Since I reviewed a lot of Westone IEMs released in the last 3-4 years, I get asked many questions about these monitors, including eartips recommendations. Westone IEMs already come with 2 sets of custom eartips, 5 pairs of silicone Star tips and 5 pairs of foam True-Fit tips. These color-coded pairs are not only made from a custom material, but also vary in shape, length (affecting the insertion depth), and diameter. So, why would anybody be interested in more eartips when you already got so many included?
I found that many of these questions come from audio enthusiasts who are in the same boat as I am, wanting to improve the comfort, especially when they use the largest size tips. If you take into consideration that Westone nozzle is only a few millimeters in diameter, there are not too many available options for tip rolling (switching to a different pair). Shure eartips will work since their nozzle has the same diameter, and now you also have the option of using Symbio with a nozzle adaptor. Because I had to answer this question many times on Head-fi, I figured it will be easier to put together a short write up for the future reference.
The eartips selection in universal IEMs is VERY important because the seal of your earcanal will have a significant affect on the sound. Furthermore, a proper seal will improve the comfort of the fit and will help to keep shells secure in your ears. For example, Westone IEMs come by default with a gray “medium” eartips pair which could be considered as a starting point for tip-rolling. Don’t just settle on it, try other eartip pairs, switch between silicone and foam, try to go up/down in size to hear the effect of the sound change.
Because my earcanal opening is wide, with a sharp bend in the left one, I use the largest “orange” Westone eartips, but can’t push them deep inside, making the shell stick out, enough to affect the comfort when I put my head down on the pillow. Thus, I prefer eartips which keep shells flush in my ears, and found the Shure soft flex silicone tips to do the job since they are shorter. Recently, Symbio, with their wider bore opening eartips, introduced a small nozzle adaptor specifically designed for Westone and Shure IEMs. With a help of that adaptor, now I can use Symbio W eartips with Westone iems.
In this very short write up, I would like to go over the comparison between Westone’s own Star and True-Fit eartips, and the comparison with Shure flex silicone eartips and Symbio W hybrid eartips. In my testing I used UM Pro 50 v2 with a stock Epic cable and LPGT as a source. Below is my description of the difference in sound, as I hear it when switching between eartips.
Westone silicone Star vs foam True-Fit.
I found the perception of soundstage to be wider, with more room to breath, when using Star tips, while True-fit has a more intimate, slightly narrower staging. With Star tips the bass is more balanced, upper mids a little more revealing, and treble has noticeably more sparkle and airiness, while with True-fit the sound is a little warmer, bass is a little more elevated, mids have a fuller body, while treble has less sparkle.
Westone silicone Star vs Shure silicone soft flex.
(from sweetwater.com, Shure EASFX1-10S/10M/10L, $15/5pairs)
I’m hearing the soundstage being a little wider with Star tips, and a little more extended out of my head with Shure tips. Not too much difference in tonality between mids and treble, but with Shure tips the mid-bass hits a little harder vs with Star tips it’s a little more balanced, being elevated above neutral but not at the same level as with Shure tips. Another noticeable difference is the length (or the height) of the tips where Shure has a shallower insertion depth, keeping the shells more flush in my ears. For me personally, it improves the comfort of the fit.
Shure silicone soft flex vs Symbio W hybrid w/adaptor.
Unlike Shure tips which slightly narrowed the staging width in a comparison to Star tips, I hear more soundstage width with Symbio and still get the same soundstage depth as Shure. Bass with Symbio has a little more sub-bass rumble, while mid-bass slam is the same as with Shure tips. Also, treble with Symbio is a little brighter, giving the sound a slightly better definition. The comfort level of the fit is nearly the same as Shure tips where shells do sit flush in my ear.
Tip rolling is usually the easiest and the most cost-efficient way to fine tune the sound of your universal IEMs. In this particular case with Westone monitors, either if it’s W, Um Pro, or AM Pro series, you get plenty of custom eartips already included, in both silicone and foam variants. But if you need to improve the fit comfort and looking for other replacement eartips options, it’s not going to be an easy task due to a small diameter of Westone IEM nozzle. Thus, either Symbio W hybrid with an adaptor or Shure eartips would be a good option.