I cannot express how happy I am with my Westone 4 earphones. No need for a long review but I will just say I have tried many IEMs in the over $200 bracket and this knocks nearly all of them out of the park. Completely neutral, open sounding earphones that have one of the flattest response characteristics I have ever come across. Very comfortable and give excellent isolation to boot. I think these are a keeper! :)
Westone 4 True-Fit Earphones
Pros: Detail Retrieval, Balance and Clarity
Cons: Price; mid bass warmth
I bought these as an upgrade from the W3, which while extremely fun, I soon became disappointed in, due to mid bass bleed into the midrange. This caused vocals to become too chesty and distortion rock guitar notes too rounded instead of hard edged. Enter the W4.
Fit and Isolation: Westone 4 is extremely comfortable. I love their size and weight. They only fill up a small portion of the ear. On the downside the nozzle is very short, making them very tip dependent to achieve their great sound. Isolation is slightly above average with the right tip. Shure black olives work very well for best comfort but best sound is found in the old Shure e2c tips. They must be modded by using an olive core and provide the best bass response, without obscuring treble detail due to their larger sound hole opening.
Build Quality: Build quality is great. Westone has one of the best cables on the market. It is very flexible and light weight. It doesn’t tangle and is great for looping over the ear. The right angle connector fits most, if not all, iPhone cases including the bumper.
Accessories: Westone cases are one of the best on the market. The shape is small rectangle and perfect for fitting the phones and an iPod shuffle. Westone also provides a plethora of tips, none of which I like! Shure olives or modded Shure e2c soft flex tips are a must.
Sound: The W4’s are supremely balanced and natural. No one frequency intrudes on another. Detail retrieval is unparalleled. They are very smooth and coherent. The funny thing is you may not like them when you first put them in because there is no WOW factor. Once you get over that initial disappointment, they seemingly get better and better. The best compliment is to say they do nothing wrong.
Bass: Bass is well textured, detailed and controlled but could use a bit more sub bass presence and a tad more punch, mainly due to my preference for sleaze rock music. Don't mistake this for bass light; it is not.
Mids: Mids are perfect for me; just a tad forward and liquid. Vocals are placed perfectly.
Treble: Treble is amazingly extended without a hint of fatigue. Somehow Westone has developed an outstandingly detailed treble and at the same time velvety smooth. It’s very difficult to describe but very well done.
Soundstage: Soundstage is above average. The UE Triple.Fi 10 is the only IEM I own with a larger soundstage. However the TF10 makes you feel about 15 rows deep at a concert and the W4 seems to bring you closer, maybe to within 5 rows.
Overall the new W4’s find themselves at the top of BA universal heap, having Dynamic Driver quality timbre; Drums sound absolutely amazing on the W4. If you are looking for superb balance and refined detail retrieval, give the Westone 4 a try!
Pros: SQ, Accessories, Fit, Cable, Isolation
Just like the title says: What Makes Them So Good? They Don't Do Anything Wrong
The W4s aren't going to blow you away with their treble shimmer or uber-deep bass nor their silky smooth mids. Their just-warm-of-neutral signature isn't going to make you break into song and dance at every available opportunity.
What they will do, however, is everything, pretty dang well. It's like shotgunshane says "The W4’s are supremely balanced and natural. No one frequency intrudes on another. Detail retrieval is unparalleled. They are very smooth and coherent. The funny thing is you may not like them when you first put them in because there is no WOW factor. Once you get over that initial disappointment, they seemingly get better and better. The best compliment is to say they do nothing wrong."
The clarity and balance is the best I've heard (granted I've never dropped over $300 for IEMs). They are equally adept at handling the glockenspiel and flute in Holst as they are at navigating the iconic sub-bass from James Blake.
The accessories are satisfying and the case works very well. It bears mentioning that the cables are the best stock cables I've seen. The braid is great and their strain reliefs don't make me scared to run with them.
If you're looking for multi-armature IEMs that hit the middle ground between super-neutral and ultra-fun, I can't recommend the W4s enough.
Pros: Great fit, nice cable, pleasant sonic signature (non-fatiguing)
Cons: upper/mid bass still bloated, sub-bass not enough, not enough air
I have put the W4 through its paces, and after the first round of extensive testing, here are my impressions.
My main reason for getting the W4 is to hopefully replace the SE535 and W3, since I find them too colored or fatiguing/bright without EQ. Ideally, I wanted a pair of IEM's that I can listen to without any EQ. In a way, the W4 gives me that, but not in the way I had hoped.
First of all, the W4 is definitely much better than the W3, since it's obvious that Westone listened to all the complaints about W3 and tuned the W4 according to those complaints, while they also tried to keep some of what people loved about the W3. So the result is like a compromise between the W3 and what I consider a neutral and accurate sonic signature--in other words, the W4 is still colored, but just not as severe as the W3. To give you an idea of the kind of EQ curve it takes to get the W4 close to the LCD-2's sonic signature, here's a screenshot:
I can probably refine this EQ curve even more and get it even closer, but for now, this already gets pretty close (though missing a bit of clarity/resolution/punchiness overall across all frequency ranges, and I think it may be because of the differences in the inherent physical characteristics of the two driver technologies). For those of you who own both the LCD-2 and W4, give this EQ curve a try, if you want your W4 to sound more like the LCD-2 (which IMO is definitely a superior headphone in all ways possible).
Compared to the W3, the W4's bass has a similar shape, but only half as prominent. That doesn't mean its bass is neutral/flat/accurate though, since W4's bass is still significantly emphasized, but just not to the degree of W3 (about halfway between W3 and neutral). If you listen to any music where the accuracy of the bass response is critical, it becomes immediately obvious the bass is still too prominent. Sparse jazz arrangements that contains a double-bass makes this very obvious. The W4 renders double-bass with too much bloom/mud compared to a much more accurate headphone like the LCD-2. I also gave the W4 a boost in the lowest sub-bass, because I found it lacking some body down there (though the W3 didn't seem to need that boost). The cut in the 125Hz range is exactly half the amount of cut I use for the W3, which tells me that the W4's bass emphasis is exactly half of the W3, but still 4 dB too prominent. Compared to the SE535, the W4's bass is definitely not as accurate/neutral. SE535's bass is actually one of its strongest features, since it's very close to being neutral.
The mids pretty good for the most part, although that pesky 7KHz ear canal resonance is there, just like with most IEM's. Part of me wishes that IEM engineers simply just design around that ear canal resonance, but I understand why they don't--it's because we all have different shaped ear canals. If you use my EQ curve and turn it on and off, it's very obvious how of a difference a steep narrow cut in the 7KHz region makes. Without that cut, all cymbals, hi-hats, shakers, tamborines...etc sound really congested and distorted. This may not be obvious if you have never listened to the W4 with my EQ curve, but once you do, you can't not notice it--it's as plain as day. Compared to the W3, W4's mids are not nearly as fatiguing/bright in the 7KHz range. Compared to the SE535, the W4 is less colored, since I have always felt that the SE535's mids are too emphasized, to the point of being fatiguing and overly bright.
The treble needs about the same amount of boost as W3 in the 13KHz range for a bit more air, so they are actually kind of similar. Compared to the SE535, the W4's treble is a bit more clear/prominent, since the SE535 would require a bigger boost in the 13KHz range to sound more neutral.
With all that said, I think the W4 is the first IEM I have owned that I could listen to without using any EQ and not have a frown on my face. While it is indeed colored without EQ, it is colored in a way that is fairly pleasing and acceptable for a lot of music. But most importantly, it does not break my first rule of audio devices, which is to first and foremost, do no harm. The W4 is not fatiguing/overly bright, and although on some bright material the level of sibilance is noticeably higher than better headphones like the LCD-2, it's not to the point of being painful like many other headphones. The bass emphasis while noticeable, actually is quite acceptable for most musical material, and it's only when you get into really refined music like jazz and classical do you notice it and want to turn the EQ on to smooth out the bass response so it's not overpowering what shouldn't be overshadowed.
I think it's very likely I'll sell my SE535 and W3, since the W4 is the only one among the three I could actually listen to without any EQ and not feel annoyed by the excessive brightness. While the W4 isn't perfect, and in general I'm disappointed that it still requires significant EQ'ing to get close to sounding neutral, but at least it is colored in a way that is acceptable to me. I think my IEM journey ends here, until one day I hear something much closer to my idea of neutral, but I'm not going out of my way to audition any more IEM's, since I really don't use IEM's that much anyway.
EDIT: After investigating further into the different tips and their effects on the W4, I discovered that the tips effect the sonic signature of the W4 more than any other IEM I have used in the past. The peak resonance in the upper-mids and the treble are the most significant changes. With the Triple-flange that has only the stalk cut off, the upper-mids are much more tame and does not require that cut at 7KHz, while the treble is also softer as well (this is comparing to triple-flange with the smallest flange and the stalk cut off). The EQ curve I use now for the triple-flange (stalk cut off) is this:
The largest comply grey sticky foam tips are also good, but I hate any kind of foam tips where you have to wait for it to expand for a seal. It's just an extra step that's kind of annoying. If I'm out and about, and every few minutes someone wants to say something to me, I'd have to pull out one ear, talk to the person, and then put it back in and then wait for the damn foam to expand. After doing that a few times, it's just too much. The silicon tips are far more convenient.
