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Now Hear These!

Wow… Stellar… Amazing… Incredible… Stupendous… Daaaanng!, Oh My Heck! By Douglas Spotted Eagle

The Etymotic ER-6, a micro- dynamo in disguise.

Alright, so the last superlative isn’t one you’re likely to hear from someone hearing the Etymotic (E-tee-Moh-tic) ER-6  in-ear monitors for the first time. But all the others are accurate representations of what reactions are when folks hear these miniature monsters for the first time. Smaller than any earbud you’ve ever placed in your ear canal and a million times more accurate in sound reproduction, these in-ear monitors are a total joy to wear. In fact, as I type this, I’m winging my way over the Pacific in my 10th hour of flight, and have had the ER-6’s in for the entire time. Even when the flight attendant is making the obnoxiously loud “please fasten your seatbelts and turn off all electronics” speech, having these  monitors in my ears were a pleasant reduction of overall volume. (more on that subject later)

Mondo Noise Reduction!

The ER-6 is a silicone double-seal system that goes deep into your ear. Using transducer technology embedded in the silicon, this provides a direct, sealed monitoring environment. In fact, Etymotic claims that the seal alone reduces outside noise by a factor of up to 20dB! I believe it. Jet aircraft engines are reduced to a dull vibration when you’ve got these correctly inserted. 

I first discovered Etymotic several years ago while searching for an alternative to the ear molds that I was using with my Garwood in-ear monitors for performing in concert. Etymotic was at the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show in Los Angeles, and for the $109.00 investment, I was happy to give their product a shot. (MSRP has risen to $139.00 in the past 5 years) They also offered earmolds since their product wouldn’t fit the custom molds I already had, but I didn’t feel I needed the molds, and the molds irritated my ear after half an hour or so.

Etymotic also makes molded ear monitors and earplugs. I've not tried them, but if they are as comfy as their standard products, they'll be a treat to wear.

Needless to say, I began performing with the Etymotics, and was very happy. I’d purchased two pair, one for performing and one for general traveling. Eventually my performing set was caught in the edge of a closing roadcase, severing the cable. And eventually my traveling pair lost their sound after 4 years. I called Etymotic to locate a stocking dealer that could FedEx out a pair to me prior to my leaving on a month-long tour. Etymotic couldn’t locate a dealer that would ship overnight, so they offered to provide product direct. I was pretty happy about that, and so they shipped my new monitors. They arrived a few hours before I left for the airport, and all was good. However, I called them to thank them, and told them the story of my ‘older set’ of ER-6s that by now, were ready to toss in the trash.



Or so I thought…

Their customer service rep asked if I’d replaced the filters in my old set. “Replaced,” I asked? “Of course, she says, “what do you think that small steel rod and small plastic couplets are for?” Uh…Darned if I knew. I don’t read many owners manuals.

It took me about 2 minutes to replace the filters, and my old monitors were as good as the new ones. However, I prefer my new ones as Etymotic has changed the ER-6 ever so slightly.

First and foremost, the new models come with a clip that allows users to clip the cable to their clothing, making it great for videographers who sometimes forget they’re tethered to a camera and jerk their ears or head when walking away. The clip also is nice on a motorcycle, keeping the cable from flapping in the wind.

Next, the strain relief is a little sturdier than it was in the past, and Etymotic also has split the cable evenly at the “Y” point in the cable. Older versions had a longer cable for the right ear than for the left ear. I personally found this irritating as I couldn’t tape the cable down my back as easily. I'm grateful for the newer matched cable length.

Next, Etymotic now provides a very durable Cordura case complete with a Velcro belt loop. It’s just perfectly large enough to hold my 256MB Lyra WMA player.

Etymotic also provides soft ear buds for those that don’t want total isolation from outside noise. These lightweight foam ear buds replace the silicone sealers that block outside sound. I can see their value for some situations, but I prefer the silicone for my own uses. It’s definitely a LOT more comfortable. Perhaps the optional small size foam would be more comfortable in my ear, and Etymotic also offers a large size foam insert. The silicone covers are transparent, and the overall effect is near-invisible monitors. The foam inserts make these slightly more noticable, particularly the yellow foam models. 


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Related Keywords:Etymotic, ER-6, ER-20, headphone, production, mixing, audio, studio, monitor, in-ear, Spotted Eagle

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  • Now Hear These! by DMN Editorial at Jul. 29, 2004 4:25 pm gmt (Rec'd 5)

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