Released in 1991, the ER4 was the world’s first noise-isolating high-fidelity in-ear earphone that became the basis of all subsequent in-ear earphones and in-ear monitors worldwide, creating an entire category of consumer electronics. 30 years later, the ER4 is still produced and while it’s changed over the years, it is still channel-balanced to within 1 dB by Etymotic.
If any earphone was to be considered the most significant in earphone history, it would be the ER4, the one that started it all. So I thought it would be interesting to see how it has evolved over the years.
While reviewing the Etymotic ER4SR and ER4XR here is what Tyll had to say about bass response:
For me, the bass level on the ER4SR simply isn’t enough. Frankly, even the ER4XR doesn’t have enough bass for me, but it’s much better. I believe quite strongly that bass response on headphone should have about a 5dB bass boost below about 150Hz.
When the ER4XR was launched, Tyll applauded Etymotic for making the brave move of catering to user preferences and deviating from that they believed to be technically “accurate”. I think Etymotic went further with the ER2XR (and it’s almost like they took his feedback into account) and for that I am grateful as the ER2XR has just the right bass response for my preferences 🤗.
For me, having over 20 years of close experience interacting with Etymotic and the ER4 product evolution, I find it an interesting example of corporate learning at work. On the one hand, Etymotic has very strong reasons to believe they have a grip on what “accurate” means, on the other, they have 20 years of experience with customer feedback about the desire for more bass. Adding bass willy-nilly is simply not something this audiometry company would do; but having strong feedback that customers want more bass can’t be denied either. Making the corporate decision to deviate from technically accurate to cater to user preference is actually a pretty brave move from their point of view. I applaud this development!