I’ve been told that the world of in-ear monitor (IEM) users are divided between the Shure and Westone camps, each with their unique inclinations in terms of preferred sound signature. So different and so unique are the differences between the two that never shall the twain meet.
I’ve been using the Shure SE535 universal in-ear monitors for most personal listening cases, so I was wary going into this review.
I’ve always preferred the ergonomics and sound signature of IEMs for personal listening, especially for commuting. Grown accustomed to the fit and presence of the earphones in my ear canals, I’ve come to appreciate the noise isolation and clarity they provide.
Westone has been known for its established line of in-ear audio solutions and earphones since its conception in 1959.
The Westone Wx thus marks the brand’s first foray into the wireless audio industry, with a Bluetooth-capable MMCX cable included with the earphones in the box.
The earphones are packaged similarly to the brand’s entry-level UM1 IEM, in a small, long box with a window. It opens up to yield the earphones themselves, along with a nice little carrying case and a complement of five foam and five silicone ear tips.
Retailing at SGD 269 (complete set) and SGD 219 (cable only), however, the Westone Wx stays closer to Westone’s W series of IEMs both in price and in branding.
With the wave of Bluetooth audio products we’ve experienced in recent years, the Westone Wx finds itself amidst a market awash in cheap alternatives with comparable features sets and performance claims.
The build of the Westone Wx belies this additional cost. Boasting an IPX4 level of water and dust resistance, the device is well constructed and feels solid and well-sealed. The Micro USB charging port on the control box closes with a flap that sits flush the surrounding surface.
Thoughtful features like symmetrical design make the earphones comfortable and well-balanced, and a large control box with tactile buttons that are recognizable to the touch make the earphones a joy to use.
Plenty of thought was evidently spent on the cable. Regular round wires run from the MMCX termination on the earphones, running down to the control boxes midway down the neck area. From there, a flat cable connects from both ends in a loop around the nape of the user’s neck, providing greater comfort.
I did feel that the earphones looked a little like wearing dangly earrings, with the control box and the counterweight hanging equidistant from my earlobes. An adjustment slider helps to neaten the slack from the cables, which helps lessen that illusion.
Also, the silver branding on the outward-facing shell of the Westone Wx are printed on, and, I would sure have appreciated the branding being done in relief, which does wonders for durability as I had experienced on my Shure SE535.
The channels are clearly marked out with bold silver “L” and “R” symbols on the insides, a thoughtful design feature is easily taken for granted.
Pressing the power button of the Westone Wx for three seconds prompts red and blue LED lights to blink, indicating that the device has powered on. I did find the positioning of the LEDs between the buttons was less than optimal since it was obstructed by even my relatively-small thumb during operation. Keeping the earphones plugged in during the process lets you hear the universal power-up arpeggio, and a reverse sequence when powered down.
Pairing is achieved by long-pressing the center button for about 5 seconds, which prompts a blue LED to flash incessantly. The + and – buttons adjust the volume and double as the track skip and rewind buttons via long press.
With a long legacy in producing in-ear monitors, Westone has replicated its impeccable ability to provide the right fit out of the box. The small form of the Wx meant that it could easily fit into most ears of different sizes, though it does require some patience to achieve a perfect seal, which is vital for achieving the intended listening experience.
Aurally, the Westone Wx sounded cool and analytical – which is not surprising with its single balanced armature driver. It sports Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX codec, meaning that audio quality is notably better than lesser devices.
Westone’s typical sound signature does bleed through despite the Wx only featuring a single BA driver on each channel. Vocals were clear, although I felt they suffered quite a bit of loss in detail and complexity. The soundstage was particularly roomy, and I felt like I was able to point out precisely where different sonic elements were coming from.
However, I was more divided on its treble range, where female vocals sounded almost nasal to me. On most songs, however, I enjoyed how the Westone Wx rendered instrumental flourishes with a certain magic to it. From pianos to hi-hats,
The bass suffers the most due to the single BA design on the Westone Wx. I’ve been particularly spoilt by my triple-driver earphones, but the bass quality lacked richness and texture.
The Westone Wx retails at SGD 269, but can be had at a lower price while on sale. The Bluetooth module offers great functionality along with thoughtful design, and was a joy to use with my MMCX IEMs. However, despite Bluetooth 4.0 and aptX codec, the loss in resolution was immediately noticeable.