Panther Audio, even though they are not new in the market, most of us haven’t heard about them. Based in Hongkong Panther Audio started operation in 2018 and have an healthy set of IEMs under their portfolio. They start with the Aura D2X, which is a dual BA single DD hybrid IEM and is priced at $254 or 1980hkd going as high as 22500 hkd or around $2900 for their Flagship Aura 2LVE.
They have an EST based IEM, Amethyst 132, priced at around $1550 or 11900 hkd.
What I have with me here is their only all BA based IEM, Legend K8. As the number suggests this houses 8 BA drivers on each sides and is priced at around $860 or 6688 hkd. All of their IEMs can be ordered in custom form with various customizations but universal models have their set color scheme and the K8 only comes in clear shell. I love this type of shell. The naked loom is unique and interesting.
I am comparing the K8 with the Campfire ARA and DUNU ZEN.
Get one for yourself from here:
Get in touch with Panther Audio:
It’s interesting to see some retail packaging from an boutique IEM maker. K8 comes with a shelf ready black box with a Panther face on the box. Unboxing is very straight forward. First thing to greet us is a envelope with the warranty card on it while an welcome note is placed inside it. Under that are the earpieces stuffed in foam but strangely the cable’s are attached to them and wound under the IEMs.
Under the foam are the faux leather carry case and a couple of paper boxes which contain 6 pair of ear tips, a cleaning tool, a quarter inch adapter and a cleaning cloth.
I will like Panther audio to put some of the accessories inside the carry case and reduce the size of the package.
HOW IS THE CABLE:
Compared to other European boutique brands the K8 comes with a decent cable. It’s an 8 core OCC copper cable with silver plating on it. Not only does it sound good it looks nice too.
The good thing about this cable is its supple and soft feel. It’s supple like the Smokey litz cable but is softer. It doesn’t have any memory problem. And even when it’s supple and soft it doesn’t feel weak or less durable. Components used here are of good quality, I definitely would have liked a slightly lighter cable splitter though. The cable guides are reasonably supple and aren’t harsh on the ear.
Even when mine has 3.5mm termination one can opt for balanced termination when placing any order. Just PM them!!
BUILD QUALITY AND ERGONOMICS:
Panther Audio is using clear resin (imported from Eggar Germany) shell on the K8 and it looks beautiful. There is no weak point to the shell as the half filled shell feel very sturdy and stable. It definitely will not survive a drop on solid floor but it won’t break apart like acrylic shells. For an 8BA IEM the K8 has a considerably small shell and should fit all ear sizes. The 4 bore nozzle though can feel a bit short and doesn’t go much deeper into the ear. It can fit anything in the T400-500 sizes but I prefer wide bore tips with it.
Ergonomics of the K8 is fairly comfortable. It doesn’t have a very ergonomically designed shell but does have a winged design which gives it a fairly good feel inside the ear while the resin shell provides excellent grip. Unlike most of the BA based IEMs K8 has a pressure releasing vent near the 2pin socket.
PAIRING AND MATCHING WITH SOURCES:
The K8 is from one of the most unique set of IEMs which barely care about the source it is being driven from. It just simply do not feel bas ev5 when driven out of weak sources like mobile phones. Yes, the stage and air between instruments take a hit but that’s it, it doesn’t get moody or sharp. Giving power and better sources definitely helps with better stage, cleaner notes and more defined finishing definition. I definitely will recommend a decent dongle like Qudelix 5k for this.
The slightly fuller and organic kind of tonality pairs very well with analytical sources like Qudelix 5k and TR-amp.
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!!