Review: Westone UM1
The Westone UM1 is a pair of in-ear monitor (IEM) earphones with a single balanced-armature driver in each bud, retailing for ₱4,790. It uses a tangle-free, coiled three-wire cable in a Y configuration and angled 3.5mm jack.
In the box
Included with the Westone UM1 themselves are:
- A bunch of tips, 2 pairs of the following: Comply foam, silicon and triple-flange
- Hard case with a small webbing pocket inside to hold some of the tips and the brush in
- Earwax cleaning brush
- Marketing booklets
Accessories-wise, Westone gave the UM1 a generous and thoughtful selection. There is a tip for everyone and the hard case will keep everything safe and tidy. The foam tips in particular are awesome. Foam tips are usually notorious for muddling the sound but based on our testing these ones had no such impact on the sound. The cleaning tool is also a good addition because it gives end-users the means to maintain their IEMs.
The cable setup minimizes microphonics and the over-the-ear design handles cable pulls well—It will take more than a sudden tug to force the IEMs from your ears.
I chose songs from various genres and used FLAC copies as test tracks with a 8GB Sansa Clip+ as the player set to 60% volume and flat EQ. The UM1 sounded way too bright (harsh even) on first use so I had to “burn” them in, leaving them plugged in and playing something for roughly 24 hours or until its tone has settled down.
- Up Dharma Down’s Bipolar album
- Original Broadway Recording of Elton John’s/Tim Rice’s Aida
- Pagbalik, Fuseboxx’s carrier single for their 2nd album Animated
- Original Broadway Recording of Jonathan Larson’s Rent
- Techy Romantic’s Touch album
Westone UM1 Impressions
I have used earphones and IEMs with dynamic driver technology since forever with prices below PhP2000. Currently I’m a very happy user of the well-regarded SoundMagic EP30, arguably one of the best bang-for-money IEMs with its excellent sound characteristics and clean, balanced tone that puts other even more-expensive IEMs to shame.
However, with the Westone UM1 you just hear more and more clearly. The previously-unheard sound of someone gently tapping the rim/edge of a snare drum during Radames’ verse in ‘A Step Too Far’ gives more punctuation to Radames’ lines. A synth line almost buried by the electric guitar solo in Fuseboxx’s “Pagbalik” gives the song a more orchestral and epic feel . The muttering ghostly voice in the bridge of Vienna Teng’s “Radio” is now understandable and gave more flavor to the lyrics (it was colors of a bomb’s wires). “Will I?” from Rent has 4 vocal lines and a whole ensemble band backing up the cast yet you can still distinguish the individual lyrics and instruments. Up Dharma Down’s genius in the composition, arrangement and production of their sophomore album shines even more with the UM1.
The UM1 sounds clean, balanced and neutral. Its tone has nothing artificially enhanced or boosted, has very good separation and a very slightly-recessed mid/high, resulting in a tone that won’t give you ear fatigue. That being said, bass heads might not like the UM1. The bass is there, definitely. It just won’t make your eardrums meet in the middle of your skull. The treble is not as prominent compared to some; it falls to personal preference if that’s a good thing or not. It excels in complex, multi-layered music such as musicals, orchestra, progressive rock and the like. Overlapping vocal tracks are also handled easily.
Is the Westone UM1 worth the price tag that’s almost double of some high-end dynamic driver IEMs? It depends on your musical preferences. Using one to listen to 128kbps audio is overkill. However, if you’re the type who prefers FLAC over MP3 and listens regularly to Broadway recordings, prog rock and the like, the UM1 fits the bill. In my case, I think I’ll buy one (or two, so I’d have a spare) of these myself when my current IEMs die. If there’s one (very minor) nitpick I’d have, it’d be the lack of a clip to keep the cable close to your body. It’s a large step up from your usual dynamic driver earphones/IEMs and a good introduction to balanced armature IEM technology.
The Westone UM1 is SO good, you might not settle for anything less after using this.
Westone UM1 Available at:
- Beyond The Box (One Rockwell & ForbesTown)
- Digital Walker Eastwood
- Digital Walker VMall
- Digital Walker Trinoma
Westone’s iconic beginning in a small family home in the Rockies has framed the company’s unique culture, mission, and purpose.
“Our music division was not born out of a business idea, but out of a passion for music - and the people who love it.”
Westone was one of the pioneers of the in-ear monitor. We continue to be guided by an unwavering devotion to develop in-ear devices that bring out everything in the music for an unequaled sound and an unparalleled listening experience. In addition, our 50+ year hearing history gives Westone a deep knowledge of “all things ears” – which means you can count on products that offer superior fit, ergonomics, acoustics, and comfort.
Our family style has created an environment where going the extra mile for customers is the rule, not the exception.
Pure comfort. Pure music.
Hat Tip to Marcus Alianza for his help in this article.
This entry was posted on Monday, January 16th, 2012 at 4:40 pm and is filed under Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.