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Etymotic ER-4PT - Page 2

post #16 of 62

It's because recently Etymotic had become very lax at matching their drivers properly on the ER4 as they had started producing many more of them.  So they want you to pay a premium, or essentially the old MSRP, to get them matched well.  My original ER4S was spot on.  The replacement under warranty is like 1 or 2dB off in L/R balance, and I think I'd already mentioned the ER customer service person had said that was WITHIN their current (obviously newer and lax) allowed tolerances.  I remember posting it on here back when they replaced them.  So it looks like they're trying to fight the commoditization of IEMs and cut-throat prices and at the same time keep a level of customer service and workmanship.  I wish they'd have started (or rather continued) this before, though.  All ER4S from a decade ago were matched to very high degrees, even though you didn't get a signed sheet with them.  The drivers’ tests were actually on-file in their computers so they could test the performance change if they came back in for repair.  I like the ER4S a lot.  I'm not dismissing this company or any innovations they're involved in.  I'm just a little disappointed they slumped in workmanship and are now making sure people pay the older prices if they want better than crummy mass-market driver matching.  It makes sense, but it also means they were indeed resting on their laurels and making bank off the iPod craze.  And it probably means they have some sterile, non-audiophile marketing people they hired to help them “strategize” how to deal with niche disappointments over their adaptations to increasing volume and profits.  I guess we just have to face the fact they are not a little company only us in-the-know are aware of anymore.  Etymotic are a substantial market presence and are experiencing systemic changes, not all of which are totally favorable.  But their new marketing people must be well trained enough to have figured their way back to quality… even if at a price that annoys. 

post #17 of 62

I was going to buy the ER-4s recently, but B&H only has them for 290$ and I don't see them at J&R so I cannot haggle. I remember when they were $170! WTH!! So I bought the UM3X's instead. I guess I'm going to wait until they go back down.

post #18 of 62

The smart thing to do is probably either get an ER4PT (now drop to around $215, still expensive but more reasonable) and get an aftermarket P-S adapter or just wait till someone sells his/her ER4S on the FS forum (saw a few pairs two weeks ago).

Edited by ClieOS - 7/27/11 at 2:43am
post #19 of 62

IMHO the matching drivers marketing gimic is undiscernable to one's ear, particularly when it is a universal fit.  I presume this extra step takes a mere few minutes to do but the $100 premium for it is grossly overpriced.  Unfortunately the market continues to pass Etymotic by.  Obviously a very old fashioned company mindset.

post #20 of 62

The difference in matching between my old pair and new pair was significant, granted the original was 10 years old and cost almost $300 from Headroom.  So I was getting my money's worth?  They still chose the drivers from their database of tested ER4 barrels on the new ones and they were hand built by an engineer using the old style cable I requested, but I was surprised to find out what a big range they accept as allowable differences in sensitivity and response on their standard units now.  It was a warranty replacement and all I paid for was the cable.  Their marketing people must have gotten wind of these sorts of complaints (possibly mine in particular) and made a suggestion.  It's not a terrible idea, but I don't think you need to be a mastering engineer to appreciate the improvement.  I will admit I may have mastering engineer tastes in sound, and EXTREME sensitivity to L/R imbalances on headphones (ask pbandstefanwich concerning the isolating HD25s he built!  Half a dB is probably all it is that's bugging me on those.), but the "T" is still probably worth it for most of you. In the case of the HD25 Isolator (say it with an Arnold voice, please), I can hear the relative driver sensitivities change in the various frequencies depending on how loud they're being driven.  As you drive it harder, the imbalances of the various frequency bands shifts around.  The "consumer-quality" matched ER4S is not quite that bad, and it's true that you can vary the depth a little to compensate for it.   But you end up, on average, with one particular driver (regardless of which ear you put it in) a little louder than the other unless it's pushed in extra far. 

I'm sure if you call them they'll build you an ER-4ST if you ask.


As for the potentially $100 difference, I suppose we should look at it from the perspective of what percentage of ER4 barrels do not end up with good pairing matches that could be sold if the tolerances are strict across the board.  At lower tolerances, a higher percentage of them can be sold.  Essentially it's like a defect rate.  The company doesn't make as much money if a higher percentage of the barrels can't be sold because they either fall outside a specific range and/or have no other driver with sufficiently close characteristics to pair it with.  At the lower volumes the ER4 sold at prior to the iPod/iPhone revolution, I suppose that was the automatic way and made sense for the only type of buyers there were: studio engineers and audiophiles.

