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Etymotic Research HF5 Portable In-Ear Earphones (Black)

100% Positive Reviews
Rated #65 in Universal Fit


Pros: Amazing isolation, Transparent sounding, Extremely accurate, High degree of imaging in mid and treble

Cons: Bass is uninspiring, Product out of the box is a poor representation of the device -- burn in absolutely required.

First off let me preface by stating that I bought these on a whim.  I had read many things about Etymotic's penchant for accurate reproduction.


The initial impressions I got from these were a mixed bag.  First off, I love the isolation factor, putting these on in the middle of a crowded communal area was like stepping into a library.  I tried the various silicone pieces which were provided as well as the obnoxious chunks of foam and settled back on the medium sized triple flange which was installed on the unit from the factory.  These tend to sit a little further inside the ear canal, however once they are in I didn't find them to be any more uncomfortable than any other IEM I have used, after a couple of hours it's like they don't exist.


Sound quality out of the box was disappointing.  There was a slight hint of bass which seemed to lack much in the way of clarity or substance.  Through the mid and upper ends of the spectrum were just simply "there" along with some harshness and a hint of sibilance.  At one point I wondered if these Etys were defective in some manner, I have read many dozens of reviews and generally Etymotic products are considered to be highly accurate.  Out of the box, I listened for around 30 minutes before packing them up until after burn-in.


Burn-in was accomplished over four 24 hour periods, one period each for white, pink and brown noise and the final period being a random selection from my music library.  Sound level was consistent for each test, being set at 0.5db above what I felt was a "loud" listening level.


Following the burn in, I wedged them back into my head and went for another listen, and things were very different this time around.  The bass had been cleaned up significantly, and while there wasn't a tremendous amount of it in any regard, that which was there was extremely accurate.  Through the mid-range and high end things were very sharp, crisp and present.  The hint of sibilance which I had detected before break in was gone, as was the harshness.  Imaging had also managed to improve by several orders of magnitude.  Listening to any sort of symphony, orchestra or choir through these devices was truly a treat, you can almost feel the vibrations off the strings.  At some point, I stopped thinking about the devices themselves and simply enjoyed the music.


In terms of overall listening experience, I rate them above average for all but the lower frequencies.  I feel that they could have done with more presence to compliment the accuracy.  I would also like to point out that the middle and high frequencies were amazingly revealing of the source.  In my listening, compression artifacts were readily apparent for 128k and 256k mp3.  Artifacts were less present in 320k mp3, however they were still there at various points if one listened closely.  As anticipated, lossless encoding formats presented a truly clear aural picture of what the music was intended to sound like.


By the time I pulled them from my ears almost twelve hours after picking them up, I can definitely say that I now know where Etymotic's reputation comes from.  The device which I pulled out of the packaging was not the finished product by any means, however the device that I retrieved from burn-in was the most accurate listening device I have ever had the opportunity to own.


Looking at all of the factors, I would recommend these to anyone who prefers the mids and highs to be very strong, present and almost close enough to touch.


That said, I would not recommend them to anyone who enjoys a lot of bass with their music, these will almost certainly fail to deliver the volume, bass presence and impact of many other devices available.


Pros: detail is fantasic, some of the best isolation around

Cons: bass might be too thin for some, fit takes some getting used to

  A few months ago, my trusty westone um1s died after 2 years of faithful service, so i got this pair to replace them, based purely on the reviews i had read about them online, seeing as i was unable to personally demo a pair. needless to say i was nothing short of entirely satisfied with them, and while i have owned the um1s, comparing them would be slightly pointless as they are completely different in character, so this review will be a simple standalone affair. the basic setup is the hf5s and an ipod classic (the latest gen not sure which one it is) un-amped, playing either lossless ALAC rips or 320 kbps mp3 tracks.


