It’s hard to think about a more known brand than Westone Audio. They’re one of the OG’s when it comes to IEMs. They are doing it for around 40 years now. I think of IEMs as something contemporary, yet they were making them when I wasn’t born.
That is actually crazy. It’s not only the time that defines Westone. It’s the success they had on the market. On their website, you can check out all of the artists they have worked with. I could make a few very good playlists from that, including “angry teenager” and “there is more to music than bass”. I’ll give you 10 bucks if you go there and don’t find anything for yourself.
The star of this review is a part of the brand new MACH series. It’s the top universal fit series for them. While I couldn’t see that on their page, Westone representative at CanJam in London told me that it’s the tuning of ES customs in a more affordable form.
Westone Audio is well known for exclusively using BA drivers, and the MACH series is no exception. The first number describes the number of drivers in each earpiece. The model 60 packs 6 drivers, and each range gets two of them in parallel. This IEM is a take on the ES60, a CIEM beloved by many audiophiles around the world. Among the other MACH models, 60 is the most neutral and flat-tuned. I had an opportunity to listen to other models at the show. Other notable models are 20 – warm yet balanced, 70 – exciting, outgoing, and the 80 – very detail oriented. So to each their own.
Packaging and Fit
My MACH 60 and Kamil’s MACH 20 (coming soon) were given to me in a sample package. So, a ziplock bag. Which was a good thing because I had to fly all of the gear from London to Warsaw without attracting customs.
It could have been difficult with a few brand new boxes with IEMs… Luckily I didn’t have any trouble. Inside the retail box, you will find a big selection of tips, a Pelican case (OG stuff), a small piece of cloth, and the IEMs. I love the case, it’s fully waterproof and relatively small. No way you’ll be able to crush it with your stage gear. Super nice, but watch the cable to not get caught when closing the lid. It’s a quite tight fit inside.
The fit of the MACH series in general is excellent. It’s number two on my list of the most comfortable earphones I’ve ever tried. Super light, oval, smooth shape, and narrow nozzle create an incredibly comfortable IEM. You’ll forget about having them inside your ears A LOT. Included cable, the Linum Estron SUPERBaX, is super light, and not microphonic at all. It flows directly from Westone’s heritage. Those IEMs are meant to be worn for many hours on stage, or in a studio.
Design, Build and Tech
Build quality is ok. It’s a solid earphone made out of some type of plastic. The description on the website is very short and they don’t mention that. The separation line on the shell is clearly visible but is finished in a way that doesn’t hurt your ear at all. On the other hand, it’s a $1000 IEM in a plastic shell. There is nothing inherently bad with that, but it should be finished perfectly.
Inside there are 6 BA drivers together with a 3-way crossover. The sensitivity rated at 100dB with a healthy 35 Ohm impedance makes it an easy-to-drive IEM. That’s basically everything we learn from Westone’s website, which is underwhelming. Even the basic Chi-Fi manufacturers have better product descriptions.
Especially that, MACH series products offer different tunings.
The design is very simple. From the outside the IEMs have a faceplate embedded in the shell, on one earpiece is the model name, and on the other Westone’s logo. On the inside, there is a colorful logo: blue on the left one, and red on the right. This is actually genius and allows for super-fast recognition. Simple and modern design.
As I have previously mentioned, the MACH 60 offers a neutral and balanced presentation. The tone is slightly smoothened. It can easily be used as a tool for studio production, yet it doesn’t bring any fatigue. A truly hard balance to strike, impressive.
It has a slight roll-off in both low bass and top octave. Think of the top 10% in both directions. Not surprising for the bass section, since BAs are known for their limitations in the bass region. They just can’t pump the air because of their structure. The top end is the territory where they shine. In my opinion, it’s done on purpose. Let’s be honest, they have more experience in making headphones than my ears are in existence, so… Why would you make super light IEM with rolled-off ends of frequency response? It’s simple. Because you can listen to them for DAYS without fatigue.
I got used to the fact that every gear I reviewed recently was sound-oriented. Everything is for sound. Our technician solders PCBs only when he is in the mood. We go the extra mile because that sounds better! Okay, but there is more to IEMs than sound. I had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Kocen, the VP of product development. He told me that this product has two goals. Sound as best as they can make it, but it has to be extremely comfortable. This dictates some engineering choices.
A narrow nozzle is not as good soundwise but is required for comfort. You know this feeling when you plug an IEM into your ear and it really feels big at first? Because it is. A short and wide nozzle is easier to tune. The team at Westone went the extra mile to design a narrow nozzle but with a very good soundwave summing. While MACH 60 might seem simple compared to its direct competition, there is a lot of thought behind that product.
The detail and resolution are 8/10, very good but not pushed to the extreme. You won’t miss a thing, trust me, but they are not like cutting music with a laser. Sometimes BAs can get sloppy when they can’t handle the bass, but the crossover is tuned perfectly. No slacking at all.
Finally, the soundstage is also solid for this price range. It’s not as wide and deep as other IEMs, but what you get is coherent, linear (no empty spaces), and precise. It plays a little around the head. You can pinpoint the sound sources without a second thought. It doesn’t get overwhelmed when there is a lot going on, just like it does in Alan Parsons – I Robot.
