Etymotic Research HF3 - Reviews
Pros: Very good sound, iPhone integration,
Cons: supplied ear tips never really fit right. Awareness software isnt prefected.
Great in ear headset. Very happy with the sound qualities and isolation out of the box. The supplied ear tips worked somewhat well but given my odd shaped ears I couldn't get a great fit and the comfort was ok but not great. Once I got custom molds done and back they made a worlds of difference.
Works well with the iPhone and Awareness software works if you set it up and are in a somewhat constant background environment. (To be honest the jury is still out o the software) Phone calls are crisp and isolation from background noise works better then expected.
Overall very happy with them and use them at least every other day.
Pros: Sound, isolation, sound, durability, sound, looks, value, sound.....
Cons: What cons??
As I am still a bit of a noob, don't expect everything I say to be absolutely, 100% correct. I ordered the HF5's on Amazon for 99 a while back, and they arrived just last week.
Wonderfully classy and subtle design. Too many headphones out there are either boring and ugly, or garish and vulgar. The Hf's are fortunately neither of those. Looks great, but you won't see much of it anyway when they're in your ears.
Fit and Finish:
Top notch, as one would expect from Etymotic. They've spray painted the body with a matte-type finish, and it feels really, really nice. Cable is kevlar reinforced (or so I've heard) and feels really durable. For extra peace of mind, Etymotic does have a two year warranty with these, so no worries there.
Because of the deep form-factor, these do take some getting used to. I started using the small triple-flanges, and they hurt, so I moved to the larger ones. They were ok, but started causing itches 30 minutes in. I looked past both foamies, as multiple reviews told me they wouldn't last for long. So i went back to the small tri-flanges, used them for a while, and gradually, they started to fit better. I can now wear them for a few hours at a time without any discomfort.
Etymotic rates them as 35-42db, and I have no doubt about this. Annoying parents, flight attendants, engine noises, subways, everything was cancelled out. Amazing isolation. A quick word of warning: Don't use these when in busy traffic; if a bus is coming through, and you're wearing these, chances are, you WILL get run over.
They came with 4 different types of tips (2 sizes of tri-flange, Glider, and large foamies), instructions and stuff, a nice, pleather pouch, and some extra replacement filters and the tool that is used to replace them. I was fairly pleased with the accessories that came with these.
With the shirt clip on, I didn't feel anything. Without the shirt clip, the microphonics were noticable, but nothing too annoying.
The most important factor of a great headphone, and fortunately, these surpassed my expectations, by a LOT. (Side note: if the fit isn't airtight, sound quality is ruined. It becomes all highs, and nothing else.)
Since I was coming from Dre's POS, I was in for a shock. Used to muddy and bloated low-ends, imagine my feelings when I was greeted with a tight, precise, and extremely cohesive bass with relatively good extension and impact. Though it is true that the quantity of bass in this earphone doesn't match some dynamic driver-IEM, I can say that the Hf5's bass response is very well articulated and detailed. Extremely accurate or neutral is what I would describe the bass as. Bass bleed was nonexistent.
Vocals came through with ultimate intelligibility, and were super clean and crisp. Singers did tend to sound a bit "soulless", with an inclination to sound technically perfect, but with a hint of coldness. The detail retrieval and utter transparency of these earphones simply stagger me. Again with the bass, the mids on the Hf5's blew me away with it's absolute accuracy and control.
As many others have said, the highs on these depends on the bit rate or source. Throw in some 128kpbs mp3's and the highs will sound sibiliant and harsh. Any compression flaws or unnecessary artifacts will be heard loud and clear. However, with well-mastered, high-bit rate songs, the highs on the Hf5's start to come good. Every cymbal crash, hi-hat and guitar solo came through with an utter sense of neutrality and cohesion. If you're used to a more warm and laid-back treble, the Etymotics will re-educate you.
   Soundstage/imaging/instrument seperation:
Soundstage is wide, but has only average depth. The good thing is that this presentation suits their natural and extremely cohesive sound signature. A large, Shure-like soundstage would be of no benefit to the Hf's. As such, the Hf's don't have quite a sonically three dimensional sound, the sort you would get from a high-end Westone or Shure. Instrument seperation, on the other hand, is second-to-none. Every single instrument and beat, could be clearly picked out, as well as differences between fore/background instruments. Fantastic stuff. What I like about this earphone is that it combines the "fun" and more musical sound of something like a Monster Turbine, and the exquisite detail and analytical sound that you would normally get from a BA IEM. Like most others, I would call the sound signature of the Hf5 cold, and occasionally bright (though that depends on the source).
For 99, it's an absolute steal. For 199, it would still be tremendously good value, given it's utterly brilliant sound and isolation. Even if they were 299, I would probably still fork out the money for these.
