Etymotic ER3XR

General Information

The ER3SE Studio Edition provides a high level of sensitivity, making it a perfect match for the portable media players on the market today. The ER3SE offers audio professional grade sound reproduction at an affordable price.

The ER3XR Extended Response offers a modest bass boost, building on the sound quality of the ER3SE, while providing a slight bass boost for those listeners that prefer a stronger low end response.


Latest reviews

Pros: Extremely versatile, beautiful sound, comfy when you get used to it, ultra portable, top level isolation
Cons: Fiddly fitting, stingy package, quality control.
I just wrote a fairly scathing review based on the sound quality. I'm having to rewrite this as I still have fitting issues and this caused my perception of the sound quality to suffer.

Update - I've had my ER3XR for over a month now, and unlike almost every other IEM, it just keeps getting better.
I'm so impressed with the sound quality that it's making me rethink on how I view IEMs in general.


Not much at all.
3 pair of tips. 2 triple flanged silicon tips and 1 pair of what are probably the worst quality foam tips I've ever come across.
Seriously, the foam tips are so bad that they fall apart the second you try to pull them out.

You also get a very, very tiny carry case and a shirt clip.

Build Quality

Oh boy, where to start?

Of course, I can only speak on my experience and your mileage may vary.

The build quality did not inspire much confidence at all.
One of the units would make static noises when pushing in. Thankfully this has not worsen since purchase.
The shirt clip destroyed itself almost immediately and I could swear one side was louder than the other.
As it turned out, the 3.5mm jack died after a week.
I bought a cheap jack and repaired it myself. This also fixed the channel imbalance.

I've been having terrible luck with IEMs lately and this has put me off IEMs permanently. It will be full sized headphones for me from now on.

Sticking Things In Your Ear

It's not bad.
These things go deep into your ear canal. It's a weird, initially uncomfortable, even painful, process/ Once you figure out how to put them on though, they are comfortable and reassuringly snug.
Oh, and when I say 'figure out how to put them on' I mean it, because the instructions and Etymotic's video showing you how to put them on are utterly useless.
I ended up watching a video by 3M on how to use hearing protection to learn how to put this things on properly.
And yes, they do isolate noise very, very well.

Something to take note of...
With IEMs, I need large tips as they are the only one that can give me a proper seal. So, naturally, I went straight for the large triple flanged ones.
When fully inserted, the treble disappeared and the sound was muffled and dull.
As it turned out, I needed to use the standard size, because it's all about the size of your ear canal, not your outer ear. So keep in mind when fitting them.

Sound Quality

Being used to bright gear like the MSR7 and Fiio F9 Pro, I went through a lengthy adjustment period. I was not used to such a full sound.
However, as I started paying attention, I realised how clear and detailed everything was. Yes, the sound is warm, but also very precise.
Songs which were unlistenable before, because they sounded so thin and bright, became full of body.
You will hear people say that the ER3XR is no good with EDM and bass heavy genres. That's total nonsense. There's plenty of kick and thump to the bass.
What you won't get is bloat or exaggeration.
I have yet to come across a genre that doesn't sound good, which makes sense considering Etymotic's commitment to delivering sound as it was recorded.

Bass - Thick and full bodied. Actually, probably my favorite part. It's spot on. Nice visceral hits and provides plenty of body. People say it's light, but compared to the Fiio F9 Pro and even bassy IEMs like the Audio-Technica, you get way more body and thump. It's beautifully detailed too!

Mids - Thick, forward and controlled. Best mids I've heard? Probably.
There's no distortion or bleed. I haven't heard such engaging mids in an IEM since the ATH-IM70, and I loved the mids in those.

Treble - smooth, detailed and controlled.
Don't expect airy high hats dancing around your head, but what you get is accuracy and detail. They are detailed without being sharp. No sibilance at all.
My sibilance test track is Saint Etienne's Slow Down By The Castle, which is murder with the Fiio F9 Pro and uncomfortable with the MSR7.
Not with the ER3XR though!
The guitars are sharp but no peaks

Soundstage - intimate but coherent, there's both width and depth as long as you've found your ear insertion sweet spot (that sounded dirtier than I intended).

My experience with the ER3XR has been one if highs and lows, from fitting to quality control issues, this has soured my experience.
However, the sound. Oh good lord, the sound.
The clarity, body and coherence is astounding, and it's all done with a single BA!
It really makes you question the logic and value of all the multi drive monsters which are so fashionable at the moment.
Just make sure you get a proper fit!
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Pros: Speration & Detail (to an extent), Sound isolation, "Flat" response, accurate timbre
Cons: Loud microphinics with stock cable, Bass sometimes gets overwhelmed and bleeds, Sometimes chokes on complex passages (mainly metal/rock/electronic)

This is my first ever IEM review be nice >.<

I've been using the RHA MA750i as a daily portable IEM for over 3 years and is due for an upgrade. I bought this unit for myself intended for portable everyday use and drumming. After years of exploring my IEM tastes I *think* I've finally found it and the ER3XR seemed to offer what I want (portable, noise isolation, non-fatiguing sound sig). The ER3XR were rumored to be 90% of the ER4XR with significant reduction in price made it a no brainer to replace my portable IEM.

