I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a tad spoiled when it comes to audio. I tend to be picky when dealing with in-ear monitors (IEMs), ear buds, headsets and speakers. I’m not an audiophile by any stretch of the imagination but I know good, clean sound when I hear it. When I was given the opportunity to review a pair of UM Pro 30 by Westone, I was thrilled and definitely not disappointed.
Inside the box you’ll find an orange water resistant carrying case, a bag filled with a variety of tips, replaceable wire and the IEMs themselves. I can’t express just how great replaceable wires are. More often times than not, when ear buds or headsets stop working properly, it’s due to crinkled or shorted wires. Being able to just simply disconnect the wires is a feature that all mid to high range IEMs and ear buds should possess. The wire itself is also tangle resistant. It’s braided so it tends to be a bit stiff but it’s not noticeably so.
The UM Pro 30 is extremely comfortable to wear due to the variety of tips that can be employed. I myself tend to gravitate toward the foam tips that need to be squeezed a bit before inserting. They tend to provide the most noise isolation and ensure that the IEMs will be more resistant to being pulled out by accident. Another fine detail that Westone included is the semi-hard rubber/plastic wire tip leading into the IEMs. They’re shaped like fish hooks and do a fine job of hooking around the ears. I had to include that because some of the other IEMs that I’ve tried in the past required some bit of manual twisting in order to get the unit properly situated – what a pain!
Alright, this is the important part. Yes, the IEMs are nice to look at, the packaging is cool and simple but sound quality is what sells audio products right? The three balanced armatures really do a fine job of keeping the sound well, balanced. That is definitely not to say that bass, treble or the mid-range can’t shine. When listening to drum ‘n bass, the bass does become prominent but doesn’t quite overtake the experience. Rather, it would kick in, dominate the sound stage but pulls back just enough to keep the song going strong. There no rattling or “muddying” of the bass here.
To test out the mid-range, I used my PC and Cowan S9 PMP. I use the Asus Xense sound card which features a headphone amp. I played a few FLAC files and “I believe in a thing called love” really kicked ass. The vocals came in loud and clear while the instruments were represented at the right levels. Again, the experience here was balanced. I was actually able to catch a few sounds that I was not able to hear in other IEMs that are similarly spec’d which was surprising. For example, the chorus in Citizen Erased by Muse, when the guitar changes frets, a subtle but muddy sound can be heard as Matt’s finger slides aggressively but with the UM 30, I heard the sound loud and clear. I spent hours going through my favorite tracks just to see, er, hear what I’ve been missing out on – which was really nice. Oh yeah, Friday night well spent!
I noticed that treble was never really in front but rather always just present. Even with bass heavy tracks like LRAD by Knife Party, I was able to notice it but not overly so. Personally, I did like the fact that the treble was always placed toward the rear of the sound since that’s actually the way I like to listen to music. However, some may not like that as I do know a few folks that enjoy putting treble in the forefront of the stage.
Final Thoughts, Cost and Recommendation
I really enjoyed my time with the UM 30 Pro review unit. For commuting, I’ve always been hesitant about taking expensive gear out since they can inevitably get damaged. However, the sound quality and experience alone convinced me to take the IEMs everywhere I went. The traveling case definitely came in handy! I never enjoyed overly heavy bass as some brands like to push. I can’t stand when treble takes the front stage. My ears really can’t take that shrill high range sound overtaking everything. I enjoy when the mid-range is featured a bit more prominently as I do take pleasure in understanding the vocals and kick ass guitar solos. Overall, the UM Pro 30s created a pleasurable and balanced listening experience. The stage was never too far, it felt close in fact but I was still able to pick out the different layers of sound as I’ve mentioned previously.
Westone’s UM Pro 30 can be found at a variety of retailers. The MSRP is $399 which is a bit high for folks like me but if quality of music is important to you, these IEMs will be more than worth it. If you’re already familiar with IEMs, you would also know that for some folks who feel that $1000 is worth the experience, that’s what people would go for. I’d have a hard time recommending the UM Pro 30 to many people I know but if you’re sick of the same old OEM white ear buds and the all too familiar “bass is everything” mantra many manufactures have going, save up…and don’t look back.