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Westone W50 Five Driver Universal Fit Noise Isolating Earphones, 78505

  1. Luckbad
    A dark horse of an earphone that is certain to polarize listeners
    Written by Luckbad
    Published Jul 15, 2015
    Pros - Great bass depth, Good impact for BA, Excellent soundstage, Amazing build and accessories, Really comfortable
    Cons - Dark tonal signature, Expensive, Needs EQ to sound good to me, Need an amp to sound their best, Overhyped
    [Originally posted at Basshead.Club]
    A dark horse of an earphone that is certain to polarize listeners. Can the Westone W50 prove to be the best Balanced Armature IEM for bassheads?

    Westone W50 In the Box

    1. 5 Balanced Armature drivers per earpiece with 3-way crossover
      1. 1 Low, 2 Mid, 2 High
    2. 2 Cables (one EPIC braided, one Apple MFi w/ 3-button control and mic)
    3. 3 Faceplates (Red, Gunmetal, Gold)
    4. Monitor Vault (aka “a really good case”)
    5. A grip of tips: STAR silicone, True-Fit… they’re nice small bore tips, some long flange silicone and others foam.
    6. Cleaning tool

    Westone W50 Impressions

    I’ve been listening to the Westone W50 for a couple weeks now, and I still don’t know if I love them. When opening the box, you are greeted with a beautiful IEM, multiple plates, and many options for eartips.

    Turning on some music yields a very dark tonal signature that some people are going to absolutely loathe, while others will get used to it and appreciate the zero fatigue you get from listening to the W50 for extended periods of time. The comfort of the earphone combined with the very relaxed, bass-emphasized sound and incredible soundstage (some of the best separation and staging I’ve heard in an IEM) will win some people over.

    Me? I’m honestly still unsure. I love my bass, but I also enjoy being directly engaged with my music. Until I listened to some jazz on high quality Chesky recordings, I really didn’t get engrossed in any music with the Westone W50. These tracks are extremely well recorded and are amazing for trying to hear different instruments and positioning. These IEMs do it better than just about any other I’ve listened to. I can tell where every instrument is and I can identify every nuance in the songs. That alone could be quite a selling point for some.

    If I apply equalization to the W50 to match what my ears want to hear (and, of course, push the bass harder than any sane person would), they can dive very deep into the sub-bass and have formidable impact for a BA-only IEM (as opposed to a Dynamic or Hybrid setup). They can almost match the Noble 5 in bass depth, which is an achievement given that I’d never heard a Balanced Armature-only IEM that could go so deep until hearing those.

    I have absolutely no criticisms with the build quality, comfort, tips, cables (you get two) or accessories with the Westone W50. Everything is top notch, and I even love the case (many high end IEMs come with the same case that is almost too small to avoid damaging the earpieces; the W50 has a nice thick case that fits them perfectly).

    Where I have qualms is the extreme price tag ($600-$750) coupled with a sound signature that is not going to appeal to many. It’s dark and, to me, unengaging. The earphones are extremely capable, respond well to EQ, and can get to basshead territory. With consideration for the cost, however, I don’t expect to have to hand-tune an equalizer until I find the sound pleasant. Westone took a risk with the W50, and I’m not sure it panned out terribly well for them.

    Note: The Westone W50 were tested with various amps/dacs, including the Creative X-Fi Titanium HD, Asus SupremeFX 2014, Objective2, ODAC, Cayin C5, and Samsung Galaxy S5. Better pairing recommendations are welcome.

    Westone W50 Frequency Response

    This curve was generated using a Dayton Audio EMM-6 Electret Measurement Microphone, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio interface, and Room EQ Wizard. The mic calibration file was provided by Dayton Audio and the output calibration file was generated using the program itself (3.5mm out on PC to 1/4″ input on Scarlett 2i4).

