103 of 105 people found the following review helpful
I am somewhat of a headphone/earphone junkie. I'm always getting new 'phones, in search of "perfection" and although I can't say I have found personal perfection with the HF3s, they are close.
Before I start on the meat and potatoes of this review, I want to make a statement. A disclaimer, if you will. Sound quality is HIGHLY subjective and what sounds great to one listener, may sound like trash to another. It never ceases to amaze me how different it can be. Now, moving on.
-Sound Quality and Accuracy: These little guys are incredibly detailed and precise, if a bit bright. I am noticing things in my music that I never noticed with my previous earphones (SuperFi 4s, MetroFi 220s, Klipsch S2s, Klipsch S4s, V-Moda Bass Freqs, Multiple Sony EX series, V-Moda Phazes, Phillips SHE9700s, etc., etc., etc.). In fact, on the few songs I have encoded in a lower bitrate (128kbps), it clearly brings out the compression artifact so much that I have since deleted them off my iPod/MP3 player and found higher bitrate replacements.
-Build Quality: Build quality seems to be top notch. There's not much to note in this area, as you either have a solid piece of gear or you don't. These feel as if they will give you years of enjoyment. The cord is of high quality and restrains microphonics (Noise introduced into the ear canal by bumping or moving the cord) nicely. The buds themselves are solid plastic and have sort of a rough texture to them, making them easy to hold and insert/remove.
-Mic Quality: These are effectively the same 'phones as the hf5, but with a mic and iPod control (And are also the same as an hf2, but with a better mic and iPod control). I find the mic to be top quality and use it daily via Skype on my iTouch Second gen with compliments on my clarity. I don't use the cord-mounted iPod controls very much, as I have found, when listening to just music, these 'phones work best with my Sony S639F due to the iTouch's flat bass response (See cons). But the times I did use the controls, they worked perfectly.
-Fit: Etymotic includes 3 different pairs of tips. 2 sets of flanged tips (small and large), a set of "mushroom" tips and a set of foam tips. I have weird ears, so the only ones I could get to work, were the foam tips. But from what I have seen, most people prefer the flange type, although they have to go in the canal pretty deep and feel a bit odd at first.
-Bass Response: Bass response is a bit anemic, although quite accurate. I'm not a bass-head, but to me, the bass could stand to be boosted 3db or so. Don't get me wrong, it's not like some of the Shures with almost non-existant bass, but it could definitely stand to be a bit more pronounced. ESPECIALLY with the iTouch, which is engineered for a flat freq response. I've tried these with the iTouch, a Sandisk Fuze, a Sandisk Clip, and a Sony NWZ-S639F and found the Sony, paired with a Fiio E5 and these HF3s to be the perfect marriage. Clarity with just enough bass to be satisfying and not overpowering.
-Price. These command a premium over the regular hf5's just for the addition of the iPod controls and mic. Had I known I wouldn't be using these for music listening as much on the iTouch, I would probably have bought the hf5's instead. But for those that want an all-in-one solution to use with their iPod/iPhone products, this is a nice upgrade from the hf2's single button controls.
That's about it for the cons. I really love these phones and from what I've read, the transducers in these benefit greatly from burn-in, so I'm sure they'll warm up a bit over time and sound even more impressive. When I'm not actively listening to them, I have them breaking in using an awesome app JLab Audio has on their website. It runs various test tones and white noise to help with break in.
Unless you're a total bass-head concerned more with booming bass than accuracy and clarity, or are not as sensitive to a flat low end frequency response, I can definitely recommend these.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2011
I've been using in-the-ear phones since the first generation iPod. I have owned amongst others; Shure SE2, SE3, SE4, Sennheiser MM50, IE6, Etymotic ER6, ER4, MC3, hf2 and hf3, I also own some standard headphones including the Grado SR80, Sennheiser PX100, HD280 and HD600. I listen to Classical - Solo Piano and Chamber, Opera and Symphonic, Rock, Jazz, Funk, pretty much everything.
