Etymotic ER4XR In-ear Monitors - Official Thread



I just recently purchased both the Etymotic ER4XR and the Fiio E17k Alpine 2. I just got the Fiio a couple of hours ago, and I think it’s a keep.

I’m looking for a DAP that would work well with the two items. I notice that the FiiO X1-II Media Player is well regarded, but why would I need 2 DAC - the one in the amp and the one in the player? By that, I mean would it make sense to spend less money on a DAP although the FiiO X1-II is fairly inexpensive.

The Etymotic’s really do benefit from an amplifier (I like that I can adjust the gain).

Would appreciate some input.

p.s. Long time stalker. Bought a HeadRoom Desk Top Amp (probably 10 or 12 years ago?) and it’s still going strong.


Most of the budget DAPs won’t drive a USB DAC at all. So you’d have to use their analog output into the analog input on the E17K. This is likely to be less than satisfactory because a) such budget DAPs (like the X1 Mk2) probably won’t sound as good as using the DAC in the E17K and b) unless said DAP has a true line-out, you’ll be dual-amping, which will increase noise etc.

And then most DAPs that can drive an external USB DAC will a) have a better DAC than is in the E17K and b) have a better (and likely more powerful) amp than is in the E17K. And since such units can often be used as USB DACs themselves, they sort of render things like the E17K redundant.


A bit of a tangent, but could you please explain this a bit more? My primitive understanding is that DAC chips don’t put out 2V rms directly but that DAC units include an amplifier after the chip to reach line-level voltage. IIUC, the reason that this isn’t really an issue is that the line-out usually feeds and amplifier which if properly designed has a really high input impedance, which makes it an easy load to drive and reduces noise and distortion coming from the DAC’s line out.


I’m referring to a case where there is not a proper line-out from the DAP and instead you’re having to feed the external amp from the DAPs headphone output.

In most cases, following the DAC chip you’ll have an I/V stage (and usually a buffer). That’ll feed the line-out and also the input to the DAPs internal headphone amplifier.

The headphone output is usually an additional circuit (ranging from an op-amp to a fully discrete amplifier) with much greater power capacity and, typically, comparatively significant additional latent noise as a result (for a given gain setting, only the level of the input signal is varied, so noise endemic to the gain stage is constant).

So instead of:

DAC IC -> I/V Stage -> Buffer -> Line-Out

You’re getting:

DAC IC -> I/V Stage -> [Buffer] -> Attenuation -> Headphone Amplifier -> Headphone Out

Sometimes the “line-out” is just the same path as the headphone output, but run at a “fixed” level of attenuation (usually via digital level control). But if there’s a gain stage there capable of delivering more than nominal power it’ll still add a constant level of noise.



My Q5 concretely illustrates different circuits: the DAC line out is permanently attached with a cable connection at the top and has fixed voltage/volume. The “headphone amp” modules attach to the bottom and go through the output circuitry (e.g., volume wheel). They even sell a dummy/empty amp module to facilitate charging in DAC only mode.

The technical specs for the line out are equal or superior to even the balanced listening amp output. In the real world, I’ve found the line out to be cleaner and more consistent when run into another amp.

Way back when I had a home theater 5.1 amp with a switch to turn off the tone controls and display screen. Similar concept, I think that was just a bypass circuit.


Wait. This is a thing? This is seriously making me reconsider buying Etymotic IEMs. While I would love to have the isolation they provide, I am not interested in having the tips come off in my ears.


I’ve never had it happen with my HF5s. Personally, I find the triple flange tips painful to take in and out, so I try to avoid it when possible. Once they’re in there, they’re not the most comfortable things in the world but I get used to it after they’ve been in for a while, and the isolation is fantastic for flying.


I’ve never had it happen with my original ER4-S, which I owned for 20 years and must have spent a good million flying miles in my ears, and probably a similar amount of time in use on the ground.

Never had it happen with my newer ER4-XR either.

I agree with @pwjazz that the triple -flange tips are not the most comfortable things to wear (though I did get used to them eventually) - but they remain the best for isolation I’ve found. The Spinfit CP240 are not bad in that regard either … though they’d need the inserts to fit the ER4-XR I think (will have to try it here in a few).


That makes me a bit less worried, thanks.


I had a set of ER4-XR and try as I might I just couldn’t get used to the deep insertion. Though for isolation they are really good.


I’ve never gotten entirely used to them either and use them only for air travel. I think some of it has to do with the shape of my ear canal. I had custom molds made once and they’re hard to insert because my ear canals are shaped like a Z. I think the deep insertion tips basically force that Z into something more like a straight line, which is not comfortable :anguished:


I have a funny left inner ear so I have been told. But I have not come across any real problems. It’s just that I just couldn’t gel with the Etymotic’s and with not being able to get the fit right the sound wasn’t right either. So I returned them.


I read that the Ety’s had to be pushed in until the tips touched each other inside your head. That’s why I’ve never tried them…


Hi @jflores476 yes as you’re probably aware they are an iem which isn’t for everyone. But if you can put up with the deep insertion they are supposed to be some of the best. They just weren’t for me sadly. Sorry for the late response I am in the UK so a little time difference and I was otherwise engaged. :grinning:. Nice to chat though.