Etymotic’s release of the ER3SE and ER3XR exposed the curiosities of many audiophiles. They’re prices are $179 which is cheaper than the previous ER4 model which is $349. So it’s left all of us at Major HiFi wondering how they differ. Today I’ll take a look at the “studio reference” versions of the two and explore their variations with this Etymotic ER3SE vs Etymotic ER4SR earphone comparison review.
Etymotic ER3SE vs Etymotic ER4SR Earphone Comparison Review
In the Box
|Etymotic ER3SE||Etymotic ER4SR|
|detachable cable||detachable cable|
|soft , zipping carrying case||hard-shell, zipping carrying case|
|two pairs of 3-flange ear tips||four pairs of 3-flange ear tips|
|one pair of foam tips||two pairs of foam tips|
|filter removal tool and replacement filters||filter removal tool and replacement filters|
|shirt clip||shirt clip|
|documentation||3.5mm to 6.5mm adapter|
Both the Etymotic ER3SE and the ER4SR have extremely similar designs. Their driver housings are the exact same size and have a light and slender body. They both have detachable cables, but this is where they differ. The cable of the ER4SR has individually shielded wires leading up to the ear piece while the ER3SE has more of a standard cable design.
I’ll admit that the classic Etymotic 3-flange eartip style doesn’t work well for my ears. It honestly freaks me out a little bit to push something so far into my ear canal and so for my review I actually switched eartips to a pair of Etymotic Glider tips. These tips worked much better for me and also provided impressive sound isolation!
Overall, the Etymotic ER3SE is louder than the Etymotic ER4SR. But let’s break the sound down in terms of their frequency ranges:
The Etymotic ER3SE and the Etymotic ER4SR have very similar low ends in that they are both modest, flat, and balanced. The range is about the same level-wise and energy-wise, however the ER3 is a little bit less tight sounding. The biggest difference between the two is that the ER4 has a more detailed dynamic response. As a result, transient hits from kick drums and bass guitars have more separation and finesse than the ER3SE.
Both the Etymotic ER3SE and the ETymotic ER4SR have very detailed and analytical midranges. Both sport a boost at around 4.5kHz which makes vocals lean a bit forward in the mix. Additionally, the ER3SE has a frequency cut at around 5kHz. As a result, vocal consonants are slightly more detailed in the ER4. Conversely, the ER4 has a frequency boost at about 2kHz, so it’s vocal feels more separated from instruments in comparison to the ER3.
While the Etymotic ER4SR has better high frequency extension, both earphones have a similar sound signature here because of frequency boosts at 7kHz. Additionally, the ER3SE has a boost at 11kHz and as a result, has a much more present sense of air on vocals, strings, and other acoustic instruments. This high range is also much more dynamically reactive in the ER4 than the ER3.
Because of the ER4SR’s superior response to dynamics, it has a much more accurate sense of depth than the ER3SE. Both earphones have an accurate sense of width and I was actually impressed by the accuracy of their height despite the modest low end response.
Both the Etymotic ER3SE and ER4SR are detailed and clear. While the ER4SR is better in a number of ways, the ER3 is a wonderful alternative to those wanting a less expensive option.
The ER3SE and the ER4SR are available for the best price here: