In short, V12 has a nice warm, slightly dark (depends on switch combinations), balanced, comfortable and natural sounding signature with a slight V-shaped quality. It’s a bit like EST12 in a way that it sounds good from the get go. Personally, my ears did not need an adaptation period since it sounds natural without any quirky or erratic peaks. I think both EST12 and V12 will work well for musicians, audio engineers and audiophiles. EST12 surely more than V12. In my opinion, they can be used effectively as stage monitors too. For IEMs to be good stage monitors, they need to be warm, natural and comfortable sounding, yet detailed and resolving enough, so that they can be used for long periods in concerts without any discomfort or ear fatigue. That is what both EST12 and V12 can make happen nicely.
As soon as I got the V12, I plugged it into my trusty Hiby R6 Pro and played Dave Matthews’ ‘Shake Me Like a Monkey’. It is one hell of a song with multiple extremely well played instruments and lots of energy. It’s a very good test track because it has more of a live performance vibe with studio recorded finesse along with layers of instruments and extremely tight playing. It is also mixed by one of my favorite mixers Chris Lord Alge whose mixes are generally very vibrant. Listening to it on the V12, I was immediately thrown into the song. It kinda has a feel to it where I felt as if I was performing it with the band in a studio. V12 followed the mix of the song well and placed instruments like how I personally imagine them to be placed in real life on a stage. Drums sounded complete and whole, cymbals wide with kick and snare action prominent in the center, hard panned horns and guitars were wide apart with good definition, and bass & vocals were beautifully placed in the center of the whole setup.
Bass – Bass is clear and well defined. It has a nice character but isn’t the boosted kind. It is pretty neutral while still being impactful and fun. Let me explain in more detail.
The overall bass character sounds midway between a BA and dynamic bass, even though V12 has BAs on bass duties. It is fast, though not the fastest BA kind, sustains well and has pretty good note definition too. You can hear good quality sub-bass while listening to Hans Zimmer and James N Howard’s ‘Why so serious’, though not as much rumble to ripple through your heart. To make up for that you can flip switch 2 up or switch to Mode 12 which increases the sub-bass rumble slightly. Yet if you expect it to rumble like an EE Legend X, it can’t make that happen.
As you can see in the graph below, in stock Mode 00, the sub-bass is slightly rolling off with a 3dB slope around 35Hz. This is a trick that is used in the mastering stage of a song’s post-production too. It is done to avoid speaker jarring. Since I like a cleaner and more neutral presentation than a bass boost, I personally like the bass just fine. Though mid-bass and high-bass take the spotlight in the V12. Again, bass playing in songs of bands like Karnivool and Muse sounds fun to listen to and if you ever want a bit more sub-bass, you can always flip switch 2 on.
Mids – Mids are good; they sound natural and have good tonality. Snares sound great in V12! If you don’t know yet, I’m a big fan of drums and particularly how the kick and snare sound together. I could just keep listening to V12 for the drums. It has a quality where it can make you feel like you’re the drummer in the band. So, if you like air-drumming, V12 is not going to disappoint. I prefer switch mode 12 more than 00. In stock switch mode 00, lower mids are slightly warm, though are clean with a dip around 500-600Hz which keeps the muddy region clear. Switch Mode 12 cleans up the lower mids further and makes them more interesting. Upper mids peaks are in control, they are neither too peaky nor lacking, but that kind of depends on how you like your upper mids served. V12 maintains good definition without bringing the upper mids too forward. As you can see from the graph below, V12 has one peak at 3.5kHz and another at 5kHz which define its primary mids tonality. Personally, I like upper mids to be in control as I don’t like a very peaky 3-4kHz region. This region plays a very important role in the overall character of a sound signature as well as is one of the deciding factors on ease of listening and ear fatigue for me personally. Some Chi-fi IEMs have this area boosted a little too much for extra clarity and definition, which I’m not that big a fan of. V12 unlike those IEMs, is quite natural in this region which allows me to raise the volume above normal levels for some fun and lively listening without my ears asking for mercy. Though at the same time, while in switch mode 00 and listening at lower levels, I long for a dB or 2 more of upper mids. That’s where mode 12 again makes upper mids slightly more prominent, making guitars more fun. Vocals have a nice organic feel to them, very life-like. Acoustic and electric guitars have good definition and sound more organically realistic than the hyped up sparkly kind. Also, if you like listening to orchestras and movie soundtracks and like them to have a slightly warm tonality with good resolution, V12 will work well there too.
Treble – Treble is very comfortable and natural to listen to. V12 maintains clarity and openness without overly boosting the treble. There is no sibilance or erratic peaks anywhere. Treble resolution is very good which brings out intricate orchestral string work, drummer’s intricate hi-hat and cymbal work as well as acoustic’s string clarity and details. V12’s treble also adds a bit of nice sizzle to hi-hats and cymbals. Vocals have a studio like quality to them where they sound clear and natural without the artificial treble sheen.
Switches – This is what BGVP states the switches do,
- Switch 1 – Vocal enhancement – I found it to make the upper mids and treble slightly cleaner and more defined. I like this!
- Switch 2 – Bass enhancement – Very slight boost in bass till probably around 120Hz and slight warming of upper registers.
I personally found 2 slightly different signatures in Stock 00 and 12 modes. Stock 00 is the slightly warmer of the 2 whereas Mode 12 enhances sub-bass with cleaner and better defined upper midrange and treble. Shuffle through the modes to see which one you like most. For example, if you feel Mode 00 is slightly warmer than you prefer, turn switch 1 up. If you want a bit more bass in Mode 00, turn switch 2 up. I hope this explains how the switches works. I prefer Mode 12 more than 00.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation.
