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Etymotic HF5 Earphones/Headset (Blue)

Price: CDN$ 152.99 & FREE Shipping. Details
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  • Super-high accuracy provides a near-perfect listening experience
  • 3-flanged earpiece provides up to 35dB of isolation
  • Frequency response: 20Hz to 16kHz
  • Impedance: 16 Ohms (nominal)
  • 4-Foot cable
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System Requirements

  • Platform: Not Machine Specific
  • Media: Electronics
  • Item Quantity: 1

Product Details

  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 5.1 x 17.1 cm ; 113 g
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Item model number: HF5-Cobalt
  • ASIN: B000XP8DJC
  • Date first available at July 26 2009
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #9,144 in Electronics (See Top 100 in Electronics)
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Product Description Product Description

Etymotic's 5th Generation of high-fidelity in-ear earphones has finally arrived. The hf5 delivers a near-perfect music experience, even in high surrounding noise conditions. Like Etymotic's earlier generations of in-ear earphones, the hf5 is built on superior noise isolation, so you experience total sound immersion when listening to your music. The hf5 is compatible with all iPod models and music players that accept a 3.5 mm plug. Included in the package: In-ear earphones; assorted eartips for your comfort; filter changing tool with filters; carrying pouch.

From the Manufacturer

Etymotic Research HF5--High Clarity, Great Fit, and Maximum Noise Isolation

Made by Etymotic Research, the people who created in-ear earphones, the HF5 delivers Etymotic's world-renowned sound quality in a pair of comfortable, convenient earphones. The HF5 provides a near-perfect music experience.

The HF5 works with all MP3 players and iPod models, as well as the iPhone and any other device that operates with a 3.5 mm stereo plug. The HF5 can be worn with the cables in front or in back of the head, and the cable slider can be adjusted by moving it up or down for a snug fit.

The HF5 comes in black, Ruby, and Cobalt to match your style

Amazing response accuracy means unmatched crystal-clear sound

Designing the HF5: Etymotic Research Focuses on Noise Isolation and Response Accuracy

Keeping Things Quiet with 35+ dB Noise Isolation

The special 3-flanged earpieces that come with the HF5 provide 35 dB noise isolation or more (depending on the eartip used), making it one of the highest-rated products on the market for both active and passive noise-canceling headphones. With 35 dB of isolation, you won't need to turn the music up as loud to hear every nuance of your favorite artists, saving your hearing and preventing "ear fatigue". Once you obtain a proper seal in the ear, watch the world disappear, leaving you with your favorite music reproduced with remarkable clarity.

How Etymotic Research Measures Response Accuracy

The accuracy score is perhaps the single most important tool for earphone design. A perfect recording of a live performance played through earphones with 100% accuracy would produce the same sound at the eardrum as the live performance. A complicating factor is that the acoustic resonance and horn effects of the ear change a flat signal entering the open ear to an eardrum signal with the approximate frequency characteristic of the target curve. A perfect earphone will create that same frequency characteristic at the eardrum.

Hitting the "Target Curve"

Target curves on Etymotic Research graphs indicate 100% accuracy: The open ear diffuse-field response of the KEMAR® mannequin modified to compensate for the high frequency boost added to high-quality recordings. This modification (approximately 5 dB at 10 kHz) is necessary to avoid earphones sounding too bright on commercial recordings. Commercial recordings have a high-frequency boost that compensates for the high frequency roll-off in studio monitor loudspeakers and high-quality stereo loudspeakers and earphones.

Earphone response is measured on a KEMAR® manikin that has the same acoustic properties as the average head and ear. 25-band accuracy scores are calculated by summing the difference between the earphone response and the target response in each 1.3 -octave band from 50 Hz to 12.5 kHz.

