Recently portable audio has been on a massive rush and everything is moving on very quickly. New DAPs are being announced all the time and with the technology improving in IEMs, the prices of a top level universal IEM is sometimes even exceeding the 1000 pound mark. When the original Westone 4 was released back in 2011 it was not only one of the most expensive universal IEMs on the market but it also was the first ever to feature 4 balanced armature driver per earpiece. Now while that is still not the norm today it is nowhere near as special or unique as it once was but although the price has not dropped, in the UK with a street price of around £250 from one retailer or about £400 from some reputable UK sellers (RRP £500 but only Amazon is that expensive) it has not increased by a huge margin and that means that it is now competing in a lower price bracket with there being quite a much more expensive tier of IEMs now. The W40 is pretty much a re-release to the W4/W4R with a brand new everything other than the drivers and the crossovers that are used with in, it’s just brining the W4 up to date and this is all good. Before you say Westone are being lazy, you don’t have to worry because they have just announced a new W50 and a flagship in the W60 (5 and 6 drivers respectfully). Now although it does seem they have done thing different in regards to the Knowles TWFK for highs and midrange and the DTEC for the lows that were used in the W4 that is not too say there is no difference in the sound as the housing is different, so is the cable and so are the included tips and collectively they can have an impact on the sound. Moving onto the rest of the review I do not want to delve on how this is different or improved from the Westone 4 and just want to concentrate on what this is.
The package that Westone supply with this is incredible and I would be left happy with this if it had been one of the 1000 pound plus options. The packaging itself is sleek and nothing over the top but when you move onto what you get included things really do step up. Too start off with you have an amazing carry case, although I think it was released by Westone a while back I never quite caught onto what it was and how amazing it is. It is what they call the monitor vault and I just always presumed it would very similar to an Otterbox and when I say that I am not wrong. However instead of it just being an orange version with little differences, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it is clearly smaller and while an Otterbox is great for what it is, it is not fitting in anyone’s pocket any time soon and this is and that makes it both very practical and valuable. Obviously like an Otterbox it is pretty much indestructible with a pressure valve to stop water getting in and if you keep your W40s in it, they are not running into damage any time soon. The next thing that I find a really big deal is that they have included two cables with the earphones. Westone have switched too MMCX connections for their removable cables so bare in mind they are not backward compatible but you get both a standard straight up audio cable that is just the newest version of their classic Epic cable and then you also get the MFI certified cable that has the 3 button remote and mic that I know a lot of you use when pairing with your smartphones. This really is handy as it saves any need to need to get an aftermarket cable if you want the remote and mic or if you just want to use a straight audio cable. Really nice stuff and even if you don’t plan on using one it is nice to have a back up cable if the worst was to happen to one of the cables. You then move onto the included tips and they are once again very generous. You get two types of tips with W40, their own STAR silicone tip and then their True-Fit Foam tips. Now these are unlike any tips I have ever had before in my life and they clearly are not a 5-minute idea but a product that has had some thought go into it. There are 5 colours of them that all represent a different size but is not a case of small, medium, large, XL and XXL. You have two different lengths of the tips with orange, red and blue being really quite long, as long as a standard triple flange and the differences in the tips are thickness. Then you have the green and black and these are a bit shorter and they also different thicknesses. The tips are great quality; sound amazing and the 5 sizes offer a very comfortable fit whatever your ears are like. The next little feature is a bit on the gimmicky side but it is well executed and saves them having to make multiple coloured versions. The faceplates on them can be screwed on and off and included you get two black faceplates installed and a pair of red and blue ones in the case. They are easy and safe to use with the screw not falling out of the faceplate making them not in slightest fiddly and when they are installed they are truly secured. I personally like the sleek black faceplates or a red on the right side and blue on the left. Don’t shoot me down for saying it but I wouldn’t be too disappointed to see them release some more colours at a cheap price, wouldn’t say no to some pink, green or purple faceplates! You also get a cleaning tool included.
