Precise Beauty – Etymotic ER3XR IEMs Review
Etymotic is a pretty well-known company who’s an expert in creating and designing in-ear monitors (IEMs), and they made a more affordable version of ER4XR, now named ER3XR. We’re going to take a look at this IEM and what it brings to the table.
Etymotic is an iconic company when it comes to IEMs, since they are some of the first who pioneered and engineered the BA (Balanced Armature) design. Etymotic house sound has always been described as very refined, very detailed and quite linear, so in comparison with most other headphones and in-ears, Etymotic has always felt like they are slightly midrange-forward, with voices and the majority of instruments coming forward with excellent power and life. Etymotic also has a signature in using their specific deep-seal, which alloys for extreme amounts of isolation from the outside noise, often being some of the best In-Ears for musicians and performers.
It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Etymotic, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by Etymotic or anyone else. I’d like to thank Etymotic for providing the sample for this review. The sample was provided along with Etymotic’s request for an honest and unbiased review. This review will be as objective as it is humanly possible, and it reflects my personal experience with Etymotic ER3XR. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Etymotic ER3XR find their next music companion.
You can purchase Etymotic ER3XR from www.amazon.com here: https://www.amazon.com/Etymotic-ER3XR-Extended-Response-Earphones/dp/B076652HPH
First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:
The packaging is simpler and less inclusive than that of Etymotic ER4XR we reviewed before, but it has all the necessary items included, like the IEMs, a carrying solution, and a selection of tips and filters included with ER3XR. nIt should be noted that the filters are there to protect the IEM from debris and dust gathering inside, and it is not recommended to use an Etymtoic IEM without its filters.
The tip selection is fairly rich, and we often noticed that especially with Etymtoic IEMs, the medium tips that come installed on them are the tips most people will use with the IEMs.
The carrying solution is a soft pouch, which isn’t as protective as the hard carrying case included with ER4XR, but it is more trendy, and it clearly has a nice design, with the name Etymotic embossed there.
It would be quite complicated to complain about the package, and the only thing we feel some users might desire from future iterations is a balanced cable, although that isn’t currently easy to find for an Etymotic IEM, but we’ll be sure to let you know more about them once they start becoming available.
The build quality of ER3XR is as good as ER4XR’s build quality was, a metallic IEM shell, combined with an MMCX connector for your safety and convenience, and combined with long silicone tips.
Now, the tips are made out of silicone, and they are quite long, making the IEMs look like either professional musician tools, or medical tools, being quite easy to tell apart from your typical IEMs.
The cables included with ER3XR are extremely solid, thick and look reliable for both a more active music listener and for a musician performing live.
The fit and comfort, on the other hand, is quite tricky. The thing is, Etymotic has a very specific deep-fit that you need to take into account before purchasing their IEMs, those IEMs need to be inserted much deeper than the average shallow or medium-insertion depth IEM, thing which can cause some issues with some listeners, depending on the way the inner ear looks like.
Even so, after one has successfully inserted ER3XR, just like other Etymotic IEMs, will find that they become quite comfortable. Although, it should be noted that the insertion process is not quite hassle-free for some users, having to pull the ear while inserting, and inserting them very slowly, the IEM doesn’t sit very bad after the process is done.
Now, the whole insertion step is this complicated because ER3XR, like all other Etymotic IEMs, offers an insane amount of passive noise reduction, Etymotic IEMs having a trademark in being the best isolating IEMs out there (at the previously mentioned cost in comfort).
We need to get a few things out of the way before we start analysing the sound quality and the sonic performance of ER3XR. First, we’d like to note our readers that it has been stated by Etymotic online that ER3 series have a similar performance with ER4 series, but the IEMs themselves are produced in a different factory. This means that the performances are quite close, and that just the margin of errors are larger than those for ER4XR, but those margin of errors should still be quite a bit smaller than the human hearing should be able to pick up.