Disclaimer & About Myself

This review is based solely on how I perceive music and the headphones themselves. My preferred taste is close to the Harman target, but with a ~4dB boost to the bass instead of the horrifying ~8 dB boost from the IE 2017 target, and a small boost in the 5-8k region. You can learn more about the Harman Target HERE. I am currently a University student with most likely good hearing (no imbalance, can hear ~20-17k Hz), although I've had the occasional tinnitus since middle school (I blame weak genes). Take care of your ears people! I listen to a huge variety of music.

I am also vey direct and critical about stuff, but please don't take it as I hate the products. Just want to make the flaws clear to people/potential buyers.

Please keep in mind I don't own a huge inventory of headphones, so most of my review is based on my experience with the FLC 8s, RHA MA750 and the HD 6XX. I also had a brief experience with the Campfire Comets, Oriveti New Primacy, and the RHA T20i.

Accessories & Build

The ER3XR came with bare essentials and is in a simple box. A bit lackluster compared to Chi-Fi and its ER4 brother but with the price they're charging I guess I'll overlook it. The small pouch is nice with a small extra compartment to put the tools/extra ear tips.

The build quality of the housing is aluminum and is very sturdy. The detachable MMCX cable is a nice touch. The connectors are also sturdy. However, even with the provided clip, microphonics is a huge problem with the cable. The angle of the connectors also don't really allow over-ear wearing which I thought initially would be a problem, but with how sturdy the triple flange "sucks" into the ears I'd say these falling out during a nap on a plane flight isn't a huge worry. However, I can't help but think how much microphonics from the cable will be alleviated if they can be worn so.

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Design & Comfort

As mentioned above, these are not designed to be worn over-ear. They don't fall out easily, in fact pulling these out require you to do so slowly (spinning it might help). I often pull these out quickly to talk to people and they feel like pulling out my innards (don't do it often, it actually hurts!). The sleek rubber finish of the cable felt high quality but probably contributed a significant portion of microphonics.

Initially I feared that the triple flanges might not fit my ears well from all the forum talk, and the deep insertion might cause pain. I mostly use Comply's on my RHA 750, but I really dislike them as they change the sound balance despite being comfortable. To my pleasant surprise, these fit my ears comfortably for a long time, to the point I can say they are close to the Comply's on comfort. I normally can't even wear the JVC Spiral Dots for over 3 hours, and even a shorter time for other lesser quality silicon tips.

Alright, I guess it does sound a bit unbelievable that triple flanges are more comfortable than regular tips so let me come clean -- I've interned in a noisy factory, and for a brief period of my life also handled firearms in the military -- I often had to wear triple flange earplugs for hours so I guess I'm kinda a triple flange "veteran"? Although I do have to say compared to those itchy and bulky earplugs these are way more comfortable.

First Impression

So here are my first impressions notes when listening to it for the first time:

- Surprisingly present bass. Lots of people claimed the XR still sounded "flat" and don't get the SE. I disagree, these are definitely warm IEMs and obviously have an elevated bass (in a good and expected way though, I can't stand those 10+ dB V-shaped IEMs. Seriously what the hell, why are those a thing??).

- Warm, not bright at all. Awesome for long sessions without inducing fatigue.

- Single BA has surprisingly good separation, but starts choking on complex passages whenever heavier bass instruments are involved (mostly rock/metal/electronic)


For those like me who are super technical about frequency curves, here's a frequency graph by a fellow head-fi member: THREAD LINK. I'm not going into detail what the sound signature is like, the graph should tell you about it. However, if I were to describe it in a sentence I guess it would be "Warm IEMs tuned flat with a slight bass boost without fatiguing highs".

I will give each category an arbitrary score on how much value it provides relative to other categories and its price. (Note: I am an extremely critical person. A 3/5 means "acceptable performance".)Without further to do, lets break it down:

Bass (3/5) -- Easily one of the weakest point of the IEM. The ER3XR performs better on simple tracks without fast decaying bass. The lack of a dynamic driver like many multi-drier IEM makes its impact and separation sub-par imo. On simple soundtracks it performs fast flawlessly -- such as a single bass guitar performance, classical piano with simple background music, a drum solo, etc. However, in more complex situations (drum + bass guitar + vocal + guitar + other stuff) the single BA driver starts choking, causing the bass to loose overall quality and bleed into the mids/highs. I would avoid listening to EDM, metal, and more complex rock music with these.

Mids (5/5) -- The mids are intimate and awesome. Piano sounds absolutely amazing. Vocals are perfect. I mean, they are tuned closely to the diffuse field target and close to my ideal sound signature. Nothing to complain here.

