Later on, Bush works down into a lower register, belting out lines with a forceful touch of earthy grit as she sings, “Joanni, Joanni wears a golden cross/She looks so beautiful/With her armor on.” On these lines, the Westones follow right along, revealing the surprising depth and punch of Bush’s lower-pitched lines, but without lapsing into unwarranted rawness. My point, here, is that the TrueFit 4’s engage the listener both with tonal qualities and with constantly shifting points of dynamic emphasis, in the process doing much to convey the life and energy of the music.
I got similarly good results when playing another revealing (and, in its way, sonically demanding) audiophile favorite; namely, “I Could Eat Your Words” from Patricia Barber’s Verse (Blue Note). While this track has been overused for audio demos, it is undeniably well recorded, and contains numerous rich sonic treasures—if your earphones are up to the task. The song opens with Barber’s solo voice half-singing/half-speaking a measured introduction, with only open chords on a piano for accompaniment. It’s an intimate moment (or at any rate is supposed to be), showing a lilting, delicate quality in Barber’s voice that is perhaps not so clearly presented on many of her other recordings. The Westones did very nicely on these opening passages, beautifully rendering the softer and breathier qualities in Barber’s voice, while letting the piano chords ring out and sustain, as they should.
But the whole personality of the song shifts gears as Barber sings, “…a teacher I want you tonight,” then adds after a brief, pregnant pause, “I could eat your words…” Once that line is launched, a growling and highly evocative acoustic bass lines joins, while Barber’s voice takes on a noticeably darker, more overtly seductive, and sultry-sounding quality. What’s interesting is the way that the bass serves as a both a rhythmic engine and as a “sea anchor” of sorts, holding the song on course while giving Barber’s voice and piano the freedom move forward in more adventurous, exploratory ways. The Westones really caught the energy, depth, textures, and gentle forcefulness of the bass, while also revealing the subtle, seductive shift in Barber’s vocals and piano lines. But a special treat comes in the form of a haunting, plaintive trumpet solo that’s presented about two-thirds of the way through the song. When that delicious moment arrives, the sound of the horn is incredibly exposed in the mix, and the Westone does it full justice, letting you hear the latent (but here carefully restrained) power inherent in the instrument, while also highlighting its darker, more somber qualities, which are at once jazzy-sounding, yet tinged with hints of melancholy.
As was the case with the Kate Bush track referenced above, the Westones did a very good but not quite great job with treble textures on “I Could Eat Your Words.” Thus, the Westones let you clearly hear the sounds of the percussionist’s brushes sweeping over the textured snare drum head, but they don’t have the fullest measure of shimmer and high-frequency “air”—qualities that the more costly Westone ES5 custom-fit monitors easily reveal. But this minor drawback notwithstanding, the TrueFit 4’s gave an otherwise wonderfully accurate and emotionally engaging presentation on this song.
To give reader an idea of how the TrueFit 4 stacks up against other top-tier universal-fit earphones, we provide a comparison to two of its nearest and strongest competitors: the Monster Turbine Pro Copper Edition and the Shure SE 535.
Westone TrueFit 4 vs. Monster Turbine Pro Copper Edition
• The MSRP of the TrueFit 4 is $449, while the Copper Editions retail for somewhat less—$399.99.
• The TrueFit 4 is a three-way, four-driver design, whereas the Copper Editions feature a single, high-performance, full-range balanced armature driver. Westone proponents might argue that the three-way design allows for driver specialization/optimization by frequency range, where Turbine Pro Copper Edition adherents contend that its single-driver design eliminates any possibility of driver-to-driver textural discontinuities. These arguments notwithstanding, the TrueFit 4 extracts a smooth, well-integrated sound from its multiple driver array.
• In terms of tonal balance, the two earphones essentially offer competing interpretations of sonic neutrality. In general, the Westone tends to sound slightly warmer, smoother and more full-bodied, while the Copper Editions may at first seem slightly leaner-sounding, but with superior definition, a taut and well-controlled presentation, and excellent extension at both frequency extremes—especially in the upper treble region, where the Monsters can sound exceptionally lifelike (at least on good recordings).
• On the whole, the Westone emphasizes a smooth, natural, and unfailingly vibrant sound that is complemented by generous amounts of sonic detail and articulation. By comparison, the Monster tends to be more assertive and “up front” in reproducing subtle transient sounds and low-level details—qualities that some listeners love, but others find a bit overbearing.
• The TrueFit 4 strikes a truly wonderful balance between smoothness, neutrality, and natural warmth on the one hand, while offering good extension, openness, detail, and articulation on the other. As I’ve mentioned above, the TrueFit 4’s “secret weapon” is its uncannily vivid and vibrant sound, which keeps listeners coming back for more. By comparison, critical listeners may find the Copper Editions enjoy a narrow but clear-cut edge in terms of retrieving fine layers of low-level detail. Note, however, that the sound of the Copper Editions tends to be a double-edged sword of sorts. Some listeners enjoy the sense of heightened resolution and focus the Monsters convey, while others feel strongly that the Copper Editions impart almost “too much information” and thus impose an undesirably intense listening experience. For those uncomfortable with the sound of the Copper Editions, the TrueFit 4 offers a still richly detailed but perhaps more livable compromise.
• Both earphones are compact and comfortable, and both come with a broad and useful array of eartips. I found the Westone’s worked best (for me, but not necessarily for you) with their “bulb-shaped” soft rubber eartips, which are extremely comfortable. The Copper Editions, in turn, sounded best (again, for me) with their special Monster double-layer, gel-type SuperTips. The catch, though, is that Monster’s SuperTips sound terrific, but tend to feel a little stiff and thus can be tricky to fit—at least at first.
• What tips the comfort scales in favor of the Westones is their unusually comfortable over-the-ear cable routing and EPIC cable, which help to suppress noise that might other wise be transmitted via the cable. By comparison, the Monster’s signal cable is very beefy and sounds great (what else would you expect from Monster?), but tends to transmit some noise.
• The TrueFit 4’s carry Westone’s 1-year warranty, while the Turbine Pro Copper Editions carry Monster’s unbeatable “lifetime” warranty, which provides one-time free replacement of the phones “even if YOU break them.”