I know one audio industry pundit who is convinced that wireless Bluetooth earphones will become so pervasive that you will be hard-pressed to find wired models in a few years. That could well be. Even in-ear pioneer Westone has joined the wireless revolution with their latest offering, the WX1 ($149 US). And not only does the WX1 offer wireless Bluetooth, because its three-button-control Bluetooth module uses a removable MMCX connector cable it can also be paired with any MMCX-equipped earphone you happen to own. Presto—an instant Bluetooth earphone!
The WX1 employs one full-range balanced armature driver of Westone’s own proprietary design. Since it has only one BA driver, its enclosure is compact and lightweight. The WX1’s tip bore circumference is also quite narrow due to its one-driver design. I have heard many single-driver earphones, some, like the Astell&Kern/Beyerdynamic AK8iE, were amazing technological feats that sounded superb, while others were cheap disposable specials that performed on a par with their purpose. Assembling a single-driver in-ear with a linear harmonic balance, impedance, and acceptable frequency extension is the technological equivalent of rubbing your stomach and patting your head while riding a unicycle. Single-driver designs (and the vast majority of individual drivers) have issues at their frequency extremes – that’s why most earphones have more than one driver.
The WX1’s overall tip circumference is narrow enough to permit a somewhat deeper insertion than larger-bored universal-fit earphones. Initially I had some fit issues with the WX1. I tried all ten of Westone’s included foam and silicone ear tips and I couldn’t get a complete occluded seal on my left ear. I resorted to a set of third party, extra-narrow foam tips from my private ear tip stash to get a good fit (in fact, the fit wound up similar to what I get from Etymotic earphones). It made a huge difference in bass extension and impact as well as image focus and soundstaging.
On the subject of fit, I tried both ways of wearing the WX1. The cables are designed to be routed from the earpieces up and over the wearer’s ear, but can be worn with cables dropping down one’s chest or behind the head with the cable going down your back. Both approaches have their advantages and issues. When the over-the-ear cable drape is used the controls on the right and the battery compartment on the left dangle only a hairsbreadth below your ear lobes. When the behind the head methodology is employed the controls reside somewhere behind the back of your head. In either case the controls will have to be felt rather than seen. The good news about these arrangements is that once positioned, you can hang upside down till you start to black out and the WX1s will stay firmly in place. For those who sweat when they exercise, the WX1 have an IPX4 rating, which means short of trying to go for a swim or hang out under a waterfall for more than three minutes, they should remain impervious to moisture.
Although the WX1’s tonal balance veered toward the warm side of neutral, with a looser than ideal mid-bass, the earphones did a credible job in terms of image placement, soundstage size, and dynamic energy. Streaming from the Astell&Kern A&Futura SE100 the WX1s delivered an engaging and at times exceedingly convincing musical experience. The bubbly rhythms of Steven A Clark’s ‘On and On’ [Secretly Canadian] benefited from the WX1’s voicing. I also tried the WX1’s Bluetooth cable attached to a pair of upscale Westone W-60 earphones, which produced sonic results that – not surprisingly – improved upon the sound quality of the WX1s.
Given that you can purchase the Bluetooth cable separately, why do you need another pair of single-driver in-ears? Because the WX1 makes a great gym/exercise/daily-driver in-ear. The fact that you can use the cable on any MMCX-enabled in-ear is certainly a nice added benefit, especially for anyone who already owns a pair MMCX-terminated Westone earphones or CIEMs.
Westone WX1 universal-fit earphone with Bluetooth dongle
Type: universal fit in-ear monitor
Drivers: single balanced armature driver
Frequency Response: 20Hz–16 KHz
Impedance: 19 ohms
Sensitivity: 114 dB/1mW
Connector: MMCX connector cable with Bluetooth
Weight: Not specified
Price: $149 US, £179
2235 Executive Circle
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+1 (800) 525-5071
KS Distribution/KS Technology Ltd.
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Shoreham-By-Sea BN4 6NZ
+44 (0) 1903 768 919