What is the Westone W40v2?
Of course, as I’ve opined at length before, the growth medium for earphones - smartphones and tablets - is becoming scarcer. I now have no headphone socket on either my phone or tablet (not a situation I necessarily sought to achieve but here we are). Across the pages of tech news, it seems that the current hold outs for fitting headphone sockets - Samsung and Sony to name the two main ones - seem to be reviewing this policy. The 3.5mm socket as a mass market device is not long for this world. Adapters will cover off the needs for a bit but the trend is obvious enough.
As a result of this, going forward, earphone reviews in particular will reflect a need to offer another option for connectivity, which the Westone does. We’ve already seen that AKG's outstanding N5005 has a wireless option that has no effect on its ability to be a truly outstanding piece of kit but it’s not exactly cheap. Does the Westone at half the price offer some of the same magic?
Specification and Design
The driver complement is four balanced armatures in each enclosure. The nature of how these are allocated across the frequency response is unclear but the most notable thing about their use is that Westone is not claiming anything like the sort of figures we’ve begun to see routinely doing the rounds in high end earphones. Where 30, 40 and even 50kHz can be seen adorning the boxes of some rivals (together with matching Hi-Res certification), Westone claims 10Hz to 18kHz - possibly the narrowest response I can ever remember for an earphone.
Of course, if your phone does without a socket, the Westone allows you to detach the supplied ‘High Resolution’ wired cable from the MMCX type connectors on the housings and attach the Bluetooth cable. This takes the form of a 70cm yoke with battery amplifier, microphone and remote feature. The yoke is aptX certified but seems to do without AAC, which limits its desirability to iPhone users a little. Of course, the fitment of the universal MMCX type connector does mean that you can use an aftermarket cable that does offer this but this has an attendant effect on the value calculation. The battery life is given at eight hours and some testing in the field suggests that this is a realistic appraisal.
This effect is further boosted by the selection of domes and fittings available. Westone has ensured that if you buy a pair of W40v2s, unless you happen to be Sloth from The Goonies, you will get a decent fit. Not ‘should’, will. This sounds like the most normal thing in the world but it really isn’t, even when dealing with models that cost nearly £500 and it reflects well on the company that they’ve gone to the effort of supplying as many options as they have.
The earphones themselves are well made and largely feel worth the asking price. Because they’re fairly light, they can’t feel as substantial as rivals made from burlier ends of the periodic table but they do feel nicer in the ear than many of those designs, so there is a method in the madness. Everything about the design is something that I’ve found comfortable and easy to live with long term and it reflects on the design decisions that have been taken at every stage. The only annoyance is that Westone has elected to supply a case that can carry all the fittings, domes, screwdrivers and other paraphernalia at once. As a result of this, it’s not exactly the last word in portability and this means you’ll probably not use it at all.
How was the W40v2 tested?
This means that listening to the splendid Diviner by Hayden Thorpe on the Westone is unequivocally full range. His distinctive and lovely voice is rich, well defined and placed in a believable way relative to the supporting instruments. The presentation avoids the sense of being beamed at either side of your head and while it’s not the most open performance - admittedly compared to devices that cost a little more - it’s still spacious enough to be believable and enjoyable.
What definitely helps here is that there is never any sense of four drivers being at work. The response across the audible spectrum is even and absolutely seamless. Westone gives no information on crossover points and I would have no means of guessing them based on what I’m hearing from them. It’s a presentation that borders on the vaunted (in theory at least) ideal of a monitor except that the Westone is reasonably forgiving of poorer recorded material and won’t tell you everything wrong in the manner that a true monitor ‘should’ (and why living with a monitor long term is usually a less than perfect experience).
At least, it does until you go wireless. For reasons I don’t fully understand, the W40v2 gains a sense of get up and go from its Bluetooth yoke that it seems to lack from wired sources. Returning to Colors, you can sense a higher noise floor and slightly less definition to voices and instruments but with that comes a basic rhythmic energy that doesn’t seem to be there without it. If I want to know what the artist had for breakfast that morning, I would go for the wired connection but if you want that little spark of joy, I’d go wireless every time.
Thankfully, the wireless yoke seems to be more than up to the job. It pairs easily with the Essential PH-1 and the connection is stable once you do so. The range isn’t huge but you can wander away from your phone without everything cutting out and if you do want to have a conversation with thin air in a public place, the microphone works well too. A quick test with the iPad pro does reveal that SBC sounds no better here than it does anywhere else though so it’s Android users that will see the real benefit from doing this.
The conundrum of what is different via the wired connection is what led to testing with the Onkyo DAP. It seems clear that, choose your headphone amp with a little care towards partnering, and there’s a bit more get up and go to be had. That the results with the neutral and generally talented Chord units are a little dull (where plenty of rivals aren’t) is a suggestion that the basic balance of the Westone is possibly a little flat.
- Refined and controlled sound
- Superbly specified
- Well made and comfortable
- Can lack a little excitement
- No AAC Blueotooth
- Carry case is too large
Westone W40v2 In Ear Earphone Review
Ease of Use
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