Highs (4/5) -- Sometimes I wish the highs could be a bit brighter. From ER3XR and ER4XR measurements, I wish these could be tuned a but closer to the ER4 with a tad bit less bass and stronger highs. I use the grey-grey-gold filters on the FLCs and they sound bright and powerful, especially hearing the details on the trumpets. While details are definitely not lacking on these, the weaker highs make it harder to hear. However, those who are sensitive to sibilance will find the smooth highs perfect.

Soundstage (4/5) -- Soundstage is alright I guess? I do not have similar pricing IEMs to compare. They are definitely larger than the "in your head" RHA MA750s, but do not have the wider directionality my FLCs have. I will say that the soundstage is just right for pianos, as it sounds like you are the player him/herself. Most instruments don't sound like coming afar, but distant enough to differentiate the positions. I guess in terms of a concert hall, the soundstage ability sounds like you sitting in the conductor position, with most instruments no further than 20 ft from you with the exception of percussion effects actually sounding a bit wider. Unfortunately violins sound rather close, but on some tracks the intimacy makes it sound like a private audition which is kinda awesome. The ER3XR definitely has a bigger width than depth.

Separation (4.5/5 Classical; 3/5 Metal/Complex Rock/Electronic) -- I'm going to iterate again, the ER3XR is best not for fast decaying explosive bass, but slow, constant mid-bass focused tracks. On classical music, separation is good. The not rather large soundstage gives an impression things are close together, but I can assure your every single instrument is clearly separate, well represented. On more complex racks such as metal, 80% of the track should be fine. However, when everyone is playing together sometimes the IEM struggles to keep up mushing everything together. On EDM, whenever the heavy bass hits pretty much destroys the detail and separation of the entire spectrum. However, I do want to say that it really isn't as bad as I describe it to be. The bass performance still blew my RHAs out of the water, which bear in mind, was a $130 USD MSRP IEM. I'm just a critical person ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Music Example

In this section I list random music I felt like listening to in my library with a "rating" how well it performs and random thoughts. Use this section as reference to see if the music genre you listen to are suitable for these. I highly recommend reading the commends by order as you can read my flow of thoughts as I progress throughout my library.

Note: At this point my IEM had over 2 weeks of burn-in if that's a thing you care about.
Note 2: A 3/5 rating essentially means it's acceptable performance to me and I don't mind at all listening to such music with these IEMs.

Rating (out of 5):
1 - Poor performance; 2 - Struggling often; 3 - Fair performance; 4 - Good Performance; 5 - Exceeds expectations

Florian Bur - [Lovely #04] Lifelong (5/5) -- The intimacy of the piano was great.
Florian Bur - [Welcome to My World (Single)] Welcome to My World (5/5) -- Surprising impact on the low end. Good separation. Great details. Love the strings. Warm and lush. Snare drums at the end had surprisingly wide soundstage effect.
Florian Bur - [Unique #02] Aurora (5/5) -- The 2nd half of the track proves it easily handles separation with good soundstage on a more classical-styled music.
Tunes of Fantasy - [Dream Once Again #16] We Believe (5/5) -- The percussion portion was well separated. Good details. Bass drum were accurate.
Velvet piano - [Velvet piano #02] Mariage D'Amour (5/5) -- Great piano clarity, the backwound was warm and soft while the piano was impactful.
The Piano Guys - [The Piano Guys #04] Beethoven's 5 Secrets (4/5) -- Overall well balanced. Some stronger bass impact portions of the song briefly muffles the mids/highs. Loved the cello.
The Piano Guys - [The Piano Guys #07] Arwen's Vigil (5/5) -- Very clean piano, cello, percussion and bass. Cello was intimate and great.
Lindsey Stirling - [Lindsey Stirling CD1 #14] Transcendence (orchestral version) (4.5/5) -- The voilin was awesome and wasn't overly bright like my FLCs.
Lindsey Stirling - [Shatter Me CD1 #15] Take Flight (orchestral version) (4.5/5) -- Same as above.
Alexander Borodin - Prince Igor Polovtsian Dances Tańce Połowieckie (5/5) -- OH MAH GAWD classical sounds perfect on these. Impactful when needed, quiet and smooth on other portions. Perfection.
[Piano] Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica - Soundtrack Medley [piano] (5/5) -- Beautiful medley.
[Piano] Studio Ghibli Medley (5/5) -- Again, if you listen to a bunch of piano, these IEMs are literally perfect for it. The boosted mid-bass really makes the accompaniment portion more full.

