Etymotic ER4SR In-Canal Headphones: the Legend is 25, the legend is born again

This event is what audiophiles have been waiting for, like other couples waiting for the silver wedding anniversary – 25 years. And finally, when the U.S. national debt exceeded 17 trillion dollars, a momentous event has happened: The American company Etymotic has informed the world about the release of new models of in-ear headphones –

Etymotic ResearchER4SR



. Soccer fans would probably also stand still with anticipation if after an eternity the legendary Pele at seventeen and Garrincha would suddenly run onto a green field..

Thanks to XChesserAudio for providing a sample for listening

Audio equipment

From the history of a legend

So, what was it? A quarter of a century of living up to its former champion in the portable audio niche and suddenly – such a surprise? Did the Americans really think about their national debt and decided to expose all their stash of technology to the light of day??

Let me remind you that Etymotic is still the recognized leader in the field of hearing aids. In the days when there was no Google and few people knew about Steve Jobs, this company invented the unique Know-How and brought hundreds of thousands of people back into the world of sound, first in the US and then in Europe and other countries.

Maybe Etymotic had its own Jobs, who masterfully turned the sounds for the deaf into sophisticated music for everyone. That’s when, in the early 90’s, the famous line of Etymotic Research ER4 in-canal headphones appeared, which later “upset” into ER4B binaural , ER4S stereo and ER4P portable . In recent years the ER4P has been renamed ER4PT T – travel and now includes an airline headphone adapter Travel adapter and an adapter/transmitter with 75&Omega, turning the P version into an S version.

This particular model with the letter S is the most popular, a kind of ideal, a legend under the number ER4S. The AFC of these headphones is almost linear, but they are quite demanding and sensitive to the sound source.

There’s one thing about the legend, though. If you find labyrinths in your right ear and then in your left ear, you may not get the ER4 in the right place when you plant it, because exquisite music requires the ears to be sunk as deeply into the ear canal as possible. If the auditory channel is direct – you are lucky, if not, you should at least once take a look at the educational video, uploaded by Etymotic on its web-site. There’s a clear demonstration of the “ear trick” in there.

In short, since 2010 the headphones ER4S, at least for me, are a tuning fork, a standard for music reproduction. Among the models based on a single armature radiator, they have no equal. This champion of “musical ring” was closely approached by SA6 from Sleek-Audio, Phonak audeo with a series of pfe and Ortofon… But where are they now? A legend is 25, a legend is a berry again, and is a kind of reference in the field of sound.

Here we go: ER4XR Extended Response replaces ER4P and ER4SR Studio Reference headphones will replace my favorite ER4S as we go. Now it is time to listen to the long-awaited novelties.



20 Hz – 16 kHz

Noise isolation

35-42 dB


4SR-45 ohms 4XR-45 ohms


(@1 kHz SPL at 0.1v: 4XR 98dB 4SR 98dB

Max volume level

122 dB


pluggable, 3.5mm jack, MMCX connector

Audio equipment

Appearance and Package

The headphones come in a beautifully rich black package. Inside, there is one more, retractable box, and already in it – a hard cloth case, also black with a lot of clasps. Here you can easily put headphones and accessories: several pairs of three-blade tips for different ears, foam tips, two pairs of removable acoustic filters and a device for their replacement, adapter from 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm.

The case, I’ll tell you, is very handy. Each compartment has a zippered mesh pocket and can hold a small music player. In a word I got a traveling case of audiophile audiophile type “all my stuff I carry with me”.

The ER4B/P/S is black plastic and looks a bit rustic, whereas the ER4SR/ER4XR is grey and made of metal and looks very nice. The shape is the same and it is cylindrical. Simplicity or beauty?

The two-pin connector on the cable has replaced the more modern MMCX. Good or bad? We’ll see. On the one hand it simplifies the selection of cables, but on the other hand the MMCX connector can not yet be classified as a premium connector. However, today we are listening to novelties from Etymotic, and to this brand, as a rule, “sailors have no questions”. The more that the manufacturer made for music lovers some trick: “a lock”, which limits the twisting of the wire and does not give loosen the connector in the place where the cable goes into the headphones.

The cable is pretty soft, flexible, it’s less susceptible to microphone effects than the old model, and looks more imposing. In general, the new model is similar to the old one, but it is more modern and nice-looking.



The listening was done with MyST DAC 1866OCU V.2, Lotoo paw Gold, QLS QA-360 and a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge smartphone. The headphones played well with all sources, including my smartphone.

The sound of ER4SR can be defined as smooth, without peaks and dips across the entire AFC. Absolute neutrality throughout: this is what is remarkable about this new legend.

I want to warn you right away: the sound of new and old models is different, I would even say that Etymotic made entirely different headphones. With the general concept and linearity the delivery is different in the new model, so to say, closer to the studio monitors.

