disclaimer: I purchased the BGVP DMs and Zero at a reduced price for purposes of review. BGVP offered a discount for the purchase, but no other incentives or remuneration were provided for this review. If you have an interest in BGVP products, check out their Facebook page, or AliExpress store.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The Zero comes packed in a white slipcover with the name and earpieces displayed on the front and the specs and FR graph on the reverse. Slipping the cover off reveals a subdued black box with BGVP in silver on the center. Lifting the top reveals a premium style inner packaging. Tips of three different varieties are displayed along with the earpieces and the soft case. The cable, another type of tip, and a shirt clip are hiding inside the case and warranty cards are beneath it. While the Zero is one of the lower priced models in the BGVP line, the unboxing experience doesn’t reflect that as it has the same attention to detail as their more expensive models.
The Shells on the Zero are CNC machined aluminum specifically designed to complement the driver and reduce reflection and resonance per BGVP. I would describe the shell as bean shaped with the design placing the long edge against the rear of the ear. Its hard to call it a faceplate as it is more truly the outer half of the shell and careful inspection shows the mmcx connector is almost entirely contained in the outer shell (an unusual arrangement). The face has a single large vent with a silver metal screen contrasting the black anodized finish on the exterior. The inner shell and nozzle are a single piece and share the same flat black anodizing as the outer shell and are well color matched. Nozzles have a very slight forward rake and a lip to aid in tip retention. While the Zero is average in length and width, it is thin and sits completely in the ear rather than hanging over the exterior as many do. For me, this was a comfortable arrangement but did require some tip rolling to find a good fit. The combination of being lightweight and being designed for tip-up wear meant I had no problem wearing them for extended listening sessions with little or no physical fatigue.
The Zero is a hybrid utilizing a 10mm dynamic driver with a carbon nano-tube diaphragm for improved rigidity and a 7mm electret driver coaxially mounted for the highs. The case is designed around the driver with BGVP describing it as a professionally developed acoustic cavity using a polygonal acoustic cavity architecture. The goal of this is to reduce resonance and reflections inside the shell and improve sound quality. Nominal impedance is listed as 19Ω with a sensitivity of 109 dB/mW. I found the Zero was usable from a phone, but did improve considerably with more power as the bass tightens a bit and cleans up. I did find more qualitative improvements with better sources along with the quantitative improvement from more power so recommend this if you are using a DAP or amp with good power output and not for use straight from a tablet or phone.
The provided cable is 6N OCC-silver plated copper in a clear casing. Starting at the south end, the jack is a straight 3.5mm with a flat black metal casing that matches the earpieces well. The cable has a short strain relief and is a 4 wire braid up to the black metal barrel shaped splitter. A small clear rubber chin slider sits atop the splitter and works well. From the splitter north wires are 2 strand twists. The northern end terminates with earhooks and mmcx connectors in matching black metal housings. There is no red coloration on the right hand connector but L/R are marked in white on the exterior of the housings for easy indexing. Matching L/R identifiers on the inside of the earpieces should make it near impossible to get wrong.
Mid-bass is the star here with a big boost in the low end at about 200Hz and a tapering off below 50Hz so emphasis is more on mid-bass than sub-bass. Sub-bass is present and has good rumble when called upon, but can at times become masked by the mid-bass emphasis. Bass speed is average with slightly slower decay than attack. Attack is slightly blunted and gives the Zero a warm, thick presentation in the lower ranges and contributes to an overall warm and slightly dark signature. There is some mid-bass bleed as well that also contributes to warmth, but may mean a few details are lost in the lower mids as a result.
I love good mids, and for me the tuning of the Zero is refreshing with more emphasis on lower and true mids and a bit less on the upper-mids. This is the exact opposite of many on the market in the budget bracket today and is a nice change of pace. I find it has a bit more natural tone to it as a result of the lack of emphasis in the upper-mids. The only drawback here is that vocals do not cut through the other instrumentation and instead stand alongside them. Most of the time I really like this, but occasionally you lose a bit of vocal clarity as it gets stepped on by other instruments. Guitar growl is satisfying with good weight and enough edge to sound realistic. Strings are a little thickened and upper strings need a bit more energy to be really lifelike. These are better with Rock and small ensemble pieces than orchestral works as a result. At $80 US, there are very few that reproduce strings realistically so while the Zero isn’t perfect, it still gets high marks considering the price point.
Here is where I expected the Zero to come apart as the few electrostats I have heard in this price range have all been shouty to some degree with a few being outright howlers. Thankfully, this is not the case here. While there is a boost to match the mid-bass emphasis in the lower treble, it isn’t over-done and brings enough life to feel open but not fatiguing or strident. True treble is well managed, fast, clean, and not overstated as it drops back from the lower emphasis, but still maintains solid presence in the mix. Snare rattle is reasonably good but a bit blunted. Its quite obvious that BGVP opted for a smooth delivery and some rough edges were lost as a result. Cymbals have a little less energy than needed to really shimmer, but again, this was a tuning decision. Roll-off is above the limit of my hearing at the top end putting it somewhere above 14kHz.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Some will disagree with this part of my assessment and it will be because of differences in amplification. Without a proper amplifier, the stage suffers and is wide and shallow. With a better amp, stage opens up and has good dimensions with slightly better depth than width and even a good sense of height to it. This can be both one of the strongest and one of the weakest points of the Zero depending on your use case. Again with proper amping, seating the orchestra is straight forward with good instrument separation and no glaring errors. Movement around the stage is easily identified and spatial cues are easily isolated and tightly defined. There is some compression in the dynamic driver as tracks get complex and the thickening the lower end is not a welcome addition since it already is a bit thick to begin with. Again, not unexpected at the price point, but worth noting.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
I went into this review with a decidedly negative attitude based on previous experience with budget electret driver models. I was wrong. The Zero makes great use of the electrostatic element without making it the sole focal point of the signature as so many others have. The more tried and true dynamic turns out to the be the lesser of the two drivers as it suffers from below average attack speed and a bit of thickening as a result. The Zero comes across as mildly dark (something like Sennheiser) and loses a touch of detail as a result of the decay speed. Those looking for a warmer, darker offering than the standard budget V generally provides will appreciate the Zero as it definitely is not your standard big V. I found it did well with most popular genres, with large complex orchestral works being the most likely to find its faults. I found the Zero to be an engaging listen with good tonality, little fatigue, and good detail for the spend. With what at times seems like a never ending parade of the same bright V signature, the Zero is refreshingly different.
Pros: build quality, warm, slightly dark signature, good tonality
Cons: needs more power than phone or tablet will provide, limited kit, some thickening in mid-bass