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Mini review: Westone UM2 vs Westone 2

post #1 of 70
Thread Starter 

Had to get my hands on the UM2 and now that I have that and the Westone 2 I compared them.


Intro:

I must say the UM2 sounds better than the UM3x which I sold shortly after few months. In short; it sounds more articulate,airy and more expansive. The UM3x sounded too bloated,closed in and collapsed to me; the soundstage was too narrow and the UM2 doesn't share the same trait which is great. The mids were too forward and the bass was too much, the highs are too soft and delicate on the UM3x; it didn't have the balance the Westone 2 does. UM2 sounds quite different from the UM3x and I can't see how anyone can say the UM3x is a definite upgrade from the UM2 in sound other than having one extra driver which doesn't mean much. The Westone 2 is probably the IEM I've kept longest, longer than the Westone 3 and the UM3x; I am quite fond of it. If I had to rate all the Westone IEMs I owned it would be UM2 >= Westone 2 > UM3x >= Westone 3 >>>>UM1

 

Note that I have seen two versions of the UM2, whether they sound different I have no idea.

The first revision has clear stress relief strains with orange comply tips while the latest ones have black stress relief strains with gray comply tips.

 

Physical differences

 

Shell size: The UM2 and UM3x share the same shell I believe and it is noticeably bulkier than the Westone 2; I could lay down on the bed with the Westone 2 and not feel a thing and I can't say the same with the UM2. If I had to estimate, I would say the UM2 is at least 33% bigger than the Westone 2. It is quite a bit thicker than the Westone 2. The glossy finish on the Westone 2 is more prone to scratches than the matte texture finish on the UM2 shell. Comfort I'd say the Westone 2 is definitely better, just plain smaller and lighter.

 

Cable: The Westone 2 and UM3x both uses braided cables but the Westone 2 is more tightly braided while the UM2 is not so. The cable on the UM2 is definitely softer and flexible than the Westone 2. If I coil up the cable on the Westone 2, it is harder to straighten compared to the UM2 meaning it likes to retain its previous shape. The plug on the two are different; UM2 being bulkier and Westone 2 being thin to fit on the devices where the 3.5mm socket is recessed.

 

 

Sound Analysis

 

I find the sound didn't change much at all using different silicon tips so I stuck with medium sized gray silicon tips

 

Highs: The extremes of the Westone 2 extend better than the UM2. The highs on the Westone 2 is more pleasant to listen to; it is quite safe sounding and is never offensive. The biggest difference I notice is that the highs are more articulate on the UM2 and I hear some low treble boost on the UM2 which makes snare drum hits and rolls more lively. Cymbals sound more lively on the UM2 and triangle sounds sparkly on the UM2. The cymbals also sound more splashy, which can be fatiguing on the UM2 compared to the Westone 2. I have no real complaints about the somewhat common feedback of roll of highs on the UM2 but then again I do not listen to classical.

 

Mids: Vocals on the UM2 sound thinner and doesn't have the warmth of the Westone 2. However the vocals on the UM2 sound more real and live; it is more revealing. I notice that sometimes the UM2 can sound sibilant on the S's from the singer's voice which is a surprise; the Westone 2 does not sound sibilant at all. Sibilance is the biggest problem I have with the UM2 right now on specific tracks and as far as I know; armatures do not require burn-in. Vocals are more dry sounding the UM2. The midrange on the Westone 2 has a certain smoothness and warmth over it and it is more forward sounding than the UM2. The midrange on the UM2 does not sound warm, it is on the neutral side and it sounds more transparent.  Guitars sound more crunchy on the UM2 than the Westone 2. This part is definitely a preference thing, some may like a warm midrange which the Westone 2 but the UM2 resembles my Grado SR325 a little more which is a good thing for me though I still think my vintage SR325 is simply way better in the midrange than any IEM I've owned but that's a different story. Too much warmth to me means it doesn't sound live anymore.

 

Low: Definitely more bass on the UM2 and on the lower extreme as well; not boomy and quite controlled. The speed is quite similar. Because of the bass presence, the UM2 sounds bigger than the Westone 2. It doesn't mean the Westone 2 has no bass; it's there but not as loud as the UM2. The UM2 can slam while the Westone 2 can hit. The UM2 does not have as much bass as the UM3x that's for sure but the sound is definitely more balanced. From the day I had the Westone 2, I really did feel it could use a bit more bass and the UM2 does it right.

 

Soundstage: The soundstage on the Westone 2 is slightly wider than the UM2 but the depth of the UM2 is deeper than the Westone 2.

 

Detail/Separation: There is noticeably more detail on the UM2 than the Westone 2. Everything sounds more blended in on the Westone 2. On the UM2, the details in the background jump out more and plucking on an acoustic for example, is noticeably more distinctive and edgy. UM2 is more analytical and is more capable of exposing flaws than the Westone 2. Westone 2 is more forgiving, and just makes everything sound great.

 

Misc:

The UM2 sounds bright compared to the Westone 2 which is a surprise. I almost felt fatigued after hearing the UM2 for the first time but my ears adjusted; somewhere in the upper mid and low highs can sound harsh depending on the song. The Westone 2 has a safe warm sound; works well with everything but doesn't excel at anything in particular. UM2 takes more chances but like a double edge sword; sometimes it's great and there are times it is harsh and fatiguing. Everything sounds more raw and articulate on the UM2; it sounds more open despite having a slightly narrower soundstage than the Westone 2. I still need to use the UM2 more to see if I could get use to the certain harshness or brightness I hear in the 7kHz-10kHz region area based on listening to percussion frequencies from various cymbals but other than that I am liking these so far. It sounds musical to me which is good as these are stage monitors after all.

