The ER.4 microPros ship with three sizes of triple flange silicone tips, none of which I found comfortable. I couldn’t manage to get a good seal with any of the triple flange tips, but then I don’t even like double flange tips and far prefer single flange designs. Thankfully you also get five pairs of foam tips in the box and these work very well indeed. The sound isolation is first rate using the foam tips, and I also found these headphones very comfortable to wear for extended periods using the foam tips.
Also in the box is a 3.5mm to full-size headphone converter, in case you want to use these with your home hi-fi. But it was the inclusion of a little plastic tube containing four tiny metal cylinders that confused me at first. A quick flick through the instruction manual revealed that each headphone is equipped with a tiny filter, ensuring that no ear wax or dirt ever makes it near the driver. If the filters become clogged or blocked they can be replaced with the spare units in the plastic tube – there’s even a specific tool provided for replacing the filters. I have never seen anything like this before, and it means that you don’t have to dig around inside the headphone to clean it when it gets dirty, thus saving your expensive audio device from any inadvertent damage.
When it comes to sound quality the ER.4 microPros don’t disappoint. Once I’d switched to the foam tips, the noise isolation was excellent and the bass response much improved. Etymotic market these headphones as “the next best thing to live music”, which is a pretty bold claim. With this in mind I fired up the Rolling Stones classic, Paint it Black, having heard it played live at the Millennium Stadium only a few days ago. The result was very impressive – the guitar intro comes across as subtly haunting, just as it should do, while the vocals are strong and incisive.
Next up was the live rendition of Hotel California by The Eagles, and again the ER.4 microPros did themselves proud – every pick of every string on every guitar could be separated from the next, while the percussion was strong but not in any way overwhelming. Spybreak! by the Propellerheads showed that these headphones don’t suffer from a lack of bass response like the Shure e4c set, although the sound still wasn’t as full as with the Ultimate Ears super-fi Pros.
But where these headphones really excel is when they have to cope with a wide dynamic range. I found myself listening to Breath Me by Sia over and over again. The solo piano intro is crystal clear, while the sound of Sia sighing before drawing a breath to begin singing is easily audible, while on other headphones it can sound muffled. The introduction of the xylophone adds weight to proceedings and again, each strike can be picked out over the piano and vocals, without intruding on them. As the song builds to its crescendo ending, you can still pick out every single instrument, despite the fact that your whole head is just awash with sound.