Westone 4 earphones in Review

Whether it’s Metallica, DJ Tiesto, Iggy Pop, Melody Gardot, or Aphex Twin belting around the spinning innards of your cassette player, it’s gonna sound fab from the Westone 4, and it’s not just that new product sheen either. No, it’s the fact that Westone nailed everything in this, the first universal earphone fitted with four speakers per side – a mean feat in any respectable dictionary.

Discuss the Westone 4 in our forums.

Specifications
Sensitivity: 118dB @ 1mw
Impedance: 31Ω
Driver: 4 balanced armatures
Cable: twisted; separate volume control

Package and Fit
I’m actually typing this up on the airplane – the Westone 4′s are snuggly in my cabin-sick ears – and to be dangerously honest, I can’t for the life of me hear the safety announcements. The reason, my friends, is the same as it has been for yonks: Westone’s body style really gets into the ear canal to block a hell of a lot of noise – and is comfortable to boot. It sits flush against your concha and into your music hole and I reckon that some will even say that it is great for sleeping.

I’ve no complaints. The body is a bit oblong and simply dwarfs my personal favourite, the Audio Technica CK10, but overall, its ergonomics is hunky dory. Particularly comfortable are the Comply tips which melt in your music holes. For rubber lovers, Westone pack semi-hard transparent gumdrop-looking ones, flexible grey ones, and one set of triple flange sleeves. My mate loves the grey ones and I’ve heard tale that even the transparent ones are to some people’s liking. For my narrow, semi-short canals, neither fit, but the triple flanges work wonders. Folks, your mileage will vary and that is the particular reason that Westone have packed in such a rich assortment. Anyone will find a fit.

Aside from the fit pieces, you get an analogue impedance adapter that lowers the volume from loud sources, a decent nylon carrying pouch, a 6,3 to 3,5mm step down adapter, and a wax loop for clearing away your ears’ sticky icky that can build up to clog the sound tube. The package is a treat for, well, whose who will most love the Westone 4: music lovers.

Build Quality
Westone have never ever built bad stuff. I’ve railed on them for setting the now-standard plastic precedent among professional earphones. But I can’t fault them: no one creates anything better, not really. The Westone 4 is an excellent earphone that sort of bridges the excitement of the Westone 3 and the staid, smooth, and easy driving UM3x. I can see it used on stage, but I think that its larger customer base will use it out and about, with their favourite tunes on the bus, train, and on their favourite comfy chair.

That in mind, the Westone 4 has few betters in terms of build quality. Sure, the Audio Technica CK10 and CK100 have stronger cables, metal armour, and thicker plastic, but outside Japan, you’d have to sell your car to afford them. Apart from them and the sexy new Shure SE535, the Westone 4 is simply top in the consumer market.

The Westone twisted cable is easily the most iconic among high end earphones and has many copycats. As always, it is silent, strong, and resilient to deleterious sweat and body oil. The cable WILL harden over time but not for a good long while. And, thank the gods, it’s well anchored in the body of the earphone to avoid getting severed by sharp plastic edges. If you are persistent and begging for bankruptcy, I’m sure you could destroy Westone’s cable, but I’d suggest saving your pennies for more Comply tips. The cable is terminated in a right angle connector, slim enough to fit most iPhone and ipod cases, but sturdy. I’d pick the UM3x‘s boxy right angle connector in a prize fight, but only just.

The earphone body, too, is a winner – at least mostly. I’m not a big fan of its Klingon styling (sorry Westone), but I can’t help but praise the overall effect. The earphone is joined along perfectly met seams, and sports a strong cable anchor stress relief. Again apart from Audio Technica’s top CK series, there is nothing on the market that trumps Westone’s overall efforts in build quality.

Kudos, Westone.

Sound
So you probably didn’t spend 450$ just to secure a sturdy, well-accessorised kit, did you? There is other meat between Westone’s Klingon chops. Overall, this new model keeps in line with Westone’s excellence offerings while bridging the sound of the mid-centric UM3x and the Westone 3.

I’m not sure why, but this four-speaker earphone actually sounds tamer than its three-driver big brother. The Westone 3 punches more ferociously down low. It’s a fun earphone that accentuates the beat and punches the highs like its training for a fight. I like it, but after hours and hours of dizzying listening, I’ll admit that the four is an easier listen.

