MacDirectory Magazine

Winter-Spring 2009 (#40)

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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144 MacDirectory PROFILE HEAR HEAR > WESTONE GIVES AUDIOPHILES SOMETHING TO CHEER ABOUT For nearly 50 years Westone has been a leading name in products designed to increase your musical listening pleasure, including the ES49 Custom Fit earplug and the UM56 Universal Tip ear tips. So it is not surprising that they are touting the release of their newest, most ambitious product to date, Westone 3 earphones. Designed specifically for the iPod, Westone 3 are high-end earphones that deliver a sound quality that cannot be beat. Designed for and by "confirmed audiophiles," these headphones are, said Westone's music products and media marketing specialist, Doug Leavy, "the only three-way, universal fit earpiece on the market." The '3' in the product name comes from Westone providing a high, mid, and low frequency driver in the earphone, giving users a more balanced and neutral sound. Since the whole area of iPods was somewhat new to them, before embarking on the development of the Westone 3, Westone's marketing department spent quite a bit of time conversing with high- end users about what they did and did not like in their earphones. Most of the answers centered around ear piece comfort and sound quality, which are two domains in which Westone excels. Leavy explained, "With any earphone, be it custom or universal, the first thing we aim for is universal fit and comfort. (Secondly), there is a certain sound signature that Westone is known for, and it is a signature of very high quality and we will not compromise on that." It is this commitment to quality that has made and continues to make Westone the top choice for professional musicians, a market, says Leavy, that the company thought would always be their main con- sumer base – until the advent of the iPod. "In the early 1990s we started getting into the in-ear monitor market…and… for a while we were just OEM'ing (Original Equipment Manufacturing) universal fit ear monitors for some other guys. Then about 2002 we went out under our own name and started designing products… iPods didn't exist back then. (So) when we first started doing this we aimed at the musician. We always figured there would be (consumers) who would adopt (the pro-duct), but for it to become the boom that it has, particularly over the last 18 months, none of us could have predicted this." Of course Westone isn't the only manufacturer that has responded to the ever-increasing popularity of the iPod, but, Leavy maintains, they are one of the only ones that can bring to the table decades of expertise on in-ear technology and 50 years experience fitting the human ear. Leavy told MacDirectory that he expects "a flood of (iPod) products" to hit the market in the near future. But as for how, or even if, this will impact sales of the Westone 3, Leavy has no worries. "What will separate the companies will be the product they release. Right now you can run to Best Buy and see a flood of $30 and $40 ear buds, but none of them are great." Westone's premise is that people who love music and are really into sound will want something that can deliver what the Wes- tone 3 does, and they won't mind paying a little more for it. These individuals, Leavy explained, are already paying large amounts of money on their equipment, so "in these cases, chances are you're not going to buy $50 ear buds. (And) that is the market we're aiming at (with the Westone 3). We're not trying to be a mass market earphone company – we are taking more of a boutique market aspect." So if you're looking for a product that delivers comfort, style, and 50 years knowledge of the ear that can guarantee an open, professional sound from your iPod, Westone 3 is the first – and last – place you should look. WORDS BY JONE DEVLIN

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