Alan Walker - [Darkside (feat. Au/Ra & Tomine Harket) - Single CD1 #01] Darkside (feat. Au/Ra & Tomine Harket) (3.5/5) -- Everything was all fine until the bass dropped. The bass felt muddy and felt like overshadowing the mids. Definitely not "horrible" category, would still listen to the track when I feel like enjoying some Alan Walker.
Alan Walker - [Faded #01] Faded (4/5) -- Faded performed surprisingly well. While the bass beat had a hint of muddiness, and definitely did not pack a punch from dynamic driver, it managed to separate the female vocal, bass hit and the other sounds well.
Nitro Fun - [EDM] Soldiers (4/5) -- At this point I'm starting to feel that these IEMs don't sound as bad as I thought they would on EDM. I mostly tested these on metal and I thought it would apply to EDM too.
Marshmello - [EDM] Alone (4/5) -- I stand correct. Unless you care dearly about the explosive dynamic driver +10dB bass impact, if you prefer a clean balanced bass thump like I do these IEMs definitely perform fine.
Scary Noise - [EDM] Reaper (3.5/5) -- Same thoughts as above. The excessive bass thumps do reveal some muddiness in the single BA though.
Virtual Riot - [EDM] Energy Drink (4.5/5) -- The mid-bass focused thumps made the track sound rather clean for an EDM.
Jim Yosef - [EDM] Firefly (3/5) -- The more complex electronic rhythm during the "chorus" definitely didn't fare as well on these IEMs.

Avenged Sevenfold - [Nightmare #01] Nightmare (4.5/5) -- The percussion was clean and performed well. I was surprised how the double bass during the chorus performed well.
Avenged Sevenfold - [Nightmare #02] Welcome To The Family (4/5) -- Whoah the beginning was awesome. However, as it starts getting noisy it definitely struggles a slight bit to retain all details throughout the spectrum.
Avenged Sevenfold - [Carry On - Single #01] Carry On (3/5) -- The beginning definitely struggles a bit, but the rest were much better.
Avenged Sevenfold - [The Stage CD1 #01] The Stage (3.5/5) -- While portions of the track were awesome, some parts it struggles to keep up with the quick lower toms and bass drums.
Metallica - [Metallica CD1 #08] Nothing Else Matters (4/5) -- The percussion was clean. Can't help but think that bass kick was a bit unnatural and un-impactful. Overall the track was well balanced.
Disturbed - [Immortalized CD1 #11] The Sound of Silence (4/5) -- Intimate male vocals.
MASSIVE ATTACK - [Mezzanine CD1/2 #1/6] Angel (4/5) -- Our classic Head-Fi bass performance test track did pretty well. It wasn't until the more complex portion that the bass kick slightly bleeds into the mids.
Nirvana - [Nevermind #01] Smells Like Teen Spirit (3.5/5) -- Good clean percussion. However, complex portions do overwhelm these IEMs a tad bit.

We Are The Fallen - [Tear The World Down #01] Bury Me Alive (2.5/5) -- Ouch. Yeah the amount of stuff certainly did make it struggle a bit. Not that I "wouldn't" listen to this track because of that, but the lost details definitely made it not as enjoyable.
Queen - [Greatest Hits II #01] A Kind Of Magic (4.5/5) -- Most Rock music that are more calming such as queen will perform just fine. Simple beats and rhythm.
Queen - [Greatest Hits II #03] Radio Ga Ga (3.5/5) -- As expected the super hard bass hit does bleed into the mids.
Queen - [Classic Queen #02] Bohemian Rhapsody (4/5) -- Mamaaaa, oooooooOOOOOooooOOOOooo. The old recording is definitely showing its age. The bad part of having a detailed IEM such as etymotic’s, you hear the flaws of the old recordings.
AC/DC - [Highway To Hell #01] Highway To Hell (4/5) -- Again, 30 year old recording, starting to show its age. However, the simplicity of old recordings means that the Ety's dont struggle at all.
AC/DC - [Warning! High Voltage CD1 #01] Thunderstruck (5/5) -- No heavy bass = pure awesomeness.
30 Seconds to Mars - [This Is War #04] This Is War (3/5) -- Not sure if its the recording, but detail is lacking. And dang the middle school feels.
Bon Jovi - [Greatest Hits - The Ultimate CD1 #16] No Apologies (4/5) -- No apologies, but the song performed well.
Bon Jovi - [Greatest Hits - The Ultimate CD1 #01] Livin' On A Prayer (3.5/5) -- This song struggled a bit, although it sounded like it was the recording though. Separation was a bit lacking.
Aerosmith - [Big Ones #06] Janie's Got A Gun (4/5) -- Clean percussion and overall song.

My Chemical Romance - [The Black Parade / Living with Ghosts (The 10th Anniversary Edition) CD1 #05] Welcome to the Black Parade (2/5) -- WE'LL CARRY ONNNNNNNNNNNN!!! Emo childhood flashbacks anyone? Anyone? Jokes aside, kinda sad these IEMs struggled big time on one of my all-time favorite song. The toms/crash/screaming at the beginning definitely showed it struggled, and the chorus didn't help either.

Male Vocal
Mario Frangoulis - [Sometimes I Dream #05] Naturaleza Muerta (4.5/5) -- Overall it was great. Balanced.
Mario Frangoulis - [Sometimes I Dream #09] Hijo De La Luna (4.5/5) -- The male vocals in this was awesome.
Jeff Buckley - [Grace (MOV LP) CD1 #06] Hallelujah (5/5) -- Flawless male vocals.

