The headphone market has blown up in recent years, and everybody is searching for that “perfect” pair of headphones. The Westone W10 In-Ear headphones claim to be “for the Serious Listener” and so our very own Kevin “The Tech Ninja” Nether went hands on with the Westone W10 in-ear headphones to find out if they justify the $199 price tag and whether they’re truly for the serious listener.
Out of the box
Let’s begin the journey of the Westone W10’s with the box. It’s a rectangular box with a orange, white and grey color scheme. In big and bold letters is the W for Westone, and also in white, you’ll see the W10 model number at the bottom and just under that it says “Designed for the Serious Listener”. On the back of the box, there’s a diagram which shows all components of the earphones.
Once you open the box, you instantly get the feeling of a high class premium package, which always speaks well for the actual product.
The box is made of a soft touch material, with the embedded W logo and the established in 1959 stamp. Once you get the box open, you instantly get the feeling of a high class premium package, which always speaks well for the actual product.
You are greeted with a message welcoming you to the Westone Family, and that they appreciate your purchase, which is a nice touch, and tells you that they value your feedback. They provide an email address, phone number, and social interactions as well. The W10’s also come with a 2 year manufacturer warranty, so you’re not left out in that department either.
On the right side we have the actual hardware, which are the earbuds, the “Patented Star silicone tips”, the “true-fit foam tips” and two cables, an “epic G2 cable” which is just a regular cable for pure listening and another for mobile listening listening with a 3-button control and mic set up. Also in the box are some interchangeable faceplates, a wax removal tool, a mini screw driver to remove the faceplates, and the monitor vault (which is case to keep your earphones in when not in use).
Features and design
If we were to tell you the W10 earbuds have a unique look, and others will instantly notice you, well that would be misleading. If we were to tell you once you have the W10 earbuds in your hand, you will notice a difference between this pair and another pair of earbuds in this price range, that would be factual. What makes these earbuds unique is that the features and design coincides well. All the way from the detachable cord, to the colored shields, and to the dozens of tips of different styles. They all combine to allow for an enjoyable experience.
Luckily, the W10's do come with a detachable cable, so if the cord does malfunction it's a simple swap out.
A big problem with a lot earbuds or headphones is that the cords are not detachable. This means if the cord malfunctions, it renders your earbuds useless. Luckily, the W10′s do come with a detachable cable, so if the cord does malfunction it’s a simple swap out.
The W10’s comes with 2 cords, one that has the microphone and audio controls on it, and the other that is simply a braided cord. Both cords feel durable, and they’re both removable, just simply pull it from the earbud and the cord is removed. It does require a bit of pressure to do so, which is good, since if it came out when listening to music it would ruin the experience.
The cable’s materials are not listed anywhere, but for consistency sakes we’ll call it rubber. There is also very little cable noise, and it’s barely noticeable when walking around.
Out of the box the W10’s use the cord with the 3-button controls and microphone. Using an iPhone all the controls worked flawlessly, we were able to pause/play, skip forward and back, as well as adjust the volume, all via the controls. This functionality is something that Westone calls the “G2 rounded Cable with MFI”, which is probably just a fancy name for a 3-button + mic controls (headphone manufacturers love buzz words even more than Samsung).
Unfortunately compatibility with Android isn't the same story, and just like with other earbuds we only have some of this functionality.
Unfortunately compatibility with Android isn’t the same story, and just like with other earbuds we only have some of this functionality. The volume buttons no longer works, but the other controls — Skip forward/back and pause/play — all work as expected. The plug is also right angled (90˚ plug) as well, which makes it easier to use with a mobile device.
The call quality is nothing to write home about, its comparable to speaker phone quality when using the headset. We could easily hear my caller but the caller stated we were muffled and they heard a lot of background noise, so if you’re conducting a phone interview, it’s probably best to use the inbuilt mic on your phone.
The W10 earbuds aren’t going to win any beauty contests and they’re not going to suddenly become a pop culture icon, but for people who prefer a more understated design, these headphones will serve them well.
