Jomo’s 8-driver Samba is bigger in size and the monitors stick more out of your ear. What strikes me most here is how much better the separation and clarity level on the ES80 are. Samba’s bass is not as tight and you don’t get the balance and linearity of the ES80 either. The Samba most of all is a musical custom but it doesn’t have the extension, speed or precision of the ES80. It just sounds more messy and boomy when compared to the clean and extremely well separated ES80. Even though I prefer the 11-driver Flamenco, I can still enjoy the Samba for my non critical listening. The ES80 is just so very different and technically it’s as good as perfect.
The Vision Ears VE8 is one of my personal favorites CIEMs and compared to the ES80 it sounds smoother and it has a warmer touch. The ES80 is neutral, where the VE8 is to the neutral side with a smooth delivery and a tad of warmth. Both of these are extremely good in sound stage and detail, but the ES80’s transparency is higher and the layering is better. The Westone’s bass also has more detail but body wise, the bass – and the rest for that matter – is the same in both monitors. Two great sounding monitors, where one is tuned for the Pro and the other is more tuned for the audiophile. I love them both equally.
Inear’s semi-custom ProPhile 8 is somewhat dryer sounding and it doesn’t have the richness and extension the VE8 and ES80 have. The PP8 is a great universal monitor with great separation and layering but it isn’t as extended and precise as the Westone. Body-wise these for me are at the same level and they share the same linearity. The PP8 is a great monitor, it’s just missing some sparkle and musicality, especially with a source such as the SP1000.
The silicone CustomArt Harmony Pro 8.2 is another excellent sounding 8-driver. Compared to the ES80 it is darker sounding. Bass is also a bit bigger in body but it isn’t as detailed or layered as the ES80’s bass. The mids in the 8.2 are rich and have great dynamics but they’re not as clear sounding as the ES80’s. Treble is a little softer as well but both monitors have great richness and extension. The separation, cleanness and transparency is better in the ES80 for me.
8. Driveability & Sources
The Astell&Kern SP1000 is very detailed, precise and layered and it has a neutral tuning. I really love this pairing as it gives the ES80 a powerful presentation with tight bass, a great sound stage, exceptional layering and all the richness you’ll ever need. Of course this combo sets you back at least $4K USD, but the end result is to die for, especially in balanced mode
The full bodied Sony NW-WM1Z gives the Westone ES80 more presence overall and you get a smoother feel to the sound. You still get the great detail, depth and precision, but the Sony does it in a more relaxed and musical way. Personally I find the end result a bit soft for my personal taste but I have to say the bass in this combo is impressive: very deep, great body and an impressive rumble down low. So it’s more about the signature you prefer and Sony lovers will probably appreciate the effect it has on the ES80’s sound.
From the Chord Electronics Hugo 2, with the SP1000 as source using optical, you get a sound signature that is comparable to that of the SP1000 but the voices are somewhat smoother and thicker. The end result is an even more natural presentation but it isn’t as spacious, extended and open sounding as straight from the SP1000. This is a very good combination however and it’s incredibly easy to listen to, and love, without any fatigue whatsoever. The big advantage here is that you can also use the Hugo 2’s cross feed and filters to tune the sound the way you like it.
From the Mojo you lose some of the natural presentation the Hugo 2 is so good at, but you get a fast, dynamic signature with a good amount of body. To me it sounds a bit more digital however and of course the Mojo doesn’t get to the Hugo 2 levels technically but it’s still enjoyable. For me, a monitor of this level however deserves the very best, so for me the Hugo 2 is the preferred Chord unit.
From Astell&Kern’s newest AK70II you get a more intimate sound with a higher than neutral amount of body but with great musicality. The AK70II compared to the other sources is smoother and warmer, and while it technically is the least impressive, it does have a high musicality and foot tapping factor. I also quite like the ES80 in combination with the new Cayin N5II which has better dynamics and extension. The N5ii also is more to the neutral side compared to the AK70II and it doesn’t have the warm and smooth tone. The Cayin N5ii gives the ES80 good body though and a lovely sparkle. Of both these Mid-Fi players, the Cayin N5II to me sounds best with the ES80, simply as it performs best on technicalities.
In the end this is a neutral, reference tuned pro monitor and in that regard you should pair it with a source that has the same ideas about side. As a result for me the Hugo 2 and the AK SP1000 are my favorite ES80 companions.
The Westone ES80 is a perfectly tuned neutral monitor with great extension, richness, speed and separation. Its sound stage goes both wide and deep and there’s great layering. In fact, I love the tuning and performance so much that the Westone ES80 is going straight to my CIEM recommendation list. The neutral, yet excellent, ES80 has quickly become one of my favorite CIEMs, and it’s even pushing the UM Maestro V1 from the list.
If you’re looking for a neutral monitor that has the best possible technicalities then this is it. I fully recommend this marvel to the pro users and the audiophiles that want precision, neutrality, richness and extension. You’ll love it.