ortofon e-Q8: Evolution Of A Masterpiece

Disclaimer: Longtime ortofon dealer Musica Acoustics, asked me to do a photo-shoot right after the ortofon e-Q8 was introduced. I did, and got the e-Q8 to boot!

At first, I was unsure that in my hands was anything but a white e-Q7. Everything, including the chassis, case, tips, and filters is nearly identical.

The Marque

Seriously, I was thinking: didn’t I review this thing before? And yes, I suppose I have. The e-Q8, which shares the e-Q7’s contours, is one of the classiest earphones out there. There are few better legacies to hang the hat on.

Ortofon are wise to not fix what ain’t broke.

Sharing the same shape, tooling, and accessories cuts down on investment costs. And it helps to establish a brand look and feel, which eschews audiophile geek for comfort and class. These are good things. The e-Q8 feels great in the ear, captures the eye, and looks fab hanging out of a suit pocket. It is a design that deserves a second lease.

That said, it is too familiar. Using the exact same body that was used four years ago is lazy. 

The Cable

The bad news starts off with the textile-clad cable, which is microphonic, and tangles. It is slightly thicker than the e-Q7’s is, and more supple. But it still goes thwack! in your ears when it brushes something. The textile sleeve is strong and resistant to knotting, but the floppy rubber that juts out after the y-split is neither.

Like the e-Q7, the 8 lacks a neck cinch to keep the cable from flapping out of the ears or catching on wayward pieces of clothes. To get on with it, I twist the two ends tightly below my chin. It makes me look like a dweeb, but then again, I’m used to it.

Ortofon need to ditch the textile. The e-Q5 cable is better in every single way. 

The Chassis

The recycled chassis is awesome. Its long, hard rubber stress reliefs help steady the earphone when inserting and removing from the ear. The long, narrow body comfortably fits even the most stuffy of ears. And the ortofon ear pieces? I’ve sworn by them for years. The first thing I do when I get a new earphone is take off its ear pieces and replace it with something ortofon. 

Why? They are are soft and supple. They smooth and comfortable in the inner ear. They last a long time and are easy to clean. Unfortunately, finding a pair is difficult, and can be expensive. I buy a new set of three ear pieces for around 30$ every time I hit up e-earphone in Akihabara, and probably will until they go out of stock.

The other benefit to the ortofon pieces is that, unlike some ear pieces, they exert minimal influence on sound. No stuffy wuffy, no flighty heighties, nothing. What hits your eardrums is as pure as it can be.

My wife, who is the litmus test for earphone comfort, who thought Dita Audio’s excellent earphones hurt, finds the e-Q8 über-comfortable. And so do I. 

Beside the slightly thicker/stronger textile cable, the e-Q8 sports a new L-shaped plug. I think this is a great idea. When stuffed in pockets and purses, an L-shaped plug puts less stress on your player, and on the headphone jack.

More on the next page:

ortofon e-Q8: Evolution Of A Masterpiece
3.5 (70%) 8 votes

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

31 Comments

  • Reply July 15, 2014

    L.

    Those look awful comfort wise. Huge!

    • Reply July 15, 2014

      ohm image

      They are incredibly comfortable. Try them. I’ve met no one that doesn’t like the way they fit. They may dislike HOW they sit in the ear, but the way they feel is great. And the ear pads are the softest, most luxurious silicon pads.

  • Reply July 15, 2014

    George Lai

    I still think the 05 is the bargain in the group but I agree with you 100% on the tips.

    • Reply July 15, 2014

      ohm image

      You are right. But that’s never a question. The e-Q5 is a GREAT deal, offering pretty much the sound of the e-Q7 (some differences seem to apply) in a no-frills body and a way better (subjective, but I think I’m on track) cable.

    • Reply July 15, 2014

      EraserXIV

      e-Q5 is a hidden gem and it’s unfortunate it’s not more popular. I’ve owned several pairs of e-Q7s and e-Q5s, selling them in search of “greener pastures”. After a long journey and spending upwards of $500+, to this day I still reminisce about them. Although I learned a lot on the journey, I am thinking I should pull a LeBron and just “come home” (to the e-Q5s that is).

  • Reply July 15, 2014

    George Lai

    I bought 5 of them.

    The ear tips that is. Ha Ha.

    • Reply July 16, 2014

      ohm image

      Not five e-Q8? You know, this may be the first time that you and I have 100% agreed on fit. Congrats are in order.

  • Reply July 15, 2014

    Fabian Blache III

    The RSA Shadow with its digital volume control will drive the heck out of these earphones. And it will remain channel balanced at the even lowest listening levels.

    • Reply July 16, 2014

      ohm image

      It very may well. I haven’t heard the Shadow with the e-Q8, though I’d love to. Ray rarely makes poor amps.

  • Reply July 15, 2014

    dalethorn

    This is a great example of what I like in reviews here – not just the good news, but caveats and gotchas too – just in case.

    • Reply July 16, 2014

      ohm image

      Of course, we are all looking for earphones without gotchas or caveats. And to be honest, wouldn’t it be great if an earphone could be designed to sound great from so-so sources? This one truly is hard to get great sound out of, which is a shame. But when you do, it is tip top.

