Westone 3 True-fit Earphones – Review

On December 16, 2008, in Headphones, Review, by John Nemerovski

Westone 3 True-fit Earphones
Company: Westone

Price: $400
http://westone.com/personallistening

You’ll need an hour to determine the best tips for fit and comfort, from the ones provided with your new $400 Westone 3 premium audiophile-quality in-ear headphones. Add a couple of hours for testing different equalizer settings with your favorite genres of music, before choosing a universal equalizer that handles most music most of the time. I’m using “Acoustic” in my iPod, which delivers a pleasurable listening experience.

Then you’ll need another week or two to decide how to wear your Westone 3 superbuds, abbreviated here as W3. Ear cables hanging down, or looped behind the ears? Audio plug cable in front or rear of your body? Speaker driver snug or loose within your “ear bowl” space? Ear tips pressed in for maximum isolation, or a bit looser for additional comfort or ambient awareness?

I’m using the medium size soft gray dome tips, with drivers inserted snugly, and ear cables curled behind, with audio cable in front.

MyMac has previously reviewed super-premium ($250 and over) in-ear headphones from Etymotic Research, Ultimate Ears, Shure, and Sleek Audio. They range in listening quality from very good to superb, and in comfort from good to excellent, but there is no correlation between those two categories.

W3 top tier earphones are comfortable, if a bit quirky physically (more on this in the next paragraph). Audio quality is at the top of our evaluation scale. I’m sitting now, as I write, in a crowded, noisy, jury selection room, listening to quiet jazz guitar tracks. The acoustical experience is immersive, transparent, and completely enjoyable. The grey tips I’m using are not for maximum sound isolation, but their comfort is best for my ears. Aside from ear placement and financial cost, W3 are as good or better than all other upper bracket in-ear phones we’ve experienced.

Westone placed three exceptional speaker drivers into each black within-ear bowl enclosure, somewhat in the same design as Shure’s most expensive competitor. The latter is very comfortable, but MyMac wasn’t wild about sound delivery per dollar spent for the Shurephones. Please be patient with yourself and with Westone during your first days or weeks using W3, because your ear area is essentially filled with the ergonomic driver enclosure and tip. If the feel and fit are definitely not pleasant, the company offers a 30-day return policy.

Left and right ear units are not obvious at first, and the small, stamped, black L and R are ridiculously difficult to see except in bright, directional lighting. Please improve this fault, Westone, with clear, bold BLUE L for left and RED R for right sides. Another suggestion: For $400, the company can provide a small zippered or velcro gadget case, to contain W3’s extra ear tips and accessories. Otherwise, they have no place to reside.

Two durable thin cables are twisted together to make W3’s primary audio plug cable. Westone tells MyMac that “The cable is actually considered the most durable in the market. We know it does not ‘look’ that way. And remind your readers, John, as we say on our web site: The Westone 3 comes complete with inline volume control, 1/4″adapter, travel case, and ten different types of eartips to customize the fit to the anatomy of your ears.”

MyMac always warns users to keep ALL earphones and headphones away from children, pets, spas or pools, kitchens, and tools, at the very least. Another caution: Westone 3’s small speakers are ultra-efficient (think LOUD!), so all frequencies sound good at all volume levels. Be very careful with your ears. They have to last a long time. Loud music damages hearing. Instead, think m-o-d-e-r-a-t-i-o-n. And take a 10-minute break from in-ear listening, every 30 to 40 minutes.

How does W3 sound? Great! Treble-through-midrange spectrum is without any obvious hot spots or dropoffs. Bass is full and rich. Clarity is world-class. Sonic transparency is complete at all listening levels. These are not strictly speaking reference monitors, which isn’t a bad thing. W3’s are live and bright, in the best sense of the words.

Since first writing about the jury room an hour ago, I’ve listened to more soft and loud jazz guitar, plus some hard rock, techno, Latin pop, and a bit more. I had previously listened to classical, folk, and several other musical styles. Every song on W3 sounds like these earphones were designed precisely for it, and vice versa.

Why do people spend $400 (or anything more than $99, $49, or $29) for fragile, sensitive earphones that can become lost, damaged, or worse? It’s because purchasers like the sound and the fit, and expense is usually not a barrier to entry. In today’s precarious economic environment, buy-and-try Westone 3 super-premium earphones are an investment in listening delight that will be unsurpassed for music lovers who appreciate the finest in personal audio, who are comfortable with the fit, and who don’t max out their credit lines on the purchase.

MyMac rating: 4.5 out of 5

Visit this web site for additional product information and specifications.

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