The second thing is that the ER3XR has an Extended Bass reproduction amount compared to other Etymotic In-Ears. We want our basshead and bass lover readers to keep this in mind, Etymotic IEMs are unsuited for basshead needs, they simply are the bassier versions of Etymotic house sound, not a basshead IEM per se.
Now, the sonic performance is quite close to ER4XR. So close, that we’d have a hard time telling ER3XR apart from ER4XR.
For those looking for a refresh on how ER4XR sounds like, we invite you to read our review here, and we’ll try conveying once again what we’re hearing.
The bass of ER3XR is quite linear, quite detailed, and quite impressive. With ER3XR, you notice the finer details that it can render in the bass of your favorite songs, the way it conveys certain nuances that otherwise can get subdued, especially by most IEMs at this price point. You get a new sensation of speed as well, as ER3XR has one of the quickest sounds around, you feel every little reverberation in the sound.
The speed of the driver is quite relevant for the midrange as well, which, compared to the bass and the treble, is quite pushed forward. This makes ER3XR a really great performer for vocal-driven music, Jazz, and other types of music where you’d want a less intrusive bass, along with a leaner and smoother treble. The thing that is the most impressive here is the level of clarity and detail, ER3XR is quite close to ER4XR, almost indistinguishably so, so you’ll be hearing a whole new level of resolution, especially if you’re used to IEMs at this price, or even slightly higher. The speed of the driver means that it has a wonderful ADSR/PRaT performance, so you get to hear and be able to analyse every single detail, every single texture and micro texture, all the things that are normally smooth are now expressed and distinguishable, pretty much the wet dream of an analytic-sound lover. The midrange can feel slightly forward and slightly aggressive, especially with certain types of music, but this makes the songs that are musical be even more musical, the added texturization to a guitar solo makes it even more immersive and vivid to experience.
The treble is quite smooth and lean, especially if compared to the energetic and forward midrange. The detail in the treble is good, and its speed is as quick as the treble and the midrange, but the quantity of the treble is not exactly what we’d go for if you’re a metal or rock listener. Instead, of you prefer your treble smoother and leaner, with a presence, but in a non-intrusive manner, then ER3XR should bring you lots of fun and a pretty good experience.
In short, they will work well with vocal-driven music, with Jazz and certain types of pop, but they are smooth and lean, with a linear-ish bass, so metal and rock music will work well with them if you know you like them played like this. The details and textures are still quite amazing, and as good as we remembered Etymotic textures and details to be.
The Soundstage of ER3XR is not the largest one, nor the widest one, but instead, the instrument separation is what they rely on to be impressive. Basically, the soundstage is average in both width and depth, and given the detail they achieve, one’s focus will probably be set more on each individual bit of detail, rather than be focused on the scene as a whole (since ER3XR is so great at being analytical), and the instrument separation helps with that, since one is able to easily tell details and textures apart, one is also able to tell instruments apart, the whole image painted by ER3XR being clear, well separated, clearly positioned and detailed.
ADSR / PRaT
The ADSR and PRaT (Texturization) of the sound is one of the best there are. Basically, the drivers of ER3XR are exactly what everybody is telling BA drivers to be, quick, light, and super-detailed. The sound is super-analytical, every single minute detail shines and has an excellent place in a song, textures, and micro textures are very well expressed and feel enhanced, and ER3XR will make the textures of Mindless Self Indulgence and Masa works Design feel like macro-textures, adding even more minute details, compared to how other IEMs paint the textures there as micro-details, so the ADSR / PRaT is as good as it can get (especially if you like hearing all the exciting details in the music).
There’s a shirt clip included!
The jokes aside, ER3XR is quite portable. The noise isolation is extremely good, so you will really have to be careful when walking with them, but they don’t really get uncomfortable over time, and the tips don’t get sweaty, so they won’t fall out of your ears after a while.
The cables are not microphonic, and this can further be helped by wearing them over-the-ear and by using the shirt clip.
