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: