Westone 4R - My review

G a f f e r

Well-known Member
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I finally succumbed and bought a pair of premium Balanced Armatures. My choice was between the Shure SE535 and these, with the Shure's having 3 balanced armatures (treble, midrange, bass) and the Westone's having 4 (treble, midrange, 2x bass drivers). The Westone's won!

Price: Firstly, these retail in the UK at £390. That's a LOT of money for a pair of headphones, even more than my Sennheiser Momentum's. Luckily, I only paid £200 by buying direct from an authorised dealer in the US (inc. FedEx tracked delivery). Doing it like this means I still get my 2 year warranty and can be sure I have a legitimate product (I would advise against buying from grey import areas such as Hong Kong if you're going to spend this much).

External Packaging: As you can probably tell from the picture above, these aren't the most luxurious in terms of packaging. Not only does the retail box not look like a premium item, it actually looks like something I would've expected to buy from a carousel stand in Tesco. You get a very basic cardboard box enclosing el-cheapo plastic inserts. Does this matter to me? No - but it's worth mentioning to prospective buyers that it looks a bit disappointing from the outside. Also be mindful that, coming from across the pond, expect minor dents and blemishes in the outer cardboard during transit. Again, does it matter to me personally? No - but there will be some out there who are quite upset at first glance after having spent this much, but please don't let it put you off. They protect the contents and the contents are all that matter to me.

Accessories & Fitment: The accessories vary depending on when you bought your earphones. Earlier models came with a black carry case, information CD and triple flange tips. Newer production runs come with a dayglo orange carry case, no information CD and no triple flange tips.
With that mentioned, I think i'll talk about the case. It's completely weatherproof and looks to be bomb-proof. Westone call it the Monitor Vault, and I think that description is apt. This has to be by far the BEST case I've come across for functionality and protection. It's the kind of thing you'd expect 3rd parties like Griffin to come out with. Once opened from new, you'll see it contains all the other accessories but it's primarily designed solely for the earphones alone. This is a common sense approach that I like that many other manufacturers ignore, with their bulkier offerings that aren't as well made and are designed for different tips, cleaning tools, the kitchen sink etc that make a chore out of removing the 'phones on-the-go for actual use. This, on the other hand, has the thinking that once you've selected your tips, you don't need to be lugging all that other gubbins around. They can stay at home and all you need space for is the 'phones. It's made from high impact polymer and has a very secure clasping mechanism that will survive any bag. Overall, this definitely feels premium to me.
On to the rest of the accessories and you get a great selection of "comply-like" foam tips as well as the usual standardised rubber tips most 'phones come with (5 sizes of each). You also get a ¼" adapter, in-line volume control and a cleaning tool (wire tip one end, brush on t'other). Beyond that, the 'phones already have foam tips on which are medium in size, so you may just be good to go out of the box like I was.

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In terms of fitment, I can only stress again that sizing the correct tips for your own ears is essential. Too small and they'll fall out. Too far in and your bass may reduce. Too large and you may not get a seal etc etc. 90% of people will go with medium sizes, but make sure you don't fall into the 5% either side. If you want to go ghetto, you could easily DIY your own foam tips from cheap ear guards or buy 3rd party offerings from the likes of Comply and such. Just make sure you get a good seal in your ear canal.
The rest of the earphone (plastic body) ends up nestling gently in your ear between tragus and concha. The wire has a hardened sleeve around the first inch or so that is pliable and allows you to mould it around the top of your ear to ensure it stays snugly in place. The wire then loops round the back of your ear and down. Wearing these proves to be so comfortable that you end up forgetting they're there. Not only that, but the noise isolation is fantastic. Also, for those that wish to do so, you can lie on your side and sleep with these in without any discomfort (e.g. if you sleep listening to audio books).
Overall, very comfortable and light (I just spent an hour walking around town with them on and they're great).

Fit 'n' Finish: In the pictures, they just look like boring plain black plastic. In real life, they're high quality gloss black with a really nice braided wire. The wire is worth mentioning because microphonics (transmitted sound when you brush against it) is reduced to very little/none and also they're changeable. This is important because should you damage it, it means the whole set isn't useless, you can just replace the wire. You can also upgrade the wire (to something like Baldur mkII wire) but I'm currently keeping mine stock. The wire is symmetrical and has a clasp that allows you adjust the 'Y' length.

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In terms of overall finish, I think the Sony XBA-2's looks classier, but these are great in their own right (and certainly miles ahead of my Sennheiser IE6's).

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The Sound: Now on to the most important part of the review, how do they sound? These contain 4 balanced armatures. That's one each for treble and midrange and two for the bass alone. Despite this, the frequency spectrum should be fairly flat and neutral. I can't really split this up into separate frequencies because as a whole, it all sounds so cohesive, and i'll probably end up putting the wrong comments in the wrong section, but I'll try.

Treble: Treble is extremely clear and razor sharp. By that, I mean that there is no sibilance and it makes the music sound very open and "clean". It also helps portray a wide open soundstage that helps you pick out individual instruments. Transients are full of attack and these 'phones have no trouble dealing with high energy music. Also, unlike the Sure's, there's no high treble roll off, it's just "there" where it should be and extends well into the upper registers. However, stick on something more laid back (like Madeleine Peyroux) and everything shines where it should, with her voice appearing mid-centre. Like most BA's, the sound is very revealing so you'll also get all the nastiness associated with poor encodings (e.g. splashy treble). To really shine, you'll need a lossless codec and everything smooths out and sounds as it should.

Midrange: Nice and clear, with the midrange melting effortlessly into the treble. The whole sound comes across as "lush" or "velvety". Vocals are especially well catered for, being only a tad behind the 535's but well balanced and quite forward with the right kind of music. I especially like the fact the everything is placed so well on the soundstage. You end up effortlessly being able to pick up individual voices and instruments and imagine them in your head at specific points in the soundstage. In terms of analytical, these have to be amongst the very best.

Bass: If you listen to these after immediately having tried some Sennheiser Momentum's, they also sound a bit thin and anaemic. It takes a few minutes to key onto the nice deep bass, which initially appears absent because it isn't shouting at you "look at me, look at me, look at me". That's the point, the bass you hear is the ACTUAL bass encoded on the track. No more no less. The reason for the 2 bass drivers is not to give bloated bass, but is instead there to effortlessly allow accurate bass that starts and stops on a dime. It's so good, in fact, that you can easily delineate individual bass-lines layered on top of each other in complex tracks (e.g. Dubstep/Garage tracks).
Yes, these can't match my Sennhesier Momentum's for bass (power and extension) but those are full sized headphones...for IEM's I simply haven't heard better than these.

Detail: Initially they're almost underwhelming at first listen, but this is because they only show you what's there. It took an hour or so for me to appreciate how good this was because it felt like I was hearing songs without any filters in front of them. What was recorded was what's heard and it's that neutrality that makes these lovely to listen to and lets the detail come to the fore.
You end up picking out things you've never heard before, even on well known songs. I ended up spending 4 hours when I initially unpacked them simply going through my songs randomly just to hear the "new" bits. For instance, Pride & Joy (Marvin Gaye) you can precisely pinpoint the piano to the point of individual keys being hit. I know that sounds silly as it's there regardless of the headphones used, but unlike other 'phones, the instruments don't all just merge together into a "wall of sound". Everything is clear and precisely positioned. You could argue that they're clinical, I'd say that they're simply enjoyable with all of the detail from the recording being presented to you effortlessly.

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Overall: Would I get these again? Well, even at full RRP of nearly £400 I wouldn't be too disappointed. They are so well balanced and precise that they're almost like the IEM version of my Sennheiser Momentum's (no small praise) and are a definite favourite already. A nice word to sum up how they present music would be "honest". The downsides are mainly that they can be too ruthlessly revealing so iTunes bought music and poorly compressed mp3's are not ideal. You want lossless for these to shine.
I would also add that I feel you don't need an amp to drive them. Mine went happily loud enough with my iPhone 5 alone. Having said that, adding my Fiio amp helped with headroom a bit but if you don't have a dedicated amp I wouldn't be put off from buying them at all...and for half the price I paid they definitely have to get a solid 10/10 from me.
 

zenza

Well-known Member
Where did you order from at £200 delivered?

I was looking to get a pair but the uk price is too expensive.

I have had my eye on them for a while now just being put off by the uk pricing.
 

G a f f e r

Well-known Member
Earphone Solutions. They had them on sale for $299. Shipping was Fedex tracked at $25. Total cost $324 (which is £200 at current rates).
Ordered on the 3rd Oct, delivered to my door this morning (4 days from order - not bad seeing as they have come from Orlando, FL).
I also didn't get stung by customs, which I calculated would've cost an extra £40 (you can get a customs evaluation online) - but mine got delivered fine with nothing extra to pay :D

Just checked and the price has unfortunately gone up to $349 (must've been popular) but that means with shipping you'll still only end up paying $374 which is about £230....far better than the £390 everyone over here is charging.

Plus, being an official outlet, it was registered as soon as it shipped so I have my 2 year warranty :).
 

Steven

Senior Moderator
Careful you do not get invoiced later as some couriers do that. Happened with my previous DS Lite LE from Canada

Lots of manufacturers use paper box packaging but kudos on the hard case, which ought to be standard across the industry imo
 

G a f f e r

Well-known Member
Oh, I didn't realise that (although even at £40 more, I wouldn't be unhappy with the overall price).
If FedEx end up invoicing me at some point, I'll update the thread. I suppose it'll be best to simply say "assume you'll get stung" and factor that into the cost you're willing to pay when shopping around.
 

zenza

Well-known Member
Thanks for the info gaffer.

Do you just get one cable with them and can the cable be replaced for an extended one if using at home?
 

G a f f e r

Well-known Member
You only get one cable supplied.
The stock cable is about 50" long from exiting the plug to top of the bend as it goes over your ear.
Westone themselves call their cable Epic and sell it in a 64" size if you want longer.

Alternatively you can go completely 3rd party with things like Baldur II, Titan, Symbiote etc....there's comprehensive list here.
Most of these companies will make custom ones for you at any size you want as well.


