Etymotic HF3 headset - impressions:
What’s on the plate for today? Etymotic HF3 headset, priced at $79.95.
Can this be the ideal WFH (Work From Home) and Back-to-the-office accessory? Read on to find out...
Package and accessories:
The HF3 headset come along with:
- Fixed 4ft (1.2m) cable with inline remote and microphone, terminated in 3.5mm plug
- Eartips: 2 silicone pairs (1 pre-installed) and 1 pair of foam tips
- Filter removal tool and 2 spare filters
- Zippered case
- Shirt clip
- Paper manual
The cable looks and feels like the MK5 cable, other than the addition of inline remote and mic.
It is quite microphonic, but attaching it to your shirt with the included clip can help. Pulling up the chin slider helps, too.
In testing out the HF3, I used my Windows 10 Dell XPS laptop and my Samsung S10e phone as sources. In both cases, no additional DAC / Amp used, but rather connecting the HF3 directly to the 2 source devices.
Build Quality, Fit and Comfort:
The HF3 looks and feel just like the MK5, which is a step down from the ER4/ER3/ER2 IEMs.
Just like the MK5, the cable is fixed and the IEM shells are made of plastic.
The fit in the ears is the same for them all (ER2, ER3, ER4, MK5 and HF3). So, if you have no issues with the deep insertion – you’re good to go.
The way I see it – the HF3 being a headset (as opposed to earbuds) due to inline mic, should be tested mostly as a headset. In order to address its performance for music, I will just say that to my ears – resolution / detail retrieval is on par with the MK5 (and a step down from the ER3SE / ER3XR).
OK, now that we got the music performance aspect out of the way – how does it perform as a headset? This is a very timely question. Whether you work from home (WFH) or getting back to work from the office – you need a solution for Zoom (or “traditional”) calls… The HF3 work really well for that use case! The HF3 headset has impedance of 16 ohm and sensitivity of 105 dB (1 kHz) at 100mV. What does that mean? HF3 is super easy to drive! No need for any amp. Just plug directly to your phone (if it still has headphone jack) or laptop, and you are good to go.
The HF3 shines at the vocal / speech region of the audio range. I tested by listening to podcasts (both on my computer and phone), and participating in phone calls and Zoom calls. I was told (when comparing back and forth) that the HF3 microphone was comparable to the Samsung S10e built-in microphone. For me, the speech from the podcasts and phone / Zoom calls was significantly easier to understand. Very crisp and clear vocals. Add to that the amazing passive isolation – and you got yourself a winner here! The screaming kids outside – gone! The TV running in the other room – silenced. Those who never used Etymotic IEMs before are in for a treat when it comes to passive noise isolation
Couple small potential caveats:
- When I spoke, I could not hear myself. That is a very strange feeling! Possibly, I can get used to speaking without hearing myself. My solution was to just pull one IEM out when speaking, and insert it back once done talking…
- As mentioned before, the HF3 is very easy to drive due to its sensitivity. The downside of that: if your source is a little noisy – you WILL hear the noise floor. That was my case with the Dell laptop. Mind you it is not a big deal, and only noticeable during times that nobody was speaking on my calls. Once someone speaks – you will not notice the noise floor any longer.
In summary, this is the perfect WFH and return-to-the-office accessory!
- For music: a step down from ER3SE & ER3XR. If you do not need the inline mic – I would strongly recommend the ER3SE or ER3XR instead, for roughly the same price!
- Podcasts & audiobooks: on par with the MK5, and great for that usage.
- Zoom calls: great fit. The speech is super clear, inline mic is good, and totally block the noise from colleagues in the office or your kids / TV / house noises if you WFH.