BGVP DM8 Review - Sophistication in Simplicity
BGVP the brand needs no introduction as it has made its mark for having stomped onto the playing field with products that have been the talk of the town at the time of release, since inception (even if they weren’t necessarily worth all that attention). However, over time, the company has transformed its quirky offerings to a more matured and established line-up. The DM8 is question here is the follow up to the DM7 which originally kicked off with the DM6 and aims to set the bar much higher than before. It better be setting that bar high in terms of sonic abilities, as the asking price of subsequent upgrades to the DM8 from the original DM6 has almost doubled in 2021.
For those who find it interesting as what the 16 drivers inside are and what do they do, here’s a little driver tour for you: The DM8 gets a four-way crossover, with an array of drivers divided into each of those crossovers, covering the upper treble, upper mid / lower treble, midrange and bass frequencies. The bass frequencies are handled by a dual chamber BA driver - Sonion 38D1XJ007, Midrange is a duet performance by the Sonion 2354 and Knowles RAF-32873, Upper mids / Lower treble is taken care by the Knowles dual-chamber TWFK-30017 and the upper treble and ‘inaudible high resolution territory’ is handled by the dual-chamber Knowles SWFR-3173.
349$ at the time of writing this review
Marantz SR5014, LG G8X ThinQ & VE Odyssey Dongle DAC
Tonality & Presentation:
Let’s start with what seems to be very commendable in 2021 and that too from a ChiFi manufacturer is that, the DM8 is not following the herd and hence isn’t your typical – details shoved up the face – harman tuned signature. Thankfully someone still believes that an iem should also be enjoyable sometimes to listen to and that people listen to them to also sit and enjoy a lazy, peaceful Sunday afternoon! I wouldn’t call the DM8 your average V signature either. It has balance going for it overall, nothing in the midrange seems to feel overly forward or scooped and the extensions are decent to not crib about in any way.
Tonality can be classified as just ‘warm’ and well balanced with a bit of energy in the upper mids to keep the midrange energetic and alive. Coming from the DM6 which had a knack of being one of the most finicky of iem’s with respect to source pairing, QC issues w.r.t. tuning and cable matching, and the DM7 being basically a DM6 on steroids with a more intense presentation (for all the wrong reasons), the DM8 is a step in the right direction by BGVP as not only is the DM8 a proper upgrade from its predecessors, there is significant maturity from a tuning and resolution standpoint.
DM8’s sonic ability is testimony to the fact that a handful of Chifi OE’s are listening to what the consumer actually wants. I can imagine that a lot of people who listen to the DM8 would say that BGVP has played the ‘safe card’ here, swaying away from the typical V or upper mid focused signature. But hey, music recorded, mastered or mixed in studios were not produced to be played back as shouty or scooped up pieces which we dub as ‘natural’ eventually, coz most people (specially new in this hobby) mistake intense and shouty signatures to be ‘highly detailed’ and ‘high resolution’, which is not necessarily the case. One way of masking poor tuning and low-resolution output from the transducers is to either boost and bloat the lower frequencies, or to significantly spike the upper mids and treble. While the latter can yield good results as well, it generally comes at the cost of timbre accuracy and a fatiguing listen.
Thankfully, it’s none of that on the DM8!
Bass – The bass here is very dynamic driver like for a BA only set, and its not shoved up your face either with subpar decay and bleed. On the contrary, there is a subtle and calm demeanour to the bass notes of the DM8 such that they can be soft, yet impactful and really give it the beans when called for. The bass isn’t aggressive, although it does try and show its prominence in the slightest hint of bass on a track. Mid bass and upper bass are very well controlled with tight body and dynamics, but picky ears will be able to distinguish the bass to have a few BA traits such as not having the perfect natural decay that a dynamic driver produces. Sub bass although done very well and extends deep, does have significant roll off below 30 Hz.
Midrange – Mids sound natural which is key for an all BA set specially at this price point. Lower mids are clean and slightly dipped but thanks to the seamless bass to mids transition, there is no mid bass bleed and hence keep the lower mids from getting masked even on complex tracks. Upper mids have a very effortless rise with just the right amount of energy to be called energetic, but not so much as to be called fatiguing or spiky or intense. I haven’t been able to get it to misbehave even on poorly mastered tracks. Inspite of this ‘safe tuning’, midrange vocal texture and details are done well. Thanks to the balanced tuning, timbre is realistic and sounds natural for the ‘most part’. Yeah ‘most part’ coz some parts of the treble tuning and its harmonics do tend to affect vocals on some tracks to have a slight nasally tone. Its rare and not so much of a concern and doesn’t alter the overall tonality so much, but in rare occasions, you do hear this trait.
