I’ve been using Etymotic Research’s ER-6i Isolator earphones with my Apple iPod since last September. 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 had been using Apple’s standard iPod earphones exclusively for well over a year. After months with the ER-6i earphones, I’ve found out a few things. The ER-6i’s foam eartips worked better for me 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, which seemed thin upon first inspection (especially compared to the thicker wires on Apple’s standard iPod earphones), have held up well – no problems since last September. I also found they coiled up and fit better in my iPod case than the Apple earphones.
How do the ER-6i’s sound? After eight months of use now, I can report they sound absolutely amazing. I cannot listen to my old Apple iPod earphones anymore because they sound like mud – I tried just a minute ago. In fact, I remember that after the first 30 seconds of listening to the ER-6i’s, my first words were, “wow, wow, and wow!” That feeling still happens each time I listen to them.
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 probably 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’d 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. My only wish is that 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.
Etymotic also sent me their ER4-88 Smartwrap cord winder. Smartwrap, winner of I.D. Magazine’s Design Distinction Award, is a cord manager for iPod headphone cables. It is designed and developed by Sumajin, an industrial design firm in Singapore. Smartwrap is easy to use and it serves the purpose. All that is required is to snap the cord into place at one of two places, then wrap and snap into place again.
Smartwrap is thin enough to fit into most iPod cases. It is made of pliable plastic polymer and, like the Mac, it is simple, easy-to-use, and it just works. No more “two-finger” cord wrapping, Halleluiah! I have been using Smartwrap for months with my iPod and I have no idea how we got along without it. In fact, I gave them as stocking-stuffers this past Christmas.
Each Smartwrap cost US$5.
More info about Smartwrap and photos here.
SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.