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Westone ES2 (the underappreciated custom)

post #1 of 200
Thread Starter 












There is only a handful of info around here on the ES2 so I thought I'd add to it. These impressions are initial as I just received them yesterday and probably only have about 5 hours or so on them. I'm happy to add after I've had a couple weeks with them. I have been listening to them on my iPod using a combo of genres, recordings and lossless as well as 256 AAC VBR. I have been going back and forth from the Audiolineout Cotton Dock > Hornet to directly out of the iPod headphone jack.

I'd like to preface with a quick rundown of the IEM's I've owned. I started out with the E4C which I really liked for their slightly forward and warm midrange as well as the level of detail they offered. I later sold them in my search for more bass and bought the UE Super.fi 5pro's which were returned within a week. I did enjoy the bass but the highs were totally rolled off and the mids sounded a bit muddy to me. I later picked up the UM2's which I had for a while and really enjoyed their strong bass and forward vocal presentation. After hearing the early impressions of the E500 I placed a pre-order and sold my UM2's shortly before they were released. The E500's came and while I did enjoy the soundstage and level of detail they offered I found them somewhat boring. I guess I like color because the E500 were just too neutral. They had nice balance but it came at a cost of bass quantity and vocal presentation (two things I was not willing to sacrifice) as well as overall "fun" factor. I sold the E500's and ordered the ES2.

Ordering
I have to say the ordering process was much easier and faster than I had expected. Special thanks to Doug and Dale at Westone for putting up with all my calls and questions! Westone recommended a local audiologist that had the least re-fits in my area. Well they nailed it first time around! I had my molds shot on Wed 8/9 and received them yesterday 8/21. They came in a nice Pelican hard case with a wax cleaner, "oto-ease" insertion lube, name tag, and cleaning cloth. I ordered the "candy blue" with the clear cable. I've heard all the praise about the isolation you get with customs but this is just plain crazy! I can see now how custom folks have a hard time going universal, SQ aside the isolation alone is nothing short of amazing!

Build
Build quality is seems very solid, the ES2's have a nice weight and do not feel heavy nor do they feel frightfully fragile. The cable which is braded like the UM2 butslightly thicker also has memory wire at about the last 1-2 inches where the cable connects to the monitor. The cable can also be disconnected from the monitor and is terminated with a right angle 1/8 plug. I would have liked to received a 1/4 adaptor but it's not that big of a deal.

Sound
From what I have read the E500's signature has more in common with the UE10 so you and connect the dots of comparison between the ES2 and UE10 that way if you like. The ES2 does not have the level of detail or soundstage that the E500's offer. I would say the detail is slightly better than the E4C. The highs seem to change the most depending on what I am listening to. At times they sound a tad sharp or bright and other times they sound liquid smooth. This seems very dependent on the music as the ES2's are very sensitive to recording quality (among other things!) At all times they maintain a crisp sound with an impressive extension. Cymbals have good decay and nice sparkle. Other instruments (including soprano vocalists) sound exceptionally clear, like you can hear straight through them; I must say it's very intoxicating. Thus far I have detected no sibilance but I will again say that the ES2's are very sensitive and if there are any weaknesses in your source or recordings they will find it and let you know! Newbs - If using these straight out of the headphone jack I highly discourage anything other than a flat EQ

The bass is slightly less in quantity than the UM2 but is also tighter, better controlled and extends much further. The mid bass hump many have complained about with the UM2 has disappeared for the most part, although it does have a slight presence on a couple tracks I've heard but it is very slight. The bass quantity is surely enough to keep even the homeis happy and I am certainly not missing any quantity. This is coming from a guy who listens to the PS-1's with flats so take it FWIW. Listening to Mahler symphony No. 6 (Levi) the bass has a very nice texture and sounds perfectly balanced with the rest of the spectrum. Cello's maintain their texture very well and I detect no bloat whatsoever. Listening to Tool, or Brad Paisley the bass remains tight and controlled, never boomy and the punch is consistently tight on the bass drum while bass guitars really shine in that the ES2 does a fantastic job capturing the true tone of strings. It maintains that solid foundation that can often go underappreciated among audiophiles. Because of the exceptional seal I would guess this level of quantity would remain in air travel or subways. The bass maintains good texture, extension and quantity from one song/genre/recording to the next.

The mids are easily the ES2's forte. Like the UM2 the ES2 has a forward midrange placing the vocalist in the chair next to you. I would say that if you like the PS-1's mids the ES2 is as close as I've heard to that liquid smooth and warm presentation. The ES2 does not favor male or female vocals; it is equally happy doing either with exceptional clarity. Percussion is another strong point in the mid range. Toms and timbales sound tight and maintain excellent separation, never bleeding into each other or other instruments. Even the snap of a rim shot in the upper register maintains quick resolution.

