Journey-man's sojourn in upper middle class iems... Noble Westone shootout.
Jun 17, 2017 at 9:46 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 15

jgosroc

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I want to start iem reviewing. Not for freebies but for the love of contributing. I want to be the 176,252th person to review iems on Headfi.org.

Things get scary when you’re the obsessive guy plonking serious cash for iems. I often question my sanity as I scan the headfi.org sale / trade forum for my next hit.

Headfi's traditional welcome to new members is “sorry about your wallet.” ‘Serious cash’ means somewhat different things to everyone, but I’m a simpleton. In my opinion when you stick more than one zero on the end of a dollar figure on something functionally equivalent to ear-pods - then my man... then YOU have a serious headphone habit. (Man is meant literally, as there are SO few woman/girls on this forum.)

For the readers’ context, my ’serious’ cash outlays on iem’s follow...
  1. GR-07
  2. Bose Quiet Comfort things (pre-cursors to the noise-cancelling fanciness..)
  3. Shure se215
  4. UE900
  5. Shure se535
  6. Technics M-04
  7. Noble 5
  8. Noble Savant
  9. Westone UM Pro50
  10. Noble 6
  11. Westone W60
  12. Noble Kaiser10u
As you see, I've circled around the Noble, Westone and Shure bandwagons - which makes me sad.

God, where are the Campfires? No, JH Audio’s! What about 64 Audio's offerings? No Laylas, Roxannes, or Rosies… No JH16v2, or JH13v2… No love for la French Earsonics??? No Fitear, or wait…. or any Hong Kong offerings… Jomo, Canal Works, Lear, Rhapsodio, AWW? And what about our Eastern European brethren? Custom Art, Lime ears… Not even much in the way of Chi-fi offerings (except the UE900 and grabbed a GR07 in my early days (This assumes you feel that Noble/Westone/Shure’s manufacturing in China doesn’t make them Chi-Fi, which they just might.)

Because our hobby is costly, most have only covered a few manufacturers’ goods. Also iems last quite a while… unless.

Unless, they befall a cataclysm.

Which happens alot. Iems find many imaginative ways to DIE.
  1. They’re tiny; and
  2. They’re attached to wire made from gold. (Sometimes literally - damn cable cult.)
Examples? Please, mi casa es tu casa … welcome to my house of shame!
  • I’ve dragged them out a shut car door along an unforgiving road for 20km (R.I.P. Bose) They left (sniff, sniff) a rude pair of stumpy wires.
  • I’ve walked on them (R.I.P. Shure se215).
  • I’ve dropped them in the toilet (okay, not true - I’m embarking in some cognitive behavioural training by vividly imagining what nearly, almost, soooo close, happened. It missed by an inch. It would have been ugly… the state of the toilet was not good. (Sorry for sucker punching you with that visual!)
  • I’ve smashed them in a car door (R.I.P. Westone UM50Pro)… God that was a kick to the emotional testes... Still traumatised.
  • I’ve dropped them on a rainy city road in peak hour traffic during an ill-advised seat position change with my partner, while en-route to a relaxing weekend a way. (R.I.P. Shure se535s). It took quite a bit longer to relax than a regular holiday...

Still, despite a lack of cultural diversity among my iem purchases, I feel qualified to offer general observations about iem signature and so on… I’ve invested in my opinions.

The review formula which follows, will mostly be ignored here:
  1. Opening presentations
  2. First impressions
  3. quality of cable… and signature… and then how my iem is TRANSFORMED when I use my fourteen $400 cables that cost 10X more than the damn iem…
  4. sound impressions in general
  5. sound impressions across the spectrum (low to high)
  6. headroom / depth, width, height…
  7. measurements / data
  8. comparisons with similar priced iems
  9. star ratings…. 0-5 (Guaranteed 5, if the iems were GIVEN TO ME in return for my HONEST opinion... which I will keep on hand for reference purposes… and… NEVER SELL… ever… pinky promise.)

There’s nothing wrong with review formulas. They maintain standards. Hell, even often raise standards. But following a written formula like a school report goes sharply against my own nature.

I have a feeling that if I wrote my iem reviews that way, they would really suck.

But that's because I prefer freewheeling comments and tangents (as though it’s not already clear from this article...)

Plus, I could care less how they’re packaged… Pelican case? Who cares, they cost $7 on Amazon... I care about the item costing hundreds.

Further I don’t care whether my iem arrive with 50 tips or 1. Because I’m going to buy foam tips like Comply’s and avoid the 3 iems that still have proprietary tips… and that my friend, will be that.

Finally, I don’t have any data measuring tools or the interest in describing the data curve. I also don’t have the patience to use such equipment, even if I were to have the relevant resources...

I trust my ears.