The 4 is, how shall we say it – beautifully realistic. It isn’t overly burly in the low end, and it isn’t too excited up top. Bass reaches low, but it never gets the attention that either the UM3x or the Westone 3 get. If your ears are good enough, you’ll get respectable doses of vibration, but real emphasis starts a bit higher, well after 100Hz or so. At the ear, for instance, the intro to Markus Schulz’ Mainstage (Progression album), which butterflies around the ear with bass-heavy earphones, whispers silently with the Westone 4. The rub of course, is that low bass simply isn’t presented with the same force that high bass is and that in order to really enjoy it, you’ll have to turn up the volume a couple of notches. On the other hand, low bass tends to warm overall sound up and some people consider that a bad thing. Personally, I’d love a bit more weight in the very low frequencies, but not anything else was sacrificed.

It might be an imaginative stretch to compare the Radius DDM to the Westone 4 – the former boasting linearly expressed bass that results in gobs of low end detail — but both earphones (despite technological differences) really sing in the lower midrange and higher bass. Of course, the Westone 4 isolates the world from your ears, so the little things really pop out.

What I’m speaking of – and I hope I say this right – is simply phenomenal reed instruments and percussion. The DDM’s best foot was the guitar; the Westone 4′s best foot has a couple more toes. Vocals are one toe. Both male and female vocals are wonderful, but low-voiced male vocals and husky female vocals shiver the knees. Obviously, we aren’t talking about trance anymore, are we?

No, Melody Gardot’s My One and Only Thrill, an excellent vocal/jazz album, for instance, settles comfortable into the mid-centric Westone 4 like good cheese with a few bottles of wine. Hand in hand with its emphasis, the midrange gives up a lot of details and places them superbly. In some ways, the more drastic juxtaposition of bass and treble in the Westone 3 draws music starkly, but the Westone 4 allows the midrange, and therefore, the main musical thrust, to breathe more freely. It sounds ‘natural’ for lack of a better term, rather than strident.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the Westone 3, but It doesn’t catch me the same way the Westone 4 and the UM3x do.

It seems apparent to me that Westone made conscious strides to tone both treble and bass presence down in the Westone 4. The 3 is intensely popular, but a lot of people took aims at its bulky bottom end and trippy top end. It’s true: where it counts, the 3 is pretty damn exciting. For some music, such excitement works like bubbly; for others, however, it works like a monkey wrench. The 4 sits right between the 3 and the UM3x, meaning that it is smooth in the middle and voiced for easy, but detailed listening.

You won’t get tired listening to the Westone 4. But you also won’t get much dose of comparative sound after 15 000Hz. The peak around 8 000Hz is smoother than the 3, but still sounds crisp. The 4 is less sibilance than the 3 and dare I say it, less congested. But in the end, I don’t really see the Westone 4 as an upgrade to the Westone 3 – it’s too different. Rather, it is like a tweaked UM3x, and that’s a good thing.

Out and about
As with all Westone earphones, there are zero problems for out and about use. The Westone twisted cable is dead silent, soft, and easy to use whilst on the go. Similarly, the body style isolates your music really well. You will be able to keep the volume low even on the airplane or bus. Of course, with this much isolation, even Rob Ford’s fatmobile will get the silent treatment.

The small right-angle connector is tip-top among consumer earphones and the overall construction should keep the Westone 4 jamming for a long time. It is an extension of what really is the perfect consumer earphone line.

Conclusion
My scalp starts to itch when I’ve nothing negative to say about an earphone. But in the Westone 4’s case, I’ll have to contend myself with scratching and scratching. Detailed, well made, well accessorised, and good sounding, it is an excellent earphone for the audiophile and the consumer alike. And where the 3 sort of splayed out wildly, chasing away some good-intentioned musicians, the 4 will probably find space in the ear of your favourite musician.

The only downside I see is that the 4 is an upgrade to the three. If you are in the habit of upgrading, this shiny bird will prey on your wallet. If however, the Romulans ravaged your home base and looted your stash of warbuds, you are in equal danger of parting with the better part of 500$.

  • Roger

    Nice review shigzeo. I’m just wondering how the W4 compare to your customs? At their price point, you can find budget customs – in fact they are more expensive than some of those custom IEMs. Do the W4 for instance beat your CT6? Do come close to your fitears?

