The durability of Etymotic ER6i headphones

2008-11-04

in Daily updates, Economics, Geek stuff, Music

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.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous November 4, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Shure seems to offer a Two-Year Limited Warranty:

Warranty and Product Registration

Milan December 27, 2008 at 6:51 pm

In the end, I ordered some new ER6is. They sound good and can be fit into a tiny pocket and forgotten about, when not in use. I accept that they won’t last too long.

Milan August 30, 2009 at 11:01 pm

The Etys are great when you need portability, but I wanted something more comfortable to use at home.

I settled on the Sennheiser HD595 headphones, which I am using with a Pro-Ject Head Box MKII headphone amplifier. The amp isn’t strictly necessary, but it is nice.

So far, I am very pleased with the setup.

. August 30, 2009 at 11:18 pm

The truth about headphone amplifiers: Not many of you are aware that there even exists such a thing as a headphone amplifier? We get a kick out of listening to a $1000 plus headphone/headphone amp setup! But quite frankly, though the sound quality can be better than a pair of $99 Grado SR80i headphones hooked up to portable CD player…. it is in no way 10 times better! We are now reviewing and selling headphone amps, but until you are a true audiophile with a quest for the best sound possible, don’t concern yourself too much. Get some good headphones first. Listen a while. And if you really get into it, then maybe step up? Whether you do want to get an amp does depend on the quality of your sound source and current amplification? For Grado listeners, Grado themselves has some very good headphone amps aimed specifically at driving Grado headphones. We are also very pleased with the quality of some headphone amps built by Creek. Their OBH11 is one of the more affordable headphone amps available and the build quality is stellar!

Milan May 13, 2010 at 11:14 am

Yesterday, my third pair of Etymotic ER6i headphones failed. Yet again, it seems that a wire broke in the connector, causing sound to be cut off in one ear.

Milan May 13, 2010 at 11:14 am

Maybe I can get these ones soldered at an electronics repair shop.

Jesse June 10, 2010 at 10:45 am

I bought a pair of ER6i headphones four or five years ago and they lasted a few months before the sound started cutting out. I got them replaced, but the new pair developed the same issue outside of the warranty period. I then bought a pair of Shure E2cs, which lasted longer, but eventually the insulated started to come apart where they wrapped over my ears. After those gave out (outside of the warranty period), I made the mistake of buying the Etymotic hf5s. They sound great, but after just over a year, the left channel has gone completely silent. Luckily they have a two-year warranty, so I’m getting ready to send them in.

I treat my earphones very well and wrap them up in a gently loop when not in use, but it’s looking like earbuds are just too fragile for me. I think I might have to look for a different style when my replacement hf5s inevitably give up the ghost.

Milan June 23, 2010 at 10:10 am

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.

tentonipete October 23, 2010 at 4:50 pm

i had the same thing happen with two pairs. the first pair i thought maybe i’d been too rough pulling them out but then after being extra careful the second pair went i sent them back. i’d had the first pair a few years by that time and the second pair were out of warranty. it took a while but etymotic were more than helpful and replaced both pairs. so now i’m on my third pair and i have a fourth in waiting! i think it’s worth paying because i like the sound and etymotic provide excellent customer service.

Milan May 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm

On August 5th, 2011 I bought some Etymotic MC3 headphones. They have a built-in microphone, so I thought they would be good for use with my iPhone.

I have used them a lot, but I am still disappointed to find that they are already broken. The sound from the microphone was never very good (especially outside and in noisy environments). Yesterday, the headphones suddenly had dramatically reduced volume and a bunch of reverberation.

Today, they are totally dead.

Milan April 15, 2015 at 11:09 pm

After my latest set of Etymotic buds failed (probably two sets beyond those described in the comment above), I decided to try some buds with replaceable cables: Shure’s SE215s.

They are even stranger to put in and wear than the Etys, but the sound quality is quite similar.

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