Westone Mach 30 ($499)
I want to first thank Zachik of Westone Audio for including myself as well as our website mobileaudiophile.com in the USA tour of the Westone Mach 30 and 40. As always this will not alter my opinion nor sway my views. I was very happy that Westone chose me to be a part of their tour and would do everyone a disservice to cater or hype anything not worthy of it. Plus, my integrity is of the utmost importance to me. This review will be only of the Westone Mach 30. I will also complete a review of the 40 right alongside this one.
Westone has joined forces with Etymotic to create the Mach Series. Both are storied companies with a reputation for creating specifically tuned in ear monitors for both the stage as well as at home recreational listening. The Mach Series was a venture to bring a different tuning perspective into each of their iems from the Mach 10 through the Mach 80.
Truthfully the last Westone iem I’ve had in my ears was around 8-10 years ago and I cannot remember what it was. I own the Etymotic Er2se and do enjoy how they sound. However, for the most part I have spent the majority of my listening life in the Chi Fi world. Prior to that, in the past I leached onto major brands that produce mass market appeal audio gear. Ugh. I suppose we all start somewhere.
One last thing, if you do happen to check out my Mach 40 review please be advised that a lot of what you read here will be regurgitated into that review as well. There is $100 and some Driver and accessory differences setting one apart from the other. A short comparison will be completed in that review as well.
Mach 30 Pros
-Extremely balanced sound
-Very ergonomic, fantastic fit
-Surprising BA Bass (one BA handles lows)
-Fast transient response
-Depending on usage, the thin cable
-Very smooth sound
-Very natural and resolving
Mach 30 Cons
-Lacks shimmer up top
-Depending on usage, the thin cable
-Harder to drive than most
-Replay can sound lackluster to some
-Soundstage isn’t the grandest
Packaging / Accessories
The Westone Mach 30 arrived at my door in a nice rectangular box. Actually, it was a box inside of a sleeve. The package contains ten tips in total. Five foam tips and five silicone tips. A cleaning tool to scrape the ear-junk out of the tiny front nozzles. Also, a small cloth drawstring bag, colored black-on-gray. The bag is a nice addition that I would actually use.
The Mach 30 contains a very small “Pelican” iem case. The case is see-through orange in color and is said to be watertight. Truthfully this is a very durable little case. I wouldn’t ever try it but… I’m pretty sure I could drop this lil guy from my rooftop to my driveway and the iems inside would be ok. It’s nice that Westone added it to the package. Of course, the 30 will run you close to $500 so…I suppose this should be expected.
The last accessory to speak of is the cable. The Mach 30 cable is a .75 ohm, extremely thin and lightweight cable named the “Linum Estron Bax ”, advertised to give a refined sound with maximum comfort.
This cable is one of the thinnest cables I’ve ever used on an iem. It is tiny in width, but I can confidently say that it also feels very durable. The Bax ends in a 3.5 SE termination with a right angle jack. At the other end, connecting to the Iems is what Estron refers to as a “T2” connector, which is an Estron product trademark. The T2 connector is almost a type of mmcx. Much easier to attach and detach.
It did strike me as odd when first opening the packaging just how crazy thin the cable was. This could be a good thing or not. It certainly is nothing like the Chi-fi upgrade cables that I normally purchase.
I can appreciate how light the Bax cable is while in use. I can’t say for sure if the sound reproduction is better than any other cable, but Westone took a nice approach. Linum describes these cables as much denser. they also advertise this cable as having a much higher tensile strength than most cables. Tensile load or strength is any direct hanging load or like putting the cable ends in each hand and pulling against each other. Anyways it was when I put them on that I realized the bonus of this cable. It feels like absolutely nothing…at all. I still prefer a beautiful and thick cable, but I can understand those who would like something more like this.
