The Etymotic ER3XR headphones are in-ear monitors for musicians. Some DJs like to DJ with headphones like this, which is something I’m not personally going to give a go to, but one thing I would be happy to do with these is use them as personal monitors when making music. You learn to trust them – they kind of slip in to the background leaving just you and your music. For that reason, they get a solid 5/5 from me.
First Impressions / Setting up
The Etymotic ER3XR headphones are billed as being for serious music fans, even for in-ear monitoring for producers and similar.
As someone who loves using my Apple EarPods for taking phone calls while on the move, listening to podcasts, and catching up on the news late at night, but for whom listening to music on them is grossly unsatisfactory, I was interested in the promise of the Etymotics. Here are my thoughts on them after six months of use.
They come in a neat little zip-up case embossed “Etymotic Research”. They’re different to normal earbuds in that they’re long – very long. I don’t mean the cable, but the part you push in your ear. It’s a thin shiny black cylinder, the cable for each earpiece being attached at right angles sturdily via a plastic connector.
They’re kept in the ear by your choice of interchangeable silicone-style sheaths. If you’ve ever used the type of “musician’s earplug” that has an attenuating plastic tube down the middle of it and three rings of silicone/plastic/rubber reducing in circumference towards the bit that gores furthest into your ear – they’re like that.
The cables join in a connecting cylinder, where you might expect to find the push button controls that some headphones have, although in this case there are none. These are pure headphones – don’t expect to be able to take calls or adjust the volume via any controls built into them. The cable continues to a high quality 1/8″ minijack, again of the right-angle variety.
One thing they do have is a detachable clip (of they type you might use to clip a lapel microphone to clothing), which is designed to do just that, in order to stop the cables that go to the left and right earpiece brushing excessively against your clothing – more on why that is important in a bit.
Overall, the impression is of well engineered, high quality in-ear headphones, as befits the price.
These are definitely strange to wear, although less so over time. you have to properly shove them deep into your ear canals. as you do, the noise of the outside world is pretty effectively shut out, acoustically. to be replaced by the subtle white noise of your own blood pumping around your head. You immediately feel like you’re on a cocoon.
It also feels quite unnatural. It’s not painful to shove something so deep in your ear, and they don’t go deep enough to touch your eardrum or anything like that, but you certainly know you have them on. You do get used to it over time, both each session and after wearing them for several times.
As soon as you start playing music through them though, they all start to make sense – a lot of sense. It is almost impossible not to get completely lost in your music with it being fed so deep into your ears.
You know how with some earbuds, you can radically affect the sound – especially the bass – by how you fit them in your ears? There’s none of that. Instead, you have a full, convincing, natural sound that doesn’t deviate at all, because they’re properly lodged in one position in your ear.
The sound itself is excellent. Balanced, believable, and big. It’s like the personal equivalent of watching a film at a cinema with one of those great room sound systems – you just get almost immediately completely lost in it. And not only for music – I find them particularly good for watching films on intercontinental plane journeys.
Because they’re so deep in your ears, even touching the cables transmits a scratchy noise directly into your head, hence the clip to reduce how often this happens.
These have become my go-to travelling headphones. They’re easier to pack and almost as effective at noise cancelling as dedicated noise cancelling headphones, and I use them frequently for zoning out to playlists from my iPhone SE (which I refuse to let go, due to its old school headphone socket).
Some DJs like to DJ with headphones like this, which is something I’m not personally going to give a go to, but one thing I would be happy to do with these is use them as personal monitors when making music. You learn to trust them – they kind of slip in to the background leaving just you and your music. For that reason, they get a solid 5/5 from me.