I may have some general ideas about V shaped sounds, and U shaped sounds, and yes, even the L shaped sounds... But generally I won’t describe them. My opinion of these dubious letters is dependent on the limited iems I’ve listened to previously. Otherwise refer to my above "no data measuring points" rule.

Plus V, U and L shaped signatures are every bit as arbitrary as the monikers, “balanced” and “unbalanced” which as terms of audiophile art, are as abused as albino midgets at a Nine Inch Nails concert...

Letter named descriptors are not how I "hear" an iem (nor probably you), but I’m not trying to take down the system, vive la révolution!!!

I may touch on soundscapes and “image”, but not that often. As my English teacher said, "write to your strengths me write”. (I jest. I’m Australian but our English standards aren’t that horrible, me hope.)

My focus will be on four (4) overlapping issues.
  1. What do I like, and not like, about their signature and why?
  2. What’s their build quality like? Does anything suck? Maybe then a short description.
  3. Finally, how they compare with similar priced iems, that I’ve personally experienced.
  4. Last - stars: “iem coolness quotient”. 5 stars is “uber cool", to 1 star for “dank, borderline embarrassing".
Design matters to me. I don't spend serious money to resemble a Tie Fighter. And when I see Astel & Kern Laylas/Rosies/Roxanne’s, I wonder if “inner ear monitor” is a fair description. Somewhat more obviously with regards to the Tie Figher comment there’s the iSine series by Audeze. I feel bad to single 2 iem manufacturers out, but their goods are too big… Audeze has originality at least, but Astel & Kern just need to stop making universal iems that are the size of tennis balls.

When comparing, i do this roughly - “paintbrush comparisons”. Fast and loose and preferring the Malcolm Gladwell “Blink” approach. You’ll never confuse my stream of consciousness with other reviewers thoroughness.

My “review” is to benefit readers who are thinking of buying the relevant pair in question. Would-be buyers often accumulate a nice range of impressions… and that’s all I’m trying to provide - an impression.

Mine. That’s it. It won’t be advertising copy.

My target market are iem hunters aiming to upgrade at just below TOTL.

Within my budget constraints, I think this ex-TOTL level represents a kind of budget/performance sweet spot. But that statement is meaningless other than disclosing a personal bias and revealing the socio-economic level of moi...

This review focus is on 4-6 BA driver iems.

To the 10 and 12 BA high flyers - don’t feel sorry for us. We resent it. Given that you pay double for 1 to 2% sonic improvements… well, We Feel Sorry For You.

Let’s begin.

NOBLE 5 / DULCE BASS

The Noble 5 (or N5) is my sentimental favourite of all time. It was the first iem I bought that felt truly “audiophile”.

Noble calls it the Dulce Bass these days. The “new” look (and name) includes a funky jewelled half-aluminium aqua shell that gleams Noble's insignia… Of course, it looks cool. Noble are much cooler than me. (They know it and I accept it.)

The original N5 style is arguably more ergonomic. Utilitarian but not real purtyyyy. But the alloy coif befits the iem manufacturer with Tom Ford running through their DNA like the bastard child of… shhhhh.. Heir.

I sold my N5, and will re-buy one sooner rather than later. The N5s aren't closed or dark, such as for example, the Technics AM-04s. They have a beautiful top end that's polite but open, clear and true. Like a swimwear model that keeps giving, then you get this beautiful thick bass that is badass.

The N5’s mids weirdly disappear. The N5 mids are tuned in that “hidden” way that reminds me of the bass in the Kaiser 10… Let me explain my enigmatic observation.

When needed, the mids in the N5/Dulce appear. When not, they're absent. It just works like Zen, baby.

That analogy was borrowed from a Headphonia review that kicks around about the Kaiser10. In it, the writer liberally borrowed from Bruce Lee’s kung fu philosophy of “friend, be like water”. Their focus was Kaiser 10s ability to draw the (subjectively) perfect amount of bass while otherwise staying ‘hidden’ via a potent Wizard spell. The N5/Dulce is unsurprisingly tuned similarly with the mids.

Every review of the Kaiser 10s, reminds me in some way of the N5/Dulce. (Okay, not every review. The odd one describes the Kaiser has having bright tuning, and the Katana’s signature being described as darker. Such an analysis causes me to ponder the entire semantic basis of the English language.)

Until recently I owned a Kaiser10 and on a granular level, they are indisputably better than the N5/Dulce.

But assuming you don’t have a lazy $1000US to acquire a used pair of Kaisers. then I say forget the hype about the Savants/Sage etc and go and buy a used N5 or Dulce Bass.

The K10 and the N5/Dulce share plenty. Both are relaxed styled sound machines. Each combines strength, nimbleness and adroit power. They’re both like slipping warm comfy slippers after a long, tiring and slightly cold, day.

