Etymotic Research’s new ER-6i Isolator earphones arrived a week ago. The earphones come in a small package featuring a photo of ER-6i’s plugged into an Apple iPod. The ER-6i is identical to the Etymotic’s ER-6 earphones, but have an 8 dB greater overall sensitivity and 8 dB more bass, are white instead of black to better match the iPod, and feature 3-flange eartips instead of 2-flange eartips. Both feature a pair of foam eartips, a 5 ft. cord with a 3.5 mm stereo plug, 2 replacement filters, a filter changing tool, shirt clip and a carrying pouch.
I’ve been using Apple’s standard iPod earphones exclusively for well over a year. I gave the new ER-6i earphones a full week of use and found out a few things. First, I ditched the included pouch immediately because my 3G CEO Classic iPod carrying case from MARWARE includes a pocket for earphones. I also quickly moved to the ER-6i’s foam eartips because I found the flanged eartips let in too much exterior sound and seemed to lack bass compared to the foam option. The foam eartips fit better, made the earphones sound better, and stayed in while I pounded the treadmill. Also, Etymotic’s recommendation that the flanged eartips be moistened prior to insertion is impractical in everyday use out and about. The 5-foot wires on the ER-6i seemed thin upon first inspection, especially compared to the wires on Apple’s standard iPod earphones, but I found they fit better in my iPod case when coiled and seem no worse for the wear so far.
How do the ER-6i’s sound? After a week, I can report they sound amazing. I cannot listen to my old Apple iPod earphones anymore because they sound like mud. In fact, after the first 30 seconds of listening to the ER-6i’s, my first words were, “wow, wow, and wow!”
I will warn you, going from Apple’s standard iPod earphones to Etymotic Research ER-6i Isolator earphones is shocking. You will also ask yourself immediately, where is the bass? The answer is that the bass is there, but it’s there in the correct amounts, as the artist intended. You’ll feel the need to experiment with the iPod’s EQ at first, but you’ll end up turning it off: the ER-6i earphones don’t need help, you just have to acclimate your ears a bit. Apple’s earphones, while pretty good, tend to over emphasize the bass and introduce a muddy tone throughout. The ER-6i earphones are all about clarity and definition, featuring crisp, clean, accurate reproduction of sound. You will hear things within the music that you simply cannot hear with Apple’s standard earphones. I cannot recommend the ER-6i highly enough. The improvement in iPod’s sound is dramatic.
True, at US$149 a pair, these earphones cost more than the included Apple iPod earphones, but I think the ER-6i earphones are worth the expense. After all, why pay for an iPod and not be able to hear the sounds it produces with such clarity and correctness? Within a week, I’ve adjusted to the flatter, truer frequency response of the ER-6i earphones and I can no longer bear to listen to the Apple iPod earphones. I only wish I had the ER-6i’s earlier. If you want crisp, clear sound from your iPod, Etymotic Research ER-6i Isolator earphones are an excellent choice.
More information about Etymotic Research ER-6i Isolator earphones and photos here.
MacDailyNews Note: This article is a reprint of the review originally posted on September 10, 2004 in response to many recent email inquiries about quality third-party earphones for iPods.