Etymotic Research ER2XR

iceperry

New Head-Fier
Pros: Build Quality, Detail Retrieval, Quality Mids Presentation, Unbeatable Value
Cons: Fit (YMMV), Microphonics

Intro


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Disclaimer: I purchased the ER2XR with my own money and this review is written of my own accord and all thoughts here are my own. For more reviews like these, drop by our site: www.perrivanaudio.com

Years into the hobby, I have finally owned a pair of Etymotics. Hearing so many rave reviews of the ER2 and how they break the expectations of their price bracket, how could I resist not checking them out myself?

Accessories and Build Quality (Score: 8/10)


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Accessories are decent and cover all your basic needs for under a $100 IEM. It comes with a soft pouch, spare filters and a combination of triple-flanged, double-flanged and foam tips. The cable is a rather springy and light cable that really is the bare minimum. I soon swapped out to a third-party balanced cable.

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Fit (Score: 7/10)


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Fit for the Etymotics really depends on you. Despite a few weeks of trying to get used to them, I never dared stuff these too deep and they always felt so intrusive. Nonetheless, they did stay in my ears when properly inserted and isolation was stellar. If you are used to deep in-ear insertion, these would fit well. I enjoyed the double flange tips provided much more than the triple-flanged ones and they struck a nice balance between isolation and comfort.

The biggest problem for me was microphonics when I walked around. Microphonics was significantly increased when I swapped out for the heavier third-party cable.

Sound (Score: 8.6/10)


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Frequency Response Graph of the ER2XR (measured with Dual Flange Tips)

Sources Used
  • Hiby R5
  • Lotoo Paw S1
Albums and Tracks tested with
- Itzhak Perlman
- Broods – Free
- Why Don’t We – The Good Times and The Bad Ones
- 10cm – 4.0
- Michael Bublé
- Gryffin
- NEEDTOBREATHE
- Scary Pockets - Agoraphobia
- James Bay – Sing Up, Sing Out
- Noah Kahan
- Galantis
- AJR

Bass (Score: 8.5/10)

The bass on the ER2XR was really refreshing. This is my first time owning a pair of Etys, and prior to this, my experience with the older models like the ER4 has left me with the stereotype that they tended to be a little sterile and lean in the bass. Hence, the bass quantity and extension on the ER2XR really came as a surprise. Listening to tracks from AJR, the bass subbass had good extension and a clear rumble. There was no ugly bass bleed or bloating despite the elevated response. On EDM tracks by Galantis, the layers came together in a really engaging presentation.

Mids (Score: 9/10)

The mids were also where I thought the ER2XR did a fantastic job. I really enjoyed the way male vocals sounded. They had a very pleasant broad yet firm sound, especially on tracks by Noah Kahan and The Lumineers and I liked how the lower mids weren't overly recessed. Female vocals and horn instrumental sections of tracks by Scary Pockets were crystal clear and very well textured. In general, vocals are positioned forward a little but not too overpowering, giving it a nice amount of strength and presence without ever coming close to becoming shouty. Combined with the stellar detail retrieval, everything comes together nicely to make vocal-centric tracks a drug I keep coming back to the ER2XRs for.

Treble (Score: 8/10)

Treble takes a backseat but does its job in complementing the sound signature well. It doesn’t extend very high but does have a good amount of micro details in the treble, enough to make the ER2XR a competent sounding pair of monitors. Treble performance has a mature tonality that definitely exceeds the expectation of a pair of sub-100 monitors.

Overall

The soundstage can get a little small due to the deep insertion of these IEMs, however, they didn’t feel overly claustrophobic due to the rather accurate imaging and presentation. There was a very good separation between musical layers as well. The bottom line is the ER2XRs are not your typical “reference-tuning” monitors you expect from Etymotics.

Conclusion (Overall: 8.8/10)

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The ER2XR is a very exciting release from Etymotic at this price point. It has a superb build quality and packs a lot sonically in such a tiny package. Etymotics took a chance by deviating from their usual reference-centric tuning and really surprised us pleasantly with the performance of these. I envision myself using these a lot for study sessions for their very fun yet clean tuning combined with excellent isolation. All that’s left is getting used to the fit!
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Will it connect to a Shure or Westone Bluetooth cable?

CK Moustache

100+ Head-Fier
Link to my review and measurement index thread where one can also find a full review overview, more information about myself as well as my general-ish audio and review manifesto: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/956208/




I only give full stars. My ranking/scoring system does not necessarily follow the norm and is about as follows:


5 stars: The product is very good and received the "highly recommended" award from me.

4 stars: The product is very good and received the "recommended" award from me.

3 stars: The product is good/very good, but not outstanding/special enough to get any of my two awards. ["Thumbs Up"]

2 stars: The product is only about average or even somewhat below that and somewhat flawed/flawed in some areas. [neither "Thumbs Up" nor "Thumbs Down"]

1 star: The product is bad/severely flawed to outright bad. ["Thumbs Down"]






Etymotic ER2XR


Source:

Review sample.


Miscellaneous:

Just like on the ER3XR as well as ER4XR, "XR" stands for "Extended Response", indicating a moderately boosted bass compared to the flatter tuned SE (respectively SR) models.

One dynamic driver per side; closed shells.

Come with the same accessories as the ER3XR (almost the same small pouch case as that of my ER-4S and the ER3 series, one pair of green replacement filters along with a filter removal tool made of metal, one shirt clip, one pair of cylindrical foam tips, and last but not lest two pairs of differently sized silicone tips – that’s definitely a bit disappointing compared to the ER4 series’ amount of accessories, but still okay).
Same black cardboard case inside the outer paper sleeve. Somewhat rubber-like surface finish as known from the ER3 series, however without any shiny black “ER2” written on it.

Small blue shells that are made of metal. Same size as those of the other new ER series in-ears. Very beautiful blue colour – personally, this is definitely my favourite colour among the various new ER series in-ears.
Good build quality.
It’s nice that each shell has the serial number as well as model number on it in white (the same is true for the ER3 and new ER4 series in-ears).

Removable cables with non-rotating (small notch that prevents that) MMCX connectors.
Nice blue y-splitter that’s made of metal, too.
A chin-slider is present.
Side indicators unfortunately only small and difficult to see in dimly lit environments – coloured indicators would have been better.
Fairly supple and flexible cable.
Rather high microphonics when worn down, but that can be fixed by guiding the cable over the ears and using the chin-slider (or alternatively using the included shirt clip).