I started with the Etymotic ER6, initially blanching at the price of the ER4s!. Then I purchased the ER4s, they are my favorites in-the-ears, time and time I would go back to them having tried others, the neutrality, detail and balance (some say coldness) winning out over inaccuracy, muddle, excess and flab (some say warmth): ok I exaggerate a tad; the Shure SE4's are warmer (but imho feel less accurate) and are certainly not flabby!
Then Etymotic started producing the hf series, presumably cheaper to make than the ER4's, sitting between the ER6s and the ER4s, the discounting on the ER4's disappeared and they went up to their original $299 :0(
I had previous tried the hf2s which I used when I purchased an iPhone 2G, and they were pretty good, but I still went back to the ER4s even without the controls. About 3 months ago I bought the hf3s and though good I was initially disappointed with them when compared to the ER4's, however after about a month I noticed that they opened up and the sound (especially the bass, though still not flabby) improved considerably and detail also improved.
If you cannot get a good in-the-ear fit they will sound anemic and crappy, if you can, you will get superb detailed sound and terrific sound isolation, allowing listening at reasonable levels without disturbing others. After a while you do not notice the cable microphony (that much). I use then roller blading with no microphony issues. And I don't have to hear all that NYC noise around me :0)). I get to listen to clear detailed music at reasonable levels on the subway and even on flights. Some say that separates me from my fellowman, but that's a whole different conversation!
Of course if you can't 'jam' these in your ears, and some people cannot, I'm sorry to say you're doomed to full size phones or 'nearly' in the ear phones, this of course isn't all bad, you still get to listen to music, but the chances are the sound quality isn't comparable and/or the sound isolation most certainly won't be to what the hf3s can really offer.
I had a problem with the MC5s, and could never get them to stay in my ears properly if I was moving, I ended up bruising my inner ear after I jammed and twisted them to get a good fit every time they popped out. This is why I ended up buying the hf3s! So one does have to be careful about sticking these things in one's ears.
But for those of you who can 'jam' them in properly I believe these are the best balance of Value for Money Sound quality and Sound Isolation (and for iPhone, iPad, and (latest) iPod users you get the added device control) on the market, of course if you don't need the controls you get the hf5s and save a few bucks!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2010
Having owned a pair of Ultimate Ears for the iPhone (with inline mic) - which were supposed to be THE definitive headphones at the time - I can honestly say the Etymotics are way superior in almost every respect. Firstly, build quality: no comparison. The Etymotics have a molded, reinforced bend right behind the mini jack, which not only allows them to fit snugly into my iPhone 4 (with a pretty sturdy case around it), I can put the phone into the front pocket of my jeans and never wear the connection down. The Ultimate Ears lasted just over 3 months and they were done. Audio quality: Etymotics again take the prize. Far better treble AND bass response. Noise canceling on the Etymotics is also far better. And while some people may complain that they don't have that migraine inducing BOOM, they sound natural - frequencies well-balanced and probably without peer, in this price range. Comfort: top marks again. The Etymotics come with four different sets of earpieces, which should work perfectly for at least 90% of the humans on this planet. And if you're still not happy, Etymotics will take the mold from your friendly neighborhood audiologist and make you a custom set of earpieces (admittedly at a pretty hefty price). Audio quality on calls: great for incoming BUT, as some reviewers have stated, your outgoing voice signal does seem to be a little softer than optimal. But this is genuinely an extremely minor gripe with what are essentially the best set of 'phones I've owned. And I'm an incredibly picky audiophile. Unless you want to spend another $100-$200, you can't beat the Etymotics.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2010
Alright, so these are my first pair of decent headphones. I was previously rocking a pair of Sony 7506's, but decided to invest in a pair of isolating headphones for use in a dorm.
==First impressions: Packaging was solid and there was no chance it was going to be harmed in the mail. It came with several different ear pieces; personally I liked the small flanges (pictured on Headroom), but there were large flanges and then two foamy ones (tear drop and cylindrical). The foamy ones seemed to be made out of a slightly better material then standard disposable earplugs. There's also replaceable filters (woo!) and a little shirt clip.
