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Review of Westone Bluetooth V2 cable with aptX HD vs Westone Bluetooth V1 cable with aptX

  1. HeadphoneAddict Contributor
    Review of Westone Bluetooth V2 cable with aptX HD vs original Westone Bluetooth V1 cable with aptX.

    Wireless headphones became a major topic when Apple discontinued the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 and 7+, in order to gain new water resistance ratings. They used the excuse that the loss was to make the phones thinner than ever, and yet they’d somehow had managed to fit a headphone jack in the similarly sized iPhone 6 and 6s. It was really all about water resistance (or selling more lighting cable accessories).

    While the Apple lighting to 3.5mm headphone adapter actually had better audio specs on testing than the built-in headphone jack of previous iPhones, people did not like the choice between either listening to wired headphones or charging their iPhone - they wanted both. 3rd parties were very slow to introduce high quality lightning adapters that would allow both at the same time, and so wireless headphones needed to take a big step up in quality.

    When Westone came out with their original BT adapter cable with MMCX plugs I was thrilled. I received one for review, and was pleased enough to buy several more for myself and my son. Between us we have the W40, W50, W60 x2, W80, and ES60 that can use their BT cables. While wired listening through an amp was always better, there wasn’t a lot out there that sounded better via Bluetooth than the W60 with a Westone Bluetooth V1 aptX cable. I spoke to Karl Cartwright Westone many times after getting my 1st BT cable about what people would like to see (erm, hear) with a future version of the BT cable, and they have delivered, in spades!

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    According to Karl Cartwright at Westone labs, the Bluetooth V2 does have some big changes from the previous version - it is not only AptX but is AptX HD because it is using a newer CSR chip. It also uses a charging dock with battery instead of only a cable, and this dock allows for it to be used as a spare battery as long as the dock is also charged, or you can use it to charge the headset with it while on the go. The dock is smaller than a matchbox, and weighs about as much, so although it is required to charge, it is easy to carry with it on the end of your micro-USB cable. By losing the flap covered micro-USB port these are even more rain and sweat resistant than the V1.

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    It also has adjustable ear hooks for over the ear as opposed to no forming hook, and uses the Westone specific flanged MMCX connector. The only thing they were not able to put in were multiple microphones for background noise reduction when on the phone. Instead they use the CSR Clear Voice Protocol. So far I found it to reject background noise during a call very well. The MacBook Pro shows aptX being used with both versions of BT cable, and Audio MIDI setup shows 32 bit float 48Khz with both.

    I listened to the V2 cable right out of the box, and listened for about 10 hours while playing music for the review, and do not feel like it needs a lot of burn-in to sound good. It may improve over time, but it just wasn’t that practical to charge it up and let it sit while playing music until it runs down, and repeating the process for 3-4 days before I started my review.

    I chose a wide variety of material from HD Tracks, including Eric Clapton “Unplugged” with songs such as “Layla” and “Old Love”. I also listened to several tracks from Audiophile Piano Collection bought from HDTracks, including “My Funny Valentine” and “Dindy”. Other lossless albums included the jazz Album “Kool Cats” by Guinea Pig, “Acoustic Guitar” by John H Clarke, Dianna Krall’s “Live in Paris”, and “Reputation” by Taylor Swift.

    I also tried a few compressed AAC albums, such as “She is Coming” by Miley Cyrus, “A Star is Born” soundtrack, Mandy Harvey “After You’ve Gone”, and Coldplay “Ghost Stories”.

    It would be fairly difficult to repeatedly swap the V1 cable and V2 cable on the same set of IEM for quick A/B comparisons, with as tight as the connector is, and without worrying about causing some degree of loosening of the connection over time. So, I used the new Bluetooth V2 cable on my son’s W60 and compared it to the V1 cable on my own pair of W60 which already had the old cable installed.

    Switching between IEM for a fast A/B comparison was still slowed down by the need to also mouse over to Audio Midi Setup or Sound Source app to change the output while changing IEM. However, pairing was easy by pressing and holding the power button until a woman’s voice speaks to you saying “power on” and then saying “pairing” if you keep the button pressed. Then you can select the “Westone Bluetooth V2” in your BT settings.

