Etymotic ER-6 Isolator Ear Buds

MC Tested

I've tried ear buds, headsets with ear plugs, I've even disassembled headphones and glued them in my helmet. Every arrangement was cursed with poor sound, painful pressure points or both. This pursuit of quality in-lid acoustics has been a frustrating one, but all that has changed.

Behold the ER-6 Isolators, made by Etymotic Research. These earphones are one in the company's broad range of listening products, and are perfectly adapted to use by motorcyclists. Inserted directly into your ear canal like an ear plug, they cancel outside noise while putting phenomenal sound directly inside your head. They rest flush with your ear, so there's no irritating pressure and they don't snag when you take your helmet off. An alligator clip keeps the thin wire from fluttering in the breeze.

I wore the earphones with the standard tips for weeks before I decided to experiment with the other options that come in the set. Comfort went from great with the gray tips to heavenly with the translucent ones, which have a smaller flange diameter and greater taper. The ear buds contain tiny filters that need to be changed when ear wax builds up using a supplied threaded rod-easy work if you're young, but you'll need reading glasses if you're over 40.

Sound quality is fantastic, with deep base and crisp highs, and there's a special ER-6i version made especially for iPods. Best of all, the volume while riding is just slightly higher than normal listening levels during stationary activities, a testament to their noise-canceling abilities and assurance that you're not obliterating your eardrums.

The downside? They aren't cheap. A ticket to the concert will cost you nearly $150, but the sound quality, comfort and subsequent miles of enjoyment are well worth the price.

Etymotic ER-6 Isolator Ear Buds
Price: $149

Etymotic Research, Inc.

Verdict 5 stars out of 5
Unparalleled sound quality and comfort, without dangerous volume levels.