Etymotic ER-4XR Extended Response Earphone Quick Review
Thanks to hifiheadphones for the loaner.
Brief: An Ety with a more shapely bottom.
Price: £330 or in Americaland 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: You get an assortment of tips and a gigantic case. Both of which I think should remain in the box. Expect to order a usable case and comfortable tips yourself.
Build Quality: Etys had a stellar build quality reputation when they were plastic, these are now metal and will likely out live you.
Isolation: Etys 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 where 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: They are the ultimate in benchmark, reference setting, proper In Ear Monitors. They are reference flat acoustically while many wont love it as you cannot feel the lows with your whole ear and whole body. If you like Beats, these are not for you. These are massively isolating, acoustic analytical tools more than they are what people think of as earphones. They aren’t listening devices but tools of acoustic examination. Outstanding detail levels, everything deadpan presented before you is a coolly detached manner. Feed them stunning, flawless, beautifully recorded and produced music and you will be highly rewarded. Feed them crap and they expose every shortcoming, it will be extremely apparent too and this can ruin a well-loved old track. You can’t not hear the imperfections with them. While they are the more bassy version, don’t think for one second that these are bassy IEM’s. They are comparatively bassy for an Ety but will not offer the scale of bass enhancement that many might look for. The bump is there and if you A/B them with the SR you can hear it noticeably but they are still far more light in the bass than most things out there.
Value: Well, you want true reference grade stuff that’ll be around in 30 years’ time probably, your wallet will be just as violated as your ears will be by it.
Pro’s: If the world could only have 1 IEM in existence, this should be the one.
Con’s: Wallet ouchy. Still won’t have enough bass to please many. Wallet ouchy.