 

(11/20) Update with shure black olive foam tips on UM2

 

I have been using the shure black olive foam tips with the UM2. I notice it will tame any peakiness, give a fuller smoother midrange but the bass impact has suffered without a doubt. There is no more sibilance with the foam tips but sibilance with the silicon tips is only noticeable on bright recordings. Just about every con I mentioned earlier about the UM2 has subsided except the weaker bass has become a new con with these foam tips. The articulate sound and separation remains strong, which is on a different level beyond the Westone 2. To me the better value IEM is the UM2 at $279 vs the Westone 2 at $249; I would pay the extra $30 every time for the separation and non-congested sound.

 

Pictures (from phone)

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Edited by kite7 - 11/20/11 at 10:57pm
post #2 of 70
Thank you for the wonderful mini review my friend! I feel the exact same way with regards to the UM3X, which leads me to believe that I, much like you, would also come to admire the UM2 for the very reasons you've mentioned. May have to pay the UM2 a visit sometime in the near future. smily_headphones1.gif
post #3 of 70
Thread Starter 

Thanks. It is a great earphone I got at a killer price locally; had I  had a chance to listen to the UM2 and UM3x at the same time before deciding to buy I would have chosen the UM2 and not wasted any time and money on the UM3x. I only prefer the UM3x over the Westone 3 because the midbass was a huge turnoff for me on the Westone 3; I have never been a basshead. The problem I am dealing with right now with the UM2 is sibilance and harshness on some tracks with the vocals; hopefully it will magically go away somehow frown.gif

post #4 of 70

Good write up.  The siblance and harshness you are hearing is from those tips.  Switch to a comply, foam or olive, tick up the treble just a pinch and I think it improves the overall presentation.  Zero siblance or harshness.

 

As far as the UM3X versus the UM2, I think the UM3X certainly has a bit more overall dynamic range (3 drivers versus 2) but I like UM2 in every other criteria (soundstage, bass, treble, midrange, naturalness, toneality).

post #5 of 70
Thread Starter 

I tried the shure olive black and it does reduce the harshness and brightness. It also makes the mids a bit fuller but there is less bass slam compared to bi-flange tips. There are definitely trade offs but I assume UM2 is designed for foam tips since it is supposed to come with comply tips which is foam opposed to soft flex and tri flange silicon tips. Bi-flange is okay for more recordings however the brighter ones I do feel a need to switch to foam tips

post #6 of 70

Wow!  This is a great review, thank you so much!  Concerning the UM2 vs Westone 2 comparison, I was wondering if you could give more input on the bass.

 

My dilemma is that I want something to sound great for Classical (I believe you would suggest the Westone 2 for that), but also for rap / trance and other bass heavy genres.

 

You said that from the day you got the Westone 2's you always felt they needed more bass, could this be remedied with a portable amplifier (I think some of them come with the FiiO 6?) ?

 

Also, with regard to the various tips that you all have mentioned, which would you say were the MOST comfortable?

 

I am considering Westone so heavily because I want great sounding IEMs but I need them to be very comfortable for long periods of listening.  With that in mind, you said you feel fatigued after listening to the UM2s after a while, is that only due to the sibilance in the 7kHz - 10kHz range you mentioned or overall?

 

Thanks for the input!

post #7 of 70

I have a different listening experience than kite7.  Going tip for tip I find the W2 more susceptible to siblance because it is brighter and crisper where UM2 is warmer and smoother.  W2's would fatigue my ears after a couple hours where I could listen to UM2 around the clock.

 

UM2 has a decent step up in bass and overall fullness as well.  An amp will help the W2 bass a little but it just doesn't sound right...like it's being pushed to hard where UM2 does it effortlessly.  Yes, W2 may be better for classical but UM2 would certainly be better for rap/hip hop.  I personally prefer the UM2 with a slight treble boost.  Made in USA, too (versus China made W2).

post #8 of 70

Nice comparison. I have a similar experience with most of what you said, but like Spyro I found the UM2 (RC) to be much warmer and less prone to sibilance. IME the bass on the UM2 was fuller and had more weight than the W2. 

post #9 of 70

Hmmm that's very interesting.

 

kckc you mentioned you have the UM2 RC, do you know if there is any difference in sound (and I guess comfort too) between the UM2 RC and the UM2 (!RC --> hehe, as in not RC)?

 

What is the benefit of having the RC / do you feel it will possibly break sooner by having an RC?

 

Thanks!

post #10 of 70

Hm. I've only very briefly auditioned the UM2 (!RC) and I don't recall any sonic differences. Maybe someone else can confirm this? 

post #11 of 70

RC is removable cable.  Has nothing to do with sonic difference.  Never has.

post #12 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spyro View Post

RC is removable cable.  Has nothing to do with sonic difference.  Never has.



Right I figured the sound wouldn't be any different, but didn't want to assume.  My concern is that a Removable Cable could possibly break sooner?  Was just looking for some thoughts on the durability of the RC and if you (the collective you, I guess) felt that the RC is worth having or not :)

post #13 of 70

Certainly playing around with the RC cable (plugging, unplugging) will cause not as tight a fit where I suppose sweat could eventually seep through and possible cause an issue.  The memory wire sometime bothers people -comfort wise.  If you wrap up the cable and tuck away, when you take out to use you may have to re-adjust the memory wire.

 

I've never been a fan of it but some people love having it.  Really personal preference.

post #14 of 70

Ok righto man, thanks for the input!

post #15 of 70
Thread Starter 

Made a slight update regarding shure olive black foam tips in the first post with the UM2

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