For the most part, headphone design is boring. There's a few points to discuss, but most cans sport similar schemes, differing only in few ways that affect the fit or style. As you may have guessed, these in-ears are vastly different. Because Westone sunk a lot of time and design effort into its Adventure Series Alphas, there's a lot to cover.
Long story short, these things are extremely hard to kill. The magnesium unibody casing on the earbuds will withstand just about any impact you're likely to inflict upon them, and the nozzle itself is water resistant due to a treated membrane at the end. The Adventure Series Alpha can survive drops (of rain and notable impacts), spills, shear force, tugs, branches, and even death. I'm not talking about some strange Lovecraftian dimension wherein "even death may die"—I'm talking about replaceable cables. Should you manage to do the near-impossible and destroy the cord or plug, there are steps you can take to protect your investment.
For all you Parks and Recreation fans, we're talking about the Ron Swanson of in-ears here. Like the paragon of masculinity that is the mustachioed TV character, these also have all the tools for the job. They come with a water-resistant case, five different sizes of two types of sleeves (foam and silicon), a cleaning tool, and a shirt clip. The Adventure Series Alpha is equipped to properly deal with just about any set of ears, no matter how waxy or sensitive.
Good for bassy music, less so for classics
Well, that's certainly a dynamic response. The Adventure Series Alpha emphasizes bass quite a bit in comparison to the rest of the notes. For many modern music lovers, that's pretty great, but classical and classic rock listeners may not care for it so much.
That dip after 2kHz is fairly normal for most consumer headphones, but it will reduce the first and second harmonics of the highest notes on a piano, and have a somewhat strange effect on vocal harmonics. Most people will never hear this, but to a hobbyist, these may not be the headphones for you. I will point out though, that hobbyists could have luck using an equalizer app, so this may be less of a concern for the demographic that would take extreme fault with this type of response.
Badass bass boosters
If you're a fan of studio sound, these are not the in-ears for you. However, that term is abused as badly as Cleveland Browns season ticket holders. What the Westone Adventure Series Alpha does give you is sound that is unlikely to be impeded by distortion, and an appreciable bass boost. Honestly, this will work famously for use outdoors or on the street. Maybe less so when you're at the computer, but the target audience of these in-ears isn't sedentary users.
Westone did everything they possibly could to prevent not only noise-induced hearing loss, but also outside sounds masking some notes in your music. Masking is probably the most common problem for users of headphones with poor isolation—you can spend as much as you want on headphones for smartphone use, but outside noise can ruin the whole experience. The attenuation from the foam ear tips is absolutely phenomenal—better than most active noise canceling headphones—and some of the tips are long enough to reach far into your ear canal. You can expect outside noise to be anywhere from 1/4 to 1/32 as loud as it would be without these in-ears.
Holy— (Editor's note: expletive deleted.)
While it may not remain true for long, this is the lowest amount of distortion I've ever recorded on a set of headphones at the time of publish. Not only is this completely inaudible at any frequency, but this measure barely even registers.
I mean look at it: It's so little I had to crunch the scale of the graph and it still hugs the X axis like a frightened child would his parent's leg at a supermarket— even in the sub-bass range, where high distortion is not only less audible, but very common. This is so far below the threshold of human hearing that it would actually be completely useless to look at something like Perceptual Harmonic Distortion, so I won't.
If you like to listen loud, it takes a lot of volume to make the distortion hit audible levels, and in our tests the Adventure Series Alpha needed more than 120dB(SPL) to hit it. Still, don't listen to your music that loudly: You'll damage your hearing permanently.
They will survive
So what's it like to use these? Well, for starters, I suggest the foam ear tips instead of the silicone ones if you're not using these for bombing down slopes or running. If you are looking for exercise headphones, the silicone tips are easy to maintain and clean, and you'll never have to worry about shorting these with sweat because the nozzle—as well as the case—is water resistant (as is every other part of the Adventure Series Alpha).
Once you've found the right size tip, just loop the wire over your ear, then roll the foam in between your fingers until it is compressed. Jam it in your ear canal, and wait for the foam to expand. Because it fits to your ear, these are some of the more comfortable in-ears around.
I should mention that these really shine at night. Literally! If you like to jog at night, oncoming cars will see the super-reflective cable, allowing the both of you to avoid each other when visibility is bad. Much like any good sports equipment, these will also help keep you alive when you're getting your heart rate up outdoors. They honestly remind me a lot of the outdoor gear I used growing up in New Hampshire: Not only are they made to keep you safe at night, but the Adventure Series Alpha can withstand some rain or snow as well.
Hope you don't already have tinnitus
Without repeating my earlier expletive, the Adventure Series Alpha has crazy-good isolation as well. As I mentioned on the first page, you can expect low notes like car noise to be reduced to about 1/4th as loud as it would be without your in-ears, and higher pitched notes and harmonics are reduced to 1/32nd as loud. Needless to say, this is fantastic—though to get this performance, you'll need the foam tips.
The silicone sleeves are also fairly good at noise attenuation, but their average is slightly lower. Either way, you will be dead to the world, so try to stay away from dangerous, trafficked areas.
To top it all off, these in-ears don't leak sound, so blast any embarrassing songs you have—nobody around you will hear it!
Headphones for extreme sports
Buy the Westone Adventure Series Alpha if you have the disposable income and a need for in-ears. It's a very rare thing when a set of in-ears is not only durable, but comfortable. On top of all that, the sound is right about where it should be for the money, and the fact that Westone imbued the Adventure Series Alpha with so many useful features is a huge boon—this is a great pickup for someone who likes to go outside at night, or takes their headphones into extreme environments.
They're not without their drawbacks, and honestly, there's no such thing as a perfect set of headphones. However, their most glaring flaws are in areas where personal tastes are the most important concern, so you may very well think these are perfect.
With safety features, good sound quality, extreme durability, and a huge range of sleeve options to fit any ear canal, these are without a doubt one of the best in-ears you can buy. They're not going to challenge the Sennheiser IE 800 for audio performance, but they offer an all-around quality that is tough to argue with if you want something that can go anywhere and still work well.
Meet the tester
Staff Writer, Imaging@cthomas8888
A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.
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