Top positive review
11 people found this helpful
Excellent sound. Excellent sound isolation--for those with medium to small ear canals. READ UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM
on November 3, 2015
These earphones replace a pair of Etymotic Research ER5 earphones I used for nine years before one earphone quit. The price of those ER5 earphones was comparable to what I paid for these HF5 earphones. Because my old Etymotic Research earphones performed so well, I had high expectations of these HF5 earphones. I’m not disappointed. I find the HF5 sound isolation and audio quality are excellent. I don't miss the ER5s at all.
I consider sound isolation to be essential to audio quality. To my mind, if you have other noise bleeding in, it doesn’t much matter how good your earphones are. I spent a lot of time researching earphones when I bought my first pair of Etymotic Research earphones. Those rated high on audio quality and no one else could claim the sound isolation they had. They delivered on the promise. When it was time to buy new earphones, I did the same research and got the same result: no one else makes earphones with both excellent audio and excellent sound isolation.
With all noise shut out, these HF5s make me feel as though I’m in the studio with the band. Every rustle and breath comes through. You hear the guitarist’s shirt brush against his guitar. I point this out not as examples of distraction from the music but to show how completely these earphones deliver every bit of sound in a recording. If the artist didn’t want those sounds in the recording, the engineer would have removed them. When I listen on these earphones, I hear everything.
The HF5 earphones also create a huge sonic space. You feel as though you’re in a vast empty room with just you and the music. They place each instrument separately in that space--when the music is produced that way. It’s complicated, and I don’t understand how it works, but some producers pull all the sound together into one stream, others maintain or create separation between the instruments and voices.
Any pretty-good earphones with good fidelity in bass, midrange, and high end will do for music that’s pushed together into a wall of sound, as much pop music is. But many indie, folk, blues, jazz, classical, and other specialized recordings often use this separation in space to bring you into the middle of the sound. You feel as though you are there, with the music spread around you, just as it would be if you were right there during the performance. The intimacy of this experience has an almost emotional quality. These earphones deliver that experience.
Etymotic Research promises more than 40 dB of noise reduction. That’s a lot. By comparison, the best foam earplugs, when inserted deeply into your ears, reduce noise by 32 dB. That’s plenty to save your hearing, but not as good as these earphones. I use foam earplugs often. The company’s claim is true: these earphones keep out more noise than the best foam earplugs I can find.
I’m an artist working with steel. I use power tools in a small, concrete-walled studio. The noise is truly deafening. It’s loud enough to be annoying even with foam earplugs. However, I put in my Etymotic Research earphones and listen to acoustic music at medium to low volume while I use a power grinder on steel . Another example: When I use the lawnmower (a quieter machine than the power tools I use), I barely notice the mower.
Time will tell whether these new earphones are as durable as the last ones, but I expect they’ll do as well or better. The old ones had ordinary wires, but these have Kevlar reinforced wires. These HF5 wires are also springy so they don’t tangle easily. The earphones themselves are made of metal and stick out of your ear a little so they’re pretty easy to remove. Because of the seal necessary to keep out noise, Etymotic Research earphones are a little difficult to pull out. The long body of the HF5s helps with that by giving you something to grip.
Not very many things I’ve bought over the years have given me as much satisfaction as my Etymotic Research earphones. If sound quality matters to you and you listen to music anywhere but in your living room, I highly recommend these HF5 earphones.
UPDATE--CAUTION IF YOU HAVE WIDE EAR CANALS
Fit on these earphones is not as good as with the earlier ones. None of the silicone tips fit snugly for more than a few minutes. For me, noise isolation isn't much better than non-sealing earbuds. The memory foam tips work well, but only two or three times per pair, then they are squished and not strong enough to maintain a seal. Noise isolation is crucial and an important reason I bought these to replace earlier ER earphones. THE PROBLEM IS PARTICULAR TO SIZE, NOT A GENERAL ISSUE WITH THE EARPHONES. I'm average height and weight, but apparently my ear canals are large: consider the size of yours when buying. I now need to buy custom tips which will nearly double the cost. I'm in my fifties and have lost a little high-frequency hearing, so I can't comment authoritatively on the sound, which means I can't confirm the value for cost, now that I have to get after-market tips. ER is a reliable brand and I still recommend their products. However, sound isolation now depends on the size of your ear canals. If you have large ones, you may want to look elsewhere, I'm afraid.