When I first heard of Etymotic, I found it unbelievable that they were the “inventors” of the in-ear monitoring system. Known to most as earbuds, they’re a standard in today’s age – and are sold with most smartphones. Having used just about every possible kind ear/headphone as possible, in-ears were my least favorite, with on-ear a close second. I had always found them to be unpleasantly loud, uncomfortable, and overall just undesirable. After getting in contact with Etymotic, and being promised an in-ear monitoring system I was sure to love, I was excited. Headphones are a pain to carry around, especially in the higher tiers – having to use an amp for full power and clarity, taking up major bag space with how large they are, and making sure to be incredibly delicate with them because of how fragile they are. I was looking for a great pair of in-ears, and I think I found my perfect pair.
To preface this, no this was not a paid review. Etymotic did send me a pair of their earphones, which I am extremely thankful to the team over there for. This is not paid, and is my honest opinion.
Etymotic produces two separate versions of their main line of earphones – the “ER4-SR,” and the “ER4-XR”. The former’s “SR” standing for “Studio Reference,” and the latter’s “Extended Response”. Here’s a little bit about what both pairs of the earphones have to offer:
World Leader in Sound Reproduction
- Unsurpassed frequency response accuracy and sound quality — 92%+ response accuracy from 20 Hz – 16 kHz
- The only earphones with balanced-armature, precision-matched, custom-tuned drivers
- Highest output sensitivity in its class
Timeless Style and Fit
- Professional quality and reliability
- An assortment of noise-isolating eartip options to ensure proper seal and comfort
- CUSTOM•FIT option available
Highest Noise Isolation
- First earphones to completely seal the ear
- 98% (35 dB – 42 dB) noise isolation —highest of any earphones or headsets on the market today
- Reduction of outside noise reduces the risk of listening at unsafe levels
Best Durability and Warranty
- 2-year replacement warranty
- User-replaceable filters protect the balanced-armature drivers from ear wax
As a producer myself, I opted to test out the “ER4-SR,” as I could use them to mix, master, and produce with on the road. Said to be have a flatter frequency response, I was delightfully impressed with how accurate their claim was. After doing some of my usual “tests” whenever I get a new monitoring reference, I was pleased to see that they were acting as promised.
The noise isolation is superb. When I put these in, I’m genuinely worried about what I’m missing in the outside world. After a few minutes with them in, you’re lost. Fully immersed, no distractions. I can’t WAIT to try these on a plane (I’m looking at you, crying babies). The earphones come with several sizes of two different kinds of “tips” – one foam like tip, similar to a construction earplug, and the other a somewhat plastic “flanged” tip. Both are comfortable, both isolate noise well, and both are easily removable and interchangeable.
With all of that being said, the earphones are stellar. But, as with every great product, there are some minor flaws. I say “minor” because they are DEFINITELY not product-breaking for me, but for some people out there, they might be a little privy to knowing what could be wrong with these. To start, the earwax. We all have some, regardless of how far you shove your Q-Tip down your ear. It’s natural and healthy, and without it our ears would be destroyed. Every time I pull the earphones out, I’m inclined to clean them. Since they do go STRAIGHT into your ear canal (and quite deep might I add), it becomes a bit annoying, unless you get lucky and your earwax decided not to consume your earphone. On the topic of the ear canal, these earphones do truly go deep inside – which is uncomfortable at first. My first week with them I was a little annoyed with how they fit, but I grew to love the fit. It’s necessary for the noise isolation, and it does its job. Trust me, you WILL get used to it.
Last but not least, I really dislike how you can’t listen to loud music for too long on these. I know, I know, listening to loud music isn’t good for you, can hurt your eardrums, etc etc. I’ve heard it before. I know, I take great care of my ears, but I love to listen to loud music every now and then, so this is really just a personal grievance. However, in my experience, these earphones do become incredibly piercing when loud, so much so that I’ve completely stopped trying. The high end really hurts – it may have something to do with the earphone being so deep inside your ear canal, but I wish it wasn’t the case. Maybe I wasn’t using the right tip? It could actually be a good thing, as having an earphone as powerful as this blaring loud music isn’t really the best thing to do to yourself. So, take it from me. Don’t. Play. These. Loud. With the noise isolation, you don’t even need to – everything around you is completely drowned out, so your music could always be at a comfortable level.
To conclude this review, I’d say the ER4 series are definitely a great pair of earbuds, earphones, in-ears, whatever you’d like to call them. As pricey as they are, they are definitely worth the money – for audiophiles, producers, even general consumers. If you’re in the market for a great pair of earbuds, and are looking to spend a little extra – get these. For sure. They’re the only pair of earbuds I’ve been excited to listen to music with since … forever!
Check out Etymotic and buy their earphones here.