The N5/Dulce Bass represent serious value. Second-hand they're maybe $400 to $500. Given you can’t buy Shure’s 846 for less than $700 used… well you’re getting an iem with some similarities, but ultimately the N5/Dulce IMO is the more sophisticated piece.

Bargain.

Review: Five stars. Uber cool.

Pros: delicious, warm, zero fatigue, under-rated. Cons: nothing, other than the old design being kind of ugly looking, but practically class leading in terms of strength and fit.

Branding and bass

The N5/Dulce are to my mind mislabelled as the ‘bass lovers' iem' - most obviously, by Noble themselves. I’m in favour of marketing descriptions. They certainly help provide a convenient hook to begin the tough process of selecting an iem.

And “Dulce Bass” isn’t bad, as far as that sort of thing goes. Certainly it isn’t a subtle reference. The bass is BIG and real. But this iem is a long way from one-dimensional. And when you reduce a sound scape and signature into a line celebrating one feature which is itself meaningless without the sound context… Then it tends to misrepresent the overall strengths of this fantastic iem. It's a thrilling sonic instrument, that makes me go, ahhhhhh.

NOBLE SAVANT and pricing

Noble’s Savant is another beautiful sounding iem. But pricing the Savant the same as the N5 is to my ears, crazy (or Sage v Dulce Bass)…

Some may indeed prefer the Savants, but I struggle to imagine how.

My judgement isn’t based on the “3 more drivers, so worth more money” argument, though it resembles it. Simply put, the 3 drivers help the N5/Dulce to be a more thrilling experience. The N5/Dulce brings music to life in a far more soulful and enjoyable and engaging way than the Savant ever gets near.

The Noble X or Sage - I can’t say. I haven’t heard them. I know that Noble tweaked the bass. They needed to. Perhaps it’s so substantially different to the Savant, that it also is a better overall experience than the N5/Dulce.

Perhaps. But I doubt it. It lacks the firepower. If the N5/Dulce had been tuned poorly... Then sure.

But the N5/Dulce are actually tuned masterfully - so how can the 2 driver can seriously compete?

You aren't missing details in the N5/Dulce, that you pick up in the Savant. The lifeless bass does help the “sublime” upper mids and treble of the Savant shine. They are presented in a more isolated and focused way which makes them more appreciated...

But the N5/Dulce share the sublime upper mids too, but THEN, you get the very, special bass over it like so much good sauce. And to remind you… bass makes music sound good. Noble knows this. Or else, why flick the Savant, to replace it with the Sage... tuned with more bass?

More on marketing… “Baby Kaiser”…. the Savant… and maybe the Sage is now referred to as the Baby Kaiser.

If the baby in question is a dumb orphan from a different species - than accept this PR as gospel. But it is hype. A marketing exaggeration for the naive, trotted out not too long after the “undisclosed driver count… shhhhh” promotion, was revealed as consisting of two ordinary BA drivers.

This stunt resulted in some deserved PR backlash… Probably the first significant consumer hostility Noble's ever had to face... It played out amusingly on Headfi.org and on Reddit…

Review - Three stars.

Pros
- Solid iem, Good QC, Nice tuning on the treble.

Cons
: Waaay over-rated… a rare drop to ‘mere mortal’ ratings. Also a somewhat opportunistic financial grab from Noble to capitalise on their growing brand, and knock-it-out-of-the-park K10 success… In capitalist tradition, the utility of building a brand is to charge premium and build up your profit margins… Keep the price squarely hidden below the shiny crown logo… everyone does it. And $700 for a Sage… and $250 for the technically similar Noble X… It’s your call, but get the N5/Dulce or perhaps some other iem from another outfit to punish Noble lightly for their hubris.

WESTONE UmPro50

What’s impressive about the Westone UmPro50, is…. a hell of a lot.

They share a similar signature to the N5/Dulce… Okay, in one way in particular. Gorgeous bass. The bass is real and present… and again the highlight of this iem. It moves ahead of the N5/Dulce is the way it textures the bass. I mean, it’s a “hair” better. The control it exhibits is worth experiencing. The treble is detailed, fast and cohesive. It isn’t a reference sound by any means - too bassy for one, but more analytical than the Westone’s W series…. but that's Westone analytical to you!.. Which is hardly analytical.

Confusing, I know. The UmPro50’s signature is beautiful, smart, powerful, musical and cohesive. The UmPro50 makes music running into your brain vivid, dynamic and dammit, exciting… listening to a Radiohead concert… and "I felt I was really THERE" as Steve Guttenberg likes to write.

Personally I want a pair to convert into CIEMs. As disclosed mine ended up in a German car door… but despite my pain, I love, love, love the UmPro50, and I will buy you again!!!

