Westone Tour and Colorado Meet August 7th 2011 - Please post pics and impressions (or even pics of your impressions) here
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barleyguy

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Greetings,
 
People started showing up around 10:30 and setting up gear. The meet was in an oversized conference room with a big “U” shaped table. The space turned out to be about the perfect size for the number that showed up, which was about a dozen, not counting the 3 from Westone. Those were Rachelle, Kate, and Dan. The cleaning crew was also in the building, and I think we were the bane of their day, but they were gracious nonetheless. Dan's wife was 36 weeks pregnant and she had baby feet kicking her from the inside, so needless to say he was holding his cell phone. It was gracious of everyone at Westone to come spend a Sunday with us.
 
The mix of gear was eclectic but everything there was high quality. Most people seemed to choose the computer → DAC → Headphone Amp → Headphones route, though most everyone had a pocket sized source as well. The amplifiers were mixed about evenly between tubes and solid state.
 
Things I remember seeing, in random order:
 
Westone had the UM1, UM2, UM3, UM3X, W1, W2, W3, W4, ES2, ES3X, and ES5 demos there. The ES series and UM series looked much more popular the W series for listening, though I think most people tried the W4 as well. Larry also sent the Triple Fi Pro and a Monster IEM to compare, and several people took the opportunity to make the comparison.
 
I did try the W4 for the first time at the meet. It was the only Westone IEM I hadn't tried yet. The one word summary would be “balanced”. (In a sound signature sense, not in an electrical sense). As many people have stated before, it seems much less hyped than the W3, having a presentation that's a bit more mellow on the high and low end, but still with decent extension. I also compared the W4 against the RE0 (which I carry everywhere), and felt that the W4 was definitely a step up, but that the RE0 held its own. The RE0 also has an easy in-out fit, whereas the W4 is more of a “twist it in your ear and spend some time with it” type of IEM, much like a custom. My way of using universals is more of the former. So ultimately I'm going to end up with the ES5 and RE0 and my custom and universal.
 
Larry sent along the Ray Samuels SR-71B balanced amp and a balanced Twag IEM cable. A few people actually tried it with their Westone custom IEMs. I think the consensus was that it sounded very good, but were questioning whether running balanced on a portable amp was overkill or not. (But the definition of “overkill” is a personal thing that's at a different level for everyone.)
 
Also courtesy of Larry via lmswjm was a Denon D7000 modded to be open backed. As luck would have it, someone also brought a stock D7000, so people were able to do a direct comparison. The consensus I believe was that the difference was primarily in the bass. Many people really liked the open back version.
 
I brought along my computer like most people there, along with a Tango 24 studio DAC running to my CTH amp and a pair of Grado SR225s. CraigLester also had some woodied open back Grado MS1s, so people were able to compare those as well. A few people also tried the CTH with their own headphones.
 
Another interesting rig (Bixby's I think) was a Blue Circle DAC going to a vintage Kenwood receiver. That was a great sounding rig. It showed that old receivers can make impressive amps, and will shine if given a great source.
 
I've missed a lot of stuff that was there, so hopefully other people will fill in with their impressions as well. The rest of my memories were the events of the day and the conversations. Topics included the usual like headphones. amps, and DACs, as well as hi resolution music, speakers, home theaters, the weather, food, and other random things.
 
Westone capped off the day with a raffle and a tour. They raffled off enough hats and t-shirts that everyone got one, and then had a pair of W4s as the grand prize. I was 2nd to last, so had a 50% chance on it, but ended up with a t-shirt, which is actually rather cool. I believe it was Clausgut that won the W4. I should have taken notes. And pictures. Rachelle and Kate did take pictures that I'll post when they send them.
 
The tour was fun and fascinating. We heard a step by step explanation of building custom IEMs while looking at each station. Being a Sunday, nobody was actually working, but we got to see the tools they use and imagine the process. It is impressive that custom IEMs are completely hand made. They go so far as to arrange each person's drivers based on their ear anatomy and solder the wires in by hand. There is more to “custom” than just the shell. Overall, I think we were all impressed with the Westone factory and their process.
 
I'm pretty sure the head of the cleaning crew was wearing SkullCandies though. He should probably know better considering where he works.

 
Overall, it was a great meet. We think it would have been a little larger if we weren't so close to RMAF. I think anyone who would have traveled from greater distance is choosing that meet over this one, which is completely logical. So we may shoot for closer to May next year.
 
Anyone else who attended, if you took pictures or want to talk about the meet please do so here. And I will get Westone's pictures posted when I have them.
 
Cheers,
 
Harley.
 
 
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JazzVinyl

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I was impressed enough with Westone to order their flagship IEM, the ES5.
 
Just got off the phone with them, my ES5's will start production this morning!
 
.
 
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bixby

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I had not heard the Westone UM1 or UM2 s in a long while if at all.  I really think the UM2s for most folks with an ipod as source would be a good buy it and forget about trying others for a long while.  The UM1s are a strong contender for the $.  And I liked my UM-3X quite a bit more than the Westone 4s.
 
As for the ES-5s.  Even with the mocked up universal fit foams on the ends I could tell it was a notch up over the UM-3Xs.
 
I was also pretty surprised to find I liked my Cmoy better than the fiio e-11, especially with all the press that amp has been getting.
 
 
 
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AudioCats

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Did any body compare UM3X / SM3 at the meet?
 
