Etymotic ER3SE/XR Earphones Take You and Your Music to New Heights

My first pair of good earphones were purchased from Etymotic. After three minutes listening to them I knew I could never go back to the cheap in-ear models I had previously used. I still have those earphones and was excited, years later, to check out Etymotic’s new ER3SE earphones. These are wired earphones for those who love their music.

Etymotic ER3SE/XR Earphones Take You and Your Music to New Heights

Before we dig into the ER3SE earphones, there are a few things to get out of the way.

First, these aren’t earphones for people who want to listen to music and, when necessary, take calls. They lack control for your music, and they don’t even have a microphone. These are designed for one thing and one thing only — enjoying your music at home and on the go.

Second, these earphones don’t have active noise cancelation, but the design of the included 3-flange ear tips does an excellent job at shutting out ambient noise. Etymotic notes that the earphones provide noise isolation or 35 dB – 42 dB. This makes them the “highest noise isolation of any earphones or headphones on the market today.”

Finally, these earphones have a 3.5mm connector so they can’t be used with the current crop of Apple unless you have access to one of the 3.5mm to Lightning adapters that Apple used to include with their phones without a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Those points aside, let’s take a closer look at these impressive $179 earphones from Etymotic.

Etymotic ER3SE/XR Earphones Take You and Your Music to New Heights

Etymotic released two versions of the ER3 earphones. The ER3SE Studio Edition, “provides a high level of sensitivity, making it a perfect match for the portable media players on the market today. The ER3SE offers audio professional grade sound reproduction at an affordable price.” While the ER3XR Extended Response, “offers a modest bass boost, building on the sound quality of the ER3SE, while providing a slight bass boost for those listeners that prefer a stronger low-end response.”

The earphones look the same but, as the descriptions indicate, deliver slightly different experiences. I was sent the ER3SE Studio Edition.

Etymotic ER3SE/XR Earphones Take You and Your Music to New Heights

A single cable comes from the 3.5mm plug but split into a “Y” a short distance from the speakers. This area is reinforced with a thicker hard plastic that keeps the single cable from separating. The earphones ship with a shirt clip that can be attached to this area to prevent the cable from moving or pulling the earphones out when you move.


In the box, you get the earphones with their replaceable four-foot cable, an assortment of ear tips, a filter removal tool, replacement filters, and a protective carrying pouch.

My Etymotic earphones from years ago have a thin, white cable that often gets tangled. The ER3SE Studio Edition has a much thicker cable but, if you aren’t careful, it can still become a tangled nest of messiness.

Etymotic ER3SE/XR Earphones Take You and Your Music to New Heights

The earphones are made from machined metal with an anodized finish. That means that, while the earphones don’t have any sort of IP rating, they are designed to last a long, long time.

Etymotic ER3SE/XR Earphones Take You and Your Music to New HeightsThey can be separated from the cable so that, if it frays, you can easily replace it.

Etymotic ER3SE/XR Earphones Take You and Your Music to New Heights

As I mentioned previously, two of the included sets of ear tips have three different flanges. The result is that, once the ear tips have been placed into your ear canal, they block out a significant amount of sound and let you focus on your music even when the volume isn’t turned up. The third set of ear tips are made from foam and are ideal for those individuals who don’t like the way the three-flanged ear tips feel. You can buy additional ear tips for $14.70 per pair, and you can replace the cable for $49.

Etymotic ER3SE/XR Earphones Take You and Your Music to New Heights

The earphones also ship with extra filters and a tool for replacing them. The filters protect the balanced armature drivers from ear wax. The company includes an additional set because, over time, they can become worn or clogged.

Etymotic ER3SE/XR Earphones Take You and Your Music to New Heights

For those who like numbers its worth noting that the ER3SE have a frequency response of 20 Hz – 16 kHz, an impedance (@1kHz) of 22 Ohms and a maximum output of 120 dB. The result is “studio grade accuracy” that “Achieves highest output sensitivity in its class with 102 dB SPL sensitivity at 1 kHz at 0.1 mV.”

All of it comes together to create:

No compromise, high-performance noise-isolating earphones that deliver best-in-class benefits and superior value, perfectly matched to the latest product innovations from most music players that support a 3.5-mm stereo phone plug.


  • Precision machined metal bodies with anodized finish
  • An assortment of noise-isolation ear tips ensures proper seal and comfort
  • CUSTOM•FIT option available
  • Detachable, 4ft. cable allows for easy replacement
  • Durability and Warranty
  • 2-year replacement warranty
  • Reinforced cable for durability
  • User-replaceable filters that protect the balanced armature drivers from ear wax

Etymotic ER3SE/XR Earphones Take You and Your Music to New Heights

I’m a huge fan of Etymotic products, and these new earphones are no exception. I love the fact that, thanks to the three-flanged ear tips you get a good degree of noise isolation without the need for electronic wizardry and the quiet buzzing that is often part of the Active Noise Cancellation process. I love the fact that Etymotic is still creating earphones that focus specifically on the listening experience without trying to be a jack-of-all-trades that handles music, calls and voice commands. I love the fact that they come with extra filters so you can always get them sounding brand new even after months of ear wax building up inside. And I love the fact that they are now using a thicker cable that feels more substantial and is a bit less prone to being a mess of tangled cable. And I appreciate the listening experience regardless of the style of music you enjoy. I think these sound great!

Etymotic ER3SE/XR Earphones Take You and Your Music to New Heights

I don’t love the fact that they use a 3.5mm headphone jack. For years this has been the standard for wired headphones that are designed for use with mobile devices, but we are rapidly approaching a time when this will be an increasingly useless legacy connector. We aren’t there yet, but we are moving in that direction fairly quickly.

I used the ER3SE with my iPhone X and the 3.5mm to the Lightning adapter I got with my iPhone 7. It works, but the sound output didn’t seem to be as good as when I plugging the headphones into a device with 3.5mm jack.

And, while I like the sound of the ER3SE earphones, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that Raina wasn’t nearly as impressed as I was. For me, however, these are a nice pair of earphones, and I can see using them with mobile devices that retain the 3.5mm headphone jack.

I’m a fan of the Etymotic ER3SE and recommend trying them out. If, however, you love bass, you might want to check out the ER3XR Extended Edition. I’m happy I requested the Studio Edition and love how they replicate music the way it was intended. Check them out here.

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample of the Etymotic ER3SE Earphones

What I Like: Great fit; Good noise isolation; Great sound reproduction; Small enough to carry everywhere in the included pouch; Cable can be replaced if it frays

What Needs Improvement: No microphone or inline controls; I love the sound, but Raina was less impressed; 3.5mm input is less standard than it was just a few years ago

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.