Bass reminds me of the older Andromeda, but without the warmth. It’s really good at textures and attack. Especially snares sound really good, the MACH 60 delivers their snappiness without any restrictions. If you listen to Fleetwood Mac’s – Dreams the bass and drums are completely separated. The drums are also very nicely panned from left to right. There is no coloration, just excellent textuality and resolution. As for the impact and fullness, we all know the answer to that. You won’t get the powerful, world-shaking lows known from dynamic drivers or bone conduction units. Also, there is a noticeable roll-off in the bottom part of the bass range. It’s not immersion-breaking, but bass heads will not be satisfied. The good thing is that when playing bass-heavy music like Daft Punk – Doin’ it right the rolled-off subbass doesn’t cause any unnecessary coloration in what is played. This is very good.
Or I should say THE MIDRANGE. This is the best part of the MACH 60. It has a beautiful natural tone to it. It suits both male and female voices very well, whether it’s Leonard Cohen , or Florence Welch. Ladies first. If you don’t know who that is… shame on you. Florence + The Machine is one of my favorite contemporary bands. Reviewed IEMs allowed me to enjoy their song Drumming Song to the fullest. This is an extremely rich composition including the signature, chills-inducing voice of the lead artist, lots of details, and pulsating drums. MACH 60 delivers an excellent spectacle without missing a beat. Every piece has its own place. On the other part of the spectrum, Leonard Cohen has an excellent album that flew under the radar for many: You want it darker. The title single is dark and magical. His low and full voice contrasts with the choir in the background. The atmosphere of the recording is incredible. It’s emotional and moving. All are delivered by MACH 60, you are welcome.
Extremely smooth and detailed at the same time. This range is open and flows above the other ones. Let’s go back to The Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. This time the song Silver Springs. Cymbals and the higher notes on guitars are reproduced effortlessly. They present a rich and contrasting background for vocals. They are also very wide in terms of sound staging. My only complaint is that there is not as much going on in terms of depth. At least not as much as I would like to hear. In the song High Hopes by Pink Floyd, the treble provides space building effect. The long decays are reproduced by the MACH 60 with excellent detail. Even when very feint their tone stays on point. That level of resolution doesn’t take away from the smoothness of the IEMs.
Two completely different worlds. MEST is a fun-sounding IEM that will shock you with its exciting sound. Its sound is extreme when compared to the Westone. It’s like a Ford Mustang GT and Mercedes S-class. Pick your poison.
At first, the MEST feels superior. The richness of the sound is overwhelming. But the longer you listen to them, the more interesting the comparison becomes. Some tracks on the UM classic can be fatiguing. Sometimes you might feel like some part of the music gets covered by other sounds being emphasized by the MEST. At the same time, the MACH 60 just plays music. Just what is recorded, and does it faithfully. On the other hand, compared to MEST, MACH 60 might come as boring and bland. It really is down to the preference and the rest of the setup. It’s more versus wiser.
The Bass section is just dominated by the MEST. Bone conduction and a dynamic driver in MEST deliver one of the best basses in class. While for some it might be overbearing, MACH 60 has nothing on it. There’s just something incredibly intoxicating in a good Bone Conduction bass, so much that traditional BA constructions just aren’t able to keep the pace.
With midrange, it gets really interesting because the blows come from both sides. MEST gives more details. MACH 60 is smoother and more natural. Bigger and bolder is not always an answer. The MEST is definitely more colored of the two, and by quite a margin. The MACH 60 on the other hand, has that “normal” sounding factor to it, which could be highly desirable for many, definitely those who seek a more studio-oriented IEMs.
In the treble, the MEST has more extension, but sometimes its treble sounds a little hard and offensive. MACH 60 on the other hand is always issue-less. It delivers slightly less detail, continuing on a more relaxed overall experience. It doesn’t take anything to the extreme, and this is actually a good thing.
While purely sound-wise I think that the MEST is a better IEM, it’s not the whole picture. MACH 60 absolutely murders its competitor in terms of comfort. You will never have enough of listening to IEMs with it. It can and in many cases, will change the outcome of the comparison. Also, somebody might prefer one sound signature over the other. While the MEST comes out as a more engaging, extreme, and fun sounding, the MACH 60 will satisfy you if you want a more neutral and relaxed type of sound. The difference in the sound signature is so vast, that it’s actually hard to pick the winner for me.
Westone Audio delivered a universal fit version of the famous ES CIEM series. The MACH series is a marriage of comfort and sound quality straight from the professional market.
The reviewed unit, MACH 60 is a perfectly balanced and very natural-sounding IEM. Its tuning focuses on smoothness while delivering excellent detail and resolution. It has precise sound staging that delivers realistic and engaging sound. It’s not a master of one aspect, it delivers uniform performance across the board.
Another part is comfort. It’s probably the most comfortable IEM I have ever tried. Light plastic shells disappear when plugged into my ears. The narrow nozzle doesn’t put any pressure on my ear canals. A decent set of tips will let you get a perfect fit. It’s a very good choice for people who use IEMs for long periods of time, look for this sound signature, and those who want a piece of a legend, the Westone Audio.
Disclaimer: Big thanks to Westone and John from KSDISTRIBUTION for providing the MACH 60 for this review. This review wasn’t influenced by anyone, all of the above is my subjective, honest opinion.