Etymotic ER4-XR Review

Etymotic ER4-SR Review

Newly arrived at our review desk, I’ve barely gotten the Etymotic ER4-XR out of the box than I’m hit by that new-earphone smell.  But the ER4-XR isn’t just new to me; fans of Etymotics will note this model was announced only three months ago, and is now hitting store shelves.  So how does this $349 in-ear headphone sound?  And how does that sound compare to other earphones?  And is it an improvement over older Etymotic models?

Etymotic ER4-XR Review

Etymotic ER4-XR Review

The ER4-XR comes in a spiffy cardboard box.  Inside that box, you’ll find the earphones, as well as a carrying case and a load of eartips – including triple-flange silicon tips and memory foam tips.

This new Etymotic earphone also utilizes a removable cable with an MMCX connection.  While this feature is sure to have its detractors, the manufacturer has vouched for improved performance over similar cables used by other manufacturers.

Comfort wise, the ER4-XR can be a mixed bag – just like any other Etymotic earphone, these can take some getting used to.  While the flange tips would offer you a better seal, those with weirdly-shaped ear canals may find them a bit uncomfortable (as I did, at times).  But the inclusion of foam tips can remedy this problem somewhat.


Frequency Response 20 Hz – 16 kHz
Transducers High performance, balanced armature micro-drivers
Noise Isolation 35-42 dB
Impedance (@1kHz) 45 Ohms
Sensitivity (@1 kHz) SPL at 0.1v 98 dB
Maximum Output (SPL) 122 dB
Cable 5 ft Detachable
User Replaceable ACCU-Filters Yes
Warranty 2 Years
Custom-Fit Option Yes

As these specs show, the ER4-XR offers a fairly standard frequency range, a little lower volume, and a slightly higher-than-normal impedance.  While the sound could improve slightly when paired with an amplifier, I found it more than pleasing when paired straight to a low-output device like my FiiO X5 or my PC.

Low End

With a deep and full sound, the low end of the ER4-XR is deliciously resonant.  The level of detail here is excellent for an in-ear headphone.  Bass has some decent impact with great control, leading to zero bleed and a miraculously clean sound overall.


The midrange on the ER4-XR is accurate and detailed, without an iota of compression or distortion.  This is helped along by exemplary separation, leading to a sound that would best be described as rich.  Where vocals are concerned, I only have two words:  g’damn, son.

High End

Brimming with more detail, the high end might wax a little bright at times, to the point that it can seem to overshadow the low end.  However, the sound never becomes too piercing or uncomfortable, but remains sharp and contrasting.


There is brilliant depth and placement to the ER4-XR’s soundstage.  Intoxicating and immersive, the sound is grand, sweeping, and unnervingly realistic.  Forget concerts and buy these Etymotics.

Overall Impressions

The Etymotic ER4-XR is an impressive earphone with strong performance across the board.  Well worth the price tag, the only real question that needs asking is this:  Are you ready to for sound this good?  The sound signature won’t be for everyone, but the detail-rich and dynamic flavor is sure to win over most.


If you’re looking for a flatter sound, the Etymotic ER4-XR may not be for you.  Its sister model, the ER4-SR may actually be a better choice, with a more relaxed low end that doesn’t  have quite the energy of the XR version.  Or you could consider something like a Westone W30, though the high end on both headphones may be equally bright.

However, for use with multiple genres and wherever a rich, full sound with dynamic range is preferred, the Etymotic ER4-XR is one of those rare best-in-class headphones.  Do your ears a favor and put these headphones inside of them.

You can find these headphones for the best price here:

Audio 46 (Use our promo code, “majorhifi” to get a 10% discount)



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Carroll is a headphone junkie residing in Brooklyn. He's a huge fan of Grado, UK hip hop, and the English Language in general. When not testing audio equipment or writing, you'll find him taking photographs or fiddling with circuit boards. You can contact him at