Westone W40 (or, Recycling The Blues)
Jul 28, 2015 at 10:29 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 2


There is no Dana, there is only ZOTL!
Reviewer for The Headphone List
Dec 27, 2010
Hi-this review originally ran in The Audiophile Voice...as it is a print magazine, and the issue was over a year ago, figured I'd post it here so it wouldn't disappear in Hard Copy Magazine Heaven...
It is a while ago, ancillary gear has changed quite a bit, my ears/listening has changed quite a bit, I'll reserve a slot in case anything comes up.

Westone W40 (versus W4)

I am a headphonephile. Have the audiophile-approved high end rig in the living room, Peachtree preamp, Krell amp, Thiel speakers, Linn turntable, but spend much more time these days on my portable gear (Fiio X3 DAP, iPod Touch (have two-2nd and 3rd generations, I believe), an iPad, and a Samsung Galaxy YP-G70 (a Galaxy smartphone without the phone, similar to the iPod Touch/iPhone relationship). I have 2 portable external amps, the ALO National and the Go-DAP GD-03, an iPhone amp/DA converter that takes the iPod data, skips the DA and amp part and processes it externally. I won’t list the various in ear, on ear, and over ear headphones I’ve accumulated over the past few years, could fill a page.
So, when I heard I had a chance to review the new W40 by Westone, an upgrade of the very well regarded W4 (which I own), I jumped at the chance. The W4 was known to be in the upper echelon of universal in ear monitors (iem’s), a major upgrade would require custom in ears (which involve an audiologist doing a mold of your ear canals, then the manufacturer makes the headphone specifically for your ears from the mold). Since it came out, more expensive challengers appeared to challenge the W4 for universal predominance, but it still maintained a loyal following.
I hadn’t paid much attention to the upgrade information on the new Westone series, and when I posted on Head-Fi (Facebook for headphone geeks), I was told the W4 and W40 were essentially the same and sounded the same (always by people who hadn’t heard the W40). The drivers remained the same but dimensions were slightly different...
From the Westone site:
The Quad-Driver Westone W40 earphone will take your listening experience to an entirely new level. Four balanced armature drivers and a three-way crossover network deliver breathtaking clarity and realism. Westone’s True-Fit technology provides superior ergonomics and comfort.
It features 2 bass drivers, 1 mid, 1 treble, crossovers as noted, and a removable cable (they include 2 cables, an iPhone cable, and one without mic). List price $599.99. It came packaged in a thick cardboard box, and included are the cables, 2 pairs of covers for the body of the iem’s that change to color to red or blue, an orange plastic carrying case of remarkably strong build, many varied tips, silicon, foamies, all sizes, a tiny hex screwdriver, and an ear wax remover.
I had some trouble getting a good fit and seal on these iem’s, which is essential to getting everything out of them (to be fair, I often have trouble with getting a seal, especially on my left side). I eventually settled on large Audeo PFE-122 silicon for the right, and the large Westone silicon on the left. Insertion is a bit different than most in-ears as well, seem a bit like hearing aids. You insert them with the wire facing down, then twist them so the wire goes up and over the ear.
Tracks used to evaluate these included
Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell-Big House (from Begonias, CD lossless rip)
Daft Punk-Get Lucky (HDTracks 88/24 download)
Action Hero-Fountains of Wayne (from Sky Full of Holes, CD lossless rip)
The Hop Bottom Hopon-Mostly Other People Do the Killing (from Shamokin’!!!, CD lossless rip)
Break Your Little Heart-All Time Low (Nothing Personal, CD lossless rip)
Witch Hunt-Wayne Shorter (Speak No Evil, HDTracks 94/24 download)
Starry Skies-Laura Cantrell (No Way There From Here)
Sound on these babies is very balanced. It has rich, mids with a wonderful lush tone in the area where most music happens. Vocals are rich, clear, easy to decipher. Bass is full, not overwhelming, but tuneful, have body, and extend down. These won’t be the preferred iems for bassheads, though. The texture on acoustic bass is particularly rich. The highs are terrifically presented, cymbals having body, presence, without the tizziness that often accompanies lesser headphones. Differentiating the different cymbals and the touch on them is easy.
The Soundstage is very wide, though maybe somewhat narrow. Imaging/detailing/and the air in the space are all first notch.
As I have the W4 on hand, I compared, and found that while the W4 is a fine performer in its own right, the W40 bested it on most of the above sonic attributes. It is slightly less efficient, but that on its own isn’t a major negative. Detailing and soundstage, while good, don’t quite get to the level of the W40. Mids are certainly fine, but richer on the W40. In comparison, the W4 is slightly warmer sounding, which seems to mask a bit of the detail of music and space. Stage isn’t as wide, bass is fine, though the nether tone color is richer on the W40. The highs, while quite acceptable, don’t quite shimmer as much as the W40. The one area the W4 is better, to me, is the presentation of the stage. The W40 puts you very up close, in the first or second row of the house, while the W4 puts you back 5-10 rows, which is a more comfortable listening position, to me, in person and on headphones. Isolation on both is good, not great. They can be used outdoors and you can enjoy listening, but outside noise does detract some from the experience. My isolation Champs, Etymotic ER 4P, does a much better job (but then again, they isolate better then most of my gear).