Size and fit

These disappear in your ears. They're incredibly comfortable. Westone is famous for the comfort and fit of their iems. No-one jams BAs more efficiently than Westone. Thankfully Westone are also famous for their tuning, otherwise it would be a case of who cares, right?

The Pro series don’t have the sad plastic plates the W series is burdened with, which as I’ll scream and rant about shortly... is a very good thing. These aren’t fancy looking.

Twister6 has written plenty on why the UmPro50 iem is so good. I don't disagree with his analysis…

The UmPro50 is terrific value if you can live with the strength / weakness / weakness. Because, of course, physical lightness comes at a cost.

Criticism

Buy these by all means, but if so, you'll end up spending several hundred dollars on an iem that are somewhat flimsy.

There truly are technical arguments for narrow stems. But Westone and Shure take this design notion too far.

Iem’s need significant support to not require unrepairable surgery at every ill-fated corner - through normal human handling errors. (Okay, not slammed in a car door like mine… Then they’re toast - it matters not a jot what the iems were made from.)

The Westone (and Shure) stems are as thin as reeds. Sticks of tiny plastic. Easy to bump, drop a bag on, or yes slam a car door on. And while nothing would survive the latter, the Nobles for example, will handle significantly more punishment. Their broad stems and tough material ensure it.

Where it gets interesting in ergonomics and ruggedness, is the inside. One can see the way BAs are wrapped tight, with small wires connecting them. With a bigger shell, a la Noble, there may actually be more risk of the BAs getting dislodged inside. My suspicion is based on a reaction akin to 'whiplash', when compared with the smaller bean of the Westone shell.

Just a thought. Of course there’s no analysis.

No drop testing 100 units and comparing whether how they rattle afterwards, perhaps recording them using a sophisticated microphone, followed by full spectrum sound tests.

Sorry, I just don’t resources… Perhaps others will run experiments, even in a virtual sense, once someone obtains some 3D software of a kind that’s difficult at this moment to imagine. (Coming to you in 2089…)

The Kaisers use frigging military aluminium! The Wizard in an interview spoke about 450 pounds of pressure being applied to place in the procedure of placing the 2 sides of the shell together. I think we can assume it’s the same aluminium now used on the Django’s, Dulce Bass, etc.

The N5/all "old versions" have an acrylic hard plastic that feels bullet proof. Like a Sherman tank the N5/Dulce will survive a good treading… But as mentioned may struggle more with the (Julian Patented) "whiplash effect” likely to be associated with a drop on the ground for reasons outlined. This is obviously conjecture… As stated no-one will fund comprehensive strength & stress tests comparing manufacturers. (But gee. that would be cool, wouldn’t it? Maybe it will happen if everyone buys high end iems instead of iPods. Then there would be the scope of business to support second order businesses that test equipment - parallel to the idiots that throw brand new iPhone’s into blenders on You-tube.)

No universal Westone can survive being walked on, and Westone should look at this issue… Even purely from a business angle. You know, that occasional question that might be posed as though making your customer's happy was “a thing”...

Not that Westone can be j’accused of rapidly responding to customer concerns regarding design engineering...

Review: 4 stars.

Pros: The UmPro50 sounds wonderful and is a joy to wear…

Cons
… but their physical engineering is a step up from deplorable, due to an absence of the plastic decorative cracked prone W series plastic plates. Find a decent physical body for this iem and you have a firm 5 star. THAT’S HOW CLOSE YOU ARE WESTONE, FROM BEING BACK IN THE GAME.

WESTONE W60

Which of course brings us to the gloriously sounding W series… and specifically those Stupid. Plastic. Plates.

I am a Westone fan but will a greater one, when their iems adopt metal shelled monitors & their stems are being made of thicker, sterner stuff. And when their "decorative plates” are banished to the dustbin of shameful iem ideas to ever sprout from this proud company.

As most appreciate, the iem segment has evolved like it’s been on fire. Innovations are spinning out all over the place. Noble is leading the cosmetic race, JH Audio just surprised us with Lola innovative driver and BA combination, Shure with electrostatic and Audeze using planar magnetic technology, Adel technology shaking up a couple of manufacturer’s Balanced Armature offerings and Campfire Audio and others throwing new brilliant organic single drivers into the mix… there’s lots happening and for an iem fan, every 3 months is Christmas… (Okay, if we could afford them. Or if Santa Claus was an audiophile… which he may be. He’s probably not hearing my desperate cries, on account of a pair of Empire Zeus XR ADEL jammed deeply into his big pink ears.)

Unfortunately Westone is one of the very few companies (with Shure being the other) that are saying “Quick, let’s make more fragile plastic iem pieces and charge people $1000s of dollars!” (Hi, W80 & Shure KSE1500.)

