Review: Etymotic ER4-XR ER4-SR – Impressive!

Disclaimer: The Etymotic ER4 XR and SR were sent to us by KS Distribution in Germany. The samples don’t need to be returned.



Never heard of Etymotic before? Impossible! Etymotic Research is an engineering-driven research, development and manufacturing company. The name “Etymotic” (pronounced “et-im-oh-tik.”) means “true to the ear.” Mead Killion, Ph.D. founded Etymotic Research in 1983 to design products that accurately assess hearing, improve the lives of those with hearing loss, protect hearing, and enhance the listening experience of musicians and music lovers everywhere.

With deep roots in acoustic research and the hearing aid industry, Etymotic invented insert earphones in 1984. Etymotic’s original earphone design used balanced armature receivers, which established these speakers as the gold standard for high definition in-ear earphones. The first versions were used for diagnostic testing and precision auditory research (ER-1, 2, 3). Etymotic produced the first noise-isolating high-fidelity in-ear earphone, the ER-4 (1991), which became the basis of all subsequent in-ear earphones and in-ear monitors worldwide, and created an entire category of consumer electronics. The ER-4 earphones are still produced and channel-balanced to within 1 dB in Etymotic’s labs in the US.

So we really have a lot to thank to Etymotic!


So yes, the Etymotic ER4-series are legendary. Mike reviewed the ER4 back in 2010 already and they worldwide are held in very high regards by those professionally working in audio and by music lovers seeking neutrality and detail. If the ER4 still doesn’t ring a bell then maybe a picture will do the trick as the Etymotic design is very typical.

Etymotic has now relaunched their ER4-series with two new editions named the ER4-XR and ER4-SR. SR stands for Studio Reference and XR stands for Extended Response. The ER4 earphones have a balanced armature speaker with precision matched, custom tuned drivers. Each set is handpicked left and right to get the best possible match.

The ER4 has unsurpassed frequency response accuracy and sound quality — 92%+ response accuracy from 20 Hz – 16 kHz and with 122dB they have the highest output sensitivity in its class.

The older models will remain in Etymotic’s inventory and available for sale until late 2017 or as supplies last. There’s an excellent Head-Fi thread on the ER4-Series right here, should you want to discuss this IEM any further.

Build Quality & Comfort

The build quality of the new ER4-series is excellent but I didn’t expect anything less from the US based Etymotic. The inear units have that typical small and long shape and deep insertion the ER4-series is known for. The new ER4 models feature metal bodies with an anodized finish and you’ll find the serial number of each unit printed on the housing, and the measurement of that driver is in the box. The ER4-SR and the ER4-XR have drivers that are unique to their respective models. They are not the same drivers as in previous generations of the ER4.

The cable actually is detachable (MMCX termination) but I haven’t felt the need to try a different cable on these monitors at all. The cable itself is flexible and completely friction noise free. It measures about 5ft and it’s terminated with a 90° 3.5mm plug. It has never tangled up.

The ER4 comes delivered with two types of tip: the typical Etymotic triple silicone tip and the big yellow foam tip. I personally prefer the comfort and isolation of the foam tips most and I have no issues with listening to these for hours without any break. When you’ve plugged the ER4 in your ear you even with no music playing get a very high level of isolation. That means you don’t have to turn the volume up very high to get to your preferred listening volume which of course is safer for your hearing. At the same time do watch out when using these in public as practically all outside sound will be blocked out. Etymotic says that you, depending on the tips used, will get isolation levels between 35 and 42dB, and that’s extreme. (Most CIEM are around 26dB) If you don’t like the feel of custom inears or universal IEMs with a deep insertion, then the Etymotic ER4-series might not be for you. I personally have no issues with the deep insertion myself.

The Etymotic ER4 earphones always come with a 2-year replacement warranty. On top of that the filters, which are used to protect the BA driver from ear wax, are user replaceable. Did you know that the ER4-series are also available with a custom fit molded piece upon request?

Price & Accessories

Both ER4-models are available for $349 USD and around €370€. In return for that you get a reasonably pretty (yet useless once unpacked) box, the earphones, a detachable 5 ft. Cord, a ¼ stereo phone adaptor, an assortment of eartips, the filter removal tool and replacement filters, a shirt clip, a storage case and the performance certificate with the me measurements.

At this price level that’s a very nice set of extras, especially with the filter tool and replacement filters, although some extra foam tips wouldn’t have hurt anyone.

Sound and a lot more on the next page after the jump HERE or below 

Technical specifications

Frequency Response20 Hz – 16 kHzTransducersHigh performance, balanced armature micro-driversNoise Isolation35-42 dBImpedance (@1kHz)4XR (45 Ohms) 4SR (45 Ohms)Sensitivity (@1 kHz) SPL at 0.1v4XR (98 dB) 4SR (98 dB)Maximum Output (SPL)122 dBCable5 ft DetachableUser Replaceable ACCU-FiltersYesWarranty2 Years

Sound and a lot more on the next page after the jump HERE or below