Etymotic hf3 Earphones Plus Headset

I recently picked up a pair of Etymotic hf3 Earphones + Headphones. The hf3s are a high end noise isolating earphones and headset for use with the Apple iPhone. You can pick up a pair of hf3s on Amazon for $120. That’s a lot of money, but these are a premium product. Etymotic Research invented in-ear technology in the 1980s and the are the makers of high end earphones, hearing testing, and hearing protection products used by professional musicians.


The back of the box lists three key features for the hf3’s:

  • Most accurate sound quality – stunning mobile music fidelity
  • highest noise isolation for listening on trains, planes, and at the gym
  • Superior call quality with high-sensitivity microphone and noise isolation

Based on my experience, I agree. I bought this set of hf3’s to replace my previous set that I destroyed when they got caught in my car door.

First, the sound quality. I think these sound great. Musicians and audiophile love Etymotics earphones for their accurate sound reproduction. Now as much as I like the sound, the biggest complaint some people have about Etymotics is the lack of bass. These earphones are not for bass heads, and if you don’t insert the tips into your ears correctly you’ll experience a loss of bass.

Next, the noise isolation on the hf3 and all Etymotics earphones is phenomenal. I used my hf3s and other Etymotic earphones for thousands of miles of air travel and they are amazing. They seal out the jet engine and cabin noise almost completely. I’ve used them with my iPod, iPad, iPhone, and the plane’s entertainment system and they isolate the background noise while listening to music, podcast, and watching video. Sometimes I use them just to isolate noise while reading or sleeping on a plane. Note, it’s these are not active noise canceling, it is the way these eartips seal you ear canal that passively isolate the noise.

Next, I’ve used the hf3’s for many conference calls and can attest the microphone quality is excellent. Nothing kills a business or conference call faster than someone with a bad headset or noisy location.

The hf3s are Made for iPhone, or MFI certified. They are compatible with iPhone, iPod, and iPad. They are listed and compatible with the iPhone 6s and earlier iPhone models. Note that the hf3s have a 3.5mm headset jack. Since Apple removed the headset jack from the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X you’ll need to use Appleā€™s Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter to connect them to the phone. That’s pretty annoying, but now a way of life with Apple. The hf3 may work with Android phones that are compatible with iPhone headsets. I’ll update this after I try a few.

What’s In The Box

Inside the box you’ll find:

  • the hf3 earphones + headset
  • cloth carrying case
  • 2 pair of alternative Ear Tips
  • 1 filter removal tool
  • 2 pairs of green Ear Tip filters
  • 1 Lapel Clip
  • User manual and documentation

The hf3s come with a set of their standard three flange EarTips attached to the earphones. A set of large Grey three flange ear tips and black foam ear tips are also included in the box. You can choose the set that best work for you. They earphones have a black 4 ft extension cable. The headset has a three button remote with built in microphone. The remote as play, forward, and back buttons that function the same as Apple’s standard headset. The earphones have a 3.5mm TRRS headset 45 degree angled connector.

The hf3s also come with a filter removal tool and two sets of replacement filters. Over time your hf3’s may become clogged with earwax or skin (eww..). If this happens, you’ll notice reduced volume or a complete loss of volume from one of the ear buds. Use the filter tool to remove the dirty filter and replace it with a fresh one. It could take years for this to happen depending on how clean your ears are. I’ve replaced filters in the past and it is easy to do.

Proper Earphone Insertion

When you insert the hf3s inot your ear you have to make sure you get a deep seal in your ear canal. If you don’t insert the tips correctly you won’t get proper noise isolation and there will be a loss of bass. Choose the Ear Tips that work best for your ears. Etymotics includes a yellow card with a note to remind you of this and it even has a link to a video on that shows you how to properly insert the hf3s in your ear. I also want to share with you that some people don’t like the deep insertion in their ear. This doesn’t bother me. however at first the noise isolation takes some getting used to. It is as if the sound as been completely sucked out of the room.

Thehf3s come with a 2 year limited warranty from Etymotic. In my experience, the Etymotics I have owned aren’t anymore rugged than other earphones. I think their warranty waa prevously one year so the increase is a welcome change.

I really like the hf3s. At $120 they are expensive and still use a 3.5mm headphone jack which Apple has now abandoned. At some point Etymotics will need to think about doing a Lighting connector version of the hf3s, or planning a a bluetooth version. If you don’t need the headset feature, they sell the hf5s for $99 which are just the earphones only.

For now, I’ll be using these with my iPhone X until they need replacing or I find a better option.

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