Edited by Reticuli2 - 7/28/11 at 6:09pm
post #21 of 62
Originally Posted by Reticuli2 View Post

The difference in matching between my old pair and new pair was significant, granted the original was 10 years old and cost almost $300 from Headroom.  So I was getting my money's worth?  They still chose the drivers from their database of tested ER4 barrels on the new ones and they were hand built by an engineer using the old style cable I requested, but I was surprised to find out what a big range they accept as allowable differences in sensitivity and response on their standard units now..


That's assuming we all have perfectly symmetrical ear structure and hearing. Sadly we don't, well, at least for the majority of us who don't have golden ears. That's why we work in tolerance and not in absolute scale. Plus, it is not always about how closely the drivers are matched. My doubt is, as I know Ety did match their driver before ER4PT, what is the old tolerance? Significantly more than 1dB? If so, I get the argument of putting a 'certificate' in the box and ask people more (or more accurately, push the price tag back to MSRP) for the extra work to get the matching done. If it isn't so, what else is the point for Ety to launch the ER4PT model besides pure marketing decision? If Ety does improve the tolerance, I think it will be smart for them to include that part of information in their ads instead of letting the buyer second guessing why they do what they did.




Edited by ClieOS - 7/28/11 at 7:21pm
post #22 of 62

I asked them what the deal was regarding the ER-4P and the PT because I'm anal retentive like that. There is no second guessing their intentions. P and PT is the same **** according to them.


This is what I got as a response from ER customer service:




Thank you for writing.   

There are absolutely no difference between the earphones,  ER-4P and the ER-4PT,  both units the exact same. 

The ER4- PT has the airline adaptor included as well as the exclusive channel - matching compliance graph 

signed by the Etymotic engineer who precision matched and custom tuned the balanced armature drivers. 



Best Regards,

Patsy Coleman

Customer Service

Etymotic Research, Inc.

61 Martin Lane

Elk Grove Village, IL 60007


Toll free:  888-389-6684

Main:  847-228-0006

Fax: 847-228-6836


You know your music.  Etymotic knows your ears. 




Regarding your products ER-4P and ER-4PT


post #23 of 62

They are the same drivers. Doesn’t mean I’m wrong and doesn’t mean she’s fibbing.  For the last couple years the tolerance had been only within 2dB for average response volume matching on the ER4.  That was direct from their mouth over the phone when I called about the warranty replacement pair's imbalance.  That's not as tiny as it looks.  There might be technically no physical difference in the drivers if you want to phrase it that way, but it makes a difference how closely you pick the drivers from the data base of available drivers.  She's not explicitly denying the technicians more closely match the "T" or that for the last few years they were using lower tolerances compared to a decade ago.  Either I luckily got a perfectly matched pair just randomly back then in 1999/2000, or their driver matching tolerance were relaxed lately due to increased consumer demand and a need to move more product and not be so stringent.  And I highly doubt this printed and signed paper on the "T" is only showing a 2dB tolerance for the average pair and that they've ALWAYS used that tolerance range.  Not with how spot-on the old ones always were for people (never heard problems with that before), how many units they’ve been moving in recent years, and how common this issue became.  You're insinuating her email is saying they're charging an extra hundred for a piece of paper confirming something they are already doing and have always done on the ER4 and a bonus airline adapter.  I'm saying they're giving a very political response so as to not undercut sales of the standard “new & common” ER4, and they're doing so in a way you will have a hard time empirically disproving (for the benefit of others) without Tyll’s or's dummy heads.


