Details: Westone’s three-way triple driver flagship designed for professional use. Note: Westone updated the form factor of all earphones several years after release. The UM3X became the new UM Pro30.
MSRP: $399.99 / manufacturer’s page
Current Price: $399 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Triple Armature | Imp: 56 Ω | Sens: 124 dB | Freq: 20-18k Hz | Cable: 4.2’ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 2.5mm | Preferred tips: Shure single-flange, Shure Olive
Wear Style: Over-the-ear
Accessories (3.5/5) – Comply foam tips (4 sets in 2 sizes) and hard clamshell carrying case. Edit 4/28/11: Newer versions may also come with Single-flange conical (3 sizes) and rounded (3 sizes) silicone tips, triple-flange silicone tips, ¼” adapter, in-line volume control, filter and tip cleaning tool, and hard clamshell carrying case
Build Quality (4.5/5) – The housings are a two-piece design and made out of a hard, durable plastic. They are quite large but rather good-looking. The multi-strand twisted cable is impossibly lightweight and tends to tangle but feels very sturdy. The split, housing entry, and heavy-duty 3.5mm L-plug are all very well-relieved; the UM3X RC adds a detachable cable
Isolation (4/5) – Isolation is extremely high as the shells fill my ears nicely and the angled-nozzle design coaxes the maximum possible attenuation from the stock Comply foamies or Shure Olives
Microphonics (5/5) – The UM3X can only be worn over-the-ear and microphonics are nonexistent
Comfort (4.5/5) – The shells of the UM3X are quite ergonomic and fill out the wearer’s ear nicely – the smaller Westone 1 actually fits me less securely. Cabling is very light and flexible which helps with the over-the-ear fit
Sound (9.1/10) – The UM3X was released just a few months after Westone’s own W3, the very first three-way triple-driver universal IEM. Aimed squarely at the pro audio market, the UM3X might just be the smoothest BA-based earphone I’ve heard to date. The bass is impactful and well-extended, keeping up with other bass-heavy BA-based earphones. Body, attack, and decay are all quite natural but the bass isn’t as quick and tight as that of the high end Audio-Technica earphones or the DBA-02; next to the decay-shy CK10, the UM3X sounds thick and a tiny bit bloated but in general its low end is quite pleasant.
The midrange is forward and quite warm but also very smooth, clear, and detailed. The mids of the UM3X are quite possibly even more forward than those of the ATH-CK100 but seem relatively less emphasized due to the more confined overall presentation. The forward nature of the midrange, combined with the warmth and thickness, makes the UM3X sound fairly close and intimate at all times and sacrifices transparency slightly.
Unlike the straightforward midrange, the treble of the Westones perplexes me. On the one hand it is astonishingly detailed and extremely forgiving. Harshness and sibilance are absent completely and the resulting sound is not fatiguing in the least. On the other hand the treble lacks the crispness and sparkle that I like so much in many of my other BA-based earphones. From a technical standpoint, the non-fatiguing nature of the UM3X’s treble is second only to the ATH-CK100. However, I always feel like I have to put in extra work to focus on the details. Naturally, personal preferences play a huge part in this and the UM3X is without a doubt a very capable stage monitor, especially when vocals are of the utmost importance, but cymbals just don’t sound realistic to me without a touch more energy than the UM3X tends to provide. For jazz and vocal performances the polite nature of the UM3X may work well but for rock, metal, and even electronica I found myself yearning for slightly more bite – the UM3X can simply sound bland at times.
When it comes to presentation, the UM3X steps even further away from realism and clearly caters to the professional crowd. Overall, the earphones feel quite intimate, especially when it comes to the forward midrange. For the most part everything is placed quite close to the listener. On the upside, the UM3X has astonishingly good instrumental separation. Lastly, it is worth noting that despite the high impedance, the UM3X is a relatively sensitive earphone and will hiss with full-size amps and other mismatched sources.
Value (8.5/10) – Though extremely competent from a technical standpoint, the Westone UM3X has a peculiar way of presenting sound that won’t appeal to everyone. The sound signature combines strong bass, a warm and forward midrange, and extremely smooth and relaxed treble. Comfort, fit, isolation, and build quality are all expectedly superb making the UM3X an excellent top-tier earphone that’s more than certain to find and maintain a loyal fan base.
Pros: Great fit, isolation, and build quality, high technical proficiency
Cons: Only Comply foam tips included, sound signature & presentation will not appeal to everyone