Unless you are in the music business or a die-hard portable audiophile, you might not be familiar with Etymotic’s legendary earphones. The original Er4, which I also own, is one of the most extraordinary earphones ever made when it comes down to critical listening and monitoring.
The earphones were so far ahead of the game, sonically that they went over two decades without change. So when I got the chance to review the updated Etymotic ER4SR and the XR, which we will review next week, I excitedly said yes.
Where to buy the Etymotic ER4SR monitors?
The ER4SR is widely available to buy both online and in-store. As one of the leading earphone makers for professional musicians, you may also find them in stock in your local music store.
Please feel free to click below to see current pricing and availability for this earphone.
Do they Etymotic ER4SR have the build quality of their predecessor?
The build quality is fantastic. The original ER4 was one of the most durable and long-lasting earphones, not just in my opinion but in the eyes of everyone else who owned them.
The ER4SR is designed as a tool to be used in music production and sound monitoring. As a result, it has to be up to the task of heavy daily use. When studio time costs money, you also need them to work every time, so we find ourselves with a very well made earphone.
A balanced armature earphone is as simple as it gets—a small aluminum tube with the nozzle on one side and a detachable cable on the other. The MMCX connector is just slightly smaller than the barrel diameter. The body feels solid and without flex, and they are very lightweight.
The cable is a hard-wearing one with a split to the makeup. The top half after the splitter and towards the earphones is a dual cord twist braid that flows freely, and at the bottom, you have a thick rubberized cable that is very resistant to tangling.
It has a chin slider, but no microphone as this is just something that could cause failure: the fewer parts, the better. Termination is in the way of a right angle jack with adequate strain relief.
Are the Etymotic ER4SR comfortable?
No. If you are unfamiliar with the design on first use, you might find these to be uncomfortable. It has one of the deepest insertion depths of any universal earphone. They also work best with the included tri-flange tips, renowned for the discomfort they cause for the first week.
However, don’t write them off. After about a week of allowing your ears to get accustomed to the fit and the skin inside your ear canals to get used to the aggravation, they become far more comfortable.
If I use the ER4SR as my only earphones for a week, no, I have trouble going back to standard earphones as they don’t feel like a secure fit by comparison. I got into these earphones because I ride motorbikes, and with my helmet on, they disappear into my ears and block out the vast majority of wind noise.
The Etymotic ER4SR is one of the best earphones for isolation. They block out a lot of noise due to how deep they sit in the ear and the tri flange tips’ filtering effect. The original model was designed for musicians to wear on stage to hear the music without interference from the crowd.
They are excellent at isolating and show a massive reduction of ambient volume in all scenarios.
How does the Etymotic ER4SR sound?
If you like musical and lush sounding earphones, these are not for you. The SR in the name stands for studio reference, and you can probably guess that they will be a very flat and neutral sounding earphone.
It’s outstanding to listen to if you are an audiophile looking for a pure and transparent sound. The earphones do not embellish on the sound or present it in an altered state. However, at the same time, they are ruthlessly revealing of imperfections and flaws in the source material.
To get the best from the sound quality, you have to insert them deep because the engineers have taken into account the positioning and how that affects the sound. When you hear of people having issues, they usually have them set too shallow in their canals.
Bass is light and more about the detail and texture that it is about impact and sub-bass. They give an accurate representation of what was there but maybe not what is intended by the artist.
The treble has a massive extension and is crisp and clear. If you are coming from a headphone with rolled-off highs, you will want to give yourself a week before you pass final judgment on the sound as it can be jarring to have this much information all of a sudden.
Who should buy the Etymotic ER4SR?
The ER4SR will not be the right earphone for everyone, but Etymotic knows that, and that is why they also have a more friendly sounding ER4XR (extended response).
It has more bass, a smoother treble, and a slightly warmer tone that goes well with most of the music. On the other hand, these earphones are for people who want ruthlessly revealing detail with zero coloration added to the sound.
Professional musicians and people who work in sound will love these, and I use them for critical listening, and they are the standard I measure amps and DAC’s with for neutrality. I always suggest there are two ways to listen critically, and for pleasure.
Therefore I often advise people to get this and another warmer sounding earphone to have a versatile collection.
Etymotic ER4SR Review: Final Thoughts and Conclusion
They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they achieve exactly what they set out to do. The earphones are one of the gold standard products I use for reviews, and for professionals, they are one of the best on the market.
As a solo earphone for pure listening pleasure where you sit back, relax and enjoy the music, these won’t be the ones, but for critical analysis, these are as good as it gets for the money.