I really didn’t at all appreciate how the Mach 30’s cable would not stay rolled up when storing them or…taking freaking pictures of them! That I didn’t like as they tangled easily. The cable is very thin but also pretty rigid. It feels strong. However, this creates a perfect storm for a nicely rolled up cable in hand to just…BLOW UP into a spider web of mess the second you lay it down. Still though, if this is the worst problem with the 30…it’s doin pretty good.
The build is great! Westone decided on a hard plastic to be used in the molding process. The Mach 30 have a fantastic feel when in my ears. A slick look and premium to the touch as well.
Not only do they feel premium but also have a premium fitment. Westone absolutely nailed the design. Comfortable is an understatement. Every iem in the Mach Series takes on this exact shape. They all have metal faceplates bearing the company name as well as the respective name of each iem and the Westone logo. They all share the same two-toned dark gray housing and light gray Faceplate. Truthfully, I can’t really tell much of a difference between them all by shell design alone.
I can tell you right away that the Mach 30 is one of thee most comfortable iems I’ve ever worn. The Mach 30 sits perfectly inside my ears with zero irritation or fatigue. The 30 are very lightweight. Couple that with how light the cable is, it feels like you aren’t wearing anything. The Mach 30 should fit everyone like a glove. The 30 also seem to attenuate the outside noise to a better degree than most iems as well. The provided tips are longer than average tips and so they do insert quite a bit deeper than most. This is good on a few fronts but as far as noise canceling, I’d say this is very helpful.
The Mach 30 employs three Balanced Armature Drivers which work in tandem with a 3-way passive crossover. Each of the BA’s takes on a chunk of the frequency. There is a single BA for the low end, a single BA for the Mids and a single BA for the Highs. Driver count was the naming scheme behind each iem in the Mach Series. For instance, the Mach 10 has “1”, Mach 30 has “3” and so on to the most expensive of the Mach Series iems which is the Mach 80.
The Mach 30 offers an extremely balanced and flat, almost reference sound which runs linear from the sub-bass to the lower-treble. For the most part. Mach 30 has a more warm and organic timbre and unapologetically natural tonality all the way through the mix. Cohesion is easy to hear when listening to these 3 balanced armature drivers. You won’t hear any real spikes in the frequency at all. Smooth and resolving with an almost dead flat replay.
The 30 can come across a hint dry past the bass area but also have great transient response and good resolution, just in a warmer setting. This is a very smooth and easy listening sound. Truthfully, you could listen to them for hours, no joke. A very unwrinkled sound which when I adapted to it, I began to really enjoy and see the beauty of this type of replay. The Mach 30 has a very transparent and very organic sound which has great resolution all the way through.
I’ll make this very short and concise; give them power if you want them to shine. The Mach 30 has an impedance of 91 ohms and a sensitivity of 110 db’s. At the very very least a good dongle dac would suffice with this one. Using the IFi Go Blu seemed to do the trick. That would mean that using something like the Qudelix 5k or the Fiio Btr5 would also work with the 30. When I tried the Fiio KA3, fidelity was further upgraded. Synergy was better as well with the Fiio’s ESS dac which is a bit more on the neutral to brighter side, and pairs nicely with the warmer tonality of the 30. Lastly, moving onto the Ibasso Dx240 was the best of all my mobile options. On medium gain and the volume at 60/100 this set really opened up. Without a doubt give them more juice.
Keep in mind though, even listening with the IFi Go Blu I felt as though I still wasn’t getting the most out of these. Almost as though they need that last little bump of power to run on all cylinders. It wasn’t until I really gave them some good clean power that everything expanded. Clarity opens up and resolution begins to get better. Separation and imaging start to become more defined as well. Let’s face it, if you can afford the Mach 30, more than likely you have a good source to power them with. A dongle dac will certainly work but more juice is better.
The first thing I normally test for is the low end. Being that this is an all BA iem I was even more quick to check how Westone had done in this department. As I stated earlier Westone went with one BA to handle the lows. I am always a bit skeptical of Balanced Armature Drivers and their capabilities to offer a good and full bass region. To offer a simple and decisive report of what I heard when putting on “I Love” by Joyner Lucas,… “Not bad at all Westone!”
