Over the years, I must have tried literally hundreds of different earphones, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. The in-the-ear style have always been personal favourite due to their sound isolation and discrete size. However, they can be uncomfortable and also have a tendency to work loose in the gym when pounding the treadmill. I even found a hybrid in-the-ear with ear hook arrangement that I thought would be the answer to my prayers but these too have a habit of working loose. I fly a lot with work and therefore also require an earphone that combats the overbearing ambient hum that accompanies air travel. I've tried several makes of noise cancelling earphones but have been left feeling cheated by their tenuous claims. Finally, I demand accurate sound reproduction; being in a band and producing a lot of the tracks myself, I rely on a good sound reference to ensure the final mix is exactly what I require. Wouldn't it be great if I could find a single pair of earphones that would meet all my needs?
When I came across the ER4P I was instantly drawn in by their impressive claims although I did manage to retain enough cynicism through previous experience to carry out further research. Reviews ranged mainly from "pretty good" to "astonishing" with the odd dissenter thrown in for good measure. The major gripes seemed to be from reviewers who knew little about what they were dealing with and so gradually I became convinced to invest.
They arrived in a neat, if cheap looking, plastic accessory box, complete with spare rubber and foam tips as well as a shirt clip, jack adapter, soft carry case and other items. Out of the box I noticed that the plastic moulding, where the cable enters the earphone, looked a little bit scruffy, like you'd expect from a much cheaper set. One of the reviews I'd read had mentioned this so it wasn't a complete surprise but it didn't inspire confidence about the manufacturer's exacting production standards. However, I then plugged them in and fitted the earphones snuggly and firmly, deep into my lugholes and hit play...
Now, if you can imagine it were possible to jack the perfect sound source directly into you central nervous system you might be somewhere near to appreciating the sensation of wearing these earphones. Every little detail is as sharp as a razor and you can hear the most subtle nuance of fingers on guitar strings. If anything, the sound is too perfect, and small, normally imperceptible flaws are delivered directly to your audio receptors. The bass tones are as punchy and clear as the higher frequencies and there is no muddying of the sound with clarity throughout the spectrum. Having played live music for many years I thought my hearing was way past its best but these earphones have given my ears new hope.
In addition, the seal on the earphones is so good that the sound attenuation massively outperforms that of over-hyped noise cancelling sets. That makes them unbeatable when flying and in the studio the noise isolation proves invaluable. And they are so snug that no amount of treadmill pounding will shake them loose, especially with the shirt clip supporting the weight of the cable. The price may seem like a major obstacle but I suspect that if you're reading this then you've already accounted for that. This kind of sound reproduction doesn't come cheap and they are worth every last penny.Etymotic Research ER-4P Portable In-Ear Earphones
I've recently had cause to return the earphones to Etymotic under the warranty after I managed to snap the end off of one of the transducers whilst changing the foam tips. I'm not sure if this is a common fault or a one-off but Etymotic handled the repair perfectly and their customer service and efficiency is amongst the best I have ever experienced. It's nice, and indeed quite rare these days, to deal with a company that gets it right with both the product and the aftercare and Etymotic have certainly secured my loyalty and my voice of praise.