ZAYN feat. Sia - [Dusk Till Dawn #01] Dusk Till Dawn (4/5) -- Sounds alright to me.
Eminem - [The Marshall Mathers LP 2 #12] The Monster (Feat. Rihanna) (3.5/5) -- I blame the mastering for this song. Separation wasn't great. Percussion felt muffled into the vocals. But then it's pop music...
Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee - [Despacito & Mis Grandes Éxitos CD1/1 #01] Despacito (4/5) -- ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Sarah Brightman - [Symphony #02] Fleurs Du Mal (4/5) -- This one did surprisingly well.
近藤浩治 - [The Legend of Zelda 30th Anniversary Concert CD2 #07] ゼルダの伝説メインテーマ (5/5) -- While the trumpet isn't as bright as I prefer, the overall separation is amazing. Stop hitting the damn chicken!
近藤浩治 - [The Legend of Zelda 30th Anniversary Concert CD2 #03] ゲルドの谷 (4.5/5) -- This one was a bit more complex. Overall it was amazing, but sometimes the timpani goes muddy.

J Pop/Anime Stuff (Insert frustration about loudness war ruminants in Japanese Masterings)
LiSA - [Ichiban no Takaramono ~Yui final ver.~ #01] Ichiban no Takaramono ~Yui final ver.~ (4/5) -- Definitely less fatiguing than my FLCs
HO-KAGO TEA TIME (CV: Toyosaki Aki, Hikasa Youko, Satou Satomi, Kotobuki Minako, Taketatsu Ayana) - [K-ON! MUSIC HISTORY'S BOX Disc-1 “OP & ED Single” CD1 #11] NO, Thank You! (4/5) -- This track sounds piercing on my FLCs. On the ER3XR, hey aren't bright at all, once again proving the warmth of these IEMs.
Ayano Mashiro - [ideal white #01] ideal white (3/5) -- This song sounds partly a mess due to the master (Lookup: The loudness war. Japanese mastering are super prone to this.)
Haruna Luna - [Sora wa Takaku Kaze wa Utau #01] Sora wa Takaku Kaze wa Utau (4/5) -- Percussion hits and separation are on point.
[Anime Orchestra] - [Fate stay night] ★ Ideal White (Orchestra) (4.5/5) -- The separation and detail were great.


At $170, I really can't complain about these. I just really wish that the bass performance could have been better. I've always wanted to own one of the Etymotic’s since forever and imagined them as these perfect detail gods. I guess I was just expecting too much out of these, especially them being the budget version of the ER4 costing only $170.

Overall, I highly recommend them. If your library consists of <20% Metl/Rock/Electronic music, these are definitely worth it. If all you listen to is classical, especially symphony or piano, these are definitely 100% worth its price.

EDIT 1: Fixed missing text from intro. *derp*
EDIT 2: Fixed 100+ typo *oof*
Pros: Calrity, Precision, Analytical Ability, Noise Isolation, ADSR/PRaT (Textures), Build Quality, Sweet Midrange, Smooth treble, Linear Bass, At this price they're amazing even as a price/performance ratio
Cons: Linear Bass and Smooth Treble will work with certain music types and tastes best, How well the deep-fit works is subjective with everyone's ear anatomy
Etymotic ER3XR - Precise Beauty

Etymotic is a pretty well-known company who's an expert in creating and designing in-ear monitors (IEMs), and they made a more affordable version of ER4XR, now named ER3XR. We're going to take a look at this IEM and what it brings to the table.


Etymotic is an iconic company when it comes to IEMs, since they are some of the first who pioneered and engineered the BA (Balanced Armature) design. Etymotic house sound has always been described as very refined, very detailed and quite linear, so in comparison with most other headphones and in-ears, Etymotic has always felt like they are slightly midrange-forward, with voices and the majority of instruments coming forward with excellent power and life. Etymotic also has a signature in using their specific deep-seal, which alloys for extreme amounts of isolation from the outside noise, often being some of the best In-Ears for musicians and performers.

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Etymotic, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by Etymotic or anyone else. I'd like to thank Etymotic for providing the sample for this review. The sample was provided along with Etymotic's request for an honest and unbiased review. This review will be as objective as it is humanly possible, and it reflects my personal experience with Etymotic ER3XR. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Etymotic ER3XR find their next music companion.

About me


First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:

The packaging is simpler and less inclusive than that of Etymotic ER4XR we reviewed before, but it has all the necessary items included, like the IEMs, a carrying solution, and a selection of tips and filters included with ER3XR. nIt should be noted that the filters are there to protect the IEM from debris and dust gathering inside, and it is not recommended to use an Etymtoic IEM without its filters.

The tip selection is fairly rich, and we often noticed that especially with Etymtoic IEMs, the medium tips that come installed on them are the tips most people will use with the IEMs.

