In the last few years, the personal audio market has exploded, and it seems that once-rare $1,000 universal-fit IEMs have now become almost commonplace. Over the past year, I kept running into Westone at the audio shows I attended, including NAMM and CanJam to name just two. My brief audition of the company's universal-fit headphones intrigued me; so, we talked about a possible review, and near the end of last year the timing was finally right. Westone sent me a review sample of the W60 in-ear monitors ($999), which are placed second from the top of the six models that currently make up the W Series.
Each W60 earpiece has six balanced armature (BA) drivers, with dual drivers each for the high, midrange, and bass frequencies. Westone uses compact balanced armature drivers in all of its universal-fit headphones. Even with six drivers, the W60 is a low-profile, lightweight design that sits flush with the ear's exterior when inserted. The passive, three-way crossover network takes advantage of the natural roll-off of the BA drivers to smooth transitions between drivers and reduce the number of crossover parts needed. If you want to learn more about the BA drivers, you can watch this short video of Karl Cartwright, head of New Product Development at Westone. Along with an impedance rating of 25 dB, the W60 also has a high sensitivity rating of 117 dB at 1 mW, which means that even low-power-output smartphones or digital audio players should be able to drive these headphones at satisfactory volume levels. I certainly had no issues using my iPhone 6+ with the W60.
The earpieces come with three sets of interchangeable faceplates in titanium, gold, and red colors that are secured in place with an attached hex nut. A hex driver tool is included to easily change out the faceplates for individual preference. A quick reference guide is also included in the package to show you the process for changing faceplates and cables. Speaking of cables, there are two replaceable cable options in the package: an MFi cable with a three-button in-line remote for smartphone use and a braided EPIC audio-only cable, both with pivoting MMCX connectors, 3.5mm jacks, and memory shrink-wrap tubing over the leads at the earpiece ends for wrapping over the ears (musician-style). Westone also sells both Android and balanced cable options for the W60 on its website.
Also included are five different, color-coded sizes of both Star Silicone tips and True-Fit Foam tips to fit ear canals of many different diameters and depths. That's more size options than many competitors typically offer. There is also an ear-wax cleaning tool included in the box. As a matter of personal preference, I changed the eartips from the pre-installed Star Silicone tips to the True-Fit Foam tips. Westone uses medium recovery foam in the True-Fit tips to help with insertion, comfort, and seal. After a brief trial, I decided I got the best fit using the red-size True-Fit tips. Compared with the Comply foam tips I've used with other IEMs, the red True-Fit tips are quite a bit longer, reaching deeper into the ear canal and providing a good bit of passive noise attenuation, which is listed at 25 dB. The tip's sound bore diameter is also quite a bit smaller, funneling the sound more directly toward the eardrum, which is helpful for obtaining more powerful bass levels.
The W60 eartips are inserted using a twisting motion with the cables directed over the ears, similar to the insertion method used for CIEMs. When you're not using your W60 headphones, Westone also provides a Pelican-style, weather-resistant, orange plastic case to safely store them.
Over the past couple of months, I've spent many hours listening to the Westone W60 with a variety of music genres. For critical listening, I paired the W60 with my iPhone 6+ via an Audioquest Dragonfly Red DAC and used the headphones directly with my Astell & Kern AK240 DAP.
I listened to British pop singer/songwriter Dua Lipa sing "Be the One" (16-bit/44.1-kHz, Tidal HiFi) from her soon-to-be-released, self-titled album (Dua Lipa Limited), and the W60 presented an even wider soundstage with more bass impact than the Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Remastered custom-molded IEMs ($999) I used for comparison.
Images within the soundstage were less tightly focused, and there was a little less depth compared with the Ultimate Ears. The sound of the W60 was smooth and balanced yet detailed across the frequency range. With the Ultimate Ears IEMs, the finger snaps had a bit more snap, and the shimmer of the top hat was more prominent, but there was less bottom-end weight than with the W60.
Next up was David Draiman of the heavy-metal band Disturbed covering "The Sound of Silence" (16-bit/44.1-kHz, Tidal HiFi) from the band's album Immortalized (Reprise Records). This haunting rendition is sung an octave lower than the original, starting with just a piano and David singing softly. The song builds gradually, eventually crescendoing as the entire backing orchestra joins in. The W60 provided a bit more bass impact, with a more powerful and authoritative vocal, if not quite as much detail. The result for me was that the W60 had more emotional impact than the Ultimate Ears with this tune.
For a real test of bass reproduction, I listened to "Madness" (24-bit/96-kHz, HDTracks) by Muse from the album The 2nd Law (Warner). The soundstage for this track can become a bit congested through many headphones. The W60 presented a wider soundstage but with instruments and vocals a little less precisely placed within that space than the Ultimate Ears. The Ultimate Ears always sounded in control and a bit more articulate, but also more reserved when it came to bass reproduction. There were a few more musical details revealed with the Ultimate Ears, as well as a bit more soundstage depth. But with less bass dynamics, I once again found the Ultimate Ears to not be quite as engaging as the W60 with this track. The W60 was just a bit more fun to listen to here.
The smooth, balanced sonics of the Westone W60 is a great match with most music genres and will appeal to the vast majority of serious music enthusiasts.
The low-profile, lightweight shell design, combined with flexible, detachable cable and numerous eartip options, results in one of the most comfortable fits of any in-ear monitor on the market.
The high sensitivity rating means that the W60 pairs well with low-output devices such as smartphones and DAPs.
• No headphone is perfect for everyone. Those who place a priority on eking out every last high-frequency detail or are bass junkies will want to look elsewhere.
Comparison & Competition
Besides the Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Remastered IEMs that I used for direct comparison (which are custom-molded, not universal-fit), other competitors to the Westone W60 include the Shure SE846 ($999) and the Noble Audio Django ($999) universal-fit earphones. The Shure places more emphasis on bass impact than the W60, while the Noble Audio is closer in overall sonics but has a larger shell profile.
The Westone W60 comes closer in its balanced sonic presentation to my benchmark UE Pro Reference Remastered custom IEM than any other sub-$1,000 universal-fit earphone I've auditioned. If you've got the means and are looking for a serious in-ear monitor that's comfortable to wear and has a warm, balanced presentation that also provides good detail, then the Westone W60 is a wonderful choice.