Review: Etymotic ER2SE – Testing 1-2-3

Price & Accessories

 

The Etymotic ER2 IEMs go for $159,95 in the USA and €179,95 in Europe (Amazon Prices), and yes that’s a bit unfair as that really only is €144.

The ER2 comes in a simple but nice box as usual. On the inside you’ll find:

  • The ER2 IEMs
  • A detachable, 4-foot cable
  • Foam and 3-flange ear tips
  • The filter removal tool and filters
  • A compact storage pouch
  • A shirt clip

Technical specifications

Frequency Response20 Hz – 16 kHz
TransducersHigh performance moving coil driver
Noise Isolation35-42 dB
Impedance (@1kHz)15 Ohms
Sensitivity (@1 kHz) SPL at 0.1v96 dB
Maximum Output (SPL)120 dB
CableDetachable, 4 ft
Warranty2 Years
Custom-Fit OptionYes

 

Sound ER2SE

According to Etymotic, the flat frequency response of the ER2SE will appeal to sound professionals and audiophiles alike. The ER2XR can satisfy the in-ear monitoring needs of musicians, while appealing to more casual listeners who like a bit more presence of bass.

New to this ER2SE IEM is the use of a dynamic driver where they before were using BA drivers in the ER-series. That’s actually quite the surprise as the BA drivers perfectly do what Etymotic wants to deliver: a neutral, precise and detailed sound.

The sonic qualities of dynamic drivers are very different than those of Balanced Armatures and so I was looking forward to find out how the neutral and precise part fit in with the new setup aka driver choice. One thing is for sure and still is the same as before: use bad quality sources or files with these IEMs and you’ll get bad sound. It’s very simple. Even a bad 128kb song from the Sony WM1Z sounds unimpressive on these IEMs. So always take that into account.

If you’re used to listening to the ER4 and ER3-series then the first thing you’ll notice is how the ER2SE now has the typical looser dynamic bass. At the same time Etymotic has made sure that the new ER2SE still sounds, very clear, clean, precise and fast. So in that regard there is no surprise. So with the ER2SE you still get a neutral presentation but of a different kind.

Looking purely at the technical level, the Etymotic ER2SE performs really well. At this price point, the ER2SE with a balanced driver impresses. That being said, it’s bigger brothers play at a higher level.

The sound stage width for a $160USD IEM is very good, but the width is better than the depth is. The separation actually is very good, and sometimes it even feels too good depending on the music and – again – file quality.

Bass, as said, now has different body and impact compared to the other SE models in the Etymotic line-up though I still can’t really call this boosted bass. The ER2SE is too neutrally/flat tuned to put it that way. Bass is fast but it’s more midbass than subbass and it isn’t as tight as the BA bass. Bass doesn’t reach down really low in the ER2SE but there’s only so much you can do within the design. It also depends on the source you’re using.

Separation from the mids is perfect, though it’s a rather hard cut separation instead of a smooth transitioning one. The mids is where the ER2SE to me really shines with a spacious, clean and detailed sound. Presentation is spacious, natural, musical and effortless. The timbre is lovely and the decay is excellent. The voices for me are the most special part in this IEM. They sound somewhat thinner and more upfront, and that in combination with lesser quality sources or files not always makes them sound natural. The best vocals to me were when the ER2SE was connected to my phone, but more on that later.

The treble section is clean, precise and energetic but like the bass part it doesn’t extend the furthest. Again, for the price point and a dynamic driver it’s doing rather well. If you’re a fan of the typical Etymotic treble presentation in the ER3 or ER4 series, then you might be a little underwhelmed though.

I know I sound rather harsh on the ER2SE’s treble and bass but that’s only because I know Etymotic can do (and has done) better. Looking at how the ER2SE performs at this price and with a DD, there for me -beside the voices- isn’t really anything to complain about.

More on sound on the last page of the article, right HERE

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

2 Comments

  • Reply August 6, 2019

    Phong Ngo

    Type-o in the “Sound” portion:

    “New to this ER2SE IEM is the use of a 𝙗𝙖𝙡𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚𝙙 armature where they before were using BA drivers in the ER-series…”

    Otherwise, thanks for the great article!

  • Reply August 8, 2019

    rio

    I wonder if isn’t sound like mc3, which is also used dynamic driver but more dry/bright that ba version….

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