Prior to trying out any of the Etymotic products, the general caveat that I’m hearing is that the sound is too lean and that it can be a little bright. Having tried three Etymotic earphones now I can say that it’s true however saying the earphone is lean and bright don’t really do it justice especially the fact that it sounds pretty darn good.
I’ll begin with the general characteristics of this earphone and then move on with minor differences between the ER4P and ER4s. The earphone is definitely neutral, transparent and accurate sounding with almost no coloration at all. Bass extends superbly low and has a very fast attack. The transition to midrange is smooth and their’s an emphasis on the upper midrange that to me is just done superbly. This gives the signature a ‘throaty’ characteristic which in turn even enhances its clarity. You don’t have to worry about it sounding too nasal or honky because that is not the case here.
There’s plenty of treble but the quality is superb. To me it is one of the best that I’ve heard even in comparison with other full-size headphones that I’ve tried (Sennheiser HD650, Beyerdynamic DT880, NAD Viso HP50, Sennheiser Momentum). Even with the treble quantity which to some can sound too bright, there’s still no peak and there’s very little unevenness going from lower treble to mid treble then to the top octave. Mid treble is slightly smoothed off relative to the lower and upper treble however the overall coherence is top-notch.
I should mention that it is a very fast-sounding earphone and that detail retrieval is superb. I’ve heard a lot of earphones and headphones by now but can truly say the Etymotic ER4PT (ER4s to be precise) is one of the best in the business in terms of smacking you with detail thanks to it’s superb transient response.
Now every headphone and earphone has to have a weakness right? Well the ER4PT has one and it’s its soundstage. IEMs are generally not known to have good soundstage but the ER4PT has ‘in-your-face’ presentation where music really just sits and stays in your ears. I’ve heard some IEM that have good soundstage (Hifiman IEMs, Vsonic GR01, GR07) but ERPT is definitely not one of them.
ER4S & ER4P comparison
Before I begin, consider the difference between the two to be minimal especially for an untrained ear. However if you’re in a position where you really want to decide between the two, which you shouldn’t have to because you just have to get the ER4PT, then how it’s written below hopefully can help you
The ER4P (the earphone without the adapter) is perfect for portable use as it gets plenty loud on mobile device and is generally less lean than the ER4S. Bass and midrange appears to be slightly thicker relative to ER4s and there’s also still a lot of treble and sparkle in the presentation. Instrument separation and layering to me is almost the same.
ER4S in comparison is leaner sounding than the ER4P but it’s not thin or tinny at all. The leaner presentation allows it to have even faster attack than the already fast-sounding ER4P. The decay is so quick that there is just no congestion to hear at all even with busy passages. I could spot that the ER4S is cleaner sounding especially in the treble and also has better midrange to treble transition than the ER4P. The ER4P in turn is warmer sounding (a tad thicker in mids) but can surely also satisfy people that crave for detail in their music.
Now bear in mind that the ER4S is inefficient and while you can still get a very good sound minus an amplifier, having one opens up the earphone more and to me ‘less dry’ compared to without an amplifier. Again consider me splitting hairs here as there’s very little difference between the two. In fact, in their respective frequency response graph there is only a minor difference on their treble but mostly just the same all through out.
I absolutely love my Etymotic ER4PT and I use it a lot while commuting (already in the vehicle and not walking) and even at work when I want to isolate myself from some of my noisy colleagues. :p
It comes highly recommended if you’re able to make do with two things, comfort and sound signature. Most people will just find Etymotic earphones to be uncomfortable because it is uncomfortable. Anything that requires deep-insertion will just not feel right. Sound-wise, not many people appreciate a lean presentation and a quick decay so you can always look at warmer sounding earphones that still have good detail retrieval and decent presentation.
To me it’s a fabulous IEM which both music lovers and audiophiles will love. Its ability to convey detail with accuracy is second to none for IEMs. Comparing it to other significantly more expensive good earphones like the AKG K3003 or Sennheiser IE800 makes the ER4PT a bargain at $299. Check out the Etymotic ER4PT on Amazon if you’re interested and let me know what you think.