    1. Green: Stock frequency response (Dark)
    2. Blue: Basshead frequency response after applying EQ (I like how they sound this way)


    Sample Basshead EQ Curve

    This is just a basic graphical EQ. I forgot to save my parametric settings, so you get a screenshot of this one:


    Westone W50 Specifications

    1. SENSITIVITY: 118 dB SPL @ 1 mW
    2. FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
    3. IMPEDANCE: 25 ohms @ 1 kHz
    5. DRIVER: 5 balanced armature drivers with a 3-way crossover.
    6. WEIGHT: 0.445 ounces/12.7grams
    7. CABLE: EPIC Replaceable cable and MFI G2 cable
    8. CABLE LENGTH: 50″ / 128 cm

    Westone W50



















    1. - Great bass depth
    2. - Good impact for BA
    3. - Excellent soundstage
    4. - Amazing build and accessories
    5. - Really comfortable


    1. - Dark tonal signature
    2. - Expensive
    3. - Needs EQ to sound good to me
    4. - Need an amp to sound their best
    5. - Overhyped

      Hawaiibadboy likes this.
    1. Jeff Y
      It's great for sure but I also agree that it's overhyped. Nicely done! :)
      Jeff Y, Jul 15, 2015
    2. twister6
      Good honest review.  Not sure if you read my W50/W60/Pro50 reviews (look under my profile, I have index link to all my Head-fi reviews), but I found W50 to be a different bird for sure which needs a low impedance source, doesn't play nice with colored amps, and benefits hugely from an aftermarket cable upgrade (silver one would make a big difference).  Driving it from Galaxy S5 or some of your colored amps will make them sound muddy.  But with everything else into consideration, you can make them shine if you like good bass impact.  Also, everybody dropped their price to $599 for these.  I'm not a fan of EQ, but tweaking mid-bass can bring them close to $1k W60 performance where once you balance the sound, upper mids and treble come up.
      Regarding being overhyped, that is one I don't agree with.  There are hardly any comprehensive reviews about it on the net.  I few good ones from reputable websites, and I also consider mine to give people an honest perspective, and then a few other reviews from places that have no idea about headphones and just praise the looks with one-liner about the sound.
      twister6, Jul 15, 2015
  2. twister6
    Audiophile Basshead Delight!
    Written by twister6
    Published Jul 3, 2015
    Pros - bass (if you like it), comfortable fitment, lots of accessories, removable cable
    Cons - bass (if you hate it), sound is very source dependent

    Before I start my review, I would like to Thank Westone for providing me with  review sample in exchange for my honest opinion. http://westoneaudio.com/index.php/products/w-series/westone-w50.html
    Also, these are available right now at a special discount price of $599.99 on http://www.earphonesolutions.com/westone-w50.html and https://www.headphonescanada.ca/earphones-iem/westone-w50-earphones-signature-series