The carrying solution is a soft pouch, which isn't as protective as the hard carrying case included with ER4XR, but it is more trendy, and it clearly has a nice design, with the name Etymotic embossed there.

It would be quite complicated to complain about the package, and the only thing we feel some users might desire from future iterations is a balanced cable, although that isn't currently easy to find for an Etymotic IEM, but we'll be sure to let you know more about them once they start becoming available.

What to look in when purchasing a midrange In-Ear Monitor

Technical Specifications

Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort

The build quality of ER3XR is as good as ER4XR's build quality was, a metallic IEM shell, combined with an MMCX connector for your safety and convenience, and combined with long silicone tips.

Now, the tips are made out of silicone, and they are quite long, making the IEMs look like either professional musician tools, or medical tools, being quite easy to tell apart from your typical IEMs.

The cables included with ER3XR are extremely solid, thick and look reliable for both a more active music listener and for a musician performing live.

The fit and comfort, on the other hand, is quite tricky. The thing is, Etymotic has a very specific deep-fit that you need to take into account before purchasing their IEMs, those IEMs need to be inserted much deeper than the average shallow or medium-insertion depth IEM, thing which can cause some issues with some listeners, depending on the way the inner ear looks like.

Even so, after one has successfully inserted ER3XR, just like other Etymotic IEMs, will find that they become quite comfortable. Although, it should be noted that the insertion process is not quite hassle-free for some users, having to pull the ear while inserting, and inserting them very slowly, the IEM doesn't sit very bad after the process is done.

Now, the whole insertion step is this complicated because ER3XR, like all other Etymotic IEMs, offers an insane amount of passive noise reduction, Etymotic IEMs having a trademark in being the best isolating IEMs out there (at the previously mentioned cost in comfort).

Sound Quality

We need to get a few things out of the way before we start analysing the sound quality and the sonic performance of ER3XR. First, we'd like to note our readers that it has been stated by Etymotic online that ER3 series have a similar performance with ER4 series, but the IEMs themselves are produced in a different factory. This means that the performances are quite close, and that just the margin of errors are larger than those for ER4XR, but those margin of errors should still be quite a bit smaller than the human hearing should be able to pick up.

The second thing is that the ER3XR has an Extended Bass reproduction amount compared to other Etymotic In-Ears. We want our basshead and bass lover readers to keep this in mind, Etymotic IEMs are unsuited for basshead needs, they simply are the bassier versions of Etymotic house sound, not a basshead IEM per se.

Now, the sonic performance is quite close to ER4XR. So close, that we'd have a hard time telling ER3XR apart from ER4XR.

For those looking for a refresh on how ER4XR sounds like, we invite you to read our review here, and we'll try conveying once again what we're hearing.

The bass of ER3XR is quite linear, quite detailed, and quite impressive. With ER3XR, you notice the finer details that it can render in the bass of your favorite songs, the way it conveys certain nuances that otherwise can get subdued, especially by most IEMs at this price point. You get a new sensation of speed as well, as ER3XR has one of the quickest sounds around, you feel every little reverberation in the sound.

The speed of the driver is quite relevant for the midrange as well, which, compared to the bass and the treble, is quite pushed forward. This makes ER3XR a really great performer for vocal-driven music, Jazz, and other types of music where you'd want a less intrusive bass, along with a leaner and smoother treble. The thing that is the most impressive here is the level of clarity and detail, ER3XR is quite close to ER4XR, almost indistinguishably so, so you'll be hearing a whole new level of resolution, especially if you're used to IEMs at this price, or even slightly higher. The speed of the driver means that it has a wonderful ADSR/PRaT performance, so you get to hear and be able to analyse every single detail, every single texture and micro texture, all the things that are normally smooth are now expressed and distinguishable, pretty much the wet dream of an analytic-sound lover. The midrange can feel slightly forward and slightly aggressive, especially with certain types of music, but this makes the songs that are musical be even more musical, the added texturization to a guitar solo makes it even more immersive and vivid to experience.

The treble is quite smooth and lean, especially if compared to the energetic and forward midrange. The detail in the treble is good, and its speed is as quick as the treble and the midrange, but the quantity of the treble is not exactly what we'd go for if you're a metal or rock listener. Instead, of you prefer your treble smoother and leaner, with a presence, but in a non-intrusive manner, then ER3XR should bring you lots of fun and a pretty good experience.

In short, they will work well with vocal-driven music, with Jazz and certain types of pop, but they are smooth and lean, with a linear-ish bass, so metal and rock music will work well with them if you know you like them played like this. The details and textures are still quite amazing, and as good as we remembered Etymotic textures and details to be.


The Soundstage of ER3XR is not the largest one, nor the widest one, but instead, the instrument separation is what they rely on to be impressive. Basically, the soundstage is average in both width and depth, and given the detail they achieve, one's focus will probably be set more on each individual bit of detail, rather than be focused on the scene as a whole (since ER3XR is so great at being analytical), and the instrument separation helps with that, since one is able to easily tell details and textures apart, one is also able to tell instruments apart, the whole image painted by ER3XR being clear, well separated, clearly positioned and detailed.


