Etymotic may not be a household name, but for audiophiles and sound professionals they are one of the most reputable brands in the business.
The wired version of the ER2XR was launched last year becoming the most affordable option Etymotic offer.
The earphones have detachable cables with an MMCX connection, so they have now upgraded them with the Etymotion BT which was announced this year.
- Accurate midrange and high frequencies with slight...
- Etymotion Bluetooth cable offers high resolution...
- Suitable for professional musicians and casual...
- Single high-performance dynamic moving coil driver
- Single high-performance dynamic moving coil driver
- Detachable cable for easy replacement and customisation
- 7 ear tips included one foam tip
- 35dB+ Passive noise cancellation
- Qualcomm chip supports AptX, AptXHD, AptX LL, and AAC
- Bluetooth 5.0 with AptX, AptX HD, AptX LL
- Dedicated DAC and headphone amplifier with 24bit/48kHz lossless capabilities
- AKM AK4331 with Velvet Sound Technology
- Built-in 3 button Mic Pod for playback control and phone calls
- 8+ hour battery life
- 30 foot range
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 16kHz
- Impedance: 15Ω
- Sensitivity: 96dB @ 1kHz
- Maximum Output (SPL): 120dB
These are one of the few earphones I have tried with swappable cables thanks to the MMCX connector. This is a major selling point and something that is not common at this price point.
Wired earphones always break at the cable, so being able to replace this will save you money in the long run, or the option to upgrade the quality of the cable.
With these, you then have the option to buy a cable as a backup. This would be particularly useful for flights or travelling when I am less fussed about the mobility Bluetooth provides.
All earphones require a good fit to make the most of the sound, the Etymotic ER2XR come with a warning that you need to get a proper seal with your ears.
These have 7 options ranging from double flanged, triple and a pair of foam tips.
These also fit inside your ears quite a bit different than your generic mainstream earphones; they go quite deeply inside your ear canal.
It is not the most pleasant experience at first, I found there could be a little bit of discomfort, but once you master it and have worn them for a while, I find they become quite comfortable and perhaps better than average when wearing them for long periods of time.
Finding a good fit takes a little experimenting so you can find the best fit for both comfort and sound quality. My go-to test for most earphones is to listen to Run the Jewels – JU$T until I achieve a seal that can handle the ridiculous bass in that track.
Etymotic even provide instructions with the earphones on how to insert and remove them plus a video demonstration on the website.
Some people will not like the way these fit at all, the fit is a little invasive, but I think if you are looking at Etymotic in the first place, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Normally I don’t make much of a comment about the Bluetooth aspect of earphones, but it is quite important here, and it’s the Bluetooth cable that is the new product rather than the earpieces.
You get AAC, AptX, AptXHD, and AptX LL giving it 24 bit/48khz lossless capabilities which is better than most Bluetooth options out there.
This is then paired with a AKM AK4331 DAC with Velvet Sound Technology which Etymotic claim to offer superior performance to built-in solutions.
However, the adapter is clunky and old fashioned compared to most earphones in recent years. The inclusion of a micro USB port on something that costs this much is a bit of a let-down.
I also find that the earphones don’t report back to my phone the battery life.
Passive noise cancellation outperforms most ANC earphones
It may come as no surprise, but the passive noise cancellation of these is unparallel compared to anything I have used before. The deep fit with double flanged ear tip removes a significant amount of ambient noise. I have seen quite a big benefit with walking, in a windy coastal town the wind can be a nightmare when listening to earphones, these eliminate the issue better than any other earphone I use, including ANC models.
The ER2-XR are the enhanced bass response model, so these are a bit more mainstream appeal than the studio edition.
Most of the earphones I review and love tend to be very bass dominant, these are less so, but I have found the balance to be superb. Bass kicks in when it should and tones down when not, I never felt I bleeding into the mids.
The balanced bass allows detail to come through with other frequencies regardless of what you are listening too.
Mid-range is outstanding overall, working well with instruments and vocals alike.
With a lot of affordable earphones, I struggle with mids and highs, at moderate to high volumes, it can become quite painful to listen to due to the harsh grating sound. Not so here, in fact I rarely listen to them at high volumes because there is no need to the passive sound cancelation and overall sound quality means I am more than happy turning the volume down and appreciating the music.
Price and Alternatives
Pricing appears to be all over the place, especially for UK buyers. On Amazon, the wired variant is £190, this Bluetooth model is £199.
On hifiheadphones.co.uk, you can grab the wired ER2-XR for £99.95
In the US, for a limited time you can pick up the wired ER3-XR Extended Response for just $70
The Etymotic Etymotion Wireless Bluetooth Cable with AKM Velvet Sound DAC and Amplifier is then $179.99 but there doesn’t appear to be stock of this in the UK. The cable by itself seems excessive expensive when there are quite a few MMCX Bluetooth adaptors on the market.
An alternative option would be to buy the Shure AONIC True Wireless Secure Fit for £175, which offers true wireless connectivity and USB-C or the more affordable Shure RMCE-BT2 for around £60 if you can find stock anywhere.
Then there is the Shanling MW200 for around £110 which offers a neckband style connection uses a AKM AK4377A DAC and appears to receive superb reviews.
The Audiolab M-DAC Nano or FiiO BTR3k Balanced HiFi Bluetooth Amp can convert wired headphones into Bluetooth. They are a lot more cumbersome than an all in one solution but I would expect that they offer comparable if not better performance.
In terms of alternative earphones, I wouldn’t know where to begin as mainstream options would likely be a disservice to Etymotic, but for comparison, these are around the same price as the Apple AirPods Pro.
The earphones themselves are outstanding and I can see why so many people love Etymotic. They offer the best sound quality of any earphone I have used, though admittedly my opinion may not hold much weight when my other favourite earphones this year are the Huawei Freebuds Pro.
The Bluetooth cable works well freeing you from the 3.5mm port and making these compatible with most mid-range or higher phones. The Bluetooth adaptor isn’t quite the quality I would expect from something that is £100+ however the ER2-XR-BT package appears to offer reasonable value compared to buying the wired variant then pairing it with the cheaper Shanling MW200.
Minor gripes aside, these are superb earphones, offering sound quality that mainstream brands struggle to replicate. The MMCX and swappable filters also ensure these will outlive competing options with built-in obsolescence
Etymotic ER2XR Earphones with Etymotion Wireless Bluetooth Cable Review
Exceptional sound quality and passive noise cancelling make these the best earphones I have used.
The combination of deep fit, clunky Bluetooth cable and relatively high price vs mainstream brands may be off-putting for casual users but anyone that values sound quality over other aspects will love these.
Overall - 90%
- Incredible sound quality
- Unrivalled passive noise cancelling
- Detachable earpieces
- microUSB charging
- No battery status on phone
- The invasive fit may not be to some peoples liking
Last update on 2021-05-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API