Westone MACH 80 Review – Old Wisdom

Sound –

Back in the day if you wanted a warm and dark multi-driver, Westone had you covered. This trend has broadly continued but has been reformulated for the MACH series. The new models appear to have undergone adaptation to suit the tastes of the modern market. Certain inklings of Westone house sound remain and I personally find it a very convincing blend of neutral with sprinkles of additional warmth and smoothness. The result is a sound that offers excellent tonal balance and separation alongside great listenability and a natural, forgiving voicing. The Lucid Audio influence is certainly present as the MACH 80 delivers a broadly flat low-end with a very mild mid to upper-bass rise, a nice 3kHz hump for pinna gain and treble that sits in equal measure. The mild bass warmth alongside a 4kHz nadir are responsible for upholding the smoothness beloved on past Westone in-ears whilst introducing a more balanced, transparent vocal and treble presentation. Relative to strict DF neutral in-ears such as those from Etymotic reveals a broadly similar tuning excepting the above, and a slightly more coherent profile with lower peaks and dips.

Tip Choice

Eartips don’t make a huge impact on the sound albeit choices are relatively limited due to the nozzle size. Notable choices include Westone’s STAR tips which are a personal favourite small bore tip alongside Acoutune AET16 tips, Shure Olive foam tips, Spinfit CP800 and Klipsch oval tips. I personally can’t achieve a proper seal with the Spinfits due to the soft jacket collapsing in my ear canals. The Klipsch and Acoustune tips provided a very similar sound with a slightly greater mid-focus and good coherence. Though balanced and slightly smoother in the treble, there was a loss to bass extension relative to the STAR tips that I found the most ideal as far as silicone tips were concerned. The Olives provide better isolation and a smoother treble. They will be a good choice for those wanting a bit more warmth and those sensitive to lower treble. I used my preferred STAR tips for the remaining review.

Bass –

Westone hasn’t always produced bassy IEMs but certainly more laid-back ones which gave the low end a greater focus. The MACH 80 dispels this, delivering a bass-to-midrange balance that can be considered neutral. The tonality is also quite ear-pleasing and easy to listen to being a touch warm through the mid and upper bass but otherwise broadly linear. There is a notable sub-bass roll off and extension overall is more consistent with BA IEMs of old than new age BA IEMs, many of which offer a lot more sub-bass grunt. This means the MACH 80 is decidedly light-footed and very responsive but also lacks a lot of rumble, slam and general bass weight. While bass isn’t recessed and there is ample warmth and body, dynamics leave to be desired. Otherwise, the bass timbre is pleasant and natural. The low end is nicely present and balanced and is never overshadowed by the higher frequencies. At the same time, it never steps out and draws focus as on past Westone IEMs.

Besides this, the typical BA qualities remain which means you get heightened decay speed and excellent note definition. Accordingly, despite the gentle upper-bass rise, warmth doesn’t define the sound and notes also aren’t rounded or tubby at all, just a little more filled in. Separation remains fantastic and the MACH 80 dissects complex passages with ease. To elucidate, the Etymotic EVO actually has a bit more sub-bass weight but a similar amount of overall bass quantity. Yet the MACH 80 sounds noticeably more defined and textured in the mid-bass on account of its dual-woofer design. If you are averse to the BA bass timbre, the MACH 80 will likely disappoint as it still lacks the texturing of a good DD IEM. However, if you enjoy a balanced bass with a pleasant hint of warmth and excellent resolving power, the MACH 80 certainly delivers.

Mids –

I immediately clicked with the midrange presentation on the MACH 80 due to its natural, coherent delivery. Do note that I mention coherence as the MACH 80 has slightly less contrast between its bass and midrange than typical DF neutral or Harman target IEMs alongside a notable 4kHz nadir. However, as the bass is reserved and ample pinna gain is upheld, the result is a sound with a very similar style of voicing but less intensity and shout. The MACH 80 is clear and clean yet never in your face and therefore, presents excellent long-term listenability. Tonal transparency remains strong and the articulate lower treble permits excellent vocal definition too. Despite a slightly more present lower midrange emphasizing room, layering is highly delineated and fine detail retrieval also performs at a high level. All the while, the dense upper midrange saps any form of fatigue or sibilance from its presentation.

