Firstly I would like to thank David at Westone EU for sending me this sample for review, I will try to write as honest a review possible. These received over 50hrs of burn-in, no noticeable differences were noted.
From what I have gathered, these are a refreshed UM3X, no sonic changes, just a different housing and cable (MMXC connector).
Fiio X3 > UM Pro30 (long S silicone startips)
IPod Classic 160gb > UM Pro30 (long S silicone startips)
Sensitivity: 124db @1mW
Frequency response: 20Hz - 18kHz
Impedance: 56 Ohms @1kHz
Drivers: 3 balanced armatures (1 low, 1 mids, 1 high) with passive 3 way crossover
Cable: MMXC connector, detachable, 1.2m
Packaging, build quality and accessories:
Packaging is sleek, a black box with a picture of the IEM's on the front and specs + information is on the sides and back. The outer part is a sleeve, once off you will find a grey box, made of quality card. This has a magnetic opening flap, inside you find the IEM's held in thick foam, with the carry pouch underneath. The first thing you'll find upon opening is a business card thanking you for your purchase of a Westone product.
Underneath the carry case (monitor vault) are the accessories. A very well packaged earphone, very sleek and professional, all the print is of high quality too.
Build quality I have no problems with, the housing is made of high quality plastic, very sleek, understated finish, with only a W embossed on it, no big Westone printed on the housing. The housing is small and discreet, the cable is flexible and soft. I like the memory wire, as it does not contain and bendable wire, but instead if just moulded soft rubber, very comfortable, as I tend to dislike memory wire. The jack is 90° and well relieved, the y-split equally good with a chin slider. The detachable cable uses the same connector as Shure IEM's, which is quickly becoming the standard detachable cable for headphones. Many people dislike this connector, but I have never had problems, with these or the SE535, and they swivel which makes them more comfortable than the older, fixed, Westone connectors.
Plenty of accessories are included, many tips (foam and silicone), and a monitor vault case which is like a micro pelican case except not as good build quality. I think the case is brilliant, strong and perfect size for the monitors.
Comfort, isolation, cable noise and driver flex:
Comfort is excellent once you have found the right tips. I first started with foam tips, but they do reduce the highs which is not good for my tastes, so I changed to the longer small silicone tips, which are very comfortable and to my ears sound better. You can get quite a deep fit, and the IEM's sit very flush with your ears, the insertion angle of the nozzle is perfect for me. I could even sleep with these in.
Isolation is great with the right tips. Foam will isolate a little more, but with silicone they isolate really well too, great for noisy environments.
Cable noise is non existent, as the cable goes over the ear.
Driver flex is not a problem as these use balanced armature drivers.
Lows: for a BA driver IEM the lows are well extended and full, with great punch and articulation. They extend low and punch hard when needed, the lows really fill out the sound and the are definitely on the warmer/darker side of sound. The single driver for the lows is huge compared to the mids and highs so you can expect it to have big full lows, but for a BA IEM these excel in the lows, never sounding dry or flat. They don't bleed in to the mids which is great, these have a fun, forward and engaging sound. For on stage monitoring you can tell that the added warmth helps because of the high sound floor as that tends to effect the lows most, so it would be easy for band members to still distinguish the rhythm section. Also these have very good speed but also realistic decay in the lows.
Mids: this is the highlight of these, made for on stage monitoring the mids are crisp and full bodied without sounding nasal or bloated, they are lush and detailed, these have a more low/mid forward signature. Both male and female vocals fair well, male vocals are not affected by the full lows, and female vocals come across clean and crisp, no sibilance can be detected. The mids are forward, and full whilst retaining good detail retrieval, and they have a very pleasing, natural tone to them, not being too thick, neither being clinical and cold.
Highs: This is their weakness, the highs lack some presence, but the highs do extend well and are very precise and detailed. It is just they are slightly pushed behind the lows and mids, making these mildly dark sounding. They do however have more presence than the Shure SE535, and my ears have come accustomed to the slightly behind highs, and I no longer find them too bad. This does however mean that they don't become fatiguing after long listening sessions.
I will have to make a silver plated copper cable for these at some point, as it made a difference with the Shure SE535, hopefully it will with these.
Soundstage is intimate, but listening to some of the Appleseed cast, it was quite wide, so it is track dependent. On the whole though it is nothing special but wider than normal.
Instrument separation is very good, but there is not a lot of air between the instruments because of the thicker overall sound.
Imaging is good, panning is convincing and the channels merge well, not sounding too separate. The channel separation and panning effects create the perception of a very wide soundstage, a couple of times I was very impressed with the panning effects as the sounds were coming from outside my head and what you would expect IEM's to be like.
Well, as these have a mildly dark sound signature it is normal that they sound better with either neutral reference gear or slightly bright gear.
From the sources I used, I preferred the iPod Classic over the X3, I was using the X3 a lot with these, but now I have gone back to using the Classic. The X3 makes these too warm and thick sounding for my tastes, whereas the iPod has a more linear sound which then brings out more detail, air and space from these. They are not neutral sounding IEM's, but out of the iPod they do sound well balanced.
Soon my JDS Labs C5D will arrive, I will update impressions of these amped afterwards.
So overall these are a moderately dark sounding IEM with an easy to listen to yet detailed, lush signature. For the intended usage of these IEM's, stage monitors, I understand the slightly boosted lows because on stage the noise floor is very high, and musicians still need to hear the rhythm section, yet the mids steal the show by being very well separated and detailed, yet never harsh or sibilant.
Can I recommend these, yes, they are great as a portable, low profile IEM, you get great comfort for long journeys (flying) and great isolation. The sound is easy to like, and listen to.
I have not heard the Shure SE535 in a long time, but I think these are as good, if not slightly better than the SE535 (depending on the cable used) I do prefer the fit of the Westone's (housing shape and cable) the case is better, and also the tips are better.
Sound Perfection Rating: 8.5/10
Thank you for reading, photos taken by Felix Speller: www.felixspeller.com
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