarity and definition whereas Fibae 7’s treble slowly rolls off but still sounds very clear.
Campfire Audio Andromeda ($1099) – Andromeda has 5 BAs and is Campfire Audio’s most successful product. It is a widely loved IEM. Build wise, Andromeda has a metal shell whereas EST8 and EST12 have resin shells. Resin shells are not a con, they’re just different. Tech wise, EST8 and EST12 are hybrids and have many more drivers.
- vs EST8 – They are starkly different. EST8 has a smoother relatively darker signature with more bass presence and smoother treble. Andromeda on the other hand has cleaner and tighter bass, very detailed mids and sparkly upper treble.
- vs EST12 – This comparison is exciting because of Andromeda’s popularity. Both have a clean, refined and tight bass presentation but EST12’s bass can go from classy to raunch with its versatility of switches and has more poise, refinement and definition. Mids in both again are very clean and detailed where Andromeda’s lower are slightly fuller in comparison but EST12’s lower mids and upper mids are presented more accurately. EST12’s mids overall can again be altered from clean to fuller with Switch 2 and they sound more natural, refined and have more resolution. Andromeda’s upper mids and treble have a unique presentation with sizzle in the 7-10kHz region but not much in the 4-7kHz region whereas EST12’s treble is crispy, clean and clear all to the top and is more natural and tonally accurate in the 2-10kHz region. Both have a nice soundstage but EST12’s is more holographic.
Fearless Roland ($1000) – Tech wise, Roland is a tri-brid with 1DD + 2BA + 2EST.
- vs EST8 – Roland is more expensive than EST8. Sound wise, Roland with its darker presentation is a good competitor to EST8, though sounds slightly darker. EST8 has more sub-bass and mid-bass presence, a peak in the 1-2kHz range and another one around 5kHz. Roland on the other hand has very nice neutral-ish bass, a peak around 2.5kHz and another one around 4kHz. EST8 has slightly more treble presence but Roland maintains a good balance of a darker presentation whereas EST8’s sound signature falls mid-way. Both do a good job in their own way.
- vs EST12 – Honestly Roland being 33% cheaper than EST12 at $1000 is not the best contender for comparison but is still a very popular IEM, a Chi-fi gem, and I’m sure a lot of people would like to read a comparison between these two as well.Tech wise, EST12 has many more drivers, is more complex in terms of driver distribution per crossover and surprisingly fits all those drivers in a similar shell depth as Roland. EST12 is slightly wider in dimensions though. Both fit comfortably but I think EST12 fits me better. Sound wise, Roland compared to EST12 is quite different, with Roland serving the dark lord…cough…excuse me, sorry serving a darker signature. Sorry I couldn’t help myself there. EST12 on the other hand has a fun signature, more open and airy. EST12 has better resolution, clarity and a wider soundstage. EST12 is also more versatile because of the switches, more energetic with its presentation and better with instrument separation. Roland is no slouch either. It just serves a different audience which likes nice and smooth presentation. In that it does an excellent job with very nice neutral bass presentation, good balance between the 3 bands, and good resolution and separation based on good tech usage and tuning without using boosted treble for the same.
ItsFit Fusion ($950) – Fusion is a very cool tri-brid with 1DD + 2BA + 1 Magnetostatic driver from ItsFit Labs, which is a new company, hardly a few months old, and is already making waves in the community. It is also the first I’ve come across which uses a magnetostatic driver.
- vs EST8 – EST8 and Fusion are again quite different. Fusion sounds very modern, energetic and lively whereas EST8 sounds warmer. Both do bass very well but Fusion has a dynamic driver with higher resolution, nicer character and energy. Fusion has better mids with more resolution, better details and more liveliness. Fusion’s treble has more sizzle, sparkle and energy whereas EST8 is smoother, more natural and warmer.
- vs EST12 – Fusion’s has the dynamic driver characteristics with more sub-bass but EST12’s bass has more note definition, refinement and resolution. As for mids, both do it very well but Fusion’s lower mids are warmer whereas EST12’s lower mids are cleaner and have more detail. Fusion’s upper mids are more upfront but warm whereas EST12’s have more resolution, refinement and sound very natural. Est12’s treble sounds more natural, is clear and airy whereas Fusion’s is energetic, has sizzle and is thinner relatively. EST12 has a wider and deeper soundstage in comparison but Fusion is very good in this regard for its price point.
Shozy Pola39 ($900) – Tech wise Pola39 has a 1DD + 2EST drivers. It’s the newest flagship from Shozy, which is a cool brand from Hong Kong making innovative products, some in collaboration with brands like AAW.
- vs EST8 – EST8 and Pola39 are starkly different with EST8 being smoother and Pola39 being open and airy with some sparkle up top. EST8 has more bass presence, meatier mids and controlled clear treble whereas Pola39 has good refined bass, thinner mids and treble with nice energy and sparkle.
- vs EST12 – Both have a fun, exciting and airy sound. EST12 again being much more expensive does everything better, it’s bass is more refined and defined, mids are very clear and treble is very open and clear whereas Pola39 relatively has nice DD bass, just not as defined as EST12, thinner mids and exciting sparkly treble.
As I said before, EST12 has become one of my favorite IEMs and I’ve been enjoying it a lot for the past month or so. BGVP hit it out of the park with this one and I really can’t find anything wrong with it. I took extra time to review it as I wanted to be sure of everything. It is very versatile because of its switches, very clean, detailed, resolving, natural and extremely enjoyable. This one hits very hard and competes toe to toe with the best in its segment. If you’re looking for something in this price segment, you should definitely consider the EST12. I can happily recommend it. As for the EST8, it does most things well but is targeted towards an audience which likes a smoother and warmer sound with some sparkle up top and appreciation for it will completely depend on your liking and preferences. I personally dig it, especially for its vinyl-ish mojo and character. It is also very well built and comes with the same accessories that EST12 does.
All in all, BGVP is coming out with some very cool gear very quickly and their EST hybrids, especially the EST12, is a clear indication of their capability, talent, expertise and craftsmanship. Surely keep an eye out for these when you get a chance.
Gear used for testing and review.
- Logic Pro X session with hi-res test tracks played through Universal Audio Apollo or Focusrite Clarett Pre X audio interface headphone out.
- Hiby R6 Pro
- Oneplus 7 Pro
Reference Songs list.
- Foo Fighters – The Pretender, Best of you & Everlong
- Coldplay – Paradise, Up in flames & Everglow
- Ed Sheeran – Thinking out loud, Bloodstream & Galway Girl
- Chainsmokers – Somebody, Sickboy, This Feeling & Closer
- John Mayer – Slow dancing in a burning room, Stop this Train & Say
- Gavin James – Always & Hearts on fire
- Switchfoot – Meant to live & Dare you to move
- Linkin Park – Papercut, Somewhere I belong & Talking to myself
- Maroon 5 – She will be loved, Payphone & Lost stars
- Lifehouse – All in all & Come back down
- Niall Horan – Slow Hands, Mirrors & The Tide
- Breaking Benjamin – Diary of Jane
- Karnivool – Simple boy & Goliath
- Dead Letter Circus – Real you
- I Am Giant- Purple heart, City limits & Transmission
- Muse – Panic station
- James Bay – Hold back the river