Sound:

Largest included triple-flange silicone tips, modified so that they create a seal in my large ear canals while still maintaining the original ear tip length (achieved by cutting off the smallest flange and putting it onto the nozzle first, followed by the remaining double-flange rest of the tip).

Tonality:

Sub-bass elevation with diffuse-field-oriented midrange and treble neutrality. In other words, neutral midrange as well as treble combined with a really nicely integrated elevation of the lower midbass and especially sub-bass that the lows’ main focus lies on. Harman-like, if you will.

In the midrange and treble, the ER2XR follow the ER2SEs’ tonality almost exactly, which means that the ER2XR are highly linear and realistic sounding, which I cannot only confirm by listening to music (and performing acoustic measurements) but also when listening to sine sweeps that reveal a very even, linear tonal response without any unevenness, sudden peaks or dips; instead, the ER2XR, just like Etymotic’s other models that I am familiar with (ER-4S, ER4SR, ER4XR, ER3SE, ER3XR, ER2SE), show remarkable upper midrange and treble neutrality and evenness to my ears that is only very rarely achieved by other in-ears, resulting in a highly natural and realistic treble timbre reproduction (which is also the reason why I prefer my ER-4S and the ER4SR over the various other, much more expensive, technically more proficient in-ears that have a more or less neutral sound signature as well, for stationary music listening).
Therefore the ER2XR also closely resemble the ER4XRs’ midrange and treble tuning, with slightly greater upper midrange and treble quantity compared to the ER3XR, and slightly less upper midrange/presence range quantity compared to the ER4SR.

While the ER2XR have got a bass elevation, it is implemented extraordinarily well, as it avoids bleeding into the midrange and instead mostly stays out of it (it starts to climb around 600 Hz and reaches its climax nicely low, in the true sub-bass).
Compared to the ER3XR, the ER2XR have got a smidgen less lower midrange/upper fundamental range warmth, while they are just a tad warmer in this range than the ER4XR. Generally, it is quite remarkable how close all of the three XR in-ears are tuned between 100 Hz and 500 Hz, with a tuning difference of only between around 1 dB (ER2XR compared to ER3XR / ER3XR compared to ER4XR) to around 2 dB (ER4XR compared to ER2XR) between each other.
The bigger differences in the bass start below 100 Hz – while the ER3XR and ER4XR show a more or less similar response between 20 Hz and 90 Hz, the ER2XR add a few decibels on top and have got their highest bass amplitude at a lower frequency than the two other XR in-ears (the ER2XR peak really nicely low at around 30 Hz with an elevation of around 8.5 dB compared to the ER4SR/my ER-4S), which makes them the bassiest and especially most sub-bass oriented in-ears out of the three.
While there is fortunately no bass bleed into the midrange, there’s nonetheless a bit of gentle, pleasant warmth/body that doesn’t interfere with the midrange but stays mostly out of it, added to the lower fundamental range. Sure, the elevation is not exclusive to the sub-bass (almost no in-ears’ bass elevation is truly sub-bass exclusive, and out of those I have, the closest to that would be my Earsonics ES3) but already features an upper bass elevation of around 5 dB at 100 kHz compared to the central midrange at 1 kHz, however the ER2XR already do such a tremendously great job and come nicely close to a “true subwoofer effect” by peaking no higher than at around 30 Hz wherefore they do not sound thick or midbassy and also do not have an unnecessarily strong upper bass kick or punch, but a nice, “driving” sub-bass elevation from down below that really only shows up when the track actually reaches this low.

As a result of all, the ER2XR sound highly natural, realistic and accurate, but also feature a really nicely implemented elevation of the lower bass on top.

On a personal note, before I ever listened to the ER2XR for the first time, I didn’t expect too much from them but thought that I would prefer the ER2SE for recreational, non-flat-neutral listening, so the question was: is a sub-bassy model from Etymotic really necessary?
The ER2XR would not serve me as some of my main in-ears for stationary music listening anyway (in-ears such as the Etymotic ER4SR, my ER-4SR, InEar ProPhile 8, Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors and few others take this spot), as I prefer a flatter, more neutral presentation for that.
For recreational music music listening and recreational in-ear use, however, Etymotic’s bass-elevated ER2 model is simply fantastic; yep this is exactly the right word for these in-ears. They deliver that high midrange and treble neutrality and realism but at the same time, of course only when the audio signal reaches that low, provide a pleasant, fun sub-bass boost that doesn’t interfere with the midrange.
So, coming back to the initial question – are sub-bassy Etymotic in-ears really necessary? I think they definitely are; they are not simply just a comparably tuned alternative to the ER4XR or ER3XR, but are instead absolutely a fully qualified stand-alone alternative with that extra sub-bass lift. And I have to admit that I like and enjoy them much more than I had thought, in fact to the point that I would go even further to say confidently enough that regardless of price, the ER2XR have become some of my all-time favourite in-ears for non-neutral, recreational listening due to how well their fun sub-bass elevation is implemented, while the lower midrange, midrange and treble feature the high Etymotic neutrality that I am familiar with and personally hear as the closest to my perception of “flat neutral”.

Frequency Response:


ER-4S-Compensation

The ER2XR were measured with the non-modified triple-flange ear tips in both graphs as I did not save the other measurements and didn’t bother to re-measure them. Due to the resulting slightly different insertion depth into the coupler, the graphs shows a bit less upper treble quantity than the ER2XR would actually have.


ProPhile 8-Compensation

Resolution:

Very nice, natural timbre and note decay.
Very coherent, but that’s not really a too big surprise given they are single-driver in-ears and since the ER4 and ER3 series in-ears as well as the ER2SE and my ER-4S sound very coherent, too.

High midrange resolution and speech intelligibility. Fine details are revealed nicely.
Clean note and treble separation, although ultimately not fully on the same level as that of the single-BA Etymotic models from the ER4 and ER3 line as well as my ER-4S. This, however, gives the ER2XR a bit more “character” rather typical for dynamic driver in-ears, and sounds highly natural while still clean and precise.
Despite being subjectively just a bit less resolving than the single-BA Etymotic models, the ER2XR do not have any “grain” in the midrange when compared to them – something that’s also true for the ER2SE, and is probably due to that the dynamic drivers used in the ER2 series have less distortion than the BA drivers in the other Etymotic models (not that they had high distortion either, but perhaps that is the reason for this perception – not that the BA model Etymotic in-ears sounded grainy in the mids (they are far from that), but in a direct side-by-side comparison, there is just that extra “something” to the ER2 series’ dynamic driver midrange presentation).
Perceived lower midrange and fundamental range as well as bass resolution slightly behind that of the ER2SE to my ears; otherwise they resolve pretty much similarly well.

