In an age of wireless earphones, you could be forgiven for thinking there’s not much of a market for wired models. However, you’d be wrong. It’s fair to say that wired earphones have had their market share eaten into by true wireless designs, but plenty of people still want wired earphones for sound reasons, including audio quality, security and the convenience of note having to ensure the earphones are always charged.
The Westone Mach 10 is the base model in a staggering 10 models making up the entire Westone range of Mach wired earphones. I decided to review this entry-level pair of earphones which we probably should call IEMs (In-Ear Monitors) given their pedigree and the audiophile market they are aimed at.
Westone was founded way back in 1959 and is the world’s leading manufacturer of high-performance in-ear monitors, earphones and audiology products. You probably see a Westone product most days as the company’s earpieces for TV journalists (the ones with the transparent coiled leads) are used all over the world. The company’s in-ear monitors are particularly popular with musicians for live performances as well as audiophiles who are notoriously fussy about what they stick in their ears when listening to music.
The new Mach range of IEMs includes models with single drivers up to the top-level model which has eight separate drivers. I decided to look at the entry-level Mach 10 model which has a single balanced armature driver with a wide frequency range tuned to provide a sound with a wide response and the kind of detail that IEMs are known for.
The first thing you notice about the Westone Mach 10 is their incredibly thin cable. Don’t let this put you off! Westone uses a Linum BaX high-end reference cable that may look fragile but inside the protective sheath, there are ultra-strong and silver-plated copper wires. Even better, the cable is detachable from the earpieces so if they ever get damaged, it’s not a problem to replace the cable.
Detachable cables are ideal for anyone looking to invest in a great pair of IEMs that will provide many years of service. The lightness of the cable is an advantage because these earphones are worn by trailing the wires over each ear from the back, and this means the cable is light enough that you can’t even feel them. It’s all part of the Mach range and its comfort levels are excellent and ideal for a long listening session.
Once you get used to wearing your earphones with the cable routed over the top of the ears, it’s a more secure way of listening and very comfortable. The Mach 10 earpieces have a comfortable shape that fits well in most years without making the ear feel full. The Mach 10 are supplied with a big bag of ear tips in a range of sizes. Westone has included memory foam and silicone ear tips. The spout on the earpieces is very thin and so these are specially made ear tips instead of off-the-shelf ones. There are enough sizes included with the kit that whatever the size of your ear canal, you will find the perfect fit.
At this point, I want to say that what you choose to drive the Mach 10 matters because of the 80Ω impedance rating. If you plug the IEMs straight into a smartphone, you could be disappointed. The high-quality balanced armature used in the Mach 10 deserves a decent source so a DAC like the Helm Bolt or even the more affordable Periodic Rhodium DAC should be an absolute minimum. You will get better and more detailed sound.
For my review, I chose to use the supplied memory foam ear tips in the correct size for my ears. The tips supplied slip into the ears very easily and don’t need to be scrunched up first. That was something I appreciated. Once in place, the Mach 10 feel very comfortable and secure. You can’t feel the cable trailing over the tops of the ears. The only downside is that the cables do seem to tangle more easily.
Let’s move on to the sound. For the money, the Westone Mach 10 have one of the most nicely balanced tones I’ve heard from a pair of IEMs in this price bracket. When you consider that each earpiece is fitted with a single balanced armature driver instead of a dynamic design, it’s incredible how much bass Westone has managed to produce. Remember that there are no multiple drivers or crossovers, so this single driver must do all the heavy lifting.
Right across the range, the Mach 10 acquits itself very well. From that tightly controlled bass, through to a perfectly pitched midrange and a sweet treble, the overall sound is just perfectly balanced. Normally, with single balanced armature designs, the sound can be a bit light and shrill. These are tiny drivers that were initially designed for use in hearing aids where clarity is everything. In this instance, Westone has tuned a sound that is as universal as it’s possible to get from one driver.
Are there any downsides? Well, the soundstage might not be quite as wide as some people might like but I found it more than acceptable. Sometimes a soundstage can be so wide it sounds unnatural and like a bad implementation of spatial audio. Not so with the Westone Mach 10. The sound is pitched just right and I think it’s an ideal and affordable entry point into the world of IEMs.
Verdict: The Westone Mach 10 IEM is a superb little performer. It’s all about the sound and hats off to the people at Westone for getting such a wide frequency range out of a single balanced armature. The sound is detailed without ever being analytical. More importantly, the distortion levels are so low your ears will thank you because there’s no chance they will be fatigued after a long listening session. I loved the sound and I think the Mach 10 would make an excellent partner to most entry-level digital audio players or portable DACs fitted to a smartphone. The wearing style is super comfortable and perfect for all-day wear. If you want a great pair of wired earphones that will suit most music genres and work with even high-end sources, the Westone Mach 10 are a great entry point and superb value.
Pricing & Availability: The Westone Mach 10 IEMs are available now and cost $299.99 / £299.99 / €299.99.
More info: westoneaudio.com
- Drivers: Single balanced armature.
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 18kHz.
- Sensitivity: 103dB @1kHz.
- Impedance: 80Ω @1kHz.
- Cable: Linum BaX silver-plated copper.
- Cable length: 1.2m.
- Ear tips: 5 x silicone / 5 x foam.
- Accessories: Crush-proof storage case and soft carry bag.