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Westone 2 Review

4


Reviewed Nov 2010

Details: Dual-driver earphone from Westone’s consumer series
MSRP: $339.00 / manufacturer’s page
Current Price: $299 from amazon.com; Note: an updated W20 model has since been released
Specs: Driver: Dual BA | Imp: 33Ω | Sens: 117 dB | Freq: 20-18k Hz | Cable: 4.2’ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 2.5mm | Preferred tips: Shure gray soft flex (stock)
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) – Identical to the Westone 1 – lightweight plastic housings, a sturdy multi-strand twisted cable, and well-relieved y-split, housing entry, and 3.5mm L-plug
Isolation (3.5/5) – Good due to the ergonomic shells
Microphonics (5/5) – The W2 can only be worn over-the-ear and microphonics are nonexistent
Comfort (4.5/5) – Like the Westone 1, which uses the same shells, the W2 is extremely lightweight and ergonomic and the cabling is very user-friendly. The small shells can sometimes require re-adjusting after a while but not often enough to be bothersome

Sound (8.9/10) – Having read that the Westone 2 can compete with the other high-end dual driver monitors not only in fit and user-friendliness but also in sound quality, I was quite eager to complete my survey of Westone’s consumer-class in-ear monitors with it. In a sentence, though I can see why some would find them preferable to the more analytical ATH-CK10 and Fischer Audio DBA-02, they are entirely different animals from the no-nonsense clarity kings. The sound of the W2 is extremely balanced and yet very musical, splitting the difference between the entry-level consumer-oriented Westone 1 and the reference-quality UM3X stage monitors.

The low end of the W2 is smooth and punchy but still typical of armature-based earphones on the whole. The bass rolls off gently below 50Hz or so, which is not completely out of character for a dual-BA. The W2 does beat out the ATH-CK10 and Fischer DBA-02 by a hair in bass quantity but, expectedly, lacks the sub-bass presence of many high-end dynamics. Texture and detail are on-par with the other high-end dual-BAs though the latter is slightly less prominent due to the greater warmth and smoothness of the W2.

The midrange is where the W2 really shines. The mids are in very good balance with the bass and treble – slightly more forward than those of the UE TF10 but not as much as with the UM3X or SM3. Like the Westone 1, the W2 is slightly warm but there is no loss in detail or added veil as a result. The W3, which is dryer and thinner-sounding in the midrange, admittedly sounds slightly more clear and detailed but the difference is small. Like the other Westone earphones, the smooth and transparent midrange of the W2 works wonders with female vocals – compared to the ATH-CK10, for example, the thicker and wetter W2 has better vocal definition and simply sounds more satisfying.

At the high end the W2 is competent but seems to avoid risk as much as possible – I guess Westone took enough risks with the W3. It is not quite as airy as the DBA-02, probably due to the greater warmth, and less sparkly than the Westone 3, TF10, and CK10. It is, however, detailed and extended but not at all offensive or tiring. The W2 really sounds very natural but lacks the energy of some of the more treble-heavy earphones out there. All in all it’s a good balance for those who want an earphone with present treble without risking listening fatigue.

The presentation of the W2 again puts it on-level with most top-tier earphones. The soundstage has impressive depth and width and never sounds confined or closed. The W2 does a very good job of conveying distance – better than the W3, actually. However, the W3 does sound more three-dimensional, in large part due to the extra layer of bass presented by the flagship. On the whole I feel that the W2 works better for busier and faster tracks (where the bass of the W3 can get overwhelming) but at the same time is more forgiving of mediocre source material. Lastly, it is worth noting that the Westone 2 is just as sensitive as the W3 is, meaning that it will hiss with many of the more powerful portable players as well as amps, notebooks, desktop computers, and so on.

Value (9/10) – From the day I laid hands on the Westone 1, I was disappointed by the wasted potential of the earphone as an overall package – with the W1, sound quality was by far the weakest part of an otherwise exemplary IEM. The Westone 2 does not disappoint, however – it is an earphone that is more similar in signature to the smooth and inoffensive W1 but technically much closer to the company’s flagships – the W3 and UM3X. Though I do still like the clearer and crisper ATH-CK10 and DBA-02 better overall as far as dual-drivers go, the Westone 2 has arguably more mass appeal than any other dual-driver out there and is a good example of what many consider to be the ‘audiophile’ sound signature – slightly warm but with good balance, detail, and natural clarity and nothing to distract the listener from the midrange. Analytical listeners and bass-lovers alike may find themselves slightly bored by the W2 but for everyone else, it offers a very complete package at a competitive price point.

Pros: Impressive fit, isolation, build quality, and accessory pack; pleasant overall sound, great balance, good soundstage
Cons: ‘Safe’ sound signature may be boring for some


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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.

4 Comments

  1. Andrew Garb on

    Hi there,
    I have had the Westone 2’s for about 2-3 years now,recently washed them by accident, and I am looking for a sort of upgrade. I have a budget of up to about 300, and listen mostly to Funk, Hip hop, and House. If I could have a few recommendations I would be greatful.

    • ljokerl on

      $300 will barely buy you a new Westone 20, upgrading with the same spend is going to be a stretch, but only if you’re looking for the same type of sound tuning. The best you can do in that case is get something with comparable performance without spending your entire budget – for example the Audio-Technica IM02 is easily as good as the W2/W20 (probably a little better, especially in treble performance) but only costs about $160-180.

      The trick to upgrading from a well-rounded earphone like the W2 is switching to a different sound tuning – hopefully one that’s a better fit for your preferences. To that end you have several options. One I recommend often these days is the FLC Technology FLC8 simply because it’s the best earphones I’ve tried in its price range for a mildly v-shaped sound. In its stock state it’ll give you more powerful bass and brighter, crisper treble than the W2/W20 without losing out on the detail or separation. Its sound is also adjustable to a degree, so you can fine-tune it a bit more.

      The DUNU DN-2000 will give you similar performance to the FLC8 with less complications, but also less flexibility. Plus, I don’t like its form factor quite as much as the ergonomic designs of the Westones and the FLC8.

      Lastly, I always recommend considering the Etymotic ER4 in that price range just because of its clarity and detail “wow” factor. It probably doesn’t have the bass depth to pull off house music in an entertaining way (though it’s not that different from the W2 in this regard) but the clarity and resolution are unbeatable in the price range, save for a few similar-sounding sets that have all been discontinued by now.

      • Andrew Garb on

        Thank you for the advice, unfortunately when I search for the FLC8’s, they are out of stock everywhere, despite wanting to pick them up.

        • ljokerl on

          Must be due to the holiday shopping season.

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