The bass softens just a bit towards sub-bass and loses a bit of texture, but doesn’t really lose any control.
The lows are precise and generally pretty tight and fast, but ultimately a bit less tight than Etymotic’s bass-elevated BA models (ER3XR and ER4XR), with transients that are generally just a bit on the softer side in direct comparison. The ER2XRs’ subjectively perceived bass “texture”, however, even in the bass range where the three XR models are mostly similarly tuned, is more perceptible and feels different; the general presentation of the dynamic driver is just a bit different and adds a slight “something” to the ER2XR that could be described as having more “character”, something that could be definitely perceived as more “natural” by many people.
Either way, just as with the tuning, in terms of technical qualities, the ER2XR deliver extraordinarily high performance.

Soundstage:

Compared to Etymotic’s other single-BA in-ears from the ER3 and ER4 line as well as my ER-4S, the ER2XRs’ soundstage appears subjectively larger in all dimensions to my ears, especially in terms of perceived spatial width (not by much, but still).
It sounds generally three-dimensional and therefore authentic as well as realistic with a believable front projection. (The ER2XR are even also good with the portrayal of elements that are behind the listener – if they are present on the recording.)

When it comes to imaging and precision, the ER2XR do not show any real weakness either and place instruments and tonal elements accurately on the imaginary stage, with clean instrument separation and a soundstage that still remains mostly intact even with busy, fast and dense music material, even though the ER2SE’s stage remains just a tiny bit cleaner in comparison due to their flatter, more neutral bass tuning that puts less “stress” on the driver in busy and demanding situations (in addition, due to their flatter tuning, there is of course also less subjective frequency masking, which is the main reason for this impression). Nevertheless, the ER2XRs’ imaging is precise as well, although when compared to the single-BA Etymotic in-ears, both new ER2 series models give in just a little earlier with very densely arranged, busy tracks.

Largest and most three-dimensional soundstage among all Etymotic in-ears to my ears (pretty much similarly perceived spatial width as the ER2SE, however more perceived spatial depth, probably an impression that’s caused by the sub-bass-focused elevation in the lows).
Almost perfectly circular to my ears; just a little wider than deep (slightly oval).

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Comparisons:

Shure SE846 (white Treble Filters):

Both in-ears have got a comparable tuning and clearly head into a similar direction in terms of sound, but still have some differences in their tonality.
While the upper bass presence at 100 Hz is almost identical on both in-ears, the ER2XR have got slightly more quantity in the root above it up to around 450 Hz, and have got a sub-bass boost that is a bit stronger and peaks a bit deeper, giving them an even somewhat stronger “subwoofer effect” than the SE846.
The Shures’ upper mids and presence range are somewhat more in the background wherefore their upper mids are a bit darker than the Etymotics’.
To my ears, the Shures’ middle treble around 5 kHz is more in the background in comparison, which gives them a more relaxed presentation. The upper treble (cymbals) are somewhat more forward on the SE846. Super treble extension past 10 kHz is definitely better on the Etymotic.

The Etymotic beat my Shure when it comes to upper midrange and treble linearity as well as realism and timbral accuracy.
Voices are more realistic on the Etymotic whereas they have a more relaxed, darker character on the Shure due to their comparatively more relaxed upper midrange, presence range and middle treble.
The biggest difference however is the upper treble – while the Shure render cymbals brighter than the ER2XR, they don’t sound fully right, and that’s not because they are brighter, but because they appear as if they decayed faster (over-dampened), since they lack the upper tones and reverb as the SE846s’ super treble extension is pretty limited; in comparison, cymbals appear to decay correctly on the ER2XR and have got that reverb, decay and the upper tones that they are supposed to have, as the Etys’ super treble extension is better.

Bass tightness and sub-bass definition are ultimately superior on the Shure when both in-ears are compared directly, but surprisingly not by much.
If fast music tracks are played, the Shure remain a bit better controlled and more focused in the bass and mids than the ER2XR, although the difference is smaller than one may expect.
In terms of speech intelligibility, the Ety are ahead due to their tuning as their entire midrange is more neutral, however the Shures’ retrieval of micro details in the mids is better in direct comparison.
It is a different story, though, when it comes to treble details: here, the Etymotic are audibly somewhat ahead, as the Shure simply lack information and sound softer, less precise and less clean when it comes to treble separation.

The Etys’ soundstage appears subjectively larger to me. The Shures’ is more circular to my ears while the Etys’ is slightly more oval in comparison.
In terms of imaging, the Shure are only minimally more precise in direct comparison. With dense, fast and complex music material, the Shures’ stage remains a bit more intact.

While my Shure are a bit ahead in terms of technical performance in the lows and mids (but lose in the treble), the ER2XR beat them when it comes to midrange and treble accuracy, linearity as well as timbre in these frequency ranges, and are generally not that far behind at all when it comes to technical performance, so I personally ultimately prefer the Etymotic (more than “just slightly”) and also think that generally, as a whole package, they are the better in-ears (and this even while neglecting the fairly big price difference between the two).

Etymotic’s Single-BA In-Ears (ER-4S, ER4SR, ER4XR, ER3SE, ER3XR):

A lot has already been written in my main review and sound analysis above, so here is just a small summary:

Identically great, highly linear and flat-neutral midrange and treble response with realistic timbre – no sudden dips or peaks wherefore the sound is highly authentic and realistic.

In terms of technical perception, the dynamic driver Etys are just a smidgen behind the BA Etys to my ears when it comes to ultimate note separation, but this only shows rarely when the in-ears are stressed by very busy, dense and bast sound material. Most of the time, they are remarkably close to the point of being near-indistinguishable.
Slightly “softer” bass presentation compared to the BA Etys but on its own very tight and controlled. Attacks and impact better/easier perceived when compared to the single-BA Etys.
In direct comparison, the single-BA Etys appear to have a bit of “grain” in the midrange compared to the dynamic driver Etys that do not.

Larger perceived soundstage than the single-BA Etys and highly precise as well, but starts to become “foggy”/gives in earlier with spatially very crowded, densely arranged tracks with many tonal elements at the same time.

Moondrop Starfield:

My Starfield sound somewhat bassier and warmer to me but are generally heading into a highly comparable direction when it comes to tuning.
As such, the Moondrop have a slightly more relaxed presence range in comparison while they sound highly authentic in the mids as well, although with some more lower midrange/fundamental range warmth than the ER2XR, but are a bit brighter in the middle treble than the Etymotic.
In terms of treble extension past 10 kHz, the ER2XR offer more subtle “air”.
While far from “wonky” or bad, the Starfield appear to be just somewhat less linear and refined in the treble tuning than the ER2XR.

