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Westone Elite Series or Ultimate Ears Pro Recommendations

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Unfortunately my EarSonics SM3s just wonked out after less than two years of careful use. I've narrowed down my next IEM to either the Westone Eilite Series or Ultimate Ears Pro models. My main use for these will be for drum performance and mixing purposes, so I prefer them to be as neutral as possible. Although I mainly play & listen to progressive styles of rock. My other main concern is which of the two is better durability wise...  

 

Any advice would be much obliged. 

post #2 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Closing View Post  Unfortunately my EarSonics SM3s just wonked out after less than two years of careful use. I've narrowed down my next IEM to either the Westone Eilite Series or Ultimate Ears Pro models. My main use for these will be for drum performance and mixing purposes, so I prefer them to be as neutral as possible. Although I mainly play & listen to progressive styles of rock. My other main concern is which of the two is better durability wise...    Any advice would be much obliged. 


Elite Series or UE Pro models? You're talking about custom IEMs then?

 

Westone's CIEMs are all skewed warm; they're chiefly designed for stage use. If you mix with them, there's a likelihood your mix will be colder than normal. You can mix with them, but just remember to double-check on studio monitors to make sure your mix sounds right. Sound signature-wise, the ES5 is quite pleasant to listen to --- it's very organic feeling and envelopes you with a richness that is just easy to listen to. If you're coming from the SM3, then Westone monitors have a similar enough sound, but do keep in mind that neither Westone nor EarSonics designs sound signatures that go beyond stage use, and thus are all fairly warm and lush-sounding in the vocals, with somewhat relaxed treble. Nothing will come close to what is considered neutral.

 

Ultimate Ears has a range of CIEMs that range from quite warm (UE18) to quite neutral (Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors). Their recommendations for stage use are the UE18, but I personally would recommend the UE11. It's not as expansive sounding as the UE18, but the midrange is tonally more neutral-sounding, despite its sitting spatially farther back in the mix.

 

For mixing use, the ideal choice are the Reference Monitors (UERM). The UERM was a collaborative development with Capitol Studios to create a "mobile studio" --- they took the basic sound of the Yamaha NS10, and adapted it to balanced armature drivers, in addition to making up for some of its shortcomings. The result is a Capitol Studios-approved sound signature that is very, very close to dead neutral. Adherents of Etymotic's ER4 will tell you that the UERM has more bass than is dead neutral, and not enough presence in the 1-4 kHz region, as well as an elevated 10 kHz region, and they have their point, but the UERM is on a practical level just as good an alternative. After all, the UERM was designed to fit into the Capitol Studios ecosystem, and they likely accounted for their own studio environment. UE's second-most neutral earpiece is the entry-level UE4, which is a little more V-shaped than the UERM, but is very nice for its entry-level positioning.

 

For both performance and mixing purposes, I'd actually recommend a third candidate -- the JH13PRO FreqPhase. Personally, I'm not into Jerry Harvey's super aggressive-sounding earpieces, but the JH13 is definitely a rock star's earpiece. It'll give you the bass resolution to perform well with drums, but will still be neutral enough to mix (but it's not as neutral as the UERM). Its stereo imaging is top-notch, so checking pans with the JH13 will be easy.

 

With respect to durability, you can't really go wrong with any CIEM, to be honest. They're all designed to withstand the rigors of stage and studio use. There's a possibility that the soft material of the Westone ES tips will break down earlier, but it isn't likely. The more likely scenario is that the soft material starts yellowing and looks uglier (but it's in your ears, so the audience won't be able to see).

 

FYI, there is a world out there beyond the big three of UE, Westone, and JH Audio. Many are more cost-effective than the big three, and they offer sounds that are at least comparable or will even surpass models in the same price range, but if it's after-sales service you're looking for, then UE and Westone are the safest bets. I suggest you browse head-fi a bit longer to see what other options are out there. Most reviews are quite thorough with respect to how neutral an earpiece sounds, or whether it offers good bass resolution.

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

I probably should have explained that I have an Allen & Heath QU-16 for live band mixing and also home demoing. That's really the limit of my mixing purposes. After-sales service is definitely a big thing. Dealing with EarSonics has not been a cakewalk to say the least. Of course reliability comes first though. I'm always open to listening to other suggestions that are better bang for the buck. For instance, Unique Melody seemed to be in that boat, but I was put off by the fact that they're made in China and are more on the colored side. 

post #4 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Closing View Post  I probably should have explained that I have an Allen & Heath QU-16 for live band mixing and also home demoing. That's really the limit of my mixing purposes. After-sales service is definitely a big thing. Dealing with EarSonics has not been a cakewalk to say the least. Of course reliability comes first though. I'm always open to listening to other suggestions that are better bang for the buck. For instance, Unique Melody seemed to be in that boat, but I was put off by the fact that they're made in China and are more on the colored side. 

 

I would not say that Unique Melody's monitors are any more colored than offerings from Westone or UE; in fact, more of them err on the side of neutral than do these other ones.

 

Also, 'Made in China' really doesn't hold a lot of meaning here, as all of the UV acrylic material is sourced from the same few German manufacturers (Egger, Dreve, Loctite, Heba, etc.) and often, Chinese manufacturers craft CIEMs to higher standards than most US-based manufacturers. Peripheral components (cables, connectors, tubing, etc.) for basically all CIEM manufacturers are sourced from the same few factories located in China, Taiwan, and Korea. The only thing about the "Made in China" stigma is that you're not directly supporting a local economy, though these days, supporting the Chinese economy is indirectly propping up the US economy (and vice versa).

 

With that said, most of the time, I still advocate buying local, because servicing CIEMs takes time, and time is always precious. My basis for not going with UM would be that they often run into production delays, and distributors for UM are a mess, with only one or two reliable distributors (luckily, the US-based one, Stephen Guo, seems to be the most reliable of all of them).

 

If you're in the US, I would suggest looking at something like 1964Ears, which offers decent value, is made in the USA, and has English-speaking staff. Their 1964-V6 is not perfectly neutral, but is a decent choice for the price. You're still going to get superior performance out of something like a JH13 or UERM, if sheer technical performance is what you're looking for.

 

If you're willing to forgo speed of service but still have very good communication with service staff, Noble Audio and Cosmic Ears both have great offerings. Noble Audio offers exclusive aesthetic options, some of the best build quality in the industry, and a wide array of sound signatures, with the 4C/4S probably being your best bet for what you're looking for. Cosmic Ears has some of the lowest prices around, and has a an option in the BA4R that fits your sound signature requirements at a very low price. It is, however, limited in terms of aesthetic options. Build times sometimes seem to be erratic as well.

 

Indeed, if you're looking for dead-on neutral, the UERM is your sure-fire bet, and it's backed up by time-tested after-sales service.

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thank you, that was very informative. I just order the V3 from 1964. 


Edited by The Closing - 3/11/14 at 10:14am
post #6 of 6

That was fast --- did you consult with Vitaliy & Co. about which model was most suitable for you?

 

The V3 is a good overall choice, though not the most neutral. I'd been wondering about their revised V2 model, which should be fairly neutral, as most dual driver setups are neutral to V-shaped.

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