In the 1970s, Consumers Union used an "Accuracy Score" to rate loudspeakers. Consumer Reports reported that it was possible to predict listeners' loudspeaker ratings within 8% from a calculation based on one-third-octave frequency response measurements converted to loudness in sones. The average error in loudness from a perfect system, subtracted from 100%, gives the accuracy score. Etymotic Research extended this 21-band calculation to a 25-band calculation and routinely uses the 25-band accuracy score in all earphone designs.

Other in-the-ear earphone manufacturers do not report accuracy scores, but Etymotic Research has tested all competitive products. The accuracy scores of Etymotic Research earphones are higher than those of most loudspeakers, and well above all competitive earphones, except electrostatic headphones that cost thousands of dollars.

What Critics Are Saying

"They're cool looking (with the right tips, they look like sci-fi laser pistols), have little to no cable movement noise and reproduce sound in a way that is both perfectly clear and highly enjoyable. Everything about these gives the impression of quality, from the brushed aluminum finish to the way that music suddenly sounds distinctly layered in a way that it didn't before, and that it doesn't on many similarly priced units. [...] The tighter seal that these offer to most people is conducive to better listening, and the isolation properties are superb. You can't hear anything else with these guys in. Every manufacturer should have something like this." --John Herman,

Technical Specifications

  • Frequency response: 20 Hz -16 kHz
  • Noise isolation: 35- 42 dB (depending on eartip used)
  • Acoustic polarity: + electrical = + acoustic
  • Transducer type: Balanced armature
  • Sensitivity (1 kHz): 105 dB SPL for a 0.1 VRMS input
  • Impedance: 16 Ohms (nominal)
  • Maximum output: 120 dB SPL
  • Cable: 4 ft
  • Weight: less than 1 oz

Customer Questions & Answers

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mark Birenbaum on March 4 2014
Verified Purchase
-FANTASTIC noise isolation with the triple flange, had Shures before and these are WAY better
-excellent clear response. Combined with the noise isolation I'm hearing all sorts of little detail I never heard before
-Very light

-Not bass heavy. I've gotten so used to earbuds/headphones with bass boost it sometimes sounds wrong. This isn't really a con, but you should know.
-For the first week I'd thought I'd wasted my money, I actually bruised my ear canal putting them in. I thought my ear canal was too small. Later realized I had large each canals, and I needed the large tip so that it would properly seal (I guess before I was ramming the small tip too far in my ear.

Tips for wearing:
-You MUST get it in your each canal. Once you get used to it, it's easy, but it takes a while to find them consistently.
-Try the different tips.
-I usually put a tiny bit of moisture on the first flange (it's gross but I touch it to my inner lip). Not too much, or it'll just out (and feel really disgusting and itch).
-Put it in 90-180 degrees from the angle you want and "twist" it in to place as you're inserting.
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The perfect fit you need for optimal performance is far too hard to achieve. In order to hear the sound as it's intended, these hurt my ears after a while, regardless of what adapters I tried. Also, the cable is far too microphonic. It's super loud when it just brushes against your clothes.
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Superb sound quality, clarity, definition, once you've found the right earplug caps to seal your ear canal. No need for equalizer fine-tuning, just enjoy the sound as it was meant to be heard. Classical pieces, progressive rock and jazz sound amazing when encoded in a lossless format. In fact, these earphones are approaching the quality of my trusty Sennheiser HD 430's. If you're into bass-heavy hip hop, then you will hate these earphones. But if you're something of an audiophile, these are the best I've heard in that price range.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David Home on Jan. 9 2014
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I tried all the supplied ear tips and could not get the sound agreeable. I returned them after three days.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 413 reviews
113 of 121 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant Sound - Even better than the ER-4 Oct. 16 2008
By Eric Monse - Published on
Verified Purchase
I've been using the Etymotic ER-4 for years and recently just bought the HF5. When I first got the ER-4's years ago, my friends first thought I was crazy for paying $275. But I listen to all my music while commuting on the train. If you loved music as much as I do, would you spend that much on a pair of speakers for your home stereo, or skimp and spend $50?

