Drop x Etymotic ERX ($229): This collaboration works.
Pros: Ety sound qualities
Bass reaches deep and hits at the right amount
vocals come across with sublime quality
Soundstage is quite good, without being airy
Good weight to the notes yields good presence
With the proper tip, the deep inserting nozzle should not be a bother
Cons: That nozzle, oh that nozzle
Shell is fingerprint prone, even with the black color
Cable seems very average
A slight too much up top may hinder the users listening pleasure
Drop x Etymotic ERX ($229): This collaboration works.
The ERX can be purchased here.
Etymotic IEM’s are near legendary for their deep fitting nozzle. To the point that some won’t wear them. The design goal here though, is to put the musical emanating from that long nozzle closer to where the experience is: your inner ear. They have a reason for that and describe it as allowing musical purity to come about as a result. Closer to our listening mechanism, the inner ear allows for several benefits. 1. There is less of a chance distorting the music as it travels down your ear canal. 2. You can thus run your volume levels lower since it has a shorter, unencumbered distance with which to travel. And 3. Isolation is markedly better as a result, which help keep the sound signals we are listening to, closer to the original source.
Many will scoff at this, but using the included silicone tips, I found excellent isolation, only minimally hearing the outside noise of Leicester v Brighton & Hove Albion on the tele, as well as the keyboard punching, I was doing on my MBP. This afforded me the opportunity to enjoy Sonny Stitt & his small band up close and personal.
Drop has become near synonymous with taking existing audio units and putting their own twist & tune on them. And, while the wait for those products has dropped time-wise (a turtle used to be faster…), the price drop can make the difference to the consumer. Branching into collaboration, products such as this pays dividends for both company’s involved and we as audio users are the beneficiary’s.
Using the EVO shell design, which Etymotic says is derived from nature, is a natural starting point for the partnership. Most Ety IEM’s are very well received and they have a devout following. This is not the first Ety I have heard and so far with both, the experience has been one of musical sound, with an honest interpretation.
The ERX with specs such as this makes for a recognizably easy IEM to use.
- Drop + Etymotic
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 16KHz
- Transducers: Single high-performance balanced armature per channel
- Nominal Impedance: 45 Ohms @ 1kHz
- Sensitivity: 98 dB SPL for a 0.1Vrms input into IEC60318-4 ear simulator @1kHz
- Maximum Output: 120dB SPL
- Cable: 4 ft length, user-replaceable, with Estron T2 connectors
Fairly sensitive, but not overly sensitive makes the ERX a forgiving IEM, listening wise. Even with the long nozzle as well, fit is quite good, bordering on the custom side, but without having to finagle a custom into your ear. A tight-fitting cable affords the user good over ear use without bother either. Such a thin cable might be bothersome to some users, but it is not so tight as to warrant discomfort. Using the tried and true (but less available) T2 connections might put some off when it comes to aftermarket cables, but enough companies are making these connections available to not be a bother. I will say that while fit was very good, the unit still stuck out a bit from my ear, and that cable carried microphonics with it. Soft plastic around the thin cable makes for a sonic carrying device with regard to unwanted noises. The cable also rolls a bit, and has a hard time staying flat. Disappointed yes, but usable regardless. The right angle for the 3.5mm single ended jack is appreciated, keeping the cable out of harm’s way. Overall build is quite good, even the cable so one need not worry about longevity of the total unit.
A longer, rectangular Cordura wrapped semi-hard case affords the user the ability to carry extra tips and possibly a smaller DAP or Dongle/DAC with the ERX. It is nice to see the larger case, but still keep the inside items protected. Tip choice is good as well, with triple, double and single flange silicone in three sizes. A changeable filter and tool are also included. Placing the tips on the nozzle are a bit of a task, what with the long nozzle, but well worth the effort. I was never at a lack of comfort using either tip choice. I settled on the larger size, which afforded me good comfort and isolation.
With only a single balanced armature (BA) to each side, the shell can be kept to a minimum size as well. Even though the unit sticks further out than I would like, I never had an issue with weight or losing the seal.
Coordination with Drop used to mean selling your wares at a reduced price, but with a wait until a certain number of “obligations” was met with sales numbers. Drop has branched out successfully collaborating with many headphone manufacturers recently with good results. The ERX is no different.
Typically, a single BA lacks a real bass punch. Not here as the ERX has decently deep punch down low. Since it is a BA, we can also expect no bleed into the mids as well. Tight bass control is the result with a speedy attack and slightly slower decay, which gives us the result above, but without being sloppy. A very good foundation to start.
Mids are pushed forward, especially the instruments in that range such as pianos and Congo drums such as on Ray Bryant’s “Cubano Chant.” A thoroughly intoxicating song carries the beat so well, I replay it listening again for any missed attributes. Popping on a song from my Daily Choices from Tidal, “My Delusion” by Jarod James Nichols, affords good insight into the upper range, with very good extension in the treble region, while not becoming shouty or tedious. Followed by “That’s What Love Will Make You Do,” from Marc Broussard & Joe Bonamassa keeps that sparkle up top going. A tight, rich song with excellent guitar licks instilled into it, Broussard’ vocals come across as rich and clear, adding these treble notes (when he reaches) into a smooth, but vibrant character from the ERX.
Soundstage is neither too big nor too small. I would say it has better height than depth and width making for a smaller high-ceilinged venue feel to it. As a result, vertical layering is better distinguishable than separation and instrumentation. Nonetheless, this does not distract from a pleasantly detailed sound all that much. This bodes well for good rock music such as the songs mentioned above as well as multi-genres. Witnessed on “Let’s Go Trippin’” from The Belairs is a good example of the fun factor emanating from the ERX in good clarity and a tightly held song. “Too Much Sake” from Horace Silver allows the spunkiness of the beat to show through with good punch and clarity. Again, the fun factor shows, but could be labeled as “digging it.”
As stated above, Drop is raising their game with these collaborations. I have heard some that do not work well, and others that do. The Drop x Etymotic ERX definitely falls into the latter category. That fun, spunky, detailed sound is a real pleasure in which to listen across many genres. At this price point, you had better stand out from the crowd, and to me the ERX does. We are approaching the price where many will look at this as their end point, unwilling to go higher.
Many will also make this price their daily driver, and potentially only IEM in ownership. Those not familiar with the T2 cable jacks may need some caution. Aftermarket cables using the T2 are somewhat limited at affordable prices, making cable changes a potential issue. Microphonics are mostly kept in check on the stock cable, though. Also, tip selection may be limited due to the long proprietary nozzle, and you may not be able to use your favorite selection as a result. I found the included tips to work, but could not use my favorite foam Comply tips. Upper treble may not be up to snuff for some, but since I have upper treble limitations (they can become grating to me), the ERX never seemed to bother me. Yet, I can still easily recommend the ERX for audition and consideration. This is a very good IEM, regardless of price.