Etymotic has been building in-ear headphones since 1984 and has plenty of experience in the field of acoustics and hearing aids. And for more than 20 years, the Illinois, USA-based manufacturer has been active in the field of in-ear monitoring (IEM) and during that time, they have consistently pushed the use of balanced-armature drivers. In fact, the classic ER-4 is considered a pioneer in this field. Now, for the new Evo model, Etymotic has fundamentally revised the design in many respects. The result is the first Etymotic IEM with multiple drivers.
Evo is a straightforward product for pure music enjoyment. There are the headphones, a choice of fitting pieces and a high-quality connection cable with an angled 3.5 mm jack – and that’s it. There are no integrated microphones or remote control for the player functions. However, there is a cloth bag and a nice storage box. The package also includes exchangeable filter pieces.
First of all, the quality workmanship of the drivers stands out. The steel housings are made of blasted blue injection moulding. They are ergonomically shaped and extremely robust but quite heavy. In contrast to the lightweight aluminium enclosures of the ER products, it is claimed that the new process is able to produce more complex shaped enclosures that are ergonomically and acoustically tuned at the same time.
In contrast, the low-resistance connection cable made of Estron-Linum (Linum BaX T2), which can, of course, be replaced, appears almost delicate. In addition to its electrical properties, Etymotic also emphasises the special robustness of this cable. Above all, this cable, which consists of silver-coated strands, is said to further improve the sound quality.
Of course, the internal values are equally important. Here, Etymotic relies on three balanced-armature drivers per side, which form a two-way system with double placement in the bass. According to the manufacturer, the mid-treble drivers are comparable to the BA drivers used in the ER4. The result is a clean frequency response from 20 Hz to 16 kHz kilohertz. Before the BA drivers reach the ear, they pass through a small filter element that, according to the manufacturer, smooths the frequency response and, at the same time, takes on a protective role against contamination. Using the included tool, this filter can be exchanged for replacement filters to counteract sound losses in the long term.
The shape of the new earpieces is completely different from the older ER products, which relied on a cylindrical shape. Thanks to the new design, the earpieces fit snugly in the ear canal and dispense entirely with the need for tension relief. The accuracy of fit in the ear canal is ensured by different attachments in variable sizes and shapes (double and triple flanges and memory foam), and it is also impressive in the long run. The variant made of memory foam provides the best external insulation.
However, for me, the design was too heavy. Depending on the attachment, the earpieces protruded slightly from the ear, at least for me, which then jeopardised the security of the fit somewhat, especially as there is no strain-relieving support over the ear. The feather-light connection cable is attractive from an aesthetic point of view. If you pick up a competitor’s product, you will be surprised at its “thick strands”. Unfortunately, the cable tends to get tangled due to the thin material. Basically, the cable is replaceable, but the T2 connectors are less common than the MMCX connector.
With Evo, Etymotic is undoubtedly addressing an audiophile audience. The manufacturer’s claim to produce the most precise multi-driver in-ear headphones on the market is bold, but I consider it in relation to the price. In terms of sound, Evo belongs to the family of Etymotic headphones, despite the new concept. The basic sound is therefore balanced and, at the same time, rather analytical. The good fit provides a distinct passive outer isolation and thus lays the foundation for the perception of fine details of all kinds.
The bass is comparatively slim, but at the same time definitely provides a certain warmth. The driver responds precisely and with clean contouring. Low bass is also audible, just not superficially emphasised. Here I would use the term “honest”, because if there is a lot of bass in the mix, the Evo provides it, especially at higher levels. The modern overemphasis in the bass range is absent, and I also didn’t notice any disturbing resonances. I was not able to make a direct comparison with the manufacturer’s ER series, but from memory, Evo has improved in bass compared to its predecessors without losing precision (to the review of the Etymotic ER3SE).
The specific character of the BA drivers becomes apparent, not only in the bass, but also in the other frequency ranges, and they are probably responsible for the analytical tuning. The midrange is also tidy. There is the necessary body but a less pronounced warmth and fullness of the fundamental sound, making for a beautiful speech intelligibility. What I liked best was the wonderful transparency and speed, which resulted in excellent detail resolution.
With this tuning, Evo copes impressively with all genres and in a studio monitor sense – without the problems of room acoustics: Tori Amos on the Bösendorfer, orchestral works or explicitly dynamic recordings of jazz ensembles are reproduced confidently, and changes from “piano” to “forte” are perfectly comprehensible. But even the likes of AC/DC, Yello, Slayer, and urban-influenced pop music do not upset Evo. Metal productions like Meshuggah’s “Bleed”, which sometimes have a tendency to a tinny timbre, harmoniously convey the idea of the mix. I didn’t notice any unwanted harshness, even with productions that are tuned to the limit- meaning that the Evo doesn’t overshoot the target.
In the high frequencies, I was particularly struck by the inherent sound of the BA drivers. You could describe it as slightly “disembodied”, for example, with hi-hats. This quickness and airiness was definitely a matter of taste, and some users certainly prefer it “rounder”.
In conclusion, I would not necessarily describe the build-up of genuine depth as a strength of these headphones. However, the stereo panorama turns out to be broad with a firm location and tracking of movements (Kraftwerk: “Geiger Counter/Radioactivity”, 3-D- The Catalogue), and spatial components can also be clearly discerned.
Sound-wise, Evo is a thoroughly successful and excellently crafted in-ear monitor, which is to be expected to be priced at around 600 euros. The simple BA construction delivers a fast, fresh and honest sound experience with a precise realisation of the entire spectrum and its dynamics, but it is also a matter of taste. But in my opinion, the combination of heavy driver housings and thin cable is not a good idea. I think it would be more sensible to offer these specific cables as accessories.
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principle3 Way Balanced Armature Driver
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 16.000 Hz
- Impedance47 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)@1 kHz/0,1 V: 99 dB
What's in the box
- 8 pairs of ear tips
- Connection cable
- Replacement filter
- Filter change tool
- Cloth bag