October 9, 2005
I'm not a fancy audiophile with a $20,000 stereo, but I'm into music enough to have suspected that the stock Apple iPod earphones are pretty lame. I felt they could simply sound better and after a few hours of listening, they'd just start to hurt my ears.
Some of you will remember awhile back when I asked for advice about higher-end earphones. I was inundated with conflicting suggestions and advice, and probably ended up more confused than when I started.
I had also received several emails from people asking to let them know if and when I landed on a pair. I finally did, and that pair was the Etymotic 6i Isolater Earphones. They are in-ear phones that were specifically designed for iPods and mp3 players, and I love them. I found Etymotic after I had heard Leo LaPorte mention that he uses their products.
I've had these earphones for a few weeks now, and they have just grown and grown on me. It took awhile for me to get used to the more invasive in-your-ear-canal earplug style, but they're really comfortable. Since they create a seal to block outside noise, I found they initially gave me something of a "being underwater" feeling, but I got it used to that pretty quickly.
I had read several reviews of these types of phones not delivering enough bass, but I didn't find that to be a problem as long as they were inserted the right way. A good seal is crucial, and there's a bit of an art to it. If you're not dense like me and just follow the directions carefully the first time, it's not a problem. As far as the bass goes, the 6i's were designed to deliver a little more bass than other similar style earphones, so that helps too.
I don't know why, but I refused to believe that pulling up on your ear (like they show in the instructions) would actually affect your ear canal. But it does make a huge difference when putting them in.
The sound is really crisp and bright, but I wasn't immediately blown away by them. I only started to fully realize the difference after listening with them for a few weeks, and finally going back to the stock iPod pair. The iPod phones just sound so muddy to me now.
With certain songs, I feel like my ears got glasses. I've heard a lot more parts of songs that I just never noticed before. I've even been hearing things I'm not sure I want to hear. I have an album of mellow Sunday Morning coffee shop type acoustic guitar music. With the Etymotics I realized you can actually hear the guitarist breathing while he plays. It's a little creepy.
The 6i's come with soft flanged tips and also a set of squishy foam ones that expand in your ear to form the seal. I find the foam to be extremely comfortable.
If you are in the market for a high-end pair of earphones to replace the stock iPod phones, give the Etymotic 6i's a strong consideration. I swapped a number of emails with Etymotic and also found their customer service to be fantastic.
You can check out the entire Etymotic line of earphones on their main page, here.
I saw the gang at headphone.com loved them, as well.
Or you can check out the 6is on Amazon here, for under a hundred bucks.
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