Westone Elite Series ES5 Custom In-Ear Monitors
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Like the entire Elite Series line, the ES5s are custom-designed and hand-made using molds of the user's ear canal anatomy. A professional audiologist recommended by Westone does this "molding" procedure and the advantages of custom-molded in-ear monitors are many.
You'll immediately hear at least 25dB of external noise reduction that precludes the need to crank up your mix level to dangerously stupid high levels to overcome outside sound distractions. Secondly, since they are an exact fit to your ears, you'll get a perfect seal for the best bass response possible every time. Being custom made only for you personally; no one will want (or be able) to use them. Lastly, totally unlike goofy-looking headphones, nothing is clamped to your head or ears so no heat buildup and no sweating and they don't slip or fall off like phones.
The ES5s come in a cool-looking, watertight carrying case (that floats) complete with a desiccant capsule to keep the inside dry, a 50-inch cable with standard stereo 1/8 inch/3.5-mm stereo plug, cleaning cloth, a bottle of Oto-Ease--a greaseless insertion lubricant, and a wax loop for dislodging any earwax that may get into the monitors' sound ports.
I tried out a pair of ES5s in my Tones 4 $ Studios and found them very comfortable to wear all day. They seal out external sound so well that I found I could keep my regular speakers running at a lower volume at the same time and not know it at all. I used this fact to "A/B" my mixes between the speakers and the ES5s by quickly removing them so I can hear and check the mix at the same moment in a song. This is just like when mixers compare their mixes by quickly switching between different sets of professional monitor speaker systems in the control room.
I find that I'm able to do a greater part of my mix using only the ES5s than other in-ear systems I've tried. The ES5s are great when I don't want to disturb others sleeping in the other room while working at the weird hours I do. I use them to scrutinize all the minutiae within my music mixes--setting pan positions, evaluating ambience treatments like reverb and delays, and equalizing instruments in the track that are quiet and in the background.
For serious mixing and sonic evaluation, I did go through an acclimation period where I had to adjust to the basics of in-ear monitoring versus conventional loudspeakers. First of all there is no acoustic "crosstalk"--the sound from the left and right speakers going into both ears and also realizing that my room acoustics no longer factor into the mix. Like headphones, only the left channel is in the left ear and only the right side in the right ear and the spectral balance is not affected by the distance of your listening position from the speakers. In addition, there is no need to be in the "sweet spot" equidistant between the left and right monitor speakers--with in-ears, you're always in the sweet spot.
Furthermore, when monitoring on in-ears (or headphones) there is "presence hype" where all sound sources are very close to your ears. This consideration is probably the hardest to get used too--everything sounds very "in your face" I have to fight the tendency to "fix" those sources by adding an effect or bizarre EQ.
For the same reason, all ambient or delay treatments seem overly loud. But after using them for a while, becoming acclimated and checking the mix on my trusty and expensive powered monitors, I found the ES5s just as accurate for determining basic "bread and butter" mixing settings like: the low frequency balance and level, overly brightness, vocal levels and the general level of the important mid-range components.
I think if you're struggling with monitoring, your listening space's acoustic problems such as excessive bass or have put off buying a pair of multi-thousand pro level powered monitor speakers, a pair of Westone's ES5s make a great solution. Besides being excellent in the studio, they are proven and well-liked on live stages by countless music celebrities and they make possible the ultimate in an accurate listening experience for your iPod or iPhone.
The ES5s sell for $950 MSRP and you can learn more about them and the whole universe of Westone's music products at www.westonemusicproducts.com.
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