I have never been a big fan of earbuds, like those bundled with most MP3 players simply because the sound quality is so poor.¬† I always found myself pushing the earbuds in very tight to see what sound quality I could be having.¬† Thus, I got a pair of Bose Triport over the ear headphones, which completely cover my ears.¬† Regardless of any criticism you may hear from Grant, I have greatly enjoyed these headphones because of not only their sound quality, but also their style.¬† I have no problem wearing headphones like the Triports in the library or at a cafe, however I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them out walking around to class or at the gym.¬† Everytime I think about wearing full-size headphones to the gym, I imagine some guy from the 70′s with big tin cans on his ear and a giant antenna sticking out.¬† However, I had got so accustomed to quality headphones that I couldn’t stand listening earbuds, so I began my hunt for high-end earphones.

Etymotic ER-6i Side ViewMany different earphones have popped up over the past few years that provide nearly total outside noise isolation by creating a seal in your ear canal.¬† With the earphones driver(s) on the inside of this isolation, you can expect to hear a much more accurate reproduction of your music with a much wider range of frequencies than you’re used to hearing with earbuds, because fewer frequencies are being lost to the outside.¬† I did not want to spend more than $125 on an pair of earphones, so I narrowed down my options to the following: Shure E2C/E3C, Bose In-Ear Headphones, and Etymotic’s ER-6, and ER-6i earphones.¬† I decided not to go with the Shures simply because I didn’t like the idea that I’d have to wrap them around the top of my ear (ie, hearing aid style).¬† I decided not to go with the Bose ones, because they do not provide noise isolation, which I believe to be an important factor¬†both sound quality and in¬†noisy locations like trains and planes.¬† So I got the Etymotic ER-6i earphones.

I paid $79.99 for the earphones from Buy.com, down $70 from the list price from Etymotic Research, Inc.¬† I really appreciated all the technical information Etymotic provided on their website, comparing the frequency response, impedence, and “accuracy” on their website.¬† Accuracy can clearly be tuned to meet the test conditions, which Etymotic defines as the following:

From Etymotic.com 

Earphone response was measured on a KEMAR¬ģ manikin that has the same acoustic properties as the average head and ear. 25-band accuracy scores are calculated by summing the difference between the earphone response and the target response in each 1.3 -octave band from 50 Hz to 12.5 kHz.

Sound quality is not the only factor that makes up good earphones/headphones though.¬† First opening up the earphones, the first thing I noticed was the cord thinness.¬† When I was researching the headphones, no where did I see mention of the thinness of the cords.¬† However, I expect that the reason Etymotic went with such thing cable was to achieve such a low impedence of 16 Ohms.¬† This is an EXTREMELY low impedence, which means it’ll take less power to drive these headphones at a desired volume.¬† Etymotic has clearly engineered this product for portable devices (like MP3 players), as this low impedence will translate into less power required to pump out your tunes, meaning longer battery life.¬†

Etymotic recommends the medium sized ear piece for most people, but I found this ear piece to be incredibly uncomfortable (I guess I have a small ear canal).¬† Luckily, Etymotic includes additional ear pieces to account for these different size.¬† The small ear piece fit very comfortably and indeed provided nearly complete isolation.¬† I have never experieneced such isolation, even with traditional foam ear plugs.¬† I couldn’t even hear my roommate come in the room with the door 5 feet away, pretty remarkable.¬†It take a few tries to get used to putting them in your ear.¬† Initially it would take me about 5 seconds each to get in my ear.¬† But now I can do it pretty quickly.¬† Regardless, it’s kind of annoying having to take them out if you want to hear something.

Now, on to the sound quality.¬† I burned-in the headphones for about 5 hours and then tested them to a variety of music: electronic, orchestral, hip-hop, and acoustic.¬† The sound quality was excellent, very even response between¬†the highs, mids, and lows.¬† Without a proper fit though, the bass¬†was incredibly lacking; it’s important to make sure you¬†try out all the ear pieces to see which fits your ear best while providing the best seal.¬† The quality was as good, if not better, than my Bose Triport headphones, with the added perk of having noise isolation.¬† I also tested the headphones in a variety of locations.¬† In the cafe on campus, I could not even hear the super-loud latte machine.¬† I cannot explain how great they were in the gym; it was like a completely different experience.¬† Best of all, no one can hear even a murmur of what I’m hearing, like you typically can with earbuds.

Here is a summary of the pros and cons of the earphones:

Pro’s

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Nearly complete outside sound isolation
  • Good style: they don’t stick out from your ear and they’re NOT wrap-arounds
  • Inexpensive compared to other comparable headphones.¬† I get the feeling it costs a lot less to make them, but at the quality they provide, it’s worth the premium.

Con’s

  • Thin cable
  • Soft carrying pouch, doesn’t protect the earphones
  • Have to replace filters every so often
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2 Responses to “Review: Etymotic ER-6i Earphones / Headphones”  

  1. 1 Grant

    The second you said Triport — you lost all credibility.

  2. 2 Raza Yunus

    I agree with Grant. This article has absolutely no credibility when comparing to the “tri-craps”.

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