Although tunable switches on in-ear monitors have been around for quite some time, they really seemed to have gotten popular recently. In this review, I’m taking the BGVP ArtMagic VG4 for a spin. The VG4 has a mixture of 4 balanced armature drivers, two Sonion and two Knowles, a 4-way crossover and 3 tuning switches. Sounds intriguing. Let’s check it out.
BGVP website: http://en.bgvp-hifi.com/
Disclaimer: This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
BGVP ArtMagic VG4
- Build quality
- Included cable and accessories
- Good ergonomics and comfort
- Tunable sound
- Smooth and resolving sound
- Sub-bass authority
Package and Accessories
The VG4 package echoes many other recent BGVP releases and that is a good thing. There’s a white cardboard outer sleeve which has a simple diagram of the VG4 on the front and a list of specifications on the back.
Inside the actual box is the standard BGVP foam insert, just like the one we saw with the DN2. It contains a plethora of eartips, including 6 pairs of silicone tips and one pair of foams. In addition, there are an additional 3 pairs of silicone tips inside the clamshell carrying case plus a cleaning/switch adjustment tool. Lastly, you get the same 8-core cable that came with the DM7, along with the usual warranty and documentation.
Design, Comfort & Noise Isolation
The BGVP VG4’s 3D-printed shells are made from imported resin and are beautifully constructed. I believe there are up to 13 colour variations available but there’s also a custom option which opens up a whole slew of additional design options.
The shells are very smooth all over and the faceplates are seamlessly joined to the main body. On the faceplate, there is a subtle silver-coloured BGVP logo. Most of the shell colours are transparent which give you a clear view of the drivers inside.
Speaking of drivers, internally, the VG4 has a dual Sonion 33AJ007 and 2 Knowles balanced armature drivers for the mids and treble. For the mathematically challenged reader, that equates to a total of 4 drivers per side. Also included is a 4-way crossover and, of course, the 3 tuning switches on the back of the unit.
Comfort is excellent and these shells fit my ears like a glove. With the right tips the noise isolation is top-notch and when there’s music playing even quietly, I don’t hear a word when someone starts talking to me.
The included cable is the same one that came with the DM7. It’s a braided 6N hybrid consisting of a mix of copper and silver wire. At the top are black aluminium MMCX connector housings with colour coded rings, followed by some flexible heat-shrink ear guides.
The Y-split and matching straight 3.5mm termination are matching black aluminium and there’s also a small rubberized chin slider that works very effectively. Handling is superb: the cable is extremely supple but it does have noticeable microphonics. However, this cable noise can be attenuated by using the chin slider. Overall, this is a high-quality cable and one that is well suited to an IEM like the VG4.
Gear used for testing
- iPhone with Ampio VS-1880
- Shanling M5s
- PC with iFi Audio ZEN DAC
Before I get into how these sound, I’ll quickly break down what the switches do. For future reference, I describe the switches in the off or down position with a 0 denotation. For switches in the on or up position, they are denoted as 1.
By default or out of the box the switches are all in the off position (000). Each switch affects the sound signature to a certain degree but the switch with the biggest impact on the sound is the third or rightmost. This third switch boosts the bass and the lower midrange by approximately 5dB. Furthermore, it raises the core midrange by around 2-3dB. This fills out the overall sound, giving it more body and warmth.
As for the 1st and 2nd switches, they have much less impact on the sound – almost little enough to be negligible, although they do make some difference. However, for the sake of my sanity and your time, I’m going to disregard all configurations apart from 000 and 001 in this sound description. In fact, I’ll throw in a quick image here showing how small the changes can be:
Regardless of how the switches are positioned, the VG4 has a fairly linear presentation across the board. The tonal balance is quite even from top to bottom with some emphasis on the upper midrange and the lower treble. In general, the sound is slightly on the leaner side of neutral and has ample detail retrieval.
I must admit to having a personal preference for Sonion drivers when it comes to BA bass and the VG4 only reaffirms my position. The bass is warm, punchy and organic sounding. As far as mid-bass goes, the VG4 sounds much like a dynamic driver and has good slam and a decent amount of impact.
When it comes to sub-bass, the VG4 does well for a multi-BA unit but it still can’t match a good dynamic driver. It has a light, tidy rumble but on certain tracks, such as “Smartz” by Scarface, the balanced armature drivers fail to reproduce that deep, epic sensation I’m looking for, even in the 001 configuration.
Unless you’re specifically looking for that sub-bass extension, there’s enough funk in the trunk for most music. Genres like classical, rock, folk, acoustic and pop all work a treat with this earphone and the Sonion drivers deliver bass that’s textured and controlled with a natural decay.
The midrange is an area that is hard to fault on the BGVP ArtMagic VG4. It’s transparent and detailed, especially in the reference tuning mode (000). Switching to the 001 configuration, the mids gain body and warmth while still maintaining clarity and nuance.
With the switches down (000), male vocals have more bite and transparency but still have body and gusto. In 001 mode, they fill out somewhat and become slightly smoothed, however, they don’t become thick or muffled. Female vocals get the same treatment and the midrange sounds so good in either mode, I often have a hard time choosing which setting to settle on.
The VG4 has a crisp, airy treble that has a touch of brightness to it. There’s definitely some sparkle here, especially in reference or 100 modes. What’s surprising is the level of smoothness maintained and as such, there is no harshness or sibilance to be heard. Having said that, some configs may still sound a bit too bright for some but some manipulation on the switches can fix that.
The treble provides good detail and air, adding clarity to the midrange and crispness to the attack on percussion instruments. This is a treble done really well and in my opinion, sounds much better than the BGVP DM7 treble which has a slightly artificial metallic sheen.
The soundstage on the BGVP ArtMagic VG4 is larger than average with similar amounts of width and depth. Instrument separation is good, aided by the midrange transparency and tight bass. The sparkle and airiness of the treble add width and expands the stage dimensions. Imaging is fairly strong and layering is moderate but certainly on PAR for something in this price range.
TSMR-3 Pro ($219)
The TSMR-3 Pro also has 3 tuning switches but it has one less BA driver than the VG4. With both IEMs in their reference or balanced modes, they sound quite similar.
*Note that with all the tuning options, these 2 IEMs can be made to sound either more similar or more contrasting. For this comparison, I’m leaving each in their reference position.
Both have a similar quantity of bass but the TSMR-3 Pro has more definition on the leading edge. The TSMR-3 Pro has a slightly more dynamic sound overall but is more v-shaped as a result. With its additional upper midrange lift, the TSMR-3 Pro brings vocals to the forefront a bit more.
In terms of detail and resolution, the TSMR-3 Pro has better instrument separation and additional clarity but because of that it’s less forgiving and not as silky-smooth as the VG4. As for the treble, the TSMR-3 Pro has a little extra lower treble bite but not as much airiness up top as the VG4.
The BGVP ArtMagic VG4 is a multi-BA IEM that ticks a lot of boxes. Its build quality, ergonomics and included accessories are excellent. Furthermore, it’s buttery smooth yet clear and detailed sound delivery plus the added versatility of its tuning switches offer good value for money. If an open, clear sound with a laid back presentation suits your preferences, you’ll want to take a look at this one.
- Drive unit: 4 balanced armature
- Rated power: 6mW
- Distortion rate: ≤0.5% (1kHz)
- Sensitivity: 115dB SPL/MW
- Channel balanced: ≤1dB
- Input impedance: 16 Ω
- Frequency response: 10Hz-40kHz
- Cable length: 1.2m ±5%
- Weight: about 4.2g per unit
- Plug: 3.5mm straight plug
- Waterproof: IPX3
- Dustproof: IPX3