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Showcasing 35 years experience engineering ergonomic in-ear products for audiophiles, musicians and pro audio, the Westone display of command is encapsulated by the slim W80 earpiece design. Even stuffed with 16 microspeakers, the W80 remains a joy to wear with a comfortably shallow yet totally secure fit. So no invasive deep-seating of the earpieces is required.
That's certainly not something we can say about other audiophile in-ears that tend to have a much deeper insertion technique needed to seal within the ears. The W80 fit kit including 10 types of eartips helps with obtaining that critical proper fit. As with any in-ear headphone, the correct fit will result in the best sound quality.
Sonically, the W80 quad drivers deliver an almost shockingly pristine sense of musical detail in the upper highs along with a highly pleasing sense of air and space that lends the presentation a unique openness for the in-ear category.
Voices sound out front and chesty with lovely presence and robust body thanks to the two dedicated midrange drivers while the dual-woofer bottom end is full and authoritative with a solid slam and a wonderfully tight control.
The Westone W80 dynamics are literally blink-of-an-eye and can go from delicately soft nuanced tones to loud brawny extremes with effortless quickness and grace. Listeners who gravitate towards modern classical or well-recorded music with lots of light and dark shadings will no doubt be terrifically impressed by the operatic range of the W-80.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the W80 is how expressively layered the soundstage imaging appears with a widescreen front-to-back and lateral stability that is simply unparalleled in the category. Instrumental placement is precisely delineated and low-level production or studio effects are rendered with a thrilling immediacy like you were standing right behind the engineer working the mixing console.
We compared the Westone W80 earphones against a custom Ultimate Ears 11Pro and the results were surprising - there was no competition. The W80 plainly beat the tarnation off the Ue11 in treble extension and detail resolution as well as handily besting the 11Pro's highly touted but loose bottom-end with a plainly improved bass focus and texture. Granted, the 11Pro are now considered a 'classic' IEM given their age, but they were originally priced only a few hundred bucks below the new Westone W-80. The marked improvement in performance is indicative of how far in-ear audio has come in just the past couple of years.
We think the astonishing clarity, dynamics and acoustic power of the Westone W-80 is really only matched - but not necessarily exceed - by much more expensive in-ear monitors or headphones, most of which will run over twice the price of the W80 earphones. Given the prices of high-end audio gear, these Westone headphones likely represent a $10,000-or-above level investment in what used to be a whole roomful of HiFi components, all condensed down to tuck inside your ears. Now that's progress!
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