==Everything but the sound:
-The cord is pretty flexible and I really appreciate the 45° plug, but I being in ear, when the chord brushes up against something like a collar, the reverberations travel straight up to your ears. It's not horrible, but I would recommend using the included shirt clip if you're going to be bouncing around a lot.
-The remote is pretty ligament -- buttons are nice and responsive and do all the same things as the Apple remote. Gotta say though, Apple's buttons are easier to use. Etymotic's buttons are great (very "clicky", easy to use without looking, rarely accidental double press), but the design is certainly a step down.
-Ascetically wise, these things look sweet. They're not as flashy as some of the other ~$200 in ears, but frankly I prefer this subtle, classy, refined look. Feels like these will last a good long time.
-Comfort. Well, it took me an hour or so to get used to having something shoved so deep into my ear. After a month of heavy use, it seems as if they slip in and out super easy and I can wear them for hours on end without irritation. For the level of isolation, they seem fantastic. That being said, these aren't a padded pair of open back cans.
==Sound: Well, I'm not the best person to ask, but here's my best attempt.
-Volume off of an iPod sounded great. Slider is usually right around the middle for older tracks more dynamic tracks, while new pop songs are in the lower 1/3rd.
-Compared to the Sony MDR 7506s they have a WAY better low end response and everything seems "clearer" in general.
-Listening to "Providence" from King Crimson's Red, every instrument seems to have "it's place". Acoustic tracks from Sleepy Sun's Fever sounded extraordinary - minute reverberations of the strings, tiny reverbs, and the main part was gloriously delivered to me through these headphones.
-The microphone was equally exceptional. I only played around with it using "Voice Notes", but I was thoroughly impressed with it's clarity.
==Conclusion: If you're looking for isolation and a sleek pair of buds that interfaces with iDevices, Etymotic HF3 does a great job.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2011
I love my Ety's. I have tried many noise cancelling headphones (earmuffs) and paid for the privilege (up to $300) but stopped using them because they are either too bulky, or the counter wave that cancels ambient noise is palpable and a little uncomfortable.
On the side of Etymotic is size and frequency response. Not only can I put these into my pocket, with a proper seal in the er canal, I can wear them on a noisy plane or subway with almost all ambient noise blocked out. I hear a full frequency range from my iphone even under those conditions.
Nothing is ever perfect, though. The insertion of Ety earpieces is a bit like minor surgery because they are inserted very deeply into the ear. They MUST be moist or a proper seal does not form in the ear canal. Without a proper seal, these will sound truly bad. Think about it, how will a person moisten these before insertion? Just think about it.
The construction of my HF2 Ety's was a work in progress. A sliding cinch was provided to use the microphone to it's best advantage. This cinch is clever, but with time it shredded the insulating cable of the lanyard. To Etymotic's credit they replaced them (many times) and learned from the design. The most recent HF3 has a kevlar lanyard and a less tight cinch... so we will see. I did need to eventually replace my HF2's because the cord shredded at the point of connection to the 3.5mm plug. Not really a design flaw but a consequence of how I use them. I am a heavy user.
Again - I love my Ety's. They are worth the trouble.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2011
First of all I cannot say enough about the Etymotic company. No, I don't work there, but have called the for help a couple times to get a new case I lost and literally got someone right away and they were incredibly friendly. So point one, I owned a pair of very expensive Bose QC3 before these Etymotics. A friend had a pair of HF2, persuaded me to get a pair and finally did. I cannot tell you how much better I like them than the Bose. Also the HF3 and HF2 have a mic and the volume on a lot of headsets usually are terrible, but these the volume is better than the original mics that come with a smart phone. Quality and clarity of the sound are great! I had the HF2 original for a couple years and lost them at an airport. I had to get another pair and went for the HF3 of course. Love the volume buttons!! Makes my life so much easier with the volumen buttons on my iPhone and 6th Gen Nano; especially the Nano since that is so small and when running, forget about it, the HF3 are worth the convenience to adjust volume. Some other points why I love the HF3 compared to say Bose QC3;
1) No battery to charge (YES!),
2) small and compact vs big case for QC3,
3) can wear in ears while sleeping at night in hotel, forget it with the QC3,
4) variety of ear buds that will fit the majority,
5) cuts our way more noise than the QC3 (Yeah, I know, hard to believe, but I was blown away. I can use less volume on flights now compared to the QC3 and that means less damage to my ears.),
6) more comfortable on long flights, the QC3 burn my ears after an hour and start getting uncomfortable.
