A short comparison on Etymotic ER-4S and Grado SR60
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I did some comparative listening to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue on the Etymotic ER-4S and the Grado SR60. The Etymotic ER-4S was connected to a Total AirHead headphone amplifier (with crossfeed off, powered by a regulated AC/DC adapter at 4.5 V), which was connected to the lineout of a SlimX portable CD/MP3 player. The Grado SR60 was connected to the on-board sound output (CMI8738) of my computer. "Not fair," you may say. I admit that since the sources are different, it's unfair to compare the two headphones this way. But I will mention later how the Grado SR60 sounds when it's connected to the Total AirHead and SlimX anyway. And since the above setup is how I use the headphones, it has some significance.

With different sources, the ER-4S obviously sounds cleaner, clearer, more detailed, and more natural. The bass does not produce air impact but the bass notes can be heard clearly. All the instruments sound natural and pleasant. The SR60 sounds somewhat muddy when connected to the computer. Instruments don't sound as natural, especially the piano. The bass, while much louder, is much sloppier and not as deep. But even though the ER-4S is clearly better, the SR60 is still quite enjoyable. This shows that the SR60 is really a good headphone, especially at its relatively low price at $70.

When connected to the Total AirHead and SlimX, the SR60 is much improved! Now the difference between the SR60 and ER-4S is surprisingly not all that much! The SR60 now sounds noticeably cleaner. The bass is now much less sloppy. Instruments sound good, with only the piano still sometimes sounds obviously unnatural. The ER-4S still has more details, but the SR60 is already arguably as enjoyable as the ER-4S, even though it's not as accurate! Considering the big difference between the two's prices, this finding is quite interesting and evening shocking.

The big difference in the SR60's performance between the two sources shows that the source affects the sound quite a bit. Better headphones will require better sources and amplifiers to sound much better than not-as-good-but-still-good headphones. Since I have ordered the Porta CORDA, I will see how the ER-4S sound with it soon. Reportedly, the $700 HeadRoom Cosmic headphone amplifier shows an obvious improvement for the ER-4S. But I don't think I want to spend that much money on such a headphone amplifier at this time.


Disclosure about myself: I have experience with only the Grado SR60, the Etymotic ER-4S, and various other bundled headphones that are much inferior than either the SR60 or the ER-4S. I have had the SR60 for about two years, but I have just got the ER-4S and the Total AirHead more than one week ago.
 
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LTUCCI1924

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HI: I can see the grado 60 sounding good out of the total airhead but cant imagin the er-4s playing out of the t/a for the er-4s need much more power and if you had that power the er-4s would run all over the grado 60s. I have and am selling the total airhead due to lack of power. The t/a cant run 580s er-4s or even the philips 890 to optimal level. They do great with the koss-35s though. If you want to a/b thats find for the 60s but not near enough power for the er-4s. The 60s are entry lever cans and the er-4s are high level and different not compairable do to their being way better cans and totaly different than regular cans. In order to a/b the er-4s you would need high level cans and way more power. But the 60s are nice cheep good sounding cans for the money and with the t/a sound very good for the money. Notice I say for the money. Now please I am not trying to dissagree with you in any way and mean no afense But I have experence with these cans and amp. All of them and a lot more and find that a lot of good power goes a long way for any can.
 
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dandrewk

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I can't understand how you could say the T/A can't drive the ER4S.

I have to wonder about your source, or if perhaps you have spent too much time in the front row at Aerosmith conderts.
On just about every source I have tried, the T/A is more than loud enough without going more than halfway to the max. volume.

At full volume, you probably would lose your eardrum and half your brain...
 
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LTUCCI1924

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Welcome to head-fidandrewk
HI: It was pink floyd concerts and cds. I am glad that you are happy with your t/a. I am not and have a sale for it. If you feel that the t/a drives the er-4s then ok I believe you. And if you feel that the t/a drives all your cans then ok. I just found different and got a more powerfull amp but thats just me. I am useing the cmoy 2-9 volt portable amp and am useing my philips 890s with it and of course the koss-35 that dont need an amp but sound better with one. Maby you are a lot younger then me and have better hearing which is great. I am 60 years old so maby you are right about my hearing. But I still say that the grado 60s are entry level cans and the er-4s are highend cans and with a lot more power the er-4s really shine. I have owned the grado 60,80,325 and prefer the sennheiser 580s over them but thats just my opinion. Enjoy your cans and keep us posted and good luck with your sound. Welcome to head-fi
 
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