Now that I’ve had these earbuds for about five months, it seems worthwhile to make a few comments. While they have their peculiarities, these are acoustically excellent devices. The noise isolation is so good that I use them to sleep on planes and buses. Indeed, when wearing them I am unable to hear whether my cell phone is ringing in my pocket (save for the very slight buzzing the radio transmission seems to induce in the connecting wire).
Admittedly, it takes a little while to get used to the unique flanges that make these earbuds look so distinctive. To begin with, I didn’t think they fit me very well. You gradually learn how to insert them to the proper depth, and with an appropriate air pressure between your eardrum and the earbud. Now that I have, I loathe the times when I need to use the awful default iPod headphones. (Given how well the ER6is exclude noise, cycling with them in would be somewhat reckless.)
The best things about these headphones are the excellent sound fidelity, the small size, the effective sound isolation, and the surprisingly good customer service provided by Etymotic. The sound fidelity is such that you can easily hear the minor differences in playback between a G4 iBook, a fourth generation iPod, and a first generation iPod Shuffle (especially in the bass range). As for the size: even in the carrying case they come with, they are small enough to carry everywhere. An iPod Shuffle fits neatly into the case with them, and then into a small pocket. In my experience, the Etymotic staff as very helpful. If you call their customer support line, you will be speaking to a real and knowledgeable person immediately. When I called them because I thought the flanges fit badly, they sent me a bunch of alternative sizes to try out for free.
The problematic things about them are the time lag before their particular style of seal begins to feel natural and the cheap looking – but seemingly durable – wires. Since the very rapid failure of the wires on my old Sony Fontopia earbuds was the reason I switched to these, I am happy they haven’t frayed in any visible way so far. As with any headphones, there is also the danger of pushing up the volume too many times over the course of a few hours of listening, then finding yourself struggling to hear those around you. Of course, sometimes that is just the price you need to pay for comprehensive musical immersion.
If these got stolen, I would buy them again.
I am even considering spending $12 on their fancy earplugs. When you’re trying to sleep on a plane, the last thing you want is to be hassled about turning off electronic devices. Additionally, these would be a good counter to the champion snorers that multi-bunk hostels seem to attract.
[Update: 17 January 2008] I replaced my second filter today. I also changed the white eartips. The old ones were getting pretty grungy and yellow. Ordering supplies from Etymotic involves very high shipping fees, so I bought them on eBay instead. I had to spend an awful week listening to iPod headphones; I am so glad to be back in the world of beautiful sound.