    What do you do after completing the review and comparison of Westone’s flagship UM Pro 50 and W60 models?  Pat yourself on the back?  Take a vacation?  Maybe get a fresh tattoo?  How about satisfying your curiosity by going back to review another Signature Series IEM, their 5-driver W50 model?  That is exactly what I had in mind for this review.  I think it’s common for a lot of well known manufacturers to have one peculiar model in their lineup that generates a rather polarizing opinion.  To my surprise, that’s exactly what I found searching among limited impressions about this Westone model.  Thus, I took this review as a challenge to find out which side of the fence I’m going to end up on.  Also, due to similarities between W60 and W50, I will reuse parts of my W60 write-up referring to packaging and accessories.
    Looking at W50 box, you are greeted with an outer sleeve featuring a high-res image of Westone new W-series 5-driver IEM on the front of the packaging.  The look of the cover has the same layout as W40 but "W" logo is now in silver and there is a "Signature Series" label above the model number; exactly the same as in W60 packaging except featuring a silver plate instead of copper.  On the back and the sides of the sleeve you have a detailed description of the design, accessories, and tech specs.  You definitely get an in-depth picture of what awaits you inside.  With an outer sleeve off, you are presented with a premium soft touch magnetic cover inner box which contains headphones and plethora of the accessories.
    I have to admit, the amount and the quality of included custom accessories is very impressive for the first time Westone customer, but it could leave you a bit disappointed if you are upgrading to W50 from any of their lower model, even as basic as a single driver W10, since there is no premium accessory distinction.  Seems that with accessories Westone made a conscious decision where every W-series customer can feel special, either if you spent $200 for their single driver or $1k for their 6-driver pair of headphones, with nearly an identical package including their 5 patented pairs of Star silicone eartips, 5 pairs of True-Fit foam eartips, 3 sets of interchangeable color faceplates, mini monitor-vault case, and 2 sets of Epic audio and MFI G2 smartphone cables with mmcx connectors.
    I already mentioned in my previous reviews that I believe Westone has a definite advantage over other IEM manufacturers because they have been in audio business for over 55 years and have a full catalog of not only professional audio but also hearing protection products.  As a result, don’t expect to find a typical generic S/M/L eartips or a pair of Comply tips in a plastic bag.  With a color coded marked stems, Star silicone tips are designed with multiple flex-zones and have 5 pairs in different length, shape, and size.  The same with True-Fit foam tips, you get 5 pairs with color coded stems and shapes similar to Star tips.  Their foam density has a medium recovery property - not too soft or too firm.  You also get a cleaning tool with a small metal loop to clean inside of a narrow nozzle or eartip stems, and a pelican style small “vault” storage case.  This case is OK to use with included thin flexible cable, but if you decide to go with a thicker aftermarket cable – you will need to step up to a bigger case.
    As part of their W-series “consumer” appeal, Westone also adds an option of customizable interchangeable faceplates.  With W50, the same as W60, they made faceplate colors different from other lower models, giving Signature Series a more premium look with included red/silver/copper metallic finish plates.  Plates are actually plastic but have a metal color finish which still keeps it lightweight and durable without adding extra weight to the shell.  Also, with an included small screwdriver tool they are very easy to take off and secure back on, and you don’t have to worry about losing a screw which stays with a faceplate.  One important thing to note, Westone is updating their cover plate design to include a model number instead of just “W”.  New cover plates will not be backward compatible with old plates and new W-series design doesn’t work with old plates either.  This is just a cosmetic change, nothing else is affected.
    Included removable cables give you an option of either audio only Epic twisted cable or MFI G2 cable with in-line remote for smartphones.  Epic cable is thin, lightweight, and flexible, with ultra low resistance tensile wire design reinforced with aramid fiber.  For a stock cable it actually has a decent audio performance.  G2 cable has a more robust rounded shielding, still soft and flexible, and comes with in-line remote/mic.  Though multi-function button is OS independent and can be used for Play/Pause/Call, the volume up/down buttons are for iOS only operation.  Westone offers a similar cable (Android version) with universal remote where volume buttons are removed to eliminate the confusion.  In my opinion, the remote could be smaller and I would keep it universal with a single multi-function button covering both Android and iOS smartphones.  Personally, I’m a big fan of aftermarket audio cables, such as pure silver or pure copper, but they do come at a premium price and heavier weight.  Either way, removable cable option is a big plus and gives you flexibility of future upgrades.
    One thing you do have to keep in mind, something a lot of people don’t realize, is about the profile of Westone mmcx connectors.  It is true that Westone uses common mmcx type, but these have slightly shorter length, not a standard size.  As a result, you can use any mmcx based universal cable with Westone (new W-series or UM-series) IEMs, but you will not be able to use their Epic or G2 cable with other mmcx connector based IEMs, such as those from UE, JVC, Fidue, and others.  For that reason, when you are looking into replacement custom cables, I would recommend to specify universal mmcx connector rather than Westone specific connector.
