It has been a long time since I’ve tested a pair of Etymotic earbuds. But I remember my general impressions were that they were highly accurate, evenly balanced, ridiculously sound isolating and probably somewhat boring since I haven’t revisited them in a few years. I only jest. Die hard Etymotic fans, don’t get your panties in a twist. We all know that Etymotic is a serious brand among the audio elites and sound professionals. So, let’s get right down to it. Priced at a reasonable 160 bucks, what can you expect from the newly released ER2XR? Let’s find out in this Etymotic ER2XR Review.
Etymotic ER2XR Review
IN the BOX
For those already familiar with the Etymotic fit, scroll down the page. They’re exactly what you’re used to. But for those who are new to Etymotic, know that these buds go so far in your ear canals that you can taste them. Etymotics are classically worn with triple flange eartips, but you’ll also find some foam tips in the box. The seal is super snug, and once you have them in, you probably hear very little. (In fact, it eliminates more noise than any noise-cancelling headphone I’ve tested). Originally designed for audio professionals and stage musicians, these buds offer about 35 dB of sound isolation. That’s more than Shure’s SE 215. 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. But if you have an itch deep in your canal that you just can’t scratch, these buds should provide you with some relief. I’m not kidding. Earwax accumulation is such a serious concern that Etymotic even provides an extra pair of replacement stem filters for if and when the original ones become clogged.
Like the higher priced and more famous ER4 models, there are two ER2 versions: the SE and the XR. While the ER2SE sports a flat balance (designed for critical listeners/audio professionals), the XR has a little more bass oomph. So, the ER2XR will probably be the more fun choice for casual listeners. And, of course, especially if you’re a drummer of bass player, the XR is a more suitable option for stage use than the SE.
With an impedance of 15 ohms and a sensitivity of 96dBm these buds are reasonably easy to drive, and 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, and I forgot my damn iPhone dongle, I’ve paired the ER2XR with my trusty Astell&Kern SA700 DAP.
The ER2XR sports 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.
Etymotic didn’t lie when they promised more bass. There’s nothing boring about the low-end here. Generous in both presence and depth, the ER2XR delivers a fat and grippy bass when listening to pop tracks. Still, the detail remains, and instruments like strings retain plenty of texture, while avoiding that bloated feeling you get after 2 Guinness and chicken pot pie. Satiating, yes. But that famous Etymotic cleanliness still remains, with the low frequencies neatly separated from the mids. So, expect warmth without the mush.
Now, I’m not using any frequency charts, so I can’t speak too precisely about balance in the midrange. But the upper mids “feel” slightly more present than the lower half of this range. Most vocals, for example, shined a touch through the mix. But this doesn’t mean much, since the upper midrange always sounds louder to the ear. Still, I would have liked a tad more oomph in the lower midrange to bring a little extra body to expansive rock and pop-rock tracks. That’s not to say that these buds lack fullness. It’s still a comprehensive sound. And one can’t deny that the ER2XR performs beautifully for the price point. Separation is top notch, and even old Nick Drake recordings revealed meticulously clean guitar strums in the lower mids. The layering is fantastic. And classical strings sounded incredibly realistic, revealing even the most subtle vibrations in timbre and bow contact.
This frequency range in particular makes the ER2XR an optimal choice for musicians. No sharpness, no unnatural “crispness” with respect to percussion. This is a fatigue free listening experience, even for those who tend to listen at dangerously loud volumes. Careful kids! The highs don’t feel blunted or shamelessly rolled off. But let’s just say that Miles Davis is tolerable when listening through these buds.
The soundstage is where some may argue that the Etymotic IEMs are somewhat challenged. It’s not that the imaging doesn’t feel accurate. In fact, you’ll hear ample dimension and accuracy in terms of instrument placement, making it a fun listen. However, in terms of size, it just conveys very intimate feel rather particularly vast or grand stage.
PROS and CONS
Pros: Hard to beat separation and resolution for the price point. Yes, accurate and incredibly realistic for under 200 bucks.
Cons: Hard to forget you’re wearing them.
Man, I see what all the fuss is about, my little Etymotic nerds. The ER2XR presents a super clean, extremely detailed and highly natural sound for the price. In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of an IEM under 200 bucks that can beat it in terms of skill. And dare I say it, these buds are fun too (while keeping a no bull*$%^ attitude). Not too flat, a bass that satisfies, and highs that are easy on the ears. If you’ve been eyeing the ER4’s but just can’t shell out the cash, the ER2XR is certainly a worthy compromise.
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