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Etymotic Research HF5 Portable In-Ear Earphones (Black)

100% Positive Reviews
Rated #64 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: 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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