Yesterday, or whenever, because what is time, I reviewed the Etymotic ER2XR. Detailed, well-balanced and true to Etymotic’s brand, it proved to be a great compromise for those who don’t want to shell out the extra cash for the higher priced models. Today, I’ll be reviewing the ER2SE, the studio edition of the ER2 series. What can you expect in terms of sound and design? Let’s take a look in this Etymotic ER2SE Review.
Etymotic ER2SE Review
IN the BOX
For those who are new to Etymotic, know that these buds go so far in your ear canals that you can skip your annual colonic. Etymotics are classically worn with triple flange eartips, but you’ll also find some foam tips in the box. The seal is very snug, and once you have them in, you probably hear very little. Designed with audio professionals and stage musicians in mind, these buds offer about 35 dB of sound isolation. And, in fact, they’re probably more isolating than anything else you’ll find on the market at this price point.
With respect to comfort, don’t expect a particularly forgiving experience. You’ll always feel them in there. And for folks who are not used to this kind of fit, it can feel rather intrusive. In fact, Etymotic even provides an extra pair of replacement stem filters for if and when the original ones become clogged with earwax.
Like the higher priced and more famous ER4 models, there are two ER2 versions: the SE and the XR. While the XR is designed for musicians and casual listeners, the SE sports a flatter balance or a little less bass presence. So, it is an optimal IEM for the purists and critical listeners out there.
With an impedance of 15 ohms and a sensitivity of 96dBm these buds are reasonably easy to drive, though they’re not particularly efficient, But you should get more than plenty of volume from even your mobile device. In fact, Etymotic now sells an iPhone compatible version. Since the model I’m testing has the regular 3.5mm termination, I’ve paired the ER2XR with my Astell&Kern SA700 DAP.
The ER2XR employs a single driver. And like the other Etymotic models, it has detachable MMCX connectors, which is a huge selling point for the company. As we all know, cables are the first thing to break. And if longevity is a concern, then ER2XR is a great option at this price point.
Unlike some reference type headphones, which seem to have almost no low-end at all (such as some AKG models), Etymotic has kept things reasonable. That is, yes, the bass falls on the neutral end of the spectrum, but it doesn’t feel artificially lacking. So, these buds seem to be trustworthy for music mixing applications. That being said, casual listeners will probably gravitate more to the XR model, as the SE has much low end warmth and bass impact than the more dynamic XR. At the same time, the SE stops short of feeling sterile, for the most part, and those who like this kind of tuning will still find the SE a relatively fun time.
As mentioned in my review of the XR, technically, the SE has a quite evenly balanced midrange, though to the naked ear, the upper mids may feel a bit more present than the lower mids. In terms of clarity, the SE presents a very tidy profile for this price point. Fantastic separation, even in those tricky lower mids, while, at the same time, the profile avoids sounding thin or anemic. The level of transparency is especially impressive for an IEM at this price point. Listening to my boy, Yo Yo Ma, the timbre sounded highly realistic and nuanced, while the faintest subtleties in bow contact were also apparent.
Unsurprisingly, you won’t here any extension in this range. So, these buds are good for long listening sessions. There’s no fatiguing sparkle, though at the same time, the highest peaks don’t fee particularly blunted. So, you shouldn’t experience too much FOMO here.
Etymotic is not known for a vast soundstage. And given the physical design, you can probably understand why. So, don’t expect a Campfire-like experience. That being said, the imaging is certainly there, and instrument placement feels precise enough to trust for a mixing session.
PROS and CONS
Pros: Honest tuning, great separation, impressive transparency for the price point.
Cons: Not for those who like a little pizazz in their sound signature. Fit may feel a little intrusive for some.
Though obviously not the most charismatic sound signature on the block, the is a sound you can certainly trust. Relatively flat in balance, with great separation and transparency for this price point, I feel comfortable in recommending the ER2SE for any kind of mixing or critical listening application. Casual listeners, however, may get a more satiating listening experience from the ER2XR.
You can find the ER2SE for the best price here:
Etymotic ER2SE at Audio 46
Etymotic ER2SE on Amazon
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