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Westone ES 5

100% Positive Reviews
Rated #62 in In-Ear

Posted

Pros: Breathtaking Sound Quality, Perfect Fit, Superb Noise Isolation, Top Notch Build Quality and Removable Cables!

Cons: None that I can think of...

Westone ES5

Disclaimer:  This review is just a reflection of my opinions and experience.
 

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Specifications:

Sensitivity: 120 dB SPL/mW
Frequency response: 8 Hz - 20 kHz
Impedance: 20 ohm
Speaker Technology: Five balanced armature drivers with a passive three-way crossover
Features : Replaceable cable, one year parts and labor warranty on internal components, 25 dB average noise attenuation, user manual and deluxe carrying case

Equipment Used In This Review:

Hifiman HM-801
iPod Touch 3G
iPhone 4
Sansa Fuze
Macbook Pro

 




Introduction
    
 

      Before I had the pleasure of listening to the Westone ES5's I went through a obstacle. My first pair of quality IEM's back in 2006 was the Etymotic ER4P. Coming from a bunch of cheap earbuds, canal phones and clip on sports headphones the ER4P really surprised me at how much I was missing. The ER4P's are one of the top monitors in the universal IEM arena when it comes to detail and clarity. The soundstage isn't that great, more on the slightly below average level, but the instrument seperation is very sharp and distinct. I was very happy with the ER4P's until I lost them while coming home from work. Whoever found them, I hope you can experience their wonderful detail and clarity. I couldn't go back to my previous earbuds, earphones, etc... So I decided to look for a better universal IEM and came across the Westone 3.
 

      The Westone 3's were like the polar opposite of the ER4P and it took me a while to get accustomed to the 3's. My first reaction to the sound of the 3's was " Oh gawd, the bass!!! ". Though the bass was no doubt tight and detailed it was well beyond it's wanted presence. In some songs the added bass was welcoming, but in other songs it ruined the whole balance. Usually speakers that have this much bass output don't have great clarity or detail to their overall sound. The Westone 3's really changed that general thought for me. It's sound is very detailed and clear. The midrange was slightly laid back and sometimes a bit harsh, but it was nicely presented most of the time. The treble was sometimes a bit too hot and really induced listening fatigue quickly. This was on poorly mastered recordings though and never really did this on my reference ones. To me the ER4P's were a bit clearer and detailed, but the Westone 3's had a MUCH larger soundstage and musical characteristic feel to the sound.
 

      I ended up selling my Westone 3's in preparation for purchasing a custom IEM. Now that I think about it, I should have kept my Westone 3's as a back up IEM... I visited a few audiologists in NY and got to listen to Jerry Harvey's custom IEM's ( JH13 Pro, JH11 Pro and JH10 pro ). I actually had my mind set on the JH13 Pro, because the sound was just spectacular on so many levels. It was like the Etymotic ER4P and Westone 3 had a baby and then that baby found steroids. What ultimately lead me to the Westone ES5's was the realization that Westone uses vinyl tips for their custom IEM's leading to superior comfort than an all acrylic shell. I wanted something going that far into my ear to be of a soft material not hard.



 

Arrival of the Westone ES5's
 

 

     The Westone ES5 arrived to me via UPS. From the time spent sending my custom molds to Westone and receiving my Westone ES5, it took 2 weeks. The packaging of the Westone ES5 consist of a free T-shirt ( I wear it sometimes ) with Westone's logo and website labeled on it. There is a nice crush proof and water tight pelican case that in which you'll find your ES5's wrapped up nicely along with a microfiber cloth for cleaning the exterior shell of the IEM's. Also, there is wax removal brush, oto-ease bottle for easier insertion of the IEM's, and a desiccant pod which helps remove moister from inside the IEM's.
 

 

 

 

First impressions of the Westone ES5's

 

 

       Unfortunately, I wasn't able to listen to my Westone ES5's as soon as they arrived because I promised a friend that I would go with her to the Museum of Natural History. I thought it wouldn't be appropriate to take my Westone ES5's with me, because my attention wouldn't be on her or anything in the museum. As soon as I got home, I hurried to get everything that needed to be done, done. After reading on the web from many different areas I finally found out how to get the ES5's in my ears. For my first custom IEM it felt awkward I felt like I was underwater due to the superb noise isolation. Nothing else I've used isolated ambient external noise at this level. They felt nice and snug in my ears too. Within the first 2 minutes of the first song I played I couldn't help but chuckle and smile. The sound was just completely effortless, coherent, balanced, detailed and clear. I then sat there in my nice comfy chair and proceeded to listen to the rest of my musical library with my eyes closed and a big smile on my face.

