In short, V12 has a nice warm, balanced, comfortable and natural sounding signature with a slight U-shaped quality. It sounds good from the get go and I personally did not need an adaptation period since it sounds natural without any quirky or erratic peaks. I think both EST12 and V12 work well for musicians, audio engineers and audiophiles alike. 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 easily do.
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 centre, hard panned horns and guitars were wide apart with good definition, and bass & vocals were beautifully placed in the centre of the whole setup.
Bass – Bass is clear, well defined and has a nice warm character. The overall bass character sounds midway between a BA and dynamic bass, even though V12 has BAs on bass duties. It is decently fast, though not the fastest BA kind, sustains well and has good note definition. 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. Mid-bass and high-bass take the spotlight in the V12, mid bass the most relatively. IMO, 1.5-2dBs less around the mid-bass in stock tuning would’ve made the bass sound tighter and more precise. Mode 10 reduces mid-bass slightly and works much better for me personally. Bass playing in songs of bands like Karnivool and Muse is a lot of 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. 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. V12 is easy in the upper mids 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 sometimes wish for 1-2dBs more of upper mids. That’s where mode 12 makes upper mids a bit more prominent but overall they are still smooth and not like Harman Target based IEMs which have a forward upper midrange presentation. Vocals have a nice organic feel and clarity, 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 open and airy but comfortable and easy to listen to which helps boosting the volume for some fun lively listening without the sound piercing your ears. V12 even though a nice warm set, has good amount of sparkle which maintains good clarity without overly boosting the treble. There is no sibilance or erratic peaks in treble. Treble resolution is good (even better in Mode 10) and it 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. Top end of vocals have a studio like quality to them where they sound clear and natural without any 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, reducing mid-bass slightly. 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 work. I prefer Mode 10 & 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) – Since both of them have 12 BA drivers, I thought a comparison between the two will be interesting, especially considering U12t is one of the most popular 12 driver IEMs in the market. U12t has more sub-bass though V12 has more mid-bass and high-bass presence. V12’s lower mids are slightly fuller sounding 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 while both have their 2nd peak around 5kHz. U12t has better pinna gain and upper mids definition. 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. U12t has more upper treble extension owing to its tia driver but V12 has good extension in most songs. Soundstage in both is wide where U12t’s has it slightly wider & cleaner and V12 has it deeper with a slightly blacker background. Resolution in both is very good though U12t takes the cake when it comes to instrument definition. Of course, the price difference between them is substantial, almost $700-850.
Custom Art Fibae 7 (€1100) – Fibae 7 has a bit more sub-bass quantity. Fibae 7’s upper mids are more forward close to Harman Target style of pinna gain boost whereas V12’s are easier in comparison. Fibae7’s lower mids sound leaner and cleaner relatively whereas V12 sounds fuller and warmer. Fibae 7’s treble is very natural and supportive of upper mids whereas V12’s treble brings more sparkle and liveliness to the signature. Both have wide soundstages with Fibae7’s being slightly wider and V12’s being slightly more resolving. Both have very nice and snug fitting universal shells but V12 has slightly better build quality and almost CIEM like concha contours and fit.
Campfire Audio Andromeda V2 ($1099) – Andromeda has good sub-bass whereas V12 has slightly more mid-bass and high-bass quantity. V12’s lower mids sound slightly fuller than Andromeda. Andromeda’s upper mids have their peak around 2kHz whereas V12 has it around 3.5kHz though both rely on their treble for clarity and definition rather than appropriate pinna gain boost in the upper midrange. Andromeda’s upper mids have more attack whereas V12’s have an easier and natural attack. Both have good sparkle, clarity and openness in treble but V12 has an easier to listen to treble response. V12 has better resolution owing to 12 drivers at task with a cleaner and more open soundstage but Andromeda is no slouch but has a slightly fuller and a bit narrower soundstage in comparison.
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 also probably the cheapest 12 driver flagship in the market which uses all original Knowles and Sonion drivers. The tuning switches give it a bit more versatility. V12 package comes 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 good place in its segment. BGVP offers V12 as a CIEM too as well as numerous design customization options. What is cool is that if you order an EST12 or V12 from them directly using the link above, you can order them 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, definitely give V12 or its older sibling EST12 a shot!
BGVP are currently 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