Businesses needs to keep abreast of their competition. Anyone can choose a niche and go about owning it, as a strategy. It’s normally not a bad idea. Business 101. But I don’t see the “$1000 dollar plastic fragile iem” as a niche. Rather, it's an evolutionary obsolete sub-niche of the expensive iem general category.

This means Shure and Westone need to adapt or die. At the moment the focus is Westone. Shure at least as far back as 2011 realised that their iems needed to be stronger as demonstrated in their still beautiful se846. (Seriously, those things should be proudly sitting in the Guggenheim... perhaps next to some of the Wizard's LookBook stuff.)

It’s possible that the iem category has grown as a whole by so much that Westone and Shure’s iem divisions aren’t sufficiently troubled to adequately respond. Their generally out of date items keep selling year on year, so they might think “what’s the problem?” But I think if iems were all they sold, then their attitude would be very different.

Neither brands has grabbed much of our Headfi communities’ interest in the past few years. This is frankly due to their unexciting efforts and lack of engagement with the Headfi community. Our community drives global trends in iems and cans… that’s a sociological fact. Have you read Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, fellas? Too bad. So ignore us at your peril, but we are legion...
  1. The point of this rant is to say specifically to Westone that persisting with a crack-prone design on the W series is economic suicide.
  2. There are serious competitors around. One parlayed a cable business (ALO to Campfire Audio) into the ingenuity necessary to produce a range of highly applauded and differently designed iems... And what did Westone do? They adopted the same competitor's expensive cable in order to make their new flagship (the W80) a more palatable offering... is it just me, or is such a move akin to waving the flag of surrender? Food for thought...
When you drop $100s and yes, $1000s on iem, and the face plate feels like a cheap gimmick… It causes one to ponder the quality of the expensive engineering in the first place… (If they can’t fix this, what other problems have been pasted over and ignored for years????)

Westone should've stopped making the W faceplates straight after the first crack appeared (So, one week after the 1st batch… five years ago.)

But… having expressed enough rage, the uncomfortable fact that I’m still a Westone fan. Because, I find that they're consistently tuned for angels. Sound still matters.

Treble - almost shockingly smoooooooth baby. These are the anti-fatigue headphones. The benefit (and there’s only one) of having light plastic shells is they sit in your ears like your skin, and then they’re tuned such that they never fatigue. In it’s own way, it’s perfect.

Mids - nice mids. Warm, smooth again. Think about all the good things about the Shure se535s, and the famed Shure mids signature generally… and then sculpt them a bit, so that there’s better detail, depth, finesse… Beautiful mids.

Bass - plenty of bass. It could be argued that the bass is a bit “boomy”, a teensy bit of echo that would suggest a lot of 80s rock would sound excessively 80s (if that makes sense) on these… But your ears adjust. You don’t feel short changed on the bass, but it lacks the control and force of the Westone UmPro50. I think the W60 holds itself very well against the Noble N5/Dulce… which says a lot about how well this bass is presented, given Noble markets that model as “sweet bass”… English for the Latin Dulce Bass.

Closing comments. The W60 made an underwhelming first impression when it appeared - even to it’s Westone fans who had waited patiently for something special. I think there are a couple reasons for the disappointment over this fantastic sounding iem. Fans were like me, were plain annoyed that Westone weren’t doing something about making their (then) new flagship with stronger specs.

The W60 wasn’t initially seen as a significant leap over the superb W40… Technically it’s not. It’s price was high given that plastic form bugging everyone and haunting the brand to this day in the W80 no less… No new technology other than slapping another BA into the admittedly impressively tight form.

However I’ve come to think the subtle beauty of the W60 grow on you in a way after a couple of weeks that is the reverse of that initial newbie enthusiasm, where your brain goes “wow, these are the best things I’ve ever heard…" followed a day later by a bit of a “whatever” response. The indifference quickly creeps in as those hidden irritations reveal themselves. The treble turns out sibilant on a few tracks. Issues arise that you first ignored.

The point is that none of these shortcomings are a problem here. The build quality is irritating to begin with, and a week later when you’ve cracked your first plastic plate, it’s unbelievably irritating.

But by then the sound is fantastic and you’re looking for ways you might be able to live with it. Thankfully a bright company called OSKSR has produced a beautiful metal plates that solves this problem. $35 bucks and the plates are a non-event… hell, they even look cool.

Review: 3 1/2 stars.

Pros:
They sound wonderful, around a 4.5 star sound, plus they're a joy to wear…

Cons
… their plastic physical engineering is appalling... almost unforgivable... but ah, that sound!

NOBLE 6 / Noble DJANGO

So on to the N6, or Noble Django - being it’s purple coiffed aluminium design is described.

Pretty interesting signature, this one.