But one’s hearing does not have to be perfect or centered in every band to determine this subjectively (i.e. in non-empirical way you can have personal certitude in but can’t prove to anyone else).  If the spot a mono signal in a particular band (or even complex mono sounds) settles at (its relative center to your hearing) moves around when you flip-flop earpieces, then you know either the source gear, the jack, or the earphones are imbalanced.  Assuming the earphones do not have a front and are universal fit in the case of IEMs, you can quickly determine this.  It is true that with IEMs you have to do it quite a few times flip-flopping earpieces to really confirm this and find out what the average is you're getting since depths can be a little different each individual attempt.  But you can pretty easily do this blind and without bias by not looking at the earpieces, put them in, and judge where the centering is.  Flip them around, and then listen again.  You're listening for which direction the mono signal MOVES TOWARDS after the flip-flop; preferably it doesn't.  Take them out post-flip-flop and look at the drivers to see which was which.  That reveals which was in each ear before and after the flip.  Do it again by mixing them up without looking and see if the sound shifts towards the same driver again.  If after a few attempts, on average, the center tends to shift towards one particular driver, then you know it's the driver imbalance.  Yes, you need to use a variety of sources and jacks to rule them out.  Pretty simple.  Flip-flopping the drivers around rules out your own hearing imperfections.  Not knowing which driver is which when you put them in until after the flip-flop is even better at avoiding placebo effect.  In the case of the warrantied ER4S, there was ALWAYS a shifting slightly to the right driver as long as the seals and depths didn't feel completely different on both ears (by feel inside the ear and by checking the lip of the flange tips with me finger).  So it wasn't just some super tiny amount that shifted 7 out of 10 tries.  It was 5 for 5 flip-flops and on and on when they were the same depth each time.  A few times I've accidentally put them in the wrong ear and wondered why the sound was shifted more to the left than I know is my natural hearing center plus this ER4’s own right imbalance.  I look in the mirror and, oops, blue side's on the right.  That explains it.


I’m not dissing Etymotic.  I love the ER4.  I paid a lot for my original ER4.  I’m thrilled they covered a 10 year old pair at all.  But companies grow.  Their defect or tolerance rates get relaxed.  I understand that.  My best estimate is they want you to pay a premium for their old quality standards.  We get to gripe a little about the lack of openness when our new stuff isn’t quite as good as the old stuff or they come out with some obvious marketing-spin to advertise their old quality standards back to us.  That doesn’t mean we stop going back to them.  I’m flattered by the veiled assumption here that my original complaint went viral and led Etymotic Research to start cashing-in on professionals’ need to be reassured they’re getting a closely matched pair… when in fact they already were.  I just think that’s unlikely.  I think they saw a real inadequacy pointed out by a variety of complaints like mine (not mine in particular) and their marketing people came up with a strategy in-line with newer trends in customer responsiveness to capitalize on this and appease us.  And hey, I prefer these new customer-focused marketing trends over the old ones, I just don’t like marketing so much in general.  If Etymotic Research was still a small engineer-centric company with a close transparent relationship to consumers like they’d always had, they wouldn’t have a gazillion different product lines, hot Asian chicks wearing their earphones in advertisements, the tolerances would never seemingly have been relaxed, and/or there would be no “T” version of the ER4.  If they really are trying to sell people an adapter and a piece of worthless paper for a hundred bucks, then they’ve grown even bigger for their britches then I’d assumed. 

post #24 of 62

You know I planned on buying the ER4s soon, but now... I don't know!

post #25 of 62

One has to ask, what happens to the ER4S and ER4P that are still in production, don't get the certificate and airline adapter but now were asked to be sold at MSRP instead of the old street price? I bet that 1 dB must worth a lot of money. I still love my ER4P, but bad marketing is bad marketing and has nothing to do with 1dB of difference, certificate or airline adapter.

post #26 of 62

Well I wanted the ER-4s for accuracy, but from what I'm reading that's all gone to hell.

post #27 of 62

I think I have a solution, I'll buy the ER4 PT's I think I can get them for $200, then I send them to etymotic and have them convert them to ER4s that will ensure that I get a matched pair and the ER4s I wanted, question is how much would it cost to convert, I don't want to spend more than $250

post #28 of 62

Huh? How do you "convert" the ER-4PT to the ER-4?


If anything the ER-4PT is better (in quality control) than the ER-4P, or are you talking about the ER-4S? In which case, just get the ER-4PT and an adapter, that's what I've done.

post #29 of 62

I want the ER4s because I want my ultraportable rig to be small as possible and I don't want to use an adapter. but I think you might be right, I remember reading somewhere that there is something in the ER4s driver that makes them unique, but I need to bug them to see if it is possible. If not, I think I might buy the westone CR1 custom IEM's... I dunno, $250's the limit.

post #30 of 62

Nah get the Thousand Sound TS842

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