First look at Westone W80

Full Review is FINALLY HERE: https://twister6.com/2016/12/09/westone-w80/


Yes, it’s finally a reality, Westone new 8-driver W-series universal IEM is here!!!  Available for sale next month in select countries and worldwide in November.

Actually, already available on Amazon – HERE.

This first impression is so hot off the press, I didn’t even have a chance to take proper pictures in my usual setup with a kitchen countertop background.  Enjoy the first set of “proof of life” pictures from my smartphone just to show you these are for real!

w80-x01

So what are the changes in this new Signature Series W80 model?  As you can guess from a model name the number of drivers have been bumped to 8, now with 2 lows, 2 mids, and 4 highs.  Furthermore, Westone teamed up with ALO Audio and this new model is featuring Ken’s latest Reference 8 creation – a hybrid 8-braid design with cryo treated top quality SPC and pure copper conductors.  The mmcx connectors are universal, so you can use this cable with any mmcx-based IEMs/CIEMs.

Regardless if you are a cable believer or not, it looks very impressive, thin, supple, but not as soft as the original Epic cable, and it has some memory effect and some noticeable microphonics.  But the key here is a quality of the material and the corresponding improvement in sound.  Typical for cables, from my experience it will need at least 100hrs of burn in before the final impression, but I will share with you how it sounds out of the box after only 12hrs of burn in.

The cable has a rubbery right angle gold plated connector with a nice grip, and it’s tall enough to be compatible with any DAP or smartphone in a case.  Y-splitter is a slim metal capsule with a rubber chin-slider which slides right into the splitter top.  Housing of mmcx connector is plastic, but not slippery and has a good grip when removing the cable.  Also, it has Red/Blue dot ids for R/L sides.  There is a memory wire which I personally not a big fan of when it comes to mmcx connectors.  Some people love memory wires and will be happy with it, for others if you have patience and DIY handy – it can always be removed (though remember you are voiding the warranty).

w80-x02

In terms of a design, the size of the shell is nearly identical between W60 and W80 which is quite impressive considering they added 2 more drivers.  It still features a Westone signature bean shape shell that goes flush in your ears and comfortable enough even when you put your head down with your ear on the pillow.  Actually, W80 looks a little slimmer with a flatter surface of the inner shell side facing toward the ear.  The construction is very similar, all plastic and still feels durable in my hands.

One thing I noticed was a shell joint around the mmcx connector which has a straight edge, eliminating the confusion some people had with previous W-series where the edge was angled, making people to assume it was cracked.  There is also an improvement in replaceable faceplate design.  It’s more marrow and smaller, hugging the shell tighter. having less chance for edges to lift/flex.  Overall, looks like Westone addressed a number of previous concerns voiced about W-series design.  Plus, they implemented the “audio mmcx” higher quality connector, the same I found in their new AM Pro series and Westone BT cable.

Click pictures below to get a close up of how W80 looks next to W60.

Of course, the biggest question on everyone’s mind is about the sound change.  I have reviewed many Westone in-ear models, including their flagship W60 and ES60.  In general, Westone has a well known “house sound” signature with a more laid back, lush, organic, natural sound geared toward performing stage musicians as well as audio enthusiast and some audiophiles.  For those audiophiles who prefer a more revealing, more transparent, layered airy sound, ES60 was the answer.  It was also a source of many arguments I had with people when trying to convince them that ES60 is not a custom version of universal W60 due to a different tuning signature.

For me personally, ES60 hits closer to my preferred sound signature than W60.  But even with ES60, sometime I wish the sound would be fuller with more body, especially to give a more natural feeling to the vocals.  As soon as I saw the announcement about 2 additional high drivers in W80, I knew right away that’s where Westone is heading with their new W80 tuning.  Using my PAW Gold as a reference source, I did a quick sound comparison between W60 and W80, first using ALO Reference 8 new cable and then with Epic cable.  While going between W60 and W80 I volume matched by ear.  Also, keep in mind, I only have approximately 12hrs of burn in with W80.

With ALO cable, going from W60 vs W80, I hear the bass to be noticeably tighter and more articulate, and it feels like low end has more control now.  Sub-bass extension and mid-bass punch are similar, but the transient response of the bass notes has more contrast where details pop up more vividly.  Lower mids are similar with full organic body, while upper mids are more transparent with an improvement in retrieval of details.  You still have the same organic lush signature, but upper mids clarity scales up higher which is especially noticeable with vocals.  Treble extension and quality is very close.  When it comes soundstage, I hear the same depth but W80 sounds wider.

