Build Quality: Everything you’d expect from something still made in Japan.
Isolation: Slightly on the lesser side for a BA but that still blows away pretty much every dynamic. You could happily use this out and about and even for Tube commutes or flights. However do remember that means you won’t hear traffic, so do look where you are going.
Comfort/Fit: They are rather long so they do stick out a bit. Given their wide bore too means you can’t shove them in deep either. However so long as you opt to wear them up then your fine. Worn down the angle makes them feel pulled at constantly, so I’d say don’t wear them down.
Aesthetics: There is no way around the fact these are lookers. Granted that’s becoming increasingly a common trait but still, these can take a great photo. I mean I can’t envisage anyone looking at these and not liking them.
Sound: Rather lovely. Rather lovely, somewhat beautiful, passably wonderful etc etc. I condemn thee with faint praise. The e-Q8 is a very lovely sounding IEM but I find it’s just a too polite and tame. It’s not like I demand excitement but these just feel out of place trying to thump out a baseline or dealing with bouncy pop. It’s never an unpleasant thing to listen to but it just never managed to capture my attention no matter how I tried to make it happen. They are serenely pleasant at all times. They can be a little over energetic in the upper mids at times, veering towards a little shouty but that’s as close to offensive they ever managed. The bass is nice but so polite, restrained, clean of course and with good depth for a BA but…. it refused to ever dominate. Even at times where I pushed the issue it just wouldn’t do it. The mids you see, they are where the e-Q8 like to be and they do vocals very well, maybe a little polite and flavourless but they are highly detailed. They also are highly accurate. Then the highs, like the bass they are pretty well extended for a BA, still they have a certain politeness to them. They can’t explode in a shower of broken glass even when you push them do so. They will have a go but it always lacks something in being convincing.
It’s a most pleasantly lovely earphone to relax to, thrilling beast it is not.
Value: Musica Acoustica seems to be highly under cutting others at having them for US$320, that seems a more reasonable price, their normal US$400 to me is too much. I know they have a pure silver driver coil, so super premium materials but its acoustic abilities are just too polite for me. It’s beautiful yes but I just couldn’t find the love for it.
Pro’s: Beautiful looking. Beautiful sounding. Super premium materials.
Con’s: Achingly polite. Never convincingly aggressive or wild.
Pros - Clear, energetic yet non-offensive sound with fast and punchy bass, Excellent for female vocals
Cons - Terrible cable, unextended bass
Released earlier this year, the e-Q8s are a pair of single balanced armature (BA) driver earphones which are the new flagship to Ortofon’s long stagnant IEM lineup.
I purchased mine not too long after their release in April 2014 for 36930 yen (approx. USD 350) and so at the time of writing have approximately six months of experience with them as my daily driver IEMs. I will be providing comparisons to their entry level model, the e-Q5, which I also own.
Package and Contents
The e-Q8 comes packaged very nicely. The external box is a very shiny silver cardboard, which contains a stiff, felt-lined box, almost like one you might receive from a jewelry store.It is certainly packaged like a premium product.
The contents are of course, the earphones themselves, a selection of different sized silicon tips and single pair of foam tips, spare filters, filter changing tool, carry case and instruction manual.
I quite like the carry case. It is made of a leather or leather-like material that is pleasant to the touch. While it is only semi-hard and not as sturdy as say, a Westone Monitor Vault, it does provide a decent degree of padding while having a slim and stylish profile, almost like a business card case or small wallet. This makes it ideal for carrying in a bag or pocket.
The e-Q8s only come in a silver metal housing with rubberised white plastic accents – a minimalistic and in my opinion, very stylish design.Some, however, may prefer something more understated and less bling-tastic: these earphones make a statement. Those who like to keep their earphones in pristine condition will be warned that scratches do show easily on the highly reflective metal housing with use over time.
Their profile is rather long, similar to that of the e-Q7s, so they do stick out a bit from your ear during use. More about this below under the discussion on comfort.
The cable is sheathed in white nylon from the right angled 3.5mm jack to the rubberised white Y-split,and from there on is your standard rubberised fare. This contrast struck me as an odd design choice and to me, makes the cable feel a little cheap.
In use, the cable is without a doubt the single worst part of this IEM. It tangles and kinks very easily (especially the more rigid nylon-sheathed part), easily picks up noise from your every movement in addition to being microphonic as anything and as if that weren’t enough, it isn’t removable either. Ortofon could really improve their IEMs by allowing users to change the cables out – this would be especially handy in cases where the earphone starts malfunctioning (e.g. losing a channel) due to poor contact between the earphone and the cable, as happened with my old e-Q5s.
