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Etymotic Research HF5 Portable In-Ear Earphones

  • 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.

Recent Reviews

  1. AReasonableMan
    Great, But Not For Everyone
    Written by AReasonableMan
    Published Aug 19, 2017
    Pros - Great Imaging

    Plenty of Clarity

    Easy To Drive

    Fantastic Isolation
    Cons - Fit Takes Getting Used To

    Even Less Bass Than HD600s


    Narrow Soundstage

    Be Prepared To Buy More Foam Tips
    I used these everyday for almost a year, until I lost them. They're the best IEMs I've heard, but they are far from perfect. The most glaring issues are the fit, and the lack of bass. Once fitted properly, and using the right tips, isolation is incredible. I've almost been hit by cars multiple times walking around with these in. Again, once fitted properly, the bass is very high quality, but there just isn't enough of it to listen to hip-hop, or EDM. The mids are very uncolored an clear. The treble takes center stage, as it's as clear as I've heard on anything. It manages to do this without being painful. Imaging is almost as good as HD600s, and better depth, but as a result of them going so deep into your ears, the soundstage is very narrow. The cable is pretty noisy, but if you play music you won't notice it. Unfortunately, the foam tubes fit me best, but they fall apart every two weeks.

    To wrap it up, these sound pretty great, but there are quite a lot of compromises. I liked/got used to these enough that I'm on the hunt for a used pair of ER4s.
  2. Vatnos
    Shoving ice cubes in your ears would be warmer
    Written by Vatnos
    Published Oct 19, 2016
    Pros - Detailed, good mids and highs, good cord.
    Cons - Uncomfortable pads, nonexistant bass, questionable pad inserts
    Let's get something out of the way first. There's some debate over whether these are accurate or "reference grade". It seems to me that a lot of people that bought these have done some massive amounts of mental kung-fu to convince themselves that must be what's going on here. From 600 Hz on up, they are very accurate, detailed, snappy, but bordering on sibilant at times. Below 600 Hz though, there is a crater in the frequency curve where the bass would've been in normal headphones. This is most certainly not accurate, and I feel that 'subdued' is not a strong enough term to convey what you're hearing. It's almost nonexistant. The only saving grace is that the pathetic excuse for bass that these have is at least extended nicely to the sub bass, and you can try to save it with an amplifier, but it will never sound as natural as it would if the headphones could do it on their own.
    These are cold headphones. Put an antarctic new spin on all your music. That's not all, because the 3-flange inserts simply won't fit a lot of ear types. The alternatives they include are all bad. I ended up using Klipsch S4 pads to wear these.
    1. Hi-Fi'er
      Even the new SR4 are dull and flat and empty sounding. I had them for a day and had to return them. There is a reason why Etymotic are not very popular on this site when you compare it to other IEM's.
      Hi-Fi'er, Oct 19, 2016
    2. Hi-Fi'er
      Oh and yes they were sibilant also, and a very deep insertion made them uncomfortable for long periods.
      Hi-Fi'er, Oct 19, 2016
    3. FunkeXMix
      I was also surprised about the non-existent bass, I mean, it's pretty much not there. On a EQ scale these are -8 if bass is reduced from 0. max reduction being -10. BUT, they did respond very well with EQ up the bass. That was a big surprise. You will need a good music player app though. Lot's of them introduce distortion when EQ up bass.
      FunkeXMix, May 28, 2018
  3. Gamergtx260
    A very nice "neutral" IEMs
    Written by Gamergtx260
    Published Mar 30, 2016
    Pros - Accuracy, nice mids and highs, Isolation, Accessories
    Cons - Fit, Microphonics, Build quality
    Hello All, 
    This is my second review on Headfi so bear with me on the details :wink:
    I have been owning these "amazing" IEMs for about an year now. My main source of music is on my iphone 5s with flac files ( through VOX music app).
    Let me get right to the point.
    Accuracy: Highly accurate with nice mids and highs, has a really nice sound signature, not too bassy but just right. ( If you feel the bass isn't enough, you may have to somehow find the right fit for you and of course if you reading on this IEMs you are not a bass-head )
    Isolation : Really good with the triple flanged buds
    Accessories: a lot of included ear buds but I think the triple flanged worked well for me.
    And of course the sound :)
    Fit - Man o man it hurts like hell doesn't it. But my ears were getting better after a couple of weeks
    Microphonics - Very bad but can be avoided using the included clip
    Build quality - Sub par, not really happy for the price I paid
    Sound Quality:
    Lows: Has a very tight low end. For many the bass could not be enough but I find it "just right" with the triple flanged buds.
    Mids: Very nice mids (I keep HD 600s as my baseline)+
    Highs: really good highs too (Not bright, fatiguing, just right)
    Sound stage/Resolution : I find the soundstage a bit narrow maybe even narrower than HD600s. The sound also seem to be a bit conjested with complex/fast music.
    Most people find difficulty with the triple flanged buds and when using the other or custom made buds the sound could be different. My personal opinion is this IEM sounds great "only" with the triple flanged buds. I used the other included tips and found them to be bass light, but its perfect with the triple flanged tips. 
    Despite the cons this IEMs has more pros which make them a worthy purchase.
    I wrote this review in a very fast manner, please leave comments or questions if you have any. Much appreciated.
    Thank you :)
    1. View previous replies...
    2. dieseldriver200
      Surely, I currently have 4PT, HF3, and HF2. I use the 4PT and AK120II along with New ALO RX and use it exclusively whenever I can to listen to high fidelity.
      I use the HF3 and HF2 with iPhone 5S and Cowon Z2. 
      I use the Ety's almost exclusively and hardly use the Grado 10e, it's that good. I highly recommend it. Only caveat is that the 4PT does not have a microphone which is a good thing; just nice sound. Dynamics are awesome on the 4PT and I really like this IEM a lot, and it's my first choice if I need to carry around a potable audiophile set up. Hope this helps.
      dieseldriver200, Mar 31, 2016
    3. Gamergtx260
      @dieseldriver200 Ah thank you :) I'm a bit lost with the variants, 4PT, 4P, 4S..? the difference?
      Gamergtx260, Mar 31, 2016
    4. dieseldriver200
      Not sure with "P" and "S" --- I have the Etymotics 4PT, it's the one with each channel wire pair that's braided and it comes with a hard case. It retails for $300 USD but you can get lower than that. But that's the one I use. If you like dynamic but neutral without adding too much color to the sound, I would definitely give it a try. I have Grado 10e also which was more expensive than the Ety but although the sound is much clearer, it's characteristics variates more depending on the genre of music. Also, it just sound less dynamic than the Ety 4PT -- so on the go, 4PT is my favorite and even listening to music working chores around the house.
      dieseldriver200, Mar 31, 2016
  4. Chiek
    A cyclist's best companion.
    Written by Chiek
    Published May 31, 2015
    Pros - design for snug fit in ear canal, excellent audio qualities, superb isolation
    Cons - No remote control
    Love them. First and foremost, the audio is excellent for acoustic music. Secondly, the isolation is superb. Who needs noise canceling when you have these?. 3rdly, the are perfect for me when I am cycling with my helmut on. Training on bicycle has never been more fun since I found you.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Chiek
      Actually I prefer Sony ex650 now because of its slightly richer bass. Yes it is dangerous if traffic conditions are bad because cars don't care about cyclist. The noise isolation is outstanding with Etymotic. Still my fav for classical music.
      Chiek, Jun 25, 2015
    3. Chiek
      Always wear a helmet even in cyclist friendly countries like Norway.
      Chiek, Jun 25, 2015
    4. Chiek
      Good for mountain biking in the forests when traffic is not a concern. I do that a lot. 
      Chiek, Jul 1, 2015
  5. LostArk
    Written by LostArk
    Published Nov 29, 2014
    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.