    The IEM have a central power button on one of the two bulges in the cable, with a volume up and down button on either side of the power button. The power button can be clicked to play or pause music, or answer a phone call. A double click activates Siri, and a long press turns off the Bluetooth cable with a woman’s voice saying, “power off”. So, to skip forward or backwards you ask Siri for the next track.

    On my MacBook, after using Siri to give a command to skip a track, the music resumes playing back in mono for a second, and then switches back to full stereo (not sure why). However, if I ask Siri to do a math problem, when she is done responding (in mono) then the music resumes playing in full stereo right off the bat. So this sounds like a Mac OS X Mojave bug.

    During my evaluation I also noted that the V2 kept dropping either the right channel or both with a rising pitch whirring motor sound when both the old V1 and V2 are connected to the MacBook at the same time (in order to do rapid A/B switching I connected both).

    Switching the output away from V2 and back with Audio Midi Setup app fixes it for a short period, as did disconnecting the V1 while listening to the V2. I suspect this was also the fault of MaC OS X Mojave, as the issue went away completely and permanently when I rebooted the MacBook Pro. So, if you have trouble, try the usual tricks of disconnecting other BT devices, or un-pairing and re-pairing the V2, or rebooting your source first should usually help.

    In my listening, the first thing I noticed when switching from the V1 cable to the V2 is that the V2 are more open and spacious, and more transparent sounding with better channel separation. The frequency response is also slightly better with the V2, and treble is crisper with better micro-detail and ambience. The bass is also slightly stronger and tighter - it’s quite punchy and strong when appropriate, and never boosted when it shouldn’t be.

    The difference in ambience, space, and micro-detail is more dramatic than the frequency response upgrade, although the improvement in treble is the next thing you notice. Switching from V1 to V2 reveals the V1 to be slightly more dark, less crisp, and less open sounding.

    At this point I switched to listening via my iPhone Xs Max. I found no degradation in sound via BT, despite not having the aptX codec in iOS.

    Listening to Amanda Palmer “Amanda Palmer Performs The Popular Hits Of Radiohead On Her Magical Ukulele” in ALAC surprised me, because it’s very rare for an IEM to project an instrument a couple of feet in front of me, but that’s exactly what this setup did. I’ve listened to this album dozens of times, and I don’t recall being struck by the imaging this way before, as it did when I played the first track on the W60 + V2 cable for the first time. The opening Ukulele came from in front of me while her vocals were a little closer in towards my head, giving some depth to the soundstage. It’s almost as if the recording was done in binaural.

    Switching to “Audiophile Jazz Prologue” by Kent Poon in ALAC on the Xs Max, I was impressed that the imaging held up in the 1st song “You’ve got a friend”. The transparency was impressive for wireless, with very natural reproduction of voices, saxophone, and string bass. And, I could listen with the iPhone volume set at 30-50% of max, with 90% of max being too loud to enjoy.

    With Bella Sonus “Enamoured” electronic music, the first song “From a Standstill” has some 20-32 hz notes come in around 35-40 seconds, and the W60 + V2 cable had no trouble reproducing them. The album contains a lot of reverb and space, and deep bass, which is well reproduced by this setup as you are surrounded 360 by the music.

    Prior to doing an AB comparison I was fairly pleased with the V1 cable. Pianos and stringed instruments are still sharp and fast with both, with good speed on transients such a hard struck keys and hard plucked strings. But on the V2 the cymbals ring more clearly, snares are slightly sharper, and violin and cello strings have a little more bite. Spaces are larger with the V2 and the sound is more transparent, making them disappear more easily.

    In my opinion, and my son’s, the V2 is closer to a wired headphone experience. And therefore with some bad material it can be just as brutally honest. But with well mastered recordings, even many 256K iTunes purchase were enjoyable.

