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Taron & Andrew Lissimore
‘Etymotic ER4 - The First Audiophile In-Ear Headphones Get Even Better’
Dr. Mead Killion’s Etymotic company and headphone.com share a happy history going back almost 25 years. Beginning with the very first audiophile in-ear headphone ever released, the original Etymotic ER-4 model in 1991, the cutting-edge geeks here at headphone.com were among the first to recognize and sell Etymotic Research products to legions of music fans desperately seeking better sound from early mobile devices like the classic iPod, portable CD players and, yes, the Sony WalkMan cassette machine, the top headphone source of funky roller disco dancers everywhere (remember those?).
Sure, we can look back and laugh now. But back then at the darkest dawn of headphone time, Dr.Killion and Etymotic in-ear headphones ran so far ahead of the game that they were over the horizon and out of sight; most people were totally unaware such amazing high fidelity sound even existed. So we enthusiastically began preaching the Etymotic gospel of musical accuracy and deep in-ear precision to anyone who would listen. As headphone.com grew into one of Etymotic’s leading dealers, we’ve wound up selling tons of Etymotic gear to stoked listeners every day since.
The basic Etymotic ER-4 earphone design has undergone relatively few changes in its decades-long product life for a simple reason. Few other in-ears achieve the same level of exacting sound quality and flat, accurate response anywhere near the price of the affordable ER-4 earphones. We can not think of any other high-end headphone in all of audiophile land that has remained essentially unchanged and stayed so highly competitive in the marketplace for such a long period of time. That really says a lot about the unparalleled engineering and sound quality performance of the Etymotic ER-4. Other than introducing a low-impedance ER-4P edition in the mid-2000s for easier matching with low-power mobile devices, the ER-4 presentation has remained a steady beacon of clarity, definition and detail resolution above all else. So the recent announcement that Etymotic is retooling the ER-4 and releasing updated versions of their tried-and-true flagship workhorses is pretty interesting stuff.
The new Etymotic ER4SR (‘Studio Reference’) and the Etymotic ER4XR (‘Extended Response’) in-ear headphones remain balanced armature single-driver designs which Etymotic states are more seamless and articulate than multiple-driver arrays. Geared for demanding audio professionals and audiophiles wanting superior neutral transparency, the Etymotic ER4SR earphone is said to improve upon the already excellent tonal accuracy of the previous ER-4S model along with offering better sensitivity specs, making it more compatible with modern portable media players. The new Etymotic ER4XR ‘Extended Response’ earphone features a controlled bass boost for listeners wishing to fill out the bottom octave with a more punchy low-end oomph while the mids & highs stay precisely linear and directly rendered. The other big Etymotic news of note is that the new ER4 earphone cables are now finally user detachable/replaceable on both models, a great plus for significantly extending the product life.
Still priced at a very reasonable $349 and 100% engineered and manufactured in the USA, both freshly updated Etymotic in-ear headphone models feature precision-machined, anodized metal housings and the same Etymotic industry-leading 1dB match between left and right channels across all audible frequencies. Individual channel-matching performance charts are provided with each pair of new Ety ER4-series earphones.
For travelers and frequent fliers needing maximum noise-blocking ability for ultimate isolation and listening privacy, the Etymotic in-ear design is the best choice. The ER4 easily surpass any active noise-canceling headphone and deliver an impressive -30dB to -40dB of potential ambient noise reduction due to the deep earplug-style fit of the slim Etymotic earpieces. Large full-size headphones of any stripe are lucky to get somewhere around half of that ambient noise blocking factor.
With over 100 unique patents issued in the audio design, research and clinical audiology fields, Dr Killion and Etymotic (which means “true to the ear”) show little sign of ceasing their drive to pay it forward in our business. They just keep pushing ahead making standout earphones and delivering huge value to music lovers. We here at headphone.com have been proud to stand alongside them nearly every step of the way. Big kudos to the excellent Etymotic in-ear headphone team.