FIT/BUILD: the first impression i got when i removed the buds from the packing was just how tiny they were; a simple, slender thing that had a sort of minimalistic feel to them. i was afraid that they would be terribly fragile at first, but i've been using them daily during traveling from home to school and back, so far no problems. these iems do however tend to stick out of your ears abit when you wear them, not jut-out-flashy like the discontinued beats tour earphones, but enough that you wont be able to lie comfortably on your side without stabbing yourself in the ears with them, which brings me to my next point, the ear tips. eytomic includes a selection of tips with the hf5s, the slider, triple flanged and foam tips. naturally the first thing i did was stick in the flanged tips, because they were already on the earphones, but they were really uncomfortable, and pretty hard to get a good fit. after fiddling with them for awhile i gave up and rotated through the slider and foam tips, as well as an old pair of star tips from my westones. however, in the end i still returned to the flanged tips, and after using them for awhile, began to get used to the fit. It's really 'injecting music straight into your brain' as i've read from other reviews, seeing as these are some of the deepest inserted iems i've ever tried, so it will take some getting used tp, but the isolation provided is completely worth it. with music playing at 40% max volume, that's all you'll hear unless it's a particularly noisy environment (construction, large vehicles by the road etc...)


TREBLE: these iems are tuned to provide as accurate a sound as possible, so the treble isn't particularly shrill, but it does have a slight edge to it that some listeners will find fatiguing during extended listening periods. to me however, its that edge which gives the music even more character, like when listening to overdriven electric guitars, or violin solos, there is an added layer of shine that makes the treble that much more bright. however, if you have any tracks that have shrill highs, these will also be replicated with precision that might leave you with ringing ears, as i had after listening to a few arias. nonetheless, the treble on these are refreshing open and yet controlled at the same time, making them suited for most music types


 MIDS: as i mentioned in a previous review, i have always felt that the mids is where the meat of the music is delivered, and the hf5s deliver with ease. mids are well rounded and focused, again meant more for reproducing the music faithfully rather than adding its own character. as such the mids vary from slightly wimpy sounding and thin in some of those nursery-rhyme-cutesy type bubblegum pop type tracks, to delicious lush and energetic in classical guitar tracks, or baritone ranged vocals. what you feed the hf5s is probably what you're going to get out of them, so don't expect the melted-chocolate warmth that some of shure's earphones are famed for in the hf5s, because you won't get them unless the track was mixed that way. the hf5s let vocals in the mids range take on a certain brilliance that one would usually expected only in the treble range.


BASS: perhaps the most hotly contested aspect of the hf5s, i have heard and read reviews both praising and slamming the bass that the hf5s present, although personally i am more inclined to side with the former group. im a strong believer in brain burn-in, which is what some people use to refer to simply getting used to a new sound signature, seeing as there isnt much proof to show BA drivers burn in at all, from what i know. so when i first used these, i was severely underwhelmed by the bass presence, but after using them more, as well as getting a solid fit, the bass was more than satisfactory. its solid and tight, with a nice fullness to it too. whether it be jazzy double basses or thumping EDM, the bass always has a presence among the other frequency range, which is nice as i have demoed iems that just muffle the bass with everything else, or have the bass completely overpower the rest of the frequency range. if you are a basshead looking for a pair of iems which will deliver that chest-thumping sub bass reverb and extension, you might be disappointed with the bass on these, but otherwise the bass is just right for most genres and listeners.


OVERALL PERFORMANCE: as i"ve mentioned several times during this review, the hf5s are tuned for a flat frequency response and accurate reproduction, with eytomic claiming that they are perfectly accurate. whatever the case is, these are hands down the most analytical and articulate iems i have ever heard. the major gripe i had with all of my previous iems is that instruments and vocals often get muddled together into a mass of sound when the song gets intense, losing the individual character of each instrument or voice. i dont have any problem with instrument with these at all, everything is clearly discernable, from rapid highhat strokes, guitar rips and riffs, or the slightest vibrato. i listened to drum, guitar, violin and voice solos as well, just to get a judge of how well the hf5s reproduce single instruments, comparing them with what i hear in band room when playing with friends. the nuances are there, but definately not to the same level, then again , that could be a issue with my source. then again, these cost quite little considering their quality and performance, so im not complaining.


at the end of the day, if anyone asked me whether i recommended the hf5s, my answer would be an instant yes. there aren't many iems like the hf5 available in the price range, and these stand out because of their stellar accuracy and detail, with a nicely open soundstage and adaptability to any genre of music you might have have.


some of the tracks used:


music of the night- ramin karimloo

queenz- anika nilles

disconnected- monstercat

invader- kyary pamyu pamyu

Don't stop me now- Queen

Monster- Paramore

i will not bow- breaking benjamin

slave to the rythm- michael jackson

hosanna- hillsong united

crystallize- lindsey stirling

me and my broken heart- rixton

the man- aloe blacc

beat of your heart- hayley westenra


Pros: Excellent detail retrieval, clear midrange, superb instrument separation

Cons: Constricted soundstage, not much bass to be satisfying, deep insertion

Build quality is good, plug is meaty and the cord is not as thin as most IEMs. Comes with a lot of accessories. Isolation is typical of Ety's which is superb.


