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  1. iems0nly
    Dynamic Etymotic
    Written by iems0nly
    Published Aug 11, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Neutral, flawless timbre, detailed and cohesive sound
    Cons - Lacking sub-bass impact
    Simple Man’s review – Etymotic ER2SE (~129 USD)
    This is called simple man’s review because they are based on the sound of these earphones directly from my mobile phone (HTC 10), using 320 Kbps mp3 tracks. No expensive gears nor lossless tracks,no EQ, and all that hi-fi stuff.

    IMAG3837.jpg

    Product Specs :
    Driver
    : Single, high performance, moving coil driver
    Impedance: 15 Ohms; Sensitivity: 96dB@1kHz; Rated FR 20Hz - 16kHz
    Cable: 4 foot MMCX detachable cable (with the Etymotic tab to lock the cables in place)
    Shell: Metal anodized housings
    Nozzle: ~3mm
    Preferred eartips: Shure Soft Flex (EASFX1-10M)
    Release year: Feb 2019

    Build – 5/5
    Housings
    of dark blue colour are nice to behold, and the anodized coating reflect some light. There are some serial numbers in the bottom of the housings (mine are 2620 and 2621). They don’t spoil the aesthetics but it might have been better without them.
    Cables are of good thickness, not flimsy. The also feel good and behave, not jumpy or inflexible like some of those ATH wires. Detachable cables with MMCX connectors, but they have this little notch in the connector that is designed to sit in the tab present in the housing, just like the ER4XR, which helps to keep the wire from rotating. So, for after market MMCX to work, you might have to chip away some plastic at near the connectors. The ER4XR/SR cables can be used here and vice versa.
    Y-splitter looks good, matches the colour of the housing and is not too long. They have “ETYMŌTIC” written on them so people will know we mean business. Strain reliefs are deployed all around, and we also see a nice little neck cinch to hold the wires in place.
    L-Shaped jack is solid and sturdy.

    IMAG3838.jpg

    Accessories – 5/5
    The unboxing experience is simple and practical. Nothing showy or grand here. Aesthetically pleasing.
    A small soft leather pouch is provided which looks good and is of decent size. It also has a little netted pocked within that can be fastened with velcro.
    Tips. We get 1 pair of large silicon tri-flange and 1 pair of foam tips. The small tri-flange is included in the earpieces.
    We also get a filter removal tool, and a set of spare filters as well, which is pretty cool.
    A huge shirt clip is also provided

    The ER4XR, in contrast, provides one extra pair of silicon tri-flage, one extra foam tips, one extra set of spare filters, and a 1/4 inch stereo adapter. We also get a humongous hard case as opposed tot he small pouch here. We also get a little Certificate of Performance slip with the official measurements, which is not provided with the ER2SE.

    IMAG3835.jpg

    Fit – 4/5
    Fit is very good. I tucked away the tri-flanges and installed my Shure tips. Deep insertion is not my thing, i’m perfectly happy with regular insertion.

    Isolation and leakage – 5/5
    With deep insertion you’re as good as deaf. But even with my relatively shallow insertion, we get very good isolation. And there is no leakage.

    Microphonics – 4/5
    Definitely better than the ER4XR, but is still present when we wear it straight down. Over the ear minimises the problem to a considerable extent.

    Drivability – Not the easiest. I’m around 60-70% volume in my HTC 10. Similar to ER4XR plus 1 notch volume.

    Please note that the following impressions are based on using them with the Shure eartips with insertion of a normal depth – somewhere between deep and shallow. I get a really tight seal and as a result get adequate bass. So, i don’t think i’m missing anything significant due to this.

    Sound –
    These are Etymotics and they sound like it. However, the dynamic drivers have a rather strong character and differs quite a bit from the BA delivery of the ER4s. I will compare them to my ER4XR in depth in due time.

    Bass: It is really tight, and the sub bass impact is on the softer side. The sub-bass is touched as opposed to punched/hit. But it does reach deep, and we hear the rumble adequately. The rumbles stay low at the foundation and are perceived as song details instead of adding to the fun factor. They still sound very natural, and carry enough warmth to save them from sounding bright.

    Mids: The ER2SEs are neutral and detailed with just enough warmth in the mids. Voices are perfect, and carry the right amount of warmth and detail. The notes also have enough body to them and do not sound thin. They sound very true and correct. There is a tint of organic quality to them that is missing in the BA models

    Highs: Pleasant to the ears, and super clear. The highs are smooth and detailed, and they never touch sibilance. Detail retrieval is not BA level, but the dynamic drivers squeeze every bit they can. Cymbal hits carry some weight to their notes and sound well rounded.

    Timbre: The dynamic drivers retain the natural and organic character of the percussion instruments. The timbre is on point and perfect. It’s a pleasure to listen to them. In this aspect, i think they sound a bit more natural than the ER4XR. Violins and guitars sound clean and have the perfect amount of bite and brightness to them. They are also very cohesive, and have a certain fluidity in them which makes them lean toward musical than monitoresque. This is a very special earphone tuned in the right signature.

    Soundstage:
    The soundstage has decent width and a bit of height. Not very wide but i wouldn’t say they are overly constricted. Although similar in dimensions to the ER4XR, the ER2SEs don’t suffer from a very monitoresque presentation. They sound a bit more cohesive.

    Let’s jump into some comparisons to know more about the ER2SE

    Comparisons

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    Round 1 – Vs Sonicast Dirac + MK2 (~51 USD)
    These are a Korean Single Dynamic earphone that are tuned to be very neutral close to the Harman target response. This earphone has a bump in the sub-bass below 100 Hz, otherwise super neutral.

