K8 is an excellent sounding IEM. Housing 8BA drivers in a 4 way crossover it has 2 sonion for lows, 2 for lower mids, 3 Knowles for mid-highs and 1 for highs.
I was expecting it to be less full and a lot more serious but it is a jolly yet accurate sounding IEM without any harsh sides to it. The only down side to this all BA based IEM is the slight V shaped sound signature. There is a slight dip after the upper mid range which is very hard to tell when not paying much attention. Kudos to Panther audio for bringing us this kind of tuning.
It has a bit of warmth and fuller feel to it so it can’t be labeled as the most neutral or natural sounding IEM but it’s a much more cohesive sounding IEM for sure.
I am using Micro Signature and Qudelix 5k for this review.
One of the biggest advantage of having handful of drivers is that the tuning can be done without worrying about caveats. And that shows. The K8 has two low end drives incharge of suba and mids bass while there are two more to handle the upper bass and lower mids giving the lower end a much more complete feel.
It has a beautiful lower end with full and meaty notes without compromising on texture or details. It has very good sub-bass extension and the rumble is as good as some DD based IEMs. Mid bass has better volume and body and has more volume and air movement than the ARA. The upper bass is exceptionally balanced with the mid bass and smoothly blends into the lower mids. I do feel that it could have had a bit more definition but then I am looking at the ARA. Yes, you cannot expect to have heavy bass slams like the Dorado 2020 but ut doesn’t leave much to be desired unless loads of bass is what you want.
With the bigger volume and warmth comes a slightly slower decay speed. It’s faster than all DDs and marginally faster than DUNU SA6 but is slightly slower than the more accurate ARA.
Aided by half of the lower-mid duo drivers and another half of mid-high driver duo K8 has a very capable mid range. The level of clarity and details is very good. What I really like here is the presentation. The notes are well defined but do not have sharper or aggressive feel to them. Even the upper mid is well behaved and is devoid of any peaks. Lovely notes with a fuller body give this IEM a very satisfying feel. But the lack of dedicated mid range driver is evident too. The whole mid range is slightly in the V or say U. There is drop just after the upper mids which is very hard to point out but does suppress some guitar notes if in the track.
Vocals are magical, cohesive and soothing, it barely has any flaws. Male vocals are throaty while female vocals are sharper with excellent texture and definition. Only nit picking can be the base of notes which is slightly wider than accurate. Instruments have excellent definition and thank fully do not have the lack of energy around the vocals. There is no lack of height while the finishing definition is spot on. Yes, even when it’s way above average, the upper mids could have been slightly more dynamic and open but I think it’s tuned like this to contain any undesirable notes.
Even when K8 has part of the mid high drive and a dedicated high driver for the treble region it doesn’t try to get overboard with details and transparency. Some earphones try too hard to exhibit better transparency and clarity with sharper notes but the DM7 doesn’t belong to that bunch. It delivers the right amount of energy and spark staying clear of uncomfortable notes. It has very good amount of air between instruments with excellent contrast of fore and background instruments. Thanks to its slightly bright nature it resolves excellent cleanliness. K8 delivers the notes like it know how much aggression most of us can handle while maintaining enjoyable sparkle and liveliness. It doesn’t lack any details while the transparency is top notch. There isn’t a single thing wrong with this tuning. One can say that the treble extension is not of the endless type like the MEST mk2 but it is as good as the ARA and Solaris 2020.
Notes are very accurate with a slightly wider base giving it a friendlier and calmer feel while the finishing definition is very good with appropriate energy providing the required bite and attack without making notes uncomfortable. Cymbals and pianos have very good transparency and an analogue feel too. Needless to say that separation and layering is up to the mark. The bigger than average stage size helps a lot with instrument placements and density.
STAGE AND IMAGING:-
It’s strange that this all BA IEM has a much bigger stage than the Thieaudio Monarch. K8 has a stage which is not huge near the head but gets bigger as it goes further. Some of the vocals a nearly 80% of the lower end notes are placed inside the head while most of the mids and treble notes are well spread out of the head. Thanks to the bigger stage K8 has very good space between instruments with class leading layering and separation. The instrument distribution is impressively uniform with very good density. Thanks to added flexibility K8 has impressive dynamic cue placement giving it a rich sonic experience.
VS DUNU ZEN:
This is a single DD IEM but I was impressed by its details and musical feel. It has similar approach to sound.
First thing first, this DD has bigger volume and move more air than the K8 but K8 has similar sub-bass rumble and a hair better extension. Mid bass is fuller and weightier on the ZEN, upper bass is slightly elevated too. Decay speed of K8 is much better than the ZEN. Mid rage is where the ZEN has a bit of upper has with more cohesive timber and musical tonality. Both have similar note formation but the Zen has slightly better edge definition for both vocals and instruments. Treble and forward is where the K8 shows ites supremacy. It is sparkly and livelier with much better details extraction. Zen lacks energy at the upper treble region hampering its extension while the K8 has excellence written all over it thanks it’s better expressing abilities without getting harsh or offensive.
Stage size of the ZEN is very good and is well rounded while the K8 has bigger stage further to the ears. Both have similar feel but the K8 has much better X-axis width while the ZEN has better height closer to the head.
Even when the ARA has 7 drivers inside it, out of which 4 are dedicated lower end drivers, it barely has enough lower end body to take on the K8. K8 has bigger volume and similar sub-bass extension while the ARA has more rumble and weight to the notes. Mid bass of the K8 is fuller while the ARA has better balance and decay speed. K8 has slightly forward vocals and a bit less energetic upper mids while ARA is more even. Treble is where the ARA can feel a bit aggressive with more tingly and sparkly notes, especially the cymbals and similar percussion instruments have added finishing resolution and energy. Both have similar Treble extension but the K8 has bigger stage and has better dynamics.
ARA is a very serious and mature sounding IEM while K8 is more cohesive and musical. Both lack no details but ARA is more precise and doesn’t back away for extra attack.
What can I say. Close your eyes and get one!! This IEM is a prime example of what we want from a BA based IEMs. BA based IEMs do not need to be dull or accuracy minded while maintaining excellent details and transparency.
K8 is not an outright serious IEM. It’s a more playful, happy going IEM which can do anything while doing a lot of things better than all of its competitors like Thieaudio Monarch. The biggest plus is the evenness, even when it has a bit of flavoring it doesn’t let the note’s height, dynamics or emphasis drop to average levels. I am impressed. The build quality is top notch too. Yes, they can make the packaging a bit more compact but this $860 IEM punches way above its price bracket going neck in neck with EVE20 and VE6XC.
There a barely any IEM as good as this under $1000. As I mentioned earlier, this can bought with eyes closed.
Enjoy you music!! Cheers!!