I got my first set of in-ears in 2006 and they were Westone UM2. They sounded great to me and served well for several years before I talked myself into moving up the UM3x-rc. I thought they sounded even better but I couldn't say exactly how besides noticeably better bass. My preferred tips all this time was the Comply large. About 2 years ago I ordered UM56 custom tips for universal monitors. Despite the hassle of inserting them and the ease of losing them I thought it was a very worthy upgrade. The bass became even deeper and impactful and very controlled. The UM3/UM56 combo was a frankenstein of poor treble response however, as the universal monitors are not tuned to account for a 90 degree bend in silicone. Treble boost was the order of the day but seemed to sound good. After losing one of the tips at my feet, outside, and never being able to find it, I decided full customs of some kind would be the better way to go. Out of curiosity about the new ES60 Westones I made inquiry at a local pro music shop to see what kind of price I could get, and when it turned out to be largely discounted, I ordered a pair. I thought this would be a matter of convenience, that I'd hear little or no difference from my beloved UM3Xs. They had the ability to make pretty much anything sound good. Very forgiving.
All of the custom monitors come in an air-tight "monitor vault" with dessicant and Oto-Ease.
This color is called Champagne.
I'd been living in a fool's paradise. Let me explain. I put them in and selected a track to audition. In the first two SECONDS of the song my brain went "whoa!" and I very suddenly realized the oldest of head-fi clichés, a veil had been lifted away. The song I chose was one I was very familiar with as I've had it in heavy rotation this summer. It's not particularly well recorded but it has some interesting content. The song was "The Owl and the Tanager" by Sufjan Stevens from the All Delighted People EP. It contains only piano and voice but the piano is an upright mic'd from inside the cabinet. In the first 2 seconds you hear the "air" of the inside of the piano and the mechanical action itself, and the action of taking his foot off the damper pedal caused a small, audible "zwing" sound across the strings. I could hear this plainly with the UM3X but it was exactly that sound, a "zwing" sound which my brain identified as piano strings. With the ES60, that sound became INDIVIDUAL strings being touched. The difference was undeniable. The "air" also sounded much closer, literally like a curtain had been pulled back.
After that I listened to a variety of favorites over the next few days and here are my thoughts. I had read extensively in the forum about the ES5 having a noticeable mid-bass hump which bothers some people. In contrast to my UM3Xs, the ES60 did seem to have a more prominent mid-bass. I decided not to think about that, just the overall quality of what I was hearing. That lack of mid-bass in the UM3X made it seem the bass was really tight. The ES60 made me realize that there was more bass to be heard all along and I simply wasn't used to hearing it. After a couple of days the ES60 started to sound "just right" to me.
Shirley Horn, Here's To Life, Track 1: Strings sound very good, airy, right there in the room. Her voice sounds natural with some very slight sibilance from the mic. Piano sounded just right. You can hear that the strings are in a different session but there is overall a nice concert hall effect. In comparison on the UM3X the strings sounded artificial, the piano cold and dull. All sibilance was gone from the vocal. It also sounded like I'd taken several steps back from the action. On the last track of that album, Summer (Estate), there is a light tapping drum sound just center left. The ES60 rendered this as down lower in front of me in space. The UM3X it was flat across the center, on the same plane as the vocals and strings. On both tracks the difference with the bar chimes was blatant, being much more high and clear with the ES60. The piano also sounded much more articulate.
After several hours of listening, swapping, comparing, I finally gave up on the UM3X. Every time I thought I had identified a possibly issue with the ES60, switching to the UM3X sounded less good or actually worse, and sometimes, in the case of the UM56 tips, sounded much worse, especially on massed instruments and/or voices.
Listening to fairly recent closely mic'd and well recorded material like Daudi Matsiko - A Brief Introduction To Failure, Adult Jazz - Gist Is (both available in 16/44 on Bandcamp), or Medeski Martin & Wood - Tonic (esp. Hey Joe, DR 17!) reveals a level of intimacy I have not experienced before although I thought I had.
In conclusion I have stopped analyzing what I'm hearing and giving my attention fully to the new experience offered. My beloved UM3X will be relegated to guest duty.
The pressing question now is how do the ES60 compare to the ES5? I can't answer that but I'm sure someone will come along that can.
Vocals seem recessed somewhat but comparisons to the UM3X or even Grado SRx, they could all stand to be a little more "full." All three are significantly recessed compared to my room studio monitors, but that's a given. I noticed a large spatial difference also in that when vocals are brought down in the mix and/or compression is applied the voice sounds convincingly like it's farther away from you.
Resolution is very high. Individual instruments are easily heard in ensemble playing. Treble extension far exceeds the UM3X but after listening for many hours I detect no fatigue. Virtually everything I listened to sounded fresh and the other cliché - I heard things I'd never noticed before. They are more sensitive than the UM3X, average volume change 8-10 lower on the ES60 with the FiiO on high gain. Are they perfect? No. Do they have a mid-bass hump? Don't know don't care.
Build quality: Excellent
Isolation: near-total. Gun range quality. Do not use around dangerous equipment!
Source used: FiiO X5, all files 16/44.
Price paid: Under $1200 with tax. Shop around!