Etymotic ER4PT

Score

Pros

  • Detailed, spacious sound
  • Good isolation

Cons

  • Fairly low sub-bass impact
  • Fiddly fit

Key Features

  • Review Price: £249.00
  • Balanced armature driver
  • 1.5m cable
  • Carry case and foam/silicone tips

What are the Etymotic ER4PT?

The Etymotic ER4PT are top-end

earphones costing around £250. They’ve been around for a while, but

having not checked out an Etymotic top model since 2006, I thought it

was time for a look at what the company is offering today.

If

you’re after a lean, mostly uncoloured sound – where each part of the

mix sits in its own clear space – then these earphones offer up some of

the best sound available from a single driver. Want bags of power and

beefy bass? Then the Etymotic ER4PTs probably aren’t for you.

They’re

audio nerd earphones. However, they’re in desperate need of an update,

since they lack a cable with both a built-in remote and shirt clip that

would make them otherwise ideal for those wanting earphones for their

journey to and from work.

ER4PT 5

Etymotic ER4PT – Design and Comfort

Whether you opt for entry-level earphones such as the MK5s or the top-end ER4PTs, Etymotic’s earpieces share the same look – they’re a bit like tubes with wires attached to the ends.

Etymotic

has also largely ignored the trend for using flashy materials. The

Etymotic ER4PT have a light, plastic housing, rather than a metal one

giving a more expensive feel.

However, the plastic used is a

league above the cheap-feeling material present in the Etymotic MK5s.

I’ve no major complaints about the ER4PT’s lack of bling.

ER4PT 9

Other

parts of the design might put some of you off, though. First, the

earpieces stick out from your ears by quite some margin – although it

gives you plenty to tug on when you want to take them out.

However,

this position does a funny thing to the Etymotic ER4PT’s “pivot point”.

The earphones have a rather chunky plastic ingot that sits where the

left and right cables meet. So although they’re very light, the weight

here makes the Etymotic ER4PT feel as though they’re ever-so-slowly

trying to work their way out of your ears – or at least pulling on them,

when you’re walking around with them in.

The simple solution is to use the included shirt clip, specifically designed to clamp onto this bulky plastic section.

I’d

usually leave such an accessory in the box, but with the ER4PTs I’d

recommend using it. It won’t be so easy to use if you tend to wear

t-shirts rather than shirts, or other clothing without an obvious

clip-friendly seam. Plus, the oversized clip will also do nothing for

your fashion cred.

ER4PT 7

The

clip largely deals with the issue of comfort, and puts an end to much

of the noise that is otherwise a result of the chunky cable bouncing

against your clothing. Known as microphonic noise, it is often an issue

with earphones that offer good isolation.

The ER4PT’s isolation

is excellent, especailly when used with the foam tips included in the

box, which areof the triple-flanged silicone variety. I didn’t find

their invasive fit particularly comfortable, however. This is largely

down to the shape of your ear’s insides, so some may be fine with them.

Despite

all the extra bulk, the Etymotic ER4PT don’t inlcude any form of

hands-free functionality or remote control. That huge bit of plastic

really is just there to act as a junction point for the cable.

ER4PT
The ER4PT accessories package

It

does feel like a quality cable, though. It’s braided up top,

chunkier-than-average down below and longer than a standard cable.

One

other area where the Etymotic ER4PT lag behind other top-end earphones

is that its cable is non-removable, or at least not user-replaceable.

It’s designed for easy repair should it become damaged, however. But

you’ll have to buy a £20 replacement from eBay and do the job yourself.

Etymotic ER4PT – Sound Quality

The

Etymotic ER4PT aren’t at the cutting-edge of earphone-related frilly

bits. However, there’s much less to complain about on the inside.

They

use single, balanced armature drivers, and claim to be among the “most

accurate” earphones available. Sure enough, they have a tone that

emphasises detail, clarity and the separation between instruments.

ER4PT 11

The

Etymotic ER4PT are slightly bright-sounding, with no extra bass down

below to provide a safety cushion to balance out any harshness in the

mids or treble. However, Etymotic isn’t a new starter in the earphone

world; it knows how to tune a driver.

There’s great mid-range

texture and detail to the Etymotic ER4PT. Vocals are lifelike and

“full”, without needing to lean on extra bass for a similar effect – as

some lesser earphones do.

Although £250 may seem like a lot to pay for a single-driver model, when earphones such as the Shure SE425 offer two for around the same price, the mid-range sophistication justifies the ER4PT’s place among similarly pricey peers.

Some

accuse Etymotic’s earphones of sounding a bit “clinical”, but this

suggests there’s something artificial in the sound, of which I found no

evidence. It’s better to think of the Etymotic ER4PT as lean-sounding.

They are a bit uncompromising, but worth savouring if your palate suits.

ER4PT 13

This

sort of signature risks becoming tiring or a little harsh after some

time, which is something I’ve found to be true of the lower-end Etymotic

MK5.

This isn’t the case here. While the ER4PTs don’t have the

silky-smoothness of earphones with a bulkier sound, there’s no sense of

sibilance or hard edges to the treble or mids. I’d expect no less at

this price.

The question is whether you want what they’re

selling. The Etymotic ER4PT offer true high-end sound, and – contrary to

some reports – aren’t anaemic at all. However, on occasion I did miss

the extra sub-bass power heard from rivals such as the Sennheiser IE8i and Shure SE425.

While the ER4PT are capable of pumping out low bass frequencies, the volume at which they do so is generally lesser than most.

When

asked to thwack out more aggressive or forceful music, the Etymotic

ER4PT can seem a little restrained. They lack some of the power of, for

example, earphones with secondary drivers whose entire remit is dealing

with those lower frequencies.

One interesting extra bundled with

the ER4PT in the UK is a converter cable that turns these earphones

into the Etymotic ER-4S. This significantly reduces the output and

flattens the frequency response even further. The character of the sound

is similar, but it’s worth checking out if you have a particularly loud

source or are using a headphone amp of some kind.

ER4PT 3
Should I buy the Etymotic ER4PT?

The

Etymotic ER4PT aren’t high-tech earphones, at least not in a way most

people will appreciate. There’s clever engineering at play to get the

earpieces so slim, but the fit is unusual and the lack of a

remote/hands-free may be a deal-breaker for some.

However, they

still have great appeal for the audiophile crowd, which has always been

Etymotic’s core audience. Good refinement and a zero-fat policy helps to

deliver a clean, clear and detailed sound that’s a great pairing for

close listening.

That they exist is all the more important now that the somewhat comparable– but admittedly cheaper – Phonak Audeo PFE 112 Earphones are no longer available.

Verdict

Elegant-sounding earphones for those willing to trade power for precision.

Overall Score

Latest from Trusted Reviews