V12’s soundstage feels spacious, being both wide and deep; a bit wider than deep. If you’re coming from mid-fi IEMs, it is certainly going to sound holographic and you’ll notice sounds going back beyond your ears. Because of high resolution and good imaging, you are able to feel the room, aura and space of the songs very vividly. Imaging is on point; instrument placement is very accurate. Separation and clarity throughout is very good (12 driver flagship style), even better in Mode 10 and 12.
BGVP EST12 ($1500) – If you are fans of BGVP and/or have been following my previous reviews, I’m sure this is a comparison you’ve all been wanting. A couple of people got in touch with me for the same, so here we go. Even though they both have a ballpark idea of sound signature where they’ve been tuned keeping balance and naturalness in mind, there is one major primary difference between them and that is the feeling of atmosphere. Listening to our reference track, Dave Matthews’ ‘Shake Me Like a Monkey’, EST12 sounds like the band is performing in a lively arena whereas V12 sounds like they’re performing in a studio room. Now you can attribute this major difference to a lot of parameters but I hope you understand what I’m trying to convey. V12 is warmer of the two but both sound signatures are very well balanced in their own style. I personally like EST12’s cleaner, more lively and higher resolving signature. V12 is no slouch but falls slightly behind in these areas. EST12 being the more lively one has slightly more overall attack and impact too. EST12 also has a slightly wider and deeper stage. With V12 having 2 switches and EST12 having 3, the comparison gets even more difficult and complicated. EST12’s 3 switches provide a bit more versatility and sound tuning options as compared to V12. EST12’s switches also bring a bit more substantial change in sound relatively in comparison. Both have equally good build quality and come with the same accessories in the box.
To make things simple, both sound very natural and comfortable. If you want a slightly warmer presentation with good resolution, choose the V12. If you want a slightly more versatile, resolving, lively and cleaner sounding IEM with a slightly bigger soundstage relatively, choose EST12. I would personally suggest going for EST12 if you can up your budget a bit.
64 Audio U12t ($2000) – U12t is a V-shaped sounding IEM whereas V12 is more towards neutral relatively in comparison. U12t has more sub-bass though V12 has a more neutral presentation of mid-bass and high-bass. Mids are slightly more recessed in U12t though maintain excellent resolution and clarity whereas V12 does the same without as much dip in the mids. V12 sounds ‘ever so slightly’ fuller in comparison. U12t has its 1st upper mids peak around 2.2kHz whereas V12 has it around 3.5kHz which defines their primary upper mids character. Both have their 2nd peak around 5kHz. U12t’s treble has a peak around 6.5kHz whereas V12 has a more prominent one around 7Khz which adds sizzle to hi-hats and acoustics in both. Besides that, treble in both extends equally but I hear V12 treble extending slightly further. Soundstage in both is spacious but maybe U12t has it slightly bigger and more open because of being a V-shaped IEM with a slightly deeper dip in the mids which makes it cleaner in the lower mids area. Both IEMs have very good resolution.
Custom Art Fibae 7 (€1100) – Fibae 7 has a bit more sub-bass quantity. Fibae 7’s upper mids are more forward and more in quantity whereas V12’s are more natural. Fibae 7’s treble starts rolling off post 4.5-5kHz whereas V12’s treble extends further and brings more liveliness to the signature. Both have wide soundstages but V12’s is more resolving. Build quality wise, looking at the universals, V12 has better build quality and shell design than Fibae 7 in my opinion.
Campfire Audio Andromeda ($1099) – Andromeda has a bit more sub-bass quantity but mid-bass and high-bass quantity is pretty similar compared to V12. V12’s mids are much more resolving and natural sounding. Andromeda has insufficient upper-mids information whereas V12’s upper mids are very natural with accurate tonality and timbre. V12 again has a more natural treble response whereas Andromeda has a sparkly treble signature with prominent peaks in the 6-10kHz region. V12 is more resolving of the two. Both have a wide soundstage but V12 being more resolving with a more accurate tonality, has a more natural sounding and expanding soundstage.
All in all, BGVP has been putting out some really cool products since the DM6. EST12 and V12 are capable flagships and smartly priced cheaper than similar western market offerings. V12 has very good sound quality, soundstage and resolution for its price. It is probably also the cheapest 12 driver flagship in the market which uses all original Knowles and Sonion drivers. The tuning switches gives it a bit of versatility. V12 package comes rich with a good cable and ample accessories which some other flagship IEMs don’t. Sure $1300 is substantial but I think compared to other flagships, V12 keeps up and hits hard and surely deserves a place in the TOTL category. BGVP offers numerous customization options as well as custom fit shells. What is cool is that if you order an EST12 or V12 from them directly using the link above, you can order it as a CIEM at no extra cost. So if you’re a musician or audiophile looking for a nice flagship 12 driver in-ear monitor, give V12 or its older sibling EST12 a shot. Also, currently BGVP is selling the V12 for $1143 on their BGVP Official AE store. That’s a whooping $157 discount from $1300 MRP which makes V12 an even more attractive proposition.
Gear used for testing and review.
- Macbook Pro
- Shanling UP2
- Hiby R6 Pro
- Oneplus 7 Pro
Reference Songs list.
- Dave Matthews – Shake Me Like a Monkey
- 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
- Our Lady Peace – Do You Like It & Innocent
- 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
- 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