Both the cable and the IEM body are lightweight and you can easily feel free while wearing them, one can even do heavyweight training, jogging and aerobics while wearing ER3XR, thing which is actually quite great, especially since you’re going to see them as a good solution for separating yourself from the world, with all that great isolation.
On how easy to drive they are, they are not quite that easy to drive. They need a bit of power, but still, most mobile sources should do just fine, if not too well. The main thing is that they have a somewhat low efficiency, at almost 103 dB, where most IEMs in this price range might lean to be more around 110 – 115 dB in efficiency. The impedance is not very high though, so they will be easier to drive than the ER4XR, which was quite hard to drive, but was also rated at 98dB of efficiency, and 45 OHM of impedance.
We’d say that something like a FiiO M7 would be an excellent overall choice for ER3XR, although there will also be better (although more expensive) options out there, like Hiby R6, or FiiO X7mkii, iBasso DX150, etc.
Etymotic ER3XR vs Etymotic ER4XR – The main two differences most people are going to notice are that ER4XR are harder to drive in practice, and that ER4XR come with more accessories, and with a better overall package. The main thing that might come as a shock is that ER3XR is more or less the same when it comes to its sonic ability, the differences between the two being really hard to asses, and since the differences in how hard they are to drive are a little large, it is hard to do a proper volume matching. All in all, if you want the ultimate XR experience from Etymotic and if you don’t mind spending a little extra, then ER4XR is still their flagship, but if you want to save a few bucks and don’t mind a simpler, yet still as useful package, then ER3XR is quite an amazing overall choice. The unboxing experience sure is more fancy on ER4XR, but most people won’t unbox them over and over again, so ER3XR, with their simpler package, but very similar sound, does make the better overall deal.
Etymotic ER3XR vs Oriveti New Primacy – Oriveti New Primacy was chosen mostly because they come at a similar price as ER3XR, but the differences in sound are so big that one could say they have nothing in common. Where ER3XR is a midrange-forward IEM with a very analytic and detailed sound, ONP is very natural in both its tonal balance, and its overall texture presentation, the detail revealing abilities of ONP are not the same as those of ER3XR, which are quite revealing in their nature, but the overall sonics feel more natural on ONP, which simply sounds natural. If you have a delight in hearing all the intricacies within a song, then ER3XR is clearly the more revealing and more textured IEM, but the more bass amount of ONP, the more natural overall tonal balance, and the more lively upper midrange / treble makes them a choice suited for those looking for an easier listen and for a more natural experience. Where ER3XR has a deep-fit, ONP has a shallow fit, but also has some driver flex, so which will be more comfortable will be quite subjective. ONP still makes an excellent value, but so does ER3XR.
Etymotic ER3XR vs Dunu DK-3001 – DK-3001 is actually even further away from ER3XR, with an even more natural sound than Oriveti New Primacy, thing which basically means that they have more bass in quantity, less midrange in quantity, and more treble in quantity, along with a slower overall texture, leaner overall sound and presenting music in a more natural overall fashion. The package is quite fancy with DK-3001, and you can tell that you’re purchasing a high-end IEM, and they clearly sound more natural, have a wider soundstage, and slightly better instrument separation, but once again, if you want a truly revealing analytical sound, then ER3XR, with its quick response, textured sound, and excellent revealing abilities / detail, will make the more compelling option. The comfort with DK-3001 might be a little problematic because they are on the larger side, and because some users reported having some comfort issues with them, but they also have a detachable cable, and they also have a shallow fit, if you find the deep-fit of ER3XR to not suit your ears very well. On the other hand, both are excellent value, and both IEMs’s fit will be quite subjective, so if you can test before purchasing, we recommend testing each and seeing which suits your ears best.
Etymotic ER3XR is somewhat more source-dependant than its bigger brother ER4XR, but it can be driven easier from less powerful sources, making it a more portable and easier to use for a beginner IEM.
