I am aware that this product is a frustrating jumble of letters and numbers that is quite impossible for casual fans to remember. But do hear me out, for BGVP makes some noteworthy IEMs.
Great things come in fours: seasons, the Beatles, Quattro Formaggi pizza, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In the realm of Chi-Fi, besides the ubiquitous stalwarts like iBasso and FiiO, four fast-rising brands have stamped their mark in portable audio: Fearless, Moondrop, Tin HiFi, and BGVP. I’ve taken a look at the first three, and today I place the final infinity stone into the gauntlet, just in time for the apocalypse.
- Complete accessory set and ear tip selection
- Good quality stock cable
- 3.5mm and 4.4mm adapters provided
- Stunning wood finish
- Petite and lightweight
- Exemplary fit and comfort
- Excellent isolation
- Accessible and highly detailed signature
- Bass layering and tightness
- Smooth mids
- Technically proficient treble
- Acceptable imaging
- Subpar bass extension and dynamics
- Unrefined, edgy upper mids
- Slightly hollow vocals
- Overly airy treble with unstable tone
Prince and Pauper
What put BGVP on the map were their crazy popular hybrid IEMs, the DMG (pronounced “damage”). But the rest of their portfolio is just as varied and impressive, ranging from starving-student entry-level IEMs to $1000-and-over flagships with the fancy-schmancy Sonion electrostatic tweeters. The last one perhaps stretches the “budget gears” portion of the company name a wee bit.
Today we look at the DM8, planted firmly in the mid-range, and the latest iteration of their most popular DM series. Pronounced “dammit” (or not), the DM8 are built with 8 BA drivers in each earpiece, Estron silver-plated oxygen-free copper (OFC) internal wiring, and 4-way crossover units wrapped in gorgeous CNC-machined stabilized wood shells. Like Kenny Rogers would say, “it’s the wood that makes it good.” He’s referring to chicken, but still.
- FiiO M15
- BGVP DM8
- Tin HiFi P2
- Amber Rubarth – Sessions from the 17th Ward
- Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
- Depeche Mode – The Singles 86>98
- Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
- Fleetwood Mac – Tango in the Night
- Lana Del Rey – Honeymoon
- Linda Ronstadt – Just One Look
- Lorde – Melodrama
- Pet Shop Boys – PopArt
- The Weeknd – After Hours
- Driver: 8 BA drivers
- Configuration: 2x Sonion (bass), 1x Sonion 1x Knowles (midrange), 2x Knowles (treble), 2x Knowles (super tweeter)
- Crossover: 4-way electronic crossover
- Sensitivity: ≥110dB SPL/mW
- Impedance: 12Ω
- Frequency Response: 10Hz – 40kHz
- THD: <0.5%
- Channel Difference: <1dB
- Rated Power: 9mW
- Cable Material: UPOCC 6N single crystal copper
- Cable Length: 1.2m ± 5%
- Cable Connectors: MMCX
- Weight: 6g per earpiece
Packaging and Accessories
In this department, I’ve been pampered to the point of grape-eating Roman emperors. The likes of FiiO have spoilt me, and I’ve grown accustomed to top-tier packaging and beyond-complete accessory sets from Chi-Fi. So imagine my surprise when the DM8 comes in a box resembling my kid’s art supply box.
I don’t mean to be mean, but the expressionist swirls of blue and peach on the cardboard sleeve do not remind me of an audio product. Slide that off though, and we’re back in familiar territory. An understated black cardboard box greets you, with embossed silver BGVP lettering on top. Now we’re talking class. The accessories inside are plenty.
In the box
- 8-strand single crystal copper cable with 2.5mm balanced jack
- 3 pairs Balanced ear tips (S/M/L)
- 3 pairs Vocal ear tips (S/M/L)
- 3 pairs Bass ear tips (S/M/L)
- 1 pair foam ear tips (M)
- 1 pair pink silicone ear tips (M, pre-fitted into the DM8)
- Storage Case
- 2.5mm female to 3.5mm male adapter jack
- 2.5mm female to 4.4mm male adapter jack
- Cleaning brush
- Manual/warranty Information
This is a complete accessory set if I’ve ever seen one, well done BGVP. The little touches didn’t go unnoticed either. Special mention goes to the fishbone-shaped ear tip organizers that keep tips neatly arranged and the textured foam inserts that don’t do anything except look great. I’m a big fan of vanity.
BGVP splurged on the stock cable so you don’t have to. The cable is made of 8 strands of ultra-pure Ohno Continuous Casting (UPOCC) single crystal copper with 6N purity. These 24awg wires are cryo-treated to minimize impurities and arranged in a Type 4 Litz structure to maximize signal conduction, so they should sound as good as intended. The cable is a handsome shade of copper and handles quite well despite the thickness of 8 wires.