Treble – This is one place where the DM8 doesn’t seem to push the boundaries. Treble energy is about ‘enough’ such that the overall presentation doesn’t sound muted and sucked out, but a little more boost in the upper registries can positively push the perception of a bigger and airier soundstage. This department alone perhaps pulls the DM8 in sounding like a midfi set and it’s a bit of a surprise considering there is a dedicated driver specifically for the uppermost frequencies. Perhaps they are sending out a secret message to the high-resolution bats sitting at 40kHz! (No kidding)
Soundstage, Instrument Separation & Imaging:
Soundstage is realistic, and about average. There isn’t something special that the DM8 does to fool you into believing that you maybe listening to full size headphones or the fact that you aren’t listening to 2 pieces of candies stuck to either sides of your head that’s making some noise. That said, there’s a good sense of depth and height on display, just that the overall experience isn’t holographic or all that out-of-your head like say on something like the Sony EX1000 or the Sennheiser IE800 or the Campfire Audio Andromeda of yore. This is another attribute which makes the DM8 a typical midfi contender.
Instrument separation is excellent and there is no smearing or haziness on even the most complex tracks. Layering and dynamic range is truly pushing the boundaries of this price category and is amongst the very best.
Imaging is again pin-point and much better than the average iem in this price category specially because of how well the DM8 does its centre image. It can project right in front and at some distance which is the biggest challenge on most midfi iems and the DM8 does it without breaking a sweat.
Will purely stick to sonic differences here for the sake of being objective.
BGVP DM8 vs Tin Hifi P2
The only thing common between these 2 iems is the fact they fall in similar price brackets! DM8 is a 16 BA driver monster whereas the P2 is a bigger anomaly being a closed back Planar iem. Both have completely different presentations and quirks. Since there is a whole new review coming up for the Tin Hifi P2, I will not elaborate too much in this comparison other than the obvious bottom-line. The DM8 is the more reference listening experience focussing on details and accuracy and being very clean while doing all that. The P2 is warm and musical, has softer transients and that planar bass and midrange presentation that planars are famous for. Listening to both iems back to back makes the DM8 sound like a muted iem only because the P2 has so much upper treble, it puts my own Sennheiser IE800 to shame which already is known for its shimmery (sometimes splashy) treble. Where the DM8 is a very comfortable and safe tuning, and can be enjoyed off your everyday phone, the P2 can be fatiguing depending on one’s tolerance to upper treble, and it takes the earths rotation to be powered up. Duh!
BGVP DM8 vs Fearless S6 rui
Its been a while, almost 2 years since the S6 rui hit the market, and ironically so, is still relevant enough even today to find a comparison spot against the DM8. The S6 rui is down on the outright number of drivers, but that barely seems to keep it from performing like an absolute star. The S6 rui is a V signature of sorts but the midrange seems to be lush and quite hefty such that it portrays a lot more note weight compared to the flatter and leaner notes of the DM8. Instrument separation is on par on both the iems, with the DM8 edging the S6 rui on being slightly quicker on transient responses, but the S6 rui pulls right back with its midrange texture and expanse.
The DM8 is perfectly scaled on the upper mids whereas the S6 rui can be a bit too forward at the 4kHz point which may seem intense to some. Bass performance on the DM8 is tight but soft and a bit forward with not much coloration, whereas the bass on the S6 rui is more bloomy and warmer which adds to the overall tonality and heft to the lower midrange as well. However, the S6 rui sounds more holographic and more of an experience than the more reference like sounding DM8 which always feels flatter so picking one over the other is a matter of tolerance to each tuning preference. If one had to summarize the differences, the DM8 is the technical champ but is lacking the emotion and soul of the S6 rui which seems to find ways to indulge you deeper into your music.
Finally, for the first time since the inception of BGVP, there is a product in the DM8 that can be wholeheartedly be recommended to the masses not only as a VFM proposition but also as a package that isn’t too finicky, nor does it warrant outrageous source matching or rampant cable and eartip swaps! Its not the best iem money can buy, nor is it an Andromeda (sorry DM6 fanboy’s, you still have to wait it out a bit). You do have a few alternatives to the DM8 like the Fearless S6 rui which is on par in terms of performance, but the S6 rui is an acquired taste and more of an ‘audiophile’ tuning whereas the DM8 is a tuning that is bound to please everyone and still wow the audiophiles at the same time. If the fit and comfort is something that’s inline with your requirements, I think the DM8 is well worth the time and money.