    1. View previous replies...
    2. TheDreamthinker
      Needless to say that for Etymotic IEMs, there is no 'right' insertion. Just shove them as deeply up your ear-canal as possible and you should usually be fine. 
      Should you still feel pain after about 4 days and cannot adapt to them, you are out of luck.
      TheDreamthinker, Nov 30, 2014
    3. LostArk
      I edited my review to include a photo of my custom silicone tips by ACS. Not sure why there are multiple comments with remarks about how to insert the earphones after I stated that I had custom sleeves, however potential buyers should know that the reason I have custom sleeves is because I bought into the "need a good seal" hype. NOPE. I stand by my review.
      LostArk, Dec 3, 2014
    4. Gangrenator
      Good seal or not, those don't look like they go in nearly as deep as the triple flanged tips. Sounds to me like they benefit greatly from burn-in as well. Did you try the triple flanged tips? They isolate so much sound I don't see how they could be much worse, and a deeper insert might help.
      I'll probably get HF5's eventually, but I think I might get GR07 Bass Edition's for in ear phones first, I might need something more forgiving of source material as a main portable ear phone.
      Gangrenator, Feb 8, 2015
  6. fluffyberry
    lots of punch in a small body
    Written by fluffyberry
    Published Jun 11, 2014
    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
    1. View previous replies...
    2. GearMe
      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!
      GearMe, Jun 11, 2014
    3. KorkiPoo
      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.
      KorkiPoo, Jun 11, 2014
    4. GearMe
      Yeah agree that it's definitely not a bass heavy IEM.  For me, the seal matters a lot.  Honestly the clarity is incredible.
      GearMe, Jun 11, 2014
  7. countolaf
    Very Good Neutral Headphone for the Price
    Written by countolaf
    Published Jan 8, 2014
    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/
  8. luisdent
    Smooth and accurate
    Written by luisdent
    Published Jan 7, 2013
    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:
  9. cocolinho
    Very good IEM
    Written by cocolinho
    Published Nov 11, 2012
    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!
  10. logansax
    Awesome IEM's
    Written by logansax
    Published Jul 11, 2012
    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. 
    1. davidsdiego
      Nice review! Which Grados were you comparing them to? I'm considering getting these or the Klipsch Image X10.
      davidsdiego, Feb 28, 2013


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