I really love that BGVP included 3.5mm and 4.4mm adapters to cater to the sheer variety of DAPs in the market today.
Many companies overlook including various adapters, forcing users to look for after-market cables that are compatible with their DAPs, wasting a good stock cable. BGVP went the extra mile to make sure everyone is accounted for. God bless ’em. Except you, wireless users. Maybe next time lol.
Design and Build Quality
This ain’t no KFC. BGVP are proud and more than willing to divulge their full 11-herbs-and-spices recipe for the DM8, seemingly daring you to do a better job at tuning them. The ingredient list, I mean driver types and configuration are made known in the product page itself, and they might be finger-lickin’ good:
- Knowles SWFK-31736 x2 – Super tweeter or ultra-high frequencies
- Knowles TWFK-30017 x2 – Treble range
- Knowles RAF-32873 – Shared midrange
- Sonion 2354 – Shared midrange
- Sonion 38D1XJ007 x2 – Dual subwoofer and low frequencies
The 8 drivers have their respective frequency ranges controlled by a 4-way electronic crossover. Directing the sound towards the ears are 4 sound bores per side. Connecting the insides together are insulated, silver-plated OFC internal wiring from renowned Danish cable-makers Estron, but we know the real star of the show is what lies outside. Because yes, beauty prevails inside and out.
The DM8’s shells are made of dyed, stabilized wood that underwent 5-axis CNC precision carving. They look absolutely ravishing and are rare for this price range because of the extensive labor involved. Each and every earpiece is unique in grain and color, so your DM8 are one-of-a-kind, guaranteed. You could go for the transparent, 3D-printed resin version, but to me they look uniform and utilitarian, and lose most of their appeal.
Build quality is superb. The wood shells feel robust and congruent throughout, even at the margins between the shells and faceplates. And I can’t get over how small and light (at only 6g each earpiece) they are despite housing 8 drivers per earpiece.
Stuffing multiple drivers into a tiny shell is an art form nowadays, and the DM8 are an engineering marvel.
Fit, Comfort and Isolation
The DM8 are demure and unassuming, like hors d’oeuvres. At first glance, I was inclined to ask, “where’s the rest of it?” For multi-driver IEMs, this is as compact as it gets, and as for the fit, simply amazing. The nozzle length is just nice, and the earpieces sit in my ear canals with excellent seal. Despite the driver count, they protrude from my ears only slightly, and confer exceptional comfort thanks to the miniscule weight.
The air conditioning was out in my office, so with the desk fan on, I assessed the DM8’s isolation capability because that’s how I roll. Amazingly, despite having vents, the DM8 isolate outside noises admirably. Given a full seal, I could barely hear the humming of the desk fan and enjoyed the music unperturbed. I couldn’t hear the boss yelling at me across the room, but whatever, you know?
So far, so good, but here is where we separate the good from the great.
Overall sound signature
The DM8 follow a tried-and-tested template, showcasing a U-shaped signature. The midbass is gently raised for a coat of warmth around the signature, while the upper mids to lower treble are prominent as well, teasing excitement and energy. And sandwiched in the middle, are mids that are fluid yet detailed, aided by attributes from either end. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but as I’ve said, what sells, sells.
Back to the grind
What might set the DM8 apart from the others are their steely resolve. What I mean is that their technical expertise is tremendous, and the way they toil and grind to unearth sonic information are of a much higher standard, compared to their peers. Transparency and resolution are emphasized and steadfast throughout the spectrum, rewarding listeners with fits of micro-detail, speed and steady imaging.
Critical listening was done after 50 hours of burn-in. I wouldn’t burn them in too much lest the wood shells catch fire. You can tell when I’m kidding right? The main review setup is FiiO’s M15 player with the stock cable. As for ear tips, the default pink ones fit me best.
Not to scare you with psychological mumbo-jumbo early on, but the bass is the comfort zone of the signature. Bringing about a state of familiarity and ease is the name of the game, and the DM8 marvels with their dependable and steady performance that is almost critic-proof.
At the deepest ebb of the bass, extension is competent, bringing about a sub-bass that is more heard than felt. You won’t be physically walloped by them, but the gentle sub-bass works wonders for most genres without giving a headache. Moving up, the midbass is nicely elevated, forming the warm, chewy emotional core of the signature before tapering off at the upper bass.
The midbass has a pleasing tuning that has warmth balanced with speed and layering. Notes start off rounded and full, with soft, fluid punches finished with a clean decay, showcasing some technical flourish. The timbre is natural and does the job well for the most part, although texture is a bit plasticky because of the inherent characteristics of BA drivers.
The optimist in me would say the DM8’s bass is the best of both worlds, with a nice, hearty bass bloom and pristine clarity rolled into one, never intruding into the sacred mids. The nitpicker in me, though, wishes for more dynamics and low-end growl for the bass to truly excel. Pick who you’d like to believe.