It’s loud and brash, kicks arse and takes names. It's a “fun” sound. Tons of detail. Plenty of bass. Significantly more than the ‘bass-lovers’ iem of N5/Dulce. Plenty of mids. Plenty of treble. That’s my complaint in a nutshell is... too damn much.

To my ears, the signature of the N6, doesn’t beat the N5.

The N5 is an iem that I can live with daily. The N6 gave great moments. But I never got comfortable, speaking in a relationship sense. It never became an ‘end-game’ iem for me.

I know "end-game” normally is meant as ‘no need to ever upgrade’, and is typically applied to the TOTL flagships.

But I think as a phrase, for the discerning audiophile and collector, it should be more used in the Wall of Madness sense.

That is, doing some element exceedingly well, such there’s no foreseeable iem to cleanly take it's immediate place at that price and performance point.

In this sense, the N5 is “end-game”, and the N6 then is not.

The N5 is far more “balanced" than the N6. Another word that we get in a spin over. “Balance” normally describes reference or the so-called flat tuning. My using ‘balance’ for favourably advancing my preference of the N5/Dulce compared with it’s one-more-driver sibling is meant differently. I mean the N5/Dulce has a nice cohesive balance of sonic qualities that delivers a non-fatiguing, pleasing hours of refined enjoyment… Wall of Madness "end-game", if you will.

The N5/Dulce sounds cohesively gorgeous, whereas the N6/Django to my ears, play loud.

Yeah, it’s a strange way to describe an iem… “it plays loud.”

Um... turn it down, right? To borrow from This is Spinal Tap, Noble tuned the N6 with every part of the sound spectrum from treble to bass, “right up to 11”.

The result isn't cohesive because it squashes "too much stuff in the mix". The result is for the party animal that the N6/Django kind of is… it also contradictorily "tries too hard”.

Of course, you can tame N6/Django's excesses with the EQ, but that won’t fix it's flaw.

Review 4 Stars

Pros:
a lot of detail, plenty of bass, fun sound. Great physical construction.

Cons.
“plays loud”… tries too hard. Slightly fatiguing. Also, the older models are as ugly as an amputation… (The surprising misstep, quickly rectified, by the cosmetic masters at Noble.)
 
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Jun 17, 2017 at 5:26 PM Post #2 of 15

SoundBytes

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After reading Brooko's response, I had to amend my response as I agree with him. You should probably edit your post.
 
Last edited:
Jun 17, 2017 at 5:34 PM Post #3 of 15
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Not sure why you included the @Brooko in there - was it so that I would notice? If so - I'll bite. I just want to address a few things in your post:

I want to start iem reviewing. Not for freebies but for the love of contributing
Why did you feel the need to add this? It adds nothing to the post - but implies that those who do get sent gear are only doing it for the freebies? In my own case, why would I bother - the gear I use is the stuff I've paid for. If I find myself using something regularly which was originally a review sample - I buy it. Its called personal ethics. I'm just surprised you brought it up - especially when you look at some other stuff you've mentioned.

I trust my ears.
Interesting you should add that yet seem to be having a crack at people preferring to use both their ears and measurements. I'm not to worried about ears - its the psycho-acoustics which can be introduced when our brains interact that worry me more. You don't mention any real methodology at all - which is sad (to me anyway) - as we know that louder sounds better, and there is no sign of proper volume matching anywhere in your comparisons. Maybe if you're going to do more of this, (and you do have a good writing style) at least invest in cheap dB meter. To em volume matching should eb the bare minimum standard required for any review with a comparison included.

Mine. That’s it. It won’t be advertising copy.
Another remark which seems (to me anyway) to underpin the general message going through the post, and I'm not sure why you even added it. The implication is that everyone else's is advertising copy. That's called shilling and is forbidden on Head-Fi. So if you suspect someone of doing it - call it out (with actual facts). then the Moderation team will deal with it. Insinuating other reviewers do it intentionally is not really acceptable (without giving facts).

Some may indeed prefer the Savants. For example if you've suffered a stroke… otherwise forgettaboutit.
This sort of thing normally draws a warning from the Mods/Admins and is removed. But I'm leaving it here for the purposes of pointing out that it breaks the rules and is poor penmanship. Here are some of the governing rules
Avoid getting personal. Do not make personal attacks, even veiled or generalised ones, such as "All people who believe X are deluded.", "All people who can't hear the difference must be deaf.", "This will be fine for people without hearing problems." etc.
What you've commented on is personal preference - but you've basically said that anyone disagreeing with your preference is somehow handicapped. Not a good look.