The ADSR and PRaT (Texturization) of the sound is one of the best there are. Basically, the drivers of ER3XR are exactly what everybody is telling BA drivers to be, quick, light, and super-detailed. The sound is super-analytical, every single minute detail shines and has an excellent place in a song, textures, and micro textures are very well expressed and feel enhanced, and ER3XR will make the textures of Mindless Self Indulgence and Masa works Design feel like macro-textures, adding even more minute details, compared to how other IEMs paint the textures there as micro-details, so the ADSR / PRaT is as good as it can get (especially if you like hearing all the exciting details in the music).

Portable Usage

There's a shirt clip included!

The jokes aside, ER3XR is quite portable. The noise isolation is extremely good, so you will really have to be careful when walking with them, but they don't really get uncomfortable over time, and the tips don't get sweaty, so they won't fall out of your ears after a while.

The cables are not microphonic, and this can further be helped by wearing them over-the-ear and by using the shirt clip.

Both the cable and the IEM body are lightweight and you can easily feel free while wearing them, one can even do heavyweight training, jogging and aerobics while wearing ER3XR, thing which is actually quite great, especially since you're going to see them as a good solution for separating yourself from the world, with all that great isolation.

On how easy to drive they are, they are not quite that easy to drive. They need a bit of power, but still, most mobile sources should do just fine, if not too well. The main thing is that they have a somewhat low efficiency, at almost 103 dB, where most IEMs in this price range might lean to be more around 110 - 115 dB in efficiency. The impedance is not very high though, so they will be easier to drive than the ER4XR, which was quite hard to drive, but was also rated at 98dB of efficiency, and 45 OHM of impedance.

We'd say that something like a FiiO M7 would be an excellent overall choice for ER3XR, although there will also be better (although more expensive) options out there, like Hiby R6, or FiiO X7mkii, iBasso DX150, etc.


Etymotic ER3XR vs Etymotic ER4XR - The main two differences most people are going to notice are that ER4XR are harder to drive in practice, and that ER4XR come with more accessories, and with a better overall package. The main thing that might come as a shock is that ER3XR is more or less the same when it comes to its sonic ability, the differences between the two being really hard to asses, and since the differences in how hard they are to drive are a little large, it is hard to do a proper volume matching. All in all, if you want the ultimate XR experience from Etymotic and if you don't mind spending a little extra, then ER4XR is still their flagship, but if you want to save a few bucks and don't mind a simpler, yet still as useful package, then ER3XR is quite an amazing overall choice. The unboxing experience sure is more fancy on ER4XR, but most people won't unbox them over and over again, so ER3XR, with their simpler package, but very similar sound, does make the better overall deal.

Etymotic ER3XR vs Oriveti New Primacy - Oriveti New Primacy was chosen mostly because they come at a similar price as ER3XR, but the differences in sound are so big that one could say they have nothing in common. Where ER3XR is a midrange-forward IEM with a very analytic and detailed sound, ONP is very natural in both its tonal balance, and its overall texture presentation, the detail revealing abilities of ONP are not the same as those of ER3XR, which are quite revealing in their nature, but the overall sonics feel more natural on ONP, which simply sounds natural. If you have a delight in hearing all the intricacies within a song, then ER3XR is clearly the more revealing and more textured IEM, but the more bass amount of ONP, the more natural overall tonal balance, and the more lively upper midrange / treble makes them a choice suited for those looking for an easier listen and for a more natural experience. Where ER3XR has a deep-fit, ONP has a shallow fit, but also has some driver flex, so which will be more comfortable will be quite subjective. ONP still makes an excellent value, but so does ER3XR.

Etymotic ER3XR vs Dunu DK-3001 - DK-3001 is actually even further away from ER3XR, with an even more natural sound than Oriveti New Primacy, thing which basically means that they have more bass in quantity, less midrange in quantity, and more treble in quantity, along with a slower overall texture, leaner overall sound and presenting music in a more natural overall fashion. The package is quite fancy with DK-3001, and you can tell that you're purchasing a high-end IEM, and they clearly sound more natural, have a wider soundstage, and slightly better instrument separation, but once again, if you want a truly revealing analytical sound, then ER3XR, with its quick response, textured sound, and excellent revealing abilities / detail, will make the more compelling option. The comfort with DK-3001 might be a little problematic because they are on the larger side, and because some users reported having some comfort issues with them, but they also have a detachable cable, and they also have a shallow fit, if you find the deep-fit of ER3XR to not suit your ears very well. On the other hand, both are excellent value, and both IEMs's fit will be quite subjective, so if you can test before purchasing, we recommend testing each and seeing which suits your ears best.

