I own the E4S and mine sound tinny too. I use them with a Headroon Cosmic reference amp and I am not happy with either products. The ear plugs must be pushed deep into the ear and feel irritating. If the seal is broken there is no bass and the sound becomes tinny. So push the plug well into the ear and wet the rubber plug for a better seal. And do not move around too much or the seal breaks. As for the Cosmic, I though it would sound better than what it does for the price. $800+ dollars! Also the CDs played through my CD player are bright sounding to begin with.
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I started out with the Etymotic ER6's and just could not understand what all the raves were about with these earphones. I felt that just about everything was off with the sound and on top of it, I found them uncomfortable. Granted the ER6's are the cheaper of the two earphone products (ER6 & ER4), but for $140 ... I had much higher expectations ... I really thought that they were junk. For my ipod, I have been using Koss KSC 50 Sport Clips ($20). Do not let the price throw you ... these are an outrageously good bargain, especially for street & gym use. Go for the new KSC 35 ($30) ... supposedly the bass is a drop better. Music sounds very natural and very good with the KSC 50's and the ipod. For plane travel, I use Sennheiser's PX 100 ($40) ... which actually sound better than their Noise Cancelling Headphones (PXC 250).
I've got the 4P's and I wouldn't consider them tinny at all. While the bass is not as good as my home system the rest of the spectrum is very good. The problem could be the drivers are not sealing properly. Either the fit is off or the driver is not being placed deep enough in the ear. There could also be a problem with whatever you are using to drive them. The Etymotic's are not for everyone and that probably is the case for you.
Have used the 4s for atleast 7years.They are great especially for airtravel and exercise.For me they only work with the white "rubber" fittings.They do clog up at times and you have to replace the green filters.They are not as good as the STAX speaker phones or the sannheiser 600 but these earphones are realy only for home use.
I have a pair of ER6's and can only say that they are the best "headphones" I've heard for listening on airplanes. As a number of people have said, the trick is to make sure they are inserted far enough and you have a proper seal. If you do, ambient noise is greatly reduced and you can actually hear music. I've tried both the Sennheiser and Bose noise cancelling headphones, both of which seem to deaden the sound.
Having said that, they are a bit inconvenient when you have to remove to talk to the flight attendant and they would not be my choice for home listening.
I have a pair of these, and I have two thoughts about your experiences. First, as has been mentioned, it is crucial to have them pushed deep enough into the ear canal to get a good seal. The headroom info that came with mine said that this tinny sound is what will happen otherwise, and my experiences confirmed it.
Second, they do need a good bit of break in. I played mine for about 20 hours straight connected to my iTunes library. This was crucial, as the sound became much fuller and natural sounding after they became fully broken in. Try this overnight twice, and then try them out again. Make sure you experiment with placing them in your ear canal, too.
When you first start using them, it is very unconfortable, IMO. It just doesn't feel right to push them so far into the ear, but it is required for good sound with the ER 4P.
Hope that helps.
These are the earbuds on my wishlist:
Molded to your ears, and can be ordered to allow different levels of ambient sound to reach your ears depending on preference.
I haven't owned them nor have I heard them but I can say that Mead Killion is one of the foremost authorities on hearing perception and in-the-ear and in-the-canal hearing aids in the country. Many of the binaural recordings were made based on much of his research. Try talking to his company maybe those of you getting tinny sound are having sealing problems.