 

 

 

The sound

 

 

        The midrange is no doubt the heart of the music and is a deal breaker for many in terms of the overall performance of a speaker. The midrange of the Westone ES5 are just slightly forward, but not ever congested. Male vocals are very natural and not overly chesty, or dry. The midrange has great body, but it does not have any noticeable coloration that I can hear. What amazes me the most about the midrange presentation of the Westone ES5 is how easily it lures you into the music and takes away what little grip you had with reality. It's very coherent and smooth. Great midrange simply produces a better connection to the music. The realism of the midrange creates great mental imagery corresponding to the actual instruments used to my ears. This type of categorizing happens subconsciously and is further an extension of the resolution of the Westone ES5. This helps me connect with the recording and enhances the musical experience. I expect much of the refinement in the midrange is suspect for this effect.

       The treble is extraordinarily clean. There is no grain, spit, grit, or veil of any kind here. The treble is very pure in nature, and it has no texture that detracts from transparency. In fact, I would classify the treble as being astonishingly transparent. Like the bass response of the Westone ES5, I sense no interference in the treble with any other parts in the frequency range. The marks in the treble seem to extend with realistic decay in all directions, which is remarkable for an IEM. The decay of treble is one best attributes of the Westone ES5. The resolution on the Westone ES5 help the decay in illustrating sound images accurately from beginning to disappearance. This strength helps in providing realism and building melodies. When a vocalist is harmonizing with other performers or instruments, the resolution of the Westone ES5 takes the music to another level. This effect is demonstrated nicely on Andre Reiu’s ‘The Flying Dutchman’.

      With its texture, extension, and decay, the Westone ES5's bass is something to appreciate from any audio enthusiast.  The quality of the bass is stupendous – very well defined, tight, and with great definition, extension and attack. The sub-bass in live recordings are retrieved with immediacy and accuracy on the Westone ES5. The Westone ES5's bass also scales up and gives you the extra distance if present in the source recording. Coming from a single subwoofer as opposed to the dual or quad subwoofers that the immediate competition utilizes I didn't expect this type of bass presentation. Boy was I wrong... For those on the fence thinking these are bass-light, lay those worries aside. But, they are not going to satisfy a bass-head unless some heavy EQing is applied.

     With the Westone ES5, it is easy, not “work”, to imagine real performers in real space. It’s very tempting to keep closing my eyes when listening to them, because the imaging is so convincing. For anyone who has avoided IEM's because they don’t image like headphones, spend some time with the Westone ES5. The stereo imaging on the Westone ES5's really shines with live studio recordings. With higher quality recordings, you can discern details such as when a singer moves his/her head while performing. This can be heard on Alison Krauss & Union Station's ‘Live’ during several passages. I have more easily noticed other micro details on the Westone ES5 such as singers licking their lips, fingers crossing over strings, or performers taking in a breath. Also, the decay of micro details and transients is nothing short of a strength on the Westone ES5.

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

      In short, the Westone ES5 is capable of producing a lucid yet vividly alive rendering of your best music. The Westone ES5's disappear completely. These monitors provide a plethora of details that come at the wearer with great accuracy and speed. The Westone ES5 has the ability to recreate music with realistic soundstaging, imaging and decay. There is a sense of realism in the Westone ES5's imaging, and where clarity and resolution are second to none. The Westone ES5 handles micro detail with the speed and attack necessary to image the effect's appearance, and makes disappear the effect with a natural sense of time. There is also very little to no roll off of the treble. I also detect no smearing of details nor marks anywhere in the imaging. Complex passages become alive with concise pace, rhythm, and timing. The Westone ES5 can provide accurate sound of varying volume levels that occur simultaneously in a recording.

 

     I would without a doubt recommend the Westone ES5 to anyone looking for a well balanced high-end custom IEM as I feel they are simply breathtaking. Thanks for reading my review and I hope you found it enjoyable!

Posted

Pros: smooth sound reproduction, lush mids, slightly warm, impact and presence

Cons: forward mids can get a bit uncouth on some recordings

Please excuse my inexperience in reviewing audio gear - however I wish to contribute what I can to information on this product.

