Fall in Love with Your iPod All Over Again: The 6i Isolator Earphones

by Gregory Ng Sep 20, 2005

This is the 5th time that I have tried to start writing this review. I typically try to use the product while I am writing my review. The product is the 6i Isolator Earphones from Etymotic Research, Inc. I inserted said product into my ear (as directed by the user’s manual), plugged it into my iPod and turned on Queen’s Greatest Hits (my album of choice for sound reviews).

But every time I start writing, I hear something completely new in my ears causing me to stop and take in every note with my jaw dropped open. The first track, “A Kind of Magic” was simply uh…magical. I heard every single sound from the first Freddy Mercury note to the final Brian May strum. All I can say is “Wow.” as I wipe the drool off my keyboard.

The 6i Isolator Earphones are in-the-ear (actually deep in the ear canal) earbuds designed to maximize your listening experience by isolating the sound as opposed to containing active noise cancellation popularized by the likes of Bose and Sennheiser. These earphones contain a 3-flange tip that although looks painful fits snugly in your ear canal with remarkable comfort. For those with abnormally small or huge ear canals, never fear, you can use alternate tips to accommodate your freakishly unusual ear hole.

Ok so why 6i? The 6i model is designed specifically for use with the iPod (and other portable music players). For those familiar with the ER-6 model from Etymotic, the 6i offers an overall sensitivity 8dB higher than the ER-6. In addition it packs 8dB more bass than the ER-6. And that’s not just marketing speak from the company. Ask my ears and they will tell you that “Another One Bites the Dust”, arguably the most infectious bass line in all of rock, kicked ass. And this was while I was sitting on a commuter train!

I’m not disputing the great sound quality of other earphones and earbuds. But who wants to wear huge black Princess Leia Earmuffs on the train or plane? The 6i Isolator Earphones are compact and weigh less than 1 oz. And as an added bonus, they match your iPod in all its white glory.

Remember the first time you fell in love with your iPod? I have fallen in love with my iPod all over again because of these earphones. As I get ready to start my work day, Freddy Mercury is begging me to keep listening, “Don’t stop me now, cuz I’m having a good time…” Hmm. Maybe I should go home early…

$149; Etymotic Research,


  • Wow…this is exactly what I’ve been looking for. This review (and reviewer) speaks the language of love, both of music and the iPod. Finally, earphones that are inconspicuous and muscially “sound”. These seem the perfect complement to all of the music living on my Pod. Hey, if they can ROCK Queen, they can rock anything. I’ll definitely have to pick up a pair of these. Thanks!

    VCH had this to say on Sep 20, 2005 Posts: 4
  • sounds like a great headphone…but $150, ouch.

    i suppose it all depends on your priorities. i have a $50 pair of sony fontopia EX-81 headphones which are a dramatic improvement over the apple earbuds, but only cost around $50. the EX-71’s can be had for even less.

    just my take on things…

    david randall had this to say on Sep 20, 2005 Posts: 10
  • Better never try the Etymotic ER-4P or an amped 4S then, it’s a one way road *g* Etymotic makes killer products at decent prices. The 6i is very good value for money though. The best thing about canalphones: The isolaton allows for lower listening levels so you don’t damage your ears trying to overcome ambient noise, nevertheless the perceived volume will be the same if not higher.

    Feel free to join head-fi.org (donators get better prices in some places) to learn about total portable-audio bliss. Sorry about your wallet though wink

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Sep 20, 2005 Posts: 371
  • Though… though though though… I like it *g*

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Sep 20, 2005 Posts: 371
  • just bought them on buy.com for $85 (no tax and free shipping), also have seen them on amazon for the same. I have to agree with the reviewer- they are great.

    boardutah had this to say on Sep 20, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I want them in black to match my “just arrived” Nano.

    SaddlerB had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 11
  • For that much money, Greenday can come to my house and play directly into my ears.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • There’s a lot of technology in that little package to justify the $150.

    But, if that’s not enough: consider how much you listen to your iPod or music during work, and its usually quite easy to justify a measly $150.

    Listening to music is probably top 3 tasks of my day. I look at my display for 12+ hours (and I happily spent $2k on that) sleep for 8 hours (spent $400 on the mattress) and listen to music for 6-10 hours a day.

    Great headphones rival great prosumer level systems that will cost over $10k in equipment, a fantastic deal no matter the headphone price.

    Nathan had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 219
  • to second Bad Beaver comments - everything I read in doing headphone research pointed to amp’ing your source (unless connected to your home receiver).

    Without going nuts on the tech jargon of audiophiles and their ilk: power is the source of great sound. The size of the in-ear headphones probably don’t put a lot stress on the device, but pure clean power from an external amp will make anything sound an order of magnitude better.

    Nathan had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 219
  • Hahaha, Princess Leia muffs…  Finally someone agrees with me.  I have some of those nice Bose noise-cancelling headphones you can get at the Apple store and man they’re great - but I can’t leave the house looking like that.  Definitely something I’ll be looking into.  Thanks for the review.

    dickrichards2000 had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 112
  • SaddlerB can get the ER-6 earphones - almost the same as the 6i, but in black to match the Nano.

    tnawara had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 2
  • Mhmm… Queen as an audit cd? I guess you audit the headphones on musical impact then, not on sound quality as such. Queen recordings are notorious, because of the pumped up bad studio engineering.

    Play a Queen cd on any Hi-end set and it will fall apart like flaking make-up on the face of an artist after working for hours under hot stage lights.

    If the Etymotic manages to work past the shortcomings of compressed and badly recorded music, all the more thumbs up then!

    Martijn had this to say on Sep 25, 2005 Posts: 10
  • Etymotic has now released these in black and not only do they look great in black but they sound just as good. So if you are an owner of a black Nano, black video iPod or heck, a U2 Special Edition, these will be sure to please your ears and you eyes.

    Gregory Ng had this to say on Dec 16, 2005 Posts: 54
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