Etymotic Research ER.4 microPro Headphones - Etymotic Research ER.4 microPro

By Riyad Emeran

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

So, there’s no denying that the sound quality from these headphones is first rate, but is it better than the Ultimate Ears super-fi Pros? To be honest it’s a very close fought contest, but I think that the Ultimate Ears just take the win. The Ultimate Ears provide a more powerful sound than the Etymotics, meaning that you don’t need to crank the volume quite so high. Also, the silicone tips on the super-fi Pros just fit my ears like a glove, in a kind of reverse simile way, thus cancelling even more ambient noise than the Etymotics. That said, the Ultimate Ears headphones are quite bulky, which could put some users off, while these Etymotics weigh practically nothing, so much so that you barely notice that they’re there.

Of course there’s also the issue of price to consider, and while many would balk at the thought of paying £140 for the Ultimate Ears headphones, at £190, the cost of the ER.4 microPros will seem downright scary to many potential buyers. To be fair though, the ER.4 microPros are far from the most expensive in-ear headphones available – I’m in the middle of testing the Shure E500PTH headphones and these carry a heart attack inducing £420 RRP!

Verdict

The Etymotic Research ER.4 microPro headphones are very good, there is absolutely no denying that. The sound quality is excellent, the bundle is extensive and the build quality is solid. £190 is definitely a lot of money to spend, especially if you’re plugging them into an MP3 player that cost you a fraction of that price, but as with most audio devices, you get what you pay for.

The ER.4 microPros definitely produce a more balanced and pleasing sound than the Shure e4c set, but given the choice I would still opt for the Ultimate Ears super-fi Pros. It’s a close call, but the fuller, more powerful sound and lower price point of the Ultimate Ears, mean that the ER.4 microPros just miss out on a Recommended award.

Overall Score

8

Scores In Detail

  • Value 7

XiaXueYi

December 13, 2008, 10:07 pm

If I'm not wrong Etymotic Research products (or IEMs because I don't think they hav cans yet) are well-known for "recording-standard music reproduction". That means that while the music may or may not be as warm compared to other IEMs like the UEs, Shure or Westone, the ER IEMs stay faithful to the source of the music.





You don't even need to turn up the volume to that 'comfortable' level and you can hear all the details in the music. Be careful with these though - as with high-end earphones, the "rubbish in, rubbish out" will come in. Etymotic Research IEMs are especially unforgiving, they will duplicate not only your superb guitar riffs and saxophone blowing, but static and artifacts caused by file compression will ALL come out. Yeah, I'm not kidding. I own a pair of ER-6is, the cheaper (and slightly weaker of course) version of the ER-4 series (together with the ER-6), and while being a little more than twice as cheap, their music reproduction was top-notch. So I would go out of my way to say that whoever are looking for note-for-note reproduction of their music, will not be dissatisfied with the ER-4 'phones, whether it be ER-4P, ER-4S or ER-4B.





One final note to whoever reviewed this product and to potential buyers - the triple flange sleeves may be comfortable to some, uncomfortable for larger ears. BUT, one thing these "Christmas tree" sleeves guarantee is near-total passive noise isolation. Go on an aeroplane or a subway train, the most you'll ever hear (or feel) is vibration from the transport in question. The foams also do the same to a certain degree, but I personally prefer the silicone sleeves. They give greater clarity and isolation, while the foams are, I heard, known for giving warmer sound and better-sounding bass - and the ER IEMs are known to be generally bass-deficient somehow, and therefore not recommended for bassheads.





As for this sentence "The Ultimate Ears provide a more powerful sound than the Etymotics, meaning that you don’t need to crank the volume quite so high", the ER-4 series have considerably higher impedence, i.e. more electrical resistance. While portables like the iPod can drive the music fairly well, it is recommended you get an amplifier to compliment an ER-4S/P/B. And so I've heard in places like Head-Fi.org, that the only amplifier reviewed in this website, the Graham Slee Voyager, is a great match with the ER-4s! Some even go so far as to claim that they are a "pair married in heaven".





But as far as hi-fi audio goes, it is said that your ears and your heart are your best friends. Try them out at a retail store if you can - or otherwise, hunt down those reviews. But PLEASE take them reviews, and notwithstanding my comment here, with a pinch of salt. Your ears are different from mine, and you might find something I didn't.





Enjoy your ER-4!

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