    When it comes to a design, Westone bean-shaped shells are among the most comfortable universal fit IEMs I have tested.  I think it’s another example of how they have an advantage over competition while drawing from a pool of their knowledge and experience of designing ergonomic hearing protection products.  These headphone shells have a very stick and lightweight rounded design, and the most important - they stay the same size regardless of driver config, with an exception of W10/W20 being slightly smaller.  Westone model index is based on a number of drivers, where W10 or UM Pro 10 correspond to a single BA driver, while 20/30/40/50/60 represent up to 6 BA drivers per shell.  It's quite possible they take advantage of combined BA driver modules to reduce number of components, and I can confirm there is no difference in size or shape going from 4-driver W40 to 5-driver W50 or 6-driver W60.
    Unlike UM Pro series offered in clear and smoke translucent shells, W-series is non-transparent, made out of black lightweight durable plastic, and customizable with interchangeable faceplates that come handy when you mix the colors to distinguish L/R sides, perhaps using Red plate on a right side.  That’s how I have it on W40, but I stayed with a default silver color on W50 which still has a premium look and distinguishes itself from W60.  Another point to make, something that already came up in questions after my W40 review, the shell joint around mmcx connector housing is not cracked!  Some people freak out and go into panic mode thinking they applied too much force when disconnecting the cable, causing it to crack, while in reality it’s just a joint gap intended by a design.
    The shape and fitment of Westone IEMs is not symmetrical, so there is no confusion which piece goes into which ear, and for further guidance faceplates also have a large L/R letter for a better id.  The wire fitment is always over the ear, it’s very comfortable and produces no microphonics even when cable is rubbing against your cloth.  There is no visible pinhole port to let the air in/out of the shell, while sound still remains relatively spacious.  Nozzle is very narrow, build sturdy despite being thin, corresponds to T100 Comply size, and I never experienced a problem of leaving an eartip behind when earpieces removed from my ears, though I do have to admit I typically use the largest size tips.
    Design and cable details.
    Before I dive into sound analysis, I would like to mention a few things about eartips.  I have come across a number of sound impressions and even brief reviews with people using eartips installed by default.  There is a very good reason why Westone includes so many unique eartips bundled with their accessories.  Go through different pairs (tip-rolling), study how it affects the sound, and spend more than a minute to figure out the comfort - experiment and you will not believe a sound difference!!!  Especially with Westone IEMs and particularly W50, selection of the correct eartip size is VERY crucial in sound shaping.  Ensuring a proper seal of your ear canal opening will guarantee the best sound balance, and at the same time – the level of seal will control the amount of bass bloat.
    Another important factor to keep in mind is the replacement cable.  It’s convenient to be able to have a choice between audio only and smartphone control cables, but it also opens up a door to a whole new world of aftermarket premium cables made with pure silver, pure copper, silver/gold alloy, silver-plated, and other high N-purity OFC wires – all of which play an interesting part in shaping of the sound.  There is no formula for that and it will depend in your source and/or amplifiers used in conjunction with it.
    You don’t see too many manufacturers offering TOTL cable with their TOTL headphones, but considering it will drive the price beyond its already TOTL level, manufacturers typically leave it up to the users to make that upgrade.  I did mention that I find Epic cable to be quite capable and very comfortable, but it makes W50 sound dark and bassy.  I went through a few of my favorite cables to see how they affect W50 sound, and I found that original Epic and Pure Copper (Whiplash audio) cables making sound darker and more veiled, while Pure Silver (Whiplash audio and even ASEN) making it brighter and more detailed. 
    When it comes to cable upgrade, it’s usually not a necessity but rather a refinement measure, though in case of W50 you might want to squeeze out every ounce of that ‘refinement’ for a better control of the low end.  In case of Epic vs Silver cables - silver cable brightens up a sound, adds more details, and expands staging perception a bit.  The difference is not exactly night'n'day, but it does feel like a layer of thin veil is lifted off and sound becomes a little faster and crispier.
    With a proper eartip and cable selection out of the way, now here comes a sound analysis of W50. 
    It has a warm smooth lush sound, very similar to W60, but with a more noticeable low end emphasis and even thicker lower mids.  I'm still on the fence if bass spills a bit into lower mids or were they [lower mids] tuned like this.  This low end emphasis makes sound geared more toward V-shaped signature (maybe even borderline L-shaped).  Soundstage has a good level of width and depth, but due to thicker sound the layering and separation is not at their best.  This also affects imaging where sound can get a bit congested in more complex song passages.  But all this put together is actually not a negative comment since the intention of these IEMs are NOT to be analytical detailed headphones but rather Audiophile Basshead in-ear monitors!
    Low end has a great extension down to a textured layer of sub-bass, followed by a mid-bass boost with a smooth slower attack and a longer decay.  Even with such enhanced bass, I wouldn't call it bloated, but rather warm and rounded.
