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A Review On: Etymotic Research HF5 Portable In-Ear Earphones (Black)

Etymotic Research HF5 Portable In-Ear Earphones (Black)

Rated # 59 in Universal Fit
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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


best i class man , simply best in class , hf-5 , er-4p/s can never be replaced .
So...I paid $79 for my HF5s and also for my RE-Zeros.  For all their hype, my Zeros rarely get ear time.  The HF5s are everything you've said and a great value as well!
Nice review! Stongly agree with the brain burn-in, I found the bass to be quite anemic aswell but after a while I found it to be adequate.
Yeah agree that it's definitely not a bass heavy IEM.  For me, the seal matters a lot.  Honestly the clarity is incredible.