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Hands on: Westone W60

While we expected vivid clarity, we were pretty amazed at the subtle touch Westone’s W60 had in the low end.

We just got back from the Westone booth at the official opening of CES 2014, and it turns out the storied in-ear headphone designers are not messing around this year.

After a bit of finagling, we were able to secure an ears-on demonstration of the company’s brand new W60 in-ear headphones, which debuted at the show. The earphones use six, count them, six balanced armatures with three crossovers, all bunched into a tiny earpiece to deliver a “high-performance” sound from a supremely portable package. After tracking down the lone pair at the booth that wasn’t encased in glass, the reps handed them over and we strapped in with our iPhone 5 for a listen.

First impressions amongst the chaotic halls of CES were pretty astonishing. The W60 drenched our ears in clarity and precision, digging deep into the bones of the instruments to expose timbres and subtle nuances far beyond the majority of consumer ‘phones we test. While we expected vivid clarity, we were pretty amazed at the subtle touch the headphones had in the low end, bringing a rich and smooth presence to bass and lower percussion that is nearly impossible to find in a headphone without a dynamic driver.

Of course, our excitement was curtailed a bit when we learned the price: a cool grand. It turns out that a 12-pack of balanced armatures in a frame you can put in the key pocket of your jeans is expensive. For that price you get dual, ultra-small cables made of braided tensile wire, one with an iOS three-button mic piece, and interchangeable, anodized-aluminum faceplates. Specs for the W60 include dual drivers for the treble, midrange, and bass, 25 Ohm impedance, 117 dB SPL, and a claimed frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHZ.

Other notable products debuted today at the Westone booth include the W50 and W40, which offer five and four armature driver sets respectively, and a new pair of in-ears to add to the company’s Adventure series headphones called the Beta. The W40 and Beta are available now, while the W50 and W60 will be arriving some time in quarter one of this year.

Westone’s hotshot multi-armature headphones may not be for everyone, but it’s nice to know there’s a company out there pushing the boundaries of how many components you can actually fit in an in-ear. Next year, we’re hoping they can push the armature number to seven.

Highs:

  • Brilliant clarity
  • Dimensional sound stage
  • Rich low end
  • Wide dynamic range

Lows:

  • Fit a bit awkward
  • Extremely pricey