I have to stress, the differences are not day and night, I hear them on direct comparison, and if you already own and enjoy the W4, you should continue to do so. I don’t think you have to ditch the W4 quickly if you already are a proud owner, but, for those who must have the latest, best version of gear, the W40 is it for now (unless you go even higher in Westone’s line, I suppose, though I haven’t heard their higher models, or any customs or other kilobuck iems).
Late in the review process I received the LH Labs Geek Out 1000. This is a usb connected DA converter and headphone amp that was group financed by the team that brought out the DaVinci high end DA converter, but aimed at non-audiophile headphone users and audiophiles interested in good sound at reasonable prices. The ongoing tale of the Geek Guys is more than I can go into here, but much of my listening switched to the computer through my Geek Out.
My overall impressions didn’t change…listening to the W4 is a fun and engaging experience, good bass, nice balance, mids well represented, highs present, and a good wide soundstage. Putting in the W40, however, everything opens up-clarity is increased, both in instruments and space between instruments, highs become more differentiated, more texture to mids and lows, vocals have amazing presence (Aimee Mann “Guys Like Me” has her difficult to understand vocals front and center, diction clearer) . It’s like a haze that I didn’t hear with the W4’s was lifted when I switched to the W40’s. Stage is wider, detail better, bass strong and textured. Space between instruments feels more like real open space. The Geek Out did magnify the differences to my ears.
As they say, there's no free lunch. The changes from W4 to W40 seem to be small changes in body dimensions, generally small increases in size. In my ears, this made the fit more difficult. With the W4, I'd do the "Westone Twist", and they seemed to snap into my pinna, like the were made for them. The W40 doesn't do that same trick, have to jiggle, push, cajole, talk sweetly, to get the fit. Since your ears likely are different than mine, though, you may find the opposite to be true.
So, highly recommended, the best iems I've had pleasure of listening to. (haven't seen big mark downs on the W4, though I have on the W3 on occasion. You'd expect some on a discontinued model, but I keep my eyes peeled for discounts, not many as of now. Definitely a worthwhile buy at a decent discount (I'd say even at original list, if one can afford it). The new champ, though, is the W40!

Westone W40 In-Ear Monitors
Westone Laboratories, Inc.
P.O. Box 15100 • Colorado Springs, CO 80935
Physical address:
2235 Executive Circle • Colorado Springs, CO 80906
Phone: 719-540-9333
Toll Free: 800-525-5071
Fax: 800-736-9576
Email: westone@westone.com
Associated equipment
Fiio X3 DAP, iPod Touch (Generations 2 and 3), Samsung Galaxy YP-G70, iPad 3rd generation, ALO Continental Amp, Go-DAP GD-03 DA converter/amp for iPod/iPhone, Cardas HPI interconnect (mini to mini), Light Harmonics Geek Out 1000, custom built PC, JRiver 19 music player.
Jul 28, 2015 at 10:30 AM Post #2 of 2
(the original article had photos provided by the editor, I'll try to take some and add them, :xf_eek: )

Users who are viewing this thread