      • Reply July 16, 2014

        dalethorn

        The main worry I share with a lot of people is budget. A lot of budding audiophiles really stretch to squeeze out the best sound they can with as little money as possible, so those reviews that cover those limitations really well are a big help to people on a budget.

        • Reply July 16, 2014

          ohm image

          Damn, I’m 90% satisfied with an iPod shuffle 1G and the e-Q8 or Grado GR10. Hiss is the main concern there. If someone can bring out a great small player with no hiss and performance/sound like the original Shuffle… hello king.

  • Reply October 7, 2014

    Vicente Tomas

    After I read the review, I felt an urge to also buy a pair of ortofon ear tips as well. My only problem is I can’t find them. What website carries them?

    • Reply October 16, 2014

      ohm image

      I think you can find them at Musica Acoustics. (Link’s at the top.)

      • Reply October 16, 2014

        Vicente Tomas

        Yey! Thank you for the response :D.

  • Reply November 29, 2014

    Ford

    Hi. Now I’m really interested in this thing. I will use it on the go with my phone and a small DAC/amp.
    If I use it with AQ Dragonfly 1.2, will I hear the awesomeness of the e-Q8?
    Or do you know any small DAC/AMP that csn drive the e-Q8 to its full potential?

    • Reply December 5, 2014

      ohm image

      I’ve not used the AQ Dragonfly 1,2, so I can’t recommend the combination. I am not well-versed with tiny DAC/amp units. hope that maybe Lieven or someone can help out.

  • Reply December 8, 2014

    ehab

    so are they smooth ar edgy overall and how forgiving are they

    • Reply December 8, 2014

      ohm image

      If you have the right player/amp with high-current low-impedance output, they are detailed, smooth, and have lovely bass. If not, no bass at all, a bit edgy, and overall miserable.

      • Reply December 8, 2014

        ehab

        how about a p-51 mustang

        • Reply December 8, 2014

          ohm image

          I neither own the P-t1, nor have I used it long enough to have any helpful opinion on it. I’m sorry.

      • Reply December 8, 2014

        ehab

        i have a p-51 mustang which i believe can drive them properly but the real problem is my ex1000’s which from the review that i read seem to be quite similar to the ortofon’s and i really don’t want two expensive iem’s with a similar signature any thoughts about that

        • Reply December 8, 2014

          ohm image

          I’m sorry to disappoint, but I don’t own the EX1000 earphones, either. I have no idea if the P-51 is capable of supplying enough current to the e-q8 to provide perfect resolution.

          • Reply December 8, 2014

            ehab

            well thanck you anyway

  • Reply December 10, 2014

    adam

    i was planing on getting the roxannes based on your review on them, you got me at ” It may well be the smoothest, most midrange-resolving earphone on the planet right now” so in which aspect do the e-q8’s keep up, resolution or refinement i don’t really care if they were on par in detail but if they were as smooth and refined it wouldn’t make any sense for me to go with the roxannes, i would appreciate if you can clear things up for me

    • Reply December 27, 2014

      ohm image

      The Roxanne earphones are smoother in the mid section, for sure. But properly amped, the e-Q8 is the biggest bargain (fit, build quality, sound) of anything. If and only if they are properly driven do they sound good. I’d go so far as to say that the Roxanne is easier to drive in order to sound good.

      If you don’t have the proper equipment, the e-Q8 is edgy, harsh, and ridiculous. When not, it is smoothly detailed, clear, and beautiful. But comparing a custom-cum-universal to a universal is difficult on many fronts. Soundwise, it’s a preference thing. But fit/money/utility, etc., is really hard to draw lines.

  • Reply August 15, 2017

    Syracuse

    Interestingly enough I have a Vorzuge Pure II and Mojo as dac section. I would love to have an in-ear that nails electronic sound like Trance and ambient but also holds its own listening to film music and pretty much everything else. Would the Ortofon E-Q8 be more interesting or the Grado GR10i? They are in the same budget but since you love them both so much I would like to know which one ultimately soundwise has your preference and which one would be more suited to me. I’ll never have a chance to hear either one of them. Thanks Nathan.

    • Reply August 15, 2017

      ohm image

      Hey man, glad to see we share interest in the same music. We’re a small bunch in the audiophile world. I love the E-Q8, but its problem is that it is so cool and flat that getting bass or midrange warmth from it requires either a NOC-sounding dap/amp or a good EQ. It is my favourite Ortofon earphone, but it is love it or leave it.

      The GR10 (mine is 2nd gen pre-e) is brilliant from the get go but similar enough to enjoy the brilliantly smooth transitions and speed, but with added bass power and overall meatier mids. It is my recommendation.

  • Reply August 15, 2017

    Syracuse

    I meant Grado GR10e

  • Reply August 15, 2017

    Syracuse

    Thanks Nathan. I’ve had a suspicion.

    I have a Harmony 8.2 that you can’t fault for much but it’s not what I want when listening to electronic sounds. I want something au contraire to the 8.2 that is ofcourse not going to better but rather complement it when listening to certain genres. And I want more treble, discovered after the 8.2 that I can take more treble than I thought.

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