In 2006, we got our hands on professional audio manufacturer Westone's only two pairs of consumer earphones--the UM1 and the --both of which received high marks for their good looks, comfortable fit, and excellent sound quality. Rather than toy with two winning products, the company then added a third headphone to the lineup, the ultrahigh-end . Now, one more set, the more wallet-friendly Westone 1 True-Fit Earphones, is making an appearance. These $139 canalphones step up to the plate with a great design that manages to be ultralightweight, durable, and comfortable, but the sound quality leaves something to be desired.
The design of the Westone 1 True-Fit Earphones is a bit unconventional, namely because of the cable. Each wire is individually coated in black rubber and then braided to form the overall cord. Westone asserts that this winding characteristic contributes to both the comfort and durability of the cord. The cable, which measures 50 inches, terminates in a gold-plated L-plug and features a slider at the Y for preventing tangles. Westone includes an optional inline volume control attachment that increases the overall length by 10 inches. There's also a quarter-inch adapter, a cleaning tool, and a hard-sided zipper case with an inner pocket, along with perhaps the largest selection of eartips we've ever seen. You get three sets of stiff and tapered rubber eartips (S, M, and L), three sizes of soft silicone sleeves, three sets of foam fittings in various lengths, and one triple-flanged set. It's clear Westone takes the term "True-Fit" quite seriously.
Despite the wide array of tips, the Westone 1 earphones may provide a bit of a challenge for people with extra-small or uniquely shaped ears. They are contoured to fit into the outer ear with the cables looping up over the top cartilage and then down the back of the neck. This configuration may not be entirely comfortable for everyone, though we were able to achieve a secure fit with little issue--quite a difference from what we experienced with theearphones. This is thanks entirely to the fact that the earpieces of the Westone 1s are noticeably smaller and flatter. Also, we're happy to report that Westone carried over the ultralightweight cable and earpiece design, as that helps the earphones stay put during activity.
Now, the Westone 1 may be quite a bit more compact than the Westone 3, but it's for good reason: rather than three balanced armatures, you get just one (and that takes up much less space). Of course, the sacrifice is obvious. The Westone 1 earphones just cannot compete with their triple-armatured sibling in terms of sound quality, but they also cost significantly less, so it's not a fair comparison. Rather, we pitted the Westone 1 against the similarly priced Etymotic hf5. Unfortunately, the Westone 1 didn't quite stack up in terms of clarity and balance, so they came off sounding slightly muffled next to the Etymotics. Also, bass is far from thumping. On the plus side, mids are pleasantly rich and warm.