Due to the shootout, I’ve been holding off any new iems for the last months, as that takes up all my time. EarSonics’ sudden announcement of a new flagship was a no-brainer, since I’m a long time loyal fan. Aside from that, there was only one iem I was specifically interested in that I didn’t want to let go: the Westone ES80. Westone’s ‘W’ models are known for their warm, thick , and smooth sound, but they also have a separate line of ES models with a more technical tuning. The Westone ES60 didn’t seem to get much attention on Head-Fi, but piqued my attention as it was highly rated by experienced reviewers as twister6 and MikePortnoy. So when the ES80 was announced, I was very eager to try it, since the tuning philosophy seemed to line up with my interest.
And indeed, the ES80 is right up my alley. The EarSonics EM10 has a special tone that I’ve greatly been enjoying the last days; but when you switch to the ES80, the jump in resolution is immediately apparent. The ES80’s upper treble is not only greatly extended, it’s also very linear. After mentioning this, I’ve been explained Westone uses custom designed BA drivers, which have been specifically engineered by Westone in order to achieve this performance. The ES80 takes somewhat of a technical approach, with a leaner, but highly resolved sound, in line with monitors as the NT6-pro, S-EM9 and Samba. It creates a remarkably clean image, and I’d easily place its resolution in the top 3 of the shootout. The quality runs throughout the signature. When we look at the bass, it shares similarities with the NT6-pro. It’s a somewhat typical BA bass; but it’s not only very tight and punchy, with an emphasis of sub- over mid-bass, it also reaches very low, and is exceptionally resolved. Very high quality indeed.
But despite similarities with something like the Samba or NT6pro, there’s a crucial difference – the ES80 is tuned for musicians. So the first monitor that comes to mind is the UE18+ Pro, that other stage monitor from one of the giants in the industry. For when we look at the history of the in-ear industry, both Ultimate Ears and Westone stand on a platform of their own. The ES80, like the UE18+, reveals its stage application by means of its buttery smooth tuning. The ES80 might take a technical approach, it nevertheless has a lightly warm, and very smooth signature. Even so, the contrast with the UE18+ is large: where the UE18+ focuses on timbre and vocal reproduction, the ES80’s imaging, resolution, and transparency is significantly greater. It’s a leaner, but very precise sound. Naturally, the ES80 comes with a downside of it’s own. In this case, the stage is above average wide, as well as airy; but it’s not deep. As a result, the image is mostly two-dimensional. Nevertheless, as a whole, the ES80 creates a somewhat unique combination of analytical precision, without an analytical tone. Exciting and stimulating, yes – but always pleasant to the ears.
Configuration: 8 BA drivers