Playback greatly admires Westone’s superb ES5 custom-fit in-ear monitors (click here for our review), but we also understand that some music lovers would prefer to go with universal-fit in-ear ‘phones rather than going down the custom-fit path. Part of this has to do, we think, with some listeners’ reluctance to have custom ear-mold impressions taken (a process that admittedly looks a bit scary and feels weird for first-timers, but that actually doesn’t hurt a bit), and part has to do with price (since custom-fit monitors cost not just a little but a lot more than even the most expensive universal fit models). But having looked at and listened to things from both sides of the universal-fit vs. custom-fit divide, we’re still left with one key question: can anybody build a universal-fit earphone whose sonic sophistication seriously rivals that of today’s greatest custom-fit in-ear monitors? Interestingly, Westone may have an answer for us all.
The Westone TrueFit 4 ($449) is the world first three-way, four-driver, universal-fit in-ear headphone, and as such is one of the—if not the—most sophisticated universal-fit earphones ever created. In simple terms, its mission is to come as close as possible to the sound quality of the firm’s top-tier custom-fit models, yet at a much more manageable price point. Does it succeed? I think it certainly comes very close. But, even if the TrueFit 4 is not quite able to challenge Westone’s top-tier custom-fit monitors for absolute sonic supremacy*, it easily earns bragging rights as one the finest—if not the finest—universal-fit earphone on the planet.
* Actually, Westone representatives have pointed out that while both their ES-series and TrueFit-series products aim for accuracy, they are targeted toward extremely different markets and end-users. Specifically, the ES models are built with very high output capabilities and with the needs of stage performers in mind, while the TrueFit models are geared more for listening to recorded music (though Playback has discovered that the ES5 also works exceptionally well for that application).
Consider this in-ear headphone if: you value well-balanced performance and an earphone that does all things well. Look at the TrueFit 4 if you want a universal-fit model that offers the kind of powerful, intimate, and vivid sonic presentation that rivals, though it does not quite equal, the performance of today’s finest custom-fit in-ear monitors, but for hundreds of dollars less. Note, too, that the TrueFit is easy to insert, comfortable to wear, and can be fitted out (via interchangeable eartips) for use by a wide variety of listeners (something no custom-fit monitor can claim).
Look further if: you want the highest possible levels of sonic detail, resolution, and noise isolation. To get those things, you’ll eventually need to step up to a full-blown custom-fit in-ear monitor. But be aware that custom-fit monitors, great though they can be, cost significantly more and are by definition less flexible (because they’re designed to fit one and only one listener).
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced earphones)
• Tonal Balance: 9.5
• Frequency Extremes: 9.5
• Clarity: 9.5
• Dynamics: 10
• Comfort/Fit: 10
• Sensitivity: 9.5
• Value: 10 (true, the TrueFit 4 is expensive, but it’s worth the money)
• The world’s first three-way, four-driver, universal-fit earphone.
• Uses four balanced armature-type drivers (two bass drivers, one midrange drive, and one high frequency driver per earpiece).
• Fitted with Westone EPIC signal cables, which Westone describes as “a supple braided design (that) insures comfort and resists tangles.”
• Shares the same basic earpiece shell design as used on Westone TrueFit 3 earphone. Though Westone does not particularly tout this feature, the fact is that the TrueFit shell shape is ergonomically designed so that it A) is very to handle, insert, and adjust, and B) seems to fit the natural curvature of most wearer’s outer ears. One further benefit of the TrueFit shape is that it naturally lends itself to over-the-ear cable routing.
• Comes with an excellent and extensive collection of eartips, as detailed under COMFORT FACTOR & ACCESSORIES, below. Odds are that one (or more) of the provided eartip options will work beautifully for you.
• Apart from its extensive eartip collection, the TrueFit 4 comes with a useful set of other accessories including a well-made travel case, a cleaning tool, a line attenuator, and a ¼” phone jack adapter.