Westone MACH 80 Review – Old Wisdom

Comparisons –

Etymotic EVO ($499): The EVO has a nicer build and is slightly more tonally correct to my ears while the Westone has a technical advantage and is slightly less intense in the upper midrange. The EVO also requires a deeply fitting multi-flange ear tip to sound its best while the MACH 80 sounds great with the far more comfortable STAR tips included. The MACH 80 has a touch more bass overall and it has a fuller voicing which makes it more versatile for musical enjoyment. The EVO has more deep bass giving it a thicker note structure, but both have similarly poor extension and slam. The MACH 80 appears more controlled with higher note definition and speed. The midrange is slightly more forward and extended on the EVO and fuller and smoother on the MACH 80. The MACH 80 does have notably more room which gives it a more coherent voicing albeit still very transparent and clearly expressed.

The MACH 80 has notably higher resolving power of fine details despite not being quite as revealing in terms of tonality. Overall, both are voiced very similarly with the EVO having a slight cleanliness advantage, the MACH 80 being a bit fuller and richer but also more detailed. The lower treble is more forward on the MACH 80 while the EVO is better balanced and more linear. While the EVO has a bit more body and texture here, the MACH 80 is clearly more detailed. It has a crisper and thinner note presentation but retrieves noticeably more fine detail and has superior extension, similarly, retrieving more micro detail. The MACH 80 has a larger stage but not by a large degree. The MACH 80 has more nuanced imaging to boot.

Soft Ears RSV ($729): The RSV has a similar style of tuning but errs more on the side of Etymotic with higher contrast counterbalanced by a bigger sub-bass. Despite its all-BA setup, the RSV has a huge sub-bass extension and power advantage. Its bass is more balanced in presence, thicker and more powerful. The MACH 80 is a bit cleaner and faster, but the RSV offers much better extension and similar definition overall. It will really depend on preference, however, the enhanced sub-bass on the RSV does give it better genre versatility. The MACH 80 has a more bolstered lower-midrange and a warmer tone while the RSV is more neutral and extended. The RSV is equally articulate and brings vocals one step further forward.

The MACH 80 has slightly higher resolving power and higher coherence with less breathiness. This makes it more listenable for longer sessions without sacrificing detail. The RSV meanwhile suits those wanting more clarity and vocal focus. The treble is equally present on but appears more present on the Westone due to its less present upper-midrange. The voicing is also quite similar, being a hair thinner on the MACH 80 but also having slightly more bite. The RSV provides a bit more texture and mid-treble detail due to its more linear extension while the MACH 80 offers slightly better separation. The RSV has a bit more sparkle at the very top and a larger stage. The MACH 80 has sharper locational cues, but the RSV has better distance portrayal that gives it more dimension.

Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020 ($1099): The Andromeda actually has a relatively similar overall tuning but with more bass and upper treble alongside a wider midrange hump. This gives it a clearer cut warm and coloured voicing. The Andromeda offers a more present, punchy bass with a warmer, fuller presentation. While the MACH 80 is lightly warm, it is much cleaner overall and more separated, giving it a more defined, agile character. The Andro meanwhile has more engagement and slightly better extension suiting those wanting a fuller sound and higher dynamics. The midrange has a broad 2-4kHz emphasis on the Andro as opposed to the 3kHz hump on the MACH 80. The Westone has a much cleaner tonality and more neutral note body. It is just as coherent and boasts superior separation and definition.

The Andro sounds slightly more laid-back within the midrange but has fuller, larger vocals. Its midrange is warmer and richer but still clear due to the greater upper-mid presence. The MACH 80 meanwhile, comes across as more analytical with higher detail retrieval. The treble is similarly tuned on both within the lower and mid-treble, but the Andro 2020 has notably more upper-treble presence giving it a sparklier and more energetic sound. The MACH 80 sounds more focused. It has a bit more bite and definition in the lower treble and a more detail-dense presentation with more body and texture. The Andro is thinner and sparklier having a more energetic response with greater micro-detail presence and more headroom. The Andro has superior stage dimensions, but both have incredibly sharp imaging and the MACH 80 layers better.