 

First a bit of background - I previously came from sony ex700, earsonics sm3, and HifiMan reZERO.  es5 is my first custom, and the closest earphone I have heard to it is the earsonics SM3 which I will be using as the basis for comparison in many areas.

 

Starting with bass, the quality is quite good, impact is moderate and speed keeps up quite well also, but it does not seem as tight as bass on reZERO, but definitely more present.  Others have described a midbass boost and I would have no trouble believing this.  Extension seems adequate.

 

Midrange is the strong suite - it is smooth and slightly forward, as well as slightly warm and rounded in its note as described elsewhere.  Female vocals are truly lush and sound amazing.  Male voices are quite good, but the same lushness tends to soften them a little.  The coherency of voices is excellent, but overall i prefer a little more edge with tenor voices to enhance the sense of vividness.  However with some recordings the forward mids can get a little uncouth as per earsonics sm3.

 

Treble is detailed, and given my sources and hearing I cant comment on extension.  What I can comment is that the timbre can seem a little dry at times.  There isn't the same degree of "wow that cymbal sounds like its actually made of brass" that I got from the sm3 (its close though).  Treble detail though is very good, as is speed.  But I am being really picky here and many people don't seem to have a problem here.

 

The es5 has been described as smooth or rounded in its presentation of timbres, and this I find accurate.  The edge and agression on some other earphones such as reZERO is toned down a little.  These are not fatiguing earphones.  Overall impact, pace and presence is excellent which lends to really great PRAT.  Instrument separation is excellent, it is really too easy to follow individual instruments or hand on a piano.

 

I find these very comfortable from first fit, which is really something for a custom.  Isolation is excellent.  As with any custom though, chewing feels uncomfortable and weird.  Overall these are a very well rounded high grade custom with great comfort, and a very coherent sound reproduction that hides it's crossovers well.  What I consider shortcomings in the sound reproduction may to others be strengths, or non-issues at all.

Posted

Pros: Everything

Cons: ?

These are my initial impressions after a week of use, with a 2011 Macbook Air & RSA Shadow.

 

Value: 5/5  Value is relative, so I'm defining this value as relative to the top end IEM market.  I don't have any experience with other top end IEM such as the JH13/16 or UE11/18 so I can only compare price.  In that case the ES5 has the lowest price for a top end, brand-name IEM at $900-950.

 

Audio Quality: 5/5 The ES5 is definitely a reference-quality monitor, the sound quality is really as good as it gets.  I get the impression that at this level all the big boys have quality, the only differences are comfort, isolation & sound signature.  Highs, mids & lows are all supercalafragalistic & other adjectives as they should be in this price range.

 

The ES5 manages to be both very musical & very neutral.  To me they present the music more like a well-engineered live performance & less analytical like monitors in a studio.  To give another example they give the impression of gig in an acoustically perfected music hall as opposed to the clinical studio setting.  These are the first earphones I've had where I prefer the music naked & not EQ'd & it's the first time I've understood about recordings being mixed a way I don't prefer as opposed to being just a shoddy recording.

 

Design: 4/5 I knocked off a star for the memory plastic, it serves no purpose but getting in the way, the cord's own weight is sufficient to keep it in place around the ear.  I'm also slightly disappointed at the build quality, it's certainly very good but not quite the craftsman's perfection that I expected.

 

Comfort: 4/5 This star was also a casualty of the memory plastic, otherwise they are very comfortable for long sessions without causing fatigue or pain.

 

Isolation: 5/5 Isolation is great thanks to the material used, great enough that it annoys my wife, she has to make visual contact before talking.

 

Overall: 5/5  I have no regrets about my wallet being a grand lighter, even though $1000 is about a year's worth of allowance (all you single non-parent types enjoy it while it lasts!).

Posted

Pros: Isolation, Comfort, Clarity

Cons: Non yet, price I guess

Check out my post: A Westone Affair for my review of them

Westone ES 5
Description:

The ES5 was designed to deliver sound quality, clarity and response comparable to monitors with more drivers - at a much more affordable price. With 25dB of ambient noise reduction and the long-wearing comfort only a custom earpiece can provide, the ES5 is the clear choice for the most discriminating musician looking for a high-end, well-balanced custom musicians' monitor.

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