Etymotic ER2 Series Review

Etymotic Research is a well-established company researching and developing products and tools for safer hearing and their ER4 series of in-ear canal phones have been around for a very long time with great popularity and success.

A few years ago, they released the latest ER4 series, the ER4SR (Studio Reference) and ER4XR (Extended Response), using their latest balanced armature driver. This was soon followed by ER3 series, which reduced the impedance and moved its production from the USA to China and reduced the price by half while providing similar sound profiles in both the SR and XR versions, named ER3SE (Studio Edition) and ER3XR (Extended Response).

Earlier this year, the ER2 series was released to market. The unique different between the ER3 and ER4 with the ER2 is the balanced armature style driver has been replaced with a more traditional dynamic driver, in a tiny micronized fashion to fit in the same shell design as the ER3/ER4 series.


The ER2 series comes with the same accessories as the ER3 series – a carrying pouch, a set of small and large tri-flange silicone tips, a set of foam tips, and an extra pair of filters and a tool to remove them. Like the ER3/ER4, the cable is detachable and features an mmcx connection just like the formers. The housing and cable split are now in a royal blue color as opposed to a more traditional black and gunmetal colorway.


Users of the BA versions of the Etymotic will be right at home with the Eytmotic house sound – a Diffuse Field signature that essentially puts every frequency on a level playing field – some may call it neutral. It’s a great reference sound signature that is easily appreciated and maybe somewhat boring.

The dynamic driver versions are actually quite nice. They add a more natural tonality to them, with ever so subtle changes in how the ear phones sound in your ear, despite measurements of the ER2 and ER3 Studio Editions being quite similar. The ER2SE does have a slightly warmer sound than the respective ER3 and ER4 siblings, and this does help make the organic sound of the dynamic driver shine a bit. The slight bass boost also gives a little more energy all around, while still being a bit sterile in nature.

The XR version features a bigger bass boost than the XRs of the BA variety and with the dynamic driver in tow, the warmer, richer sound is very engaging and just the right amount of gain that is needed to turn the sterile SE version into a musical gem. The ER2XR also has a slightly more noticeable wider soundstage, which helps a little bit with congestion.

The XR and SE pack a lot of detail retrieval and resolution into a small form factor, and outclass anything at $129 and easily above other price points until you, of course, reach its older siblings. And while the BA versions do have quite good technicalities and an airy sound to them, I still prefer the dynamic ER2 over them for their more natural tonality and timbre and their improved bass and low-end performance.

The XR in particular has a thicker sound than what I was expecting, and even has some subbass rumble to it. The mids aren’t quite as forward and clean as the SE model, but both still perform will with respect to their traits. The dynamic driver is quick and fast, and cleaner than I would ever expect one to be at the price point it’s selling for, especially for a well-established respected company like Etymotic.


For isolation, I put the ER2 to the test on the Fourth of July. With fireworks booming and blasting everywhere around me outside, I stuck the ER2, tri-flange tips, in and it muffled all but the most loudest and most illegal of fireworks. And that was with no music playing! These are great for noisy environments. They won’t cut out everything, but they’ll do a lot better job than most passive and active noise cancellation systems. With a little faint volume music playing, all the fireworks celebrations vanished. Magic.


I wanted to touch base with a few other IEMs in this price range that I really like a lot. Namely, the Moondrop Kanas Pro and the BGVP DMS. They are considerably different than the ER2 but worth looking at.

Moondrop Kanas Pro

First the Moondrop Kanas Pro is a more Harman Tuning than the Diffuse Field tuned ER2SE, so right off the bat, you’re going to hear a lot more bass quantity and more recessed mids in the Kanas Pro than the ER2SE. The XR variant, however, does have a warmer bass boost, and actually results in a richer mid section that’ll make male vocals more thick and natural. The Kanas Pro will beat both variants in terms of soundstage and air, and gives it a much more open space. That said, the ER2s meet or exceed the Kanas Pro in details and just general tonality.


The BVGP DMS is almost the complete opposite, but I really like it. It’s open-back and does not seal at all. So that’s a night and day difference from the Etymotic. But the DMS has a lot more “fun” factor in that it boosts both the bass and the treble response and provides a very open soundstage that can make your feet move, much more easily than the more sterile and toned down ER2 series. This is a complete 180 from the ER2 series and both would compliment each other quite well for a fun and an analytical IEM duo.


At the end of the day, this review has kind of gone a little bit all over the place, and maybe I can blame that for writing bits and pieces of it over a week’s time instead of coherently writing it in a shorter period of one or two sittings. Luckily, I don’t need to say a whole lot more other than that everyone should try one of these models out. They may surprise you with how much better they work than many active noise cancellation headphones out there, and then shock you again with how good they actually sound for a great price. They do go heel to heel and perhaps best the ER3, and could even be preferred to the ER4, depending on sonic preferences.

You may ask, which do I prefer?

I prefer the ER2XR over the SE. The bass boost provides are more enjoyable warmer experience that I think will benefit for plane and train travel, as well as just giving a more relaxing listen. The SE does a lot of things right however, and I think many will enjoy the more analytical nature of it as well. 

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