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Etymotic Research ER-4 Earphones
by Jeffrey Silberman

The Etymotic Research ER-4 earphone is an in-the-earcanal transducer developed specifically to combine flat frequency response with isolation from external noise. It provides 24dB of external noise exclusion, allowing the listener to hear the full dynamic range of today's digital recordings without requiring ear shattering sound levels to overcome the masking effects of external noise, e.g., when monitoring in the same room as a musical performance. Unless external sound is excluded, quiet musical passages cannot be heard unless the volume is turned up beyond levels that are realistic for the louder musical passages. At this amplification, loud inputs may overload the ear, producing the equivalent of 5-10% distortion above 100 dB's. Such unrealistic levels change the quality of the sound. Moreover, decreasing listening levels allows for longer periods of safe listening.

There are two versions of the ER-4 earphones: the ER-4S and the ER-4B. They differ only in frequency response. The "S" is designed for popular and classical stereo recordings and the "B" is intended for binaural recordings (dummy head recordings placed in the audience area). Two types of ear seals are provided: compressible foam or a soft silicone rubber. Extra ear seals of both types are provided. For increased comfort, custom earmolds can be made for the cost of approximately $100.00. Due to the low moving mass of the earphone's diaphragm, transient response, clarity and detail of music is unmatched, revealing every sonic nuance. Moreover, low frequency response cannot be matched by any conventional headphone. The bass response is flat to 40Hz and is down only 3dB at 20Hz! There is no boominess or bass-bump as with headphones; the bass is tight and free of coloration. In short, bass is phenomenal. High Performance Review concluded that the ER-4 earphones were the finest 'phones that it had ever auditioned regardless of price. Similarly, Audio magazine rated them as better than the Stax SR Lambda Pro electrostatic headphones costing over $2000. Stereophile magazine gave the earphones a rave review in the July, l995, issue and rated them as accessory runner-up of the year for l995! The ER-4's and its carrying pouch weigh less than 1 ounce and can fit in a shirt pocket. Consequently, they are ideal for travellers looking for phones that reduce outside noise. Not only will sound not leak in, but sound will not leak out to disturb others. The ER-4's are indispensable tools for recording engineers especially when monitoring in a loud environment and particularly where it is essential to audition every detail of the recording.

Full reviews and specifications are available. The cost is $280 ($50 off list price) with a 30-day money back guarantee.

Articles from Fall 1996

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Grand Canyon Air Raid Alert

Etymotic Research ER-4 Earphones

A Naturalist in the Rainforest

Sound Recording Adventures in Antarctica (1): A Morning With the Emperors

NSS Recording Club Firsts

National Watchable Wildlife Conference '96

Nature Sounds Newsletter

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