Etymotic ER-4P Portable In-Ear Earphones

  1. darkinners
    ER4 stands over decade for a reason
    Written by darkinners
    Published Oct 1, 2015
    Pros - Clarity, Tonal balance, did I said Clarity? complete accessories out of the box
    Cons - Worst cable ever, insertion depth has to be precise, sub-par build quality
    First impression, extreme clarity without being harsh, very bad cable design, people said ER4 lacking bass, either they are are lover of Aurisonics or they didn't get the insertion right with ER4s
    Even with P to S adaptor, still deliver great bass. fast, precise and great texture. And one of the deepest bass I've heard coming from BA driver.


    Overly compressed/brick wall record sound really bad with ER4-P/S.
    Albums like Metallica- Death Magnetic; Biffy Clyro - Puzzle
    They all sound very teeny-tiny, messy, harsh with ER4-P/S.

    On the other hand, proper produced albums with great dynamics like
    Everything from Kate Bush, Steven Wilson - Raven refused to sing.
    ER4-P/S able to reproduce the production magic. Everything sound sooo tight yet very punchy.

    This gotta be the most uncomfortable IEM I've ever come across(Ultrasone IQ being 2nd worst)
    Very long and very heavy cable, if it cling and pull to something while you walk on the street.
    With deep insertion of those triple flange.
    warrants your ear canal in pain.

    I am not entirely sure but I am about 85% sure the ER4 will be dead in a year.
    Luckily our local distributor provides 2 years warranty.
    ER4 just looks like it build to break, unless you are using it in a controlled indoor environment 100% of the time.

    -Not so important factors
    The pouch is good, plenty of accessories out of the box, able to switch between 4P to 4S easily given by the free adapter.
    Great price to performance ratio given by the performance you are getting from ER4.

    I know I said many negative things about ER4 but I am still giving it a solid 5 stars.(I would give it a 10 if I could)
    Just because the SQ I am getting from it surpass everything else I am not satisfy with.
    If you like fast and precise and neutral tone and you don't mind your ear canal hurt once in awhile.
    This is a must have universal IEM.