I cannot tell you enough good things about these headsets. Ah wait, one more. The wiring for the HF3 (And HF2 for that matter) are some how made a little special. What I mean is I roll up the wires every day to put them in the little pillow like case, but when I take them out I just grab an end and shake it, it completely unravels without tangling...AMAZING. I know the price is high, but for the money it is less than half of what the Bose QC3 or QC2 cost and I think there are more positive points for these awesome headsets than the Bose. Don't go by my opinion, go and try a pair out, you will be impressed.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2012
I've been through countless pairs of headphones, wearing them to and from work every day. These not only sound great, but also do a great job of keeping the NYC subways out of my head during morning commutes. The cables rarely get tangled, and the different ear flanges help ensure a great fit.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2011
First of all, the HF3 is simply the iPhone/iPod/iPad-control enabled sibling of the highly-regarded Etymotic HF5, for which you can find numerous glowing reviews around the web. So to get a good sense of the sonic characteristics of these headphones, please read around a bit on the HF5.
Second, these are headphones based on balanced armature technology, so they probably won't change character as you burn them in (although debate on this still rages on audiophile forums). What will happen, though, is that you will become more adept at obtaining a good insertion, and insertion is the name of the game when it comes to these headphones. If you've done your research, you already know that Etymotic headphones need to be plunged deep into the ear canal so as form a proper seal, otherwise bass frequencies will be absent. But how deep, exactly?
In my case, I found that I could obtain a seal that ensured good bass response rather easily from a not-so-deep insertion (the Sensaphonics seal test is quite helpful for this). The sound was pretty good, but I was missing that legendary treble clarity all the reviews tend to highlight. It took a leap of faith and what seemed at first an unholy thing to do to one's ear canals to get these headphones to really show up to the party. Basically, almost the entire barrel of the driver needs to disappear behind the tragus of my ear. This is a little uncomfortable (I'm using the gray triple-flanges) and unsettling at first, but one rapidly gets used to it.
Etymotic headphones have been accused of having "anemic" bass, which might lead one to think that they aren't good for dance music or hip-hop. In fact, the HF3 excels with all the bass-heavy tracks I've thrown at it, from Jay-Z and Wu-Tang Clan to Shackleton. The bass is deep, controlled and highly detailed. Shackleton's 'Blood On My Hands', a song that features low, rumbling bass, sounds simply outstanding on these. Perhaps it's the quality of the bass and not the quantity that matters.
The midrange has a pleasing warmth to it that makes guitars sound particularly good. This is the main reason why I'd choose the HF3s over the Hifiman RE0, a fantastic set of headphones that are quite similar in sound. The RE0, while being highly detailed, tended to make distorted guitars sound 'cool', somewhat like synths. With the HF3s, distorted guitars really growl. Marc Ribot's solo on Tom Waits' 'Cold Water' is conveyed in its full amp-melting ferocity. The warmth in the midrange lends itself really well to jazz recordings. I really loved how John Coltrane's Favorite Things and Miles Davis's Bitches Brew sound on these.
The treble is amazingly detailed, at least as much as the Hifiman RE0, but improves on the latter by being even less prone to sibilance (the harsh sound that occurs when headphones emphasize the frequencies corresponding to cymbals and the S sound in speech). The result is that you can listen to these pretty much indefinitely without experiencing the fatigue that can result from harsh treble. For this reason, I actually prefer them to my Grado SR80s, the headphones that got me into this mess of shopping for audiophile-grade stuff in the first place.