This IEM has everything I would expect a brilliant IEM to possess: Clear, detailed sound; remarkable isolation; great build and finish; good accessories, and ultimate value. Etymotic has clearly put a lot of work into this headphone, and it shows.
(I'll try to post pics when I can)
Nice review man, I was thinking about getting these and this review has deffinently made me want them!
Pros: Good audio quality and isolation
Cons: Feels like it's tickling your brain
These are deep seated IEMs like all the others in Etymotic's range. Personally I would place them around the ER6i, and well under the ER4P in audio terms.
The only problem is that the tips, like all Ety's stuff for me, make my ears sore. It's bearable, but I can usually only listen to an album or two before I want to take them out. It's an acceptable payoff, but it means these are "sometimes" headphones that are exclusively for when I'm using the phone and where isolation isn't going to be dangerous; although that said, Ety have an app which feeds in background noise over a settable threshold.
Definitely a great earphone. For comparison sake I also own the LCD-2R2 and the Etymotic MC3.
These are very neutral and bordering on bass light. The bass is definitely there and it is very detailed but it lacks the punch due to the small driver size and the limited amount of air it can move. They will definitely be for someone who likes an analytic sound rather than a colored sound.
The mids and highs are very detailed. The sound is not tiring but I would not say it is laid back.
There is definitely some microphonics.
With universal IEMs everyone will have a different experience. However, I absolutely love the small triple flanges. They seal as well as the large ones for me but are very comfortable. I can often forget I have them in my ears. Although it must be said that it took a few days before I became accustomed to the fit. They definitely go quite deep into the ear.
The drivers themselves are very light.
The cable is quite stiff, and slightly thin. It seems sturdy though and apparently is teflon reinforced. The stiff nature of the cable makes it somewhat difficult to wear over the ear.
I quite like the classic look of the Etymotic driver enclosure. It has a metallic look paint on the plastic housings. 
They are definitely worth the money.
I have easily over 1000 hours on the hf3's with the ACS custom molded plugs. It took about a month to get them once the ear molds were sent in. Better bass, but still lite. Much better sound isolation. Very comfortable for long hours (I drive a lot and have several days per week with them in for 6+ hours per day) $100 extra for the custom molds. Highly recommended.
Pros: very detailed mids, clear highs, great instruments separation, good punchy bass...
Cons: highs are not very extended, cold sounding.
The Etymotic HF3 are surprisingly detailed in mids with good punchy bass( due to the tight seal no need of heavy deep bass like JVC FX700,  Sennheiser IE8) and highs are crisp, clear. The istrument separation, imaging is very good on these and they sound very good with instumental music like Jazz, pop, Country but they are little cold sounding.
Pros: Great sound & isolation with reasonable comfort
Cons: Hard to find in stores, buttons, cord is a bit too long
After being disappointed by the Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic, I decided to explore a set from a well-regarded company in the audio world. I had to pick something with Apple's in-line iPhone controls that could get good isolation and fit. Those were my complaints with the Apple product. The HF3 seemed to be well designed, and more importantly, they offered a custom-fit program at a very reasonable price.
The first problem was tracking the product down in a store. Etymotic lists the Apple Store, London Drugs, and Carbon Computing as the only authorized Canadian dealers. Not a lot to choose from there. Several attempts to get the HF3 from Carbon were a no-go. So I tried the Apple online store: success! I've noted that since I purchased these (not long ago) Apple has removed all Etymotic (and many other hi-fi products) from their online store. Oh well.
I initially used the foam tips because none of the others would get a good seal on my ear canals. They were all too small or too loose. There is a nice selection of tips in there but only the foam would work for me. Too bad it's very rough and although it isolates very well, it's just not comfortable after a couple of hours.
Next, I went to the Etymotic-authorized audiologist and sent away for my custom tips. When they arrived less than two weeks later I could not believe the difference! What a revelation! Forget headphone amps and expensive DACs, custom fit tips are the breakthrough audio product of the century. Absolutely perfect fit and isolation. The bass response was tremendously improved, too. It's like getting an IV of music straight into your brain! And only an extra $115 for the appointment/shipping/tips! That's less than a trip to the dentist. The sound is highly detailed and rich. No complaints there at all.
Now, I must admit that you do get a pressurized or 'airplane' feeling in your ears when you have these in for too long. It's not bad at all, but you will notice it. Also, be patient with the insertion/removal process. It's similar to getting used to contact lenses. Other downsides: the cord is a bit too long and gets in the way (compared to the Apple cord). Also the volume/clicker buttons are very small and all the same size. It's hard to tell, by feel, which is which unless you touch them in sequence. I can't comment on reliability yet, for I've had them for just a few weeks.