    By the way, I buy the P version just because I will use it with my iphone.
    skeptical about iphone not able to drive the S version.
    Well, I was wrong. iPhone giving out more power than I thought it could.
    And I much prefer the sound signature of 4-S over 4-P.
    4-P has too much bass in the bloomy frequency, overshadow the treble. made it sound kinda muffle compares to 4-S
    I am going to get a 100ohms replacement cable to change the 4-P to 4-S permanently.
      Danpyre likes this.
    1. Triodemode
      I totally agree with the reviewer's comments regarding sound quality.  I have owned my ER4-S since 1993 and use them regularly in the gym and on airplanes.  Only twice over all these years have I had to purchase a new transducer and one time replaced a worn out cable.  One transducer went bad because I accidentally dropped it into the toilet, and the other because I was not careful when replacing the filter element.  BTW, Etymotic has excellent customer service and every transducer has a serial number with it's response on file for proper matching in case another one needs to be purchased. 
      I have always used the foam inserts as the rubber ones are too uncomfortable.  The ER4's are just like wearing earplugs while piping reference quality audio into your ears, perfect while at the Gym or riding public transportation.  And as the reveiw stated, even the S version is easy to drive.  My Sony DAP is a perfect match with it.  They ER4 may look a little dated, but why mess with perfection.
      Triodemode, Oct 2, 2015
  2. motox4life
    Great sound, compact but very fragile.
    Written by motox4life
    Published Sep 25, 2015
    Pros - Extremely natural and realistic sound, no amp needed, extremely detailed, comfortable, isolates well, never muddies up
    Cons - Terrible durability, too much treble with modern recordings
    Hello everyone, this is my first review here so please enjoy responsibly (LOL) . :)
    A note on audio formats: I listen to all kinds of modern, all-digital recordings in order to get pure, natural sound.
    I don't listen to high resolution audio because it's no better than 44/16 (you can find a good explanation of the high res audio misconception on XIPH.ORG, highly recommended). I also don't listen to analog audio because I find it to sound unnatural, distorted and lacking, especially in the top end. To me, ''analog warmth'' simply sounds distorted, colored, and definitely not clean.
    So, as you probably expected, all music that I used in this review is either FLAC (44/16), MP3 w/ 320 kbps or iTunes Plus (AAC w/ 256k), either from Filesh*ring or from original CD's.
    Sources: iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 4, iPod touch 2G, iPad 2, 'MPIO' mp3 player from the fleamarket, gaming pc soundcard.
    Music used:
    Lossless: Avicii- Sunshine, Wake Me Up, Hey Brother, Broken Arrows, City Lights, The Nights. Hardwell- Follow Me, United We Are, Dont stop the madness, here is here now, young again. Parra For Cuva - Wicked Games, Fifth Harmony - Worth It, Jack Johnson - The horizon has been defeated, Upside Down, Banana Pancakes, Inaudible Melodies, Enemy, Supposed to be. Zedd Clarity (album), The Script ''Hall Of Fame Original'', Fred V & Grafix Recognise LP (album)
    Lossy. Dannic- Viper, Mayday, Forever, Dear Life (all 320). Avicii- The Nights (see below), Bondax & Friends The Mix Album (iTunes), Lana Del Rey Honeymoon (320)
    Comfort-  8/10
    I think the ER4P are very comfortable as long as you use tri-flange tips. The foam tips are terrible though. I also tried the mushroom tips, but besides looking cool, they only make the sound worse and easily pop out of the ears. I also tried comply's and did not like them at all, too squishy and terrible isolation. I gave the complys to my 9y/o cousin, who gave them to his 2y/o sister because he didn't like them either. She likes them however. :)
    As to sports, they are OK under a motorbike helmet but I do not use them, and don't recommend using them for this purpose because they isolate so much. This can be very dangerous when riding a bike. The same goes for skiing. Something less isolating would be better under these circumstances.
    Looks - 9/10
    Looks are great with the ER4P in my opinion. Look-wise, they are the in-ear counterpart to the HD25, which I also have. Both look very subdued, professional and classy. They go well with every type of outfit you may be wearing- be it an expensive suit, motorbike clothing, colourful summer things, a skiing outfit, whatever. Still, more colorful earphones like the bose soundsports (review coming soon) look better in the winter.
    Durability - 2/10