The hard semi-transparent tips I just can't use at all. Never was able to get them to sit right in the ear or seal properly, even as far back as my Shure E4C days. I don't know why companies even include those because I really wonder if anyone uses those at all.
Pros: Incredibly 'organic' SQ especially mids; comfortable fit (small for a quad); punchy; very roomy soundstage; fat bass; easy to drive
Cons: Treble extends fine but lacks pizzazz and authority, sounds slightly muffled; paying retail MSRP today would be unconscionable
Love 'em! Great if you can get them for a more reasonable price (sub-$300). The perfect definition of "upper middle class" sound, with a special punch in how natural the bass and mids sound.
Pros: Great fit and comfort, excellent cable and build quality, unmatched details, instrument separation, smooth midrange, SUPERB customer service
Cons: Greatly tip dependent due to short nozzle, tame highs with some tips, Price.
I'd bought these from a head-fier. My purchase was off to a rough start unfortunately, The left channel used to die out after half an hour of listening. Luckily, they were covered under warranty and I was able to secure a replacement.
I listen to rock and metal (FLAC lossless) and the Grado SR60 was my choice to listen to them. Using the W4-s is a totally different experience.
Bass: I found the bass levels to be perfectly adequate for almost every song I've listened to. Instead of massive quantity, I find that it has a delicate detailed kind of bass. Not thundering earwax dislodging bass, but more detailed and layered than what an average guy like me am used to. But that doesn't mean it's thin and sharp sounding- I don't quite know how to describe it- it's got to be experienced. The kickdrums have the right amount of punch to them and the basses sound fuller and have some 'feel' to them.
Mids: Amazing vocals. Very smooth and pleasing. It's very hard to dislike the W4's midrange. Quite a departure from what I'm used to on my Grados but I like the W4-s mids too- a good change from the aggressive mids on the former.
Highs: The W4 is capable of producing some excellent highs but it's dependent on the tips. On the Complys, they sounded a bit too dark and recessed for me initially compared to the bright and forward sounding Grados. However, with other tips with a bigger bore like Sony Hybrids or Shure olives, I think it can open up some more..
The treble extension is another story. Cymbal crashes extend nicely and for live recordings it's amazing.
The details need a special mention. For a beginner to quality audio equipment like me, the sheer amount of details this little thing can bring out is astounding. I'm hearing new things in songs like the breathing of the artist before singing, details in picking an accoustic guitar, some vocals in the background that had been entirely drowned out on my Grados, etc. Simply amazing.
The build quality is pretty solid and the shells seem to be pretty sturdy without any visible moulding gaps or cracks. Though the cable looks fragile, it's actually quite well made- no kinks, microphonics, stiffness or cracking. The connector is also of solid quality. The strain reliefs seem to be well crafted at the connector jack. I'm a bit worried about the reliefs provided for the cables exiting the earphone tubs, but I guess I'm being paranoid.
In a nutshell, there's really nothing much not to like about the W4-s. The sound signature is smooth and well balanced (almost neutral for a listener like me who's used to colored phones) without any serious shortcomings. However, that might also prove to be its undoing- it may sound boring at times to some listeners. Still, it's a pretty hard to dislike it. The ergonomics are pretty comfortable, and the Westone customer service's excellent. The only drawback I see here is the price. The retail price isn't very cheap or even affordable by normal standards. But you get a good product in return. Buy one if you are passionate about music and if your wallet can stand it.
A huge thanks to shotgunshane for guiding me through the purchase and replacement process! It's people like you who make head-fi special!
Pros: Super comfortable, wonderful quality and quantity of from bass to treble,smooth, full-sound feeling of fullsize(special)
Cons: no tonality unique factor to remember, bass could be a little deeper
Pros: Fluid mids, nice sub bass, excellent all arounder, almost no microphonics, easy fit, great isolation, excellent ergonomics
Cons: highs can sound painfully recessed with some music
Those of us sitting at the back of the bus who love our music reserve the right to practice a healthy dose of skepticism involving audio gear as we ride along the long winding road that is life. Until said gear has passed our personal expectations thus meriting the mantra of GOOD GEAR any and all reviewers/reviews will be taken with a grain of salt. As natural born cynics we also expect those around us to practice a healthy level of free thought and approach our reviews with a healthy dose of skepticism. In the event there's violent disagreement concerning gear reviewed then please grab said gear throw it out the bus window grab your own much loved gear and by all means please join us fellow cynics at the back of the bus. Please be sure said gear being thrown out the window isn't mine.
