BGVP has some cool offers for everyone. If you order a V12 or EST12 from them directly through their BGVP Official AliExpress store, you can order them as a CIEM at no extra cost. Also, they are selling V12 for $1143 ($157 discount!) instead of the regular $1300 MRP on their official Aliexpress store (checked at the time of publishing this review).
Preamble - When BGVP got in touch with me to review their flagships EST12 and V12, I was excited and equally intrigued as I wanted to see how they were going to play in the TOTL flagship category, especially since BGVP is known for their good value for money products like the DM6 and DM7, which were incredibly well priced for the tech, sound and build quality. Now with V12 being $1300 and EST12 being $1500, it surely puts them in premium flagship territory. But when it comes to defining what the TOTL flagship category really is, I find it extremely difficult since there are companies like Campfire Audio who have a $1500 flagship and then there are companies like 64 Audio, JH Audio and Noble Audio with flagships north of $2500. So instead, what I personally like to do is try gauging if an IEM is true flagship material with great sound and build quality and if it can provide a good value for money proposition against some of its competitors.
Technical Specifications -
- Driver – 12 Balanced Armatures (Knowles & Sonion)
- Frequency response: 10-40kHz
- Sensitivity: 114dB
- Impedance: 25Ω
- Channel balance: ≤0.5dB
- Distortion rate: ≤1%
- Waterproof: IPX3
- Connectors – 2-pin 0.78mm
Included in the box - Since BGVP sent me a couple of their earphones together, I had them ship it to me without branded packaging for ease of sending them in one box. As a result, earphones along with all accessories were sent to me in cute little earphones cases. I was surprised to see that they fit everything in their small rectangular cases.
Here is a list of everything I got, most of which will be available in the official package as well.
- 8 -core Furukawa OCC + silver-plated mixed braided cable
- Black silicone ear tips – SML
- Grey silicone ear tips – SML
- Blue silicone ear tips – SML
- Foam ear tips – 1 pair
- Cleaning tool
- Carry case
- Manual and warranty card
Picture courtesy - BGVP
Build Quality - According to the company’s description, all the shells are developed using German Envision TEC 3D-printing equipment and use PMMA acrylic fiber (resin) made of medical grade materials.
The stock shell design of the V12 has silver chips in a dark blue faceplate which is paired with a cyan shell. In my opinion, the design and color pairing along with spectacular finishing makes the V12 quite a cool and premium looking IEM. The cyan shell is translucent and you can see the drivers and wiring partially. It has 2-pin sockets rather than BGVP’s standard MMCX. It has 2 switches but the direction of switches between the 2 shells are inverted. Right shell’s ON position faces the 2-pin sockets whereas the left shell’s faces away from the socket. I felt that this was a bit inconvenient at first but then I got used to it and now it doesn’t bother me.
As for the cable, V12 comes with BGVP’s 8-core cable Furukawa OCC + silver-plated mixed braided cable. It’s a looker and feels ultra-soft and flexible but sadly is the same cable that comes with DM7 and VG4 too. I wish it came with a more premium cable in the package, something like UP-OCC Litz maybe.
BGVP offers numerous customization options where you can select the color and design of the shell and faceplate as per your liking. You can also order the V12 as a CIEM (custom fit for your ears using your ear impressions) and go berserk with customizing that too. As stated above, they’re offering it as a CIEM at no extra cost.
Fit and Comfort - V12 has semi-custom shaped shells which like the EST12 fit very comfortably and snugly, one of the best in the segment for me. I think they will fit most ears very comfortably because of the shells being very ergonomic and relatively smaller. It also remains very comfortable for long periods. Degree of noise Isolation depends on the ear tips you use. While listening to music, even with the stock ear tips it isolates outside noise very well, enough for me to be completely unaware of what’s going around me aurally. All in all, it’s a big thumbs-up from me for this section.
Sound Analysis - In short, V12 has a nice warm, slightly dark (depends on switch combinations), balanced, comfortable and natural sounding signature with a slight V-shaped quality. It’s a bit like EST12 in a way that it sounds good from the get go. Personally, my ears did not need an adaptation period since it sounds natural without any quirky or erratic peaks. I think both EST12 and V12 will work well for musicians, audio engineers and audiophiles. EST12 surely more than V12. In my opinion, they can be used effectively as stage monitors too. For IEMs to be good stage monitors, they need to be warm, natural and comfortable sounding, yet detailed and resolving enough, so that they can be used for long periods in concerts without any discomfort or ear fatigue. That is what both EST12 and V12 can make happen nicely.