    Durability is terrible with these. In the two years of owning them, I already have my THIRD (!) pair. On the first pair, the armature of one earphone had broken and it was rattling like crazy. This pair was already almost broken at the joints, but was replaced without problems. The second pair broke at the joints to the earphones. Fortunately, these were also replaced under warranty, albeit with some quirks. Also, the thick cable below the split is terrible. I got the most recent pair two months ago and the cable below the split is already so twisty it's unbearable. FYI, I mostly keep the earphones either in a small candy box, on my desk or simply in my pocket.
    Cable - 1/10
    As I wrote before, the cable is terrible. Apparently, the old version with colored split and earphone joints was much more durable (and looked much cooler too), but they don't make it anymore, which is a PITA. The plug is also quite small compared to other decent IEM's. Also, the cable is EXTREMELY stiff in cold weather.[​IMG]
    Now for the best part, SOUND![​IMG]
    Sound is very good with these earphones. The presentation is very natural and realistic. Soundstage is definitely there but not very big. If you are looking for a huge soundstage I recommend trying the Beyerdynamic DT-150. Despite having an impedance of 250 Ohm, they do not need an amp at all and get very loud straight from the iPhone.
    Back to the Etymotic:
    Bass. It is definitely there but does not jump out at you like in some other 'phones. It is more like a natural part of the sound and blends in very nicely. The bass reaches quite deep, not as deep as the Philips SHE3590 but definitely until 35Hz. The bass is very flat, there is no mid bass bump like in most cheap earphones or deep bass emphasis like in the 3590.
    The mids. The mids are extremely neutral and realistic with unbelievable resolution and texture. Zedd's crazy synths sound very grippy, defined and textured. The same goes for dubstep. The wobbles are very defined. The timbre is very natural too, which becomes evident when listening to Jack Johnson or Lana Del Rey. JJ sounds like he's right in front of you and you can hear every single guitar string being struck. The overtones and small details of JJ's voice are also very realistic and defined. Lana del Rey's voice stands right in the center of the room and sounds very realistic. Ellie Goulding's voice is also very nice to listen to, because you can hear all of the overtones like in reality.
    Then there is the treble. According to the measurements from Etymotic, the treble is slightly rolled off in the ER-4P. However, since the treble is boosted like crazy in most modern recordings, the ER-4P still sound too bright IMO. In a lot of club tracks, for example, the treble is boosted so much it hurts. The solution is to either attenuate the treble in the sound files using a sound editor like audition, or simply attenuate it on playback using a digital equalizer.
    The extension. The treble extends very far in the ER4P, up to about 17 or 18 kHz. Considering anything above ~19kHz is inaudible to most people over 10 years and most of the important information in music is below 17kHz, this is pretty decent.
    Overall the etymotic ER-4P sounds very smooth, but since it is essentially flat, lacks some body in the sound. The speed of sound is impressive and puts even the HD800 to shame. However, since the treble is only rolled off ever so slightly, it sounds too bright on most modern recordings.[​IMG]
    Now some impressions with certain CD's.
    Everything Jack Johnson: Very natural sounding and excellent timbre. The next best thing to listening to JJ sing live in front of you, in an acoustically treated room, without any amplifier.
    Zedd very grippy and textured, full of details, but too much treble. On ''Push Play'' from 'Clarity', the overtones of the synths are very defined. The acid-like synths sound very textured. Despite the track being mixed to achieve extreme loudness, the ER4P still keeps it tidy and does not allow anything to become muddy. 'True Colors' is not as spectacular, but still nice.
    Hardwell like Zedd, very textured and full of overtones, but excessive treble boost. [​IMG]
    Avicii ''True'' is not as treble-heavy as Zedd or Hardwell but still has an emphasis on the treble. Details are not as pronounced, the overall quality of the CD is humble. Sometimes you can hear pumping from the compression. ''Hey Brother'' sounds unnatural at times. Still, the ER4P keeps it tidy and shows all the faults of the recording. In Avicii's The Nights,
    The ER4P immediately shows the ugly truth that ''The Nights'' in Lossless formats (I have tried copies from lots of different online music vendors) is actually sourced from a lossy MP3 file. This is shocking [​IMG] since it's an official release and a Top 10 hit. Spectrogram (from official lossless file):
    'Stories' is more like Zedd with a heavy emphasis on the treble but better overall mix.