I've only had them for a week, but the build quality seems quite good. The cable looks like it's of high quality (apparently it is kevlar-reinforced) and the strain reliefs are pretty solid. At the current price, they are a steal. Highly recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2011
The Etymotic Er-4p (and hf2/hf3/hf5) is not designed for house music, or any type of bass heavy music. These headphones also don't do sound blending like a lot of other headphones/canalphones. Rather this canalphone series is designed for sound clarity and sound separation. If you like bass heavy, sound blending phones, try just about every other headphone/canalphone out there today, from low-end cheap headphones to bose headphones to sony canalphones. Sound clarity and sound separation are two areas few people care about, and that gives these canalphones a bad rap, especially since the bass response on these are so low and the sound separation sounds almost artificial to some folks.
To me, though, nothing could be more important. I feel bass response from these canalphones, just not over-whelming. For the kind of music I like, overwhelming bass is the last thing on my mind. I'd rather have bass that complements and evenly enhances the overall sound. And as for the sound blending...that's what our brains are designed to do. Our brains process the sound vibrations felt by our ears. I don't need the headphones/canalphones to sound blend for me thank you very much. With clearer sound separation, you can more easily focus on particular sounds in a recording, and that's more similar to the real world, where you can focus your hearing on a particular person's voice when there are other voices speaking at the same time. You brain does the work it was meant to, and the Ety's just make sure everything is clear enough so you can. This isn't to say that other headphones/canalphones over-blend. Sometimes, pre-blending adds warmth to the overall sound, and some headphones have come up with great compromises between sound separation and sound blending. But for me, this kind of clarity is heaven.
As for fit....I don't like ety's foam tips, and despise the silicone tips as they hurt after several hours. So instead, I'd recommend N1 Comply foam tips. Much higher quality, very soft, creates a great seal and they can sit in your ears for hours on end.
The microphone on the hf2/hf3, tho, leaves a little to be desired. I realize there's a chip processing sound and trying to get the best sound across, but that filtering process decreases sound volume quite a bit.
Still, I wouldn't trade my Ety hf2's for anything. In fact, I have several Er-4Ps from the original red and blue, to the red dot blue dot, to the standard "r" "l" lettered versions, as well as the original hf2's and these newer ones that now include volume controls. I hope that a future version offers more button functions, but other than that, I couldn't ask for anything more. For those who think I'm an Ety purest who hates everything else, I'll admit right now that I have AT-W2002s, several pairs of Sony headphones, a pair of open-air Krells, an old pair of Grado 25's, two bose headphoens and several Shure canalphones. I like them all, none are bad, but the Ety ER-4P and their off-spring will always be my favorites for portability and sound quality.
All told, if sound clarity and separation are important to you, you just can't do better than Etymotic's top of the line series.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2012
I usually don't like to write reviews, but I feel really disappointed with this product. First of all I want to comment that I am a old customer of Etymotic products and loved all previous products and usually use it with my iPhone 4S. This product specifically has disappointed me cause there seems to be a big problem with the design of the headset controls. I usually go work out on the gym and listen to music, apparently the humidity or sweat gets into the headset controller and starts creating malfunctions like:
1. Damaging the volume controls
2. Fast forwarding the music
3. Automatically calling voice control on my cel phone.
4. Boosting and reducing volume automatically
5. Pausing the Music on its own
6. Non Function of the Mic
I first thought that it could probably be a factory defect and shipped the product back to the manufacturer and gladly they sent me a new set, but the same problems happened on the first day I opened it up and went jogging...
I understand that humidity can cause these problems to the earphones, BUT! I also took the liberty and bought other products like the Bower & Wilkins C5 Ear headphones and the original iPhone earphones and no such defects happens to these products during exercise.
Although I love Etymotic products, I sadly no not recommend this product. Which now that I think about it, they have also removed this product from the shelves of the Apple Store...
Hope this info is helpful!