Westone, established in 1959 and located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, may be relatively unknown in the general consumer electronics and audiophile worlds, but has an established following with professional musicians. The company's experience in earphones dates back to 1985, with a custom-fit earpiece for Walkman-style ear buds. Westone progressed into professional in-ear monitors for the music industry. The Adventure Series ADV Alpha is Westone's latest design, intended for people on the go who want a comfortable, weather-resistant earphone with audiophile fidelity. Additional Resources
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The ADV Alpha combines a magnesium and aluminum body for strength and durability with a 6.5mm micro driver with Precision Surface Tuning, which Westone touts as having extended bass range without compromising sonic accuracy. Westone's Active Fit System is comprised of "Up & Over" cable routing and a patented Star Tip system to produce a comfortable fit while creating earpiece retention. The Star Tip system includes a series of different-sized silicone ear tips with deep grooves that break the tip up into multiple segments, allowing them to better conform to the ear canal. The package also includes conforming foam earpieces, similar to the Comply earpieces used on the RBH EP-2 that I recently reviewed
. You also get a detachable cable with a microphone and three-button control system (the cable is reflective for better visibility in adverse conditions) and a handy rigid case that appears to be waterproof. The ADV Alphas retail for $249.99, but I have found them online for $199.99.
These earphones are aimed at active people who will use them with portable devices while exercising or on the go. Accordingly, I spent most of my time with these earphones connected to my iPhone 4S, as well as a little bit of time connected to the MacBook that accompanies me when I travel. Both units had CD-quality (48-kHz/16-bit) music ripped to them using iTunes in WAV format, played back through iTunes. The overall sound was articulate, clear, and enjoyable. On Holly Cole's album It Happened One Night (Blue Note Records), I found the sound to be clear and articulate, with no signs of exaggerated or overemphasized sound in the midrange or bass frequencies. In reading some other reviews of this product, I noticed that some people found the Alphas to be bass-heavy. However, fit could be the issue there, which has to be the most important consideration for any earphone product. I did not have that experience; rather, I found the bass to be articulate. With extended listening, though, I can understand why some may feel this earphone to be bass-heavy, as it appears there may be a slight decrease in amplitude as the frequency increases. The Alphas have a slightly lean midrange and polite treble. I also listened to some Buena Vista Social Club (Nonesuch Records). On the song "Chan Chan," the imaging was good, creating a solid center stage. Again I experienced a somewhat reserved midrange. Upper frequencies were crisp, clear, and non-fatiguing, but lacked a little depth.
I found the ADV Alphas to be comfortable without causing any pain after prolonged use. They never became loose or needed readjustment to keep them in my ear, which is due in large part to the over-the-ear cable routing. The foam earpieces worked well in isolating extraneous noise.
The smartphone functionality of Westone's Adventure Warning and Control System (AWACS) worked well. I was able to increase volume and skip backward and forward on tracks, as well as answer the phone. The individual buttons made it easy to use when exercising, as I did not have to stop and look at the control unit.Read about the high points and low points of the Westone ADV Alphas on Page 2.