Even if you have already given up your ear virginity to ear-canal headphones such as Shures, nothing can prepare you for the sheer, horrifying sense of invasion that you get from sliding Etymotic headphones into your lugs for the first time.
They go in SO deep they can make you cough. In fact, the first time these plastic intruders go in up to the hilt you will swear they are actually touching your brain.
The upside of this is a total barrier to outside noise. Even if a truck is bearing down on you with horn blaring, you will go to your maker none the wiser of what it was that stamped your ticket.
You can hear nothing at all. If there was a prize for the most noise-blocking ear-canal headphones, these Etymotics – and the two lower-end ones in the range, the ER-4s and ER-6s – would walk off with first, second and third place.
But there isn't a prize for that. What we’re rating these headphones on is how they sound – and sadly, the Etymotics are pipped at the post by rival Shure’s similarly priced SE210. The music’s all there, but occasionally bass sounds strangely muffled, and you do have to position them perfectly to get a decent range out of the music.
That said, there is always an element of shape relative to your ear hole when it comes to these ear-canal ‘phones – we know a few folks who swaer by these, and can barely fit Shures inside their (presumably long and narrow) lugholes. But unless you fall into that slightly weird camp, these are a whole lot of pushing for not a lot of sonic results.