    Coldplay Ghost Stories in 256K AAC from iTunes store only used 98MB for 48 minutes of music, yet it sounded so good that before I knew it I had listened to the entire album when I was supposed to just be demo’ing different snippets to assess the new V2 cable. Listening to Mandy Harvey’s vocals with the piano and string bass, it was hard to tell that it was only 256K. When I first played “Blame It On My Youth” (Brad Mehldau) from the Eyes Wide Shut soundtrack (in 256 AAC), I thought the piano was a few feet in front of me, and I instinctively went to turn my head to see what was playing.

    However, the Miley Cyrus album above in 256 AAC from iTunes was the typical brick-walled low-res music that sounded congested in the midrange when the music got busy. The “A Star is Born” soundtrack from iTunes sounds dark and flat when listened to wired or wireless, with the exception of a few songs. So don’t forget to blame the source material when it’s deserved.

    For my last test, I watched portions of a couple of movies, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and “The Fifth Element” on my iPhone Xs Max. The experience was very enjoyable, and by focusing on the characters on the screen 12 inches away I could easily imagine that the sound was closer to a near-field speaker than IEM. When Hope walks into a restaurant lobby at 21:45 in the movie, the sound of music playing over their sound system sounds like it’s coming from a larger space and not in my head. In the introductory moments of The 5th Element, the deep throbbing bass extended all the way down with a sense of weight, and the chorus and synth sounding off as the aliens walk into the sanctum surrounds you.

    In the end, I have to say that the Westone Bluetooth V2 Cable paired with the W60 is the best standalone BT implementation for IEM that I’ve heard so far (i.e. not using a wireless BT amp with wired IEM). This really does provide a true audiophile listening experience, without having your arms get tangled in cables when listening to music while doing projects. If I could only pick one universal IEM with BT cable, this would be enough for any genre and occasion.

    Using my HiFiMan R2R2000 ($2500) or CEntrance BlueDAC ($400)with a wired W60 improves the sound a bit further, but at the expense of less mobility and at a much higher cost than the bargain $149 price for the Westone IEM plus BT V2 cable.

    The Audeze iSine planar magnetic IEM with their BT cable was also a very similar transparent and enjoyable experience, but without the noise isolation that makes Westone good for use in noisy environments. In fact, the treble in the W60 + BT V2 sounds more extended and present than with the iSine setup (and even with the Audeze V2 lightning cable I tend to use the Audeze EQ app to fix the treble).

    Also, you can sleep wearing the W60 + BT V2 combo, and comfortably rest the side of your head on a pillow without discomfort. That is impossible with the iSine IEM + BT setup, and the Westone cable is noticeably lighter and less bulky than the Audeze BT cable.

    Prior to the V2 BT cable, I would typically leave a BT V1 cable on my W50 for portable use, but I stayed wired with my W60 and W80, using upgraded balanced Moon-Audio cable with my CEntrance Blue DAC for wireless play.

    But now I will have no issue with leaving the BT V2 cable on the W60 full-time, and not miss wired play on the W60. With the V1 BT cable on my W60, I often found that I was reaching for my W80 and my BlueDAC wireless amp, because the difference in sound quality was more noticeable. Plus the connectors are tight and with short fingernails it was too much trouble to swap cables onto the W60.

    Now my W60 will go everywhere with me, on the V2 BT cable. And, I’d like to upgrade my V1 cable on my W40 and W50 to a V2 as well, to save wear and tear on the cables by not moving just the one cable around.
     
    wellers73 likes this.
  2. wellers73
    Thanks for the thorough review! I have the V1 Westone BT cable, which I use on my W20s, while I use my W60s and ES60s wired. Was thinking of getting the V2 cable to run my W60s permanently wireless, like you have. Just to confirm - you did the review using the original versions of the W60s, correct? Not the V2 W60s that recently came out?
     
  3. HeadphoneAddict Contributor
    Yes, I have had the original W60 for several years. They’re the same version that Steve Gutenberg used in the Westone IEM vs GamuT speakers a few years ago in my signature. He had a fitment problem with his ES60 but everyone else had a perfect fit, and he had to resort to the universal fit and loved them.
     

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