Awesome build quality and compact shell design, Superb tonal cleanliness and separation, Excellent note definition throughout, Sharp imaging, Almost source agnostic
Fit depth can be uncomfortable, Cable is highly tangle-prone and has rare T2 connectors, Intimate soundstage, Below average bass extension, Less sensitive than most IEMs
Like the ER-line before it, the EVO is intimate, hyper-responsive and oh so clean from bottom to top. Years later, the Etymotic sound remains hard come by and has plenty of life and appeal for the modern listener.
We all know Etymotic; the company is a legend in the audio community having developed the very first commercially available IEM in the form of the ER4. In fact, the ER platform remains highly regarded and popular to this day for their religious adhere to the diffuse-field neutral curve and coherent single driver designs. This makes their models excellent reference monitors lauded for their authentic and detailed representation of music. They revisited the line-up with the XR models that provided a bass bump in accordance with modern listener preferences. While the DF neutral curve is no longer the go-to, it remains a very sound standard and the popularity of Etymotic’s earphones sustains, especially the new ER2 which achieved this on a more natural DD platform. The new EVO (signifying the evolution of the brand) is perhaps the biggest launch in Etymotic history following their original ER4. It forgoes the tried and tested cylindrical shell for a more modern concha-fit design. Perhaps most importantly, the EVO is the first multi-driver Etymotic earphone sporting a 2-way, 3x BA driver setup. In so doing, they promise an enhanced soundstage and bass response atop the same legendary Etymotic house sound.
The EVO is available for $499 USD/£499 at the time of writing. You can read more about it and treat yourself to a unit on hifiheadphones.
I would like to thank the team at Etymotic and KS Distribution very much for reaching out and providing me with the EVO for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
- Transducers: 3x BA
- Crossover: 2-way
- Frequency response: 20 Hz – 16 kHz
- Impedance: 47 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 99 dB @ 1 kHz
The EVO has a chic unboxing experience that showcases the product well. Removing the outer sleeve reveals a split-fold hard box. The two lids pivot open to reveal the earphones and cable coiled within a foam inlet that sits comfortably in the base of the aluminium carrying case. The inlet can be removed or reused to keep the cable organised during transit and prevent scratches on the metal shells. Below is the lid for the case in addition to a separate box containing the other accessories. It folds open to reveal the eartips and replacement filters housed comfortably in laser-cut inlets, I admire the organisation throughout here. You get the classic Ety tip set comprised to two pairs of triple-flange tips in addition to 3 pairs of less intense dual-flange tips. In addition, two pairs of memory foam tips are include though are comically large, likely for listeners with especially tricky ears. The nozzle filters are replaceable as before, and a smart metal screw-in tool is provided to aid safe replacement should the originals become damaged. Finally, a cable tidy is included in addition to a soft pouch.
Etymotic has always upheld strong and well-considered build quality, but this isn’t really showcased due to the diminutive size of their earphones. With the EVO, it is far easier to appreciate Etymotic’s hard work as the shells are larger and shapelier. One thing to note is Etymotic are using stainless steel injection rather than CNC which gives a more even finish in addition to exemplary density. Etymotic has also managed to uphold very tight tolerance making this is some of the nicest build quality I’ve felt on any IEM. This is topped with a light blue satin finish which looks incredible. Furthermore, Etymotic has cleverly hidden the seams of its 3-piece construction along the earphone’s contours. Long, slender nozzles return and are integrated into the inner housing, sharing its steel construction. Though thin, they appear very sturdy as a result.
The EVO has a removable cable but uses unconventional T2 connectors and comes with Linum’s BAX T2 cable. This limits aftermarket options, but some custom cable manufacturers do provide this connector type. As for the cable itself, I’ve never personally seen the appeal. While they are incredibly thin and light, it is to the extent that the cable becomes ergonomically frustrating. The light cable fails to support the heavy steel housings. It has minimal memory and microphonic noise isn’t an issue with the over-ear fit, but the cable is springy and falls off the top of my ears with no memory wire or pre-formed guides to keep it in check. It constantly tangles and, due to its thinness, easily knots making it a headache to live with. A traditional 4-wire braided cable would have been a substantially better choice. I don’t hate it, but it feels like a solution to a problem the EVO doesn’t suffer from, that introduces more problems in so doing.
The only other cable I had access to with the T2 connector was Linum’s own T2 SuperBaX which is a 4-wire version of the regular BaX cable with half the impedance. The 4-wire construction especially makes it far easier to live with than the BaX, as it handles more like a lightweight regular cable and isn’t as tangle-prone. While Linum do recommend this model for multi-driver earphones, I actually did prefer the sonic pairing with the regular cable. The SuperBaX was brighter and had a tighter bottom end, but I found this pushed the EVO too lean. The BaX cable provided a more balanced sound to my ears. Considering tonality is such a concern of this earphone, do consider cable pairings if you decide to swap the stock cable out, a copper cable will be a good match.
Fit & Isolation –
Despite the redesign, returning fans of Etymotic will have a familiar fit experience on the EVO – that being, a compact shell suitable for small ears and an especially deep fit. The new shell design is larger and now assumes an over-ear fit. However, they have very slender proportions and remain smaller in all dimensions than the majority of competitors. This means they are a good choice for smaller ears, however, if you do tend to struggle with most IEMs, I would still recommend trying a set before purchasing. While the build feels fantastic, their construction means they are astoundingly heavy at 25g per earpiece. With the signature brain-tickling Ety nozzles identical to those on the ER-earphones, the super deep fit and well-sculpted shell permit the EVO to be a very stable-fitting earphone.
I had no issues during daily wear, even running. In addition, the compact and well-shaped housings gave me perfect comfort over extended listening and a noticeably more locked-in fit than past Ety earphones. I also found that the multi-flange ear tips do provide less wearing pressure than single-flange tips at such fit depths due to the progressive increase in diameter at each depth. With the fully sealed design, deep fit depth and dense metal housings, the EVO isolates like few others, almost as much as a custom. This makes them a great choice for use in louder environments.
Tip Selection & Mods –
Usually, this lies in the sound section, but I felt it was more apt to discuss this as an extension of the ergonomic experience as tip selection is especially pertinent on the EVO due to the nozzle design. Firstly, it is long for a reason, you will experience a noticeable drop in imaging acuity and high-frequency extension if you do fit them shallow. Etymotic has a clear focus on tonal accuracy on all of their earphones, and the deep fit does contribute, granting a more consistent sound amongst various listeners by bypassing variations in individual canal anatomy.
The sheer depth of the fit did take me a few days to acclimatize to and if you are sensitive to this, you’ll want to investigate other options. I found Klipsch dual flange tips to offer superior comfort and seal to the stock tips for my ears and minimal impact on the sound, these were the tips I used during testing. The length of the nozzle means it will protrude from most traditional tips. Only longer tips like dual-flange or Westone STAR tips will fit. you can cut the stem to make adaptors for tips with larger bore sizes such as Final E-tips.