As soon as I got the V12, I plugged it into my trusty Hiby R6 Pro and played Dave Matthews’ ‘Shake Me Like a Monkey’. It is one hell of a song with multiple extremely well played instruments and lots of energy. It’s a very good test track because it has more of a live performance vibe with studio recorded finesse along with layers of instruments and extremely tight playing. It is also mixed by one of my favorite mixers Chris Lord Alge whose mixes are generally very vibrant. Listening to it on the V12, I was immediately thrown into the song. It kinda has a feel to it where I felt as if I was performing it with the band in a studio. V12 followed the mix of the song well and placed instruments like how I personally imagine them to be placed in real life on a stage. Drums sounded complete and whole, cymbals wide with kick and snare action prominent in the center, hard panned horns and guitars were wide apart with good definition, and bass & vocals were beautifully placed in the center of the whole setup.
Bass – Bass is clear and well defined. It has a nice character but isn’t the boosted kind. It is pretty neutral while still being impactful and fun. Let me explain in more detail.
The overall bass character sounds midway between a BA and dynamic bass, even though V12 has BAs on bass duties. It is fast, though not the fastest BA kind, sustains well and has pretty good note definition too. You can hear good quality sub-bass while listening to Hans Zimmer and James N Howard’s ‘Why so serious’, though not as much rumble to ripple through your heart. To make up for that you can flip switch 2 up or switch to Mode 12 which increases the sub-bass rumble slightly. Yet if you expect it to rumble like an EE Legend X, it can’t make that happen.
As you can see in the graph below, in stock Mode 00, the sub-bass is slightly rolling off with a 3dB slope around 35Hz. This is a trick that is used in the mastering stage of a song’s post-production too. It is done to avoid speaker jarring. Since I like a cleaner and more neutral presentation than a bass boost, I personally like the bass just fine. Though mid-bass and high-bass take the spotlight in the V12. Again, bass playing in songs of bands like Karnivool and Muse sounds fun to listen to and if you ever want a bit more sub-bass, you can always flip switch 2 on.
Mids – Mids are good; they sound natural and have good tonality. Snares sound great in V12! If you don’t know yet, I’m a big fan of drums and particularly how the kick and snare sound together. I could just keep listening to V12 for the drums. It has a quality where it can make you feel like you’re the drummer in the band. So, if you like air-drumming, V12 is not going to disappoint. Lower mids are clean and do not sound muddy as there is a slight dip around 500-600Hz which keeps the muddy region clear. Upper mids peaks are in control, they are neither too peaky nor lacking. V12 maintains good definition without bringing the upper mids too forward. As you can see from the graph below, V12 has one peak at 3.5kHz and another at 5kHz which define its primary mids tonality. Personally, I like upper mids to be in control as I don’t like a very peaky 3-4kHz region. This region plays a very important role in the overall character of a sound signature as well as is one of the deciding factors on ease of listening and ear fatigue for me personally. Some Chi-fi IEMs have this area boosted a little too much for extra clarity and definition, which I’m not a big fan of. V12 unlike those IEMs, is very natural in this region which allows me to raise the volume above normal levels for some fun and lively listening without my ears asking for mercy. Vocals have a nice organic feel to them, very life-like. Acoustic and electric guitars have good definition owing to a well presented upper mid range, though sound more realistic than the hyped up sparkly kind. Also, if you like listening to orchestras and movie soundtracks and like them to have a slightly warm tonality with good resolution, V12 will work well there too.
Treble – Treble is very comfortable and natural to listen to. V12 maintains clarity and openness without overly boosting the treble. There is no sibilance or erratic peaks anywhere. Treble resolution is very good which brings out intricate orchestral string work, drummer’s intricate hi-hat and cymbal work as well as acoustic’s string clarity and details. V12’s treble also adds a bit of nice sizzle to hi-hats and cymbals. Vocals have a studio like quality to them where they sound clear and natural without the artificial treble sheen.
Switches – This is what BGVP states the switches do,
- Switch 1 – Vocal enhancement – I found it to make the upper mids and treble slightly cleaner and more defined. I like this!
- Switch 2 – Bass enhancement – Very slight boost in bass till probably around 120Hz and slight warming of upper registers.
I personally found 2 slightly different signatures in Stock 00 and 12 modes. Stock 00 is the slightly warmer of the 2 whereas Mode 12 enhances sub-bass with cleaner and better defined upper midrange and treble. Shuffle through the modes to see which one you like most. For example, if you feel Mode 00 is slightly warmer than you prefer, turn switch 1 up. If you want a bit more bass in Mode 00, turn switch 2 up. I hope this explains how the switches works.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation - V12’s soundstage feels spacious, being both wide and deep; a bit wider than deep. If you’re coming from mid-fi IEMs, it is certainly going to sound holographic and you’ll notice sounds going back beyond your ears. Because of high resolution and good imaging, you are able to feel the room, aura and space of the songs very vividly. Imaging is on point; instrument placement is very accurate. Separation and clarity throughout is very good (12 driver flagship style), even better in Mode 10 and 12.
