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Westone 1 Review

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Reviewed Nov 2010

Details: Entry-level model from Westone’s consumer series
MSRP: $129.00 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $120 from amazon.com; Note: an updated W10 model has since been released
Specs: Driver: BA | Imp: 30Ω | Sens: 117 dB | Freq: 20-16k Hz | Cable: 4.2’ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 2.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single flange (Shure Gray Flex), Shure Olive
Wear Style: Over-the-ear

Accessories (5/5) – Single-flange conical (3 sizes) and rounded (3 sizes) silicone tips, triple-flange silicone tips, Comply foam tips (3 sizes), ¼” adapter, in-line volume control, filter and tip cleaning tool, and hard clamshell carrying case with carabiner
Build Quality (4.5/5) – The housings are plastic and extremely lightweight, as is the sturdy multi-strand twisted cable. The y-split, housing entry, and 3.5mm L-plug are all very well-relieved. Although the construction of the Westone 1 just doesn’t seem as solid as that of the higher-end UM3X, it’s still far above average in its price tier
Isolation (3.5/5) – Good due to the ergonomic shells
Microphonics (5/5) – The W1 can only be worn over-the-ear and microphonics are nonexistent
Comfort (4.5/5) – The shells are extremely lightweight and ergonomic but don’t fill my ears quite as nicely as those of the larger UM3X or even Meelec M6, requiring re-adjustment every once in a while. Cabling is very light and flexible, as with all Westone earphones

Sound (7.6/10) – Although the Westone 1 is undoubtedly one of the top earphones in its class when it comes to overall usability, the sound leaves a different impression. The general signature is a balanced one, with a very slight downward slant resulting from top-end roll-off. As is the case with many single-armature earphones, the transducer of the W1 struggles to cover the entire frequency range, giving up a slight bit of extension at the bottom and a more noticeable amount at the top compared to most of my similarly-priced dynamics. The bass of the Westones is relatively flat and carries decent impact for a single-armature earphone. It won’t keep up with the Q-Jays or DBA-02 in fullness but doesn’t fare quite as poorly as the Ety ER6i or Apple dual-drivers, either. It is fast and tight, but not overly so. Texturing is also good but not on-level with my ViSang R03, Fischer Audio Eterna, or even RE-ZERO. Put simply, the dynamic-driver earphones in the W1’s price bracket are more effortless when it comes to reproducing low notes.

The slightly forward midrange of the Westone 1, on the other hand, is definitely an asset. It is quite smooth and transparent and works especially well with female vocals. Vocal sibilance is completely absent and the tonal character is quite neutral. Clarity and detail are good but not on the same level as those of the cheaper HiFiMan RE-ZERO. The same goes for the treble – aside from the top-end roll-off, the Westone suffers from a lack of treble sparkle. The high end is very smooth but lacks the crispness of earphones such as the RE-ZERO – as with the low end, the treble of the Westones sounds a bit constrained next to a good dynamic-driver IEM.

When it comes to presenting audio, the Westones again leave me wanting just a bit more out of them. Though rather neutral and transparent overall, I found the W1 a bit bleak in coloration, not unlike the UM3X and RE-ZERO. This sort of desaturated coloration is an acquired taste and can definitely be a positive trait for those used to it, but can also be somewhat boring with the wrong tracks. The soundstage is reasonably wide and deep and tends to distance the listener from the performance, with the exception of vocals, which again come through quite strong and intimate. The separation is good and the earphones do sound fairly well-layered, but not nearly as much so as the UM3X. The W1 is also more forgiving of less-than-stellar sources, bitrates, and mastering. As indicated by the physical specifications, the Westone 1 also doesn’t mind having a bit of extra juice to play around with, making small gains in balance and resolution when amped.

Value (8/10) – The Westone 1 is an extremely well-rounded mid-range product by virtue of its excellent pack-ins, solid build quality, and impressive isolation and fit. It is the sound that can make or break an earphone, however, and the sonic qualities of the single balanced armature used by the Westone 1 are polarizing. On the one hand, the earphone is refined, smooth, and neutral. On the other, it lacks the crispness and clarity I’ve come to expect from mid-range BA-based models and even certain dynamics. Put simply, as far as single-BA designs go, I don’t feel that the sound of the Westone 1 is worth nearly $100 more than that of the budget-oriented Soundmagic PL50. The HiFiMan earphones pose a problem as well – both the RE0 and RE-ZERO offer a similarly neutral and somewhat bleak sound with fewer drawbacks and at a lower price. For those who value the Westone name, the superb user-friendliness of the W1, or their particular sound signature, these earphones make a very good mid-range buy. For audio performance alone, they are outclassed by some of the other options on the market.

Pros: Impressive fit, isolation, build quality, and accessory pack; pleasant overall sound, great with female vocals
Cons: A bit rolled off on either end, not as crisp or clear as some of the competition


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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