Etymotic ER-4SR Studio Reference Earphone Quick Review
Thanks to hifiheadphones for the loaner.
Brief: The king is dead, long live the king!!!
Price: £330 or in the US US$350
Specifications: Frequency Response 20 Hz-16 kHz, Accuracy Score 4SR (92%), Transducers High performance balanced armature micro-drivers, Noise Isolation 35-42 dB, Impedance (@1 kHz) 4XR (45 Ohms), Sensitivity (@1 kHz), SPL at 0.1V 4XR (98 dB), Maximum Output (SPL) 122 dB, Cable 5 ft. Detachable, Warranty 2 years
Accessories: A bunch of tips and huge that case are mostly useless. Order a usable case and either some small olives or Comply’s when you buy them.
Build Quality: Ety’s had a stellar build quality reputation when they were plastic, these are now metal and will likely out live you.
Isolation: Ety’s are the kings of isolation, they are rated at up-to 42dB reduction. No other earphone or headphone can match them nor can any earplugs. The things you hear are because the sounds have travelled through your jaw rather than in your ears.
Microphonics: If you wear them up nothing but they are angled so you probably will want to wear down and the chin slider and shirt clip will help there.
Comfort/Fit: A contentious issue. The included tips all suck, pick up some small olives or Comply’s and then with a little lick for lubrication you can insert them. You will feel violated the first time you do this. However once you get used to the strangeness of it they are actually comfortable. I can wear them for hours and hours with no issues so long as I don’t have to repeatedly take them out. That is very wearing on the ear.
Aesthetics: They look not bad, though they sit entirely internally in use so who cares, no one can see them.
Sound: Well the old ER4 was the reference king. A paragon of neutrality and these are the same. They are slightly more easy to make sound their best as with the lower impedance over the ER-4S you can get a sound quality improvement if you insist on using an inadequate source. Yet I really wonder how many people did that? Were there many ER-4P users out there clamouring for the refinement of the S but weren’t willing to add in the impedance? Still if we ignore that then this is the same sound, in a slightly nicer housing. The old ER4 did look a bit naff and these look much more sleek. Of course since they are brain implants no one can actually see them in use sooooo, yeah who cares? Their audio is as it always has been, largely perfect. They are massively detailed, insanely detailed compared to the likes of most earphones. These are less devices to listen to music than they are an acoustic microscope made to analyse it. If you want all of the details, yey, you have found pretty much the perfect IEM with which to do so.
Note that they will expose all flaws so feed them crap at your own peril, they can ruin formerly loved tracks by exposing its flaws you hadn’t noticed before.
Value: Wallet ouchy but they are paragons. They are as reference grade as the old ER4 has been for decades and these will be for decades going forward. You want that, and something with a build that means you could do it with one pair, your wallets taking a short term pounding.
Pro’s: They are the ultimate in reference quality perfection. Ultimate isolation.
Con’s: The XR can do all these can but with a smidge more bass.