Etymotic Research HF2 Earphones

I chose this model over the newer HF3 because I have an Android phone and the volume buttons don't work with Android. Other than that, these earphones are the same quality and otherwise identical.

First of all, to get proper performance from these (or any other Etymotic earphones) you practically need to shove them half way into your brain. This seems to be an uncomfortable problem for some people. Once you get them in their sweet spot deep in your ear canal, these babies come to life. They do tend to work themselves loose of this “sweet spot” while I'm moving around or working out at the gym and I need to re-adjust/re-seat them quite often. It would be nice if the rubber inserts had a bit more stickiness to help grip them in. If they dislodge, even slightly, the sound quality goes right down the drain.

These also make perfect airplane earphones. I have several pairs of noise-canceling headphones, but I leave them at home now because these little guys do a better job blocking out airplane noise than the best noise cancelers.

The sound dazzles in every way. They can more than admirably reproduce accurate music from rock to classical. Basses, trumpets, and drums are deep and physical, while guitars, clarinets, saxes, and brass come flying through with clarity and color. These earphones do not boost up bass like Bose does–you can do that to your heart's content with an equalizer. I give them a bit of my favorite slight V-shape EQ curve and HF2s really come to life.

One thing to consider is you'll be as good as deaf walking around town with these, considering you've got the equivalent of Army-grade earplugs deep in your ear canal. Any noise that sneaks past this earplug-effect is drowned out by the sound. You'll want to give an extra look around when crossing a street. Some argue this may be bad for your hearing, but I'd argue that these actually protect your hearing since you can listen at a much lower volume as ambient noise is vastly reduced.

The jack is at a 45 degree angle and has a flexi cone right before the cord begins. This angle strikes a nice balance between the 90 degree angle variety (which tend to grapple in to your pocket) and the straight jacks (which put too much strain on the earphone jack). The insulation near the jack did wear out after about a year of constant in and out of the pocket and some copper started to show through. Since they were still under warranty, I sent them back and got a brand new pair. When I started to notice the wear a second time, I coated the insulation near the jack with super glue which has kept it together ever since.

The cable is thick and nicely prevents movement noise from transmitting up to the ear. The pause/replay/skip/talk/etc button is easy to quickly find and press without looking, and the entire microphone/button unit dangles right at mouth level–this is a nice change from the Klipsch earphones I used to use where the microphone was way too far down on the cord. The microphone/button unit is a bit bulky, however.

Overall, these are the best earphones I've ever used. I've got a pair of high-end Sennheiser headphones for home use, and these little guys give the big Senns a run for their money. Feed your head with brilliant, accurate sound!

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