Westone, maker of ear molds that are then used for earplugs for musicians and medical devices, also makes headphones--in a very similar business model to that of the venerable headphone/monitor company Ultimate Ears. The good news is that the company's UM1 Single Driver True Fit Earphones, a non-custom-fit in-ear model, are a great headphone set. We have very few gripes concerning the UM1, and none of them fall in the audio realm--listeners of a wide array of music should be pleased with these accurate, comfortable 'phones.
From a design standpoint, the Westone UM1 is an attractive set: A braided black cable that's about 48 inches long meets with transparent plastic for the jack and the earpieces. Not as attractive but plenty comfortable are the orange foam earpieces that expand to make a secure fit when placed in the ear. Unfortunately, the fit is not always completely secure, and listeners might find themselves occasionally fiddling with earpieces to get them to stay in place. Extra ear covers, a cleaning pick, and a sturdy black carrying case are included.
The Westone UM1 outdid itself in the performance category. Like its Ultimate Ears competition, the earphones are designed for audio purists who want a balanced mix rather than brain-numbing bass levels. The new Yeah Yeah Yeahs' single, "Gold Lion," sounded excellent, with Karen O's crisp vocals coming through beautifully, the thumping kick drum making its presence known without distortion at high levels, as well as no exaggeration of low-end frequencies. The more delicate sounds of an old Aretha Franklin gem, "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," benefited similarly from the seemingly flat response of the UM1.
With a price tag of $109, the Westone UM1 earphones are worth every penny, but users should ideally do a blind taste test with these and the Super.fi 3 set from Ultimate Ears--both are so excellent for their cost that it becomes a matter of personal preference.