Pros: Amazing Bass quality, great instument separation, lightning fast, and good response throughout the frequency range
Cons: The upper mid peak spoilt it for me
Ortofon EQ8 review, with some comparison to the Ortofon EQ7 and EQ5
Ortofon have now released a follow up to the very successful EQ7 from 2009 and the EQ5 in 2010.
The Ortofon E-Q8, Are they any good and how do they compare to the EQ5 and and the EQ7? Who am I to judge anyway? Well we will get to the former later, the latter you can judge for yourself, but to help I'll tell you a little about my history with Iems and how I like to use then. I listen to all types of music from classical and opera to metal, indie and pop. I always listen directly out of my iPhone, currently a 5s, all my CDs are ripped lossless and I also have music directly downloaded from iTunes which I think is 256kbps. I never use an amp, I'm a one device kind of guy. I expect a lot from my iems and I want amazing sound from all genres direct from source, no eq ing. I've owned and grumpily discarded many mid to top tier Iems over the last 3 years, including but not limited to, Westone 3, 4, Klipsch image x10, Sennheiser ie8 and 80, Shure se 530, Earsonics sm3, Grado GR8, Ortofon Eq7, Final Audio Design Heaven IV and VI, My current go to Iems are the outstanding Grado GR10 and Ortofon eq5. As you can see it's been a long journey, not as long as for some I know but I'm as satisfied as I have ever been with the GR10’s and EQ5. They seem to make all genres of music sound amazing and they have an euphoric sound that I have never heard before. The sound is mid centric, indeed much like the EQ7,While I liked the EQ7 I found the mids too forward and dominant and somewhat fatiguing.The GR10 and the EQ5 are rumoured to have the same moving armature driver, there are some subtle differences though. The bass is impactful and fast with both and with a deeper insertion it really can hit hard, with the GR10 it doesn't bleed over into the mids, no mid bass hump, with the eq5 I don't think the bass hits quite as hard I think to make up for this Ortofon have given a very slight mid bass hump, and I mean slight just to give the EQ5 the impression of more bass, what this does also do is give the EQ5 a smoother sound. Mids on both as mentioned earlier are forward and lush, vocals are a delight on both and guitars just sound wonderful. Highs are extended on t both and there is no hint of sibilance, and they extend far enough to get realistic cymbal crashes and lots of sparkle, and bags of detail. The instrument separation on the Grados is in my opinion the best, well the best I have ever heard. Plenty of air around instruments . The sound staging is reasonably large, larger with a shallower insertion, but you do loose some bass this way so it’s a bit of a trade off. Really to put it in one sentence. The GR10s and the EQ5 just sound very enjoyable, and right for all genres of music.
Right enough, this is not a Grado GR10 or Ortofon EQ5 review or appreciation, this is all meant to be about the Eq8, but I feel it was important to give you background to help you understand my experiences and preferences.
So to summarise what I'm looking for in an Iem
Easy enough to drive with out an amp
Impactful bass that does not bleed over into the mids
Mids that are reasonably forward, but not fatiguing, euphoric and engaging.
Highs that Pull out plenty of detail, but no sibilance please.
Excellent instrument separation
Soundstageing that is reasonably wide, but more importantly realistic. ( the amazing instrument separation on the EQ5 and Grados helps with this)
Not easy to fluster with complex passages of music.
Able to perform with all genres of music, to me this seems to be hard to pull off, with many of the Iems I've tried being able to excel at one genre but performs poorly with others.
Right that's me and what I'm looking for, a lot to expect I know especially as some of my music is only 256 Kbps, and I refuse to use an amp. Am I expecting too much,? no I don't think so, I think I'm entitled to the experience especially as most of the Iems I've tried are over £200. I appreciate I'm not going to do any true monitoring, with the equipment I have, and neither do I want to, I'm fully aware I'm not going to get bleeding edge detail. I just want something engaging that pulls out most details and presents the music in a way that makes me smile and gives me the odd goose bump. I want it to be flexible and adapt to all genres. I want consistency
So I have the long awaited Ortofon EQ8 in my hand, why is it In my hand, and not in my ear I hear you ask, well the answer is simple. It is beautiful and I can't stop looking at it. It Shines silver with white accents with a long flowing white cable. The silver barrel catches the light and glints in the sunshine, a magpies delight perhaps. It seems Ortofon have stuck to their design roots with the eq8, it looks very similar indeed to the eq7, the eq8’s older but very capable brother. In fact it is almost identical .It keeps the same wide bore, silicon ear tips, the same long bullet like barrel that contains the driver. The plastic strain reliefs that connect the supple white cable of medium thickness looks pretty sturdy. The cable comes together at the Y split And then continues coated in a strange plastic like fabric down to the 3.5mm right angle jack. The eq7 shared this fabric coated cable, I'm not sure of the purpose of the coating, but it certainly looks good, and the cables seems to be at the most part tangle free. The jack looks very strong with a really capable looking strain relief. Over all the whole look is beautiful and rugged, a contradiction perhaps, but Ortofon have managed to combine these adjectives to make something that looks outstanding and fit for purpose. I grant you the barrels that house the single armature drivers are long and of reasonable girth, that some may have fit issues with, much like those reported with the eq7, I have medium to large ear holes and have no such issue, I can insert them deep with medium tips with a good seal and I can also get a good seal with a shallower insertion with the large tips. Those with very small ears I think will have have to settle for the shallower insertion. One thing to note about the cable is that it is white, very, very white. While it might look good out of the box, I do worry that it will be a dirt magnet and start to look a bit grubby if not looked after.