The ER-4 delivered like no other earphones, with not only the sound quality, but the noise reduction. As someone once said "It's the closest thing there is to injecting the music right into your brain." I completely agree. It took some getting used to 'listening' to the bass as opposed to feeling it, but now these are irreplaceable.

I have bought several pair of the ER-4's due to damage, losing them, etc. And it was time to replace my current pair. I decided to get Etymotics newest model, the HF5. I didn't expect a huge improvement over the ER-4's, but I was wrong.

At first I felt like the earphones didn't fit as well as the ER-4's. But then I realized that these actually go DEEPER into your ears than the ER-4's. And once I got them in there... WOW! The sound was actually so much bigger and brighter than the ER-4's. The ER-4's were great, but the HF5's is like watching High Definition Television compared to regular TV. The highs are brighter and the bass is bigger.

The only thing I wasn't happy with, at first, is the cord. They seem to have switched back to the more grabby rubbery style cord as opposed to the smoother plastic. While the rubbery feels nicer, I was worried it would grab onto my clothes too much. That hasn't been a problem so far.

They could have also included a few extra filters. The filters need to be changed every few months when they get gunked up with earwax. This model only includes one spare, and it would have been great to include more.

Other than that I would say these earphones are superb and worth every penny.

Eric Monse
67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
Flat out incredible sound Aug. 27 2008
By A. Simmons - Published on
I can unequivocally recommend these earphones. I have used a broad variety of earphones, including the Shure se530's Ultimate Ears triple-fi 10's and several Sennheisers. For this price, I've never heard sound so balanced, and with such clarity, coming out of an iPod. I feel like I'm in a sealed sound chamber when I listen with these, even when I'm on the bus. It's almost too isolating - sometimes I really lose touch with what's going on around me. I am a musician, and when I've done studio recordings, we listen for nuances in the instrumentation and music that you typically do not hear when playing back an MP3 file or CD. With the Etymotic hf5's, I'm getting the kind of clarity I get in the studio. And for just $150! There's no over-exaggerated bass, and I can hear every instrument and every voice. There's nothing like listening to an a capella group like Take 6 with the hf5. Or to an unplugged session where all kinds of things can happen in the tracks - if you can hear them. Oh, and the blue and red ones are cool-looking. Pretty much everyone replaces the earphones that come with your MP3 player, and you can spend a lot more on earphones than this, but I recommend $150 spent on these earphones as the biggest bang for your buck.
114 of 131 people found the following review helpful
Good, Not Great Aug. 16 2008
By TAFB - Published on
I have a number of different earphones/headphones, including Etymotic ER-4P, Jays Q-Jays, Ultimate Ears 5 Pro and 4vi. The ER-4Ps sound the best to me (but lack in the design category -- they stick out too far when inserted in your ear and the cable feels somewhat flimsy). The ER-4Ps have a level of clarity and detail (and treble) that the others do not match.

I bought these headphones thinking that I would now have the best of both worlds: the sound of the ER-4Ps with a better design. I was wrong. The design of the Hf5 headphone itself is better than the ER-4P, but the sound of the Hf5 does not match the ER-4P. To my ears, the ER-4P and Hf5 are very similar at the low end (neither is particularly strong in bass). However, at the mid-range and especially the high end, the ER-4Ps have more detail and clarity between different instruments and vocals. The Hf5 tends to sound more muddy IN COMPARISON to the ER-4Ps and the high end of the Hf5 has more roll off than the ER-4Ps (i.e., the highs on the Hf5 won't go as high as they do on the ER-4P). Vocals and mid-range on the ER-4P sound so much better than the Hf5 that I wonder whether I had a bad set of Hf5s.

Looking at Amazon's prices, the ER-4Ps are only $20 more than the Hf5. If you are spending that much money on headphones, the ER-4Ps are a better deal.

