The W3 and IE8 are both superb phones. I happen to prefer the IE8 over the W3 and unlike the previous posts I don't think the W3 are more detailed than the IE8 in terms of sheer amount of detail. The W3 pushes out the detail into your face in a 'muscular' and powerful manner so forefront and background details at first seem to be more apparent. it's rather impressive how it does this and it's easy to see why some folks may think they're more detailed. However, if you wear the IE8 with a rather light insertion all the details are there. They just don't come out and strike you and are more woven into the music. Perhaps this may be one of the reason I prefer the IE8 to the W3 because I wasn't just hearing the details in my music but rather hearing the music with details.
Both phones have a mid-bass emphasis and although I don't quite think the bass is the strong point for the IE8 I still preferred the IE8s bass which seemed more natural and tuneful, had more 'oomph' and went deeper than the W3, though shrouded by the mid-bass when sealed too deeply. I've now come to prefer the FX500 bass but it still lacks impact when compared to the IE8. I have been rather verbose with regards to the fact that the IE8 shouldn't be worn with a deep seal. Most folks seem to do just that and they get a problematic over indulgent mid-bass that muddies the sound and gives that dark signature that the IE8 has been stigmatized with. Having said that, the W3s bass was visceral and highly textured, though not the most natural bass it was fun!I still preferred triple fi 10 bass to W3's though.
W3 had more top end sparkle. I never experienced sibilance with the W3 by the way. I think this is the one area where I preferred the W3 as I have a predilection for sparkly treble. The IE8 does have perhaps similar amount of treble detail and with a shallow insertion the treble shines even more. It's however not the aggressive type. I'm frankly contented with the IE8 treble as it offers an easier listening experience. Now I don't propose to be an expert on treble, far from it, but sometimes I wonder if the IE8 are being criticized for accurately portraying that high frequency notes should attenuate with distance/depth. It's fun listening to a sparkly treble but should they reach my ears with the same amount of energy they had a good distance away? (When thunder rolls we only hear the low frequencies because most of the the high frequencies were attenuated).
Vocals are more transparent than the IE8, once again slight seal improves transparency of the IE8 and though not still quite as transparent as the W3 they were more open, fuller and airier and warm. Sometimes a bit too warm but I like them.
Soundstage and Imaging on the IE8 offers more expanse and a more realistic listening experience than the W3 to my ears. Images comes across as much more resolved on the W3 though.
Overall after I got the IE8, I sold the W3 as I found the IE8 to be smoother and more engaging. I still wished I could've kept the W3 but I was just lost in the music more with the IE8. This is all to my ears and am sure there are a lot of folks out there who prefer the W3 to the IE8 and might even take issue with some of my remarks. All I know is that no other top tier IEM delivered this much fun to my ears and I find this rather special!
OH CRap I stayed longer than I thought. I guess that's what happens when you love something. You wanna tell the whole world about it