I've been into headphones more than any other piece of audio equipment(mp3 players come close) for some time now, so I decided it was time to try some canalphones within my budget. In particular, I've tried other Etymotic models and other brands, so I have a good reference on what to expect out of the ER6i. Well, my expectations were blown away from first listen.
These canalphones do not have any burn-in time necessary, since they always sound this good. From the moment I put the ER6i's in my ears (with triflange tips, I prefer them), I've enjoyed music even more than I thought I could previously. The soundstage is no longer restricted to drivers resting on or near the ears; the soundstage is now something that my ears directly translate to my brain as music in my head in the most literal sense.
Separation of instruments is excellent- even the most complex tracks are placed accurately with ease. Decay(which some reading might not be aware of) is exemplary, when you hear a piano key strike or a note on an electric guitar, their notes' sounds after the instruments have made their initial sounds are pronounced more vividly. If you listen to these, or any other canalphones, you might complain about lack of bass or impact- this is common among bassheads, and the ER6i's are not for you.
The ER6i's play back deep and low bass as closely to their source material permits within limits of practicality and accuracy. You hear all the bass present in a track as it is meant to be heard, and not necessarily felt. Even most bass heavy rap tracks don't actually have as much bass as you might hear initially through a system that places emphasis on the lower frequencies, so this should be taken into account. What you get with ER6i's is warmth and accuracy-tight and punchy. Not boom and bloatedness.
The midrange is as smooth and liquid as headphones can get from my observations- no part of the midrange is attenuated or overemphasized, everything in this part of the frequency band is smooth and clean when played back. Running an EQ to augment the mids is not necessary(nor is it necessary to boost bass or treble either; the ER6i play their best flat.)
The high end, or treble, is crisp, and not overly sibilant to my ears. It's perfectly crystal clear and despite a 16khz nominal limit, responds to the highest registers in music with ease. Overall, the sound of the ER6i is full and balanced to an extent that a pair of conventional speakers would end up being very expensive beofe being able to match or best the sound of the ER6i [...].
The isolation exceeds all other headphones in their price point, and easily exceed all closed cans and active noise cancelling headphones without exception. When sealed in your ears properly, even the slightest amount of music playing through the ER6i will mute the outside world effectively and completely. This can prove to be dangerous if you are driving, jogging, operating machinery, or doing anything else that might jeopardize your safety.
The comfort of the ER6i is an aquired taste, and due to the nature of canalphones in general, are not for everyone. For myself though, these are easily THE most comfortable headphones I've ever worn, because there is no headband, no external pressures, and no earcup discomfort. Instead, there may be some inital pressure exerted on the ear canals upon insertion of the ER6i and other canalphones, which I've confirmed techniques to protect against.
When properly sealed, however, I hardly notice they are in my ears, aside from the fact that like earplugs, I can hear all actions occuring within the body in a similar fashion(talking, walking, chewing, breatthing, etc.) I've worn these for ten hour stretches with hardly any discomfort. Regular over the ear headphones only go for an average of two hours at a time. It's actually humorous to see other peoples' hectic goings-on when playing music through these. It's like they are missing out on something special, and like I've said elsewhere, without a doubt they are.
The ER6i are recommended without reservation, and are at least worth an audition. They might just blow you away.
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