Etymotic Research

Etymotic Research

Etymotic Research, Inc. is an Elk Grove Village, Illinois, USA-based research, development and manufacturing company that designs and manufactures in-ear products. It is perhaps best known for being one of the earliest and foremost manufacturers of canalphones for consumer use (other manufacturers had only sold them to musicians, for monitoring use).


Etymotic Research was founded in 1983 by Mead Killion. The name "Etymotic" (pronounced "et-im-OH-tik") means "true to the ear" in Greek. Currently, Etymotic Research holds 89 patents, with another 61 patents pending. ER's mission centers between education and innovation.

Etymotic Research's products are aimed towards scientists, hearing-impaired individuals, audiophiles, and musicians. In addition to their earbuds, ER also has earsets for cellular devices, hearing aids, and microphones.

Well-Known Products

Although most of their products are aimed at professionals, they do have a highly successful line of in-ear "canalphones" for consumers as follows:
*ER-4 Family Earphones
*ER-6 Family Earphones

All of Etymotic's canalphones operate under the closed-canal principle. Etymotic also produces a line of musicians' earplugs, also with the initials of ER. Designed to preserve musicians' hearing while still providing equal attenuation at all frequencies (or, a softer version of what the ear would usually hear), they come in dB levels of 9,15, and 25 dB.

ER-6i Earphones

These headphones won the iLounge award 2005 Best: Best Headphone of 2005, with a grade of A on an A+ to F scale.

The ER-6i Earphones are Etymotic Research's newer and cheapest model of canalphones, designed specially for the iPod and other low power mp3 players that require a lower impedance. It and its cousin, the ER-6 (with higher impedance and without a bass boost, used in the ER-6i to compensate for low power sources) are lower cost versions of the earlier ER-4 family; like the ER-4's, the ER-6's tout high fidelity and very detailed sound reproduction, although their armature drivers are reported to have lower quantities of bass than regular headphones.

Operating under the "closed-canal principle" (A canalphone uses specially-formulated sleeves to prevent environmental air from entering the ear canal), the ER-6i's specially-formulated sleeves blocks out environmental noises enabling music-listening at lower volumes, leave out no weird sound artifacts, and requires no external power, thus reducing the risks of hearing damage. Etymotic and other canalphone manufacturers market their IEMs (In-Ear Monitor) against active noise-cancellation headphones by comparing their products against active noise-cancellation headphones, touting that their IEMs cancel out sound against all frequencies plus having a higher level of noise attenuation.

The ER-6 family has its share of criticism; two key flaws are the thin, tangle-prone cord used in the Etymotics and the general use of the product, which may be unnerving to many purchasers (The Er-6i's small dimensions require its deep insertion into the ear canal, causing initial discomfort). Due to the design, improper insertion of the earbuds leads to a severe loss in the quality and volume of bass, although as noted, the ER-6i's drivers cannot produce the same bass quantity or extension as some dynamic headphones. Another flaw of these headphones is the periodic maintenance required, higher than what may be expected for some purchasers. Earphone foam tips and filters must be replaced periodically due to the buildup of earwax, and the user may need to buy new filters from Etymotic Research. The silicone ear tips can be reused, and cleaned carefully with soapy water.

ER4 MicroPro

The ER4 MicroPro (MSRP: ~$330) is Etymotic's original IEM (In-Ear Monitor), introduced in 1991. Like the ER-6 family, the ER-4 family operate under the "Closed-Canal" principle. While the company claims to be the leader of closed-canal technology and to the fact that these IEMs have been considered to be a novelty to many audiophiles, Etymotic's earphones no longer stand as a clear-cut choice in the noise isolation/cancellation and/or personal hi-fi segments because of offerings from Shure, Sensaphonics, Ultimate Ears, Sennheiser, Westone, Grado, Creative, and other audio companies that create headphones and/or canalphones.

According to their product sheet, the Etymotic's ER-4 MicroPro family offers exceptional noise isolation levels ranging from 35-42dB [] , a key selling point for these earphones.

The ER4 comes in the P (portable, with a low impedance), S (stereo, with a higher impedance, though Etymotic sells a cable that switches impedance of ER-4P to ER-4S) and B (binaural, see introduction in headphones). Like the ER-6, the inherent disadvantages of canalphone designs apply to the ER-4. Although the ER-4 MicroPro family aged well, some audiophiles (like those on [ Head-Fi] ) believe that canalphones, while providing excellent detail, lack other musical attributes such as soundstage and bass presence, giving them a "cold, analytical" sound, not to mention that audiophiles will be expecting Etymotic to deploy a fresher, more updated design with multiple drivers. Others argue that with proper insertion, bass quantity is sufficient and that canalphones do not sound as "cold and analytical" as some believe. However, since frequencies much below 30Hz is more often 'felt' with the body than 'heard' with the ear, headphones in general (and canalphones in particular) cannot reproduce the physical "impact" of bass as would be experienced with large subwoofers. Ultimately, the only way to be sure of ones's own preference is to try the canalphones for yourself.

However, as with most discussions regarding sound quality, the arguments from each side tend to be subjective, and those making the arguments usually have little understanding of audiology and psychoacoustics.

Recent Additions

Etymotic Research has recently added the Ety-8/ER-8 family of earphones utilizing Bluetooth technology for wireless operation. In addition, Etymotic opened up a new gaming subsidiary called [ Edge Acoustics] that simply caters Etymotic's gaming version of its earphones to gamers.

Warranty Servicing

Etymotic offer no European servicing facilities and defective headphones are returned to the USA for servicing and return. ER pay return postage if the unit has indeed be found to be defective.

ee also

*Ultimate Ears

External links

* [ Etymotic Research Website]
* [ ER-6i on Etymotic site]
* [ iLounge 2005 Award Page]
* [ Video: Product Line-up Presented at MacWorld]

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