Etymotic Research ER-4 In-ear Headphones Reviewed

Published On: August 30, 2009
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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Etymotic Research ER-4 In-ear Headphones Reviewed

These in-ear headphones are a dream come true: they provide audiophile quality studio monitors that fit in your ear and are designed not to cause hearing damage. They are lightweight and portable. They are also custom fitted to your ears which takes time but is well worth the wait for a perfect fit...

Etymotic Research ER-4 In-ear Headphones Reviewed


I will never forget the day I got my first Apple iPod. It was from Apple's PR firm and it came to my old office on Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles. Inside there was a small note saying "if your publisher will allow you to keep this device - please feel free to do so." Considering that I was the publisher, I asked myself and I agreed to keep that first iPod, which absolutely blew my mind. At my old publication, we gave it Product of the Year (not because they gave me one either), as the iPod was an instant hit. I could now ditch my clunky Compact Disc player and CD case from my briefcase, thus making my all-important audiophile road rig much lighter as well as containing thousands more songs. The iPod was a game changer for me as it was for millions of other people in the years to come.

Additional Resources
• Read high end headphone reviews from brands like Etymotic Research, Ultimate Ears, Stax, Sennheiser, Grado and more.
Read more about Etymotic Research here.

Adding that old iPod to my mobile rig did give me reason to start looking for new headphones. Acoustician Bob Hodas told me of a new variety of in-ear monitors that some studios and increasing amounts of on-stage performers were using. That got me to the Etymotic Research ER-4 Micro Pro in-ear monitors. Priced a lot higher back them, the ER-4's today sell for $299 a pair and can be found at places like, and beyond. These thin headphones actually go inside your ear and come with a variety of ear molds, foam and other endings that you can try to cut down ambient noise and get greater comfort, as not all ears are the same size and/or shape - even on the inside. The Etymotic ER-4 Micro Pro headphones come with a travel case, ¼ inch adaptor, a longer cable, various foam endings as well as some plasticy/rubber ones.

Sonically, I really like the in-ear concept as done by Etymotic Research. Their speakers aren't colored and without the impact of the acoustics of a room you get a very "now" or immediate sound. The bass is better than you might expect and the overall sound is absolutely audiophile quality, even when being fed by an iPod. Of course the better the source you feed, the better the ER-4s sound but they can rock on uncompressed files from your iPod without question.

Not being one to shy away from going to extremes, I found out that there are professional audiologists who could make sound isolating ear molds that the Etymotic Research ER-4s fit perfectly into. These molds help you cut down the ambient noise in your environment (be it an airplane, on-stage or anywhere) by easily 30 dB if not more. The process of getting fitted for these molds has additional cost and you must get your ears filled with a gel-like substance for which they make the molds. It's an odd experience to be polite and you must absolutely be sitting as you can (and likely will lose your balance). A good doctor or technician in this area could also do a professional cleaning of your ears as well as test your hearing. Both are required.

Read Page 2 for The High Points, Low Points and Conclusion


High Points
• Have you ever been sitting in your airplane seat during pre-boarding trying to ignore the pure hell that you have suffered through to get through security in preparation for your flight, to see that family dragging in their screaming, freaking-out child who cries all the way from New York to Los Angeles? If you know this pain, then you will know why the Etymotic Research ER-4s are worth 10 times their price, especially when using custom ear molds.
• For a tiny asking price, you get audiophile quality studio monitors that go right into your ears. They are designed not to cause hearing damage, which I can't say for more of the hip-hop, bling-bling bullshit headphones out there.
• The Etymotic Research ER-4s are very lightweight which makes carrying them around in your pocket, in your purse or your briefcase perfectly reasonable.

Low Points
• I have broken four pairs of my ER-4s by twisting them out of my ears. I would pay three times the price if they made a pair from Titanium - not plastic.
• You really need to get ear molds which cost more and take time but are worth every penny and then some.

I have tried to replace my Etymotic Research ER-4's with Ultimate Ears UE10s, which cost well over $1,000. When all is said and done, the UE-10s went on eBay while by Etymotics remain in my briefcase. I love the studio-quality sound and especially the dynamics on these headphones. Their small size makes them fit neatly into any lifestyle. Their lowered price makes them fit into any budget. If you are looking for the ultimate Apple iPod headphones, my friends - you just found them.

Additional Resources
• Read high end headphone reviews from brands like Etymotic Research, Ultimate Ears, Stax, Sennheiser, Grado and more.
Read more about Etymotic Research here.

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