Although I am not against the whole faceplate concept, I cannot lie and say they give off a very professional finish because they do have the Chinese shiny plastic effect that you would expect to be included on cheaper earphones. The build of these is everything it should be and that of course includes removable cables. Westone have made the decision to change from using the old two pin connectors to the newer MMCX connectors and while I must say I prefer the two pin connectors from my experience, I am sure they have some justifying reasons behind it and for one you don’t ever have to worry about the pin breaking off in the socket leaving you in deep trouble. Removing aftermarket cables from the W40 has been a huge pain though so that is something to take into account. The included Epic cable seems to be very similar to the last rendition of it but they have thankfully scrapped the memory wire and also but on a new sleeker y-split that is both pretty cool looking and has a nice strain relief. The braid is the same tight one they have always used and has proved to be strong on numerous occasions in the past with no negative experiences. The MFI cable is sheathed instead of being braided and it feels just as strong although is not as flexible as the braided Epic cable. The housings are firm plastic that seem more durable than the acrylic used in any of my CIEMs or of the universal CIEMs I have tried and the nozzle although thin certainly seems a bit reinforced compared to before and I do not have that worry of snapping like I would owning previous Westone models.
The ergonomics of these are amazing, each time I get an over the ear IEM it is obvious they are trying to do something similar to what Westone have been doing for years but although some have fitted nicely, none can match the sheer comfort the W40 offer. They are light, small and they shape seemingly perfect too my ears and while the tips get deep, they feel a lot smoother and less intrusive than a triple flange ever has. This is as comfortable as IEMs get and I don’t see many people have much different an opinion too me.
Isolation is even better with these new tips going pretty darn deep and the way they block most of your ear with their design. These will be not letting much noise in at all and not only will they work great on an airplane but also if heavy machinery is being worked near you or anything else that could be equally as loud. Westone have really nailed these in terms of isolation and if this is something is a concern for you, worrying is not needed!
For this model Westone decided they would tune it both with good balance and combine that with a slightly warm and rather thick signature. It is a real smooth listen and one that I always find both pleasant and non-fatiguing. This does have a slightly boosted mid-bass and then after than the rest of the audio spectrum is pretty well balanced before you get a sparkle spike at around 10khz. The bass is nicely rounded and does have more of a focus on mid-bass than sub-bass but it still has okay extension with only a subtle roll off. The mid-bass is that classic warm, easy going style that is still fairly quick and is not big enough for the bass heads to sink their teeth into, just enough to make the music whole. It has good texture to it as well as rhythm that can get your head nodding quickly. The deeper bass is there until a healthy 20 hz and will keep the music full but does not really have the power to allow you too feel it. The midrange is of course a bit behind the bass but is still seriously clear, I mean these offer up some details. It is quite a liquid midrange and is packing some good body but this does have the flip side of a transparency that does not match some of the other options at the price. The midrange does also come off as a little bit slow and although it is not in the way that it get muddled easy, the decay just seems a little long. We have a good balanced in the midrange and this is apparent in the good slightly warm timbre and the natural sounding vocals that have good height. The treble is smooth and detailed with a spike at 10khz that allows the sparkle to make its presence know when snare drums and cymbals are hit. The treble does seem to lack some extension though and I do not get a great sense of air. The soundstage is not the biggest in the world but combined with the imaging it is a very confident display where it is concerned with well spaced instruments and quick and accurate positioning as well using the provided head space that is both out of your head in width and has some depth to it.
The sound of this is something that is easy to listen too, bring a full package and does not discriminate against any particular frequency range. It delivers on a lot of fronts and if you want just one IEM in the price range that can do a lot of things then this could be a good choice. However the coherency of it does not seem as effective against some single driver models like the HiFiMAN RE-600 and overall speed and transparency is certainly not the best in the price range although the models that outdo it certainly have a much more brittle presentation so it is all in what your taste is after.
Westone have really upped the quality of the overall package for this with a great case, two cables and amazing tip choice and if a smooth, medium paced sound is what your after you may be very happy with the sound too but if you want amazing details, speed, transparency or a very neutral design then over options maybe better suited. That being said Westone are very reputable and are a very safe way to go. I think it is safe to say while not the best sounding IEM in the world, Westone have a produced a very nice package for the price.