This review is for the Etymotic ER6 isolating in ear phones. They are an excellent choice for those looking for a much improved sound than the standard headphones bundled along with mp3/smart phones these days. Although a price premium will be paid, you will hear notes and sounds that you may not have heard before in the song. On top of that the isolation is great, I was slamming doors around the house when I first got this and couldn't hear a thing other than the music I was playing via the iPhone. Additionally, I was getting no comments from others with regards to external noise either on public transport or elsewhere to lower the music levels which in turn brings me to the point that you will most likely be listening to music at lower volumes than non isolating headphones and consequently it's better for you long term hearing!
Reliable, no issues whilst I've owned them and I listen to them at least every other day
Great bass and treble
Bit tricky to get the fit right at first
I received these headphones about two years ago as a present so I am unaware of the price of the headphones and therefore cannot comment on whether they are good value. Although, I do believe them to be quite expensive.
The sound quality of these headphones is superb and they reduce external noise - a big advantage in my opinion. However, they can sometimes be a little uncomfortable in your ears if you have had them in for a while, but this can be solved by replacing the plastic ear buds with foam ear buds. The headphones also provide higher sound output dor iPods and other portable music players.
They are also easy to transport as they come with a little case. This means that you don't have to wrap the headphones around you iPod or MP3 player, which can sometimes wear down the wire or break the connection of the headphones.
A big problem with the ear phones is that there is no remote on the headphone wire. So when you are on the go it means that you have to take out the device and change what you want to change that way - the head phones would be improved with this feature.
If those iPod earbuds are getting you down with their sub-par performance, it's time to upgrade to something with a touch more class. Enter the Etymotic ER6 Isolator earphones.
These mid-range 'phones have been designed specifically with travel and portability in mind, coming complete with case, replacement tips and a lightweight body design for easy on-the-go usage.
What's more, these phones are designed to be inserted directly into the ear canal itself, ensuring optimal passive noise cancellation operation. So, if you don't fancy listening to inane bus chatter on your way home from work, the ER6s may seem like an ideal investment.
WHAT YOU GET
Along with the Velcro-sealed travel pouch and interchangeable eartips you also receive a handy tie clip to hold your wires in place, a set of replacement filters for when they get clogged up with earwax, and a tool to easily extract the old filters when the time comes.
Considering the price, you actually get a fairly good kit for the deal. Whilst I would have liked an extra set of foam plugs to accompany the package, it still leaves you with a reasonable set of options for getting started.
As I mentioned in my Audio Technica review some months back, each pair of headphones/earphones have their own sound signature; for example, the ATH-AD700s are treble heavy with great spatial qualities.
Summing up the ER6's signature is both a pleasure and a joy. An almost mechanical evenness across the board produces a wonderful result. Sweet, virtually roaring bass, strong well-rounded midtones and crisp trebles create one of the most pleasing results I've ever experienced from a set of in-ear buds.
Spatially, the ER6s are quite dynamic considering their size. Whilst the soundstage feels tight (and understandably bordering on the claustrophobic at times), the ER6s do a remarkable job of pushing out the sonic elements as far and as wide as possible.
The ER6s do their best work on modern, or remastered, pop music. High, glossy production values create the best result, with Top 40 hits sounding crisp, detailed and lively.
Electronica, hip-hop and indie fans will certainly get their money's worth. Low frequencies are represented with sumptuous accuracy and beats feel punchy and broad. Swipes, samples and spots all seem bright and pleasing, while vocalists remain neutral but highly complementary to the track as a whole.
By contrast, raw rock and metal can feel muddy and slightly cloudy at times, especially when drums are thumping, bass guitars thrashing and singers are all crowing in unison; the sound separation isn't really sufficient to cope with overdriven nuances in these circumstances.
Unlike other headsets that rely on battery powered microphones to cancel out external noise, these Isolator earphones use passive technology. The phones are embedded into the ear canal itself in order to block the transmission of sound from the outside world; think of it like ear plugs with a sound system built in.
The isolation technology works as well as you'd expect given the design, and definitely performs a lot better than most cancellation methods. You'd certainly find moments of musical Zen with these inserted; but this brings with it a whole host of problems, not least blocking out sound you may actually want to hear such as a doorbell ringing or a car horn peeping.
Overall, the cancellation system gets a big thumbs up from me; while I admit each variety of earplug brings with it a noticeably different result (plastic is certainly more effective than foam), taken as a whole there are no complaints to be had.
Comfort is one of the largest considerations when it comes to choosing noise-cancelling ear buds. This is where I have a few issues with the ER6s; mild irritation with the plastic plugs has left me reluctant to use these attachments for extensive periods.
While the foam produces a much better result for long listening sessions, they do require constant replacement for the sake of hygiene - plastic can be cleaned with soapy water and constantly reused while the foam buds have nowhere to go except the trash.
