I’ve been using IEM’s (In-Ear Monitors) ever since high school. I remember the first time I plugged in a pair of iPod headphones and thought it was the best thing ever. It actually sounded pretty terrible.
I’ve tried everything from Senheiser to Shure to even some smaller companies that were doing some good ear molds at a great price point. However, in my experience, there is simply nothing that compares to the Westones that I have.
I purchased a pair of Elite Series Monitors from Westone. The pair that I got have 5 drivers (yes, 5 FREAKING drivers) and are known as ES5’s. I chose to go with the ES5’s over the other models with less drivers because if you’re going to drop a significant amount of money on this kind of thing, you might as well get the best.
Each driver is designed to optimize a certain frequency range (1 bass, 2 mid-range, 2 high), so what results is an incredibly accurate reproduction of the original recording.
In this review, I want to fill you in on what the strengths, weaknesses, and the final verdict of the ES5’s. Hopefully, this breakdown will help you decide whether the ES5’s are for you or not. Either way, lets take a look together.
- Sound Quality. The ES5’s have provided the best audio experience I’ve ever had. Whether I’m using them for a live performance or just listening to music on an airplane, the quality is incredible. Listening to live recordings is probably my favorite with the ES5’s. They are sensitive enough to where you can hear the crowd chatter and all the little things that come with being at a concert. Also, using them when I’m leading has allowed me to hear myself and my mix better, allowing me to turn down my pack significantly (saving my ears as much as I can). The fact that they provide such high fidelity is the most important quality of the ES5’s.
- Comfort. I used another pair of molds that I got from a smaller company for about 2 years before I got the ES5’s. They were made entirely out of the hard plastic. This caused discomfort and lead to ear fatigue much sooner than would be expected. Westone has developed a technology they call a flex-canal body. The flex-canal body is made out of a durable, softer plastic. This provides comfort and a much better seal than those molds made entirely out of hard plastic. I can wear the molds for much longer and much more comfortably than before. Also, they are much easier to clean and maintain than their hard plastic counterparts.
- Customer Support/Care. Westone has some of the best customer service I’ve experienced with a company in quite some time. A friend of mine, Doug, worked for Westone, so he was my direct contact. He was very helpful in assisting me through the process and figuring out what product was right for me. He handed me over to the right people to process my order. The rep, I believe her name was Rachelle, was very helpful, giving me updates on my order as they came into her. I got my ears a week earlier than I was promised and they were better than Doug had promised. Needless to say, I was floored. Westone has some awesome employees, especially Doug and Rachelle in my experience, who understand how to treat customers and have earned my loyalty as a result.
- Price. I understand that a quality product should require paying a premium, but I feel that the price for these may be a bit high. At a MSRP of $950.00, the ES5’s are well out of the price range of the average musician or audiophile. I may be ignorant of the extreme costs of producing such a product, but it seems like this product could have been marked up because of Westone’s ability to do so. Honestly, I don’t blame them. As someone who uses them in my profession, the ES5’s are worth their weight in gold! I’m not saying they aren’t worth the MSRP, just that I wish they were more affordable for more musicians. I had to save for a LONG TIME to be able to justify the purchase, so I understand the frustration of a musician not able to afford such a great pair of ears.
- Can’t Try Them Out. Since the ES5’s are custom-fit, you can’t truly get a feel for how they sound until you have the product you’ve paid for. However, I’m not sure there is a remedy for this problem. Any solution could be costly, both to Westone and the customer. You can’t exactly resell a custom product like that. My concern isn’t with Westone’s ability to produce a good mold, because I’ve seen how impeccable their work is. I just remember wishing I had the ability to test them out before I dropped all that money on them. You have to go on their word and reputation, which can be frustrating for a customer.
If you’re a professional musician or someone who just loves listening to music, and you can afford the hefty price tag, you have to look into getting some ES5’s. For a live performance, these are some of the best IEM’s available. I can’t speak to the quality of Ultimate Ears or any of Westone’s competitors, but I do know that Westone has an incredible product in the ES5’s.
Although I wish the price were more affordable and there were an option to “test drive” them before buying them, the ES5’s are worth the step of faith. They have made me a better singer (because I can hear myself better) and have tacked on some more years of hearing to my life (because I can turn my mixes down). In conclusion, the Pro’s far out weigh the Con’s and you need to find out more about the ES5’s and getting yourself a pair. You can thank me later.
You can check out the ES5’s and all of Westone’s products here.
NOTE: This post was not sponsored by Westone or any of their affiliates. This is simply the review of a great product by a very satisfied musician. Thanks.