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Etymotic ER-6 review

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I was looking for a closed set of headphones to enjoy while walking to work. After I read for a bit on this forum, I thought the new ER-6's would give me the isolation I needed to block out the insistent noise of Los Angeles city streets. I ordered them from headphone.com and plugged them in to my recently purchased Panasonic 570 pcdp.

My initial impressions were mixed. I had a devil of a time trying to get anything resembling a decent seal with these headphones; by "deeply and comfortably" inserted in to the ear, I thought you had to have the whole canalphone plus half the cord shoved in to your ear. It took many tries and terribly irritated ears to realize I only needed to slide these in past the edge of the second flange to get the right seal. Pushing them in any farther results in reduced bass and collapsed soundstage.

While walking to work, any favorable impression I may have had with these headphones was demolished by the occlusion effect, where the sound of my breathing and the thump of my footfalls obliterated all details in the music that the ER-6's were offering. So, they weren't suited for my original purpose.

I took the ER-6's home and listened to them with some of my ambient music through the Panasonic. The level of detail on these headphones is nothing short of remarkable, there are layers of information revealed that I never imagined existed in my favorite recordings. Listening to rock music like Godflesh demonstrated that there were several different feedback sounds present in the guitar, not just the one blurred drone that most headphones reproduced.

The unimpressive bass on the ER-6's was greatly improved with the addition of my JMT built CMOY with crossfeed connected to the Panasonic with a StraightWire mini to mini. Lower bass notes were reproduced with heft and authority, and highs gained presence that definitely improved my overall listening experience.

However, the neutral presentation of these headphones ultimately led me to feel unsatisfied. When listening to my Natalie Merchant CD Ophelia, I got the impression of listening to a cassette dub. The experience was cold and distant, and I got the visual image of the music like one of those old style black and white newspaper photos.

The ER-6's reveal recording flaws and shortcomings in the source just as well as it reveals the best qualities of the equipment and recordings used. While this phone seems to have been aimed at audiophiles on a budget, I think the Etymotics require high quality sources and interconnects as well as amplification to make them perform their best. I can't imagine using these with the headphone out of an MP3 player.

For those who need better isolation than a standard closed headphone offers at a reasonable price, the ER-6 is a good choice. Anyone who can afford a high quality amp and a good source with interconnects will also be impressed with this headphone. But for bargain basement audiophiles who can't afford a better than average rig, I have to recommend passing the ER-6's by.

cajunchrist
post #2 of 8
Well done review. What would you prescribe for an audiophile on a budget then?
post #3 of 8
Thanks for your review. I use the ER-6 exclusively with my iPod MP3 and have been very pleased with the results. Maybe compared to using them with an amp and high end equipment the sound may not be as good. But I compared about 4 different types of headphones for use on the iPod and the ER-6's by far give me the best listening enjoyment with the iPod.

Your experience with the occlusion effect was also interesting. I had read previous post from people having this complaint. So when I took them to the gym for the first time to use during my cardio workout I was expecting the worse. But I was pleasantly surprised when I exprienced very little occlusion and I now use them every week during my workouts. Could it be possible that different sources (MP3, CD player, etc.) could have a different effect. Or maybe it is just me.
post #4 of 8
cajunchrist,

I seem to remember that the occlusion effect is more prominent the more distance there is between the eardrum and an object inserted in your ears. Maybe you overdid the shallow insertion getting a seal but with too much space in front of it. There may be a more favorable compromise insertion depth that would salvage these for use on the street.
post #5 of 8

Re: Etymotic ER-6 review

Quote:
Originally posted by cajunchrist
I can't imagine using these with the headphone out of an MP3 player.
I use my ER4Ps with a Nomad Jukebox and I think they sound great!
post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
What would you prescribe for an audiophile on a budget then?
If I had an answer to that question, I wouldn't need to waste my time on these boards! More forgiving cans like the Grados are a wonderful combination with a CMOY and the 570. My 225's really sing when I play hard rock/industrial and techno music. I have no advice for jazz and classical lovers though. I am expecting a Sennheiser 495 from ubid.com any day now for use with my soft rock/ambient music, and I'll add my impressions in another post.

Quote:
Maybe you overdid the shallow insertion getting a seal but with too much space in front of it.
The occlusion effect was stronger with deep insertion. It was less noticeable with shallow insertion.


cajunchrist
post #7 of 8
cajunchrist,
insertion depth is critical with the er-6. i can go from the thin-bass collapsed-soundstage effect to full bass wide stereo image depending on how deep i go & how good the seal is. shallow inserion is the way to go with the er-6, although getting and keeping a good seal is harder that way. going deep gives me a better seal and isolation, but equalizing the pressure is harder and you get the "cheap cassette" effect. so far i think i've achieved perfect coupling about 40% of the time. when you get just the right coupling with your ear the sound is astonishingly good. the er-6 coupling issues are tricky but in the long run well worth the time & effort to master.
if you are having problems with the cable microphoning on you try looping the shorter left channel cable over and around your ear. for me it takes care of the sound of the cable rubbing against my collar (but i can still hear my own breathing--i feel like the astronaut at the end of 2001 breathing into his helmet mic.)
post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
if you are having problems with the cable microphoning on you try looping the shorter left channel cable over and around your ear.
I could never get the damn things to stay...

Quote:
going deep gives me a better seal and isolation, but equalizing the pressure is harder and you get the "cheap cassette" effect.
The cheap cassette effect was apparent at all insertion depths. I really think this effect has more to do with component matching than with insertion tricks. With an amp well matched to the current demands of the ER-6 and a good source, I am sure they will sing beautifully.

cajunchrist
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