Technical performance is close enough but I would ultimately place the ER2XR just somewhat higher than the Starfield. While their advantage in the treble is only fairly small, the biggest difference is in the lows where the Etymotic in-ears are less soft whereas the Starfield have got the slightly softer bass attack and slower, more lingering decay in comparison, wherefore they start to give in/show their limits just a bit earlier on tracks that are demanding and fast in the bass, while most of the time the performance is close enough.

Generally, I hear the ER2XR as the slightly more refined, more linear, more authentic sounding version of the Starfield, and would place them ultimately somewhat higher, whereas the Starfield have got the advantage of a more common, less deep insertion/wearing style (for what it is worth, the vented Starfield naturally offer audibly lower passive exterior noise isolation than the closed shell ER2XR).
Simply put, while the Starfield get a “Recommended”, the ER2XR place the bar just a bit higher and get that rare “Highly Recommended”.




Conclusion:

Highly Recommended.

The ER2XR just do so much right in terms of tuning, frequency response evenness and therefore perceived realism/authenticity, and soundstage, to the point of being pretty much flawless:
Very high midrange and treble accuracy as known from Etymotic and loved by me, combined with a fun bass elevation that concentrates mainly on the true sub-bass and doesn’t interfere with the midrange, which is something that not many in-ears achieve. This all, combined with the good technical performance as well as the subjectively most three-dimensional soundstage among the ER-4S, ER4, ER3 and ER2 line, make the ER2XR a fantastic choice of in-ears and even places them among my personal all-time favourites for non-flat, recreational use regardless of price.


Photos:

fablestruck
fablestruck
Will it connect to a Shure or Westone Bluetooth cable?

Bacon_N_Cheese

100+ Head-Fier
Best Value Neutral IEM
Pros: -Fantastic detail and mids
-Great Price-to-performance ratio
-Top of the line isolation
Cons: -Clinical, cold sound that isn’t ideal for everyone
-Fit may be an issue for some (though I think it’s an overrated issue)
Design and Fit

Etymotics are famous for their deep insertion IEMs, which provide the best isolations out of all IEMS. This comes at a cost of comfort for some individuals. However, I will say that for me and a few other individuals who tried my ER2XR, they fit surprisingly well and I was able to wear them for 1+hour without discomfort. The ER2XR comes with two sizes of triple flange eartips and foam eartips to help find the best fit. If the included tips do not work well, a lot of people have had good success with the more recent Etymotic double-flange tips.

The cable has some microphonics but the included shirt clip greatly reduces it. The included soft storage pouch is a great way to travel with the ER2XR. A small con is that the nozzles have plastic filters that eventually get clogged by earwax and moisture. Rather than being able to clean the filters like many other IEMs, they must be removed by the included filter removal tool that destroys the filters in the process of removal. Two extra filters are included, but replacement filters run at $12 for 4 filters on Amazon.

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Sound

The ER2XR have a very clean, neutral sound that is highly detailed. Mids are fantastic, especially vocals. Listening to indie rock, jazz, and acoustical music with the ER2XR is very enjoyable as they create great instrument separation, detail, and clarity. I own the HE400i, FiiO FH3, Grado SR60, ATX MTH-50, and these IEMs beat them all when it comes to detail and clarity.

XR version is tuned with slightly more bass than the ER2SE variety, and gives music a good punch. If you love bass, stay away, as these will never give you thumping low-end. However, I am a big believer in “mental burn-in” and that our brain adjusts to the sound signature of our headphones. At first, I thought that electronic, R&B, rap, and other bass-heavy music sounded boring on the ER2XR. But after about a week of use, music that at first sounded quite boring in the low-end (Kendrick Lamar’s Damn and Grimes Miss Anthropocene for example) had more impact and felt “sufficient”, though never blew me away.

Soundstage is narrow and makes the music sound inside your head, although I didn’t find it to detract from the experience at all.

My biggest criticism with the sound is that they do have a bit of a clinical, cold sound to them that can be boring or that I am not always in the mood for. But, at the sub $250 price point, pretty much any pair of IEM is going to have weaknesses. The ER2XR sound fantastic for the price (often on sale between $60-$80 USD on sale) and excel in detail and the midrange.


Verdict

If you are looking to get a solid bang for your buck for a neutral IEM, the ER2XR is one of the best choices. I was able to score a pair for $60 on Amazon and, for that price, I cannot stop listening to these IEMs. Even though they have a clinical sound, I keep finding opportunities throughout the day to listen to them because the detail is just so darn great. If you can fit them comfortably and give some time to adjust to their sound, the ER2XR are addictive and a great entry-way IEM to get hooked into the audiophile world.


5/5
Last edited:
Yasin Caliskan
Yasin Caliskan
Cool review. Concise too.

They were tools, not iems :) Tool to dissect the music you hear.
amanieux
amanieux
for earth shaking sub bass is fiio fh3 your recommendation or is there something out there you prefer at sub $150 price point ?
Bacon_N_Cheese
Bacon_N_Cheese
amanieux--I haven't tried many iems at the sub $150 price point. I don't have the fh3s anymore but I remember them having fine sub bass but nothing I would call earth shaking. they were certainly a fun pair of earbuds though

Precogvision

Reviewer at Headphones.com
Pros: - clean, engaging bass response
- natural, dynamic timbre
- excellent cohesiveness and presentation
- isolation
Cons: - narrow staging
- treble roll-off
- can be harrowing on the ears first time
Special thanks to Anthony of Audio Discourse for sending these out for me to play with. Be sure to check them out herefor more great audio reviews.

Introduction
When the notion of value comes up in the IEM world, the word “Chi-fi” is generally what follows – but screw that. Instead, let me introduce to you Etymotic, a renowned hearing-aid and IEM company based out of the good ‘ol USA. I’ve avoided the Etymotic lineup for some time because of their, let’s just say, unique form factor. They insert deep into your ear canals, and I mean real deep. People even joke about losing their ear’s virginity to Etymotic’s infamous triple-flange tips; frankly, the thought revolted me. But I have zero regrets having taken the plunge with the ER2XR – let’s discuss why.

Specifications
  • Drivers: Dynamic
  • Frequency response: 20 – 16kHz
  • Impedance : 15-ohm
  • Sensitivity : 96 dB
  • Noise isolation : 35 – 42 dB
  • Weight: ±2g per earpiece
  • MSRP: $170
The Tangibles
Yeah, I ended up buying my own. Nothing’s really given me that itch since the Moondrop Blessing 2, so I guess that’s saying something, huh?

