Etymotic Research: Doing it right
I recently had such an impressive experience with a company, I felt the need to tell the story. I’ve read mixed stories about this company so I really thought I should share my experience.
About 19 months ago, my wife purchased a pair of Etymotic Research’s mid-range ($149.00) ER·6i Isolator Earphones (that was late 2005.) I had read about them and had mentioned to her that I really wanted a pair, but that they were really pretty expensive (at least for our standard of living.)
She sneaked around and managed to surprise me with them for Christmas. I was thrilled, but at the same time had a few trepidations because I had read about some folks who thought their sound quality was a bit overrated.
Initially for me, they were a bit hard to get used to because I couldn’t really get them to fit correctly in my ears. I would try to get them seated (pull up and back on the top of the ear while inserting the earphones) but I could always still hear some sound escaping from around the eartips — it was like they were not getting a good seal, so I never really got that good deep bass they were touted to have. Part of the problem was that I didn’t know which kind of eartip I needed. Mine came with two kinds of tip initially, the three-tiered rubber flanged tips and some solid foam tips.
The three-tiered rubber tips were just too narrow and long for my ears — they would just sort of rattle around in my ear canal and the sound quality was about the same as listening through a tin can. The solid foam tips sounded best, but my ears would start feeling full and hot only after an hour or so of wear.
After using them for nearly a year, the re-washable foam tips finally began to wear out. I went online and looked at some of the replacement tips.
I found some two-tiered rubber tips, so I decided to order five of them (for a whopping $14). When they arrived about a week later, I removed my last pair of foam eartips and slipped on a set of the new rubber ones ones I just received. When I put the earphones in my ears, I was shocked. The seal was soft and perfect and the bass response I had read about became real.
You know that feeling when you find a new piece of music or a song that is fresh and exciting to listen to? That’s what these earphones did for music I had loved for years.
I can wear them for hours comfortably. You can listen to classical, rock, funk and folk and it all sounds simply breathtaking. I haven’t heard anything that didn’t sound like new music through the 6i’s.
Needless to say, I use them frequently. They are especially useful while mowing the grass. We have lots of grass to mow, so it takes several hours riding on a mower and bush-hog to get it all done. A great feature of the earphones is that you do not have to turn up the music very loud to overcome the sound of the engine because of the isolating effect they have on outside noise. You can listen at a comfortable, clear level while mowing, weed-eating, whatever.
So, on with the story.
About a month ago, my earphones developed a short in two places of the cord — near the jack and near the Y split between the ears. The right ear would occasionally clip or cut out completely. After about a week of sputtering, the right ear finally gave out. I was crushed.
I checked online and noted that the warranty period is 1 year from the date of purchase for the 6i’s and I had owned these for nearly 20 months. I figured I would have to pony up a fee for servicing them, but I really wanted to get them fixed.
I called Etyomtic on July 3 toll-free at 1-888-Etymotic (1-888-389-6684) and spoke with customer service. I was expecting to have to provide a credit card on the phone for arranging the service request, but the nice woman on the phone simply gave me an RMA number and told me to mail them in with a letter explaining the problem so they could diagnose the problem. I wrote a simple letter explaining how much I loved them and how the short had developed, dropped the earphones in the padded envelope and shipped them off.
After about 2 weeks, I decided to call and find out about the status and cost of my repair. I spoke with another friendly customer service representative who (after a short delay due to computer problems) was able to look up my ticket. He informed me that a replacement set had been shipped out several days ago and was scheduled for delivery today, no charge. I asked him to reconfirm that, since my earphones were no longer covered under warranty. He said they had, in fact, been covered under warranty service. I told him what a surprise that was and he simply replied "Well, how about that!"
I thanked him and am now enjoying the sweet sound of my beloved earphones again.
This is customer service at its best. Not only does the company make an excellent product, they stand behind it. Lord-willing, I will be a ER customer for a long time.