Etymotic ETY*COM ER22 Phone Headset

good price and quality


The Etymotic Research ETY*COM ER22 Phone Headset is an in-the-ear style headset with noise-reduction (both incoming and outgoing). I heard of it through an acquaintance who had just bought a set of headphones from the same company, and it looked interesting. So, I looked around for prices, and found it for $41 at Amazon (better than the normal $69 retail price). All the reviews I found (on amazon and elsewhere) were favorable, including comments on a forum about using headsets while driving convertible cars. So, I bought one. It costs little more than the cheap, poor-quality headsets I've tried, and people claimed it was nice.

First Impressions

The unit showed up on 2005-06-13, much sooner than expected. Apparently the 5-9 day "super saver" shipping only takes 2-3 days sometimes.

I tried it out immediately, of course. I grabbed the house phone and the VoIP phone, plugged the ER22 into one, and called myself. I tried out different phone settings, different eartips, different background noises, etc. Then I called a few people and played a bit more. Here's what I've found so far:


The microphone hovers next to my mouth, and seems to pick up sound pretty well. I didn't notice a difference in voice volume between the phone's built-in microphone and the headset microphone. However, I still need to test this further.

The ER22's microphone does cut out a hell of a lot of background noise, though. I can listen to music on my stereo at my regular listening volume and the person I'm talking to can't hear it at all. They also cannot hear me typing, even if I bang on the keys. I haven't tested yet to see how it handles wind, driving noises, or loud bars.


The earpiece comes with several ear tips. I seem to have deep ear holes (does that sound odd to anyone else?) because I have to use either the "extended length" white eartip or the "in case nothing else works" foam eartip in order to get a comfortable fit. Of the two, the foam one feels more comfortable. (the reason is not a matter of fitting better; it's just that the white eartip produces a slight vacuum, which made my ear a little sore after 20-30 minutes)

The first thing I noticed after turning the phone on was that I needed to turn the volume all the way down. I could hear every minute detail of the phone's audio even with my stereo going. And, if anything, I'd like to be able to turn the headset volume down even more.

I'm finding so far that, with the ER22, sound is very crisp. There's absolutely no problem hearing the audio sent to me; I can even hear the compression artifacts in the audio codecs the telco uses.


I'm pretty happy with it so far. I've never liked a headset before.

It's certainly a lot better than any other headset I've tried, especially the ones for $40 or less. The difference is enough that I can actually use the ER22 for real phone calls; all the cheaper models I tried just weren't worthwhile.

Second Impressions

Well, after a couple days spending a lot of time on the phone, I'm a bit more familiar with the headset, and have a few things to add:

The white eartip is actually more comfortable than the foam eartip. The foam one is nicer for the first few minutes, but then becomes uncomfortable after half an hour or so. It puts just a little too much pressure on my ear as it tries to expand. But the white one is pretty comfy even after a very long call.

The noise cancellation in the microphone works rather nicely. I normally listen to my stereo at a volume of 10-20, depending on my mood and the time of day (they can hear it upstairs at 20), but the person I'm talking to can't hear it at all until about 25-35 (and they claim that even then, it's very quiet). So, I'd have to make the stereo excessively loud in order to interfere with my call. (I haven't tried it in a loud bar yet)

I've had the best results when I loop the headset wire over my ear and then connect it to my shirt. This keeps the cord out of the way, keeps the microphone in the right place, and gets rid of any noise caused by the cord rubbing against things. Specifically, I route the cord under the microphone arm, then up, over my ear, and straight down to my shirt collar. This keeps the strain off the base of the cable, and generally works well.

More Notes

After using the headset for a few weeks, I'm a little confused as to how I'd ever get earwax into its replacable filter. The unit comes with a replacement filter, and a special tool to remove the old one... but it's beyond me how I'd actually clog the thing with earwax. The wax would have to travel at least half an inch down the inside of the eartip before it could even reach the filter, which seems rather unlikely... especially since I clean the eartip once in a while (old earwax is icky). (BTW, cleaning is easy: take the eartip off, then run hot water over and through it)

I'm still pretty happy with the headset. It works great and makes me wonder how I managed without one. It's nice being able to do other things while I'm on the phone -- like laundry, typing, or going for a walk -- with both hands free and no worries that the background noise will get in the way.

... Notes

Today I tried to use the headset and found it too quiet to be useful. I was worried at first, but soon figured out what was wrong. After cleaning the eartip, I put it back on while it was still wet -- which got the earwax filter wet. This was easy to fix, though. I pulled the filter off (use needle-nose pliers instead of the tool which came with the headset -- to avoid destroying the filter) and let it dry, which fixed everything.

This suggests to me that, if you actually do clog the filter with earwax, you can probably just wash it and reuse it. It's designed to be a single-use part, but seems to work fine after cleaning if you remember not to use the provided filter-removal tool.

8 Months Later

I'm still pretty happy with the headset. I use it any time I'm on the phone for more than 20 seconds, and it works great. This is pretty high up on my list of good purchases.

It would be nice, occasionally, to have a mute button so I could cough/sneeze/whatever without making any sound, but it's just as easy to flip the microphone up to my forehead instead. It doesn't really pick up sounds that far away.
Last modified: February 19, 2006 @ 1:16 MST
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