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barleyguy

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Quote:
Did any body compare UM3X / SM3 at the meet?


I don't remember there being SM3 there, but I could be wrong.
 
Also, I edited (more like replaced) the first post with my impressions...
 
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lmswjm

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Thank you Larry for auditioning and transporting my open back / open front D7000's. Your genorsity and enthusiasm are unparalleled. Also, thanks to Barleyguy for bringing them to the meet. For anyone interested, the link to the mod'd Denons are in my signature.
 
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lilkoolaidman

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Quote:
I don't remember there being SM3 there, but I could be wrong.
 
Also, I edited (more like replaced) the first post with my impressions...

Um, Alex (clarinetman) did have some SM3s with him and he compared them. I think he said they were very similar except that the UM3x mids were more "in the background" as opposed to "in your face". But you would have to talk to him, since he compared them, not me.
 
 
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barleyguy

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Quote:
Um, Alex (clarinetman) did have some SM3s with him and he compared them. I think he said they were very similar except that the UM3x mids were more "in the background" as opposed to "in your face". But you would have to talk to him, since he compared them, not me.
 

Well, I did say "I could be wrong". 

 
Actually, if I would have known I might have tried to listen to the SM3s.  I also didn't get to the Triple Fi Pros, which I've always wanted to hear as a point of reference.
 
I'll have to try to hear some more things at RMAF, though that show always goes by too quick just like the local meets.
 
 
 
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JazzVinyl

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I did listen to the "open back / open front D7000's. " and I thought they were WAY better than the stock D7000's.
 
Good mods!!
 
.
 
 
 
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clarinetman

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Quote:
Did any body compare UM3X / SM3 at the meet?


I did actually. They sounded very similar to my ears, although the vocals on the UM3X seemed more recessed and less lush. Surprisingly, the only universal I liked almost as much as my SM3 was the TF10 Larry brought. They are an excellent value.
 
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JazzVinyl

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Hey clarinetman....
 
It's pretty unusual for anyone to claim the clarinet these days, proud of ya :)
 
I love the Bass Clarinet...has to be one of the most awesome jazz instruments for vivid expression of emotion.
 
Cheers!
 
.
 
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Quote:
I did listen to the "open back / open front D7000's. " and I thought they were WAY better than the stock D7000's.
 
Good mods!!

Yes, the re-cabled open-back D7000 were better than stock with improved air, ambience and midrange presence, plus better high end detail.  My only problem was the deep bass was looser and muddier than my LA7000 or my orthodynamics.  With test tones there is some doubling and distortion of very low notes below 31Hz, and a roll off below 40Hz that my LA7000 does not exhibit.  They did play very strong to 40Hz, and the 31Hz test tones were only a couple of dB down.  They still had a fun mid-bass hump, which didn't over power the mids too much.  The deep bass did improve with a strong amp like my ZDT, and with most music it was not easy to hear the problems because there isn't a lot of musical content that low.  Even my LA7000 don't have quite the bass detail and speed of my orthodynamics, HD800 and Stax.  It seems to me that any version of of D7000 is fun to listen to and gets your toes tapping, but the LA7000 are more reference quality and the open-backed D7000 get you part of the way there for less money.
 
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brianblank

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Thanks to the group for organizing the meetup and Westone for hosting (especially on a Sunday). Thanks to everyone who attended by humoring this n00b and letting me listen to your amazing gear. lilkoolaidman, I was impressed with your Maverick D1, it looks like exactly what I need for my home office headphone/computer/Sonos setup. Although as I read up on it after the meet I came across the Matrix "cube", so I am weighing the two against each other.
 
I really enjoyed the ES5s, but can't justify them right now (maybe after Westone announces their tradein program). (JazzVinyl, I look forward to reading what you think of them once you get your pair.) Instead I dropped my 5 year old ES1s today to have them "recased", the initial impressions weren't as good as they could have been (audiologist vs. someone that knows IEMs (Rachelle)), I am looking forward to the new fit.
 
Since we didn't get to see any IEMs being built on the tour I thought you guys might enjoy this blog/video of Engadet's recent tour of Westone's lab, http://www.engadget.com/2011/08/09/westone-lab-tour-how-in-ear-monitors-are-made-from-impressions/ . 
 
Also, if you didn't see this on Facebook, here is a picture from the meet that Westone posted: http://a3.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/283339_10150252865417056_82396687055_8169701_1134850_n.jpg
 
Thanks again to everyone for "showing me the ropes",
Brian
 
p.s. Also, thanks to clarinetman for unknowingly introducing me to Infected Mushroom, it popped up on random as I was listening to the HD580s, I ordered it from Amazon that evening.
 
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lilkoolaidman

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Quote:
p.s. Also, thanks to clarinetman for unknowingly introducing me to Infected Mushroom, it popped up on random as I was listening to the HD580s, I ordered it from Amazon that evening.
Aren't they good? I really like how musical their music is, not just pounding beats. The stereo effects they put in their music makes it ideal for listening to through headphones. I've noticed they're pretty popular here on Head-fi.
 
 
 
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JazzVinyl

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I called Westone this afternoon and talked to Rachelle...she said for me to come in Monday morning at 8am to pick up my ES5's...
 
WOOO-HOOO!!!
 
Exactly 2 weeks in production, just as they said. 

 
.
 
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