The name "Etymotic" means "true to the ear" and is pronounced "et-im-oh-tik." Mead Killion founded Etymotic Research in 1983 to design products that accurately assess hearing, improve the lives of those with hearing loss, and protect hearing. His first in-ear headphone designs--the ER-1, 2, 3--were used for diagnostic testing and precision auditory research. The company's first noise-isolating in-ear earphone, the ER-4, debuted in 1991. I remember hearing an early ER-4 and it was radically better than any other portable headphone at the time.
The original ER-4P, which was designed for use with portable cassette and CD players, came out in 1994, long before the iPod catapulted the headphone market into the stratosphere. It was priced at $330, making it a very expensive headphone for the time. The current ER-4 models go for a little less, the ER-4PT runs $299, but Etymotic also offers a broad range of less expensive headphones.
ER-4 headphones are still made in Etymotic's Elk Grove Village, Ill., factory, and the left and right drivers are hand-matched to within 1 dB of each other. The headphone comes with a two-year warranty, double the length of most high-end headphones. If an ER-4 is returned for service, factory technicians confirm the left and right channels still match within the original tolerances before the unit is returned to its owner. Also noteworthy: each ER-4PT is shipped with a "channel-matching compliance graph," signed by the Etymotic engineer who precision matched and custom tuned the balanced-armature drivers.
The ER-4PT is very similar to the ER-4P, but the new model comes with extra mobile adapters, a large plastic storage case, a small travel pouch, and accessories for travelers. The braided cable and earpieces look slightly different than my old ER-4P. I have unusually shaped ear canals and don't always have the easiest time getting a good, air-tight fit with many in-ear headphones, but Etymotic's Triple Flange ear tips work like a charm. True, they must be deeply inserted into my ear canals, but they never accidentally fall out. … Read more