In-Ear Fidelity

[Crinnotes] Etymotic EVO: Canned Bread


Etymotic needs no introduction, so I’ll make this short and skip the historical babbling.

Arguably the brand when it comes to neutral tunings, Etymotic had always been characterised by their insistence on the single-driver formula. For the longest time, every single model from Etymotic had a singular driver unit, the ER series, the MC series, the HF series, every single one.

That is of course, until the EVO. And Etymotic not only increased its per-channel driver count, but tripled it. Three balanced armature drivers are running the EVO, and while most may expect this to be a bass-mids-treble triple crossover setup, the EVO instead utilises a a far simpler 2-way setup with a double-woofer stack handling the low frequencies.

But at this point you all probably know that I’m no believer in newer being better. In fact, it’s probably closer to a 50/50 tossup under IEF metrics. So while the average layman may assume the EVO to be Etymotic’s best work, you ask (and I answer) the question that no one else dares to ask:

How good is the EVO actually?

Product page:

MSRP: $500

Driver configuration: 3BA

Special thanks to “Infoseeker” for loaning me this EVO.

The ER4 is no doubt a legendary IEM that deserves all the praise it gets. An audiophile staple since its creation in 1992, it wouldn’t be out of place to say that, at least in the context of the IEM market, the ER4 is the best thing since sliced bread.

The EVO, on the other hand, is canned bread.

As far as tuning goes, it’s your usual competent Etymotic Diffuse Field-ish tuning (competent being emphasised due to the existence of the ER4P and ER3 which have their treble responses compromised for the sake of drivability) so there’s nothing much to say in terms of tonality that I, or everyone else, had already said. Solid balance of frequencies, amazing even, and the one thing you can expect Etymotic to nail time and time again.

But really, tuning shouldn’t be the reason you get a more expensive Etymotic IEM. Else you might as well spring for the cheaper ER4XR, or the far cheaper ER2XR. 

So really, the thing that differentiates all these models (by price, no less) would ideally be their technical performance. I’ve considered the ER2 series to one of the best IEMs you can get at MSRP (and at their current street prices, it becomes even more of a no-brainer) but it’s still somewhat limited by its resolving ability, especially next to its ER4 brothers.

I make this comparison to show that, within the realm of Etymotic’s own lineup, pretty much the only reason to “upgrade” would be for more technical performance. So, does the EVO have better resolution than the ER4? Better imaging? Wider soundstage?

Kind of. But also not really.

Alright, if you’re one of those people who insist that “more drivers = more better”, click away now.

In a direct A/B comparison, the ER4 (XR, because it’s closer to the EVO in terms of tonality) actually comes off as slightly cleaner with better clarity around the notes. In terms of resolving ability I’d be splitting hairs, but considering that the EVO is nearly double the current street price of an ER4 it’s not exactly a good look.

There are some improvements to be noted, for instance the in-your-head congested feeling of the ER4s now sound like average IEM imaging instead (it’s an improvement, but it’s not amazing either) and the bass response is a little better as well. Though if you’re looking for proper bass, the ER2 would run circles around the EVO in terms of realism and actual weight.

Now, the ER4 had been a masterclass in price-to-performance around $300 so naturally an IEM that performs about the same at $500 would still get the one-star “Worth it” approval under IEF metrics. But really, at the level that the EVO is right now… the big question that swirls around my head as I listen to it would be “why do you exist?”

Canned bread. Sums it up best.

Overall Grade: A-

Tone Grade: A, Technical grade: A-

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM Ranking List.

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My usual thanks to all my current supporters and shoutouts to my big money boys:


23 thoughts on “[Crinnotes] Etymotic EVO: Canned Bread”

  1. Ety should at least gone the 4 drivers route, so they can have better definition and weight… Too bad they are too stuck in the success of the past

    1. The ER4XR holds up to the ER2XR & Evo no problem despite being Single BA. If anything this backs up the ER4XR & ER4SR should be 2BA to reach 19.5KHz instead of the 17KHz on the 1 BA versions.

  2. I’m surprised Crin didn’t take a bit of time to criticize how awful the the EVO’s stock cable is.

    Spider web width and not even MMCX so easy cable swaps are out of the window.

        1. how do you feel about request for one sentence’d impression of moondrop quarks here?

          (yeah I know, $15, cheapfi is my drug, sue me)

  3. Crinacle you just saved me a ton of money. Much appreciated, I’ll keep my ER4XR and ER2XR.
    EVO’s are probably nice for people who hate the ER series fitting, not a problem in my case.

  4. I am a big Ety head, own all the ER variants and love ’em. . . I think you’re being too kind to the Evo here. The tuning is, at best, a side grade, and for me the fit is way worse. The weight is also terrible. . . these things are heavy, and next to the annoying constantly tangling cable it feels like Lucid are laughing at me every time I try these out. Total disappointment for me.

    1. I loved ER4XR and when I received my EVO I was disappointed too. Personally find them not very detailed compared to ER4 series, I find the EVO bass shy too. And to finish this IEM is so heavy and even if the cable very high end I don’t like it at all.

  5. A ER2XR-ER4XR mashup would’ve been more interesting…
    Also, is that 12,5kHz dip all Etys exhibit audible? Seems Evo has gotten an extra serving of the dip.

  6. Too bad the sound quality seems less than that of the Blessing2 dusk. From a materials and workmanship point of view (do I dare say aesthetics?), the Evo’s are probably better, which might render their slightly higher price justifiable. Alas… maybe next time (on both sides)

  7. I’m curious about the distortion figures for these; one of the big advantages of more drivers is lowering distortion. My big issue with ER4 prior to me finally selling it was the mid distortion peak making things congested on loud, dense music. This is something that I found was alleviated even on cheap otherwise-less-capable multi-BA iems like KZ ZS7.

    1. That really shows how much distortion BA drivers can have. Usually any other driver type will never have that problem.

  8. What I did is I went through Etymotics filter tuning kit and landed on the white low ohm filter as the best sounding one. It extended the highs to a sufficient degree. I also bought the SuperBax upgrade cable sold separately by Etymotic as the stock cable actually is really annoying to handle. But not only is it annoying, it also seems to degrade performance quite a bit. It is a solid multi BA version of the ER series. But they should have sold it with a better cable and all their filters to fine tune. With that package they would have an customizable masterpiece. With the EVOs my headphone EQ is the flattest it ever was with for IEMs. Also I like to push their triple flanges a bit deeper in by just sticking them a bit more further out the stem to “guide” the sound nearer to the ear drum. The way you can experiment with all these factors to make them sound just perfect to your individual hearing makes them fresh french baguette for me.

  9. Imagine if Etymotic made their own proprietary BA drivers, put a little bit of damping on them for a little better note decay, and used a beryllium domed dynamic driver for the bass.

  10. Would love to see a comparison with the Etymotic ERX since it’s touted as an ER4XR in a body similar to the EVO.

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