Westone is one of the oldest in-ear-monitor producing companies out there. They are mostly known for their range of custom in-ears geared towards musicians called the Elite Series which tend to be quite expensive. Besides the custom fit monitors also have a line of universal fit IEMs called the UM-series.
The monitor I will be putting through its paces today is Westone contribution to the budget IEM market dubbed the UM1. The UM1s utilize a single balanced full range armature, which means that one driver produces all of the tones.
One of the things that set Westone's universal fit series apart from that of the competitions is the fact that Westone's use the best foam tips on the market today. The tips are made by a small relatively unknown company called Comply. Not only does their foam tips last longer they are also more comfortable to wear.
That Westone has a very comfort minded design is easily noticeable right from the Comply foam tips to the design of the IEM's body. The UM1s are made to sit flush with your head much like its bigger brother the UM2. That the UM1 is closely related to the UM2 is pretty obvious.
Westone UM1 Specifications:
- Sensitivity: 114dB/mW
- Frequency response: 40 Hz -16 kHz
- Impedance: 25 ohms
- Driver: Balanced armature
- Features: Soft padded pouch, replaceable Comply ™ foam tips, and wax loop for cleaning.
- Cable Length: 50"
- Available Colors: Clear
The specifications of the UM1s are pretty normal for a quality IEM. Compared to its bigger brother, the UM2, the frequency response a bit inferior. This is of course because the dual driver solution extends better. The accessories that accompany the UM1 kit are the same as that of the UM2. Westone does not leave you any choice of color with its smallest IEM, the UM1s are only available in "clear". As with the UM2s the UM1s have several opaque spots on the body.
The UM1s arrived in the same stylish box as the UM2s. The box front pops open and lets you inspect the earphones before opening the box. This can be nice if you like me live in a country with a postal service that manhandles a lot of the smaller packages. On the box you find all of the usual stuff like specifications and a lot of warnings. Like most IEMs the UM1s are a very sensitive piece of kit which means that even with the output on your audio device set to low it will produce a high sound pressure.
The bundle that ships with the Westone UM1s is quite good. With the monitors you get two sets of short Comply tips and two sets of long. In order to keep the monitors in tip top shape you get a small ear wax removal tool.
Comply foam tips ensure that the fit between ear canal and monitor is perfect. These foam tips are way more durable than normal foamies and do not cause as much irritation as the kind other companies use.
The cleaning tool is just a scraper that you can use to get ear wax out of the earphones tunnel.
Size wise the UM1s are the smallest IEM solution I have ever tried. The body is so small that I actually had problems inserting them correctly the first time I tried them on because I could not control the angle of insertion. After figuring out how to grip and insert them the right way it was pretty straight forward. Once you get these earphones in place you will not feel a thing, the pressure exerted by the foam on the ear canal is really small. You can hardly feel that you have anything in your ears with these IEMs, this is due to the fact that they are extremely small, light weight and have Comply foam tips. Wearing the UM1s for several hours at a time was quite pleasant there were no discomforts whatsoever!
The cable is mounted on the UM1s in the exact same way as it was on the UM2s. The only difference being that the UM1's body is a bit smaller, giving off the impression that the cable is bigger. That is not true the cable used on the UM1s is the same as the one used by the UM2s.
Looking at the earphone from the bottom it becomes apparent just how small these IEMs really are. The foam tip is roughly the same size as the body of the monitor. Much like the UM2s the UM1s have the same basic construction where you have the body sitting flush with the ear and then a small tunnel that extends to the ear piece. The tunnel stops about 2 mm from the edge of the foam tip.
The body of the UM1s is clear with some opaque spots. Once you have them in your ears they are almost impossible to spot if you are not standing right next to the person wearing them. Where the UM2's body stick out a bit from my ear the UM1's are completely surrounded by the ears curvature hence impossible to spot from an angle. Each of the monitors has a small dot on them indicating left / right earphone. Red is right, blue is left.
When looking at the monitors from the ear on out you can just see the filter. Like the UM2s, the UM1s have a filter that helps to keep ear wax and moisture out of the internal parts of the IEM. The filter also helps to shape the sound signature of the earphones. The filters are not user replaceable so if they get contaminated or broken for some odd reason you need to get them repaired by a Westone dealer.
The body of the UM1s is extremely thin. Besides being so skinny the earphones are incredibly light weight. This means that you ears will not be weighed down by using these IEMs.
