We've had a lot of IEMs (In Ear Monitors) come through the office recently. Westone's UM2s were a bit of a surprise packet and wound up as one of our favourite models, however their little brother, the UM1 failed to impress us as much. The UM1 comes in at the bottom of the price spectrum, making it an entry level model, competing with units such as the E2c and E3c from Shure and the Etymotic ER6i. It does have some qualities that make it worthwhile to listen to, but in the end it doesn't really outshine the competition in any major way.
- Above average sound
- Doesn’t really keep pace with the competition
A decent IEM choice, but we’d recommend the Etymotic or Shure entry level models over the UM1 if you’re looking in this price bracket.
We found the sound to be a little veiled, that is, hidden sounding distant, like listening through a piece of cloth. This may have been a result of our placement, but we tested them extensively and the sound never improved. Some may enjoy this kind of presentation, but we find it very difficult to get involved with our music when it sounds like this. Many headphones present the music engagingly without being in your face, but this model seemed to take it a little too far.
This also resulted in everything sounding a little thin, which was quite noticeable next to the exquisitely rich sound of the Shure models. We found the level of musical resolution to be a little lower than the competition, but still infinitely better than any cheap portable headphone you'll be likely to try. The separation between guitar plucks for example wasn't quite on the same level as the Shure E3c.
The soundstage however was quite impressive, on par with most of the more expensive units. The airy sound gave the feeling of a large concert hall, and whilst IEMs seem limited in the depth with which they can present music the UM1 did an admirable job. Overall the sound quality will impress most people, but doesn't quite match up to that offered by companies like Shure.
As IEMs, the UM1s also have the nifty quality of isolating you from external sound. They have a rather large build for an IEM and as a result isolate even better than normal. The result? If you've got music on, you'll be blocking out everything, annoying colleagues, passing traffic, full marching bands, you name it. It also offers the reverse benefit of keeping your music for you, meaning they're perfect for use in an office. Be warned however, as we did find the UM1 design a little uncomfortable. All IEMs are actually inserted into the ear canal, rather than just resting outside, which always takes a little getting used to, however compared to the other models we tried, the bulkier driver unit meant the UM1 became slightly painful after prolonged use. It wasn't nearly as bad as the pain we encountered with the Shure E5c, and was fixed by removing the unit for a few minutes, but they definitely aren't on the same comfort level as the lower Shure models.
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