Danls92 Reviews Hi-Fi Edition: Westone 3's Please Register or Log in to view images Introduction: It’s been a while, I know, but I’m back! To kick things off, I’m starting a new offshoot of the Danls92 Reviews series, Danls92 Reviews Hi-Fi Edition! This line of reviews caters towards people who love the top of the line, and have some cash burning a hole in their pockets. I know this won’t quite appeal to everyone, but I’d like to try to diversify my reviews a bit and I’m sure there are some people who are in the market on this website. What I’ll be reviewing today are the Westone 3 IEMs. The top of the line model from Westone. How I Review: This review is broken up into 3 major categories (Design Overview, Performance, and Misc. Comments) with a final wrap-up at the end. I have never liked the method of reviewing involved the arbitrary assigning of numbers to quantitatively express a feeling because it is so subjective. Due to this, I will not be giving my opinions a numerical value, instead I will be using the words excellent, good, neutral, bad, and horrible. For a brief description of what each means: Excellent- Either perfect or just barely missing it. Something will receive an excellent rating if it is the best it could possibly be. Good- Possible to improve, but by no means bad. This is the verdict I would give something that is good for what it is, but has several things holding it back. Neutral- Neither good nor bad, I don't have any strong feelings. If I feel ambiguous about something it would receive this rating. Bad- The unfavorable outweighs the favorable aspects. If something is not well designed, or poorly implemented this is what I would rate it. Horrible- Unacceptably poor. If something impedes the thing it is meant to assist, or is completely useless I would say this about it. With that being said, let's start the review. Design Overview: Let’s get something out of the way at the beginning here. These things are big. At first I actually experienced physical discomfort from having such monstrously large monitors in my ears. For about the first week I was testing these, I could not stand to have the left one in for more than half an hour (my left and right ears seem to be different sizes, but that’s a discussion for a different time and place). However, with some advil and perseverance I got past that and haven’t had any problems since. When you first unpackaged these, you are greeted with a veritable plethora of ear tips. I ended up going with the comply foam tips as they created the best seal, but I can confidently say that it might take a little experimentation but there is a fit for everyone. They take a bit of getting used to, but once your ears have adjusted they fit in perfectly and are for the most part unobtrusive (though they extend back further from your ear canals than any other pair I have tested). They have a heft to them that assures me that they are solidly made, though the black plastic casing does feel slightly cheap. The chord is actually three braided together, which I found did a better job of not retaining coils from being wrapped up than conventional one chord cables which was a really nice touch. Rating: Great I have no knowledge of audio engineering so I’ll refrain from suggesting that they could be made any smaller, but these things are rather large and not for everybody. Speaking to some friends, they didn’t especially like the shiny black finishing, but seeing as they’re in my ears most of the time the appearances aren’t especially important to me. While I eventually got used to their girth, I generally make a rule not to give perfect ratings to a pair of headphones that requires medication to use at first. I might be an exception, but I find that rather problematic. That being said, clearly a lot of thought and effort went into the design and they work very well, especially for what they contain. Sound Quality Here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Drum roll please….. This is a pair of $400 headphones, and you will hear, if not every dollar of it, enough to justify the purchase if you have the funds necessary. Frankly, if the recording industry really wanted to get people to cut back on piracy they would be handing out pairs of these on the street corners. Anything other than exceptionally high bitrate MP3 files or lossless sounds painfully inadequate. The unfortunate downside to better quality headphones is always a revelation at the inadequacy of the rest of an audio set-up. I was finding that while audio coming out of my iPod sounded good, without the assistance of a headphone amplifier, I just wasn’t getting out as much as I should be. Additionally, as most people probably have files in the 192kbps- 256kbps range on their iPod I’m not quite sure I can recommend these solely for the iPod Touch fan. I found my best listening experience to be at home, listening to FLAC files over my Cmoy amplifier (Review: http://www.ifans.com/forums/showthread.php?t=166105). Now for some more specific information: Highs: Detail is the big selling point here. I can’t help but feel a slight bit of emptiness in the notes, but I would imagine this would be seen as a selling point for those out there attempting to achieve complete neutrality. They play exactly the notes meant to be played, and they make them sound good. The peaks sound crisp and tight, while never sounding shrill or harsh. Midranges: Again, accuracy wins the day here. Every note is carefully produced with a rich smoothness that will bring out details that you’ve never heard, but make any artifacts painfully obvious. I did find that at points the treble overwhelmed the highs, but never enough to taint the listening experience. They do a good job of presenting as wide a soundstage as possible, aided by the namesake 3 apertures cramped into them. One thing that really struck me as I listened to some piano music was how resonant and true to an actual piano the notes sounded, with nuances that most headphones gloss while merely hitting the correct pitch. Bass: Unlike some headphones I’ve reviewed in the past, I had no problem with overwhelming bass here. Where the bass was loud, the Westones played it loud; where it was recessed it never attempted to overshadow the more important parts. The bass manages to be both tight and full, and again is where any flaws in the music really shine. I did find that as I increased the volume, the bass seemed to increase a bit more proportionally than the other parts of the spectrum but never to the point where it threatened to dominate the listening experience. Rating: Excellent Is there really any other option here? The only complaints that I had during my entire reviewing experience stemmed from my own inferiorly ripped music library rather than these headphones, there really are no faults that would warrant a lower rating. Never before have I felt so immersed in music that I’m listening to. They require a hefty chunk of cash, but in return you will receive nothing short of an auditory revelation. Misc. Comments As usual, I’ll just include a bit of information that I didn’t manage to hit on in the main review. With the price these demand, you expect good stuff in terms of accompanying goodies and Westone obliges. The headphones come with not only the large number of ear tips, but a volume control that can be added in line with the headphones, and a solid carrying case. There are no frills, but anything else would merely be extraneous. I would also just like to thank Mr. Doug Leavy and everybody at Westone for providing me with a review unit and being incredibly understand about the time frame for this review. Rating: N/A Overall: Excellent Basically, there are only two options that need to be made when considering the purchase of these headphones: 1) Do I like listening to music? 2) Do I have the money to spare? If you answer yes to both of those questions, I don’t see why you are still reading this review rather than locating the nearest place to purchase them. These are expensive headphones, and in this economy things like this are an utter luxury. However, if you ever have the chance to own a pair of these I can not recommend them highly enough. They are not the most comfortable things at first, but when you hear the music these things are capable of outputting you will be more than willing to tough any discomfort you might experience.