It's also worth noting that the cable plugs are VERY secure and as I didn't want to damage anything, I gave up trying to unplug them (not that I needed to, just to have a look). Just remember to line up the dots when inserting/reinserting.
 

bobfoc

Active Member
Just grip the plug with one hand and the iem with the other and pull firmly.

They're the same as on my JHs, with the oem cable most likely to be identical.

A decent copper cable that is very tough surprisingly..... but tangles easily when in your pocket.
 

G a f f e r

Well-known Member
Quick update. I did get stung by duty today.....although I hesitate to use the word "stung" as it was only £17ish (maybe "gently massaged" would be better :D as I was expecting a £40 bill).

It's been about 10 days since the earbuds arrived so you won't have to wait too long for the duty to arrive (I paid it immediately with telephone banking, just remember to e-mail them to let them know you've done it).

Having a look at the exchange rates again, the total cost is therefore £201.62 + £16.76 = £218.38

...so I would still give them a 10/10 and recommend them at this price :thumbsup:.
 

spencer_uk

Active Member
Out of curiosity. .. which fiio amp did you plug your's into? Mine is an e7 and serves it pretty well
 

G a f f e r

Well-known Member
I've got a really basic one, a Fiio E02i Rocky. The main advantage of it is the complete iPhone control and mic built in, so I can listen to any tracks without having to take my iPhone out of my pocket/rucksack.
The amplification is modest at best but just enough to increase the oomph a bit (i.e. it's noticeable). I can happily listen to my iPhone with the 4R's alone if needed.
 

Dizzle77

Active Member
Thanks for the excellent review :smashin:

I've just recently been considering these for my portable rig (iPhone 4 + Fiio E17). I currently use Future Atrio MG7. They have served me well, but I have had them for about 3 years and would like an upgrade.

I listen to all kinds of music, but a lot of it is electronic. Bass is a must, but I don't like it overpowering the mids. Has to be controlled with music having wide soundstage. With this in mind the W4R seem to fit the bill.

After owning these for a few weeks, how would you say they have performed? Do you find that they excel is certain types of music?
 

G a f f e r

Well-known Member
Thanks :). To be fair, I just bought another gadget (my review here) and have been busy using them with my Momentums so the Westones haven't had a look in for the past week or so.
I have a pretty eclectic taste ranging from Soul/Motown to Rock to Pop to World etc etc. and I would say they do well with all of them...
...however, I've recently gone through a Dubstep/Dance phase (3 of my recent Hoomv purchases being David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia and Daft Punk). These tracks can get fairly "busy" with all the sounds chucked in but the Westones do an amazing job of separation and clarity whilst leaving the bass beautifully controlled ...and in Bass heavy tunes imho it's important to prevent it overwhelming everything else.
So I would say currently I'd still give them 10/10 but recently my Momentums have been hogging up my time so I haven't found anything to change my initial thoughts on them too much...
 

Dizzle77

Active Member
I've been looking at them for a few days. After lots of reading, including your review, I decided to take the plunge :)

Whilst my Future Atrio IEMs feature boomy bass,by the sounds of it the W4R will compliment these nicely with a detailed sound signature, wider soundstage and tight, controlled bass. Hopefully should work well with my E17 too.

Also have a pair of V-Moda M100 on order. Should have them any day now. They'll serve as a fairly portable, full size alternative whilst on the move.

Would just like to buy a DAP soon though, but waiting for the Fiio X5 and Sony ZX1 to be released first.

Along with the other big cans I have at home, suffice to say the missus doesn't understand my 'passion' for music and good audio equipment :laugh:

Nice DAC by the way!
 

Steven

Senior Moderator
Reason for price drops is because Westone announced new models recently
 
Great review, all you need now is an Astell & Kern AK120 and you'll not be using your iPhone 5 for music anymore...I've posted a short review of mine...I use similar headphones, the Shure SE530 which I've loved for many years now, but with the SE846's entering the market....Mmmmmmmm
 

Dizzle77

Active Member
Got my W4R today. Only had a quick listen to a few tunes from my laptop, but oh my word. These little things are good. As reviews has stated the soundstage is pretty spectacular for an earphone. Live drums with electronic music just sound so crisp.

Will have a proper listen tomorrow with my iPhone and E17. Really happy so far :smashin:
 

G a f f e r

Well-known Member
Glad you like 'em :thumbsup:, I still think they can't be beaten for the price (those SE846's look fantastic [and the way they have created the "bass port" is ingenious imho] but they are 5x the cost).
I use the iPhone 5 for convenience when out and about (don't have to carry an extra item around)...at home it's Senny Mom's all the way.
 

Muralii

Standard Member
Hi Gaffer,
Thank you so much for such a wonderful review.

Is there any specific reason why you did not buy directly from Westone themselves?

Thanks again for your time to write such an extensive review. Am planning to buy their latest W40 and just wanted to check with you before ordering.

Cheers,
Muralii
 

Steven

Senior Moderator
Westone do not sell direct in EU market and if you are going to import then authorised resellers often have promotions
 

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