Overall the ES2 is a quick IEM with a fast and accurate attack. They pass the UM2 up in a number of ways as they take the strengths of the UM2 and bring them up a few levels and improve on the UM2's weaknesses. They sound great straight out of the iPod but really shine with the Hornet in the loop adding sonic weight, better depth in the three dimensional sound and mellowing out the top end. These are not neutral and do not have the detail or soundstage of the E500 so if that's your thing these are not for you. If you want something that's going to get your head moving and foot stomping these are for you. The ES2 have strong and tight bass with great extension, a mid range that is liquid smooth with a warm signature and in your face vocal presentation and a top end that is crisp, detailed and also offers very impressive extension. Add it all together and you have one hell of a fun, engaging and altogether musical custom!

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post #2 of 200
These are some nice looking custom monitors. Judged from the pics I am quite impressed by the build quality. Just wondering if the molds are hard acryl like UEs or soft like the Sensa's? I'd also appreciate som in the ear pics as I'd like to know how they compare sizewise to the UE-10s.
Thanks for your initial review, and have fun with your new toys.
post #3 of 200
Thread Starter 
I'll try to get some in ear shots up later today. They are the hard acrylic but for $50 you can get the "soft option" which is probably more like the Sensas. The portion that goes in the canal is obviously not hard.

They were $650 out the door and so far I am very happy with the money spent. It feels good to rest on something the way I did when I got my PS-1.
post #4 of 200
Great Review!

A few things you noted, especially towards, the end relating to warm character and in-your-face vocals, as well as less than expansive soundstage -- would be more of the (original) Hornet's signature than the ES2 -- IF you're listening with the original warm, close-and-intimate, and big bass-y Hornet.

I'll have to wait 'til my ES2s return home from Westone to listen more thoroughly, but the "M"-modded Hornet (now almost fully "burned in") seemed to give the ES2 a wide soundstage, more dimension and spatial depth, more energy and more HF extension/speed/detail than I heard with the original Hornet.

The "M" Hornet has a very wide (beyond-the-ears) soundstage with phones and good recordings, and provides more soundstage with the ES2 than the original Hornet. With the original Hornet, I felt that the top end was sweet, clear and very easy on the ears for long sessions, but somewhat "laid back" and lacking speed and sparkle. The "M" provides that. The Hornet's bass is less big and bloomy, and is punchy, tight and better-defined, while still deep and powerful (it took 300+ hours for the bass to fully develop, being very tight but a bit thin for much of the break-in time).

Whether the "M" is just more fun (for my tastes of course) or also a bit fatiguing with the ES2 is something I'll determine as soon as I have them back home.
post #5 of 200
Nice pics and impressions. What about comfort? I just sold some of my gear to get these myself. I finally see for myself the ES2's are truly dual bore. I knew they had dual bore in the earpiece, but wasn't sure they were actual separate bores for each driver. This has to make for a significant difference in the sound between the ES-2 and my beloved UM2/UM56 combo. At least I hope anyway...By the way Wakeride- U SUCK.
post #6 of 200
Quote:
Originally Posted by wakeride74
I'll try to get some in ear shots up later today. They are the hard acrylic but for $50 you can get the "soft option" which is probably more like the Sensas. The portion that goes in the canal is obviously not hard.

They were $650 out the door and so far I am very happy with the money spent. It feels good to rest on something the way I did when I got my PS-1.
I read that the lifespan of the soft model isn't as long. The portion that goes in the canal appears to be the same material they use with the UM56's, which are way more comfortable than any universal tip.
post #7 of 200
very nice setup!

I'm enjoying my UM2s, I'm surprised Westone as a company isn't more popular! They make some great stuff.
post #8 of 200
Thread Starter 
Romanee - Interesting comments, I found the highs to be slightly sharp straight out of the iPod and using the Hornet tamed them to my ears. The forward vocal presentation is part of the signature sound IMO as this was the same with the UM2 only not as clear or smooth... or warm for that matter. I may pick up a SM IV to roll opamps and play with the signature but in my early impressions the stock Hornet mates well with them for most of my tastes.