The Westone 4 is a nice little piece of gear whose voicing is wonderfully realistic. In a nutshell it's sound signature is warm slightly south of neutral with polite highs fluid mids and quality sounding full bodied controlled punchy bass. It's an IEM that some audio puritans, read audiophiles, may choose to forgo for more capable offerings but many IEM collectors music enthusiasts and especially newer main stream music lovers will find a fun delightful listen. The Westone 4 isn't what I would call a true neutral IEM by any stretch of the imagination and in my eyes lies firmly in the warm south of neutral realm. It has it's own very distinct sound signature and although I would class it as slightly colored sound it's far from the pricey bloated and unengaging sounding IEM's found on the shelves of box stores. If thus far this introduction has peaked your curiosity then please read on.
FORM FACTOR FIT AND FINISH
Form factor and build quality on the Westone 4 is excellent and rates easily as one of the best I've ever owned for an IEM. Isolation is also the best I've ever encountered and rates far ahead of my other IEM's. I can easily wear these walking down the street during rush hour or on a bus and not be disturbed by outside noise. When I first bought these IEM's I was shocked how light they were in my hands. Their lack of weight ensures a great fit and I'm finding attaining a seal is easy and once they're in I can forget about them. A word of caution, these IEM's are designed to only be worn over ear. Not a concern for me considering I wear all except one of my IEM's over ear but I thought I'd mention it for the users out there who prefer wearing their IEM's cable down. Strain reliefs on the right angle jack and the IEM housing is sturdy and appears at first glance strong enough to last the test of time if the IEM is taken care of. The braided cable adds a nice touch of class to the general appearance of the product and although it appears thin at first glance I'm happy to say upon further inspection it appears quite sturdy and quite pleasent to the touch. Microphonics are thankfully practically none existent and tangling seems minimal. I know enough people on here consider Klipsch IEM's the most comfortable on the market but personally I think the Westone 4 is easily on par with the Klipish product line as far as comfort is concerned. With form factor and fit now officially out of the way lets now move along to the most important part of this review, sound.
The Westone 4 highs I would describe as inoffensive and polite. There's little to rave about these highs and I can only describe them as doing their job well enough. Detail on the top end is generally decent nothing to write home about but decent none the less. At times while listening to some jazz hard rock and metal songs I've found myself left wanting due to cymbals sounding buried and distant compared to the rest of the music. The listener whose ears have an aversion to energetic highs will love the Westone 4 highs but those who like an edgy more energetic treble region will be left wanting. The good news for the edgy treble lover is the highs can be coaxed to come out and play for those with the patience to do a little tip experimentation. They won't shine like an IEM with nicely extended highs of coarse but they can be made quite tolerable. My guess is Westone decided to play it safe and tuned the highs to sound smooth. In some ways it's not a bad idea but in other ways the trebles short comings can become painfully obvious.
The mids of the Westone 4 for me is a completely different matter altogether, they're beautiful. Although not the most detailed I've ever heard they're overall tonality and fluid like transition between the low and mid frequencies cause these IEM's to excel past many other more technically capable gear. The warm lush slightly laid back presentation of the Westone 4 coupled with the very slight mid bass rumble of it's lows serves to further accentuate the mids into a well rounded mid and low frequency tag team package. Vocal driven music will especially shine on the Westone 4 and I found myself full of goosebumps listening to the very beautiful voice of Melody Gardot's My One And Only Thrill and Worrisome Heart albums. Guitars have a nice resounding crunch in these type of mids and sound lively pulling the listener into the heart of the music. Note definition overall is good and I'm finding horns and string instruments also sound quite lively and above all very natural.
The low frequencies is where the Westone 4's second one two punch lies and is eclipsed only by it's mids. Percussion is excellent on this IEM and it can punch with the best of them. I'd like to take this time to point out in no uncertain terms that the Westone 4 IS NOT what can be classed as a bass head IEM. Although Westone chose to use two of the Westone 4's four balanced armatures to render the low frequencies they thankfully chose to emphasize quality over quantity. The bass is well extended and detailed, meaning mid bass rumble is present, and note decay is acceptably quick meaning it's tight and well controlled. Add in a nice slightly lush warm bodied sound and you have bass response that meshes in beautifully and unobtrusively with the Westone 4 mids. Overall in my humble opinion a very nice coherent presentation. Alain Caron's Le Band album especially shines on the Westone 4 lows and I'm finding myself tapping my toes and smiling as I follow along to the beat of the energetic bass.