Like a cool morning breeze while walking along a beach by your lonesome, the DM8’s mids are characterized by freshness and an all-round feeling of comfort.
At once clear, clean and articulate, the mids are a burst of detail but levelled with smooth leading edges and round note bodies, never sounding offensive or profane.
Located in a neutral position, they possess an agreeable tone that is natural and sweet. Notes are just right in size, not full or forward, with a delightful flow and intricate layering. Instrument timbre is realistic, with pianos and acoustics singing passages of joyful pleasure to my ears. Vocals are equally pristine, but sounding throaty rather than chesty for both male and female voices.
Like the sun
It’s all calm and smooth-sailing until the upper midrange though, when a rise in this region skews the signature towards brightness. Here, the emphasis on clarity and transparency is more pronounced. The tuning is sometimes caught out to be unrefined, with the upper mids sounding uncharacteristically strained and edgy.
While technically competent and hard to fault, the DM8’s mids lack that last bit of lifelike euphony to really engage the listener emotionally. I’m looking squarely at the vocal performance, where a bit more body and slightly less grain would do wonders.
The treble, ever the rebel, sounds like it’s on the warpath to eradicate any vestiges of warmth and bloat from the signature. Because what’s cooler than being cool? Ice cold! Like someone in distressing emotional angst, the treble positively unloads with flights of sonic information, never letting up until the whole story is told.
With a technical slant, the DM8’s treble is highly energetic and lively, boasting excellent upward extension and mobility. With rises in the lower and middle treble, notes have both bite and texture, sounding crisp and airy. Crucially, they exercise some restraint and mercy when it matters most, remaining sibilance-free despite the avalanche of detail.
Buoyed by amazing returns in resolution, transparency, speed and finesse, the DM8’s data-mining tendency overlooks important characteristics like tonal body and timbre. Upon finer examination, the treble sounds slightly hollow, shouty, and perhaps a bit too airy on attack; and can be unrefined and grainy on decay. So like stuffing yourself silly with wafer crisps, you can indeed have too much of a good thing.
Soundstage and imaging
I hope you like vanilla because underneath the veneer of well, wood veneer, is a soundstage that is unremarkable, but not particularly vulnerable to open criticism. The stage dimensions are not claustrophobic, not in the least in fact, just that the DM8 are up until now very capable performers, and rightfully so, you expect something, well, more.
So if you back me into a corner and ask what’s wrong, I’d say nothing. They have average width and depth, par for the course among its peers. The DM8 are wider than deep, and some semblance of height is detected, but on the whole, lean toward intimacy. They do possess some good imaging properties, thanks to the airiness of the signature. So vanilla is what you get in the end, but most people are fine with vanilla.
Not everything has to be outstanding or groundbreaking, you just need something capable first of all.
Tin HiFi P2
The P2 impress right away, with a more open and airy presentation compared to the DM8, bigger dimensions in all axes, and pinpoint imaging accuracy. It’s hard to compete with the P2’s penchant for transient speed and resolution. The P2 punch hard too, with a deeper, more authoritative bass section than the DM8, while decaying just as cleanly.
It’s all downhill for the P2 from here on though. In the mids, the DM8 sound sweeter and more forward, while P2 pander to neutrality. The P2’s midrange is textural, articulate and transparent, but tone and timbre are cast aside – the DM8 sound more natural and lifelike despite its own shortcomings. The P2 are all detail and no soul.
There’s no comparing the treble though, as the P2 shoot themselves in the foot with a jarringly-tuned, sibilant treble that is harsh and fatiguing. The timbre is rendered sharp and metallic, and listening to it is like tasting your own blood. Lord knows how this got off the drawing board. The P2 looked great on paper, but the DM8 are by far the safer and more complete IEMs.
Where to Buy
The DM8 are available in two designs – stabilized wood or transparent resin shells for slightly cheaper, but you know I’m all about that wood. Prices start from $349, and here’s where you can buy them:
Sometimes you get bombastically-named IEMs that assumed greatness was their birthright, like Empire Ears’ grandiose models Legend X or Odin. Those guys were born to sit on the throne, beloved or not. Other times you get alphabet soup like the one we’re reviewing today, a random assortment of letters and numbers out to make a name for themselves.
BGVP’s DM8 took a modest name and made an absolute beast out of it. Getting the basics done perfectly right, the DM8 possess a highly-engaging sound signature with good looks to match. They are considered (and rightly so) the total package and the solution to many unanswered prayers.
Parting the sea
The only thing in the way of DM8’s inevitable superstardom is the vast sea of competition at the same price bracket. It’s not merely enough to be good anymore. To stand head and shoulders above the rest, you’ll need to be great with a side of dashing debonair. BGVP might just be up to the task, with the DM8 spearheading a quiet revolution of mid-priced marquees that raise the bar wherever they go.