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Etymotic Research HF5 Portable In-Ear Earphones (Cobalt)

75% Positive Reviews
Rated #179 in Universal Fit


Pros: Hmm...

Cons: No bass, shrill mids and highs, microphonics

The Etymotic HF5 suffers from a marked lack of bass. It might not be immediately apparent to many listeners, as the majority of pop songs produced in the last 5-10 years reproduce the “sound” of bass in the midrange so that listeners will “hear” bass through virtually any speakers. A good example of this type of “bass” is Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What.” (don’t worry, that song has plenty of “real” bass, too)

However, after listening to “Turn Down for What” on the HF5, then listening to a song where the baseline doesn’t bleed into the midrange, such as “Beastie Boys - Check It Out,” it is clear that the HF5 is almost inaudible below about 100Hz, and anemic throughout the typical “bass” range (up to 1kHz). Anemic bass makes the HF5 not only unenjoyable for hip-hop, but for virtually any genre; cellos and bass drums sound particularly bad / nonexistent on the HF5. This lack of bass brings forward the HF5’s midrange and treble, which some describe as “analytical,” but that I would describe as thin, shrill, and fatiguing.

The HF5’s cable is extremely thin with terrible microphonics. Isolation isn’t drastically better than any other IEM when used with silicone tips. Build quality is poor.


Pros: relatively flat sound

Cons: lack of lowest and highest extension

Etymotic Research HF5 Review


The hf5 didn't fit well with my ears.  I believe this is due to the long armature shafts and ear tip combo.  Essentially, the sound port needed to be pointing at precisely the direct path of my ears to get a good sound, but this didn't happen with the normal fit position.  This seems to be rare for most, but just something to note.  However, in the "normal" position I would call these comfortable.  I had to push them deeper than normal and angle them awkwardly to get the full sound.  I could tell when they were "just right", and this review is based off of that position, which is most likely what most people hear in the normal fit position.


In terms of sound quality these excel at one major point for their price range... Mid and high accuracy.  I found these to be very smooth and relatively flat in the mid to high areas.  They presented a nice soundstage and good instrument details and separation.  They were not sibilant, they were not fatiguing. Everything sounded great.  The only areas I felt they lacked were the extreme high frequencies, which were rolled off and didn't extend to the highest ability, say 17k and up, and the bass extension as well wasn't as long as some.  Even more though was the bass "level" was pretty low.  This was even the case with a proper positioning to get the full sound as well as the comply foam tips.  This appears to be one of the commonly reviewed points of this set.


However, with that said, if you want a relatively flat response and don't mind a lower bass and lack of the true "airy-ness" in the treble, these present a very coherent and enjoyable sound.  I think the main difficulty is that they would really need another armature to cover the full frequency range better.  However, that would also bump up the price.  For $99 these are one of the more accurate and least "veiled" sets I've heard.


So bass-heads leave now. :-P  Treble and mid lovers you can stay.  These excel at soft genres and classical where they show the depth and space of a song.  Overall a very good sound quality value.  I'd be interested to hear etymotics higher end phones after hearing these, but alas, I believe the fit would be the same for me.


The case is a good size, and while soft is fairly protective.  They come with a reasonable assortment of tips from tri-flange to mushroom shaped foam tips and cylindrical foam tips.  I found the mushroom to be the best overall, but the tri-flange provide the easiest/quickest use and longest life.  There is a shirt clip and a filter changing tool with replacement filters.


The thing I like about the case is that it provides enough space to wrap and store the cable without coiling it too tightly and risking cable damage.  The cable seems reasonably durable though, and feels nice in the hands.  The connector has a very nice 45 degree angle molding and feels great and connects easily to devices.


Overall, I find these to be a great value if you're looking to get into the higher quality sound of the "affordable" IEM world.  Take a trip over to my youtube channel for a video review:






Pros: accurate yet analytical sound

Cons: microphonics, stock tips

...got everything else wrong. Take this mini-review with a grain of salt because YMMV with these IEMs. You may even get a great fit with comfort, but I didn't.

Tried all the tips. The gliders don't stay. The foams are itchy. The grey flanges are itchy and too big. The only one that works are the stock small flanges. They fit well and isolate well, BUT they are uncomfortable as HELL. I am considering upgrading to the custom tips or even buying some other tips, however I've seen users whose HF5's broke due to using other tips, so be careful.

The sound is great. When doing an A/B comparison to the EX600, I found that the HF5 has a higher resolution sound and weaker bass. The BA driver is much quicker than the dynamic driver, one is not better than the other IMO. The soundstage is much much smaller than the EX600.

Oh and they're exceptionally microphonic, can be worn over the ear though. But it doesn't fit as well as the EX600 which was designed for over the ear wearing.


Pros: amazing highs and mids, looks stylish, blocks lot of noise

Cons: Lacks in bass, take some time to get used to

These are a great pair of earphones for the price! Highs are detailed, airy, with no sibilance. Mids are superb, detailed. Overall they sound very neutral, but lacks in bass. It took me some time to get used to the triple flange tips, but after they were very comfortable. The quality is good, I am using it around 1-2 hours a day for almost 3 months, and I haven't had any problems with them.

If bass is not important for you, these earphones are one of the best you can get.

Etymotic Research HF5 Portable In-Ear Earphones (Cobalt)

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 3.5 mm plug. Included in the package: In-ear earphones; assorted eartips for your comfort; filter changing tool with filters; carrying pouch.

BrandEtymotic Research
ColorCobalt Blue
Feature4-foot cable
Height6.75 inches
Length3.75 inches
Weight0.25 pounds
Width2 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 (Cobalt)
Batteries Included0
Hardware PlatformPc
Is Autographed0
Is Memorabilia0
Operating SystemWindows
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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