Pete7 - Yes comfort is very nice and I can eat dinner without breaking my seal! The tips are slightly soft and soften more so once they are inserted and the rubber warms. The duel bore separation ends about 1/8 of an inch or so before the opening. I don't know if this has anything to do with the sound but I can't imagine why Westone would go to the trouble if it didn't. As far as the difference between the ES2 and UM2/UM56 without being able to a/b them it's hard to say but I can say that the ES2 easily outshines the UM2 in detail, clarity, and extension both top and bottom. They may not be quite as detailed as the E500 or UE10 for that matter but they certainly are engaging and musical, very fun to listen to and it's easy to forget they are there and just enjoy the music.

creyc - agreed, that's why they are underappreciated but the number of Headfiers with them is growing
post #9 of 200
Looks as if I have no alternative but to get the ES-2's now. For the second time, I've broken a stem off the earpiece of one side of my UM2's trying to get my UM56 to lock in place by rotating the earpiece slightly while in my ear. That's 2 pairs of UM2's ruined because of these lousy UM56 tips. S#*@ !!! That's at least 2 1/2 weeks without IEMs.
post #10 of 200
Wakeride - glad to know you took the ES2 plunge. They truly are a killer IEM. I tend to spend the most time with my ES2s over all other IEMs. I love their sound, especially when paired with the Hornet. Killer combo. My impressions of their sound mirror yours as well.

Also, congrats to Westone on nailing such a great fit on the first shot. VERY impressive. Its not easy to get a custom IEM to fit right and Westone so far has proven to truly be experts at the process.

Personally I'm glad to see some other folks picking the ES2s up and giving them a listen.

Enjoy!
post #11 of 200
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete7
Looks as if I have no alternative but to get the ES-2's now. For the second time, I've broken a stem off the earpiece of one side of my UM2's trying to get my UM56 to lock in place by rotating the earpiece slightly while in my ear. That's 2 pairs of UM2's ruined because of these lousy UM56 tips. S#*@ !!! That's at least 2 1/2 weeks without IEMs.
Same thing happened to me last Monday while I was just trying to remove the UM56 tips. Figured I'd give them another try but I still can't seem to keep the seal. They slip out just enough to lose it and I was going back to the clear flex when the stem broke. Rose, at Westone, says it's a common occurance so I guess I'll stick to universal tips with the next pair till I decide what to p/u next. Maybe I'll spring for the ES2, I already have the box which may be a sign to go all the way.
post #12 of 200
Thread Starter 
digihead - I have to give you some credit too! You were a great help in my decision and the fact that you have the ES2, ES3, and UE10 really helped me to feel I was getting the full picture from your sonic description of each one. This was great for finding the custom that would best fit my sonic tastes so thank you! Your description of the ES2 was spot on and I am in total agreement with you. They are pretty sensitive but I don't know that I find them as sensitive as catscratch (spelling?) made them out to be. All ears are different I guess!

btw - digihead, Have you tried the SR-71 with the ES2???

Pete7 - It's a sign! Get the ES2 you will not be disappointed my friend. When you think of the E500 being around the $400 range and custom tips about another $100 the cost seems well worth it even if it was for the comfort and perfect seal every time alone! (which it's not!).
post #13 of 200
Got an appointment with the audiologist for tomorrow. A sign? More like a push off a cliff!!!! I've been on the fence about these for a couple weeks now, so my UM2's becoming unuseable has become the ultimate convincer. I think I could've been content with the UM2/UM56, but after two pairs with a stem/barrel breaking off inside a tip, I think it's safe to say it would be more economically feasible to go for the ES-2. Besides, after seeing those tasty pics yesterday I pretty much had made up my mind anyway. 2 or 3 weeks of agony with KSC-35's and AKG K 27i's though. Let the suffering begin...
post #14 of 200
Quote:
Originally Posted by wakeride74
digihead - I have to give you some credit too! You were a great help in my decision and the fact that you have the ES2, ES3, and UE10 really helped me to feel I was getting the full picture from your sonic description of each one. This was great for finding the custom that would best fit my sonic tastes so thank you! Your description of the ES2 was spot on and I am in total agreement with you. They are pretty sensitive but I don't know that I find them as sensitive as catscratch (spelling?) made them out to be. All ears are different I guess!

btw - digihead, Have you tried the SR-71 with the ES2???

Pete7 - It's a sign! Get the ES2 you will not be disappointed my friend. When you think of the E500 being around the $400 range and custom tips about another $100 the cost seems well worth it even if it was for the comfort and perfect seal every time alone! (which it's not!).
Thanks...glad to know the info was helpful and even more glad to know that my description of the sound was appropriate.

I have indeed tried the SR-71 with the ES2s. Its a nice combo, however for me I really think the Hornet and ES2s have an undeniable synergy. Different strokes for different folks of course, I like to listen to a lot of rock, etc. and the midrange and especially the bass of the Hornet match up nicely with the ES2s and really make them do their thing (getting your foot tapping) well. If you want more air, sparkle and soundstage then the SR-71 is a nice choice. Personally, if I had to give up all other headphone combos, I'd keep the ES2, Hornet, iMod and Zynsonix EYS mini. Although, to be honest, Wakeride, your picture caused me to look at getting a ALO Cotton mini as well...
post #15 of 200
At first I thought my ES2 needed to be remolded, but after a week I forgot I had them in my ears, now a year later I still use them every day without even thinking about an upgrade, which is quite unique!
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