Etymotic 6i Earphones: Dangerously Good


etymotic6iearphonesHow good is a product review that sells the product before it is even written? That’s what happened to me. I told a pal of mine from Philly that I was reviewing the Etymotic Research 6isolator Earphones. He flies on business about 120,000 miles per year and has many different digital media devices he uses to kill time. He was so excited to hear what I had to say, he immediately went out and bought a pair of these $149.00 earphones for his iPod. He will enjoy flying with these earphones and NOT hearing the jet’s engines, the passenger next to him snoring or the flight attendant asking him if he wants a beverage.

There are some things that really bug me about the Apple earphones that came with my iPod. The first is that I can’t seem to get them to fit properly in my ear. With the slightest movement they shift position or even fall out. Being a professional audio engineer I’m extremely picky about sound. I must have an equal left/right balance and an equal tonal balance. When one ear piece is just out of position the volume and tone completely changes. The covers on the Apple earphones are also weak. They come off easily and that can be quite irritating.

The Etymotic 6isolator headphones solve those problems easily. These phones slip into your ear canal similar to the way you would put ear plugs in. They fit so snug it actually takes some effort to get them out of your ears. Don’t pull too fast either or you’ll injure your eardrum with reverse air pressure! These phones would be great if you are very active jogging, skiing or doing anything that would jar the Apple buds out of your ears.

My first test was the fun chore of mowing the lawn. I always listen to my iPod when mowing the lawn. I put the 6isolators in my ears and powered up some nice heavy metal. With my music selection running I powered up my noisy gas mower. I primed the motor and pulled the string and saw the thing vibrating. I saw smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe. I could see that the mower was running, but I COULD NOT HEAR IT! I mean I really couldn’t hear it at all. Between the isolation of the phones and the music, there was no outside sound entering my listening environment. The only way I could tell the mower was running was by the vibration in the handle. All the sudden it stopped vibrating because it had run out of gas. I didn’t even realize the mower was out of gas because I couldn’t hear it chugging!

Why “dangerously good?”:

Etymotic’s claims of noise isolation are completely true. You really can’t hear anything outside your ears unless you are listening to very quiet classical or you’re between tracks. These things could be dangerous if you are biking or jogging and you can’t hear that semi coming straight at you honking it’s horn. They could be dangerous if you are skiing with them and you can’t hear someone coming from behind you on a collision course. With that kind of isolation they’re perfect for working out at the gym and filtering out that terrible music they play through the house system.

Plenty of mids and treble, lacking in low end:

The frequency response curve of the 6i’s shows an increase in level between around 1000Hz and around 5000Hz (mids to upper mids). I did find these phones to be a little too hot in the upper mids and treble areas for my taste. I like tons of bass and I had to find iPod settings that enhanced the bass more. The two that seemed to work the best were “Latin” and “R & B.” Even though those two settings were the best, I found myself wanting a great deal more low end than the 6i’s seemed to offer. I was able to get more bass by changing to the included foam eartips.

The accessories:

The 6i’s come with a nice little carry pouch and two different kinds of eartips. The white ones I first tried are what they call 3-flange eartips. The 3-flange tips are re-usable but you need to wash them occasionally. The disposable foam eartips look just like standard foam earplugs and work the same way. You roll and compact the foam and it expands in your ear canal to make a nice snug fit. Also included with the 6i’s is a pair of replacement filters. These filters keep dirt and ear wax from collecting inside the phones. You have to use the included tool to change the filters. Also included is a shirt clip to clamp the 5 foot cable to your shirt. There plenty of other accessories available on the Entymotic website.

Considering an iPod Shuffle or other players are in the sub $100 range, the $149 price tag may be a little high for the average Joe. But if you need isolation and earbud stability, the Etymotic 6isolator Earphones would be a great choice.


Jem Lawton

If you are not getting enough bass with these then there is a problem with your seal or you have a bad source (like an iPod). In the reviewers case I think both may have applied. You obviosly didn’t have a very good seal because the bass should be no different between the 3-flange and the foams, they should both have pretty mind altering bass.


i for one like hearing the stewardess ask me if i want a drink ;) i read about a thing called a hushpod that lets you listen when you want – wasn’t built yet, but sounds interesting – t may, you could switch it on just as the trooper gets to your window :)

nick trian

you can very similar results from the sony mdr-ex71 earbuds and
they are under $45


If you like bass, try the Future Sonic Ears Model EM3 earphones. Remarkable bass from these foam-tipped, in-ear wonders.

T May

You can avoid me by not driving anywhere near a white 86 Ford F-250 on the freeway between Carson City and Reno ;)

Seriously though, it isn’t any different than some of these uber expensive cars with the windows rolled up. The difference is that I won’t wear them in traffic or in town, and I don’t need to crank them up to hear the music. I can also hear the full dynamic vocal range of artists such as Joni Mitchell, and the fingering o acoustic guitars, which is saying something.


T May, you should not be DRIVING while wearing any earphones/headphones ESPECIALLY noise-isolating ones. This is very dangerous!

T May

I bought the more expensive ER-4P online. They are the version with the boosted base response. I think that there is an ER-6P (for Pod) version as well.

I use them with my shuffle while driving in my pickup and in my (machine) shop. Because of the noise isolation, you can run them at lower levels as well, which is much better for you hearing.

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