If you are looking to add an additional layer of style and customizability, then the W10′s comes with 2 additional shields that can replace the default black shields. The additional plates are red and blue, and add a subtle layer of color to the ear buds. It’s not exactly groundbreaking, but it’s still an option for some people who want to change the styling up a bit.
The hardest thing for most users of earbuds is finding the right size that fits your ear. In the past we’ve even returned earbuds because we could not find the right sized tips. The W10 tips that came on the buds fit shockingly well, and we were able to seal my ear from any outside noise. Since one of the selling points are the “true-fit foam tips”, we gave them a try too and to our surprise they fit even better than the default tips.
Although the comfort level was good, we still had a bit of awkwardness with the cord although comfort is subjective. With that being said, we were a little underwhelmed with the cord placement. It is suggested to move the cord over your ear, to keep the buds in place. The cord would often fall from behind our ears, and then pull the earbud partially out of our ears. This all happens without physical activity, just when we’re at our desk working.
During our time with the W10’s, we let a friend of ours borrow the headphones for an afternoon to see how he felt as far as comfort. He stated the comfort was a mixed bag, he liked that they provided many different sizes for his ear, but once again the cord over the ear just didn’t feel right for him. Although, the cord did not come off of his ear, he just didn’t like the solution.
Overall, we were left a little unimpressed with how they felt, but you should take that with a grain of salt since comfort is so subjective.
In the end, when it comes to audio equipment, it all comes down to performance. We tested the earbuds using an ear test comparing FLAC audio against other ear buds in the same price range, and also running a series of audio tests. These tests consist of Frequency response, dynamic range, quality, driver matching, and also the wiring. These tests were performed using audiocheck.net.
- The sensitivity came in at: 122 dB SPL @ 1 mW (milliwatt)
- The frequency response range was: 20 Hz – 16 kHz
- Impedance which is the measure of the opposition that a circuit presents to a current when a voltage is applied. It is the complex ratio of the voltage to the current in an (AC) circuit: this comes in at 27 ohms @ 1 kHz
- Passive Noise attenuation is at 25 dB.
It uses a Balanced armature, full range driver, which is a rare find in earbuds within this price range. A balanced armature driver is a sound transducer design which is primarily intended to increase the electrical efficiency of the element by eliminating the stress on the diaphragm characteristic of many other magnetic transducer systems.
The W10′s weigh in at just 0.445 ounces / 12.7 grams. These earbuds are pretty lightweight, and if you can get a good fitting, you’ll hardly even notice they are there.
Here’s a breakdown of the sound quality:
The W10′s aren’t the boomiest pair of in ears. The bass is still there, but it’s recessed when compared to the mids and the highs. In the Roots song “Star” the bass is a little recessed, and not as extended when compared to the Monster iSport in-ears. We wouldn’t recommend them to a bass head who listens to a lot of Hip Hop and EDM.
The W10′s put a slight emphasis on the mids when compared to the bass. They can be a little muddy though, but they’ve got a nice organic sound to them and especially shine in alternative rock songs.
The W10′s definitely sparkle in the highs. Florence Welch’s vocals sound crisp and detailed as she belts out lines in the song “I’m Not Calling You A Liar”. The highs are colorful and accurately presented, if a little too emphasized.
The treble is quite good as well. It’s not quite the crashing sound of other in-ears, however it does provide a decent “bite”. The treble is far from over the top, which is good as it prevents exhausting your ears.
Overall, we think the Westone W10s would do well with those who prefer listening to Jazz, rock and similar genres. The sound signature is more neutral when compared to the Monster iSport. The Klipsch x10 in-ears have a very similar sound signature to the W10s, so if you like those there’s a good chance you’ll like the Westones.
The Westone W10′s really shine when listening to vocals, where at times other earbuds could sound uncomfortable at high levels, but if you’re a bass head looking for that good thump, you may end up a bit disappointed. The bass is just not strong enough to justify a purchase if that’s what you are looking for. Still, these headphones are a pleasure to listen to, and if you get the right audio behind them, they could truly become a bargain for the quality of sound they produce.