Where vintage ER4Ss amaze with speed, airiness and quantity of micro details, newborn ER4SRs give off more depth, timbre variety, shifting accent to macro. The new headphones sound more warm and measured, with a hint of chamber.

ER4S is a silvery silk, morning wind in your face, adrenaline, brainstorming and high speed, while ER4SR is gray velvet, a pleasant evening tiredness and peace, a chamber concert in a small circle, or maybe a night drive in a half-sleeping city: slowly the signs, shop windows, reflections in the windows are floating by. Raindrops run down the glass followed by notes of composition – let it be Tina Turner’s “private dancer”… In general, ER4SR is about bohemia and calmness.

The bass is flat, with a good accurate kick, not much, but it is well worked out and perfectly timbral. If the drum kit is playing, each beat is well toned, the sounds are layered, it’s great! But at the same time, the bass doesn’t have the speed of the ER4S. Here it’s served somehow softer, thicker, and unhurried.

The midrange is smooth, even, it’s like a sea breeze licking you with a warm fresh breeze. Especially the vocals and the keyboards sound amazing. Well, it’s very natural. The detail isn’t as wacky as the ER4S. No, everything is there, but the priorities have just changed a bit: the close-ups are more emphasized and the small details have their place, they are exactly where they should be.

The treble is a little bit more polished. I think the manufacturer did it for two reasons.

1 For more comfortable listening to musical material

2 to hide some of the simplicity of the new receiver driver in this frequency range.

The ER4S, on the other hand, it’s all tip-top.

Audio equipment
The audio engineering


I’m reminded of an anecdote. I think it went like this:

A young double bassist from a rockabilly band comes to a jazz orchestra. On stage he spins his contrabass masterfully, this way and that, and above and between his legs, he slides the fingerboard fast, precise, catchy… overall, it’s very cool! And elderly double bass player sits beside and slowly plays his “pom, bom, boom, doo-doo-doo.. Sync by honeybunny..”

After the performance, all the applause and flowers fly to the gray-haired musician. The young virtuoso is baffled: “Why is it that I am sweating so much, I am playing cool, precise and quick, and you get all the credit??”The Maestro, looking up from under his glasses, asks: “What are you looking for, young man, in this life?”

“Yes I am, I am… looking for my sound!”,” replies the virtuoso.

“And I, young man, have already found it,” replies the old-timey double bass player and pulls the string monotonously – “poooom, boooom.”…


Joke, of course. But a lie lies in a lie – ER4S is closer to a young virtuoso’s life philosophy, while ER4SR is quite ready to take the place of a matured musician… The overall picture of the new model is more overall and calm. But they can keep up everywhere, their speed is also all right and they play the music material with their charm.

However, the eternal rivalry between “fathers and sons” has no winners and losers. I would recommend that Etymotic keep both the new and old headphones in their lineup. That’s what I did: I kept the old model in active use and attached the new one to it. I listen to one or the other. And live happily ever after. By the way, they say, that the manufacturer has already removed the ER4S/PT and the new ER4SR/ER4XR models will take their place. Too bad if this is true.

Bottom line

ER4SR sound is a little bit dry and even tawny, sonic material is solid without losing details. High frequencies are muted, as a result in some compositions there is a lack of “air”, guitars on hard notes lack anger, a roar and a roar.

But at the same time the ears boast a very musical pitch, timbres in every way and excellent working off the plans back/front/center . The sound is very lively, timbral close to natural. AFC “in a line” – and it’s “just a holiday of some kind”!”


In my opinion it is a very good model. Yes, it’s not the ER4S, it’s a different product.

For years people have been asking Etymotic to make something new. Some people didn’t have enough bass. Somebody wasn’t satisfied with the brutal look of ER4. And finally, there were some complaints like – “something is ringing and sawing somewhere..”

So, the bass in this novelty was given a great deal there is ER4XR model where according to the descriptions of witnesses it is the ninth shaft , the appearance is akin to a “fashion” now, it does not saw or cut anything. Finally, the new model of in-ear headphones has a perfect amplitude-frequency response.

Do I recommend the ER4SR for purchase? Without a doubt. Moreover, I believe that for users who are just beginning their acquaintance with the products of Etymotic Research, the new model will be even more interesting than the veterans. Well, I recommend those who like old school to take their favorite ER4PT and ER4S as a reserve, since their production is discontinued. And we still have leftovers in stock at online stores, but they will run out soon. The price of the new model in America and abroad is about 27 000 Dollars. Yes, the price is biting, but, in my opinion, the novelty is worth it.


The sound, the look, the rich equipment.


Not everyone will like the ergonomics fit of the Etymotic Research models, the price.

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