Pros: very comfortable fitment, excellent bass, clear mids, removable cable
Cons: narrow/intimate staging, limited treble extension
Before I start with my review, I would like to Thank Westone for providing me with a review sample of UM Pro 30 in exchange for my honest opinion.
This is a Review of Westone UM Pro 30 triple BA driver IEM. http://www.westoneaudio.com/index.php/products/um-series/um-pro-30.html
After my Westone W40 review I received a number of questions from people inquiring about differences between W and UM Pro series, and also sound signature difference when you go up or down in a number of drivers from quad BA config of W40. The main point of that concern was if price difference justifies sound improvement benefit. Perhaps in a near future I will get an opportunity to review/compare Westone IEMs beyond quad driver config, but today I'm happy to let you know that I can kill two birds with one stone by looking at UM Pro 30 triple BA driver IEM. After a few days of testing, thankfully to a balanced armature nature of drivers that doesn't require too much burn in time, I would like to share with you about my experience using these IEMs. Here is what I found.
With 55 years in audio business, Westone is well known around the world and doesn't need any special introduction. One thing that makes them standout from other big name headphone manufacturers is a catalog with hearing protection products. The advantage of that knowledge and experience is the ability to manufacture headphones that not just sound great but also ergonomically designed to fit great and to provide a safe and enjoyable listening. For anybody who's familiar with Westone bean-shaped IEMs, there is no denial they have one of the best universal fitment which is comfortable to wear for extended period of time. Furthermore, with every model of W-series and UM Pro series they include a set of custom eartips: STAR silicone tips with multiple flex zones and TRUE-FIT medium recovery foam tip, both of which enhance a sound quality and a fitment comfort. There is no marketing hype to attract the attention with flashy looks, just a pure comfort and quality. So let's move forward with unboxing of the product.
Arrived in a compact box, the outer sleeve of the package had a lot of useful info to start exploring the product even prior to opening it up. First of all, UM Pro is a Professional Musicians' IEM series which has a specific tuning aimed at monitoring of the music versus W-series being more for general consumer listening. To reflect that, UM Pro 30 cover had a picture of one of the performing artists. Looking around the back and sides you get a walkthrough of the design, tech specs, and accessories. Once the outer sleeve is off, you have a soft touch magnetic flip cover box which is almost identical to the one from W40. Premium touch material and "wow" factor when you open a cover flap adds us to a rewarding unboxing experience. Under the cover the first thing that jumps at you is an orange monitor vault storage case and set of clear UM Pro 30 (also comes in a smoke color) in a foam cutout display.
All the included accessories are placed inside of that storage monitor vault which resembles a pelican case. This vault is build like a tank and can probably withstand the most extreme abuse. With soft inner foam lining and air-pressure valve it can protect your IEMs in a carry luggage, or tossed in the travel bag, or thrown off the roof of 10-story building, though for everyday use it's a bit extreme and you might want to pick up a regular pocket friendly zipper case. Inside of the vault you will find all the included STAR and True-Fit eartips. You get 5 pairs of each type, all in different sizes and shapes, color coded so you don't drive yourself crazy pairing them up. Also, included a earwax removal tool - not for your ears but rather for a nozzle of UM Pro. This set of accessories is very similar to W40 with an exception of no extra cable with remote/mic. Makes sense because W-series is more consumer oriented with appeal to smartphone users, while UM Pro series focuses on pure music performance with included audio only cable. But due to removable nature of the cable and universal MMCX connector - you can always use your own upgraded cable.
Looking closely at the cable, you have 90 degree molded connector with a gold-plated plug. This design is convenient to use with any audio player or smartphone case. A braided cable with reinforced shielding is attached right to the molded plastic part of the connector, though there is no strain relief. I was a little bit disappointed about that, but at the same time braided nature of the cable helps to relief the strain naturally when wires are bent. Moving up to y-splitter with a chin-slider, it has a slick design and similar lack of strain relief. Also, I noticed a chin slider had a bit of friction due to a braided/twisted nature of the cable. The good news - this is a removable cable which takes a weight off your shoulders if anything happens. Going up to earpieces, you have a flexible memory shielding piece which I actually liked a lot. With a regular cable, like in W-series, you have to bend it over your ears and use chin slider to assist with keeping wires together. Other headphones use annoying memory wire that you have to constantly shape and adjust with every fitment of headphones. Here you have a pre-shaped slim shielding that goes right over your ears and doesn't need any adjustment. It's very convenient especially when you have to store your headphones in the case/vault and don't have to worry about preserving a memory wire shape.
The attachment to earpices has a universal mmcx connector which means you can replace cable if it breaks or if you want to upgrade it (like a popular choice of silver-plated cables for sound enhancement). But you have to be very careful since the design of earpieces requires a cable with a slim connector. In my test I used a silver-plated cable from Lunashops that fits right in, but some other cables might not work. Just keep in mind, if you are using a replacement cable and its connector can't spin freely - it's too thick for UM Pro or W series.
As I mentioned before, Westone earpieces (both UM Pro and W series) are among the most comfortable IEMs I have tested to date. They fit right inside of your inner ear cavity and sit comfortably with wire coming up wrapped behind your ear. Nozzle is very slim, which makes it incompatible with a lot of other universal eartips, but considering amount of tips included with UM Pro 30 - you have nothing to worry about. I intentionally chose a clear body version of the UM Pro 30 to demonstrate inner guts of the design where you can clearly see all the wiring and drivers, which includes a large BA driver (most likely for the bass) and two smaller BA drivers (for mids and treble). I think clear shell of these earpieces adds a nice touch to the design, and actually looked cool with my replacement cable.
UM Pro 30 next to W40 for comparison
Of course, just the looks and comfort will not be enough to justify its price tag without a sound to back it up. UM Pro 30 has a well balanced warm sound signature with smooth clear details and enhanced mid-bass emphasis. It is very impressive for a BA driver to deliver a bass quality equivalent to a warm dynamic driver. Starting with a low end you get an excellent extension down to a deep rumbling sub-bass layer and a fast attack of a punchy mid-bass. It's not quite at basshead level, but there is definitive a well controlled mid-bass slam that going to put a smile even on bass-head face. Mids are placed slightly forward, have a warm smooth full body sound, and nicely balanced with plenty of clarity and details without too much brightness. Vocals have a great full body presentation and sounds very lush and smooth, not even a hint of sibilance or harshness. Treble falls a bit short with just an ok extension and some early roll off, still clear but not as crisp - perfect for extended listening period.
Sound stage is very intimate with an average width/depth. These are clearly performance monitors where you want to have a more focused sound. Interestingly, I found width of mids/vocals sometime varying between tracks depending on layering with other instruments. You can almost call it an intelligent staging. Positioning/imaging was really good with a convincing placement of instruments, but in my opinion separation was just average due to a warmer nature of the sound which sometimes could be perceived as a bit congested in complicated passages of the song, very typical for this sound signature.
Of course, I couldn't pass an opportunity to put UM Pro 30 against some of my other multi-BA driver and hybrid IEMs for comparison. Once thing I found in common right away, all these IEMs were more "consumer" tuned with a wider soundstage which in contrast UM Pro has it more narrow and intimate. Looking at IM03 I found it having a similar sub-bass, but mid-bass was slower and slightly reduced, mids being leaner and brighter with a little less body, and treble a little crispier. W40 was another good comparison where I found less sub-bass, much slower mid-bass with lesser bass quantity, thinner and brighter mids, and more extended and brighter treble. Moving to A83 hybrid, I found it having less sub-bass and scaled down mid-bass quantity; mids were leaner and more detailed, and treble brighter and more extended. Last but not least, A71 had a lot more mid-bass bloat (in relative comparison), mids were thicker and less detailed, and treble was actually warmer and less extended.
Overall, I was very impressed with a design and a performance of UM Pro 30. It feels like I went through a roller coaster ride, starting with preference for bass-heavy IEMs, then moving to a more reference/analytical sound, and now realizing that I miss my bass and want a more controlled enhanced low end. Until now that was only achievable with a dynamic driver or hybrid (with dynamic driver for bass) IEMs. Multi-driver balanced armature IEMs were typically bass-light. Some were able to deliver a great low end, but never being able to achieve fast attack in mid-bass. UM Pro 30 nailed that with flying colors! And on top of that you also have a well balanced clear upper mids without taking a v-shape route. It's very obvious that intent of this tuning was for an artist to be able to monitor vocal performance and still have a clear rhythm of the drums without missing all the important details. In general, the tuning signature of UM Pro 30 is perfect for modern genres such as EDM, Top40, Pop/rock, r'n'b and hip hop. It might be a little too warm and thick for a more analytical listening of those who prefer bright and crisp sound. I imagine that going up to UM Pro 50 with additional drivers (5 BA drivers) will put you closer to that goal at the expense of a higher price. But if you are after a smooth clear sound of BA drivers with a warm fast bass similar to dynamic driver performance - UM Pro 30 will be in-ear monitor for you!
// with silver-plated replacement cable from lunashops //