Etymotic Research has been focusing on the topic of hearing and hearing protection since the 1980s. Even the first in-ear products from the US manufacturer relied on balanced armature drivers. This also applies to the contemporary ER4XR, the current version of this product, which has been successfully in circulation since 1991.
The ER4XR is a straightforward, wired in-ear headphone offering that puts the focus on listening pleasure. This means that there are no frills and extras other than hearing function, whether that be hands-free operation or something similar. The workmanship is convincing. The drivers, a new unveiling over the predecessor model, are encased in anodized metal housings. A single balanced armature element is used for each receiver. These are first gauged by Etymotic and then manually assembled into pairs, with a signed measurement confirmation included with the product packaging.
Thanks to their narrow, straight shape, the light in-ear inserts disappear deep into the auditory canal. From these, there’s only an angled, flexible and exchangeable connection cable protruding. The other end of these meet with a gold-plated, angled mini jack.
If you can cope with the deep positioning of the earpieces, the result is an above-average level of wearing comfort and safety over a longer period of time, as well as a considerable level of external noise suppression. According to the manufacturer, the level of this stands at 35 dB. Escaping noise is also no problem for these earphones, despite the ER4XR being able to produce considerable volume thanks to efficiency in this area. The scope of delivery includes five different sets of earpiece attachments, allowing you to find a secure fit with ease. If this is still not enough for you, you can also choose to order custom-made earpieces for your own bespoke fit from the manufacturer.
The ER4 models have always been neutrally tuned, delivering a harmonious and analytical sound profile, ranging from low bass to open treble. In comparison to many other products in the sector, you don’t rely on a bass boost in order to enjoy bass. On the contrary, the high degree of neutrality is intended to provide an unembellished, accurate listening experience that also reveals shortcomings in older, less elaborate productions. Worth noting is that the sister model, the ER4SR, is even more linear when it comes to bass.
After a brief period of getting accustomed to things, I learned to appreciate these qualities. The sound is balanced, with plenty of musicality. There’s certainly no lacking of depth or intensity. The pace is also fast, precise and incredibly detailed. When it comes to listening to music, individual instruments are clearly differentiated within the mix, both in terms of frequency and stereo staging. Their tonality and dynamics are easy to pick out from the mix, while the same applies to the spatial characteristics delivered by the ER4XR. The bass convinces with its contours, while vocals and instruments enjoy a high level of intensity over background noises. Finally, the ER4XR reproduces with a beautiful sense of clarity and transparency, without any hardness in the treble range.
The ER4XR shows its full strengths when enjoyed in quieter listening environments, although the higher linearity during mobile use, particularly when bass is considered, does not always prove to be an advantage. Even when compared to more expensive alternatives with multiple balanced armature drivers, you have to learn to live with some compromise.
Etymotic aims to pursue the audiophile path of neutral, precise sound reproduction with the ER4XR. With this level of tuning, it sets itself apart from typical products in the sector. Especially in quiet listening environments, the thicker bass range serves a real strength and gives a more honest reproduction of the source media.
However, the additional design efforts are reflected in the price. This particular model costs around 400 euro, leaving it below the average of similarly complex products.
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principleBalanced Armature
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 16.000 Hz
- Impedance44,95 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)122 dB
- Cable length150 cm
What's in the box
- 4 pairs of silicone ear tips
- 1 pair of foam ear tips
- 6.35mm stereo jack
- Filter removal tool and replacement filters
- Shirt clip
- Performance certificate
- Travel case
- Detachable MMCX cable
- Replacement filters for protecting the balanced-armature drivers from ear wax
- Performance certificate