When we first put the Westone W10's in we took a walk around the building to see if we indeed had created a good seal with the earbuds. We knew if the noise isolation made it impossible to hear the elevators and traffic noise, not to mention the hipster bike riders on the seawall, we had it right. It was a little surprising for us that we had to put a large foams tip in to get the best fit. This was not a completely unnerving experience as each headphone you try, especially IEM style headphones, sit differently in the ear, the angle and fit is different. Once we had the large foam tips on and we had a created seal, we began our listening journey with the Westone W10 earphones [UPDATE - turns out we didn't look long enough at all the supplied tips - we found the perfect sized medium tips in the end = happy us].
Westone W10 Review notes
Well, let's start by saying if you're looking for some bass thumping, ground shaking, ampeg vibrating headphones then these are not them, but don't go thinking these little delights are not worth adding to the mix. The problem with so much of the audio world is that they think if the bass is not socking you in the stomach then they can't be a decent pair of headphones, this is a shame as the W10's are a great example of headphones under $200 that offer beautiful sound, they just might suit different people based on the music they prefer to listen to. Often the artificial boosting of bass just hides the true nature of headphones.
Review song list notes
What song list?
- First we started with our favourite Pink Floyd track Comfortably Numb - the solo stood out nicely and the general soundscape was very well balanced. Nothing stood out and slapped us but it was a pleasant listen.
- Settle Down by Kimbra really sounds delicious in the intro - the bass comes in nicely but not overwhelmingly. This track has very low bass mixed which didn't stand out here but the vocals sounded breathy and the soundscape could really be noticed on this one.
- 9 Crimes by Damien Rice was a clearer intro than we are used to, the Piano on this track is typically muffled but was nice and clear on this - very typical sound from an upright piano. The reverb could be heard nicely in Lisa Hannigan's vocal. The tympani/bass tom tom sounds that come in is once again natural but not over the top at all.
- Claire de lune by Debussy played by Kun-Woo Paik was lovely and started to really show the sweetness of the highs on these earphones, surprisingly natural, again and a pleasure to listen to. You won't get the heavy deep left-hand notes overwhelming you and the sound is sweet.
- Mr Brightside from the Killers starts really nicely - we always choose this track as it's such a blended noise that if you can separate the sounds/instruments you know the headphones are doing pretty well. This track didn't delight as much as it really relies on the heavy kick and thumping bass to keep it's momentum.
- Mozart No. 40-2 sounds beautiful, a classical music lovers delight for sure.
- Equally the Four Seasons from Vivaldi sound really live and natural and you can hear the quality of the Violin as he plays on and on. Here you start to feel the W10's know how to bring strings to life.
- Moonilght Sonata from Beethoven presents the reverberating piano strings nicely - again - not heavy left handed notes but delightful overall sound.
- By this point we had started to wonder if we could find anything to bring a new dynamic to the W10's which we definitely found with Sohn - Lights. This track sound fantastic - the bass, the balance, the soundscape really blew us away. It's hard to say why the W10's don't produce this wonderful bass for all the above tracks but we certainly enjoyed this track immensely - again, the word natural sums up the sound but the reverb on the vocals and stereo mixing of the effects was awesome. The bass sits nicely at the bottom without stealing the limelight from the rest of the instrumentation.
- Finally Skrillex kicks in with an album mastered so deep you might think they were trying to make the antipodes hear it. This track also failed to reach super low frequencies but really surprised us, after all the other tracks as to how nice this track sounded. It might not make you think you're in the club but it pulled out all the other musical elements of the song so we almost felt we were listening to a whole new song mix.
In keeping with all the above notes we can only sum up that the W10's sound natural. They don't fail to product bass, they just don't pull it to the front of the mix. The Sohn track still amazes us when the bottom keyboard notes kick in but that doesn't mean we would recommend these to bass fanatics.
The mids don't sit too far forward but definitely take center stage for these earphones. They bring mids out of most music and show you tones you might not have noticed before. The frequencies here are really well balanced and not one frequency stands too far forward from the rest. This makes for nice listening for long periods of time.
Treble and high frequencies are such a personal thing and a lot of people, after years of abuse with inferior earphones, can't hear the highs that perhaps they could have as young'uns. For this reason we believe the highs on these will please most all people. They are not screechy or too sharp - they product sweet notes without making you cringe or turn down the volume. The Sohn track and the solo on Comfortably numb represent this well.
Bottom line - as good as any. No complaints here. On the train, in the office, at home these things block the noise nicely with the right fitting foams and a good seal.
The Westone 10's cable is a farily fine wiring but is quite pleasant if you commute. You don't have to wrestle the cable over your ears.
Westone excel when it comes to accessories. You get three different coloured faceplates, two cables (with one having 3 button iOS/Phone buttons/Mic on it), loads of tips for different sized ears.
Westone W10 Review Conclusion
These produce a lovely sound. We think overall they are priced well but you need to probably have fairly regular listening tastes to make the most of them. If you are a classic music fan or love acoustic music these are great. If you listen to Jay Z and Armin van Buuren all the time, you'll get something new from these, but you might not really 'get' what these headphones are trying to achieve. For balance we continued to listen to Sohn with the Veto track which again, made us really like these earphones. We also listened to Gravedigger by Dave Matthews, Live are Radio City with Tim Reynolds which is another example of how nice acoustic music is through these, as did the whole album.
The more we listened to music through these earphones the more we wanted to keep listening and they really grew on us. They can be summed up in a few words - Natural sound and Balanced sound.