Twister6 has written plenty on why the UmPro50 iem is so good. I don't disagree with his analysis… Maybe the guy’s getting a cosy deal with Westone… he certainly moderates every criticism of the brand with the professional concern of a Royal butler. Twisters’ constant recommendations to people to try the flagship W80, suggests there’s a sales commission connected with successful purchases based on Headfi comments… but I digress with my suspicious mind.
And now taking a crack at another reviewer and essentially insinuating they are shilling? Please display your proof (ie real data showing Alex gets some sort of a kick-back). As a lawyer - I would have expected better ......

FWIW, you have a skill (IMO) for writing - I'd like to see more. The comparison would be good if you took out some of the cracks at other people (which BTW contravene the rules). Why you felt the need to do this certainly questions your motives.

I noticed earlier (different posts) you asked about how to post a review. if you want, PM me and I'll tell you how I do it - it can be confusing (the new system)
 
Jun 18, 2017 at 2:13 AM Post #4 of 15

jgosroc

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Point 1 - the reference to you was because In my own way I was paying your review process a compliment. See point 2.

Point 2 - I don't believe that most people writing reviews on Headfi are necessarily, or even dominantly motivated by freebies. I think the issue of freebies is "a live issue", in that their existence inevitably undercuts the potential double blind integrity of the process.

If I have a motive for raising this issue, it is certainly based on concern that people can rely on the quality of the review. The demise and birth of the Chi-Fi thread, and specific policies aimed at limiting their corrosive effects suggest there is nothing unhealthy about my scepticism.

Such bias however is perhaps no worse in its impact than the cognitive bias following the purchase of an item and inevitable confirmation bias that follows.

I'm aware that in your reviews you do place significant hurdles to prevent this issue from impacting the integrity of your review. I do applaud that, however the fact you outline your approach to ethical reviewing would underline that mine or anyone's concern about this issue is hardly unusual. I don't think that "the general message" of my post is about shilling, but it was a minor theme, I would go that far...

Point 3. "I trust my ears" - you make valid point with respect to your own review process. My addiction to iems has occurred without the assistance of data measurement instruments playing any role in defining my purchase choices... My brain and ears are after all a sophisticated data accumulating instrument... though we are I fear stepping sideways into semantics.

I'm not sure if my lack of formal iem review methodology is worth feeling "sad" about, but we all feel strongly about audio, and your feelings are most certainly valid.

Point 4. "Stroke/Handicapped" criticism. I accept this feedback and have amended my post accordingly. Thank you but may I gently suggest that your reference to "idiot" beneath your sign-off is ironically inconsistent with pulling me up over this particular point? Especially as your quote may be read to imply that if we disagree (which I guess we have) then there is a risk that I have been so characterised!!!

In the context that this was intended (much like your sign-off) it was intended certainly as a fairly innocuous and colloquial term of reference. Perhaps you would have agreed with this motivation/statement, without my admitted indiscretion at 5 below.

Point 5. Oher reviewer comment / allegation / fair comment. I've removed this one.

Proof is indeed problematic when forming an opinion of this nature.

I'm unsure that I agree that being a lawyer makes what I wrote less excusable. My legal training might equally have caused me to interpret the evidence (being the remarkable number of pro-Westone posts, and encouragements to purchase Westone products) unfavourably for the person in question...

Nevertheless it's potential for being damaging is unacceptable without as you say, further evidence. It has therefore been deleted accordingly.

Point 6. General compliment and offer of help with posting a review. I would really appreciate that. That would be very kind.

Thank you for taking the time to address your concerns, I hope my mitigating efforts are felt satisfactory...
 
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Jun 18, 2017 at 2:51 AM Post #5 of 15
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Nice reply - I appreciate it. PM me any time if you want help with the reviews. Formatting can be difficult with the new system.

I can see your point on the quote - I'll have to search around for a new one. Although I do find it apt sometimes - especially when I'm debating a point I should just be letting go. As to who is the idiot, I fear sometimes its actually me :)

Let me see what i can come up with.
 
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Jun 18, 2017 at 3:05 AM Post #6 of 15
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How about this one :)

“Sometimes, the truths are those things you want to hear, and sometimes what we call truths are habitual lies we're comfortable with.”
Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel
 
Jun 18, 2017 at 3:20 AM Post #7 of 15

jgosroc

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Truly they're both good quotes.

The second certainly captures the slithery ambiguous nature assigning of "truth" to sound...

I find myself thinking it's like trying to capture water with my hands sometimes. I certainly appreciate your feedback!
 
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Jun 18, 2017 at 5:52 AM Post #8 of 15
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So in terms of signature - which of the Nobles is clsest to the SE535? The only one I've heard was the Savant (and I loved it).
 
Jun 18, 2017 at 7:06 AM Post #9 of 15

jgosroc

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So in terms of signature - which of the Nobles is clsest to the SE535? The only one I've heard was the Savant (and I loved it).

