The relentless snare drum crack on “Jack of Speed” was enough to make some of the lesser earbuds beg for mercy, but the Etymotic ER-6 Isolators delivered it nearly perfectly. More importantly, they served up Beck’s bass with equal authority.
But if you decide to give these buds a shot, make sure the store has a satisfaction- guaranteed policy: Etymotic bundles just two sets of plugs with them. The silicon tips fit us well and did an outstanding job of preventing fan noise and other audio detritus from intruding on our consciousness, but we couldn’t stuff the foam ones in our ears with a jackhammer. This two-sizes-fitsall policy is a let-down for a $140 product. (Note: In print, our review incorrectly reports that Etymotic doesn't provide a carry case for this product; they do.)
Etymotic was also the only manufacturer that didn’t provide a cleaning tool with its product; a replaceable filter is included, instead. When the filter becomes sufficiently clogged with ear gunk—double eew!—to impact the earphone’s performance, you pull it out, throw it away, and snap in a new one. We’re guessing that the process is at least slightly less disgusting than reaming out the earphone itself.
Month Reviewed: October 2006
+ BEE'S WAX: Great sound; even better noise isolation.
- EAR WAX: Limited fit options.