Ok to the sound.
can tell instantly that these are in no way laid back, they want your attention and demand to be heard. The sound is forward, very forward, you are nose to nose rather than sitting a few rows back from the performance. The eq5 are also forward, but they have a slightly more laid back approach, I guess it's that slight midbass found on the eq5, they are not so much nose to nose with the performance but certainly not far away. Now the eq7 again were also forward and I would judge the eq7 to be the most forward in a round about way, in the Ortofon family.They seemed to have a peak at the higher end of the mids that to my ears made them sound fatiguing after an hour or so of listening. The eq8 , have a much more linear presentation so do not sound fatiguing, in fact I had them in for 5 hours straight and at no point did I feel any listening fatigue. I would have had to have a break from the eq7 long before this. With the eq8 having this sort of presentation it makes the Mids very engaging, they give vocals a very intimate, very textured, and very emotional feel. Now this comes at a price as on some recordings there is a small amount of sibilance, but the way the vocals are presented, makes you not really care about the sibilance too much, what I'm trying to say is that it does not detract from the beauty of what you are hearing, but never the less it is present so I must mention it. I also have to mention how good guitars sound on these, they really are magic and you can hear all the distortion that is meant to be there, they just seem to pull you in, I've had many a goose bump moment, really very euphoric much like my GR10 and EQ5 . Acoustic guitars also sound great , you can almost imagine you can see the fingers sliding over the fret board, and the plectrum plucking the string. In fact I should give a special mention to how good all stringed instruments sound on the EQ8, really great timbre, and texture, no hint of the metallic sound that you can get with some cheaper armature drivers.
The highs extend very high indeed on the EQ8, Ortofon seems to have listened to some feedback on the eq7 and fine tuned the highs on the EQ8. Again they are very energetic and consistent with the mids. They manage to pick lots of micro detail. Cymbals shimmer and seem to have a good deal of decay.
Now the bass, well what can I say about the bass on these. It has to be my favourite presentation of bass on any IEM I've heard. Don't get me wrong It's not particularly dominant and thunderess, it's very balanced and consistent with rest of the frequencies. Again this Iem is very linear. Bass addicts probably won't be satisfied, with the amount, but the quality is breath taking, it's just so textured, and when needed it goes low, and hits hard. I've never known bass to sound so textured, bass guitars, have great realism, they actually sound like a proper instrument that goes up and down the frequency ranges, rather than just a bass line. Kick drums hit hard, and are very satisfying. No sign of any midbass hump to artificially make the bass feel present, it keeps itself away from the mids. It's very well behaved and knows it place, and when called for lets it's presence be felt. It really speaks volumes for how agile this driver is, there is only one in there remember. The bass is so good on the EQ8 that is even makes the EQ5 sound very slightly unrefined.
Sound staging to my ears is slightly above average, you do get some out out of the head staging, but it can not compete with some of the better dynamic driver based IEMs out there. The instrument separation is very airy, with lots of space around instruments, I've found this to be true of the EQ5 and EQ7 also. It helps to give the illusion of a bigger soundstage I think.
Now these things go loud,they are really are easy to drive. They are the loudest IEM I've ever heard, your volume slider has to go nowhere near the max to get ear splitting volume , they are also unflappable at high volume, your ears will give up and beg for mercy before they distort. Even at high volume they remain focused unflustered, the sound keeps its cohesion, you never feel the drivers are straining. They seem to always be eager to please no matter how far you push the volume up. At no point did I feel them getting congested and loosing control.
I really liked the EQ8, I found them to be very energetic and agile, through all the frequency ranges. They have a very euphoric sound, that should please most. They seemed to be troubled by nothing, and consistently produce fantastic sound,with very good instrument separation. The bass quality was the high point for me, it has to heard to be believed. The whole presentation across the range is very forward sounding and those looking for a more laid back sound should probably look elsewhere, but those looking for fantastic energy and an engaging sound should without doubt check the Ortofon EQ8 out. They remind me of an athlete at the peak of his ability, bags of talent and limitless energy.
In comparison to the others in the Ortofon line up. EQ5, EQ7, EQ8
The EQ8 are the most talented across the frequency range, very linear. The best bass texture of all three. They are a definite evolution, and improves on what were already very good Iems
The EQ7, share some of the same characteristics with the EQ8, excellent instrument separation. Great bass response , not quite as textured as the EQ8. The EQ7 had a spike in the upper mids that to my ears made them slightly fatiguing. The highs on the EQ7 were slightly rolled off
The EQ5 are the least forward of the 3, and have a slight midbass hump, that make them sound a little bit more relaxed than the other 2, highs are more extended than the EQ7, but not as extended to my ears as the EQ8. Bass quality is also not quite as good as the others.
All 3 are remarkable IEMs . The EQ8 is a definite technical improvement over the EQ7 and EQ5. They all have there place. Should you buy the EQ8 if you have either the EQ7 or EQ5. My answer is yes, because they are just so talented, and have such a beautiful euphoric sound that keeps you so engaged in your music, they pull the best aspects from the other 2 and even improve on them.
I would like to thank Dimitri Trush from Musica Acoustics in Japan. You can buy all of the Ortofon range from him as well as a whole other range of Iems. He is great to deal with and has excellent customer service. He will also ship overseas.
Thanks for reading
I have them in my ears now , I press play, my jaw drops and a small smile has the audacity to start to form at the Side of my mouth. This is going to be interesting I think. I close my eyes and I'm instantly enveloped in an all encompassing wall of music, that pulls me in, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, I'm lost now and I don’t think I want to come back.