Take a little Google why don’t you; type in Etymotic ER2XR and take yourself over to Reddit, if you dare. You’ll hear a lot of people bemoaning the fact that these exist. You won’t find people saying that they are bad, but just that they don’t necessarily understand where the ER2XRs fit into the Etymotic line-up. The Etymotic ER2XR utilises high-performance dynamic drivers, so let’s dive in and see if they make a difference to the sound signature.
- Quality design and build
- Comfortable and isolated
- Crystal clear sound signature
- Bass quality depends on tips used and fit
I’ll start by saying I hadn’t heard of Etymotic before, but I really should have. They’ve been producing quality products for over 25 years, based purely on internal research. A quick look at their homepage shows how they drive the creation of their products and that they are focused on a lot more than just making a buck from the pretentious audiophile demographic. There are a number of publications and products geared around the hard of hearing too.
The ER2XR is something that has been missing from the top end of their ‘ER’ product stack it seems; a moving coil, or dynamic driver-based IEM. The ER4 and ER3 ranges, both of which sit at the top end of their line of products, both use the use of balanced armature drivers.
A quick lesson is required – you have to sit through it because I did! Balanced armature drivers have a fundamentally different construction to that of dynamic drivers. In a balanced armature driver, the armature (the moving bit) is surrounded by a stationary coil and is suspended (balanced) between two magnets. Once the electric current is passed through the surrounding coil, the magnets engage the armature causing it to agitate. This movement drives a diaphragm which causes the sound.
If the above sounds complicated, it’s because it is, which contributes to the higher cost (in most cases) of devices utilising this technology.
Dynamic drivers are a little more simple and are often seen in the majority of consumer audio solutions. Essentially the constituent parts are very similar, but here the coil is attached directly to the cones/domes (diaphragm) which moves the air when the magnet has current.
Whether one sounds better than the other in general terms is a little difficult and dangerous to attempt to quantify. Like vehicles, it entirely depends on the manufacturer, the quality of the materials and products used, and the design process. Suffice to say many audiophiles prefer balanced armature based products as they may produce more technical acoustics, however, ‘normies’ like me, might prefer a little more bass, which the dynamic driver usually manages a little easier.
Specifications – ER2XR
- Frequency Response 20 Hz – 16 kHz
- Transducers High performance moving coil driver
- Noise Isolation 35 – 42 dB
- Impedance 15 Ω
- Sensitivity(@ 1 kHz) SPL at 0.1V 96 dB
- Maximum Output (SPL) 120 dB
- Cable Detachable, 4 ft
- Warranty 2 years
- CUSTOM•FIT Option
- User Replaceable Filters
Design & Comfort – ER2XR
I love the look of these. I feel I could almost end there, but I should probably provide some context and detail hey? I’m a sucker for brushed metal, and the brushed blue aluminium finish here on the wire pod and the ear buds is beautiful (to me).
The package is equally impressive. The ER2XRs are neatly coiled, and come along with some Comply and silicone tip replacements, a cable clip, carry case and replacement filters to stop that annoying waxing of the drivers.
The ear buds are connected to the wiring by a standard MMCX connection which brings the benefit of being able to use custom cables with the drives you know and love.
The silicone tips on the device from the get-go are interesting and not ones I’ve used before. They are specifically engineered for a snug fit within your ear canal. I must say I felt a bit weird about putting this object into my ear, but the fit was indeed snug and comfortable. I also took the Comply tips for a run and I did find a slightly different sound signature using them, but they were equally comfortable. This was strange to me as they looked like I’d be putting a small stack of Polo in my ear! Thankfully that didn’t end up being the experience.
Performance & Use – ER2XR
I immediately noticed something about these ear buds within the first few seconds of listening; they were so clear! As I explained, I hadn’t used any Etymotic ear buds before, and if I had have done I’m sure they would have been some of the balanced armature ones so I’d have expected a little more clarity on that end, but with these ER2XR dynamic drivers, I was a little taken aback. I’ve said this before when reviewing quality ear buds, but I noticed aspects of a track that I’d never heard before. A few subtle background harmonies and additional vocals in hushed tones were not extremely clear to me, but also conveyed the depth that had me missing them with lesser devices.
The low-end here left me feeling a little underwhelmed if I’m entirely honest. I knew that two versions of the ER2 existed; the ER2XR, this one, and the ER2SE which are the Studio Edition. The XR version is supposed to be an “Extended Response” offering which offers a little more low-end. I did detect the low-end, but it wasn’t as rumbling or as clear as I’d have liked. Strangely though it was a nice listening experience when coupled with the mids and highs here and overall I was impressed. As I listen to a lot of Hip-Hop though I felt the need to boost it in an EQ now and then.
That was until I switched out to the Comply tips included in the package. With these on I managed to get my bass fix without a change in the range of the mids or the highs – happiness restored!
Speaking of the mids, these are just crystal clear. No muddiness, no bleeding, nothing. Crisp, clear, and perfectly balanced to my laymen ear. The highs followed on nicely from the mids, feeling separate and wide in detail. Nice and airy, and exactly what you want from the treble in your music.
The audiophiles among you might be cringing a little as the BA versions of the Ety products might provide more technically accurate sound than the ER2XRs, but this is such an enjoyable listen it’s hard to make a case for anybody without a very trained ear.
Noise pollution isn’t something to be worried about here either, surprisingly. Ramping the volume up to the limits of what I would be comfortable listening to and then removing them in a quiet room allows me to only barely hear the faintest noise coming from them at a couple of feet away. That, to me is impressive, considering the recently reviewed final E4000 were almost the complete opposite. Equally here, the fit of the tips means that you are kept immersed in your audio too as whilst they have no noise cancelling, they do a good job isolating you from exterior interferences.
Conclusion – ER2XR
The Etymotic ER2XR is a quality piece of kit. It delivers just what I want from an ear bud, with a quality design, excellent and balanced sound signature, and a decent selection of accessories within the package.
Priced at around £140 these arent a cheap pair of IEMs, but if you’re reading this the likelihood is that you know your ear buds and you’re looking for something that’s a little over and above some Skull Candy airport specials. In the Etymotic ER2XR you’ll certainly get it.
With that said, those balanced armature fans out there might still prefer the sound signature from that setup, and Etymotic has those on offer too, however for a premium. It’s that price increase (unless you can find a good deal – the ER3XR are currently more than £60 more) that makes the Etymotic ER2XR such a great option. Plus they look all kinds of gorgeous to me!