Reviews : Audio / Surround Sound
Is the Westone ES60 the Ultimate Custom Earphone?
At this week’s NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show in Anaheim, Westone is introducing a new flagship addition to its lineup for custom Elite Series in-ear monitors. The new ES60 follows in the footsteps of its forebear, the ES50, with a high-performance design geared toward audiophiles and working musicians, including custom-cast, sculpted, and polished earpieces designed exclusively for your ears, and an astounding array of six balanced armature drivers backed up by a multistage passive crossover network engineered to deliver “unrivaled sonic purity.”
And perhaps a few of those words need a bit of explanation, if you’re not already an earphone junky. As with the ES50 (and all of Westone’s custom-fit earphones), the process of ordering the ES60 begins with a trip to your local audiologist, who will make custom impressions of your ears using pink goo that looks like the ingredients of a chicken nugget. It sounds gross, I know, but the process is actually quick and easy, and in my case incredibly informative. You can read about my experience with Westone’s own audiologist on the CES show floor here.
And the customization doesn’t end there. Once your ear impression is taken, you can customize your Westone in-ear monitors in an array of colors and finishes, including translucent and opaque acrylic, swirls, exotic wood finishes, carbon fiber, laser-etched designs, and more. Each of the earpieces is also constructed from two different materials: a cold-poured acrylic outer shell, and a flexible, heat-reactive canal material that expands just a bit in your ear to provide a better, more comfortable fit and improved noise isolation.
Inside each of the custom earpieces that result from that process, Westone packs the ES60 with six balanced armature drivers – two drivers each for bass, midrange, and treble for each ear – the sound of which reaches your eardrums through two separate passages in the sound port. Westone says that this design allows for “a more convincing and transparent transition between frequency ranges.” I can’t speak to that from experience just yet, but I can tell you that Westone’s balanced armature drivers have revitalized my interest in earphones. The dynamic drivers used in most earbuds and in-ear monitors (which are basically just miniature cone speakers) suffer from a level of distortion in the high frequencies that literally causes me excruciating pain inside my gigantic noggin; by contrast, the balanced armature drivers that Westone uses in its ES series (as well as its universal-fit W60, which I auditioned at the show) deliver a full range of sumptuous audio, including some truly sparkling high-end, which amazingly don’t cause me the slightest discomfort.
The ES60 also ships with Westone’s EPIC cable, a highly flexible, low-resistance cable wrapped in aramid fiber, which can also be replaced with Apple or Android control cables. That’s a pretty big deal, because the last thing you want to do is spend this much on a truly custom audio experience only to have the cable – often the weakest link in the chain – break on you and ruin your investment.
The Westone ES60 is available starting at $1299.99 MSRP, with the final price depending on your choice of custom materials. And when you buy a pair, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Hearing Health Foundation.
For more information, visit Westone.com.
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