Etymotic ER3XR + FiiO Q5(AMP5) – FiiO Q5 is quite probably one of the sources you’ll be most inclined to pair ER3XR with, given its sweet price and its even sweeter price to performance ratio. FiiO Q5 has a great overall tonal balance, it gives them a good, larger soundstage, and it helps ER3XR gain even better instrument separation. The fact that Q5 is a DAC/AMP that needs to be stacked with a smartphone might be slightly inconvenient, but then again, you can pick FiiO x7mkii, if you want an all-in-one solution that will surely fit your needs.
Etymotic ER3XR + Hiby R6 – Hiby R6 does a great job at driving ER3XR, and although they are detailed and sensitive enough to tell R6 apart from something more expensive than it, like FiiO Q5 or FiiO X7mkii, R6 sounds plenty good already. With its fluid Android experience, if you’re looking for something to help you stream your favorite music and for something to just use without any more hassles, R6 makes a very compelling option. On the other hand, we’d like to note that R6 has this little downside, it has only one microSD slot, compared to FiiO X7mkii, which has two.
Etymotic ER3XR + iBasso DX150 – If you’re looking for something to give ER3XR a thicker and more satisfying sound, you should totally consider iBasso’s latest jewel, DX150. It comes with all the beauty and power DX200 has, but at a much more accessible price, but still with iBasso’s modular AMP design, and the AMP it comes with by default, AMP6 is quite thick and satisfying, providing a IEM with a lot of impact, and giving ER3XR quite a little bit of dynamics and impact, all while making their overall textures a tiny bit smoother and leaner.
Etymotic ER3XR + FiiO M7 – This is an interesting combo because M7 isn’t just a sport-sized DAP made to be quite portable, but it is also quite inexpensive and plays well with ER3XR. If you don’t require a lot of bells and whistles from your DAP, and if you can do with a single microSD slot, M7 sure is checking out for combining it with M7.
Etymotic ER3XR + Cayin N5ii – This combo works quite well. Cayin N5ii is not only very potent, but also comes at an excellent price for a DAP with two microSD slots, Android and the option to add third party apps as well. If you need streaming, two microSD slots, and a pretty neutral sound, then N5ii may be just the DAP for you.
Value and Conclusion
Reaching the end of our review, we hope you had a lot of fun reading about ER3XR, and we hope that we have been helpful in your decision on whether ER3XR should be your next IEM or not.
If you’re looking for an Etymotic ER4XR, but in a less expensive package, then ER3XR should fit the bill quite well, with its similar ergonomic, similar fit and comfort, and similar noise isolation, and even with its similar sonic performance, but with the more pocket friendly price.
The detail and textures of Etymotic are not to be taken lightly and they have proven themselves many times over the ears to be a very capable company worthy of your trust and money, especially if you’re one to appreciate a truly clean and analytical sound, with an extremely good detail and revealing ability, along with a very interesting sonic performance and overall price / performance ratio.
Etymotic ER3XR is a IEM with a midrange-forward tuning, so it will work quite well with certain types of music, especially with those that are voice-driven, but should also be heaven sent if you require a IEM to do mastering for an album and if you want to hear the sound down to the most intricate detail.
The package is still very comprehensive, you get all the tips you’ll require with ER3XR, you get Etymotic’s exemplary work, along with their reliable and lightweight cables, and a trendy, yet not very protective, carrying case. They’ll also throw in a shirt clip, which is handy, especially if you plan on performing and need a tight fit with your IEMs.
At the end of the day, if you need excellent levels of noise isolation, if you need something to sound clear, clean and textured, stellar build quality, and a great overall deal, then Etymotic ER3XR are surely worth checking out and considering, regardless whether you’re an avid music lover with a passion for detail, or a touring musician who needs a trusty tool in your arsenal.
You can purchase Etymotic ER3XR from www.amazon.com here: https://www.amazon.com/Etymotic-ER3XR-Extended-Response-Earphones/dp/B076652HPH
Full Playlist used for this review
We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature. PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality are all revealed by those songs. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music!
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