Customer Review

96 of 98 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wow! Highly Impressive In Ear Monitors., September 19, 2010
This review is from: Etymotic ER23-HF3-BLACK HF3 In-Ear Headset with 3-Button Remote Control for iPod, iPhone, iPad (Black) (Electronics)
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.
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Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 21 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 23, 2010 6:20:38 PM PDT
Handyman says:
now i know what the difference is between this and hf5/hf2.
thank you for this review!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2010 1:16:52 PM PDT
You get better iPod controls with volume adjustment. That's about it.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 28, 2010 3:52:16 PM PDT
You are welcome.

Posted on Oct 7, 2010 11:11:44 PM PDT
T. Pollock says:
Excellent review. I'm also a personal audio "fetishist" with very sensitive hearing, and I agree with every word. M2M has captured every nuance about these earphones. I have a pair, and while they're not perfect, they're great for everyday use with my iPhone. The detail really is special--you'll have a lot of "I never noticed that before" moments.

Posted on Oct 20, 2010 9:20:39 PM PDT
Alpha Helix says:
This is actually a wonderful review, and you definitely know what you are talking about. I spent the better part of the day today comparing and contrasting headphones (models which include mic for phone) and it is really a daunting task. After a few hours or having different tips and varied frequencies shoved in your ears, they kinda just give up and not want to take anymore abuse.

Although through all this thorough research, I must admit that these HF3s have the best "clarity" when it comes down to it. The highs and mids are crisp crisp crisp. Most people will also appreciate this company since they allow for the custom ear-tip fitting. The only gripe I have is like you mentioned - the bass! It could def be increase 3db and we would have a wonderful product. I guess I might just need to burn in my pair for a little while, but the test model I demoed in the store was already burned in (I assume) and the bass was not as great. But then again, I was comparing these against the Monster Turbines (which have really pronounced bass), which sound like you are actually standing next to a floor subwoofer. Although I picked up the Etys since the turbines have a very muffled high/mid sound - unless of course you want to step into another price point all together!

Overall the phones are great and your review is spot-on. Sorry for my long rant!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 21, 2010 9:32:37 AM PDT
Thank you, I'm glad you like it and agree! And you can "rant" anytime! ;) I've let my pair burn in for close to 130 hours and the bass never really got any more pronounced. I really wasn't expecting it to, but figured it was worth a shot. They're still great 'phones, tho!

Posted on Oct 25, 2010 8:53:57 PM PDT
Angie Wong says:
Are you using the hf3 with an iphone 4?

In the product description provided on the Amazon page, it said the hf3 is made for iphone 4. But then under the asterisk, it said the mic and remote only work with iphone 3GS and didn't include iphone 4.


In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2010 8:12:55 AM PDT
Unfortunately, I'm not using these with an iPhone 4, so I'm unable to comment for certain on the compatibility. That being said, I'm quite sure these will work for the iPhone 4 and Amazon forgot to change the asterisk. This footnote was meant for the older iPhone 3G and 2Gs, as they lacked the hardware to be controlled by the headset.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2010 3:11:27 PM PDT
Alpha Helix says:
I think the unit should work fine with an iPhone4. I was told by the salesperson at the music store that it works properly with iPhone4.

Also, if you follow this link, you will see that it says made for: and lists iPhone4.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 23, 2010 8:51:05 AM PST
Angie Wong says:
I finally got it for my iphone4 and it works great.
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