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ER-4S earphones, Etymotic Research

After spending most of the day listening to music through a pair of Etymotic Research's ER-4S earphones I found myself wondering about the possibility of having them permanently installed in my ears.

Such is the extraordinarily prisitine sound quality it seemed a shame to have to keep taking them out to listen to people talking.

While using them in conjunction with an iPod, which I used exclusively to review these earphones, I imagined the possibilities of adding a Belkin iMic, and maybe an Audio Through option could be added to the iPod menu. I could even patch my Cellphone into it.

Regardless, it would all hinge on having the absolute best possible audio signal getting to the ears, and Etymotic Research's ER-4S earphones, designed for use with portable devices and with an increased low frequency sensitivity, would have to be the obvious choice.

Unlike most earphones you may have used, such as the small white phones packaged with the iPod for example, Etymotic's earphones are designed to be placed just inside the actual ear canal, with an airtight seal provided by intricately constructed flanged eartips made from a proprietary non-latex material supplied by one of the worlds largest earplug manufacturers, three pairs of which are included in the hard case packaging, along with ten foam buds and a filter replacement kit to replace the tiny filters that protect the driver unit from ear debris.

The foam buds are made from PVC and are the kind that are rolled between the fingers before fitting into the ear, similar to those used by construction workers or as sleeping aids, but I opted for the flanged eartips because they provided a better fit for my ears.

The eartips create a seal while the business end of the phones produce the highly focussed sound waves that greet the ear drum with perfect clarity. Without the eartips a seal is not present and bass response goes away, and the outside noise come in.

On first fitting I found myself putting the phones a little too deeply into my ears, which really isn't required. The main thing is to just get a good seal and let physics do the rest.

For my ER-4S debut I chose The Seduction Of Claude Debussy by Art Of Noise, an album with all the highs and lows you could ever wish for, left the office to stand by the heavily noise polluted street right outside and pressed play.

To say I was transported is not an understatement.

The noise from the street disappeared, replaced with an empty space right between the ER-4S drivers and my ear drum that was filled with transparent, reference-quality sound. I also didn't have to play the music loud anymore, to defeat the noise coming in from outside, because of the external noise excluding properties of the ear buds.

I've used many types of headphones and earphones, a few of which claimed to be of the noise isolation type, but nothing comes close to the level of sound isolation offered by the ER-4S earphones.

Etymotic Research produce two other ER-4 models, the ER-4B (Binaural) designed for listening to binaural recordings and the ER-4S (Stereo) for normal pre-recorded material. For those on a budget Etymotic also produce the ER-6 Isolator earphones with isolation of 15-20 dB compared to the 20-25 dB of the ER-4 models and with almost the sound quality but for less than half the price.

Rating - 991,579 (out of a possible 1,000,000)

Manufacturer:Etymotic Research

Description: Earphones


Response Accuracy:
ER•4S MicroPro Earphones: 92%
ER•4P MicroPro Earphones: 86%
Noise Isolation: 35-42 dB
Frequency response: 50-10 kHz ± 2 dB; 20-16 kHz ±4 dB
Acoustic polarity: + electrical = + acoustic
Transducer type: balanced armature
1 kHz sensitivity (ER•4B/ER•4S): 108 dB SPL for a 0.79 V input
(90 dB @ 0.1 V; 100 dB @ 1mW)
1 kHz sensitivity (ER•4P): 108 dB SPL for a 0.2 V input
(102 dB @ 0.1 V; 106 dB @ 1mW)
Impedance (ER•4B/ER•4S): 100 Ohms nominal
Impedance (ER•4P): 27 Ohms nominal
Maximum output: 122 dB SPL
Maximum continuous input (ER•4B/ER•4S): 3.0 Vrms
Maximum continuous input (ER•4P): .75 Vrms
Weight: less than 1 oz.