OTHER SOUND BITES
Other attributes that bear mentioning, soundstage on the Westone 4 is very good. In my experience to much air between instruments will make the general sound presentation feel disjointed while to little and it feels like the band is tripping over one another. Thankfully neither is the case for the Westone 4 and I'm quite happy with it's soundstage. Instrument placement is also very good and I'm finding it quite easy to zero in and pinpoint different instrument placement even in very busy sounding passages. General layering of sound is good and the feel of a 3D like sound effect is pretty good although not perfect. The Westone 4 will respond not to badly to amping but it's not a must in my book. My personal experience as far as amping is concerned is the Westone 4's sub bass can be be brought out just a tad more and it's mids tend to sound just a touch more refined. Mind you this isn't a night and day difference so your mileage may vary depending on the mobile gear you're using.
TIPS ON TIPS
This next section isn't meant as a review and is only meant as a general guide to try and help manipulate the sound signature to the users own preference. I find the Westone 4 fits nicely as a all arounder but it can be further tailored and refined with proper tweeking using different tips. This is just my personal experience of coarse and as such your mileage may vary. As a general rule right now I've gravitated towards two different tips the supplied Westone white tri flange and the large Comply foam tip. I'm finding when I want to enjoy bass centric music a deeper seal brings in far more bass and as such the tri flange is my tip of choice. It seems to bring out a little more of that sub bass and adds just a touch more rumble to the general sound. The drawback is it kills the highs and recesses them more but on the plus side it also kills the sibilance in overly harsh recordings. When enjoying music such as metal/rock/jazz I'm using the Comply tip to open up the treble a little bit more. I'm finding the Comply brings forward a little more energy in the top end and the upper mids become a little more lively. The drawback, that touch of rumble dissapears and the mid centric nature of the IEM becomes a touch less pronounced all the while more sibilance will creep in with harsher recordings. As stated before your mileage may vary though so don't be afraid to experiment.
My final thoughts as far as the Westone 4 is concerned is it's a very good IEM. It didn't knock me on my butt per say but it did surprise me and took some of my music to a higher level. As of now the Westone 4 will be taking up permanent residence in my back pack supplanting my UE700 as my always on the go IEM. It's excellent isolation excellent comfort and ability to handle different genres of music well enough make it a no brainer as far as I'm concerned. I have no problem recommending this IEM to others but I have to point out my recommendation is a guarded recommendation. As stated above the treble region of this IEM is not the type of treble a treble head detail fanatic craves. As such choose wisely when deciding if the Westone 4 is a good investment. For me personally I see the Westone 4 as the jack of all trades and master of none sort of IEM. It's not the most technically capable IEM for it's price range but it's so much fun I can't help but listen to it.
This is DigitalFreak now closing this review. I hope you found it informative and a fun read. I now step aside and look forward to reading any questions or comments anyone may have.
Cons: Price & Non-RC
hi all first time writing a review.
bought the westone4 2weeks ago, until now i'm still loving it.
No words to describe it, simply amazing
Feels like the band is just infront of me!
Afterall its Westone product! Nothing much can go wrong with their product
Pros: "Sweet" sound with no seriously over empahsized frequencies
Cons: Overpriced, Poor Warranty, Sound could be better
My score seems negative but do not be put off. I have already sold my pair of westone 4s as I personally do not find them to be particularly enjoyable. However, up till now, they are still the best pair of universal iems I have used. The sound is pretty balanced, though not dead accurate. The mids are slighlty forward and warm, being very enjoyable. The treble is clear and extended yet smooth and the bass is well extended though not the most impactful. You will probably be asking me why I disliked them then. The reason is that I believe that they just cannot compare to headphones such as the hd650, k701s which are cheaper than them. I find them especially lacking in the areas of soundstage and instrument "air". I therefore made the decsision to sell them and purchase more headphones. (Currently using LCD 2.2, K701 and Hifiman He-4 soon) For mobile use, I am now using a re-shelled tf10 (soon to be UERMs) which I find to be better than the westone 4s imo. I would strongly urge anyone looking at the westone 4s to consider full customs such as the um mage, miracle, uerms, etc. They are more expensive but offer a significantly better sounds, especially with regards to soundstage in my experience.