a couple of weeks back i was pinned down, my ear canals violated and my wallet emptied. today i finally get to find out if the hurting ear canals and broken piggy bank was worth it.
as many of you already know, i am a huge fan of westone sound signature, progressing from the um1s to the um2s and then the westone 3s, with the westone 3 universals dethroning even the triple driver customs that i owned. having said that, i do miss the perfect fit and comfort of the customs, and was about to make the um56s when one night, this, http://jaben.net/forums/index.php?topic=8346.0
, suddenly popped up in my mailbox.
having made several heavy purchases during the festive season, i was wary and hesitant, my wallet was light and my heart heavy. still, the allure of the westone customised in ear monitors was great, and each time i read the thread and it's contents, the mouse automatically and nearly uncontrollably moved to the threadstarter's PM bubble and clicked on it. it took a great amount of restraint on my part to click on that little X you see on the top right hand corner of the firefox browswer, before too much damage was to be self inflicted.
the next day, as i made my way down to that little headphone shop to savour some bacon salted tomatoe soup and relish the company of other music lovers, it was with light step and much anticipation, looking forward to many a laugh and a stomach filled with the savory delights. little did i know the horrors that lay in store for me.
as i pulled open that familiar notice covered glass door, i was greeted with a smile and a twinkle of an eye, and a most evil twinkle it was. "young man, did you receive the email?" i was asked. "yes i did." i replied, hestitant yet longing for that green pasture that lay just out of my reach. "alright young man, you have two choices. we can do this the easy way, or the hard way. sit down and have your impressions taken, or have someone hold you down and have the impressions forcefully taken. either way you know it's going to hurt. very much." and so continued my road down the slippery,painful but oh-so-sinful path to audio salvation.
today, as i look down at the familiar custom moulds, i was more than alittle worried. would these sound like the old customs i have? they certainly look like them. what if i didn't like these, what would i do? they cost a pretty penny and i certainly could not sell them to the next person that came along.the moment of truth.
i slid the customs into my ears, and plugged in. this was it. everything boiled down to this moment, the angonising wait, the inhuman impressions making process, the depressingly deflated bank account, the ruthless teasing by the year long santa claus and his elves. my hands shivered as i hit play. and then i was overwhelmed.
oh the highs, the mids and the lows, what can i say? a most beautiful blend of all the flavours, much like a well made tiramisu, with neither the coffee nor the alcohol overwhelming the other, rather, complementing each other and releasing new flavours previously hidden from plain sight. the bass, wonderfully low and full bodied, bringing new definition to the terms previously used loosely, "tight, deep, impactful yet controlled". the depth and power of the bass is truly astounding, without overwhelming any of the other frequencies.
westone has always done well with the mids, from the sweet mids of the um2s to the silky smooth sweetness of the westone 3s, but they have outdone themselves to an extent i previously never thought possible with the es3x. not quite as pronounced as i would imagine the es3 to be, with that mid range bump, but making their presence known all the same. silky smooth, rich and robust, and as if that werent good enough, a nice spaciousness and amazing clarity to go along with that package.
then we come to the highs. i always thought that westone fixed the recessed highs of the um2s with the introduction of the westone 3s, and they did. however, westone has brought their highs to a whole new level with the es3x. crisp, clear and extended, they are not overwhelmed by the mids or the lows. the treble sparkles and extends as the stars do in the night sky, with a beautiful sense of airyness and enough sweetness to send a diabetic into a sugar induced diabetic coma.
having said all that, coffee is not coffee until the coffee beans have been roasted, grounded, brewed and poured out to be enjoyed. the es3x does that excellently. as i have said before, the highs, mids and lows do not overwhelm each other, they complement and inspire each frequency to do better. sound stage is BIG on the es3x and i do mean big. imaging is nothing short of excellent, and binaural recordings sound absolutely eargasmic on the es3x. each time i use the es3x, it becomes increasingly difficult to take them off, each time i use them, i forget the pain and anguish of my violated ears and my dearly departed piggy bank.
is the es3x an upgrade from the w3? in my very personal opinion yes, besides the upgrade in fit, comfort and consistency, it retains that lovely westone sound signature that many have come to love, yet refines it and beautifies it some more, making each and every listening experience engaging and new.
then comes the question of was it worth the money paid? having realistic expectations is of utmost importance, and many have the wrong mindset when it comes to making customs. in the case of the es3x however, it surpasses any of my set realistic expectations, bordering on the point of unbelievability. am i pleased with my purchase? exceedingly so. once again westone has not disappointed.
