By Victor Teixeira
SE846 vs. W60
Disclaimer: For this comparison, the Shure SE846 had the "balanced" nozzle installed. The SE846 ships with 2 more nozzles which would: (1) render a heavier bass presence than the compared nozzle and (2) a lighter bass presence than the compared nozzle.
So here’s a big one for you all, the Shure SE846 versus the brand new, Westone W60. We all know and love the Shure SE846. It’s universally loved by just about everyone here and for good reason too. The SE846 produces some of the clearest, most bass-heavy sounds of any earphone on the market. Very, very few earphones touch the SE846 in terms of quality in sound. However, with the Westone W60, I think we’ve found something that proves to be a worthy match.
So since the W60 is the new kid on the block, we’ll start the analysis there. The form factor is classic Westone. Their ability to squeeze a multitude of drivers (in this case a massive six) and still remain compact is amazing. For reference, my Westone 4R earphones with two less drivers are the same size. In fact, the W60 shrinks in some ways over the Westone 4R. From a top view, they’re noticeably slimmer than the 4R. As a result, this W60 actually fits better in my ears than the 4R does. In addition, the W60 comes stock with braided cables which are nicely made, very light, and very malleable. They’ve even ditched the plastic covering surrounding the cable that rests around the ear. I personally prefer this as it allows the cable to move around more freely around the ear. It also reduces the amount of time I need to put the earphones on because I never have to deal with adjusting the plastic around my ears. This issue specifically is subjective, but I’ve always found the plastic coverings around the cable to be a bit of an obstruction in fitting the earphones in. Aside from being extremely comfortable, the W60 is actually customizable which isn’t something you can say about many other earphones. Most earphones come in a single color, or some kind of static color scheme. With the W60, there are little metal plates that wrap around a portion of the earphone. With the W60 you get a metallic red, gold and silver. It’s not extremely customizable, but it’s nice to be able to change the color of your earphone whenever you please. Overall, the build-quality of the W60 is very nice, probably the best to come out of Westone. It feels nice in the hand and even nicer in the ear.
But what about sound? Surely those six drivers aren’t just there for spec-sheet show right? They certainly aren’t. These earphones are very warm and crisp. The bass, while still not quite there with the SE846, has closed much of the gap that previously existed. Unless you mainly listen to bass-heavy songs, you’d be hard-pressed to find the difference in punch in a lot of your music. The distribution of quality between the lows, mids and highs is so well rounded (for the most part), that it offers a supremely balanced listening experience. A quality of the W60 that most Westones seem to shine in are the vocals. I haven’t heard clearer or stronger vocals from any other pair of earphones in my life. Beyond that you don’t grow tired of listening to music for extended periods of time. Both aurally and physically speaking, the W60 is easier to wear and listen to for extended periods of time than the SE846, but with some exceptions. While the W60 has very clear and balanced music quality, some of the mid frequencies can be so clear that they begin to sound a bit screechy. I’ve only found this problem in a select few songs where specific sound effects and sound distortions (like ones used in electronic songs) are frequently used. Other than that, it’s a crisp listening experience with really no faults.
And the SE846? Well it still continues to boast the stronger bass (if only marginally better). As crazy as it may seem, the build quality and quality of materials is still a better. The added heft and use of metals give it an aesthetic unmatched by its rivals. And overall the listening experience is edgier and can sometimes be more dynamic and pleasing to listen to. You’ll find greater satisfaction out of the SE846 if you listen to intense and moderate music. The W60 is geared more towards laid-back and (some) moderate songs. It can also handle orchestrated songs better than the SE846 as it boasts greater detail. From a personal standpoint, I’ve found the SE846 to hit the mark on more songs than the W60. While bass remained heavy through most songs, it never felt over-bearing as some people may fear. The W60 sometimes (albeit not often) over-saturated the mid frequencies. And while some here at the Earphones Solutions prefer it, I can’t really say I do. However, the more I listened to the SE846, the more I began to realize it’d be harder to access its sound because of how tiring on the ears it can be. It’s far bigger than the W60 and as a result, you can feel it. If you’re a frequent flyer, or one who listens to music for hours upon hours in one sitting, the SE846 may not be for you. It’s not unbearable per se, but you will need a 5 minute break every hour or so (depending on your ear size).
So while the W60 gives the best, balanced aural experience yet, I still (barely) prefer the SE846 for its bigger impact and generally more dynamic sound profile. It’s ability to bring the best out of every song I threw at it still makes it one of the best earphones out there. However, the W60 will please those who enjoy orchestras and vocal-heavy music. The W60 will also be better for those with smaller ears and for those who want just a little bit of personalization out of their earpieces. I could listen to the W60 for hours upon hours without stopping, whereas I’ll have to stop for a bit to let my ears rest when using the SE846. It would be a crime to determine a clear winner here. It’s up to you, the listener, to decide what suits you better. If you want a very high quality, very dynamic, and bassy earphone, the SE846 is for you. But if you want to be able to listen to your music on flights, in your office or in your bedroom for hours on end, while still experiencing amazing quality, then the W60 might be for you. Truly, the W60 is the first earphone to successfully challenge the SE846 to such a degree, that even I can’t decide without hesitation.
On this pic you can see that the SE846 is quite fatter than the W60 and it could be a bit uncomfortable if you have small ears.