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Help with an Etymotic HF3 issue

  1. atwilson
    Newbie here, and I apologize if this isn't the right place to post this, but I've got a new pair of HF3s (about 40 hours of burn-in on them at this point) and I've noticed some buzzing/light distortion when they encounter bass (and higher sounds) in certain songs.
    The volume on my iPad (all I have inbetween iPhones) is under 50% (and I'll hear it down around 10% too), it will happen on several songs regardless of the EQ (which is often off), and it's occuring on tracks that are 256kbps. These things have never been above mid-level volume.
    An example is Coldplay's "Lost!" track - in the fadeout where it's just the keyboard/, after each time it's played, I'll get a slight constant buzzing sound like the earphones are blown, or are just cheap. I alternate between the foam buds, the gliders, and the tri-flange tips, and I'm getting a good seal (deaf to the outside world with overall good sound).
    The same thing happens on other tracks which are a good bit "bassier" (e.g., "Daylight Dies" by Killswitch Engage). I know Etys aren't known for thumping bass, and I'm OK with that, but it's quite another thing to not even be able to properly play it.
    Given their stellar reputation, I'm assuming I'm doing something wrong, or I've got a bad set. Ideas?
  2. Nagasaki_Kid
    download some frequency sweep mp3 20 - 20000hz
      test if earphone reproduce buzz then report back
    It could be:
    1. you need a new filter
    2. the ety are revealing a flaw in the recording that you couldn't detect with other earphones
    3. the hf3 are actually defective
  3. lazuline
    Just tried the Coldplay track in FLAC with my HF2. There is some "pink noise" type sound at the end of the track when the keyboard is fading out.
    Is the problem on both L and R? If so, it might just be your source... I find it hard to believe 2 bad drivers could make it past quality control.
    and here's a link for the sweep

  4. atwilson
    Thank you for your help!

    I just put in new filters. Could be a flaw in the recording...? It's doing the same thing when played through the Etys on my MacBook through iTunes (flat EQ). 


    For the "Lost!" track, it vacillates between the right and left side. However, I just tried it on the "Lost?" track (last one) and it happens again at the beginning, only when the piano is played (not in-between hits/strokes). It's definitely more of a distortion than steady pink noise, and it seems like it's predominately in the left earphone on that track. 
    I went through all the frequency sweeps and they check out wonderfully. One question there, though - have you listening to the "heavy drum" track with your Etys? When I did is just sounded dirty. Is it supposed to be that way? I know Etys don't have thumping bass as their forte, but that just sounds ugly. 
    So, back to it, seems like the left driver is bad if it's distorting on a low-medium volume playback of a 256kbps track that (at that point) is just piano and some singing, and I've got new filters, a tight seal, and it passed frequency tests. Does that sound right? Bummer if so. If not, it doesn't seem right that a track (from Coldplay) is supposed to have that distortion (from a piano), or that HF3s can't handle Coldplay on a flat EQ (playing from my laptop - MacBook - now). But on so many other tracks (classical, vocal, acoustic) it's just breathtakingly clear and gorgeous.
  5. tinyman392
    I think you are having driver issues (I doubt it's a fit issue, but could be).  I'd contact Etymotic customer service about it.
  6. ronrad


    I have a pair of HF3s and I purchased a pair of HF2s as well.  I just returned the HF2s to be replaced for exactly the same issue in one driver.  Initially with my HF3s during burn in I had a similar issue that ended up being fixed by swapping filters.    On the new ones no dice.  When I contacted Ety they said it was likely a driver issue, so I shipped them off to them . Haven't seen the new ones yet.  I still have the HF3s as well, so I was able to a/b them and tell for certain it was not in the source.
  7. Nagasaki_Kid
    You'd be surprised at how bad some "professional" recording are. If it doesn't distort through frequency sweeps usually there's nothing wrong with your earphone.
    etymotic research usually does have really good quality control, but you're not going to get the same level of quality control as with their er4.
  8. atwilson


     Thanks for the feedback. I'm gonna continue burn in with these and see if it gets better. Are there some quality tracks with bass you'd recommend?
    Also - If I'm listening to tracks with heavier bass (think metal), should the Etys distort or sound muddy? Or should the bass just be clean and controlled? Or, does it largely depend on the mix?
    Thanks again for all your help!
  9. tinyman392


    If bad equipment/mastering was done to the metal music, then yes, the Etys will play that for you (they have a high garbage in = garbage out ratio).  If good equipment with a skilled editor edited the music, then it should be clean and controlled.
  10. LJH01
    I just listened to that track off of Itunes at 256K and I heard nothing weird on my HF5's.  I have found a few tracks where it is obvious that the recording is of low quality and the Ety's make that very clear.  I am guessing I have some 200 hours on my HF5's and I am loving them, I am using a Iphone 4 as a source and have recently added a JDS Cmoy amp to the mix.  I am really happy with my HF5's.  I am thinking something is wrong with your phones.
  11. ronrad

    Also, I have noticed that the HF3s respond to too much bass eq by distorting as the OP describes in this thread, sooner, and more so than my UMs and ESW10jpns.  So, you do have to be careful with how much bass boost you kick into them.
  12. atwilson


    The HF3s have had a lot more burn-in and they're significantly improving, glad to report. Gonna give it some more time before I call Etymotic and see if there is a driver issue. Crossing my fingers...
    LHJ01 - how has the JDS Cmoy been working with the HF5s? What's it done to how the bass sounds? I'm debating between an FiiO 5 or 7 and a JDS Cmoy to try an give a little more "oomph" in that arena. 
  13. johnny5dm
    If the sound you're hearing at the end of "Lost" goes back and forth between left and right, that's an overdriven Hammond organ.  The "fuzz" or "pink noise" you're hearing is the distortion from the organ - it's supposed to sound like that.  They use a real organ, not a keyboard, so it's not perfectly "clean", but it does have character!  Musicians get snobby about using vintage instruments, so sometimes they "prove" that they're using the real thing by leaving some of the dirtier sound in.  
    I do, however, hear some of the distortion on "Lost?" on the piano at the beginning, both on HF3's and on Sennheiser HD280's.  That's probably clipping in the recording/mastering, since I'm not getting any distortion from a frequency generator on my iPod, but it is there.

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