Back in 2012 I had rip-roaring time with the ortofon e-Q5. And in 2010, its older brother, the e-Q7, did me well. Since then another two years have passed. Naturally, it is time to get my ortofon on. The e-Q8, which costs around 400$ USD, is a good upgrade. On the outside, it’s a white e-Q7. But on the inside, it’s got a love-for-rock-thing going on in a new way.
UPDATE: I since have written a full review of the ortofon e-Q8 at headfonia.
Being virtually the same shape as the e-Q7, the e-Q8 is mad comfortable. Fitted with the excellent stock ortofon tips, insertion is a breeze. There’s no ear-tugging required; just pump it in. Comfort levels are high and so is isolation. The train you're in disappears. Near the sound bore the body is thick. It wont’ plug very far into tight ear canals. If you’ve been reading ol’ shiggy for a while, you’ll know that I limp along with tight holes. Best fit for me means using the large tips and shallowly seating the e-Q8 into my ears.
Ortofon's generally frictionless tips slip here and there. I find it necessary to re-situate the e-Q8 every ten minutes or so. And, these phones stick out like Frankenstein's bolts. Oh yes, and sweat will wear away the fabric cable. I don't get the vibe that ortofon were targeting joggers.
These phones’ tightly turned metal housings brightly glint in any light. Combined with the white cable, they stand out. The printing on the body somewhat rough around the edges, but serviceable. The turned aluminium housings pick up small dents and scratches rather quickly, so carefy do. But they look fab, especially with a silk suit. The cable stress reliefs are ample. The cable's lower half is fitted into a nylon weave. Despite this, touch noises are well damped. Still, a neck cinch would be oh-so nice.
Its been said that these are forward-sounding earphones. They are. Quite. Not etchy-sketchy ear-peelingly abrasive, just forward. These phones love guitars, upper percussion, and post-punk vocals. I’m sipping a cafe latte and listening to Bloc Party. The e-Q8 tells me the latte is much too smooth.
These phones reveal excellent texture in the upper mids but don't hone in overmuch on anything higher. Cymbals are super duper clean and fast. Bass is lean, quick, and relatively detailed. Lower mids lead perfectly into the upper mids. The e-Q8 lacks the delicate layering of Dita’s earphones, and the massive bass detail of the Shure SE846. But the quality of its transitions are second to none. What I loved about the e-Q5 was its layered, well-rounded bass that exerted no untoward pressure on lower mids. The transition from mids to bass via the e-Q8 is even cleaner, but with the single caveat that bass volume is quite a bit less.
The sound stage extends well out from the ear to about twenty centimetres in front of the eyes. Width trumps layers; the effect is like a wall of sound coming straight at your ears. Picking out details on that wall is easy, but like a wall, details are etched on the same vertical plane. The net effect is precise, forward, and wide.
Bass is tidy, but not heaps nuanced. Edgy and aggressive, this phone is really well tuned for rock. While it boasts enough speed, its forward upper midrange sort of precludes its being awesome for trance. It’s just a bit too hot. For classical, where organic, textured bass really defines the tone of the music, I’d rather use the e-Q5.
I would take the e-Q8 it in a heartbeat over the e-Q7 except for trance. Its a far better Nick Cave phone, a far better Bloc Party phone. It also delivers an angstier Depressed Depeche Mode. If your music tastes roam far and wide and you enjoy a hot upper midrange, I think you’ll dig it. If you are more in for a traditional listen, the e-Q5 might be for you. You can't go wrong with either one.
In the long run, the forward, rock-loving e-Q8 is a winner. It’s not cheap, but ortofon earphones are great investments. They hold value well and generally rein in the raucous without sacrificing speed, edge, or attack.
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