Mmmm, certainly the Noble 5 sound more like the se535 than the Savant, but this is where my small test pool shows up. The N5/Dulce is so damn easy going... not unlike the Shure.

I suspect with the same BA configuration and reported 'fun, V shaped sound', that the Noble 3 / Trident is reported to have, that this one may in truth be the closest match. Also it makes sense in a marketing/business strategy sense (needing to compete on price & specs), given the big Gorilla that Shure is...

Or even the X, depending on how much they tweaked the bass... I enjoyed that se535, their mids are so delicious.
 
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Jun 18, 2017 at 7:54 AM Post #10 of 15
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Yeah I liked the SE535 - mids and bass were pretty good. Just that rolled off upper end. I think thats why I liked the Savant so much. I had the SE535 LE (the red ones). Enjoyed them for a long time. Nowadays the holy grail for me is something with flattish bass (slight mid-bass hump for naturalness) and good treble extension. Good coherent rise around 2 kHz and maybe small peak around 7 kHz. Andromeda was really impressive.
 
Jun 18, 2017 at 8:37 AM Post #11 of 15

davidcotton

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I've been torn over the westone range for a while now. Love the general westone sound and fit (and the thin stems for nozzles were prone even on the old w2 range)but all the stories of mmcx connectors and face plate cracking have made me stay away. Maybe a reshell into a ciem would be the way to go but why should the customer who has already paid a chunk of change sort out a companies mistakes for them?
 
Jun 18, 2017 at 10:55 AM Post #12 of 15

jgosroc

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I've been torn over the westone range for a while now. Love the general westone sound and fit (and the thin stems for nozzles were prone even on the old w2 range)but all the stories of mmcx connectors and face plate cracking have made me stay away. Maybe a reshell into a ciem would be the way to go but why should the customer who has already paid a chunk of change sort out a companies mistakes for them?

I feel you @davidcotton, there's real agony in being a Westone fan at this particular juncture of the Company's history. I think they will correct these issues after enough flamethrower reviews, but when, right? Personally I didn't hit them over the mmcx connectors, but only because I've personally had no issues with them... yet. (You can hardly say I pulled my punches on those things that have caused me pain!) Friends certainly have and I've read about using pliers + mmcx... anyway, we all have read these horror stories.

I am going to buy a second hand UmPro50 from the forum and reshell it into a CIEM... in all likelihood. For me it's the only (sort of, kind of, your VERY valid question notwithstanding) acceptable solution, to a really frustrating problem. Your post perfectly describes how this 'build issue' has real business consequences for Westone. So, I guess we'll wait and see. But you know, I wear my W60s all the time and love their sound - go figure. :expressionless:
 
Jun 18, 2017 at 11:03 AM Post #13 of 15

jgosroc

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Yeah I liked the SE535 - mids and bass were pretty good. Just that rolled off upper end. I think thats why I liked the Savant so much. I had the SE535 LE (the red ones). Enjoyed them for a long time. Nowadays the holy grail for me is something with flattish bass (slight mid-bass hump for naturalness) and good treble extension. Good coherent rise around 2 kHz and maybe small peak around 7 kHz. Andromeda was really impressive.
Unfortunately I lose you at the 2kHz and 7kHz part... owing to my well documented data phobia :scream: Honestly I liked the Savant a lot too, even though I gave it a relatively hard time mostly due to the pricing/promotion issues I had/have with it. I think that I have a slight sensitivity to truly extended trebles, so the shelving of the treble in the W60, is something I quite enjoy, though many wouldn't. For this reason the Andromeda had me at times thinking "is this a bit sibilant? Mmm, not sure." I've had two different tests with them, and like so much about Campfire generally... their engineering, all of it. I enjoyed your review of that one too actually. It's there on my shortlist. We'll see!
 
Jun 18, 2017 at 1:09 PM Post #14 of 15

SeeSax

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I was wondering when my talented-with-words friend @jgosroc would embark into the world of IEM reviewing. Now where the hell is the IE800 in this mix? :)

I enjoyed reading your reviews on the IEMs, most of which we have both owned! It's a fun "hobby" and keep the reviews coming!

-Collin-
 
Jun 18, 2017 at 10:13 PM Post #15 of 15

jgosroc

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I was wondering when my talented-with-words friend @jgosroc would embark into the world of IEM reviewing. Now where the hell is the IE800 in this mix? :)

I enjoyed reading your reviews on the IEMs, most of which we have both owned! It's a fun "hobby" and keep the reviews coming!

-Collin-

Too kind my friend, though I fear that my words risked being a tad glib at times... You're right about the IE800... I owe that one from the IE800's long Australian tour sent by your good self. I still need to work out how to post a review, as opposed to publishing this lonely review disguised as a post...
 

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