RMAF 2019: Part Four with Etymotic & Final Audio

One of the final booths I stopped at, almost by accident, was the Etymotic Research booth. I’ve never really heard much from them that particularly grabbed my attention, but one of my friends urged me to go there. “They’ve got a new, reasonably-priced IEM that’s actually really good,” he said. What the heck, I figured I had time. I’m sure glad I did stop by, because I would have missed some exciting and excellent finds if I hadn’t.

The newly released ER2SE and ER2XR are priced at $160 USD and represent slight variations on a similar tuning. The frequency response chart at the Etymotic booth resembled the raw Harman Curve, and what I heard sounded fairly in line with that. Where the SE is made more for a ‘reference’ or ‘studio’ tuning, with flat bass, the XR is shaped with slightly elevated bass. I expected to enjoy the XR more than the SE, but ended up liking the SE a bit better. Both were exceptionally clean and had deep and extended bass. The XR had more bass, but felt like it bled into the mids a bit, and neither had particularly punchy bass, so I ended up preferring the slightly cleaner sound of the SE.

Both IEMs were very characterless, though I didn’t feel they were dry or clinical – just honest. At the asking price I was very pleasantly surprised by how good they sounded. I was even more surprised by the new small size of the double-flange Etymotic tip. Deep insertion tips typically don’t work for me, as I have a very small ear canals and an unusual bend in my right ear canal, but not my left. Add in my trepidation about things getting too close to my ears and deep insertion tips hold about as much fascination for me as a lobotomy without anesthesia. That said, I found that I could work with the small size of the Etymotic tips. The tiny size of the IEM itself helped as well and these sat as comfortably as any universal IEM I’ve ever tried. If you don’t care for the bass-cannon tuning of many popular IEMs you may find something interesting for a very reasonable price with the ER2 series. Worth checking out.

Etymotic was also showing off a $150 USD soon-to-be released Bluetooth module, using AKM and Walcomm Chips. It can plug directly into Etymotic earphones with their twist-lock mechanism, and seems like a good option for those hoping to make their Etymotic earphones even more portable.

Next up was the Final Audio booth, one I’ve spent negligible amounts of time with in the past. They were showing an absolute smorgasbord of products, including an updated version of the D8000 Pro, a new B-series of IEMs and a new Cayin DAP. The updated D8000 Pro had an adjusted impedance of 60-Ohms instead of the previous 32-Ohms and is slightly less sensitive. The Final representative also mentioned that the presence region and midbass had been slightly elevated compared to the previous tuning. Listening for a bit I found it hard to discern much based on the unusual music selection. I didn’t hear anything painful about the treble and the midrange seemed clear enough, but as usual, take show impressions with a grain of salt. The D8000 Pro will be priced at $3,800 USD.

The new Final B-series of IEMs, rather confusingly labelled the B2, B3 and B1 come in at $300 USD, $500 USD and $700 USD price points respectively, so no, the numbers don’t correlate to price, either up or down. I tried the B3 first and thought it sounded reasonably good, though a tiny bit more forward in the treble than I prefer, at least out of the Cayin 6N2 DAP ($1,500 USD) at the table. Next I tried the B2 and B1 and I’ll refrain from saying too much other than that I found the tuning choices very odd. Those who follow Final Audio and are fans of the brand are probably familiar with their idiosyncratic products may find something new and interesting to listen to. Of the group though, I did feel the B2 may appeal to a wider audience the most.

That’s all for now - stay tuned for the RMAF wrap-up.

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