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Finally I’m getting respectable bass from my Etymotic ER-4/S

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
Soon after getting my ER-4Ps (and P->S cable) I switched to foamies. I made the switch based on user comments here at Head-fi, and the fact that SQ from tri-flanges was not good.

Over the past weeks I have better learned how to get proper -- i.e. deep -- insertion (sounds dirty, doesn’t it?). Last night I switched back to tri-flanges and WOW! Here are my impressions...

1.) For starters, the standard tri-flange is a little big for my canals, so there was some discomfort. (I may need to cut-down the standard tri-flange or look at alternatives.)
2.) But on the good side, the bass was deeper, more realistic and considerably more impactfull. My listening was confined to live cuts on Eagles When Hell Freezes over. I know this album well from my bi-amped monitors / sub, so I know where to find the best bass lines. Giving consideration to price and the fact these are IEMs, I was pleased to gain a (more) solid foundation to support Ety’s already strong mids.
3.) While I did not attempt to do a direct A/B to the foamies, my impression is that I was not giving up anything in terms of mids/highs.

While I still look forward to hearing full-size cans, driving the Etys from my Wadia / Aria is providing a good listening experience. I now feel even stronger -that considering the money invested (in IEMs / Amp) – I am getting remarkably good sound (but naturally, I alwayswantmore).

Note: Reaching this preliminary conclusion is depended on these factors:

1.) Learning how to properly insert the Etys
2.) Listening at a somewhat robust volume level
3.) Using a top-notch CDP (I have also tried my G5 via generic cord and headphone out)
4.) And finally, the substitution of tri-flange for foamies

Conclusion: If you are not getting good bass from the Etys, keep experimenting. It’s there, you just need to learn how to coax it out of them
post #2 of 27
I always thought if you could stand the tri-flanges that they would give better base. Its like when people were taping their bowl pads on the grados. The flanges and the taped bowls create a more enclosed space that directs teh bass rather than the foamies which are porous and allow some of the sound to escape. Congrats on the discovery.
post #3 of 27
Sorry, but saying the foamies are porous and thereby allow sound leakage whereas the triflanges don't is complete rubbish. How could they possibly allow greater isolation than the triflanges if they were somehow porous from one side to the other? The fact that there are small bubbles/holes in the material does not make it porous.

It's also interesting how few people have tried the two other sizes of foamies. The large ones are too big for my ears, but for some they may be better. I find the with the very small sized foamies, I can get an excellent seal if I insert them very deeply into the canal (further than the triflange or medium foamie could go) and fantastic overall sound, but then I am talking about 4p's and not 4s's.
post #4 of 27
I also think that I get more bass and better isolation from my foamies! I am glad you managed to find your sweetspot though. Many people struggle to do so.
post #5 of 27
I get good bass from both foames and tri-flanges. The tri-flanges probably give the better overall sound but tend to need deeper insertion and slip and need repositioning whereas the foamies are less hassle once they are in but need replacing more often. I don't tend to use either now because my ER4custom molds isolate better, sound better, are washable and never need adjusting.

Well done on finding the ety bass; judging by the number of people who post that Etys have weak bass/no bass it must be an elusive target, but well worth the persistance to get everything sounding right.
post #6 of 27
While there may be numerous methods in which the bass can be improved, it will never have the same impact as a pair of cans like my Grados or Sennheisers.
post #7 of 27
Somebody suggested to me that I try the LARGE foamies (a sample is available from Etymotic if you ask)....even though they look HUGE, they can be squeezed down to size, and man, there is a noticeable bass improvement compared to the normal foams. Worth a try if you already like the foamies.
post #8 of 27
Are these the big yellow ones?
post #9 of 27
There was a long thread about a year or two ago where it was suggested that you take a triple flange insert and snip off the smallest of the three flanges. This produced very much improved bass. A number of people tried it and raved about it. I haven't tried it yet, though.
post #10 of 27
Put ur thumb in your ear - IEM's should go no ferther than that - you get best bass reponse that way. Basicly it should only just seal - if you push it in too much - sometimes that can cause sealing and pressure probs - that make sound worse.
post #11 of 27
I use those:

they are for the shure iems and come in 3 sizes. The small fit nice and hurt less than the triflanges; they also last longer than the foamies. Link:
post #12 of 27
i have tried it all with the ER-4P/S, and the best bass still came from the Ety foamies. I guess the shape, and size of my ear canals just don't work well with any tri-flange tips!
post #13 of 27


It seems fit is a personal thing. Whatever works for you.
post #14 of 27
Originally Posted by milkpowder
Are these the big yellow ones?
post #15 of 27
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Gino
It seems fit is a personal thing. Whatever works for you.
During my relatively short experience with IEMs I have made several levels of discovery in terms of how to get better sound. Each time I assume that I have “finally found it,” only to discover another way to realize additional improvements at a later date.

This afternoon I spent another couple hours with triflanges. I found that once in the ear I could make subtle changes to depth / angle which resulted in substantial differences in SQ. [Some differences may be the result of changes in air pressure between the IEMs and my eardrums; While the angle and proximity to the eardrum may also be playing a role???]

The impact these changes can make on sound quality is not subtle and I am 100% convinced that they are not imagined. The potential to gain improvements in SQ is very real. Real to the point that I can see why some readers love their Etys while others may be ho-hum. My point to anyone new to Etys is that you need to play with them a bit to really see what they are capable of doing. [They still fall short of my much pricier component system, but what I now hear from my Wadia / Aria is damn good for the $$$.]

The potential differences between just sticking them deep in my ears and making subtle changes to angle / depth is like seeing the world through a dusty window vs. opening the window so the world becomes more clear and just more lifelike.

My takeaway is that getting the best from Etys is a skill that must be learned. Somewhat analogous to learning how to get the best from conventional speakers through proper placement and listening position. Whether by learning from others’ experiences here at Head-fi, or plain old trial and error, investing time and effort to learn how to get proper fit can pay off big in terms of your listening experience.

Based on my progress the past couple of days, and ideas offered by fellow Headfiers, I plan to keep experimenting to see what further improvements can be made.

P.S. Regarding the bass: Today I listened to a number of my favorite tracks. What I found is that the bass is good enough that I can get satisfaction from a wide variety of music. The real delight for me is still in the vocals and mid-range in general. Music with a heavy bass line is a bit lean. On the other hand, a good acoustic bass solo -- like Autumn Leaves on Patricia Barber's Nightclub -- sounds very natural. [The SQ on this cut is extremely good.]

Note: The quality of my Wadia is playing a role in my new found enthusiasm. Over time I will try to substitute my mid-fi Denon and / or G5 and see what happens.
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