When the bass drops, I hear a deep enough and very quick bass while remaining uncolored mostly. However, I also hear a nice and slightly dragged-out decay. Dragged out may be overstating things but it’s almost like a Dynamic Driver type bass. Key word…almost. Still, I hear the speed of a BA and the texture and layering of a BA, but on those big boom areas of my music, the 30 doesn’t disappoint. I would argue they were pretty damn nice.
The low end is almost flat and without much color from sub bass to mid bass and pushing through to the midrange. The Pros here is the resolute nature of the Bass while keeping a good balance throughout. Nothing is too muddy or too dark. Nothing is too soft or pillow-like either, nothing is hollow. The 30 is not without good energy even with the flatter low end response.
The 30 is vigorous when it needs to be with a snappy and impactful punch. Drums sound voluminous enough within this balanced replay. All drums also have that natural impact. Bass guitars have a very slight lingering buzz of haptic feedback and sound very raw and organic. They obviously aren’t bass cannons, and you shouldn’t expect such a thing when listening to Hip-Hop and similar music types. Yet these pack enough in quantity to play such genres which require a good and appropriate bass region without really missing anything. I will always prefer a good DD but for a BA, these do the trick. If I were to pick a con at all, maybe for bass heads these wouldn’t quite rock their world I don’t think. I suppose that isn’t much of a con really.
Starting at the lower midrange, male vocals aren’t too recessed and actually sit pretty balanced with the rest of the spectrum. Lower register male vocals sound composed and carry good enough resolution to make for a good listening session.
The con that I hear, at times there is the beginnings of almost a “boxy” effect on male vocals. This is not a con but simply a different take on tuning. Also, I kinda dig it. The 30 is just okay for note weight in this area. Instruments which play in this zone come across reference and analog sounding, at least the scales tip that way.
Piano’s sound warm but completely accurate. Strings as well as percussions etc. also sound accurate. Of course, that warm veil I spoke of layers over the sound which can come across as lackluster or maybe even dull to some. Maybe to a person who enjoys a more V-shaped sound. Personally, I usually like a bit livelier uplifted energy, at least until my brain adapts. I don’t want it coming across as a negative when many people actually really enjoy this type of replay. The skinny is Westone went with a flat and balanced approach and partnered with the quicker roll off up top, it can come across drab and colorless.
What I found was, this is a very natural and resolving sound without any added coloration, just like the bass area. I came away actually very pleased with my listening sessions. Going song to song with tunes that I know from top to bottom to hear how the 30 sounds with them.
Female vocals tend to be a little more forward, though still staying true to the balanced sound. The upper mids sound very smooth without even a hint of anything harsh, or uneven, or wonky, or sibilant. The sound is warm and precise, and I hear very nice clarity in this warmer setting.
The sound here could be described as uneventful. Females don’t have that sparkle to them. There isn’t that emotional emphasis on female voices all the time. Again, females are clear and balanced, but also a bit tamer than some may be used to. The 30 does sound nice though and certainly completes the task that Westone set out to accomplish with this line of iems. Understand, this was an acquired taste for me. Like I’ve already said, the more I listened and adapted to the sound, the more I didn’t want to take these out of my ears. I really began to appreciate what Westone was going for.
There is a pretty steep drop-off which happens very early around the presence region with another rise somewhere around the mid treble. However, the 30 offers a natural and wide extension in this warm, linear, flat and balanced fashion. The bonus is that nothing else is so uplifted in the frequency to overshadow this area too much. The peak in the mid treble is there to add some levity, not enough to really brighten anything up but is there to keep the overall balance.
Macro details can be heard but there is some information (Micro-Details) attenuated up top. Listening to songs I know and love the treble sounds very resolving as well, very natural and earthy. As a whole the treble comes across very manicured and clear thanks to the BA Drivers being used. You still have toned down dynamics in favor of a more satiny and buffed portrayal of the highest regions. Of course, I say “toned down”, but what I really mean is the dynamics are simply not as vibrant. This set actually has good natural dynamics. If that makes any sense.
