Saturday, February 25, 2012

Westone UM1 Musician's Monitors Review

I’ve been brought up in a family that adores music very much. Though I won’t dare call myself a true blue audiophile, I know what makes good quality sound. It’s all about balance and clarity.

Whether I’m at the gym, walking or strolling, and even driving (I absolutely do NOT encourage it – it’s just that my car has awful sound system), I always have my earphones on. It has been a part of my life since I was twelve. Since then, it has given me an epiphany that earphones will be part of my anatomy.

I got very excited when I was given the chance to review the Westone UM1 Musician’s Monitors. Westone claims that they are “the In-Ear-Experts.” Compared to the “fun and mainstream” earphones I currently use, this Westone earphone set is the opposite. If it were a person, he/she considers Umberto Eco as light reading. And the operative word here is “monitor.” I tried keeping that idea in mind.

On the onset, Westone UM1 Musician’s Monitors have the following specifications:
  • Sensitivity: 114dB/mW
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz – 16kHz
  • Impedance – 25 ohms
  • Driver – Single Balanced Armature
From the appearance alone, Westone UM1 looks quite serious. Given that you won’t use it as your pitbull’s leash, it looks like it can really last a lifetime. Wires are twisted tight, three from the output plug, then splits into two twisted wires for each earpiece. I like how rugged this stereo “Y” cord feels.

To be honest, it doesn’t really have much on the looks department, but it’s definitely not shoddy at all. Aside from a pair of earphones that come out of the box, there are also two types of removable earpieces included, to cater for all types and sizes of ears out there.

  • Two pairs of simple grey rubber earpieces, one small and one big.
  • One pair of “Christmas tree” type white earpiece (it does look like a cute Christmas tree).
  • Two pairs of grey foam earpieces, one small and one big.
Cleaning the UM1 monitors won’t be a problem too as it comes with a tiny brush with a wire picker for foreign objects getting stuck inside the earphones. It also comes with a sturdy case wherein you can place the parts and have everything handy.

Now the moment of truth.

The first pair I tried on was the grey rubber ones. I tried Lady Gaga’s Edge of Glory. Honestly, I was quite disappointed on how poor it gave out bass sounds. On higher volumes, it was already blaring. The big set was too big for my ears, the small ones too tiny. I’ll let that slide as it might be my ear that has problems.

Next pair was the white “Christmas tree” type earpieces. Sigh. Sound quality didn’t even improve from the grey rubber ones. I listened to John Williams’ Imperial March from Star Wars’ Empire Strikes Back OST. The opening part of the march has this stomping bass feel that should definitely get you up and going with your light saber. Sadly, it didn’t make feel like getting up at all. For the fit, I’m still figuring out what those three sizes of plugs are for. Could an earpiece go that deep in an ear? I’m just curious. I suppose Westone really made the earpieces for ALL types of ears.

As I was starting to get really, really disappointed, I tried the last set of earpiece – the grey foam ones you can reshape. With the Imperial March still playing, I tested it. And now we’re talking. Sound quality is awesome! Just the right amount of bass and “tweeter” speaker sounds. Next track, Gustav Mahler’s Langsam & Ruhevoll and I could hear one of the violinists clearing his throat. Almost. Exterior sounds isolated. However, it performs so-so with music tracks that have a lot of bass. Like Lady Gaga’s (Sorry but I’m such a fan).

I tried listening to the motivational speeches I have in my archives and it performs with very good clarity. Immersion achieved – it felt like I was in the hall listening to that speech.

Keeping in mind that this is a “monitor,” I highly recommend Westone UM1 Musician’s Monitors for sound engineers who are just starting up (as this is an entry-level product from Westone) and video editors who want to hear their “virgin” sound as clear as it can be, who would have yet to process the basses and tweeter pitches. Of course, I’d recommend this for musicians as well.

I found a comfortable pair for my ears (the grey foam) and I’m sure a lot will find their perfect fit in the earpieces included. I suppose that the reason why the rubber earpieces performed poorly was because of the poor fit it had with my ears.

Standard Retail Price: Php4,790.00

Available at the following stores:
  • Beyond The Box (One Rockwell & ForbesTown)
  • Digital Walker Eastwood
  • Digital Walker VMall
  • Digital Walker Trinoma

Editor's Note: This article was written by Ace Espejo, a special writer and contributor of Glich's Life. Ace is a Project Manager and Creative Director of Digicon Events Management. Revisions were done by yours truly prior to posting. You can follow Ace on Twitter (@aceist). - Glenn / Glich


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