Review: Westone ES80 – Incredible

Westone ES80

2. Personalization

 

Westone has an online creator tool which they call the “IEM Customizer”. It allows you to choose create your Left and Right earpiece separately and it comes which large selection for the shells, face plates and artwork. The tool works really well but the downside is that you can’t choose or upload your own artwork in the tool.

I did use the tool to make my personal set and it was very easy as I made a full copper design (special metal), selected the same for the face plate and I skipped the plate artwork. I then copied it to the other ear and that was basically it. You then get a clear overview of what you chose on the right and left side (with a price differentiation by side) and a rendering of your set of monitors

Westone ES80

Westone ES80

While the customization tool works really well, it – in regards to the missing artworks upload – shows that Westone is more used to working with Pro customers. At the same time I have seen several personalized designs on their Facebook page that show they can do it. So I suppose it’s a matter of contacting the Westone customer service before finalizing your order.

3. Cable

The Westone ES80 only comes with double cables when you select the optional free ALO cable. But why wouldn’t you do that? The termination Westone selected is MMCX and in the box you will get one standard cable, called the EPIC MMCX 52” and the ALO Hifi cable. From what I can make out, it actually is the $299 Reference 8-cable with four high purity silver-plated conductors and four OCC Copper conductors in FEP jackets.

In general I’m not a fan of ALO’s cables as they’re quite microphonic and produce a lot of friction noise. The Ref 8 cable performs reasonably well in this regard but it’s still noisy overall, which is too bad as it sonically is an excellent cable. I’ve been using the ES80 with a whole series of aftermarket cables. First, an Obravo cable which David gifted me in Munich. I don’t really know what exactly this cable is constructed with, but it sonically is very nice. The second cable I used is one the PlusSound EXO-series that came delivered with their PS Prism. The EXO-series cable features a new 26AWG Copper Type 6 Litz wiring and it works great with the ES80.

Westone ES80

Westone ES80

At the last Canjam Berlin show, the guys from Effect Audio gifted me two 2-pin to MMCX convertors and now I can use the excellent EA Horus & Leonidas cables with MMCX terminated IEMs as well. While the Horus is one of the best cables I’ve ever heard, my preferred cable with the Westone ES80 is the one from PlusSound.

4. Price & Accessories

The Westone ES80 is a reference monitor and that also shows when looking at the price. It starts at $1899USD and the version I ended up with costs $2067,98USD. For that price you of course get a perfectly finished set of monitors but you also get a full set of accessories.

Actually, this just might be the most complete package I have ever received. In the box you will find: a Monitor Vault III, desiccant, a cleaning cloth, a cleaning tool, Oto-Ease™, an Owner’s Manual and 2-year warranty. The free ALO cables comes in a separate ALO bag and the total package just is very impressive and complete.

5. Customer Service

I’ve always been in direct contact with Westone’s Marketing Division, so I can’t really comment on the customer service department. I didn’t even send them my impressions by mail as I handed them over to the Westone sales rep that was at the Canjam London show. I’m very sure though that a professional company like Westone has that part nailed down as well.

6. Sound

Westone’s engineers and marketing division have also described the ES80’s sound and they put it as follows:

With eight masterfully-tuned balanced-armature drivers, Westone’s new flagship product, the ES80, delivers a dynamic sound with a fresh clarity and extended harmonic content that has never been heard before in a custom-fit earpiece.The ES80 maintains the dynamic lows that musicians have come to expect for on-stage performances, while still providing the shimmering detailed highs that audiophiles demand for a truly immersive listening experience. These features combine to create an unbelievably breathtaking listening experience that will forever change the way you hear music. 

Westone ES80

Westone ES80

Key characteristics of the Westone ES80 are: neutrality, clarity, transparency, richness and dynamics. This is a reference or so called audiophile tuned monitor, and that shows in every aspect of its sound. I quite like the revealing signature is has but it also requires you to listen to a good source and quality files, because it doesn’t forgive. Something to take in mind is the fact that the Westone ES80 is transparent in the way that you will hear the source’s influence on the sound. When I can listen to the ES80 in balanced mode, I will do so as it simply is better than the SE mode.

The Westone ES80 has a wide and deep sound stage with excellent layering and left/right balance. The 3-dimensionality in this monitor is also exemplary and that combined with great richness, precision and speed, simply make this a top level monitor. It’s very balanced and linear and while I love everything from bass to treble, the vocals are what stand out most.

Bass is brilliant, yet the first time you listen to it, it might seem light compared to what you’re used to. But this actually isn’t the case as bass will shop up when needed. Bass goes very deep, has rumble down low and manages to stay greatly detailed and layered at all times. Bass is punchy, fast, tight and very rich. Body-wise you have to take into account that this is pro-tuned, neutral monitor. So it isn’t the biggest but it is perfectly in line with the mids and treble. For me it has the perfect level of body and its quality is even more impressive. This is bass done in a professional and high level way.

Body wise, as said, the bass flows perfectly into the mids without interrupting anything from it. Again you get a spacious presentation with great separation and the perfect amount of “air/space” to make the mids sound realistic, natural and dynamic. The neutrally tuned mids have great richness and clarity and they body wise are perfectly connected to the bass part. So again you get a natural and dynamic presentation where the voices are very realistic. Mids aren’t smooth, lush or warm but they are fast, precise and dynamic. Like the bass they simply are at a very high level.

The Westone ES80’s treble is perfectly in line with the mids and extends well. It’s rich in detail and the presentation has something sparkling to it. Even though treble is precise, energetic, fast and spacious, it never becomes harsh or hot.

For me personally everything in this monitor just works, there really is nothing I would want to see different in it. You get a top quality neutral sound with no listening fatigue whatsoever. It is so incredibly different from the W60 I reviewed earlier. The W-series are this, smooth and warm and have big impact. They both deliver a detailed and qualitative sound but the ES80 simply breathes reference. I love it.

Another surprising thing about the Westone ES80 is how I find to sound more engaging, the louder I play it. Bigger bass impact, bigger body overall. I certainly don’t want to encourage you to listen to louder volumes, but the ES80 does get more oompf when you’re playing at higher volumes, and I think it will be tempting for a lot of people to pump up the volume.

On the THIRD and last page of the review you’ll find the comparisons, source matching and Conclusion

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

4 Comments

  • Reply January 1, 2018

    koktung chua

    How I wish there is an universal version of this. My ears just doesn’t sit well with customs for some reason. Own a W80 and love it.

  • Reply January 28, 2018

    ADAM JOHNSON

    Hi Koktung,

    Thanks for the great writeup. How does the ES80 compare to the Custom Noble Kaiser Encore (Treble/Mids/Bass/Soundstage/Separation)?

  • Reply January 28, 2018

    ADAM JOHNSON

    Sorry Lieven, my question was meant for you-
    Thanks for the great writeup. How does the ES80 compare to the Custom Noble Kaiser Encore (Treble/Mids/Bass/Soundstage/Separation)?

  • Reply January 14, 2019

    Spie

    Hi Lieven,

    Would this be a good option for someone who likes etymotic sound?
    I’m looking for a more comfortable end game with similar qualities.

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