Gadling Gear: Etymotic Research Headphones

I’m a gadget junkie by any definition. When I planned my year long trip around the world, I literally spent more time considering the gear I brought with me than I did planning which countries I’d go to.

But hey… if you’re well prepared, you’re ready for anything, right?

For the first ever episode of Gadling Gear, I thought it only appropriate that I cover one of the most useful and perfect gadgets in my travel bag: Etymotic Research ER-4P headphones.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way – these things have incredible sound quality. They reproduce sound nearly perfectly, a feat that would literally cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars with a home stereo system.

So, if you like hearing your music at higher quality than you’ve ever heard before, these are your headphones.

But beyond that, these just happen to be totally perfect for us traveling folk. Why? Because they block sound way better than the competition.

To do this they use a triple flanged silicone bud that sticks into your ear – way into your ear. Unlike most earbuds, these extend all the way into your ear canal. The design is the same design used by high end earplugs.

This may sound like a strange design, but most people, including myself, find it very comfortable for long periods of time. I personally prefer it to the constant pressure on the ears delivered by traditional headphones.

Have you ever seen those smug travelers with their Bose noise-canceling headphones? Besides the huge annoyance of always having to track down batteries, these overpriced gadgets can’t hold a candle to the Etymotics.

I’ve used both firsthand, but for good old scientific proof, check out this article on Engadget which covers a lower end version of these earbuds beating the competition.

In practice, the earbuds are pure magic. You can walk through the airport and feel like you’re in a movie, hearing only the soundtrack you’re playing through your MP3 player.

When you get on the airplane they knock out almost all of the engine noise. I even use mine unplugged as earplugs to take naps.

Best of all, they weigh almost nothing and pack into a tiny included soft pouch.

These earphones are the first thing I pack on every trip I take and are well worth the $300 I paid seven years ago. Today you can get a pair from Amazon for just $169.

Stay tuned for next week when I talk about the best MP3 player for traveling (hint – it’s NOT an iPod).