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 be. Even in-ear pioneer Westone has joined the wireless revolution with its latest offering, the WX1 ($149). And not only does the WX1 offer wireless Bluetooth, but because its three-button-control Bluetooth module uses a removable MMCX connector cable it can 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 AK T8iE, were amazing technological feats that sounded superb, while others were disposable $0.99 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 eartips and I couldn’t get a completely occluded seal on my left ear. I resorted to using to a set of third-party, extra-narrow foam tips from my private eartip 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 earlobes. 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 ’til you start to black out, and the WX1s will stay firmly in place. Those who sweat when they exercise will like that the WX1s have an IPX4 rating, which means that short of trying to go for a swim or hanging out under a waterfall for more than three minutes, the earphones should remain impervious to moisture.
Although the WX1’s tonal balance veered slightly toward the warm side of neutral, with a looser than ideal midbass, the earphones did a credible job in image placement, soundstage size, and dynamic energy. When streamed 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 pleasing voicing. I also tried the WX1’s Bluetooth cable attached to a pair of Westone W60 universal-fit earphones, which produced sonic results that did better the sound quality of the WX1.
Given that you can purchase the Bluetooth cable separately for $99, why do you need another pair of $50 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 of MMCX-terminated Westone earphones or CIEMs.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Universal fit in-ear monitor with Bluetooth dongle
Driver complement: Single balanced-armature driver
Frequency response: 20Hz–16kHz
Impedance: 19 ohms
Connector: MMCX connector cable with Bluetooth
Weight: Not specified
2235 Executive Circle
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
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