With Epic cable, when going from W60 to W80, I still hear the bass being tighter and more articulate, but it doesn’t jump out at you like I heard it with ALO Reference 8 hybrid cable.  That cable really adds a new dimension to the low end quality and quantity.  Lower mids are still very similar, though I do hear a touch less spillage of mid-bass into lower mids with W80 in comparison to W60.  With upper mids, the difference is more noticeable now in comparison to ALO cable which is probably due to its lack of a proper burn in.  With Epic cable the upper mids in W80 have more clarity and sounds brighter, making W60 sound a little veiled in comparison. Also, the treble in W80 is now more crisp, better defined, and has more airiness.  This improvement in clarity and details also reflects in a wider soundstage expansion where there is a more noticeable improvement in W80 comparing to W60.

I didn’t capture any images of the packaging and the case, but it’s definitely a big step up from what you have used to with W- and UM Pro series.  The packaging box itself has a more premium finish, and even so you are still getting the same set of accessories with Westone patented silicone and foam tips and different color sets of faceplates, you no longer have a little plastic orange “vault” case and instead have a large storage/organizer case with ballistic material exterior.  I will add more pictures later, but the case is large enough and comes with velcro dividers to build your own partitions where you can store not only W80 with extra cables and all spare eartips, but also place your portable DAP and dac/amp and also have some room for credit cards and maybe a few bills.  This travel case is not necessary a luxurious eye candy leather case, but it’s a very practical audiophile “luxury” case to take your IEMs/CIEMs and portable audio gear on a trip.  Also, it comes with a matching ballistic material slim IEM case when you just want to slip your W80 in a pocket.

I will continue with testing and burn in, and will have a full review sometime in a near future where I’ll go more deep into sound analysis, comparison to other IEMs/CIEMs, and pair up with different sources.  But for now, I’m definitely impressed with what I have seen and heard so far.  In a way, W80 feels like a love child between W60 and ES60, fine-tuning Westone house sound to bring it closer to a more revealing performance.  You are getting a tighter and more articulate tuning of the bass, a more revealing retrieval of upper mids details, and a more expanded soundstage.  On top of that you are getting a premium $300 ALO Reference 8 hybrid cable, updated shell design, new travel case/organizers, and 2 more drivers – pretty good and quite justifiable update going from $1k W60 to $1.5k W80.

3 thoughts on “First look at Westone W80

  1. Thanks for these insightful comments.

    My W80s arrived about 10 days ago, and I have to say my initial reaction was not nearly as positive as yours.

    I’ve owned about six sets of Westones, beginning with the 1s and working my way up to the 4s and the 5s. I’ve been a big fan.

    But the W80s were a different story. To my ears, right out of the box, they sounded quite bright in the upper mids. (This was with the ALO cables.) And I heard the sound stage as confused — almost as if they were out of phase, although that’s certainly overstating the case.

    My Westone 4 phones, by comparison, sounded warmer, more relaxed and pleasant, although much softer and fatter in the bass.

    I set the W80s up for continuous play, listening to them every couple of days. Even on Day 5, while the brightness seemed somewhat reduced, they still weren’t nice. I was considering returning them for a refund.

    But on Day 7, the sound seemed to be sorting itself out. Now, a couple of days later, the upper mids certainly are not reticent, but neither are they bothersome. I’m hearing the highs as extended, detailed and open, and the bottom as solid and extended.

    As I go from track to track (using my Pono), I’m finding myself frequently marveling at the space around instruments, the nuances in instrumental harmonics and the vivid locational cues. The fun has begun.

    So I’m keeping them, and I think I’m going to love them.

    Like

  2. 10 days later, I think they’re fully burned in — and they are awesome.

    I’m really enjoying track after track, hearing the fine nuances of voices and instruments and the space surrounding them.

    Frequency balance seems all sorted out now. There is no shortage of highs, and if the recording is overly aggressive there, you will here it vividly. But on excellent recordings, you can hear abundant high-end information that’s neither sweetened nor harsh.

    Bass is great — best ever for the five models of Westones I’ve owned. Tight, pretty darn deep, with air around the kick drum and the bass, if it’s on the recording. I’ve felt most of my Westones have been a little overblown and woolly in the bass, but not the W80s.

    Now I’m that happy mode of “Okay, which track do I want to hear next with this marvelous presentation?”

    Like

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