Sound quality is very good overall and for the price. The bass is I would say is just neutral or for most people, a tad bass-shy and I definitely can understand that. I think this is my only earphone where I got a bit surprised that the bass quantity that I’m used to hearing to isn’t the same. It extends fairly low into the bass and it’s super tight but there’s simply not much quantity that would make you stomp your feet when listening to music that demands it.


Midrange is good, upper midrange is so slightly boosted and it gives that extra clarity I think. Treble is good.  Typical of Etymotic.


Soundstage is of course small but it is wider (yet lacking height) than most in-ears I’ve heard. Layering is very good but this makes this headphone critical of the source. Play a 128kbps track and there’s a good chance it wouldn’t sound good. This might not also be the best earphone to use for modern RnB and pop music as it may not be satisfying enough in terms of rendering the ‘oomph’ and ‘booms’ of the music.


The above is an excerpt from my review of the Etymotic HF5: http://www.headphone.ph/the-etymotic-hf5-iem-review/


Pros: Sound quality, isolation, price?

Cons: price?

Bought new in Europe for $100

My best IEMs, very good analytic sounding, obviously not for bass-head even though my favorite headphones are Denon D2000!

High isolation but might be uncomfortable (it goes deep in ear canal)

I had RE-0 as well, to me HF5 are much better, they are not bass anemic like Hifiman's

I still do not know how to evaluate the price, they are MANY newcomers in the market such as JVC FX series or VSonic which can be bought for less than $100.

If you need very strong isolation, don't look elsewhere!


Pros: Natural sound, sound isolation, comfort, price

Cons: none that i can think of

This is my first IEM. I owned Grados and LOVED them, but i'm going to college and wouldn't be able to listen to my Grados in many places as they are open back cans.


So started my search for an IEM that sounded like my Grados. I found the HF5's! 


These have a very natural sound just like the grados. Bass is present, not overwhelming, just right. Mids make listening to classical, jazz, and vocals a real treat. Highs are excellent as well and don't hurt my ears like make in ears. 


These are totally worth the $150 price tag. I much prefer them over the shure 215's or 315's. 


Pros: Awesome for the price

Cons: Somewhat congested soundstage but not terrible

These phones are great, for their value, even at retail price these are quite good.


Though I do not have past exp. with other etymotics, I could sum these as very clear, tight bass but not lacking, unless the track you're playing is.

the mids are a little emphasized, but it's not too obvious the seperation is also very good,

If I were to give an example these are like an artistic version of



That is regarding the soundstage, but it's not that big a of a con considering its other traits.


This is after a few hours of critical usage of these, source is a J3 with some EQing. Also,

they are currently unamped.


Good luck,


Jo JS.

Etymotic Research HF5 Portable In-Ear Earphones (Black)

Etymotic's 5th generation of high-fidelity in-ear earphones has finally arrived. The HF5 delivers a near-perfect music experience, even in high surrounding noise conditions. Like Etymotic's earlier generations of in-ear earphones, the HF5 is built on superior noise isolation, so you experience total sound immersion when listening to your music. The HF5 is compatible with all iPod models and music players that accept a 3.5mm plug. This package includes the HF5 in-ear earphones, assorted eartips for your comfort, a filter changing tool with filters, and a protective carrying pouch.

BrandEtymotic Research
Feature4-foot cable
Height6 inches
Length1.5 inches
Weight0.25 pounds
Width7.25 inches
LabelEtymotic Research
List Price$149.00
ManufacturerEtymotic Research
Package Quantity1
Product GroupCE
Product Type NameHEADPHONES
PublisherEtymotic Research
StudioEtymotic Research
TitleEtymotic Research HF5 Portable In-Ear Earphones (Black)
Batteries Included0
Is Autographed0
Is Memorabilia0
Legal DisclaimerWe do not in any way represent that any part we sell is legal to possess in your jurisdiction. Check with you local authorities to ensure it is legal for you to possess before buying!
Warranty2 years warranty
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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