Customer Review

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best in-ears I've used., September 1, 2008
This review is from: Etymotic Research ER23-HF2-BLACK Earphones/Headset--Black (Electronics)
I've used in-ear headphones and monitors almost exclusively for just over two-years now, both for use on-stage music monitoring, and for day-to-day ipod listening. Obviously, comparing in-ear monitors to in-ear headphones isn't quite fair -- they don't do the same thing. But, judging each pair for how well they succeed at their given task, i would definitely say the ER HF2s are hands-down the best pair of headphones I own.

(I currently use a pair of EarPeace LiveWires for on-stage music monitoring, and have used Shure E2s and E3s... And, having just started using an iphone, I decided to upgrade a little from the Ultimate Ear super-fi 3s I was previously using for my ipod.)

The HF2s are clean and transparent -- I won't go too far into detail about that here, given the glut of other reviewers saying the same thing. I will say, though, that the HF2s are really very impressive across the volume board -- they seem to provide the same punch for low-volume listening as they do at higher volumes; unlike my UEs, there's no "sweet spot" that they need to be set at in order to reproduce well. And unlike any other pair of in-ears I've owned, I truly can forget that I'm listening through headphones with this pair; unlike so many others that constantly make you aware of exactly how much they're coloring the tone (for better or worse), the HF2s really just step back and let the pure tones come right through. Highly impressive.

(Of course, the casual headphone buyer is probably not willing to spend this much dough for headphones -- so I won't spend too much time pointing out that if you're used to having your home or car EQ goose your bass way up, or if you use a pair of phones that have super-jacked-up bass drivers, you'll be disappointed with these.)

Cable noise was a concern for me based on the other reviews, but I decided to take the plunge anyway -- and let me just say, the reviews are right. If the HF2s have any drawback whatsoever, that's it right there. The provided clip does very little to help -- and, as previously noted in another review, wearing the cables "over-the-ear" (which would greatly minimize the amount of noise generated by the cable rubbing against a collar or lapel) is almost impossible with the HF2s -- the microphone would be too far away from one's mouth if worn that way. And, despite the fact that the dB isolation is really incredible with the HF2s (up to 42dB!!), the rubber on the cables -- AND the rubber on the driver housing itself -- picks up TONS of sound, most noticeably wind noise. (Even my relatively-cheapo UE super-fi in-ears didn't do that!) So a lot of what gets blocked out winds up getting re-introduced via transduction, at least at low-volume listening levels. (I was quite shocked when I first heard the sound of the wind hitting the driver-housing being reproduced in my ears. Now I don't mind it -- I actually sort of like it; it makes it seem as though you're not QUITE so isolated from the world around you. But if you're used to other in-ears, this might take some getting used to.) Be warned -- if cable-noise is a deal-breaker for you, you might want to look elsewhere.

That said, I wouldn't trade these in for anything. I'm even planning on getting a pair of fitted Sensaphonics sleeves to replace the drivers -- an expense on TOP of already expensive in-ears. But that's how great I think they are. As for the cable noise -- I'm planning on using a little piece of tape, to affix the cables to the top of my shirt, instead of the clip -- that should cut the noise to almost nothing, making these PERFECT. I highly, highly recommend them to any iphone user -- it will change your mp3 player from a toy to a audiophile-worthy piece of gear.

(P.S. -- I'd take these down to 4 1/2 stars if I could, because of the cable noise, but since I can't give it a "half" star, I'd place it closer to a "5" than a "4".)
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