This is not to say that the Hf5s are a bad set of headphones. To the contrary, I found them to compare very favorably to the Q-Jays. The Q-Jays had better low end (bass) than the Hf5, but the Hf5 was better than the Q-Jays on the high end and the Hf5 seemed to have a better soundstage (more clarity and detail). The Q-Jays are smaller and fit better than the Hf5; HF5 are slightly better than the Q-Jays at blocking external noises.

The Ultimate Ears 4vi are a good set of headphones. With respect to sound, I would give a slight edge to the UE 4vi over the Hf5 (the UE 4vis have better low end and maybe slightly better soundstage than the Hf5...though not by much). The Hf5 fit better than the UE4vi and block more external noise.

The UE Super 5 Pros are muddy and pale in comparison to any of the other headphones.

So, the Hf5s are a good set of headphones...but they do not match the great sound quality of the ER-4Ps.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Plenty of Bass AND Superb Balance and Accuracy! April 11 2012
By Smilin' Kev - Published on
Verified Purchase
I purchased the HF5s after enjoying a pair of Etymotic MC3s from Amazon for the last several weeks. I gave the MC3s a very positive review and I will continue to use and enjoy them, but the HF5s are a SIGNIFICANT improvement. Especially at the reduced price offered by Amazon, the cobalt blue model is a fantastic bargain!

I'm mystified by the reviewers who find that the HF5s "don't have any bass." I can only assume that these folks have an unusual ear canal structure that prevents them from inserting the HF5s to an appropriate depth. When I use either the triple flange or memory foam tips, the HF5s deliver very tangible and musical bass that complements a beautifully balanced and musical presentation of the entire audible spectrum. This is true not only with vocal and acoustic music, but also with pop, rock, dance and electronica. For example, it did a great job of delivering all of the "thump" and "crunch" that punctuates the great set of performances on Pitbull's most recent CD, "Planet Pit." It also does an excellent job of doing justice to all the emphasis on the lower registers that you'll find in performances by Chemical Brothers, David Guetta, Skrillex and other folks who make music that demands a headphone with fast, solid bass response.

The HF5s are also exceptional at revealing details and nuances in the music they deliver, but there is nothing "cold" or "analytical" about them. One of my favorite CDs by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is "Mojo" - and listening to it last night through the HF5s allowed me to appreciate masterful subtleties that I've never heard before, especially Mike Campbell's command of his 1959 Les Paul Sunburst and Benmont Tench's ability to wring fantastic shades of emotion from his Hammond C-3 Organ. The HF5s are far superior to anything else in their MSRP price range when it comes to revealing everything a musical performance has to offer!

I like the exceptionally light weight and minimal size of the HF5s - and I have tried them out through direct connection to my iPod Nano (6th generation) as a "portable music package" with a very small footprint. They are excellent in that role - and the Nano has no problem driving them. However, I like them too much to take a chance on killing them with sweat when I exercise or tearing them up while I'm on the go [I am unbelievably clumsy!]. I would also be concerned about the fact that the HF5s give you almost TOTAL isolation from outside noise, which can be a real hazard if you're in traffic. Instead, I've decided to use them to use them at home with a dedicated CD player (Teac CD-P650) and an amp (HeadRoom Micro) that really let them fulfill their potential. In that setting, the sound isolation provided by the HF5s is a great feature, since it lets me enjoy my tunes while sitting in the same room with a television that's blaring away, dogs that are barking, etc.

