Review: Etymotic ER2SE – Testing 1-2-3

Vs ERx-Series


The ER2 now is the youngest brother of the ER line-up. Looking at the technical level it also is the least performing one, though the comparison isn’t really fair as the driver type used now is different. The ER2SE is the little brother of the ER3 and ER44 in all aspects of sound.

With the ER3 and ER4 you get a more linear and balanced presentation and more extension and better layering, more wide/depth with an even higher level of precision. And then there’s the  awesome BA bass of the upper-line models… These also have a more spacious presentation and sound more open and less intimate/inside your head. To me the ER3/4 voices also sounds more natural than those of the ER2 edition. The ER3 and ER4-series are better in every way but the ER2SE of course is the entry level IEM of the series now.

The ER2 is only $19USD cheaper than the ER3SE, while the ER4 still goes for about $349. If you don’t have the budget to buy the Etymotic ER4-series (it is double the money after all), than the ER3 for me still is the one to go for as they are only $20 more expensive and sound higher end, more linear and more balanced and don’t have the special vocal presentation. On the other hand, you might prefer the Etymotic ER2SE’s sound over that of the ER3SE just because of the dynamic driver.

Driveability & Sources

With their 15ohm Impedance and 96 dB sensitivity, the ER2-series is fairly easy to drive but a bit more difficult than their balanced armature driven bigger brothers. You might have to turn up the volume level of your smart phone a bit, but none of the modern DAPs will have any issue driving these IEMs at low gain. An extra dedicated amplifier really isn’t needed for these IEMs but if you have one already, that will of course bring out the best of these IEMs.

If you want to have more bass or a warmer sound you could use an external amp or warmer sounding, bass-heavier DAP to alter the sound. The portable player which made me enjoy the ER2SE most actually is the Sony WM1Z, but for most people in the market for this IEM, that might be a bit far stretched. I also liked it with the HiBy R3 and R6PRO and the L&P DAP line-up. I usually like Astell&Kern DAPs, but with this specific monitor it to me wasn’t the best pairing even though the sound stage and extension there was the best.

Next to the WM1Z, the source I like the ER2SE most with is my OnePlus 6 smartphone. This combo brings good body within Ety’s level and a musical presentation with the softest, most natural voices. This combo sounds both detailed, and musical and scores very well technically. What’s not to like?


For just under $160 you get a set of dynamic driven and uniquely tuned, neutral IEMs. If you like a neutral sound and dynamic driver bass, then this might be the Etymotic IEM you’ve been waiting for.

The Etymotic ER2SE is a neutral, detailed and good sounding IEM. For me the vocals are special but it probably is one of the technically strongest IEMs in the price range. In my opinion the ER2 series with the moving coil drivers are an experiment for Etymotic: some might like it and some probably won’t, but there for do is margin for improvement.

The biggest issue for me with the Etymotic ER2SE is the fact that for only $20USD more you have a really awesome higher performing balanced armature driven ER3SE. I am convinced the ER2SE will impress you if you haven’t heard the ER3 or ER4-series yet. But to those who have, it might be a little harder to accept the specific tuning and performance.

The ER3 and ER4-series IEMs are in our Buyers Guide for universal inear monitors but the ER2SE doesn’t convince me enough to add them to that list yet. That is no shame though as it isn’t easy to get on it and the ER3 and ER4 series are both there already and having two models on there is quite the achievement.

4.4/5 - (184 votes)

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.


  • Reply August 6, 2019

    Phong Ngo

    Type-o in the “Sound” portion:

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

    Otherwise, thanks for the great article!

  • Reply August 8, 2019


    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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