However, this tuning presents a double-edged sword for my main caveat is that the 4kHz dip is relatively large at just over 5dB. Female vocals sound full and warm and on certain tracks can sound slightly husky. I don’t personally mind this however, if you do like present upper mids it reduces transparency relative to IEMs with more presence in this region. Otherwise, I didn’t find the midrange to be excessively coloured, especially concerning instruments and male vocals. To nitpick, raw clarity isn’t the highest and some may conversely prefer a richer voicing. The MACH 80 ultimately appeals to those wanting reference-class balance and timbral accuracy without intensity of any form. In this aspect, I believe it will still appeal to Westone house sound loyalists. Altogether, the MACH 80 stands out as a strong tonal and technical performer. I laud Westone for their tasteful tuning that achieves a very pleasant balance of qualities and excellent coherence.

Highs –

The top-end is a region where IEMs have made huge strides in recent years. Being based on an aging design, I was curious to see how the MACH 80 would perform here. The result is as expected, this is a good performance if slightly dated in terms of upper-treble extension and tuning methodology. Modern IEMs have achieved a more linear lower-treble and greater micro-detail presence. The MACH 80 provides a treble presence that sits just in front of its midrange but still doesn’t wear on the ear over time. It has a keen note attack and a defined leading edge. The small lower-treble peak provides a focused foreground detail presentation and raw detail retrieval is also very good here too and no less than what you’d expect on any other modern high-end IEM. The mid-treble is equally present and similarly has been achieved in the form of a medium peak which heightens this impression of detail density and imbues a pleasing sense of shimmer and decay above. Accordingly, the top-end has a convincing sense of air and good headroom if not standing out within its highly competitive price tier. Above, the MACH 80 progressively rolls off meaning there isn’t a huge amount of sparkle here.

Clearly, the focus lies on the foreground where details are abundant but overall, the sound is lacking the special sauce you see on spoutless and even roofless BA IEMs these days. These models offer a sizable advantage in terms of upper-treble sensitivity and audible micro detail. Still, what is present has been executed very well. For instance, compared to Etymotic’s IEMs lauded for their high detail retrieval, the MACH 80 is clearly more detailed. The EVO presents a slightly more even and accurate lower treble, however, the MACH 80 has an added layer of complexity on top of it, being notably more nuanced in terms of background detail, layering and extension. It must also be considered that a large boost to upper treble isn’t necessarily in the interests of accuracy but more for musical enjoyment and the impression of higher resolution. The MACH 80 offers a strong detail performance in the treble alongside a voicing that is a touch thin but overall showcases better-than-average balance and timbral accuracy.

Soundstage –

This is an area where IEMs have made large strides and the MACH 80 definitely improves upon its forebearers and Etymotic’s designs but retains a more intimate character all the same. While it is able to extend beyond the head, the stage tends to be more forward and less expansive. However, the imaging performance is very commendable as the MACH 80 has excellent layering and very sharp directional cues. Positioning is pinpoint precise though the earphones don’t provide the sense of distance projection that more expansive IEMs can achieve and lacks the multi-dimensional character as a result. Besides this, separation is excellent all around due to the nicely balanced and neutrally positioned tonality alongside an agile and defined note presentation. Complex passages are a breeze.

Driveability –

The MACH 80 combines a medium 104dB sensitivity with a whopping 66-ohm impedance making it more difficult than most multi-driver IEMs to drive. It still reaches very high volumes from portable sources, easily sufficient once the excellent noise isolation is factored in. However, you will notice that it requires a few more clicks of volume than most high-end multi-driver IEMs. A high impedance is definitely not a bad thing for it reduces the current load on the source and increases source stability.

Output Impedance Sensitivity

The impedance curve is mostly flat with a slight bias towards the higher frequencies. When combined with the high impedance design, the MACH 80 is impressively source stable and tolerates up to a 10 Ohm output impedance with aplomb. Subjectively, from a 20 Ohm source, there is a slight reduction in bass and fullness though balance is mostly upheld. As a result, the MACH 80 sounds consistent between sources unless the output impedance is especially high where you will experience a thinner sound.

Driving Power

Despite the high impedance, the MACH 80 is very easy to drive and does well from portable sources. Comparing the DITA Navigator to my desktop stack revealed a very similar sound profile and no drop-off in bass performance. While you do need a little more volume than many IEMS, otherwise, the MACH 80 isn’t demanding of the source.

Suggested Pair Ups

 The MACH 80 is tuned in a very forgiving manner which means source pairing isn’t a huge issue. It can both tolerate more brightness and more warmth with ease so tonality will depend on listener preference. Similarly, output impedance and driving power aren’t a huge concern nor is background hiss. Overall, this makes the MACH 80 very easy to pair and drive.

Next Page: Comparisons & Verdict

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Ryan Soo

Ryan Soo

Avid writer, passionate photographer and sleep-deprived medical student, Ryan has an ongoing desire to bring quality products to the regular reader.

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