The Ultimate Music Listening Experience: Etymotic HF3 Earphone Review

Etymotic Research are revered for two things:
Accuracy: All of their earphones offer unparalleled accuracy. They are ‘true to the ear’; they provide a level sound, and don’t pump up the bass disproportionally like the Beats By Dre and some others.
Seal: The earphones provide an incredible seal to block out external sound. But are they worth the ~£130/$199 price tag?
etymotic review


At first I was a little disappointed with the HF3s, the sound was average at best and the promised seal was nowhere to be seen. Then I watched this video which explains how to insert them properly, you just have to raise your ear a bit and then put the earphones in.

Wow, the seal was incredible. My music and I hit a new level of intimacy, and I couldn’t hear anything around me; even at low volumes. Any frequent flyers or commuters will fall in love with the noise cancellation. I didn’t know earphones could achieve such powerful passive noise cancellation. Your ears will thank you too, because you won’t have to pump up the volume to drown out the background noise, although they may feel a little violated at how far in these things go. It takes a few days to get used to, but after that they feel great.
The sound is incredibly crisp and you really feel immersed in whatever you’re listening to. You’ll hear parts of songs you probably didn’t know existed and I found myself subconsciously rocking my head and smiling whilst listening.

The bass is tight and accurate, and was at just the right level for me. However bass heads probably won’t be satisfied as they don’t provide the skull shattering levels of it found in some other earphones. This stems from the fact that Etymotic Research offer supreme accuracy as opposed to unnaturally pumping up the bass. You can imagine the Etymotics to be the natural tasting, free range chickens of the earphone industry as opposed to the hormone injected, battery chickens. Do you want to hear the true sound or the artificial one?


The Etymotic HF3s come with a high quality carrying pouch, which includes a separate compartment for the three extra earbuds included. These range from the usual Christmas tree style earbuds, to the large foams cylinders. There’s enough variety in the size, shape and material of the different earbuds to ensure that everyone can get a comfortable fit. If you’re serious about getting a great fit you can pay around £70 to get an audiologist to make a mould of your ears and send you some custom fitted earbuds (pictured below). I haven’t tried this yet, so I can’t comment on it, but it’s something I’ll consider in the future. More information is available here.
custom fit etymotic hf3 earphone review

Attention To Detail

Etymotic Research have designed a cable jack which is very thin around where the jack enters your iOS device. This means that they should fit into your iPhone no matter how thick your case is (within reason).
The jack is also angular which means that the cable won’t break around where it connects to the jack. A subtle feature, but an appreciated one.
The cable is of high quality and does not tangle no matter how I stuff it into my pocket. The HF3s also have a 3-button remote with which you can play/pause, skip forward/backwards and put the volume up and down. The remote also has a microphone, and since the remote is so high up on the earphones (level with your mouth), you sound great on the phone (or so I’m told).

One Little Complaint

When walking with these, I noticed a lot of cable noise. I could hear rustling as the cable rubbed against my clothes. This problem can be reduced by using the included clip to attach the cable to your shirt, but it was still noticeable. This coupled in with the superb noise isolation means that I wouldn’t advise using these earphones whilst jogging or walking on the road because the cable noise will annoy you. The noise isolation can be reduced if you need to be able to hear your surroundings by using their free Awareness app which can be downloaded from here.


The Etymotic HF3 earphones offer crystal clear sound and I can’t praise the seal they offer enough. They may not please bass heads but they don’t claim to. They are for those who would like to hear their music like the artist intended and they deliver just that. They are a must-have for any frequent commuters because of their awesome seal, or for anyone who wants sound quality like no other for under $200. You might just have to listen to your whole music collection again. You can buy them from their site here, or from Amazon below.

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