premature etymotic review

Er6i-topI bought a pair of Etymotic ER-6i earphones for my ipod. $129 @ J&R

These guys jam all the way into your ear canal. Getting them in takes practice and lubrication. Essentially I give myself a wet-willie. Is it all worth it?

I’m not sure yet. Here’s the thing: for those of us who ride the subway these are great. Because they plug the ear it isolates nearly all outside noise. It turns a thirty year old #3 train hurtling along at 45 mph into some kind of silent-futuristic-monorail subway. (Doing the research for top speeds somebody quoted the downtown 3 train between 72nd and 42nd streets as one of the fastest, woot! And they say that they do go faster than 45, but that’s the official speed limit and I’m sure that the drivers would never…)

So the benefit is you can listen to a really subtle, elegant song like Ani DiFranco’s Both Hands and hear every note; something that is just plain impossible to do with the standard ipod earbuds. No more turning the volume way up just to be able to hear anything. Of course walking around with absolutely no audio clues as to what is going on around you is weird. Forget that business of your other senses becoming heightened, that only happens if it is permanent I guess. I find that I become extremely clumsy: bumping into things and people, stuff falls out of my pockets. And take some extra time crossing the street; one of my concerns before I bought them was “will I get hit by a bus on 7th avenue”; this remains a real possibility.

The bass response absolutely relies on getting a good seal. So if you don’t put them in all the way, or for some reason they don’t fit your ears right you won’t hear any bass at all. My experience with this in my few days so far has been mixed. Sometimes it works great and the bass is excellent, but other times I can’t seem to get it sealed right and I get nothing bass-wise.

Er22-13eSince everybody’s ears are different they come with foam style ones to try, but I haven’t gone there yet. Folks on the head-fi forums also claim various techniques of cutting flanges from the stock set and that it helped them.  

One pet-peeve is the cord sucks: it feels cheap and is way too long, which is inexcusable because these are *made* for the ipod and the best part of the ipod standard earbuds is the cable length and quality feel. Overall the sound quality is great, but I don’t have patience for products that I have to mess with this much. If I figure any of this out I’ll post it.

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4 comments

  1. "So the benefit is you can listen to a really subtle, elegant song like Ani DiFranco’s Both Hands and hear every note; something that is just plain impossible to do with the standard ipod earbuds."

    Do the earbuds come with a skirt?

  2. I finally took the plunge and picked myself up a pair of Beyerdynamic 250-80’s for their 17 dBa of noise isolation… and i’m thrilled with them… still debating the ‘burn-in’ process. I tried a number of models including Ety 4-S’s and while i realy did like them, i prefer to use the cheap (but now discontinued) koss ksc-55’s as my walkaround set. currently i’m looking for a usb or pcmcia soundcard/dac to improve the sound … the onboard card could use some work to say the least.

  3. "Do the earbuds come with a skirt?"

    No, but they sound exponentially better than the ipod headphones. If that doesn’t matter to you, then don’t buy them. Maybe spend the money on something in manly leather.

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