The angle of which the tunnel is mounted on the body is roughly the same as on the UM2s so the insertion angle is about the same. This is great and allows for easy insertion onto the ear and a good fit without the body sticking out of the ear.
In comparison to the Westone UM2 and Ultimate Ears Super.fi 3 Studio, the Westone UM1s are absolutely petite. From the left: Westone UM1, Westone UM2, Ultimate Ears Super.fi 3 Studio.
To test these in-ear-monitors I used my Cowon iAudio i7 loaded with all of my music encoded in FLAC which is a free lossless format. In order to get a good idea of the performance of the Westone UM1s I tried listening to a lot of different types of music at different listening levels.
I generally listen to a lot of rock and therefore I started off by going through some of my old records. The bass is lacking a bit compared to the more expensive UM2s and so are the highs. The roll off starts sooner at both ends of the response curve. One of the first things I noticed was that the mids were pretty accurate compared to my Ultimate Ears Super.fi 3 Studios which are in the same price segment.
Since the Westone UM1s is a reasonably price single driver earphone neither the bass or treble extends that well. Coming from the high end UM2s it is pretty apparent what you pay for with the more expensive headphones. Where the UM1 does a good job at reproducing sound, the UM2s presentation is immaculate.
The UM1s both lack a bit of bass definition and amount compared to the high end UM2s, but they still pack more bass punch than other similar priced IEMs on the market today. The way I see it the UM2s are just more of the same as the UM1s. The UM1s are a smooth and warm sounding IEM like its bigger brother.
The things I miss the most with the UM1s coming from the UM2s is some bass precision and amount where you can hear each of the tones that the bass player strikes accurately. That the treble is a bit more recessed did not change things that much. Only the reproduction of classical pieces was hurt by this minor difference, and let's face it the UM1s are not intended for listening to classical music.
Considering the massive price of the UM2s the UM1s do not fall that far behind. With the price difference being a mighty $200 I think it is safe to say that the price performance ratio of the UM1s is way better than that of the UM2s.
The noise attenuation capabilities of the Westone UM1s is really good and does just as good a job at keeping noise out as its bigger brother. The seal between ear and monitor is perfect because of the brilliant Comply foam tips.
Since the UM1s use the same brilliant cable solution as the UM2s the amount of microphonics is kept at a minimum.
Like its elder brother, the UM1 is constructed out of some very hard plastic. The plastic casing is very durable and can definitely withstand daily wear and tear.
The construction of the body and tunnel part is made in the same way as that of the UM2s where you have more mass the closer you get to the tunnel part which should improve the strength of the bond. Because there is a tunnel part that sticks out of the body it is quite easy to break off, but it seems that Westone has done everything in their power to overcome this problem.
There is no way you can break these earphones during the course of normal use, but if you sit on them or throw them around they will break. To prevent this from happening Westone supplies a small semi hard carrying bag which should keep them safe while storing them.
Westone has the reputation for creating some of the most comfortable IEMs, and the UM1 is no exception. The superb Comply foam tips and a well design exterior body makes the Westone UM1s a joy to wear for several hours at the time. Every aspect of the UM1s design is very neat and clean so once you have them in your ear there are no edges digging into your ears. The UM1s are substantially lighter than the UM2 and this is noticeable when you have them in the ear. Where some of the UM2’s body weight was digging into my ear the UM1s are easily held upright just by the foam tips. This means that you will not feel a thing while wearing them.
Value & Conclusion
- The Westone UM1s are available at Westone for $109.
- Excellent fit
- Superb comfort
- Balanced mids
- 50" cable
- Copes well with micro phonics
- Well suited sound signature for most music genres
- Open sound
- Bang for the buck
- Detailed sound
- Barely enough bass for most music types
- Bass extension
- Amount of bass
- Treble detail
There is no doubt about it, the Westone UM1s are a great pair of earphones for the price. With an estimated retail price of only $109 these headphones are well suited to take on the competition in this price segment. Their balanced warm sound signature will be appealing to the majority of listeners.
The UM1's bass performance is on par with most of the in-ears in its price tier and with a good midrange they are well worth the price of about $109. Considering the superb comfort and good cable solution the Westone UM1s are the best bang for the buck in-ear solution I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. That being said it is not as good as the more expensive UM2s in almost all aspects.
If I had to buy a pair of in-ears and only had around $100 to play around with I would not hesitate to buy the Westone UM1s. To me they resemble the best combination of performance, comfort, and fit. Because of the superb comfort and good performance I would actually take these earphones over some of the more expensive competitors.