Recommended Pairings

Etymotic ER3XR is somewhat more source-dependant than its bigger brother ER4XR, but it can be driven easier from less powerful sources, making it a more portable and easier to use for a beginner IEM.

Etymotic ER3XR + FiiO Q5(AMP5) - FiiO Q5 is quite probably one of the sources you'll be most inclined to pair ER3XR with, given its sweet price and its even sweeter price to performance ratio. FiiO Q5 has a great overall tonal balance, it gives them a good, larger soundstage, and it helps ER3XR gain even better instrument separation. The fact that Q5 is a DAC/AMP that needs to be stacked with a smartphone might be slightly inconvenient, but then again, you can pick FiiO x7mkii, if you want an all-in-one solution that will surely fit your needs.

Etymotic ER3XR + Hiby R6 - Hiby R6 does a great job at driving ER3XR, and although they are detailed and sensitive enough to tell R6 apart from something more expensive than it, like FiiO Q5 or FiiO X7mkii, R6 sounds plenty good already. With its fluid Android experience, if you're looking for something to help you stream your favorite music and for something to just use without any more hassles, R6 makes a very compelling option. On the other hand, we'd like to note that R6 has this little downside, it has only one microSD slot, compared to FiiO X7mkii, which has two.

Etymotic ER3XR + iBasso DX150 - If you're looking for something to give ER3XR a thicker and more satisfying sound, you should totally consider iBasso's latest jewel, DX150. It comes with all the beauty and power DX200 has, but at a much more accessible price, but still with iBasso's modular AMP design, and the AMP it comes with by default, AMP6 is quite thick and satisfying, providing a IEM with a lot of impact, and giving ER3XR quite a little bit of dynamics and impact, all while making their overall textures a tiny bit smoother and leaner.

Etymotic ER3XR + FiiO M7 - This is an interesting combo because M7 isn't just a sport-sized DAP made to be quite portable, but it is also quite inexpensive and plays well with ER3XR. If you don't require a lot of bells and whistles from your DAP, and if you can do with a single microSD slot, M7 sure is checking out for combining it with M7.

Etymotic ER3XR + Cayin N5ii - This combo works quite well. Cayin N5ii is not only very potent, but also comes at an excellent price for a DAP with two microSD slots, Android and the option to add third party apps as well. If you need streaming, two microSD slots, and a pretty neutral sound, then N5ii may be just the DAP for you.

Value and Conclusion

Reaching the end of our review, we hope you had a lot of fun reading about ER3XR, and we hope that we have been helpful in your decision on whether ER3XR should be your next IEM or not.

If you're looking for an Etymotic ER4XR, but in a less expensive package, then ER3XR should fit the bill quite well, with its similar ergonomic, similar fit and comfort, and similar noise isolation, and even with its similar sonic performance, but with the more pocket friendly price.

The detail and textures of Etymotic are not to be taken lightly and they have proven themselves many times over the ears to be a very capable company worthy of your trust and money, especially if you're one to appreciate a truly clean and analytical sound, with an extremely good detail and revealing ability, along with a very interesting sonic performance and overall price / performance ratio.

Etymotic ER3XR is a IEM with a midrange-forward tuning, so it will work quite well with certain types of music, especially with those that are voice-driven, but should also be heaven sent if you require a IEM to do mastering for an album and if you want to hear the sound down to the most intricate detail.

The package is still very comprehensive, you get all the tips you'll require with ER3XR, you get Etymotic's exemplary work, along with their reliable and lightweight cables, and a trendy, yet not very protective, carrying case. They'll also throw in a shirt clip, which would can come in very handy, especially if you plan on performing and need a tight fit with your IEMs.

At the end of the day, if you need excellent levels of noise isolation, if you need something to sound clear, clean and textured, stellar build quality, and a great overall deal, then Etymotic ER3XR are surely worth checking out and considering, regardless whether you're an avid music lover with a passion for detail, or a touring musician who needs a trusty tool in your arsenal.


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Dobrescu George
Dobrescu George
@Maestrophil Where ER3XR is Midrange forward, IT01 is warm, with a forward bass and treble, and a recessed midrange, IT-01 has a much large bass, slower bass, slower midrange, slower treble, with the midrange being not as forward and detailed, but neither as fatiguing and aggressive, IT01 has a much sparklier treble, with more emotiona and emphasis on the highs, and overall, IT01 feels more versatile, unless you really like Ety's signature. Also, It01 is much less expensive AFAIK :)
Thank you very much. Your description is helping me lean towards trying the IT01s. I mean my HF3s still have life in them, if I want to hear a bit more of the Ety sound (though not as nice at the ER3). The iBassos are much more friendly on the pocketbook - even with a good price, the ER3XR I found were 50 bucks more.

I just want to feel like the iBassos are an upgrade for my from my old HF3s. :). Guess I should stop being a baby and just buy them already!

Thanks again!
Dobrescu George
Dobrescu George
@Maestrophil No worries! I hope the choice brings you lots of fun! :)


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