Gadgets :: April 11, 2018

by Gregg Ellman

One of the more common questions I’m asked is about choosing earbuds and speakers. My response is that I’m far from a sound expert but one of the main features you should look for is simply what sounds good. When it’s right to your ears, you’ll know.

When I listened to the Etymotic Research ER4XR extended response earbuds, I knew they were right. The sound is awesome and there are additional features making them even more attractive.

The ER4XR earbuds sound great out of the box. The crystal-clear sound with a nice bass boost was perfect for listening to my preferred favorites of a 70’s mix and then a Jimmy Buffet concert.

They are a noise-excluding in-ear earphone, delivering sound with precise accuracy, just as sound should be.

When I received my pair of ER4XR’s for review, the first thing I noticed was the earbud tips. Not only are they different from mainstream-looking earbuds but the choices they came with made me read a little about them. One set was foam tips, which to me sounded and fit perfect.

With 25 years of making earbuds, the company proudly touts that they have the first earphones to completely seal the ear with 98 percent (35 dB – 42 dB) noise isolation, the highest of any earphones or headsets on the market, according to the Etymotic website.

They come with an assortment of eartips so take time to get the right fit for the right sound in your ears. Each style has a different fit, so give each a chance. Don’t just put them in and listen for a few seconds – take a few songs at least.

For sound techies, according to Etymotic, the ER4XR’s have ‘’unsurpassed frequency response accuracy and sound quality — 92 percent+ response accuracy from 20 Hz – 16 kHz and the only earphones with balanced-armature, precision-matched, custom-tuned drivers. With an industry-leading 1-dB match between left and right channels across frequency with individual channel-matching performance charts provided with each pair of earphones.’’

This was also the first time I tested earbuds with user-replaceable filters, which lets you protect the earbuds from ear wax. A filter removal tool and replacement filters are included.

A hard neoprene case is included to store everything, along with a detachable, 5-foot cord and a 3.5 mm gold plated stereo plug.

The body of the drivers are made with machined metal and an anodized finish. Each speaker is attached to a durable wound-wire tangle-free cable. $349

Another great sound machine, the black box Solis SO-7000 Bluetooth/Wi-Fi wireless stereo smart speaker with Chromecast built-in also rocked my playlists.

Obviously with that, you stream music wirelessly with Bluetooth or Google Home app. And with the Google Chromecast streaming media player, you can play audio from a variety of services (Spotify, Google Play Music, and Pandora) connected to your existing WiFi.

I mainly used the Bluetooth, which worked and sounded perfect. The AC powered speaker is 7.9-by-7.9-by-7.9-inches so it can be positioned on most any flat surface. It’s built into a black wooden cabinet with mesh grill wrap covering the mid-section and high gloss black accent pane finish on the rest.

Inside is a 5.25-inch subwoofer and four 2-inch full range drivers. This adds up to room filling 360-degree crystal clear sound at any volume.

With the subwoofer supplying the bass, I was concerned about it rattling a tabletop if I played it from there so I tested it just that way and it worked just right.

However, I found the sound filled the room better when I kept it playing on the floor, which also kept the power adapter out of the way.

If you don’t want to stream wirelessly, there’s a 3.5 mm aux port (cable included) and top-mounted control buttons are easy to access if you don’t control it through your device or app. $299

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