Reviews: Audio

Reduced size, increased comfort, same sound quality

The Westone UM Pro 10 in-ear monitors come with a bunch of accessories - 10 pairs of earbuds in different shapes, a cleaning tool and a tough, hard-shell plastic carrying case.
The Westone UM Pro 10 in-ear monitors come with a bunch of accessories - 10 pairs of earbuds in different shapes, a cleaning tool and a tough, hard-shell plastic carrying case.PHOTO: WESTONE

Professional audiophile brand Westone recently redesigned its line of in-ear monitors (IEMs) this year, making them smaller and more comfortable to wear while retaining the audio quality the company is known for.

The UM Pro line, first released in 2013, is aimed at studio musicians or audiophiles who require accurate and detailed sound reproduction.

The redesigned UM Pro 10 is the cheapest in the series, although it is not exactly at mass-market pricing either, coming in at $229.

These single-driver IEMs are designed with flat frequency response in mind - which means clear, accurate reproduction of audio playback that brings out the vocals and mid-range more strongly.

Bass performance, as with any earphones designed for more analytical performance, is noticeably shallower and flatter.

It's not powerful but subtle and smoothly refined, which means bassheads will want to give them a miss.

The lack of bass can make them seem a bit cold or flat to those who are not used to such a sound signature. These are not ideal for hip-hop or electronic dance music fans who enjoy feeling a deep thump as they groove along to their music on the go.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $229

    DRIVER: Single full-range balanced armature

    FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20Hz - 16kHz

    WEIGHT: 6g (without cable)

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Instead, vocals and mid-range tones take centre stage in the UM Pro 10. Female vocals, such as Rachel Yamagata or Ingrid Michaelson, shine through smoothly and delicately, further emphasised by the detailed instrumentation separation in the background.

Songs with soft guitar acoustics, such as Bon Iver's Holocene or Johnny Cash's rendition of Nine Inch Nails' Hurt, also shine on the UM Pro 10, with the right balance between vocals and instruments.

These IEMs also work great if you are a classical, jazz or blues fan, as instrumental mixes are clear and detailed without being overpowering.

While the soundstage is nothing to rave about, it is still decent for IEMs but not as expansive or wide as headphone users might prefer.

The UM Pro 10 can be powered just fine through a mobile phone, although it sounds brighter, clearer and more detailed when run through an external mobile amplifier or through a dedicated digital audio player.

The new UM Pro line now comes with detachable MMCX audio connectors, and this makes it easier for users to replace the cable.

The custom-shell plastic design fits snugly and comfortably in the ears, and is light enough to feel almost non-existent during long listening periods.

Getting a right seal is easy with the host of earbuds that are included, and the IEMs do a decent enough job blocking outside noise once a good seal is achieved.

The UM Pro 10 IEMs are sturdily built. The plastic earbuds don't feel cheap at all and are rugged enough to wrap around a player and be tossed into a bag.

I also like the host of accessories that come with it: 10 pairs of earbuds in different shapes, a cleaning tool and a tough, hard-shell plastic carrying case.

•Verdict: The UM Pro 10 is a set of audiophile-level in-ear monitors for music lovers who prefer a clean, accurate audio reproduction. The IEMs are also comfortable and light.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2017, with the headline 'Reduced size, increased comfort, same sound quality'. Print Edition | Subscribe