Westone W80-V3 – impressions and comparisons:
Time to expand…
I already tested and posted impressions for the entire Etymotic lineup. I also discussed the Lucid Audio family tree, including the latest newcomer member of the family – Westone Audio. So now, here are my impressions, comparisons, and notes on… Westone’s top universal IEM – the Westone W80-V3.
W80 technical specs:
8 Balanced Armature (BA) Drivers per IEM
Sensitivity: 111dB SPL at 1mW
Impedance: 5 Ohms at 1kHz
Frequency Response: 5Hz to 22kHz
VERY easy to drive IEMs, which cover the entire audible range (and then some), achieving that with a boatload of BA drivers.
Quick note on my translation:
I sincerely apologize to the 2 audiophiles who can hear 3Hz or the 4 audiophiles who can hear over 22kHz. I guess for you the W80 covers almost
the entire audible range
Note on my quick note on my translation:
when manufacturers give a frequency response range (5Hz to 22kHz in this case) – it does not mean the IEM will cut off audio (if there is any) below 5Hz and/or above 22kHz. It means that those frequencies would not be as loud. Usually, 3dB reduction in loudness at those points, and usually rolling off pretty quickly thereafter.
Fit and comfort:
Wow! The first thing I noticed (quite literally) is how seamless and naturally the W80 fit my ears!!
Taking a step back, let me share with you that during the first 2-3 years in this hobby I completely avoided IEMs, because I could never get a good fit or seal. Either IEMs caused me physical pain, or I had no good seal, or in some cases the IEM would just start slipping out of my ears (while I am seated. Forget about jogging with IEMs)… Etymotic ER series IEMs, once getting the deep insertion done properly, fixed those issues for me – good seal, no pain, and not slipping out of my ear canals. In fact, on multiple occasions I ended up using ER2/3/4 IEMs for 4-5 hours straight, totally forgetting I have something stuck inside my ear canals!
For me, the EVO represented a small improvement in fit and comfort. Still the same deep insertion, but the concha shaped shell just fit me so well (granted, I did see few people mention that EVO did not work for their ear shape).
Now, on to the W80… so why did I say that the W80 is so great in fit and comfort if I have no real issues with the ER2/3/4 or EVO? Let me answer by using shoes analogy (my GF would be so proud of me!
Etymotic ER2/3/4 and EVO are (to me) like a good fitting pair of sneakers. You can wear them all day long, without feeling any discomfort, pain or foot fatigue. But, when you get home and take them off, slipping your feet into your fuzzy slippers (ok, ok, I do not have fuzzy slippers… so just plain soft slippers then) – all of the sudden you feel like your feet are so much happier!
Same with the W80. For me, nothing wrong with 4-5 hour session with ER4XR or EVO. Switching over to the W80, though – your ear canals are suddenly so much happier!
I will rate the fit for MY ears: ER < EVO < W80
Passive isolation (blocking noise):
The W80 being smaller and insertion not as deep improves comfort and fit (as described above), but you do pay a SMALL price in passive isolation. When using the foam tips on the w80 and triple-flange on ER4XR / EVO – noise isolation is almost identical. However, when using the silicone tips on the W80 – the noise isolation is a small step behind the ER4XR and EVO.
Amplification / power requirement:
As mentioned above, being a 5 Ohms / 111 dB IEM – these are VERY easy to drive. Using my FiiO M11 DAP for the impressions on high-gain and stock cable (3.5mm SE) – I had to lower the volume by 20 coming from the ER4SR / ER4XR. To get similar loudness – I went from 65 for ER4 to 45 for the W80. That is a big difference.
So, compared to ER4SR / ER4XR – power is not important but the source noise floor starts playing a role with the W80!
You definitely want a source with low noise floor, though. For what it's worth, in my testing - I did not have any noise issues with my FiiO M11 DAP. Not even on high gain.
Sound impressions and comparisons:
Usually, when I audition IEMs, I start with the bass (and sub-bass) since, for me:
- Bass is very important, being a minor case of a basshead, and some IEMs are just too anemic to my taste!
- Some IEMs take it to the other extreme, making the bass just too emphasized and dominant (even for me).
- Lastly, it should have good quality and control. Bass should not bleed into the mids, and should have texture and details (as opposed to single-note-bass).
The W80 bass is very very good! The W80 bass sounds natural with slight warmth. NOT basshead IEMs, for sure, but even for my personal taste - they have good amount and great quality. I will describe it as natural and slightly warmer than neutral bass. Utilizing BA drivers, the bass has faster decay and transients compared to DD based bass. Sub-bass extension is impressive, not surprisingly (spec’d down to 5 Hz!!!) – I could feel the rumble in my sub-bass test tracks (e.g. Lorde’s Royals, and Deadmau5 Imaginary Friends).
Compared to Etymotic ER4SR, ER4XR and EVO - to my ears the ER4SR had noticeable less bass than the W80. ER4XR and EVO were much closer to the W80 bass.
On some tracks, I would rate bass and sub bass as: ER4SR < W80 and ER4XR < EVO
But on other tracks, it sounded more like: ER4SR < ER4XR < W80 and EVO
The first thing that came to my mind after coupe hours listening to my test tracks: W80 mids and high-mids are very smooth! No risk of sibilance or harshness at all, and all of that without losing details or resolution. I can easily listen for hours without any fatigue, even to tracks with high-mids that cause me to flinch or cringe (with other IEMs).
The mids sounded very natural to me, with very slight warmth. I think the mids are quite comparable to ER4SR and EVO, with a small amount of extra details.
The W80 treble is relaxed - never gets harsh or piercing. Details are very good and so is the clarity. Thanks to the relaxed treble, you can easily listen for hours and never get fatigued.
Compared to my Etymotic IEMs, W80 treble extends higher. I think it will satisfy the few who claimed the ER4SR or EVO are too rolled-off at the treble (which is not my opinion). Here is how I would rate the treble:
EVO and ER4SR < W80
The W80 has a great soundstage for an IEM. I got a sense of width and spaciousness more so than other IEMs.
Compared to the Etymotic IEMs, I would rate the soundstage as:
ER4SR and ER4XR < EVO < W80
The W80 is a great flagship level IEM from Westone. The tuning is laidback and relaxed with good detail and resolution. W80 has impressed me with its low frequency extension of the bass and sub-bass, and its treble is spot on for my preference – detailed yet not piercing nor fatiguing. The mids are very pleasing and detailed.
This is a great IEM for very long listening sessions thanks to its superb physical fit and comfort, and its sound that lacks any sign of harshness or fatigue.
If you’re looking for super exciting “roller-coaster signature”, abusing your ears and brain - this is NOT the IEM for you