In the end, it's been well-worth the hassle of tracking these things done and getting the ear impressions made. Thank you, Etymotic, for getting this custom tip program priced down into the range of mere mortals like myself.
Highly recommended.
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Pros: Amazing Isolation, Great Sound Quality, Great Mids
Cons: Uncomfortable Ear Tips, If your not going to use these as a portable solution look elsewhere (for the price)
To keep things short:
These headphones are a step up from everything else that I have owned. The isolation is great (better than my Shure's) and I LOVE the sound signature. Like my previous headphones, I heard more detail in my music than I did before. For $180, you would expect these headphones to be perfect however the only complaint I have with them is the earbuds they come with are uncomfortable. While you are able to get custom earbuds made, it is difficult to get my ears molded where I live. Other than the uncomfortable buds that I will most likely get used to, the headphones have exceeded my expectations.
UPDATE 6/12/2011: I have tried different tips and I take back what I said about the comfort of these headphones. The foam tips are VERY comfortable and I able to listen for hours without experiencing discomfort. Also, I am taking half a star off for the weak lows which while I am nowhere near being a bass head, its just not powerful enough. I am however adding a half star to the value after learning that you could get these at amazon for $115 (Surprisingly $180 for the blue ones). I will continue to update my review.
UPDATE 9/19/2011: I have gotten used to the headphones and to my surprise the headphones drivers now started to produce a nice "thump" whenever I listen to dubstep. I am not making the audio quality a 5 star rating because I have noticed that the a singers vocals tend to sound "dry." There's not enough "fullness" to their voices. Still these headphones still provide amazing isolation and I will soon get the Shure Olives because the foam tips that these headphones came with are a little uncomfortable and I remember the tips on the Shure 115's being MUCH better.
Thanks for your review! If you are interested in obtaining custom sleeves for your hf3, shoot me an email at with your location and I'll see if I can help locate a provider for you.
Pros: Superb balancing, nice soundstage, clarity, outstanding customer service
Cons: wish I would have gotten the custom tips
When considering the wide range of IEMs out there I was fairly perplexed when it came to making a decision, it's the classic "headfiier's dilemma." Nobody wants to miss out. I've owned a number of headphones and the HF3s are your best bet for outstanding IEMs under $200, not to mention their customer service is unbelievably helpful (especially you Charlene!). 
Bass/Fit: There are a lot of reviews saying the Etymotics aren't great at the low end response--it seems they should try other tips to find a better seal. I found the HF3 response very flat (with an almost Grado-like sound signature) that's light and fun to listen to. I've had UE TF-10s (reshelled) and their identical mate the MAudio IE40 which are both considered bass heavy but the HF3's punch and clarity were outstanding. I can vouch that the low-end response increases a bit after burning them in (I use a standard burn-in cd). My only regret is that I didn't snag some of their custom fit tips. I love them with my little iBasso T4 amp even though they also sound nice straight from the ipod (or blackberry in my constantly "on the go" case). The headphone wire is great, I don't know what they did but it doesnt tangle like some of the other cables out there. I do the 3 finger coil wrap and they never get twisted or knotted. The outter shell of the wire is very durable and light. They don't weigh anything and I forget sometimes I have them in. 
Value: I'm a believer in Etymotic. I was a bit skeptical but the comfort and accuracy (with ipod button convenience) won me over instantly. I listen to a wide range of music (and different cans) and have never been taken by surprise--the HF3s are brilliant sounding and don't have that "tiring" effect some IEMs listen to them for a bit and have to stop or change headphones...not the case with HF3. I'd really be curious to see what Etymotic's top end custom fit IEMs sound like...
Bottom line: Fun, accurate, comfortable IEMs that will really blow you away for the price tag. 
Great Review!
Only thing I am curious about is are you able to wear them over the ear even though it has the mic on it?
Pros: excellent clarity and separation
Cons: bass a little weak, treble a bit harsh, but can be eq-ed
At first I was not overly impressed with these Etymotics. They did not blow me away and I didn't think they were that much better than your regular old standard-issue $30 earbuds.
But tonight, I decided to pull them out and give them another shot, this time using a CMOY headphone amp and also some eq-ing to pump up the bass and roll of the highs.
And boy was i surprised at how good they sounded! I mean, wow! Super clear highs and mids, and a much more robust bass than I heard before. I don't know all the fancy lingo and terminology, but I do know that I was having a great time listening to music with these Etymotics. 
Do they sound as good as full-size headphones? No. They're not quite as good as my Grado SR80s or Shure SRH440s....BUT for earbuds, they are pretty darn good. Tomorrow i will try them out in the city with my ipod. i'm curious to see how well they block out external sounds, and also how well the ipod can drive them.
I just need to know whether or not these are "out-of-the-box" capable with an ipod!