Etymotic Research has been making in-ear products since 1983 and their line of earphones have gained them quite a bit of notoriety for sound quality and ergonomics. One of their latest products is the hf5 noise-isolating earphone. The Etymotic hf5 shares the same iconic look as many of their other earphones but is geared toward the everyday audiophile looking for portable high-fidelity for under $150. Not everybody is familiar with the Etymotic brand in-ear headphones though so I decided to do a review of the Etymotic hf5 to see if they live up to the company reputation.
In The Box
Inside the box for the hf5 earphone you’ll find the following:
- hf5 earphones
- assortment of eartips
- filter removal tool and replacement filters
- carrying pouch
Design and Comfort
The small, low-profile design of the Etymotic hf5 is an almost iconic look in earphones these days. Only a few other companies have designs this small. Although it looks like it may be fragile the Etymotic hf5 is quite sturdy and the cable is built to last a long time. Etymotic even offers a 2-year warranty on the hf5 to show their confidence in the product. The one thing you won’t find here is inline smartphone controls. This audiophile quality earphone is designed for pure listening enjoyment so you won’t be making any phone calls with the Etymotic hf5.
The different types of eartips that come with Etymotic earphones like the hf5 are included so you can find the perfect seal and most comfortable tip. The triple flange tips provide excellent noise-isolation while the foam tips provide a different kind of fit altogether. It’s different than what a lot of people are used to in an earphone but the triple flange works quite well. Inside the hf5 earphone packaging Etymotic even includes a note on how important a good seal is.
Overall the hf5 earphone is comfortable once you find the right eartips and has a quality build that should last you quite a long time.
Although this isn’t the first Etymotic earphone I’ve tried I was still shocked at how good the sound was in the hf5 in-ear headphone. As Etymotic explains, the seal means everything when it comes to getting great sound and excellent bass.
The best kind of bass for most audiophiles is balanced bass and that’s exactly what you get with the Etymotic hf5. With the proper in-ear seal I found the bass to be well-balanced and punchy in just the right places. Even really low bass frequencies in electronic music hit hard without overpowering the mix.
A lot of earphone manufacturers miss the mark in the mid-range. The Etymotic hf5 however brings out the clarity and detail of the mid frequencies. As usual, the balanced armature rules the mid-range. There were a few moments when I felt the mids hit a little too hard but it was usually a harsh recording to begin with. I also found that I didn’t need to push the volume as loud as I normally do on other headphones because of the added mid-range clarity.
The high frequencies on the Etymotic hf5 were brilliant. I noticed the frequency range rolls off at the 15kHz range which is probably a good strategy to keep the balanced armature from hitting too hard in the top-end. Although the human hearing range peaks at around 20kHz you don’t necessarily need to push the very top frequencies too hard.
Frequency Response: 20Hz – 15kHz
Driver Type: Balanced Armature
Impedance: 16 Ohms
Maximum Output: 120dB
Some people are hesitant to try Etymotic earphones because they don’t know the brand name but they’re actually a really high-end brand. Their low profile earphones with triple flange eartips can seem strange to anyone who hasn’t tried them before. The truth is it’s all part of Etymotic’s dedication to ergonomic design and excellent sound quality and the Etymotic hf5 is a really good option for an exceptional in-ear audiophile headphone. I enjoyed the detail and clarity in the mids and found it to really work well with streaming files where the mid-range tends to get attenuated. And priced under $150 I would even recommend the hf5 as a great in-ear mixing headphone.