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Fit, Isolation, and Comfort
I’ve skipped this section in a lot of my previous reviews. Fit is generally 100% subjective to an individual, but I need to make an exception here. You will need to get accustomed to the way these fit because of how deep they go. A good seal is also crucial; it’ll sound like you’re listening to music out of a telephone and the bass will be attenuated without it. A nifty trick is to “twist” them as you insert them into your ears. While I initially had some trouble inserting the ER2XR, once I figured it out, I’ve never had any comfort issues – the stellar isolation is just the icing on the cake.
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There are some people who can cram the ER2XR all the way up to the wire. Unfortunately, I am not blessed with such “chad”, blackhole ears and this is where ends meet.

I will note that I intentionally use the larger, triple-flange tips (and they stick out even more than what’s pictured). This is because the soundstage depth seems to collapse somewhat with the smaller ones, likely a product of the insertion depth changing.

Sound Analysis
The juicy, juicy stuff. Sound is what matters most to me, and if the lackluster accessories or the fit seem daunting, fret not. The ER2XR’s sonic qualities more than make up for it. Etymotic is following the Diffuse-Field target curve, and I hear the ER2XR as being slightly dark and warm.

Starting from the low-end, it’s quite good even by DD standards. I’m no expert on graphs and all that stuff, but I think that this is technically more bass than Diffuse Field is normally known for – this is also the “XR” model after all. Anyways, count me in. It extends well with a tight, controlled attack. Smearing is minimal, and “clean” is really the only word that comes to mind. I’ll note that it’s lacking some texture, but seriously, this is a breath of fresh air from a lot of the stuff I’ve heard lately. The ER2XR punches well-beyond its price point here.

Moving to the midrange, there’s really nothing praiseworthy, but it doesn’t do anything wrong either. That’s basically a complement at this price point! To this effect, I’ve never noticed any sibilance and it’s fairly natural.

But where the ER2XR falls short is in the treble. It sounds eerily similar to the Apple AirPods Pro’s, and a quick look at their frequency response graphs confirmed my suspicion. It’s certainly smooth and doesn’t offend, but there’s a lack of weight, a hollowness to it, that robs the ER2XR of detail. Extension also seems to be an issue, hence the aforementioned smoothness. And as a result, for some, the ER2XR might come off as boring or lacking engagement.

Let’s talk technical performance. First, it’s not lacking depth – not by a long shot. The vocalist and the center diffuse reliably from the the head-stage for me. A good example is Sawano Hiroyuki’s “e of s”. Its opening percussive hits and when the vocalist, Mizuki, briefly enters at 0:38 really make clear how deep the stage extends. I’ve found few IEMs – even those many times the ER2XR’s price – with so much depth. This is a distinction of that engagement factor I often write about.

But the soundstage itself is very, very narrow width-wise. It too often feels like you’ve been placed smack-dab in a hallway. As a result, the ER2XR struggles to create that elusive, “holographic” image that so many seem to love. And unfortunately, I’m assuming that this is just a consequence of how deep these things go in your ears.

The other drawback, of course, is going to be pure resolution. This isn’t a very fast IEM, and notes tend to come off with a little less edge than I’d like. But seriously, a little. There’s a plethora BA IEMs that are resolving and fast, but simply don’t sound natural. And to this effect, the ER2XR’s DD timbre mitigates a lot of the things that I would normally nitpick. The dynamics are also pretty darn good for the price, it layers well, and it has no issues with coherency. So for what it is, I’m not going to hold it against the ER2XR.

Select Comparison

The ER2XR’s brother, the ER3XR, uses a single BA instead. They follow a similar tuning, so how different could they be? Turns out quite a bit in practice. The ER3XR is darker with a slight edge in speed and resolution. But as I alluded to earlier, the hallmarks of a BA are all too present: Namely one-note bass that lacks dynamic slam and a slight plastickyness to the timbre. To be fair, I’ve heard much worse when it comes to these issues. But take my praise of the ER2XR’s depth and flip it. The ER3XR hits the sonic wall far too quickly; vocals sound like they’re coming from inside your head, and imaging severely lacks dimension as a result. While the ER3XR’s still pretty alright, it’s also more expensive than the ER2XR. So no thanks.

The Verdict
Cheaper IEMs have taken a backseat for me these days because, well, they’re often disappointing. Every time I review one, I have to temper my expectations and keep the price in mind. But how can I when there’s stuff like the ER2XR? It takes the aforementioned notion of “value” and simply knocks it out of the ballpark. Slap on the fact that you can buy a pair for ~$100 off of Amazon, and it isn’t even fair.

Of course, this isn’t the end-all, be-all for IEMs at this price point. I’m sure there are things that one could take issue with given personal preference. And hell, maybe you just don’t take kindly to having your ears violated. I don’t blame you. But just in general? The ER2XR should be the first IEM on your list if you want price-to-performance.
futaki
futaki
any compatible mmcx cable with mic for it?
Yasin Caliskan
Yasin Caliskan
The world ain't disappointed with Etymotic for 35 40 years since the first iem of the line. This iem can't be disappointing too.

My personal experience backs my words up.

F700

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: + Allrounder tuning
+ Clarity and detail retrieval
+ Tight yet impactful bass
+ Nicely balanced mediums
+ Extended treble
+ Great imaging
+ No sibilance or harshness
+ Price
+ Fit (a con for some) and noise isolation due to deep insertion
+ Once more, less is more :-)
Cons: - Stock cable and specific MMCX connectors
- Not the most spacious soundstage
- Need more than a smartphone to be properly driven
What follows are my short impressions of the Etymotic ER2XR, after 1 month of intensive use with my 2 DAPs of choice, the Dethonray DTR1 and the Calyx M. I also will make a rapid comparison with the BL-03 and the Final E5000, both being single DD IEMs, albeit with a different sound signature. It's not really a review, but more a short summary about this very capable and surprising IEM.

I purchased the Etymotic ER2XR at the very beginning of April, just after having taken possession of my first custom IEMs, the P-EAR-S UT-3. Why buying the USD 199.- ER2XR, when you just got a pair of tailor-made CIEM? Well, I read some many great things about it and I really wanted to give this little boy a try. A very good decision indeed.