Isolation and Comfort
Isolation from the default silicon tips was average. They did form a nice seal, however, they proved to be somewhat easy to knock out of place due to the earphones' long profile, which makes them stick out my ears some distance.
I have also tried the e-Q8s with Sony Noise Isolation tips, which I had trouble fitting over the sound bores without stretching or tearing the tips, hence I decided not to use them. Monster gel tips were the exact opposite, often falling off the earphones from slight bumps or getting stuck in my ear when I tried to remove them. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
In a nutshell, the e-Q8s offer a sound that is fast, energetic and accurate without being nitpicky, anemic or otherwise offensive. I found that while they do well in a majority of genres, they appear to be tuned for a specific taste, as I shall explain below.
The e-Q8s happily possess both quality and quantity in this department. Bass is quick, snappy and relatively accurate. I say “relatively” as they do have a soft, rounded edge to them; they remind me of the bass on many Sennheiser products such as the IE800. This is not the territory of more analytic cans like the ATH-CK100PROs or K701s where drum beats have a clear, almost palpable outline. Bass hits with significant impact , however it is well controlled and is able to remain distinct from the mids and highs at basically all times. The one, perhaps fatal flaw is that it is (in comparison to other earphones at least) not very well extended, being mostly concentrated in the mid-bass. This was particularly evident when I was A/B testing with my Unique Melody Miracles. The quality of the bass is generally enough to make me forget about this deficiency in most songs, but I would not recommend the e-Q8s to those who really need that sub-bass rumble and/or are partial to electronic genres such as dubstep or house.
In comparison to the e-Q5s: The e-Q8s are head and shoulders above their little brothers in the lower ranges which are quicker, punchier and better separated in addition to being more plentiful. Drum beats are given an extra kick and bass guitars have that visceral growl, which really enhanced my enjoyment of most songs.
The mids are where it’s at with the e-Q8s. In terms of frequency response, they are quite mid-centric and boy do they get them right. They are particularly adept at rendering female vocals which sound very forward, clear, airy and silky smooth. This is perhaps emphasised by a bump in the upper mid range frequencies. I believe this is at least in part gives the e-Q8s their very energetic, euphoric sound. Both male and female vocals as well as guitars have a visceral texture to them, which makes them quite engaging.
In comparison to the e-Q5s: The e-Q5s are close in their overall presentation of the midrange, but lack the finesse of the e-Q8s. Vocals lack that airy feel and are less fluid, in addition to not being as prominent.
The highs on these IEMs are competent, but not their strong suit. If anything I would say that they are there to complement the mids. They provide a sufficient level of sparkle with good, quick decay and never outstep their bounds by being sibilant, tinny or too hot, which I found was what ruined the ATH-CK100PRO for me. They always retain that smooth quality that makes the e-Q8s easy to listen to for long periods without the sound becoming fatiguing.
In comparison to the e-Q5s: The e-Q8s deliver a more sparkly and detailed top-end in comparison to the e-Q5s, however it may be the boosted treble that is contributing to the increase in perceived detail.
Staging and Instrument Separation
The soundstage on the e-Q8s is impressively wide, especially considering that they are running only one BA driver in each channel. However, it is not to the point of delivering a true ‘out of head’ experience. Instrument separation and positioning is also excellent, which aids in these earphones being easy to listen to, as it requires very little effort to hear into the mix.
In comparison to the e-Q5: The e-Q8s win out easily here, making the e-Q5s sound muddled and confused in faster songs, where they instruments can tend to sound flat or blended together.
For lack of a better place to put this comment, I will note here that the e-Q8s are quite sensitive and you will need to match them with an appropriate amp (i.e one with low output impedance) to get the most out of them. They sounded flat straight out of my Walkman NW-F806: soundstage was diminished and bass lacked sharpness and impact compared to the Tralucent Audio T1 or Ortofon MHd-Q7 amps.
I have long had the problem of preferring an agile and energetic sound in my audio gear, which has often led me to gear like the AKG K701s which, although excellent for shorter listening sessions, does get become fatiguing after a while due mainly to its hotter treble. In terms of sound signature alone, the e-Q8s are a great solution to this issue, enabling long, enjoyable listening sessions with their euphoric but smooth sound, with the added benefit of their substantial and punchy lower end. However, they are of course far from perfect. I found the cable to be very disappointing, the earphones came out of my ears easily at times and the poor bass extension was an issue for some genres.
Ortofon know how to make a great looking and great sounding IEM, but as is, their user experience leaves something to be desired. Ah well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad…
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.
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.