Hybrid monitors seem to be getting more and more popular. A lot of manufacturers nowadays build these designs. Comparisons to other monitors are always good to get a picture of how the reviewed model sounds like. Not for me, but for you, the reader. If you have heard one or more of the models below that’s even better. This section should also provide you the info needed in order to find a suitable model for your taste. There are two other monitors that would fit this category very well, but both are not yet here – the Quatre by Jomo Audio and the Phantom by Empire Ears. Both models will arrive soon, if there is demand, I can compare the N8 to them as well at a later date.
All comparisons are done with their stock cable, as this is what you will get in the end. There is no use to compare models with anything else than with what they are supplied with. All mentioned prices are for their custom built versions. Some of them sell at lower prices in universal form.
64 Audio – A12t; with m20 module installed (12BA, 1999$)
The A12t is the next step up from the N8 in 64 Audio’s lineup. It’s a pure BA design and there are quite a few differences between the two. While both have a more prominent bass response, the A12t throws a meaner punch with higher resolution. The N8 is more relaxed and soft down low and comes in with a more organic approach to low ends. The A12t overall is more balanced, where the N8 is clearly warmer and lusher. The midrange of the A12t is more transparent and has higher resolution again. The N8 though is thicker and richer. Vocals on both models are smooth, but the A12t’s are airier and nimble with more emotions. The A12t has the ability to recreate the sound with a nicely holographic appearance where everything gets displayed in front of you. It reaches wider in sound stage dimensions and has more precise imaging. The N8 however does go deeper and has a more enjoyable factor to it. Where both again differ clearly is the treble tuning. The N8 is richer and has a slightly warmer sound up top, where the A12t is brighter and crisper with more energy.
JH Audio – Lola (2DD/6BA, 1745$)
Lola is also a hybrid design, yet a more unconventional one. The JH model uses its dynamic drivers for mid-range reproduction. There are two dynamics found in each ear piece of Lola. Almost all of Jerry Harvey’s models feature the tuneable bass-port. I have Lola set on 2 o’clock as this is the most enjoyable to me.
Both models have a similar deep bass response, though N8’s to me pushes more air and has a more organic presentation. It is richer and better textured as well. Lola’s midrange is lush just like N8’s. The 64 goes wider with higher resolution. Both reach fairly deep in sound stage dimensions with great imaging and layering. Where they differ the most obvious certainly is treble. Where Lola is laid back and not particularly revealing, N8 is more energetic, clear and crisp with brighter shimmer. Its upper midrange also is richer and more glowing compared to Lola’s. Lola overall is darker and thicker compared to the N8.
Noble Audio – Kaiser Encore (10BA, 2099$)
The Encore is a different beast than the N8. Its focus is more on clarity and precision. The N8 is more enjoyable on the long run, with a heavier bass response and more body down low. The Encore is lighter but has higher resolution and transparency. The Encore creates a wider sound stage with impeccable imaging and instrumental separation, which is achieved with more air compared to the N8. The N8 however is lusher and has more body in its mids. It also is richer from bass to mids, though the Encore bests it in the upper mids segment. The treble on both is energetic and rich, though the Encore’s can become too much for some, I don’t think the N8 will be a problem for anyone. The N8 is more emotional and thicker in vocals. The Encore has the ability to sound more open. Each monitor will appeal to different folk in my opinion, where the Encore might find more friends in people who are looking for a brighter more revealing signature, the N8 will find more takers when it comes to warmth and bass-lovers.
Editor’s note: upon request, a comparison to the Legend X has been added.
Empire Ears – Legend X (2DD/5BA, 2299$)
The Legend X and N8 are both similar in a few ways, yet differ in others. The Legend has a faster and deeper reaching bass with higher impact, more resolution and authority, while the N8 takes a smoother and richer approach to it, making it more accessible for some genres. The Legend portrays its bass more in the forefront, while the N8 does that too, it does so more subtle. Both models have a thicker midrange, but the N8 to me has bigger body with more weight. Sound stage wise the Legend goes wider and the N8 deeper. Both have precise imaging and great layering. The Legend takes the crown when it comes to overall resolution and micro-detailing. The Empire Ears model has a more energetic treble, while the N8 to me seems cleaner. Overall the Legend might be classified as the more dynamic and exciting and the N8 the smoother and more relaxed monitor.
The N8 is 64 Audio’s first signature earphone and they have done a wonderful job at creating this monitor in conjunction with Nathan East. This sure must be a delightful tuning for bassists, vocalists and audiophiles alike. It performs very well with all of my gear, yet truly shines when you give it some power to breath. The N8 is a great monitor for when you want to get back to the true meaning of this hobby – enjoying music.
The N8 is a monitor that will please many people, especially those who are after a warm and lush sound with a more forward bass tuning. 64 Audio goes the extra mile and tunes every single dynamic driver to each ear-shape specifically. Just so they can squeeze out that extra bit of richness and smoothness of the nine Millimetre driver. That brings me to the following question: are we getting closer to a custom Fourté and Trió? Of course creating the needed chambers for the tia drivers is a more complex trait and needs a whole lot more work than just custom tuning one driver, but an audiophile can dream…