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Disclaimer:
I bought the Etymotic ER2XR with my own money in my favorite audio store (K55) in Zurich. No biased opinion of any kind here. This IEM deserves a 5 stars rating just because of the insane price/performance ratio. All shortcomings are more than compensated by its strengths and, once more, your well-invested $$$. Electronic-based music I listened to during the last month can be found on my Bandcamp profile (F700) or in the description in my last "reviews". In a nutshell, OST, Female and Male vocalists, Pop, Rock from the 80's and the 90's, a bit of Jazz and Classical. As always, my english is far from being perfect and my pictures are pretty blurry and dark. But, you will forgive me, don't you :wink:


As stated before, I won't go much into details and reading what follows will just take 5 minutes of your precious time... just some thoughts and pictures, not that the ER2XR doesn't deserve an extended review, on the contrary actually, but at the moment, I don't have very much time unfortunately. In my country, the lockdown has been softened and there's a lot to do.

The package is quite simple yet absolutely in line with an USD 200.- IEM being produced by professionals. No useless accessories or shiny things to catch the eye. I am ok with it. Less is more, round 1.

The Etymotic ER2XR is a single DD IEM whereas his older and more expensive siblings, the ER4XR & ER4SR, are equipped with a full range single balanced armature. Its cheaper doppelgänger, the ER2SR, also sports a single DD, but with a Studio Reference (SR) tuning, the bass being flatter and the highs maybe a tad more clear and extended. I say maybe, based on the graphs I saw from well-known and respected Head-Fier(s). I never heard the rest of the Etymotic offering, just to be clear about that.

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So, a single DD? Yes, and a pretty good one. No fancy armatures, revolutionary pentabrid structure or precious metals used in here. And you know what? It sounds fantastic. Less is more, round 2.

It requires a bit of juice, it's a dynamic driver made by pros, people! Give the baby some current, so the sound can properly grow as it should between your ears. The weapons of choice are the Dethonray DTR1 (helped by the HA-2 amp, eventhough the standalone DTR1 is great enough) and the Calyx M. These are real good sounding hardcore DAPs. You are in portable audio and sound quality is your absolute priority? You might want to check both. Smartphones most likely will allow you to enjoy the ER2XR, but I advice to get a dedicated DAP or a DAC/AMP for your phone, in order to give this IEM's potential real justice.

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The DTR1

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The Calyx M

Soundwise, no time to waste. Check the graph and take it from there. Bass is slightly emphasized but remains very tight yet impactful. I am a entry-level basshead and I love my E5000, but the ER2XR's bass is the perfect mix between impact and refinement, at least for me. For those searching for reference sound, follow another path, namely the ER2SR's one, which offers a flatter FR. I need my bass, especially with a single DD. Otherwise, I am going BAs.

Mediums are the star of the show, as we say. Vocals are clear and full at the same time. You like vocals? Well, stop reading and get a pair. Even with instrumental tracks, the mediums have presence and bite. This IEM is fast and accurate. No time to waste, once more. You get into your music, quickly and with punch, yet without harshness or sibilance.

The treble offers a natural extension with premium level of detail retrieval, never hurting your precious ears, if the recording doesn't call for it, as always. I am quite treble sensitive, if it can be of any help.

But, what's wrong then? Only positive things to say? No, the soundstage is average, sound being in our head or between your ears. Not a real con, but I know that so many listeners like their soundstage, so it's worth mentioning. What you are sacrificing in soundstage, you get it back in the imaging. Good little single DD, which learned its lessons well. Less is more, round 3.

The cable also is subpar. You have to take real good care of your IEM. Don't pull them out of your ears by the cable or the connectors. Gently pull them out by the small portion of the cylinder that remains out of the ear. The replacement cable costs USD 59.- (!) and Etymotic uses their own iteration of MMCX connectors. The real con lies in here.

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A rapid comparison (Final E5000 / Etymotic ER2XR / Blon BL-03)

Let's take it the other way around. Which is the best?

1) Etymotic ER2XR
2) Final E5000 (yes, I have to admit, as a Final fanboy, there is something cheaper and better)
3) Blon BL-03

But why?

The Blon BL-03 remains a very strong offering at USD 35.-. Timbre is seductive and the slight V-shape is very enjoyable, also being the easiest to drive from the bunch. USD 35.- is the investment to get the drivers. Getting a decent cable and tips will add min. USD 15.- to the bill. I spent a lot more, namely USD 50.-, but I use them so much, that the USD 85.- has been more than amortized within the last months. Still, the BL-03 is beaten by the ER2XR and the E5000 in every register, sometimes not by much, especially in the midrange. The soundstage is almost on par with the E5000.

The Final E5000, a long time favorite in my books, is my way to go with pounding Electronics and Hip-Hop. Some old recordings with nice vocals also sound glorious with it. Even good recorded tracks sound amazing through the Finals. The Etymotic brings so much more clarity into play, it cannot be ignored at the end of day, at the detriment of the E5000. The pounding but somewhat slow yet orgasmic bass (don't remove this mods!) and the smooth treble coming from this little japanese cylinder still are making my days. The E5000 always will be in my collection. The real first love you cannot and won't leave for good.

Last but least, the fit. Follow the instructions in the manual (no, don't throw it right away, you animals :wink: ) and the fit should be perfect with a large majority of ears. The IEM is so small that a deep insertion should be possible for almost everyone. It might feel invasive at the beginning, but for me it was a matter of some hours. Then, the IEM disappears into your ears and you are isolated from the outside. Music is playing so naturally and so clear, without harshness.

End words
Taken by surprise, to say the least. What USD 200 can buy nowadays... impressive. The ER2XR is an allrounder IEM, which deserves more exposure. I would like to thank @toranku, because he was the guy who led me to the ER2XR. Believe the "hype", this IEM plays music like a boss.

Was it too short? Sorry for that. Less is more, round 4.

Stay safe and take care :)
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futaki
futaki
is there any compatible mmcx cable with mic for it?
F700
F700
I am not sure. Maybe some HK or CN cable boutiques are able to do this. I doubt it, though.
amanieux
amanieux
price is $76 today on amazon but i read it sometimes goes as low as $60, updated price is worth mentioning i guess

aramico

New Head-Fier
Pros: Tons and tons of details.
Nice natural Sound and tonality.
Good texture
Nice coherent Sound across the Freq. range
Great passive isolation.
Cons: Very Basic cable
Micro-phonics
Proprietary MMCX
I wanted to replace my daily drivers for quite some time now, after looking at most of the other options, finally decided to pull the trigger on these. These are my 1st Ety’s. I was little sceptical about the fit, but the stock small sized triple flange fit my ears really well. Glad that I bought these.

