Etymotic Research – Ety8 review

Bluetooth headphones for iPods and other players
Photo of Etymotic Research – Ety8
£200

Etymotic Research, a world leader of in-ear technology, is well known for its innovative developments in the field of aural research. It should be well equipped to develop the world’s first in-ear Bluetooth headphones then, designed predominantly for use with an iPod but offering general Bluetooth support for other compatible devices.

In the box you’ll find the earphones themselves, a leather carry case, a range of adaptors and an 8-mate adaptor for an iPod. If you are planning on using one of Apple’s players you’ll benefit from a wider range of features, including volume and track control via the headphones and automatic pairing so you can avoid waiting while the device is found and paired manually. If you don’t have an iPod you can pair the headphones with a PC, mobile phone or other device that supports Bluetooth 1.1 and higher, with AD2P support required for stereo sound.

The ‘phones themselves comprise two fairly small boxes with a sturdy rope-tie in between to stop them shattering on the floor if they fall out of your ear. The right earphone includes volume and track change buttons and a play/pause switch which you’ll also use for pairing. It’s impressive to find this range of controls along with power and Bluetooth in such a small form factor device, but if you’re planning on wearing them out and about you might feel a bit self-conscious, since they’re not exactly what you’d call fashionable.

Most people will probably encounter some initial problems with comfort, so will need to experiment with the range of ear attachments, the correct choice of which will also help achieve the best possible sound. After charging the battery via USB, which offers around seven hours of playback on a full charge, we took the Ety8 kit out for a spin.

We tested the Ety8 ‘phones with an iPod, a Bluetooth-enabled PC and a couple of mobile phones to see how they performed. You’ll find fairly limited support for mobiles, particularly those that aren’t compliant with Bluetooth 2.0. With no definitive list of compatible makes and models available from the manufacturer you won’t want to risk a purchase unless you’re in a position to test your mobile with the headphones first.

Bluetooth performance both here and with a PC wasn’t overly impressive: we noticed a faint crackle from just a couple of feet away and when you get to a distance of three metres or more, audio starts to break up.

Pleasingly, iPod performance is much better. Not only can you avoid having to go through the pairing process (simply plug in the supplied iPod adaptor and you’re ready to go), but you’ll benefit from being able to use the volume and track-skipping controls on the right earphone. Audio performance is improved, sound is cleaner and you can venture greater distances from your player before things start to break up.

This led us to conclude that unless you’re buying the Ety8 headphones to use with an iPod, you’ll probably find them an extremely expensive investment considering the limited support and degraded performance with other Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Despite being an impressive product, it’s worth remembering that a decent pair of in-ear buds that cost around a quarter of the price will offer better audio and a more comfortable fit (and may not look so… conspicuous), so think carefully about how important wireless operation is to you.

Company: Etymotic Research

Contact: +1 847 228 0006


Verdict
The Ety8 headphones are only a worthwhile investment if you have an iPod. Audio performance, although not quite on par with a decent pair of bud earphones, is still pretty good, they're easy to set up and fairly comfortable to wear. If you're willing to pay a rather hefty price and you value Bluetooth operation highly, you'll undoubtedly be pleased with Etymotic's design.