    The Script ''#3''. Much more spacious sounding than other CDs tested. Nice emphasis on the bass, warm overall sound. Treble is just a tad too much.
    Avicii ''Sunshine'' (sometimes labelled David Guetta). Very lush sounding track, very defined but overpowering treble. The layered synths in this track are sound very open and spacious on the ER4P.
    Parra For Cuva & Anna Naklab ''Wicked Games'' lush sounding track, nice bass kick on the ER4P.
    Fred V & Grafix Recognise LP: This album nicely shows the incredible speed and tightness of the ER4P. Transients are very clean but the treble is too much. The soundstage is medium here but the ER4P keeps everything tidy and the whole album sounds ''just right'' from start to finish, except
    Bondax & Friends The Mix Album This is one of the few modern albums without the crazy treble emphasis. The treble is still emphasised but not to a big extent. Some tracks do have crazy treble emphasis however. Overall, the album sounds spacious, lush, natural and some tracks even sound full through the ER4P. Also, the sometimes very deep bass of this album truly comes to life through the ER4P.
    OK, that's it for this review. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions, critics, suggestions, please don't hestitate to post a comment!
      canali likes this.
  3. ElMarcado
    Best headphones i've ever heard
    Written by ElMarcado
    Published Jul 31, 2015
    Pros - Speed, Detail, Bass and Treble extension, Clarity, Effortlessness, SQ in general. I love the Etymotic tuning (Subjectively)
    Cons - The Noise Isolation is just incredibly exaggerated for casual listening (but can be good in the right moment and place), Microphonics!
    For me, they are the best ever. Maybe someday i'll listen to something 'better'? Well, we'll see.
    PD: The Highs can bother some people with their 2k and 8-9k peaks. For me it's fine, but it's because I agree with Etymotic in their intention of tuning these that way, but you can disagree with them. After all, this is subjective, and IME this is the best headphones I had the pleasure to listen and own. Thank you very much dear reader. :)
      Onny Izwan likes this.
  4. suman134
    my benchmark .
    Written by suman134
    Published Nov 9, 2013
    Pros - everything , fast accurate precise bass , cleanest mids , gr8 highs .
    Cons - cable , heavy cable , can get uncomfortable . sounds a bit thin .
    if you own one , you just are treated with one of the most cleanest sounding earphones in this world , lacks thickness , sounds a bit thin a bit sharp , coloration , bright may be , a bit dark . not the best design , comfort is a personal thing , no comments on that , i am comfortable with deep in-ear fit , but not everyone likes it . isolation is awesome , no one can dare to complain , best in this business .
    only complain is the cable , heavy , needs a cable clip , not everyone out there likes thin notes , nor this kind of fast and precise bass , can be easily driven by DAPs like j3 , the package is awesome too , has everything you need , from filters to filter removing kit , gilder tips , foam tips , triple flange tips , a small carry pouch , cable clip , no complains at all , and the newer ones come with a 4pt to 4s converter . what more can you ask for .
    what can i say , the best phone i have ever owned . i might have liked thicker notes , a bit more bass , like ue600 , but that will make a different phone , and if you want fun , bass , please stay away .
    1. HAMS
      i'd say sealed isolation = more microphonics.
      HAMS, Nov 9, 2013
    2. suman134
      you got a cable clip to tackle that , and go over the ear .
      suman134, Nov 9, 2013
  5. Zuqi
    Old but still Butt-kicking
    Written by Zuqi
    Published Jun 14, 2013
    Pros - Neutral tonal balance, very accurate, very detailed sound,
    Cons - Comfort, not suitable for bass-heavy music
    I own these canalphones twice. I lost my first pair two years ago and I miss their sound so much so I bought another pair[​IMG].
    The sound of these IEMs is very neutral and accurate yet without being analytical, the tonal balance is almost perfect.
    They are excellent for rock and classical music, but may not as engaging as some other models for Pop and R&B.
    In conclusion, they are one of my favorite IEMs. It is very impressive that after over two decades in the market, they still can hold their own ground against to some more pricey and newer models.
      Onny Izwan likes this.
  6. BK201
    ER-4P... the darker ER-4S
    Written by BK201
    Published Mar 8, 2013
    Pros - flat with a roll off in the treble
    Cons - needs more treble extension
    Imagine the flattest IEM that ever existed, take it and add a roll off to make it less clinical and more musical. You have the ER-4P.