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Etymotic Research is very well known in audio world. They are pretty well known for their venerable single BA design. I always wanted to own one. But couldn’t bring myself to buy one earlier. But this all changed when they launched these at the sweet price point.

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Packaging and build quality

It comes standard black box with small triple flange fitted on to them. You will get a set of foam tips, pair large white coloured triple flange tips, 2nos. green filters, filter removable tool and a shirt clip.

The housing is made of metal and the blue colour looks really cool. I think the size of the iem is similar to their more expensive siblings – ER3 / ER4 series. The housing has proprietary MMCX connector, so it may be difficult to find 3rd party cables. The cable is really basic one which is kind of let down. But can’t really complain at this price point as it serves the purpose. Also it has bad micro-phonics. So wrapping it around the ears, adjusting the chin slider and using the shirt clip will really help to reduce it.

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Fit, comfort and isolation.

The fit is the most important part of these. You need to have proper deep fit to get them sound their best. If this is your 1st time using Ety’s then it will definitely take time getting used to the ear invasion (refer the video on their website to get the best fit). But once you get past that the comfort and the passive isolation is next to barring may be custom IEM’s. For me the stock small triple flange fits the best with great isolation. They very light weight, so very very comfortable.

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Sound Impression

The following chain was used to listen all my songs with these

LG G7 > UAPP Pro (bit perfect output) > Fiio Q5 modded with 2156 opamp > Am5 module.

In terms of overall sound quality, I was stunned by the detail retrieval, tonality and the slightly warm but natural sound with little heft at the bottom end.

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Lows / Bass,

Being a Single dynamic driver and boosted low end, these are the ety’s with noticeably thick bottom. The sub bass has nice thump to it, the drums / beats have nice heft to it. But it definitely not overly boomy or muddy and does not creep into lower mids at all.

The Rasputin (Boney M) , Lose yourself to dance (daft Punk) had nice thump and details.

Mids

The mids have nice natural texture to it. All kind of male, female vocals and instrument; these make them sound really good. The transition from upper midrange to treble is really nice. I simply love the mids on these.

Treble

The treble on these are smooth. No sibilance or fatigue. Also no special sparkle as well. These sound more even with slight roll off.

Sound stage and imaging

This being a deep fit IEM the staging is pretty intimate and two dimensional, don’t really expect 3D holographic kind of soundstage here. But the imaging is quite precise. You can easily pick out instrument locations.

The detail retrieval on these are simply exceptional. There tons and tons of details available with excellent layering and the whole range sounding so coherent. It is really difficult to find anything equally good at this price point or even higher ones.

Final thoughts

This is a steal at $120. A stunner from Etymotic. The thumping bass, the humongous detail retrieval , nice smooth top end makes it a favourite IEM for me. It simply beats anything in that price range to likes of F9 pro, Tin T4, Kanas Pro etc.

I really recommend everyone to at least try these and see for themselves how awesome they are. Now I really need get ER4XR for myself.

This is my 1st review. Pardon my English.
fogsound
fogsound
I really enjoy the Q5 (with bass boost) and ER2 XR combo. What surprises me most is the lovely tone. Thanks!
aramico
aramico
For me the Bass boost is bit too much. I like the paring with AM3 / AM5 module. with Modded Q5, the tonality is absolutely beautiful. I do agree.

antdroid

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Isolation
Good bass response
Detail Resolution
Natural Timbre
Cons: A little warm at times




Etymotics Research is a well-established company researching and developing products and tools for safer hearing and their ER4 series of in-ear canal phones have been around for a very long time with great popularity and success.

A few years ago, they released the latest ER4 series, the ER4SR (Studio Reference) and ER4XR (Extended Response), using their latest balanced armature driver. This was soon followed by ER3 series, which reduced the impedance and moved its production from the USA to China and reduced the price by half while providing similar sound profiles in both the SR and XR versions, named ER3SE (Studio Edition) and ER3XR (Extended Response).

Earlier this year, the ER2 series was released to market. The unique different between the ER3 and ER4 with the ER2 is the balanced armature style driver has been replaced with a more traditional dynamic driver, in a tiny micronized fashion to fit in the same shell design as the ER3/ER4 series.

THE ER2 SERIES

The ER2 series comes with the same accessories as the ER3 series – a carrying pouch, a set of small and large tri-flange silicone tips, a set of foam tips, and an extra pair of filters and a tool to remove them. Like the ER3/ER4, the cable is detachable and features an mmcx connection just like the formers. The housing and cable split are now in a royal blue color as opposed to a more traditional black and gunmetal colorway.


ER2 DYNAMIC DRIVER

Users of the BA versions of the Etymotics will be right at home with the Eytmotics house sound – a Diffuse Field signature that essentially puts every frequency on a level playing field – some may call it neutral. It’s a great reference sound signature that is easily appreciated and maybe somewhat boring.

The dynamic driver versions are actually quite nice. They add a more natural tonality to them, with ever so subtle changes in how the ear phones sound in your ear, despite measurements of the ER2 and ER3 Studio Editions being quite similar. The ER2SE does have a slightly warmer sound than the respective ER3 and ER4 siblings, and this does help make the organic sound of the dynamic driver shine a bit. The slight bass boost also gives a little more energy all around, while still being a bit sterile in nature.


The XR version features a bigger bass boost than the XRs of the BA variety and with the dynamic driver in tow, the warmer, richer sound is very engaging and just the right amount of gain that is needed to turn the sterile SE version into a musical gem. The ER2XR also has a slightly more noticeable wider soundstage, which helps a little bit with congestion.

The XR and SE pack a lot of detail retrieval and resolution into a small form factor, and outclass anything at $129 and easily above other price points until you, of course, reach its older siblings. And while the BA versions do have quite good technicalities and an airy sound to them, I still prefer the dynamic ER2 over them for their more natural tonality and timbre and their improved bass and low-end performance.

The XR in particular has a thicker sound than what I was expecting, and even has some subbass rumble to it. The mids aren’t quite as forward and clean as the SE model, but both still perform will with respect to their traits. The dynamic driver is quick and fast, and cleaner than I would ever expect one to be at the price point it’s selling for, especially for a well-established respected company like Etymotics.

ISOLATION

For isolation, I put the ER2 to the test on the Fourth of July. With fireworks booming and blasting everywhere around me outside, I stuck the ER2, tri-flange tips, in and it muffled all but the most loudest and most illegal of fireworks. And that was with no music playing! These are great for noisy environments. They won’t cut out everything, but they’ll do a lot better job than most passive and active noise cancellation systems. With a little faint volume music playing, all the fireworks celebrations vanished. Magic.

