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If you can overlook its boomy/muddy bass. . ..

A Review On: Westone 3 True-Fit Earphones

Westone 3 True-Fit Earphones

Rated # 34 in Universal Fit
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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Isolation
Value
Lunatique
Posted · 9878 Views · 10 Comments

Pros: Very comfortable, great cable, slick design

Cons: Bass is way too boomy/muddy, upp-mids too bright, treble a bit recessed

I don't like to buy headphones solely based on people's recommendations without auditioning them first, but the reality is, you often have to because you just don't have the opportunity to audition exactly the models you are interested in due to where you live. The Westone 3 is one such case where I had to rely on internet reviews, and I regret the purchase. The problem with trusting online opinions is that often the people who write really good prose don't necessarily have good taste in audio--many of them use flowery prose to describe what is essentially a severely flawed sonic signature. This is not a subjective statement--it is totally objective, because I'm judging from the perspective of pro audio neutrality, where intentional coloring of the sound is considered a sin when it comes to audio reproduction devices. In pro audio, audio reproduction has to be as transparent as possible, and the Westone 3 is anything but transparent.

 

In general, the W3's bass is very bloated and muddy, completely overwhelming the entire sonic spectrum. This is one of the tragedies of consumer audio, where uninformed masses with very skewed preference for heavily colored audio reproduction have managed to influence the companies who design and manufacture audio reproduction devices. These companies all should know better--they are professionals after all, but due to market demands, they are creating these very skewed devices to satisfy the uncouth public, and this perpetuates the tragic cycle. The fact that the W3 was praised to the heavens and so many actually believe its bass is perfect, is a symptom of how skewed the general public's understanding of audio is. In comparison, the bass of the SE535 is much more neutral (though it could use a tiny bit more sub-bass presence), although the SE535 has its own problems (the upper mids in the 7KHz range is way too bright/fatiguing).

 

The rest of the frequency range is not bad on the W3, but it also exhibits the common problem of being a bit too bright/fatiguing in the 7KHz range--this is the problem with IEM in general, since the drivers are so close to the eardrum and the shape of the ear canal causes a resonance in the 7KHz range. I suppose IEM designers can try and design around that resonance peak to begin with, but the fact that most don't probably means doing so will cause other issues.

 

The treble of the W3 is articulate but not nearly airy enough. This is a problem I have found with many IEM's, so the W3 is not alone in this.

 

The mids are fine--I don't have any complaints. It's perhaps the strength of the W3, but since its bass is so bloated/muddy, it overwhelms the mids anyway.

 

I have created an EQ setting that corrects the major issues of the W3, and if you are a W3 owner, I highly recommend you try this setting:

westone3.jpg

 

In terms of comfort and visuals, the W3 is one of the best IEMs. It's fits flush against the ear and you can sleep on your side with them on without any problems. The cable is soft and easy to deal with. The design is slick and simple. If only it sounded as good. While the Westone described the W3 as intended to be more fun than neutral, they were still very subtle with their description, and the actual sonic signature of the W3 goes beyond fun and into the muddy territory.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Comments:

I totally agree with you on the ergonomics. I have nothing to compare my W3 with besides my M50, which I don't like as much. Maybe I have a preference for the W3's sound, but I think it sounds awesome. If you really wanted a neutral sound, why didn't you get the um3x?
The UM3X wasn't even announced yet when I got the W3.

I always wanted to try these

Great review! I'm tempted to get the UM3X now, since that should be more neutral
great review. i bought them yesterday and totally agree. i have to admit, just lowering the bass made it sound much better
This review is a joke. Surely, it has to be trolling. I know it's a few years old, but as it's the top review on such a popular product, I'm going to have to address it.

"In pro audio, audio reproduction has to be as transparent as possible"

In the studio? When live mixing? When monitoring is in dire need of absolute accuracy? Absolutely. 100%. However, when the song is coming out of Front of house, or when the listener is listening at home? Nope, not true. What you're basically saying here, is that every live PA system is flawed, because it doesn't have a flat EQ.
"This is not a subjective statement--it is totally objective, because I'm judging from the perspective of pro audio neutrality,"
Actually, I'm from a "Pro audio" perspective as well. And I still believe the Westone 3 to be the best universal IEM for what it's marketed for.
Actually, on that note - lets have a look about what Westone says the W3 is for, on the back of the packaging:
"You miss a lot using cheap earphones with your expensive audio, video and gaming devices. Now hear all the sonic excitement they were made to deliver."
They were made for a home and consumer based demographic - Not for pro audio use.

"In general, the W3's bass is very bloated and muddy, blah blah blah more subjective opinions"
That's the spirit. Head-fi encourages opinions like this - based on your thoughts. THIS is what your review should have been. More thoughts about what YOU felt about its sound signature. Not about it's stance in the market, not about it being "wrong" by your standards because you can't use it for mixing. Just your thoughts on the product itself. Not what you thought it "should" have been.
Basically you have bought a big, comfortable luxury car, and complained that it's that it's not going quickly around your racetrack. The luxury car wasn't built for that. It has many strengths that the race cars do not have.
Why didn't you look for the Westone UM3X?
"The UM3X wasn't even announced yet when I got the W3."

Actually buddy, your review was 3/26/11. The UM3X was announced in 2009.
I work in the "Pro audio" industry. I have for years. Not going to get into a big Epeen contest with you over who is more professional/successful, just know that I am a qualified sound engineer (if you would like me to PM you some proof of my industry experience, I'm happy to do so.)

I use my customs when I'm on gigs. And that's mainly for hearing protection, or if I need to monitor in loud environments for a long time. Otherwise, I'll use my DT770 250ohm, as they can withstand a decent beating in my tool bag, are comfy, and have a flat (enough) EQ for me to mix accurately with.
When I get home, on my days off; I don't WANT to be listening to flat response, clinical, dry IEMs. I want fun sounding. I want the music to be listened to, as the producer would have wanted ME to listen to it. Not how they hear it themselves when creating it. That's boring. I want it to be fun, and exciting.
Basically, if you were looking for something to mix/master with, you should have looked at other offerings from Westone (they specialise in musician monitors) instead of ranting about how "inaccurate" an audiophile-marketed product is.
@jensy - I currently use the Westone 4 as my IEM, and it's much better than the Westone 3. It's still a bit bass-heavy, but it's not nearly as overwhelmingly so as the Westone 3.
And as far as me judging a consumer product by pro audio standards, I hold the belief that the pro audio standard should be a universal standard for sound quality, and excessive coloration is never a good thing, because it distorts the sound too much. To me, it's the same thing as how image quality has only one universal standard for quality. It makes no sense to have one standard for professional imaging, and then have excessive coloration for consumer imaging, where you get excessively skewed results like having too much green, or too bright so the highlights are blown out, or too blurry so the details are lost, and so on. Our eyes aren't identical from person to person too, just like our ears, but why is it that we want an accurate imaging standard but then think having all kinds colorations for audio is a good thing?
Anyway, that's my way of thinking. I hold all audio products to just one standard, regardless what market segment it's for.
@Lunatique - Movies are edited on 22-24" monitors, with headphones and/or studio monitors. Does that mean that movie cinemas are incorrect, because they use different "standards"?
@jensy - By standards, I'm talking about contrast, brightness, color accuracy, detail accuracy, etc. We don't have different ideals for imaging standards--we simply want what we see to look accurate, natural, and true to the original vision from the people who created the content. I don't see why audio shouldn't be the same way. And audio for imaging content are mastered in mastering studios (or places that aspire to be as accurate as mastering studios), where accuracy and neutrality is the standard.
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