I received my replacement headphones from Etymotic today. After sixteen days using the standard iPod headphones, it is like stepping into a new world. The Etys don’t hurt your ears, even after several hours, they block outside noise almost completely, and they sound amazing. I can read in coffee shops again, regardless of how grating the background music and ongoing conversations. The new pair is black, and has a more durable connector than the original white ones, though the wires feel even thinner and more insubstantial.
When my lifestyle becomes less peripatetic, I will get some big ear-covering headphones that draw a lot more power. For now, I am happy with these tiny, light, sharp-sounding earbuds.
[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.