17/02ES3X, the aftermath
it has been sometime since i received that little bundle of joy from westone, and i am pleased to announce that i have been enjoying them more and more each day. perhaps even more so than it's little brother, the westone 3, the ES3X has lovely synergy with the P-51, with the pairing bringing out details that i have previously not noticed in my music before. female vocals(my favourite) in particular, sound sweet and lush, and my recent purchase, "best audiophile vocals V" sends tingles(in a good way) down my spine.
one might think that, perhaps, after a duration spent with the es3x, the sense of new ownership might fade and the many flaws and faults that these might possess would start to surface. the only fault i have found with these so far, is how they become increasingly harder to take out because they just sound so good!
what took the cake was the es3x's ability to reproduce bass. bass you can feel. over the duration i've had the es3x, it has spoilt me beyond the point of no return in this particular department, amongst others. whilst not as pronounced as dynamic drivers, westone has indeed done a awesome job, balancing bass impact with accurate bass tone reproduction, which i suspect was key to it not overwhelming the highs or the mids. just the right amount. especially so with the P-51, absolutely eargasmic.
the icing on the cake that the es3x took was how comfortable it was. a blend of two different materials, acrylic for the shell and vinyl for the sound tubes, along with the reliability of the impressions that uncle made for me (he didn't make me laugh this time thankfully), these fit so well i had no trouble wearing them for prolonged durations during study, or during travel. THANKS UNCLE AND WESTONE, and congratulations on a job very well done.
again comes the question, after two weeks of use, do i possess any form of buyer's remorse? the answer is short and sweet. NO. along with the P-51(and the w3), the es3x has to be one of the best investments i have made in a long while. so while i will have to continue feasting on grass with the cows, i will do so willingly and joyfully, with a song in my heart, and a tune in my ears.
18/02Musicality and detail in one package?
i realise thus far in my review i have touched on how the ES3x is both musical and detailed, but in seperate portions. how is it possible for musicality and detail to come in the same package? this is probably thanks to the crossover westone uses, which i do not claim to understand. what is evident from my listening so far, however, is that details that were previously hidden, or unnoticeable, started resurfacing with the ES3x, while still retaining that musical sound signature that i fell in love with while using the W3s. i believe the key here is again a nice balance between the two. previously it would have to be either or, one could not have his cake and eat it. the ES3X allows you to do just that, and what an excellent job it does. westone wasnt kidding when they said that it was designed for both stage and personal use.
pairing with the crystal LOD brought out even more details without sacrificing musicality. interestingly enough, there was no fatigue even with prolonged listening. i am very interested to try the es3x with a piccolo recable.
19/02Where am I!?!?!
having purchased a new Sara.k and carpenters(don't laugh) album from roxy CD, naturally i was eager to find out how they would sound on the ES3x, and i was not disappointed. Sara.k & Chris jones Live in concert made me feel as if i were present in the concert, and everytime a person in the crowd cheered, you could hear almost exactly where he was. before this, i was only able to do so with a pair of full sized headphones, so you can guess how suprised i was. with the carpenters gold XRCD, on a particular track, namely "Please Mr. Postman"(Credits to Uberburger for asking me to listen to this song specifically), the imaging of the introductory drums is fantastic to say the least. you can practically tell where each and every instrument is placed.
so what else do i love about the ES3X with female vocals? besides the lushness and smoothness with which it delivers the vocals, it has the ability to transmit the emotions the artistes feel when singing these songs, particularly those with more emotional and thought evoking lyrics.
24/02The One who will bring balance to the Force
i find the beauty of the es3x is how it achieves balance, or rather, balance within balance. we often hear speeches of a balance between the highs, the lows, and the mids, but how often do we hear of a balance within the frequencies? more specifically, the upper,mid and lower of the frequencies?
the es3x appears to be able to do just that, which, as i have mentioned before, is why i believe it is able to achieve the incredible amount of detail and yet retain that lovely musicality. what exactly do i mean? too much of bass in any of the 3 segments would overwhelm the others, resulting in a less defined, less recognisable instrument representation. the es3x reproduces with such balance that it is easy to distinguish and recognise whatever instrument is playing. this, together with it's excellent ability in imaging and enormous sound stage, lends an air of realism, regardless if the music was recorded in a live concert or in a studio.What fits, and what doesn't
some of you have asked me some questions about the comfort of the es3x, and i thought that i would answer those questions here. the material used for the shell is acrylic, and vinyl for the sound tube. so how does this mix of materials improve the comfort of the customs?
first off, vinyl is hard when cool, and very soft(becomes pliable) when warmed to body temperature. this allows for easy insertion, but comfort for prolonged use. the use of vinyl also allows the customs to have longer sound tubes for deeper insertion, thus(in my case) improving isolation, while at the same time being easy to insert and comfortable.
did i need to use otoease? in the case of the first 2 days yes, but after the break in period, i no longer require otoease. oily ears may help with insertion, though your mileage may vary.list of amps that people have found great with the es3x:
iqube+coloured source(5.5g imod)
the long sound tubes that provide excellent isolation but are in no way uncomfortable, thanks to the material that westone has chosen to make them with.
Some pictures showing the difference between westone customs and other customs
note the difference in length of sound tubes