    The ER-4P is never harsh sounding, or even clinical... I would classify it as slightly dark sounding despite what many think. The bass hits hard with no noticeable roll off. One of its weaknesses is probably the lack of soundstage, however the pinpoint imaging is very good.

    Its major weakness is the treble roll off, but I'm not sure whether I'd call that a weakness as it was somewhat intentional I believe. When compared to the ER-4S, the ER-4P has more body in the sound and a recession in the upper treble... think cymbals and stuff. The ER-4S is also more detailed and the bass is perceived to be less.
  7. BBBS
    Tiny, discreet and sound awesome
    Written by BBBS
    Published Aug 29, 2012
    Pros - Probably the best single armature IEM
    Cons - They're are more stylish options
    Nobody's likely to steal these based on their looks alone, which are kind of stylish in a teutonic minimalist sort of way, but it's disappointing when people wearing neon pink plastic get more compliments that you. The plus, of course, is the amazing sound quality. If you don't mind getting hit by the bus you didn't hear, these are the best choice for amped or unamped portable sound; even an iPod can drive them acceptably, and better players like the Sony X can drive them fantastically.
      Onny Izwan likes this.
  8. alex d
    Great isolation and sound
    Written by alex d
    Published Jul 27, 2012
    Pros - Isolation is second to none, Sound is very clear and detailed, good build quality and secure fit
    Cons - Sound is very analytical, can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time.
    These headphones give a great fit and outstanding isolation, the sound is very detailed and analytical, perfect if you need to work on tracks in a busy/noisy environment. However, I would not recommend them for casual listening as something like the vsonic gr07 or brainwavz b2 gives a much more enjoyable sound.
  9. maguire
    Etymotic ER-4P Portable In-Ear Earphones
    Written by maguire
    Published Jun 30, 2012
    Pros - The Original & still the best
    Cons - Tips can hurt at first because of deep insert
    For a non Custom IEM that has everything in spades you cant go past his guy.
    Get the adapter and becomes S model and amped raises the bar again.
      Onny Izwan likes this.
    1. AstroTurf
      Agreed !!!
      AstroTurf, Jun 30, 2012
    2. ayaflo
      still deciding bween this and brainwavz b2
      ayaflo, Jun 30, 2012
    3. maguire
      never heard the brainwavz b2 sorry, thanks Astro turf also. Though the one IEM that does come neck & neck and May? even pip the EAR4??? I think could be Hifiman 272...But wow its so close to call as ER4 is still awesome.
      maguire, Jul 1, 2012
  10. homeros8000
    The Formidable ER 4S
    Written by homeros8000
    Published Oct 15, 2010
    Pros - Excellent Detail, Flat Response, Great Isolation
    Cons - ER 4S needs a powerful amp, it's hard to fit them in ear canal
    I'm surprised that no review has been written about those gems! The ER 4P/S is one of the best IEMs in the market value wise. They are made to last, they isolate like no other IEM and they have a unique flat frequency response which can be easily adjusted if you have a good equalizer or an integrated amp. The ER S will sound best when used with a powerful amp, it will provide an amazing sound stage and wonderful imaging of instruments and players. They can provide life like details of the recording including movements, coughs, breathing and pages turned over depicted with extreme clarity. Highly recommended.
      MarcadoStalker7 likes this.
    1. Pianoman
      I compared all my headphones when my Benchmark DAC1 was delivered. First, AKG 701's were wonderful and transparent. I thought nothing would compare; next, Sennheiser 600's, which were rich, and smooth, but a little less transparent. Then I hauled out my Etymotic ER4S that I hadn't listened to for a while. What a revelation. They absolutely blew the other two cans completely out of the water for clarity and transparency! Most people don't know how to insert them so they seal but are comfortable. the secret is to lick them first, and pull your ear back and rotate when you put them in. Then, pull back out JUST SLIGHTLY, PRESERVING THE SEAL. After a moment, you won't feel them at all. Try it. In my opinion, they are still the world's greatest when used with a world class amp like the Benchmark. I like to listen deeply into the mix, and I have some high end frequency loss especially in the left ear.
      Pianoman, Jun 2, 2011
    2. ianmedium
      Pianoman, your insertion description is exactly what I do and I completely agree with the OP as well. Given the right amp these IEM's are simply astonishing. I think they are so often overlooked as they are not the newest out there. I have been fortunate to have had some of the popular IEM's around and these with the right amp beat them all. Simple, the do the job and they do it superbly. When and if these eventually wear out I will get another pair. If driven well these give such a close run to the higher end custom IEMs that cost over $1000 that it makes those customs look ridiculous.

      Once again though, the caveat is a decent amp, with that taken care of you just cannot go wrong!
      ianmedium, Sep 26, 2011
    3. jk47
      You can now buy the er4pt, only 29ohms impedance, comes with an adaptor wire that turns it into an er4s if you've got the amping available.  without the adaptor you can run it from a much weaker source.
      jk47, Sep 10, 2014