This review brings me back; my first high-end IEM was the famous, Westone W40. Since then, quite a few years have passed, and the IEM market has been flooded with countless trendy and ultra expensive brands. Indeed, the audiophile world has gone IEM crazy. So, I was thrilled to see one of the great originals, Westone, return again with a new generation of the classic favorites. The MACH 80 is Westone’s new flagship model. Unlike the AM Pro and Pro X series, which is geared towards stage and studio professionals, the MACH series is intended more for the discerning audiophile. What does is deliver in terms of sound signature and performance?
In the Box
- Mach 80 Universal fit in-ear Monitors
- Linum UltraBaX™ T2 Cable
- 5 Pair Foam + 5 Pair Silicone
- Impact Resistant Pelican™ Case
- Westone Audio Cloth Bag
Look and Fit
Sometimes, a no frills design works best. And I have to admit, the MACH 80 is the most ergonomic and fatigue free IEM I have worn in a long time. While the aesthetics may be somewhat bland compared to the glitzy IEMs on the market today, Westone has retained its classic shape and size. It just works, and it’s refreshing to see a company that couldn’t care less about dazzling the eyes, instead investing all of its focus on fit and comfort.
The MACH 80 employs 8 balanced armature drivers with a 3-way crossover design. 2 BA’s drive the lows, 2 are centered on the mids, and 4 drivers power the highs.
Westone has designed the MACH 80 with a Linum UltraBaX™ T2 Cable. The T2 connection is a newer and apparently sturdier alternative to the sometimes temperamental 2-pin and MMCX connectors. The cable itself is almost thin looking compared to the broader cable designs that have become the norm. Nevertheless, the 224 strand silver-plated copper wire still looks solid and well made.
Even with an impedance on the higher side (66 Ohms), I found the MACH 80 easy to drive using a Dragonfly Cobalt DAC/Amp. The Cobalt is quite an active sounding DAC, which l think lends itself well to this energetic sound signature. But if you want to temper the liveliness a little, I suggest a softer or rounder sounding DAC option.
In terms of soundstage, the MACH 80 delivers in every way. Apart from the solid scale of the stage, the imaging is notably multidimensional. Gradations in height are as apparent as the nuanced degrees in depth, and it just feels like there’s tons of space between instruments. The layering is impeccably clean and even in the busiest of mixes, not one instrument or tiny detail was lost. The expansiveness of the stereo field is also outstanding. And all in all, the MACH 80 delivers one of the most comprehensive and colorful soundscapes I’ve heard at this price point.
The bass is fast and punchy, and conveys an even delivery throughout the low-end. Sub-bass frequencies don’t reach visceral levels, but modern tracks are still a satiating listen thanks to the speed and tightness of the bass profile. Acoustic instruments reveal a natural, yet rich character, bringing both, realism and majesty to the performance. It’s also hard to ignore how clean the low-end is. You won’t hear a hint of bleed or bloat; the bass always stays in its lane, never overpowering the low mids or skewing the overall balance.
Although there’s a good dose of low-mid presence that offers body to the profile, vocals in the upper half of the midrange are quite prominent on many tracks. And in general, anything that falls in the middle to high-mids really hits, giving tons of snap and liveliness to percussion, while also highlighting instruments like acoustic guitars with impressive definition and detail. Certainly, it’s an energetic sound. But at the same time, the absence of resonance is also noteworthy, offering an almost dampened or softened resolve to more delicate sounds. There’s also an element of smoothness here that lends itself beautifully to string instruments in particular.
Although the highs have solid extension, the peaks feel smooth and easy on the ears. The level of detail is top notch in this range, meticulously revealing the more hidden characteristics of strings and brass in this range. Vocals have plenty of air, and the profile gives fluidity to soprano note progressions, while at the same time never concealing the most subtle vocal modulations and breath features.
Although the MACH 80 may look unassuming, the sound performance is highly memorable. The rich soundstage and fast bass, along with the punchy, yet controlled midrange and thoroughly transparent highs make for a scrumptious listening experience. In short, the MACH 80 is a true specimen of an incredibly skilled and charismatic IEM, certainly worthy of its price tag. It even deserves our MajorHifi Gold Award.
Westone MACH 80
|Drivers||2 BA Low, 2 BA Mid, 4 BA High|
|Frequency Response||5Hz – 22 kHz|
|Impedance||66 Ohms @1kHz|