OTHER COMPARISONS

I wanted to touch base with a few other IEMs in this price range that I really like a lot. Namely, the Moondrop Kanas Pro and the BGVP DMS. They are considerably different than the ER2 but worth looking at.

Moondrop Kanas Pro
First the Moondrop Kanas Pro is a more Harman Tuning than the Diffuse Field tuned ER2SE, so right off the bat, you’re going to hear a lot more bass quantity and more recessed mids in the Kanas Pro than the ER2SE. The XR variant, however, does have a warmer bass boost, and actually results in a richer mid section that’ll make male vocals more thick and natural. The Kanas Pro will beat both variants in terms of soundstage and air, and gives it a much more open space. That said, the ER2s meet or exceed the Kanas Pro in details and just general tonality.




BGVP DMS
The BVGP DMS is almost the complete opposite, but I really like it. It’s open-back and does not seal at all. So that’s a night and day difference from the Etymotics. But the DMS has a lot more “fun” factor in that it boosts both the bass and the treble response and provides a very open soundstage that can make your feet move, much more easily than the more sterile and toned down ER2 series. This is a complete 180 from the ER2 series and both would compliment each other quite well for a fun and an analytical IEM duo.

OVERALL

At the end of the day, this review has kind of gone a little bit all over the place, and maybe I can blame that for writing bits and pieces of it over a week’s time instead of coherently writing it in a shorter period of one or two sittings. Luckily, I don’t need to say a whole lot more other than that everyone should try one of these models out. They may surprise you with how much better they work than many active noise cancellation headphones out there, and then shock you again with how good they actually sound for a great price. They do go heel to heel and perhaps best the ER3, and could even be preferred to the ER4, depending on sonic preferences.

You may ask, which do I prefer?
I prefer the ER2XR over the SE. The bass boost provides are more enjoyable warmer experience that I think will benefit for plane and train travel, as well as just giving a more relaxing listen. The SE does a lot of things right however, and I think many will enjoy the more analytical nature of it as well.

sainteb

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: One of the best value-for-money IEMs on the market
Maintains the clarity Etymotic is known for
Weightier in the low end than its BA counterparts
Cons: Cable sucks
Proprietary MMCX connector
Etymotic's new ER2 series

Etymotic has released two new IEMs. The ER2-SE (studio edition) and ER2-XR (extended response with a tiny bit of extra bass). Today, we're looking at the ER2-XR. Price is $160 (RRP) at the time of testing. Purchased with my own money.

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Etymotic has been doing research on hearing aid and in-ear monitors (IEM) for decades so it needs no introduction. Its latest products include the ER3 and ER4 (XR & SR) series, all based on a balanced armature (BA) driver. While Etymotic has previously made some dynamic driver (DD) earphones, such as the MK5 and MC5, these models have been priced relatively affordabe and have not been able to compete with their flagship ER4 series. The new ER2 series, priced at $160, are based on a dynamic driver and are perhaps their first serious attempt to make a solid mid-range DD offering. If you are new to DD vs BA drivers, you can find some basic details here.

Build

The ER2-XR's housings are metal earpieces with anodized finish, identical to the ER4 and ER3 series. The build is sturdy and I have no complaints here. However, the cable, which seems to be identical to the ER3's, is quite thick around the ear and generally not very comfortable for over-the-ear use. I would suggest getting a ER4-06 cable - the one that ships with the ER4 series - as a replacement. Please also note that Etymotic uses a proprietary MMCX connector and this will not directly work with any MMCX cable. A final thing to note here is that the ER4 (XR and SR) series are made in the US, while the ER2 and ER3 are made in China.

Accessories

Identical to the ER3 series. Less accessories than the ER4 series but still adequate. Includes both small and large tri-flange clear silicone tips and Comply foam tips. I personally prefer the large silicone ones as this allows me to get a good seal. The ER4 series come with a personally signed copy of the IEM's individually tested frequency response, channel matching, THD, etc, which you don't get with the lower priced ER2 series.

Fit

If you are a new Etymotic user, these may not be very comfortable during the first few weeks. Applying a bit of lubricant to the tips may help a lot in terms of putting them in and getting a good seal. Once you get used to that, comfort is unlikely to be an issue. However, sleeping with them will not be ideal, given the fit. Wearing them over the ear completely eliminates microphonics so I highly recommend that, despite the fact that they are seemingly not designed for such use. I personally use the ER4 series cable on the ER2-XR as it's longer and considerably more comfortable when worn over the ear. A final thing to note is that sound is heavily dependent on fit. Make sure you select the right tips and you get a good seal. The way I do it is I push the tips as deep as possible and then drag them back a little bit until I hear a popping sound.

Isolation

As good as it gets. Etymotic lists the ER2's external noise isolation as 35-42 dB and I found no difference between these and the ER4 series. Etymotic has confirmed that despite these being DD, there are no external vents to the outside world. Completely blocks all sound around me when I get a good seal. No sound leakage to speak of. If you are like me and you are overly concerned about disturbing others, these would be great for you.

Sound

Very easy to drive. Bassiest Etymotic IEM I've tried to date - this includes the ER4-XR, ER3-XR and MK5. It is warmer and has considerably more sub-bass than its higher-priced BA counterparts (worthy of the Etymothicc label). That said, as the old saying goes, don't expect a bass-heavy Etymotic and this added bass is all tastefully executed -- well controlled and there's little or no bleed.

The rest of the frequency response is quite typical for an Etymotic earphone and you still get a ton of detail and good separation, plus the clarity Etymotic is known for. The treble is perhaps a touch more recessed compared to the ER4-XR. Relative to the ER4, the ER2 may sacrifice a tiny bit of detail in the upper range -- but don't expect a really obvious difference. On the positive side, the ER2-XR is arguably more enjoyable on bass heavy tracks due to the extra punch in the low end and the natural feel of the dynamic driver. Soundstage is adequate but don't expect too much from an Etymotic in-ear in this regard. Overall, I have very little to complain about, given the price.

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Frequency response and comparison with ER4-XR. Source: csglinux

Conclusion

For $160, the ER2XR is a steal. This is a very competent IEM with significant amounts of detail and it's arguably better value for money than the ER4 series, considering the massive price difference. Its low end is punchy and engaging, making it well suited for modern music. If any Etymotic IEM I've tried so far deserves the 'fun' label, the best candidate for this would be the ER2-XR. Despite the cable not being ideal, the ER2-XR definitely gets my recommendation as one of the best IEMs in this price range.
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