Avara EST-6 ($1100): The EST-6 is a very similar style of earphone with a very similar neutral-style tuning. It has a 4-BA woofer/mid setup which delivers a very similar bass and midrange to the MACH 80 but an electrostatic tweeter array that provides a notably smoother lower and mid-treble but a much more present, extended upper-treble above. The EST-6 has maybe 1-2dB more bass presence, but it also extends better. While neither has much rumble or slam, the EST-6 provides a slightly more weighted deep bass and sounds more structured. The MACH 80 is a bit faster and more responsive while the EST-6 offers slightly longer decay, a bit more extension and greater texture. The midrange similarly is very similar, with a progressive climb to 3kHz prominence. However, the EST-6 has a bit more upper-midrange presence combined with a smoother lower treble while the MACH 80 is the opposite.

This gives the EST-6 a slightly clearer expression and its female vocals extend slightly better. However, as it has a notably reduced emphasis on articulation, its vocals sound present and delicate but also smoother. The MACH 80 has a touch higher transparency and definition, its female vocals sound a bit denser, but the midrange otherwise sounds cleaner and more resolving. Treble is more present on the MACH 80, and it has more detail presence. It has a crisper and more aggressive foreground delivering a more defined leading edge and greater foreground detail retrieval. The EST-6 is smoother and more relaxed here. However, it has more air and openness above alongside more present micro-details. This gives the EST-6 a thinner and tizzier presentation while the MACH 80 sounds more grounded but also lacks the same extension. The EST-6 has a slightly larger stage, but the MACH 80 has more precise imaging.

Fir VxV ($999): The VxV offers a hybrid driver setup with spoutless BA drivers and the dynamic driver is coupled to the housing for deeper extension. Tuning-wise wise it is also in the same ballpark as the MACH 80 but has a more present sub and deep bass with a bit more midrange to compensate. Its treble is slightly smoother but also better extended with more upper-treble presence. Bass is punchier and more present on the VxV. There’s a lot more rumble and slam due to the DD and a thicker, more textured note presentation overall. The MACH 80 is cleaner and more neutral with a lighter sub-bass impact. It has quicker decay lacking the same texture but presenting higher detail retrieval and responsiveness. The midrange on both is quite clean and clearly expressed with a denser upper-midrange character.

The VxV comes across as a step warmer and a touch more laid-back while the MACH 80 has slightly higher transparency, and clarity and is a bit more articulate. This means the MACH 80 sounds notably more defined and separated while the VxV is more relaxed and structured. The treble is interesting being more present on the MACH 80 but more technical on the VxV. The VxV sounds more linear and has slightly more texture and note body. It also has a cleaner transient response and extends better, delivering greater sparkle and headroom. The MACH 80 has a crisper sound but doesn’t pick up the same fine nuances overall. The VxV has a larger stage with better distance portrayal while the MACH 80 offers slightly better layering.

Verdict –

The MACH 80 was a nice trip down memory lane for me and a reminder of how far the industry has come in just a few years. Clear inspiration can be seen from Westone’s acquisition by Lucid Audio and this is almost entirely for the better. In reference to Etymotic’s designs, I find that a lot of the appeal actually comes from the lack of bass as this frees up space in the presentation and permits greater separation for the rest of the sound. However, the foil to this excellent separation and transparency is the uncomfortable fit and limited imaging. The MACH 80 offers more richness in the mid-bass and less intensity in the upper midrange whilst retaining similar qualities. At the same time, it offers superior resolution and staging. Still, high-end IEMs from other brands have come very far in recent years. As a result, the unique tonal balance stands out as the selling point of this IEM rather than its technical feats. As with Etymotic’s EVO, I do enjoy the balance on display, even more so here. Though lacking the pizzaz of competitors, the MACH 80 masterfully combines a diffuse-field neutral-inspired tuning with all-day listenability and comfort making it an appealing all-around package.

The MACH 80 is available from Westone Audio (International) for $1599 USD at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with Westone Audio and receive no earnings from purchases made through these links.

Track List – 

Billie Eilish – dont smile at me

Bob Seger – Night Moves

Courtney Barnett – Rae Street

Cream – Wheels of Fire

Dire Straits – Communique

Dirty Loops – Next To You

Eagles – Hotel California

Elton John – Honky Chateau

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

H.E.R – I Used To Know Her

Jasen – BYE

John Mayer – Continuum

Kanye West – Ye

Missy Higgins – The Sound of White

Radiohead – OK Computer

TALA – ain’t leavin` without you

The Beatles – Abbey Road

The weeknd – After Hours

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

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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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