Etymotic K-Amp CIC (from General Instrument Co.) Non-programmable Analog.
technology for the Etymotic K-Amp was invented and designed by Dr. Mead
Killion, Founder and CEO of Etymotic Research. He is an accomplished
musician and audiophile, so it is not a surprise that this hearing aid is
musical and excellent. Etymotic is best known for their ER-4 and ER-6
earphones, as well as high fidelity and musician Earplugs. The company is also a
research lab and manufactures measuring and test equipment. The Etymotic
hearing aid circuits are built for the OEM market and can be ordered from a
number of hearing aid manufacturers, with a list posted at
Unfortunately, this line of hearing aids is being phased out, and they are
difficult to obtain. Mine were obtained through General Instrument Co. and
were the non-programmable circuit version, which was not an ideal match for
my audiogram. Had I been able to audition a programmable analog version of
the K-Amp, my evaluation might have been closer to the ReSound CC4, since
they are both accurate reproducers of sound. This hearing aid did not add
spurious artifacts to the sound.
Audioflex AF 400 Programmable Analog
Phonak PiCS2 Microzoom P2 AZ
these hearing aids were musical, but disappointing from an audiophile
perspective, however better than the all-digital models. These hearing aids
were unable to render a palpable presence to the music or sense of recording
space (soundstage). Resolution was very poor. The listening experience was
boring and dull. They are a very distant second to the ReSound CC4 and
Etymotic K-Amp in terms of reproducing a musical event. They had compressed
dynamics, both macro and micro, poorer clarity, softened transients and just
okay rhythm and pace. They did better on small groups and solo piano than
large orchestral pieces. There was some congestion and smearing on large
orchestral compositions. Highs on the Bernafone Audioflex were bright and
steely. Bass was rolled off on both and the sound was lean and thin. The
Phonak PiCS2 suffered from serious feedback problems.
ReSound Metrix ITC all-digital (using ReSound's music program settings)
engineers have made a substantial improvement on the Metrix over the Canta
7, the previous top of the line. The typical sonic signature of all-digital
was less prevalent with the Metrix than all the other all-digital HAs.
Complex musical passages were rendered with good reproduction – most of the
music was there most of the time. Rhythm and pace were good to very good.
Harmonics were very good – the music was richer and fuller with the Metrix,
however, in some instances I detected a slight bloomy quality.
volume on the Metrix is controlled by a clunky, primitive volume wheel
option, which is awkward, very difficult to use, ineffective, and obsolete.
My first hearing aids had them in 1974, and it was a godsend when ReSound
came out with the programmable remote in 1989 with the capability of fixed
incremental volume adjustments. If one buys HAs with the volume wheel
control option, expect to spend a lot of time fiddling with the wheel to get
the right volume in each ear, not too much or too little and balanced,
which is nearly impossible. The first time you move the wheel, you lose
track of neutral, and the only way to get it back is to reboot the program.
When adjusting, one generally overshoots and it's too loud, so then turn it
down, then it's too soft, then one ear is louder or softer, so adjust again,
and again, and again, etc.
Etymotic Digi-K CIC all-digital (from General Instrument Co.) (using music
is musical, however unacceptable from an audiophile perspective, ranking
between the ReSound Metrix and the Phonak Savia. Its character is different
from both, but in my perspective, closer to the Savia than the Metrix, in
terms of musicality and sound quality.
Phonak Savia CIC all-digital (using Phonak music program settings)
Savia is the top of the line hearing aid for Phonak and a huge improvement
over the Perseo 11 in which the sound was so poor it could not be seriously
evaluated. The design and ergonomics of the Savia hearing system is
exceptional. I liked the comfort, convenience and ease of use,. Ergonomics
were superb, with Bluetooth volume and program control with a remote. The
Savia reproduced most of the music, and it was in pitch. However, the ReSound
CC4 sounded significantly better. Differences between the Savia and CC4
were easily discerned. Dynamic range was severely compressed. All musical
passages were smeared, and the presentation very muted and distant sounding –
there was little excitement or emotion.
Kiji; Stravinsky: Song of the Nightingale, Reiner, Chicago Symphony;
Classic/RCA LSC-2150, 180 gr. vinyl
Etymotic K-Amp CIC (from General Instrument Co.)
sound was somewhat on the "dark side" – tonal balance was tilted toward and
emphasized the lower midrange and highs. This is because these K-Amp
hearing aids are non-programmable and can't be adjusted to compensate for my
particular hearing loss, which needs more gain in the upper midrange to
high frequencies. This is a significant shortcoming for my hearing needs.
(At the time these were ordered my audiologist was unable to locate the
programmable K-Amp for auditioning.) With the K-Amp there was a slight suckout in the midrange to upper midrange (I heard this in voices also,
especially female, which sounded a bit masculine) because they could not be
matched perfectly to my hearing loss.
Transient attack on notes seemed a bit slower than the ReSound CC4s – also a
bit softer and less assertive, but not by very much. K-amp was more reticent
in attack and dynamics, but richer in harmonics. Sound was glorious!
Excellent macro and micro dynamics – handles complexity extremely well.
Very little, if any, congestion on loud complex passages. Distortion
very low. Low-level detail was excellent. Excellent timbre (except for the
darkness due to non-programmability).
Royal Ballet, LDS-6065, Classic Records,
The Nutcracker Suite,
ReSound Metrix ITC
presentation was slightly subdued/muted, and the dynamic range was
compressed compared with the ReSound CC4 (and Etymotic K-Amp). Bass drum
whacks sounded muted. The bells were very muted and distant, almost
inaudible – this was a major solo – brilliance was lacking, timbre was poor,
however single bell notes scattered throughout the composition sounded much
better. The piccolo solo was muted, a matter of poor balance with the
some smearing of notes and musical passages. Transient attack on notes was
undefined and the decay was off. Transient attack of notes on the harp solo
had a sameness quality and the timbre was also slightly off (however, this
was very subtle), and totally lacking in micro dynamics and resolution.
Transient attack was cleaner, more alive, brilliant, more fluid and
assertive with the CC4; decay more realistically rendered. Transients
delivered with more speed. Also micro dynamics were much better with CC4,
giving the music more nuance, emotion and expression, and it was not subtle.
accompaniment/background instruments were smeared more than the
solo/primary/lead passages – transient attack of background was not clean
and crisp and the detail was muddy and undefined.
Sleeping Beauty and Les Sylphides
Foreground, lead and theme instruments/groups were better defined, more
detailed with better resolution than background/accompaniment, which sounded
somewhat muddy and congealed; also separation and air between notes and
instrument groups was better on the lead/theme. There was some loss of
timbre on background instruments.
Transients were slow, with some smearing and overhang, particularly
noticeable on the tympani, and the gong strike was less shimmery in its
decay compared to the CC4. The violins, with the Metrix, were dull
sounding, with less life and vibrancy. There was a loss of detail on low
was a complete loss of the sense of the performing space, no hall sound, and
Phonak Savia CIC
Transient attack was fuzzy and undefined. Low-level detail on soft passages
was very poor. The music was dull and lifeless. Macro and micro dynamics
were very poor – the music lacked rhythm and pace. The bells were very
poorly rendered. There was a loss of brilliance, definition, and resolution
in the highs/treble notes. Sections of the orchestra congeal together –
there was little to no separation or air between notes or sections of the
was a complete loss of the sense of the performing space, no hall sound, and
Here to Go to Part IV.