Thanks to the balanced replay and the last peak in the mid treble area, we still hear cymbals very well. They don’t splash at all but instead tinge with good weight to them. I think the warmth does well not to mask the truer nature of the sound whereas a much brighter display can have a more sheened out tizz. Trumpets and clarinets that play in this region sound nice, as well as pianos etc. These may not have the shimmer that I like but they also don’t have that glassed over metallic timbre.
Soundstage / Imaging/ Details
The staging is not the largest in the “iem’verse” but is spacious enough in context to the whole of the replay. Width is probably a hair above moderate. I don’t hear anything closed in or congested. Depth is average, as well as height to me. I don’t get all nutty over stage size as I just want my music to be represented well whether large or smaller. So long as nothing detracts from my library… I’m good.
Vocals are just flush with my head while Instruments float just outside that. Stuff like strings and horns have room to breathe in this warmer landscape, along with vocals etc. Because of the appropriate size of the stage, I do hear some depth for layering. The sound isn’t the thickest, but it is very firm and controlled.
Imaging is very nice. Everything is where it should be. These BA Drivers are pretty speedy and controlled and do well to ward off blurring of sounds. Everything is simply in control and these iems will execute exactly what is being played. Instruments and voices seem to have their place as the 30 does good to create the illusion of a stage. I found no real problem at all actually. Providing the track listened to is good quality there isn’t any smearing going on or blending of sounds and there is good spatial recognition.
As I’ve stated earlier the macro details are there as well as some micro details. This is a completely transparent set with an easy listening tonality. The sound of the 30 is very smooth and some micro details don’t sound as illuminated, but it’s a risk I’m glad they took. This flat and balanced monitor like approach makes long listening sessions a breeze without a chance of any fatigue or harshness. Technicalities are pretty darn nice within this dirt-free, haze-free, polished and tidy sound.
To conclude, I want to say thank you again to Westone, in particular Zachik. I was happy to have the chance for an honest review of two of the Iems in the Mach Series. I will complete a short comparison in the Mach 40 review of the two of these. That will come out shortly after this one.
Westone, teamed up with Etymotic, created exactly what they sought out to do. What they said this iem was supposed to be… it was. A balanced signature all the way through…check. A smooth and comfortable listen…check. A sleek and sturdy design and build…also a check in the box. Is this something that I would normally go for… It is not. However, I am not everyone else. Some people crave a more balanced, natural and clean replay of their music. Some people enjoy a mostly uncolored sound which more closely aligns with a reference type signature. I do think that with some brain adjustment more people could get with this set. There is a dynamic presentation hidden under the warm and organic veil and once I got past the change from what I was used to…the light came on and I’m sad they are going back.
What Westone did well is, they got the intangibles spot on right. The timbre they were after, the smoothness, the perfectly comfortable fit. Made for leisurely listening or professional purposes as well. I picture a team of talented people going through countless hours of revisions trying to succeed in the vision of what the “Mach Series” was supposed to look like and sound like. I am probably romanticizing this a bit much so please pardon my vision. Trust me, if this set sucked… you’d know it, because I say exactly what I hear and the experience that I have. My truth is this review… This is a fine set, just maybe not what you are used to.
After spending so many days listening I can attest that at first, I didn’t agree with this sound. I’m used to Fiio FH9, Mangird Tea, Fiio FD5 and on and on and on. Big, Bold, Dynamic, Fun. It wasn’t until I actually took a moment to appreciate what Westone was trying to accomplish. It was then that it dawned on me, and I really started to dig this set as well as the Mach 40 for what they are.
If you are in the market for an iem which can be used for the stage as well as the mixing booth or while chilling in your pad and listening to your favorite tunes…the Mach 30 can be just that. If you are after a set that can be used all day long without even a hint of fatigue….my friends, maybe give this iem a try. Please take care and thank you for reading.