So, I highly recommend the HF5s, although you might want to make sure your ear canals will accept them. A simple way to find out is to try using a set of memory foam earplugs - the kind that you roll between your fingers and then stuff into your ear canal - to make sure that an arrangement of that kind is comfortable for you and that it seals you off from outside noise. If not, then you'll want to look for an "earbud" that doesn't require deep insertion to offer its best performance.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Excellent In-Ear Headphones - Worth the Money Jan. 13 2011
By M.C. Hilliard - Published on
Verified Purchase
After spending several months researching headphones, I finally settled on the Etymotic HF5 Earphones. I already owned a pair of Sennheiser 595's, which are some of the best headphones money can buy (in that price range, anyway :), but those headphones utilize an open design, which does provide a wonderful room-like listening experiences and superior sound quality, but also allows a tremendous amount of outside noise to bleed through (which can be good or bad) and, likewise, bleed a substantial amount of noise to anyone close by; also, while the Sennheiser's are extremely comfortable, they are big and bulky--not easily portable, or suitable for many day-to-day activities. As such, I was interested in finding the best quality in-ear headphones that would be comfortable, provide excellent sound reproduction, and also sound isolation through noise reduction--a tall order, especially if you want to spend less than $200. I'm happy to say that the Etymotic HF5's have met my needs.

They are not perfect, and, for instance, I would say that the overall sound quality and comfort (in a quiet environment) is still better with my Sennheiser 595's, but they are definitely the best in-ear headphones I have tried by a landslide. Some care is required for proper insertion into your ears. They have a helpful video on their website showing how to properly insert the various included tips into your ears to ensure a proper seal--which, if you don't have a proper seal, you will be disappointed because the noise isolation will be severely diminished and the bass response drops considerably. After a little bit of practice (learning to pull my upper ear back at the right angle, rather than out away from my head, for instance) I was able to get the default flanged tips to fit fairly comfortably and also provide an exceptional amount of noise isolation. Again, it did take a little practice to insert the tips properly and make a good seal, but, once I had that figured out, I was extremely happy with the quality. Obviously everyone's ears will be different, but I would wager that with a combination of practice putting the tips in, and also making sure to use the best tips for your ears (they provide several options included with the headphones), anyone should be able to wear the headphones reasonably comfortably and enjoy a good bass response as well as superior outside noise reduction.

I have experimented with listening to several genres of music, from Jazz, to Rock, to Metal, Classical, and even that stuff Enya does :), and the headphones have performed excellently. (For those who care, I've only used a 4th Gen. iPod Touch and my laptop computer so far, but both serve as an adequate driver in my opinion). Highs are crisp and clear, and the mid-tones and bass are well represented. I would prefer a little more articulation in the bass, but I don't find that it detracts too much from the listening experience.

I would highly recommend this product to anyone looking for in-ear headphones in this price range. They offer exceptional (though not perfect) sound quality, reasonable comfort, and incredible noise reduction.

I should also note that the cord-noise that is almost inescapable on in-ear headphones is actually not so bad on these; yes, you do hear it occasionally, but by adjusting the cinch on the cord and using the attached clip, the noise is virtually eliminated. Even during the times when I do hear it, I don't find it as distracting as it is on most other in-ear headphones.

For what it's worth, I consider myself an audiophile. I've done sound reinforcement for about 6 years and I also play the piano, drums, and guitar, so my opinion is at least semi-educated and based on a fair amount of experience.

UPDATE: I originally bought these headphones in January of 2011. Now, about a year and a half later, I'm happy to say that they've held up extremely well. I do my best to take good care of my headphones, but these being my go-to, daily-use pair that I carry around with me, I wouldn't have been surprised if they got a little worse for the wear--but they haven't. At one point the cord-clip broke (which I recommend using whenever you wear them, since it will all-but eliminate cord-noise) and I somehow lost the leather storage pouch (also highly recommended, since it makes for a safe, convenient way to carry the headphones around), but it was very easy and inexpensive to order replacements from Etymotic. I've also found that the flange-style earpieces seem to have adapted somewhat to the shape of my ears, and between that and habit, it's gotten very easy to achieve a proper fit with a good seal (needed for the noise reduction effect to work, as well as the full extent of the bass response) almost every time; every once in a while I might have to make an adjustment after putting them in, but not often. The only maintenance required is an occasional cleaning of the flanged tips, if earwax builds up. All in all, I'm very impressed with how well these are holding up after a year and a half of heavy use.