BGVP EST12 ($1500) – If you are fans of BGVP and/or have been following my previous reviews, I’m sure this is a comparison you’ve all been wanting. A couple of people got in touch with me for the same, so here we go. Even though they both have a ballpark idea of sound signature where they’ve been tuned keeping balance and naturalness in mind, there is one major primary difference between them and that is the feeling of atmosphere. Listening to our reference track, Dave Matthews’ ‘Shake Me Like a Monkey’, EST12 sounds like the band is performing in a lively arena whereas V12 sounds like they’re performing in a studio room. Now you can attribute this major difference to a lot of parameters but I hope you understand what I’m trying to convey. V12 is warmer of the two but both sound signatures are very well balanced in their own style. I personally like EST12’s cleaner, more lively and higher resolving signature. V12 is no slouch but falls slightly behind in these areas. EST12 being the more lively one has slightly more overall attack and impact too. EST12 also has a slightly wider and deeper stage. With V12 having 2 switches and EST12 having 3, the comparison gets even more difficult and complicated. EST12’s 3 switches provide a bit more versatility and sound tuning options as compared to V12. EST12’s switches also bring a bit more substantial change in sound relatively in comparison. Both have equally good build quality and come with the same accessories in the box.
To make things simple, both sound very natural and comfortable. If you want a slightly warmer presentation with good resolution, choose the V12. If you want a slightly more versatile, resolving, lively and cleaner sounding IEM with a slightly bigger soundstage relatively, choose EST12. I would personally suggest going for EST12 if you can up your budget a bit.
64 Audio U12t ($2000) – U12t is a V-shaped sounding IEM whereas V12 is more towards neutral relatively in comparison. U12t has more sub-bass though V12 has a more neutral presentation of mid-bass and high-bass. Mids are slightly more recessed in U12t though maintain excellent resolution and clarity whereas V12 does the same without as much dip in the mids. V12 sounds ‘ever so slightly’ fuller in comparison. U12t has its 1st upper mids peak around 2.2kHz whereas V12 has it around 3.5kHz which defines their primary upper mids character. Both have their 2nd peak around 5kHz. U12t’s treble has a peak around 6.5kHz whereas V12 has a more prominent one around 7Khz which adds sizzle to hi-hats and acoustics in both. Besides that, treble in both extends equally but I hear V12 treble extending slightly further. Soundstage in both is spacious but maybe U12t has it slightly bigger and more open because of being a V-shaped IEM with a slightly deeper dip in the mids which makes it cleaner in the lower mids area. Both IEMs have very good resolution.
Custom Art Fibae 7 (€1100) – Fibae 7 has a bit more sub-bass quantity. Fibae 7’s upper mids are more forward and more in quantity whereas V12’s are more natural. Fibae 7’s treble starts rolling off post 4.5-5kHz whereas V12’s treble extends further and brings more liveliness to the signature. Both have wide soundstages but V12’s is more resolving. Build quality wise, looking at the universals, V12 has better build quality and shell design than Fibae 7 in my opinion.
Campfire Audio Andromeda ($1099) – Andromeda has a bit more sub-bass quantity but mid-bass and high-bass quantity is pretty similar compared to V12. V12’s mids are much more resolving and natural sounding. Andromeda has insufficient upper-mids information whereas V12’s upper mids are very natural with accurate tonality and timbre. V12 again has a more natural treble response whereas Andromeda has a sparkly treble signature with prominent peaks in the 6-10kHz region. V12 is more resolving of the two. Both have a wide soundstage but V12 being more resolving with a more accurate tonality, has a more natural sounding and expanding soundstage.
Conclusion - All in all, BGVP has been putting out some really cool products since the DM6. EST12 and V12 are capable flagships and smartly priced cheaper than similar western market offerings. V12 has very good sound quality, soundstage and resolution for its price. It is probably also the cheapest 12 driver flagship in the market which uses all original Knowles and Sonion drivers. The tuning switches gives it a bit of versatility. V12 package comes rich with a good cable and ample accessories which some other flagship IEMs don’t. Sure $1300 is substantial but I think compared to other flagships, V12 keeps up and hits hard and surely deserves a place in the TOTL category. BGVP offers numerous customization options as well as custom fit shells. What is cool is that if you order an EST12 or V12 from them directly using the link above, you can order it as a CIEM at no extra cost. So if you’re a musician or audiophile looking for a nice flagship 12 driver in-ear monitor, give V12 or its older sibling EST12 a shot. Also, currently BGVP is selling the V12 for $1143 on their BGVP Official AE store. That’s a whooping $157 discount from $1300 MRP which makes V12 an even more attractive proposition.