    Midrange has a thick warm lower mids that give a lot of body to a sound, and together with low end they do overpower spectrum balance a bit, taking away from some upper mids clarity.  Upper mids have a lot of similarity with W60, but they feel a bit recessed due to V-shaped sound sig nature.
    Treble is also very similar to W60, where it’s smooth and clear, but has an early roll off.  You will never experience sibilance or fatigue listening to W50, the warm lush sound stays throughout entire frequency range.
    It’s really hard to describe W50 without constantly referencing W60; these two actually have a lot of similarities.  In a summary:
    W50 vs W60 - W60 adds a little more definition in upper mids which are also slightly brighter. With a little more brightness, sound perception is more expanded as well.  In comparison, W60 upper mids are a little more forward.  The biggest difference is in mid-bass boost where sub-bass is nearly the same, but W50 has a higher quantity of mid-bass boost which spills a little into lower mids (still flip-flopping on this one).  As a result, a sound is more V-shaped (borderline L-shaped), with mids (and vocals/details) taking a step back in favor of a more predominant bass boost.  W50 upper mids still have plenty of clarity, just a touch less details in comparison to W60.
    Through experimentation I found 3dB cut around 125Hz to bring mid-bass under control.  This was an interesting discovery since it brought W50 sound so much closer to W60.  This way with EQ adjustment you can either have a more powerful bass or a more tamed balanced sound signature.  But even in pop songs or slower tracks where there is not too much bass - mids were shining as much as they do in W60, except I found lower mids to be a bit thicker, adding a bit more warmth and body to a sound.  But once you dive into a bass heavy or bass-drum pounding track – hold on to your seat and enjoy the Basshead ride!
    Even so one might assume that W50 will have a closer resemblance to UM Pro 50, I found that to be not true.
    W50 vs UM Pro 50 - Pro 50 treble has a better extension and a little more sparkle, upper mids are slightly brighter and a touch more forward, lower mids are a little leaner, mid-bass is faster and leaner without spilling as much into lower mids, and sub-bass has a touch less quantity than in W50.  Typical of UM series, soundstage is also a little more narrow.  It feels like W50 is positioned somewhere between W60 and UM Pro 50 where W50 upper mids and treble are closer to W60 while mid-bass has bigger impact like in Pro 50, and lower mids are warmer than both W60 and Pro 50.
    Since I still had my SE846 loaner with me, before sending it out I did a quick comparison with these as well to find:
    W50 vs SE846 - Just like in my comparison of 846 with W60, SE lower mids are thinner, upper mids are more upfront, brighter, and less organic (sounds a bit artificial, especially when it comes to vocals).  846 bass has less sub-bass and faster/punchier mid-bass which is better controlled without spilling into lower mids.  W50 upper mids are definitely smoother.
    Another important discovery during my testing was how different sources affected a sound signature of W50.
    Galaxy Note 4 - sound is more v-shaped, mids are duller and not as clear, and sound was more veiled.  Bass had the most bloat.
    Cayin N6 - good detailed sound with a great bass punch and clear upper mids with snappy treble.  It sounded very musical, smooth, and lush.
    L&P LP5 - sound is a bit dull and veiled until you switch from low impedance to high impedance output which suppose to reduce output HO impedance.  As soon as you do that, sound becomes more vibrant and engaging, mids are more forward, brighter, and detailed.
    FiiO X5ii - excellent pair up, great detailed bass with a nice punch, mids are more forward, brighter, and clear. FiiO DAP has extremely low output impedance, specified at < 0.2 ohm.
    A&K AK120ii - excellent pair up, great detailed bass with a nice punch, mids are more forward/balanced, clear (smooth, but not as detailed).  Output impedance specified at < 2 ohms.
    QA360 – had the Best synergy with W50, and a perfect balance between low end, mids, and treble.  Mids are no longer pushed back, very clear and actually showing more sign of details, lower mids are no longer as thick (but still retain their body), bass becomes faster, mid-bass has a strong impact but well control without spilling into lower mids.
    It seems that output impedance of your source will play an important role in sound shaping of W50.  This probably also explains such a polarizing opinion about W50 sound quality.  Anybody who is trying W50 with their smartphone as a source will find their sound to be dark, bloated, and even veiled.  But once you switch to a higher quality low output impedance source, and find a set of appropriate eartips to loosen up a seal in order to lower bass slam, and maybe switch to a silver or silver-plated cable to brighten up a sound – you will hear a night and day difference!
    I will try to be brief and to the point in my summary.  It is very important to understand W50 sound signature and their bass-dominant tuning.  Some people might have misconception they are dealing with 5-driver IEM that going to deliver crystal clear sound with analytical details.  If that’s what you are after - W50 is NOT for you.  W50 is Audiophile quality Basshead IEMs that require a proper setup in order to make them shine.  If you want a smooth and more laid back balanced sound, go for W60.  If you want faster and more aggressive sound with more mid-bass punch, go for UM Pro 50.  But if you are craving a smooth sound with a more dominant mid-bass impact, warmer mids, and a fun signature - W50 is calling your name to start pounding on your eardrums!!!
    1. View previous replies...
    2. shultzee
      Nice Review !
      shultzee, Jul 3, 2015
    3. DJScope
      awesome review man! well done!
      DJScope, Jul 5, 2015
    4. Paulus XII
      Holly ****!
      Paulus XII, Jul 5, 2015