Westone UM2 RC Review

The UM2 (along with the UM2) was Westone's first take at making universal earphones. The one I have for review is the RC (removable cable) version, but there is no difference in sound between these and the non-RC version. 

Specs:
Driver: Dual Balanced Armature, one crossover
Frequency Response: 20Hz~18KHz
Impedance: 27Ω
Sensitivity: 119dB
Cord Length: 1.32m
Plug Type: L-Plug
MSRP: $420.00  // Current Price: $299.99





Packaging / Accessories:  
The UM2 RC has simple packaging, using a paper box that has a transparent section to display the earphones. Inside the box, there are quality control slips with dates and initials; I find this as a great addition as it gives me extra assurance on its quality. Accessories are identical to the Westone 3 with 10 pairs of tips, a carrying case, filter and tip cleaning tool, 1/4" adaptor, and an in-line volume control extension. My UM2s were purchased during the "AMPD" promotion so I also got a free Fiio E6 portable amp along its charger and belt clip.

Build Quality / Appearance / Cable: 
The housings on my UM2 is clear (in some areas more opaque than clear) and you can see the dual BAs inside with all the cabling. It is built of durable plastic and looks very good. On the housing, there is a coloured dot on each side indicating left and right - blue for left, red for right. Westone's Epic cable is one of the best. It resists tangling well and has no microphonics. The braided design absorbs a lot of tension and can certainly withstand some pulling and tugging if caught on something. Because mine is the RC version, the cable is changeable should it stop working. Also on the RC, the section of cable that loops around your ear has a clear memory covering over the cable that allows the cable to stay in shape. Some people find this (or ear-guides) very helpful to help the cable stay in place while I prefer it without. 

Comfort / Isolation: 
The UM2 fits very nicely in the ear and are extremely comfortable. They don't stick out of your ears like the TripleFi.10 and are comfortable even when lying down on the side of my head. Isolation is extremely high and the angled nozzle also helps. 


Sound:  
The UM2 has a full, natural and buttery smooth sound - but they do give up some resolution and clarity in exchange for that smoothness. I can wear these for hours and hours without any fatigue. 
Lows: After spending a lot of time with the Westone 3, it was very noticeable that the UM2 has a smaller quantity of bass, though not bass light in any way. The bass is powerful, but not boomy. Out of the box I thought the bass was a bit bloated, but whether it's the burn in hours or not, it has noticeably tightened up and sounds much better. Although it's not exactly detailed and articulate, the bass does sound very natural. 
Mids: When listening to the UM2, there are times when I feel like I'm right there on stage with the band. In fact, on some recordings, I even feel like the lead singer. The mids are forward and anyone who likes the Shure house sound will really enjoy these. There is a lot of emotion in female vocals and you can really feel the singer pouring her heart out. Even though the midrange is lush and warm, it doesn't come off as veiled. A more noticeable sacrifice for the smoothness is the transparency. 
Treble:  I thought the highs were a bit rolled off with the Comply tips. With Shure Olives they opened up, although still not extending as high as I would like them to. The good thing is that there is quite a lot of detail. When listening to the sounds of a violin, it  has that nice sharpness to it, without being too much and grating. For the UM2, I would recommend adjusting the EQ and boosting the treble.
Soundstage
Soundstage to me is the open-ness and depth of the sound presentation, and in UM2's case, it was not all that impressive. That's not to say they don't sound good overall, because they do and a large soundstage is not a necessity in order for an IEM to sound good. The UM2's soundstage is average in size, but the lack of a well defined treble takes away from the airiness and sense of space. This results in a much more intimate presentation. 

Summary
The UM2 is a fluid and natural sounding IEM. It is quite balanced with sweet vocals and some warmth overall. They came out a while ago (2003 if I'm not mistaken) and have withstood many technological advancements in earphones. They can still compete with other mid-level IEMs, but should no longer be considered a 'top tier'. For $300 these are not the best in the class and better IEMs can be had for the less. The UM2 is a forgotten classic that has been in the shadows of the UM3X and Westone 3s for some time now, but if you get a chance to try these at $200 or less, I definitely think they are worth a listen.