    Going back and for the between the two, i find that the ER2SE’s mids are much better. The Dirac driver’s lower mids are slightly pulled back which sucks out some of that important warmth from the midrage. As a result the Dirac comes across as brighter. The male vocals in the ER2SE has more body and depth to the voice. Voices are dry in the Dirac and the overall presentation is on the thinner side. ER2SE on the other had sounds more cohesive and i would even call it a more musical IEM in comparison. Detail retrieval is also clearly better in the treble region. The only thing going for the Diracs in this competition is that they produce a better kick drum thump. And when the deepest sub-bass in invoked they deliver a much satisfying impact.

    For less than 50% of the price, the Dirac is a worthy audiophile/monitor recommendation. That said, the ER2SE sings on another level.

    Round 2 – Vs Sennheiser IE 40 Pro (~99 USD)
    The IE 40 Pro, released end of last year, is a great monitoring IEM that has seen a lot of unanimous praise in these circles. Designed for stage monitoring use, they impressed me with very good clarity and usability for the price.

    The Senns really bump that bass. ER2SE has bass setting at 0, and here we come to a level 6 or so. AS a result the IE40 Pro are warmer, and sound thicker. The mids/vocals are also pulled back slightly in the mix. We can feel some restraint in the singers. The treble details are impressive and saves the IEM from sounding bright.

    Moving to the ER2SE, i see a great drain in bass as if a tap was suddenly open. It takes a couple of seconds to adjust to the missing bass thumps. As a result, the bass and midrange clarity increases tremendously. Voices come up front, and more vocal details pop up front. We see a lot of hidden details come to light.

    The IE 40 Pro is saved partly because of their wider soundstage and lateral arrangement. If not for this we would have seen a lot more masking and bleed from bass to mids. The ER2SEs play in a (slightly) narrower stage, and yet have similar or even more breathing space between the details. Of course the ER2SE paid the price of bass-impact. And if your playlist reaches low frequently you will miss some juice with the ER2SE.

    The IE 40 Pro driver also comes across as a slower compared to the quicker ER2SE. It appears like each drum beat and thump take their own sweet time in delivering the meaty-impact before moving to the next beat. ER2SEs hit and move faster ignoring any need for impact.

    I favour the ER2SE mainly because i don’t miss the sub-bass for most of the songs in my playlist. If you’re in a more fun mood, you would pick the IE 40 Pro, which will also deliver great treble details with a wider soundstage. ER2SE also excels in timbre and sheer detail retrieval, and are able to carry enough warmth with lesser bass quantity.

    Round 3 – Vs ER4XR (~400 USD)
    Finally, the most important comparison. Against the ER4XR. I believe the dynamic bass of Studio Edition would be closer to the BA bass of 4XR, which is why i chose to buy this instead of the 2XR.

    The shells are the exact same size:
    IMAG3840.jpg
    Y-splitter:
    IMAG3841.jpg

    From ER4XR to ER2SE – To get similar output i had to push the ER2SE’s volume one notch higher in my HTC10. The 2SE appears brighter in comparison – also in line with the reduced bass quantity. Yet, they are smooth and do not offend the ears. The voices still get the necessary warmth and timbre is perfect. The treble crashes, strings, etc, have slightly more body, but seem to be missing some micro definition. The mix is also more cohesive and kind of plays together rather than the more precisely separated presentation of 4XR.

    Switching from ER2SE to ER4XR. The bass impact is actually better as the XR promises. The BA driver is significantly faster and there is a certain effortlessness in the 4XR model that makes everything sound sublime. The speed really helps to extract a lot more details and that in the best resolution. Of course, the mids and treble details are a touch thinner and lack that little body that make the dynamic drivers sound a little more natural and organic. Retrieving so much information in the treble makes the edges a little sharp, a teeny bit harsh. The ER2SE in this aspect is quite inoffensive and smooth.

    Clearly, the 4XR is superior and we can actually see how sheer speed helps in bringing out all the micro details. However, i still think i would reach for the ER2SE more than the 4XR, as the 2SE is also greatly detailed, and they do have the dynamic character which add some body and depth to the sound. In this aspect, the cheaper dynamic Etymotic will score a point against the big daddy ER4s. When i’m listening to my favourite blues or jazz albums i miss absolutely nothing with the 2SE. For this reason i think any owner of ER4s or ER3s should still consider buying the ER2s.

    For my own tastes, i thought the ER2XR might just add a little too much bass. I would have preferred if they kept the bass completely linear as opposed to downward slope of the SE and the upward tilt in the XR series. I really hope they put out another iteration with dynamic drivers trying to further increase the speed, etc.

    Overall Sound rating of Etymotic ER2SE: 9.2 / 10
    Vocals 5/5
    Soundstage 4/5
    Instrument Separation 4/5
    Positioning/localisation 4/5
    Details 4.5/5
    Timbre 5/5

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    Conclusion –
    Tuned in the same neutral house signature, the dynamic drivers in ER2SE give us a little peek into the character and nature of the moving coil dynamic driver. Even though they lose out on sheer detail extraction and speed to the more expensive ER4XR model, the ER2SE does take the middle path and impresses with its natural timbre and cohesive delivery. It reassures the Dynamic-driver believer that there is indeed some magic to the output of the driver itself that cannot be replaced by the Balanced armature technology.
      eburnette07, serjf1, Raketen and 10 others like this.
    1. iBo0m
      Thanks, mate! :)
      iBo0m, Aug 11, 2019
    2. iems0nly
      @iBo0m The pleasure was completely mine :)
      iems0nly, Aug 12, 2019