I am going to start this by getting something out of the way. I’m not an audiophile in any way at all. I like my music for when I am working as a background thing, but that’s about it. I do however watch a lot of media whilst on a commute to and from work. Therefore decent headphones are important to me.
There, now that’s out of the way. We can get onto the review. Meet the rather nice Etymotic HF3 headphones.
These are at the lower end of the Etymotic range, but that is by no means a bad thing as you are likely to see see this brand connected to some of the big names in the music business. They’re a good brand and a good make, with prices to match, so you’re still looking at premium kit. The more money you spend on headphones the better they are – that’s the general perception anyway. When you get to this level that certainly becomes more apparent. They’re currently coming in at £119.95 from Eytymotic in the UK.
What’s in the Box.
First, when open the box we are greeted with the headphones themselves. They’re encased in a nice little foam surround keeping them all safe and cozy.
After getting this out of the way, we are greeted to some care and cleaning information. Below this we find a zip-up bag containing some other earpieces, some tiny tube and a screwdriver of sorts! I have to say this is a first for me to have a screwdriver in a headphones box. I will explain more about the purpose of that in a moment. The various earpieces come in various shapes and sizes to suit your preference. I would suggest you have a try with them all to see which suits best as I was surprised by the ones that I chose.
Also, on the outside of the box is a a QR code that encourages you to scan it to find out about custom fit. This is a service where if you wanted it, you can get a custom set of buds made for your ear’s shape and therefore giving you the best fit. If you are unlike me and really into your music then this may be worth it but be prepared to pay for this (prices start £100). I would love to try custom fit earphones at some point as it is meant to make a massive difference to your listening experience. Anyway, I digress.
The earpiece itself is formed out of one seamless unit with the only thing that can be changed being the filter (the tiny tube) and the earpiece. On the right hand side, you’ll find a mic module which has three buttons on it for playback and volume controls. Now on the devices I have tested this with, only the middle button works. I was able to check them with an iPhone 6 and all the buttons worked for their jobs as described. The middle button will use the standard triple click for going back, double tap for going forward and single one for pause. This is not an issue for me as I now use my Pebble Time for this function. About another 40cm down the wire is the 3.5mm headphone jack that’s enabled for headset support as well.
How they sound.
I’ve been on the podcast using these as my mic setup, and it was both comfortable and clear throughout. I also use them every day for my trip to and from work. The journey involves a train and a subway ride, and I can say that during the trips, the background hum of the engine is subdued but not eradicated. I expected this as these are not active noise cancellation headphones but they do a good job at passive noise cancellation. The sound is both loud and clear. Whilst it does lack a little bit punch at the lower end, it’s up there with my over the ear Sennheisers. When I used them to watch the recent F1 coverage, the sounds from the engines on the cars was very crisp, as was the voice commentary.
The headphones have some nice practical features too. There’s a handy clip on the lead so it can be clipped to your attire to stop them being pulled out of your ears. Having the multiple earpieces in the box is a very nice touch and really does allow you to find the right fit for you. One downside of not being able to get that perfect fit is that if you are using them for running etc, then wind noise does become an issue, however this is where a custom fit will reap rewards.
They’re comfortable to wear for a long period of time, and they don’t move about too much if used in conjunction with the cable clip included in the packaging. Something to bear in mind is that these are in-ear headphones and as a result, they do require regular cleaning as otherwise they can get gross very quickly. Etymotic provide their own recommended method of cleaning in the guide that comes in the box that I’ve found to be effective. This is where the replacement filters in the box come in. In case the originals get clogged up you can swap them out. I haven’t done this as I haven’t needed to yet, but it looks simple enough and that’s where the screwdriver comes in!
Are they worth it?
Whilst this is a tricky question. I am going to say yes. However, there is a but.
If you are someone who really likes music and can actually tell the difference between an octave and a bar, then you’ll be better spending your money on the higher-up models in the range and some lossless music files. If you just want to listen to some badly-tuned FM radio on your smartphone (who does this really), then I would also say these aren’t for you. However, if like me, you like to be safely ensconced in a bubble of your own sounds whilst you’re commuting, working ,avoiding the argument with your other half for not listening (that last one might just be me) and using for light listening, then the answer is YES YES YES. I am really enjoying using these headphones and I would quite happily spend the asking price for them if I needed to buy a set of headphones in the near future.
In fact tonight I am going to clear out all my old ones from the drawer.