  • Roger

    Nice review shigzeo. I’m just wondering how the W4 compare to your customs? At their price point, you can find budget customs – in fact they are more expensive than some of those custom IEMs. Do the W4 for instance beat your CT6? Do come close to your fitears?

  • Kingpintps@Head-Fi

    Thank shigzeo! How would you compare the sound to ATH-CK100?

  • Confispect

    Good review Shigzeo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1828167651 Corey Harville

    Shigzeo, so here I am: I am the owner of a well-used pair of Shure SE530-PTH’s and in need of a replacement. I love my headphones with one caveat:I would prefer a bit more bass. I love that they are so detailed and precise in the bottom end without being muddy or boomy but more volume/presence and maybe some additional extension would be welcome. I am an audiophile, with 230,000+ tracks in WMA Lossless in every genre known to man and a DJ – though these earphones will be used with a portable player rather than off of a soundboard. I’m looking at these Westone 4′s, the Shure SE535′s, the Earsonics SM3′s (based on your review, by the way!), and I’m willing to consider any other well-rounded, balanced, applicable-to-most-any-musical-style IEM that wraps over the top the ear that you’d recommend in your esteemed opinion(s) in the roughly $500-700 pricepoint. I’d rather stay universal but again, I’m willing to consider custom IEM – what are your top 3 recommendations? I appreciate your help in this!!

  • http://twitter.com/shigzeo shigzeo

    The SE530 are a pretty bass-neutral earphone, though overall, their low end is raised a bit. The Westone 4 is more neutral overall, giving a bit more detail to the upper midrange and treble. In other words, you aren’t going to get more slam from the Westone 4. WHy not try the Westone 3? It has a more punchy sound.

    I like both very much, but find the Westone 4 better for a wide range of music.

    The Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10 are also a bit more punchy (though in a different way) and may give you more slam.

    The ultimate slam is from the Sonomax SoundCage earphones: http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/01/25/ces-2011s-best-sonomaxs-soundcage-4-minute-custom-earphone/ but they come with the price of de-emphasised mids and overall, less midrange detail which you probably love in the SE530.

    The Ultimate Ears hybrid eB earphone is full of slam, but I’ve not heard it longer than a few minutes to form long-ranging opinions of it.

  • http://twitter.com/shigzeo shigzeo

    Hello, and sorry for being late. The W4 are custom-level, for sure, but you have to realise that customs’ fulcrum is their fit and cleanliness of sound tube. Westone 4, as good as it is, still relies on external flanges or foams. How those react to your ear canal can spell quite a difference.

    The CT6 was the most impressive custom at its price point when it came out, but has been bettered since. My review is now two years old. They ARE great, but for 350$, they could be better.

    The FitEar 333 is one of a kind. It has a filled in acrylic shell, so there is less vibration in the drivers. Its sound bores are larger than most custom monitors and lined with shorter tubes. It is probably the most adroit at transferring its signal to the ear than any other custom right now. That may change, though. It is accurate to a tee in some ways, and exciting in others. Whether you like it or not, however, is up to you. The Westone is warmer and smoother than it.

    I am still an Audio Technica CK10 man, myself, mainly because it is the most long-living earphone and it is tiny and doesn’t look like a boiled raisin.

  • http://twitter.com/shigzeo shigzeo

    Hello, and sorry for being late. The W4 are custom-level, for sure, but you have to realise that customs’ fulcrum is their fit and cleanliness of sound tube. Westone 4, as good as it is, still relies on external flanges or foams. How those react to your ear canal can spell quite a difference.

    The CT6 was the most impressive custom at its price point when it came out, but has been bettered since. My review is now two years old. They ARE great, but for 350$, they could be better.

    The FitEar 333 is one of a kind. It has a filled in acrylic shell, so there is less vibration in the drivers. Its sound bores are larger than most custom monitors and lined with shorter tubes. It is probably the most adroit at transferring its signal to the ear than any other custom right now. That may change, though. It is accurate to a tee in some ways, and exciting in others. Whether you like it or not, however, is up to you. The Westone is warmer and smoother than it.

    I am still an Audio Technica CK10 man, myself, mainly because it is the most long-living earphone and it is tiny and doesn’t look like a boiled raisin.