Still, others have reported no such comfort issues; in fact, many have complemented the lightweight design of the phones and their ability to remain snug and secure during extended periods of listening. My advice would be to use caution; try purchasing from a reputable retailer who'll happily accept returns should you experience discomfort from the ER6's design.
Fitting the earphones is a little unusual due to the isolating properties of the buds. In effect, it means pulling up your outer ear during insertion to slide the earplug deeper into the outer canal. Of course, this requires a little more effort than usual, however you'll soon get used to the procedure and it becomes second nature very quickly.
However, those who have misshapen ear canals may find the fit is somewhat displeasing. Naturally, if you know of an aural defect or have experienced issues in this department before, you should consider looking towards alternatives away from the 'in-ear' design.
Similarly, I've found the fit can be a little *too* snug at times. There have been one or two occasions where the foam buds have disconnected from the drivers, in-ear. A steady hand and a set of tweezers can easily rectify the issue without the need for a trip to A&E, but be aware of the possibility before you buy.
The ER6 Isolator earphones were conceived as a low-cost alternative to the ER4 series. The ER6s uses thinner eartips and a lighter-weight cord than their more expensive cousins. Although the high-end frequencies aren't as well represented by the ER6s, they still make for the most accurate sound reproduction in their class.
In fact, while the ER4s are less than half the price, the performance is almost as good as the top-of-the-range Etymotic earphones. It's no wonder that these buds have been top rate by a whole host of popular publications.
While the ER4s get two years warranty instead of the one you receive with the ER6s, all but the most ardent of audiophiles will find the difference between the two minimal. Given the choice, I'd save the cash and plump for the ER6s any day of the week!
If you're willing to take a chance on something a little unusual, you could unquestionably do a lot worse than the ER6s. For a set of mid-range 'phones you could certainly find few competitors, outside of the Shure EC2s, able to perform as sweetly.
If you want accurate, smooth sound reproduction with blanket noise cancellation coverage and a lightweight design the Etymotic ER6s could just be the phones for you.
Frequency response: 20 Hz to 16 kHz
Tolerance: ±3 dB to 6 kHz, ±6 dB to 16 kHz re nominal
Transducer type: Balanced Armature
1 kHz sensitivity: 97 dB SPL for a 0.1 volt input
Impedance: 48 Ohms
Maximum output: 120 dB SPL
Maximum continuous input: 2.5 Vrms
Weight: less than 1 oz.
In the past 4 years, I've had just about as many pairs of these headphones. The reason for this is simple: there are no other headphones that I would want to use anymore, except these. As mentioned in previous reviews, they have a somewhat badly thought out build, which leads them to break more frequently than other headphones might, and this is generally because the strain of the leads going into the ear-buds can cause the innards of the leads to break, and the thinness and lack of support of the lead, including it's length, allows it to be damaged much more easily from tangles, or wrapping the lead around your MP3 player. This can be resolved with relative ease if you own a half decent soldering iron, and unlike other headphones, opening up the bad boys and cutting the broken part of the wire and re-soldering is pretty easy.
Including the ability to repair them somewhat, the other allurement is there sound quality, from a combination of both sound isloation; to the point where you can accidently ignore friends when you're walking down the street with them on, and sound quality: which is second to none. If you enjoy listening to music at FLAC/ALAC or above standard, you can't go wrong with these. They allow you to hear everything so crystalline clear, that you don't ever want to accept the possibility of using any other headphones. The earbug, which come in several different sizes and shapes, fits in your ear so snugly that nothing can knock them out, I find this feature fantastic when running.
I bought a pair of these headphones after very careful reading of the internet. They are renowned (along with the Shure Ec2 headphones) as being the best mid-range canalphones on the market.
I will break this review down into sections so I don't forget what to say:
Sound quality: I was very impressed with the fidelity of these 'phones. Everything from high-pitched notes through to deep bass was audible. A problem that I thought was present with bass turned out to be a function of getting a good seal in your ear between the headphone and the ear canal. This is a problem with all canalphones, and not one restricted to these. Be advised that there is a bit of a learning-curve with these in terms of getting them to fit and thus deliver the best sound.
As canalphones sit directly in the ear canal, there is a problem with sounds transmitted up the wires as they move against your clothing. These headphones did suffer from this in a way that the Shure headphones don't (the latter are designed so that the wires route over the back of your ears, which damps down and transmitted vibrations).
Comfort: Again, all canalphones create a Marmite-esque response in those who use them: you either love them or hate them. In terms of other canalphones I did not notice any difference in comfort.
Build quality: This is where these headphones let themselves down. The wires going to the actual driver units were very flimsy, and after 6 months of usage the left headphone stopped working.