Recently, my second pair of Etymotic ER6i headphones failed. Once again, it seems that a wire broke in the connector, causing sound to be cut off in one ear. The first time it happened, the headphones were still under their one-year warranty and Etymotic cheerfully replaced them. This time, it is a question of buying a third set or switching to another style or brand that seems likely to be more durable.
The headphones are excellent in terms of sound quality, but somewhat lacking in terms of toughness. In fairness, they only weigh a couple of grams and I did use them virtually every day, including sometimes while cycling. There were a fair number of cases when the wire got caught on something and yanked rather violently. The headphones are a pricy US$149.00 if you buy them directly from Etymotic, but a far more reasonable $80.48 on Amazon.com (of course, buying them from Amazon requires paying customs duties or the song-and-dance of having them sent to a US address and then shipped to Canada). $7 or so per month actually strikes me as a tolerable price for excellent headphones, though I rather dislike the notion of treating them like a disposable commodity. I would be willing to spend more money on headphones that are more likely to last, or those with a three-year rather than a one-year warranty.
The competition in terms of high quality earbuds seems to be the Shure E2C or SE110s. Does anyone have experience with those, or recommendations for other brands to consider?
[Update: 27 December 2008] I am now on to my third pair of ER6i headphones. In the end, they sound great, but cannot be expected to be durable. My advice to potential buyers is this: expect them to last for between one or two years. If that length of high quality, highly portable sound is worth their price to you, go ahead and buy them.
[Update: 23 June 2010] That third pair of ERis suffered the same fate as those before – a wire failed, causing them to cut out in one ear. Despite having had them since December 2008, I called Etymotic and they told me to send them in. Much to my pleasure, Etymotic then replaced them, despite the warranty being over. As such, I now have my fourth pair of ER6is.