  • http://twitter.com/shigzeo shigzeo

    Oh my, the CK100 and the W4 are worlds apart. The W4 is smoother, happy with every musical genre, and has better midrange and low end resolution than the CK100. The CK100 is a wonderful earphone, but for the person that likes flighty upper midrange, doesn’t mind cymbal smear, and wants titanium!

    I am a good example of the sort that enjoys the CK100, but the Westone 4 is a sounder investment, for sure.

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  • Zen

    Jealousy raging inside me…
    Need the Westone 4s!!

  • mattering

    Nice review! Are you using comply eartips? I find that using shure olives gives you a better fit hehe but that might just be me :P . Arghhh…should have waited for the 4′s to come out but oh well…Westone 3′s are still awesome :P

  • Anonymous

    Been using the Grado GR10′s ($399.00) since my Westone 3′s right channel shorted out. Wife surprised me with a new pair of the Westone 4′s. Its been two weeks now using these incredible in-ears! In comparison to the Grados the Westone 4 has a much larger sound stage all across the musical spectrum. Bass response is deep and tight. Mid-range vocals are intimate! Treble very detailed! Right out of the box I noticed this. For added effects I and using the Westones with the latest generation 32 GB iPod iTouch ($275.00) an iQube portable headphone amp ($549.00) and AOLaudio doc cable ($195.00). Sonic heaven!!!!

  • Rick Cloud1

    yogin 77 Thanks for the review. I’ve been using W2′s but wanted a better sound, so I just got Grado G10′s.  Very disappointed so far.  I am going to order the W4′s so finding your review was great.  I hope I like the W4′s as much as you do   

  • Rick Cloud1

    yogin 77 Thanks for the review. I’ve been using W2′s but wanted a better sound, so I just got Grado G10′s.  Very disappointed so far.  I am going to order the W4′s so finding your review was great.  I hope I like the W4′s as much as you do   

  • Anonymous

    Hello Disqus,
    Yes I am still using my Westone 4's and they sound even better now.  They are fully broken in!  What a sound!  I am very pleased!  Try them out!

    ________________________________

  • http://twitter.com/shigzeo shigzeo

    Quite late reply, but here goes: I’ve heard the GR10 and am debating on whether or not to do a review of them. I picked up the GR8 at a shop and will put out a review here. The W4 are certainly a more powerful performer in many respects and the new one with removable cable is incredible. I see you really work on a hardcore system. Have you tried the CLAS?

  • Anonymous

    Update..Had to stop using my Westone 4′s and any other headphone devise. I have caused myself permanent ear damage in both ears from years of listening. I have Tinnitus. I now have to live with this constant hissing in my ears! Word of warning save your ears!

    ________________________________
    From: Disqus
    To: [email protected]
    Sent: Monday, June 11, 2012 4:32 AM
    Subject: [touchmyapps] Re: Westone 4 earphones in Review

    Disqus generic email template

    shigzeo wrote, in response to yogin77:
    Quite late reply, but here goes: I’ve heard the GR10 and am debating on whether or not to do a review of them. I picked up the GR8 at a shop and will put out a review here. The W4 are certainly a more powerful performer in many respects and the new one with removable cable is incredible. I see you really work on a hardcore system. Have you tired the CLAS? Link to comment

  • http://twitter.com/shigzeo shigzeo

    Yes, you must be careful. Keep earphones shallowly inserted, and never play too loud. Playing at minimal levels with shallow insertion will not hurt years. I hurt mine early on with an ER4s and I have tinnitus, too, but I am keen on keeping low volumes and keeping things from going too far into my ears.

    I hope things are better for you.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks my friend..yes I keep the volume very low when I have the desire to play a tune now and then..happy listening (safely) and thanks for responding and your understanding. Take care, Louis

    ________________________________
    From: Disqus
    To: [email protected]
    Sent: Monday, June 11, 2012 8:44 AM
    Subject: [touchmyapps] Re: Westone 4 earphones in Review

    Disqus generic email template

    shigzeo wrote, in response to yogin77:
    Yes, you must be careful. Keep earphones shallowly inserted, and never play too loud. Playing at minimal levels with shallow insertion will not hurt years. I hurt mine early on with an ER4s and I have tinnitus, too, but I am keen on keeping low volumes and keeping things from going too far into my ears.
    I hope things are better for you.
    Link to comment

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