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Etymotic Research HF5 Portable In-Ear Earphones (Cobalt) by Review Summary ,  Sep 14, 2015

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Etymotic Research HF5 Portable In-Ear Earphones (Cobalt)
Report Date: 01/03/2016
Based on 513 customer reviews
Overall satisfaction: 4.1
Returned or considering to return: 5.1%

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Frequently Mentioned by Customers:


Individual Feature Rating
Light5.0   above average
Value5.0   average
Balance4.7   average
Loud4.6   above average
Price4.6   average
Listening4.5   above average
Music4.5   above average
Comfortable4.3   below average
Noise4.3   above average
Range4.3   average
Sound4.3   average
Treble4.3   average
Quality4.1   average
Audio4.0   average
Fit4.0   below average
Heavy3.9   above average
Amazon3.8   average
Design3.8   average
Response3.8   below average
Plug3.4   average
Speaker3.3   average
Volume3.0   below average
Cable2.7   below average


Quotes from the Reviews - What People Say about:

Amazon

Amazon:
"I have to say I am also very disappointed in the reviews here on Amazon."
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"Whenever I read negative reviews on Amazon, I am always a bit annoyed when the reviewer does not offer his her alternative pick."
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"Shipping was on time(amazon prime) .Only thing is bass is really weak(? )"
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"I am very pleased, and although Amazon lowered the price by 10% 2 days after I placed my order, I am still very happy I chose Etymotic again."
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"Great product, good job of delivering for amazon."
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"I consider the Etymotic Research HF5 earphones a very good value for the price on Amazon."
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"They sell on Amazon for a hundred bucks, which is less than a good pair of traditional studio phones."
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"Amazon was excellent to deal with in getting the refund plus paying the return shipping awesomeNow for the product I own a pair of shure se310 that I have owned for 3 years now that are starting to have the wiring crackthis is using them 5 days a week for 8 to 10 hours a day."
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Balance

Balance:
"The HF5 HF3's are a great balance of all of the positives and negatives of my past earbud journeys."
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"These are more accurate and in spite of some third party reviews about bass not quite strong enough I find these to be a good balance."
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"I'm not a techno-person, but the balance is wonderful with different notes percussive elements in each bud, AND THEY CANCEL AMBIENT NOISE!"
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"I have read some complaints about the level of base but I think the level is acceptable - they actually have a really nice balance of base and treble on my iPod nano that has no equilizer."
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"The detail and balance, the realistic tonality, especially at low frequencies, the shear balance across the musical spectrum is fantastic."
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"I have a strong appreciation for music - dynamics, melodies, balance, etc."
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Base

Base:
").I read some people complaining about the lack of base and urging using an amplifier to improve base sound quality."
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"I guess I am really disappointed at the lack of base and richness."
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"I know these earbuds are a step down in audio quality from my previous shures but before they started to fail (in less than 8 hours) I noted that the mids and highs were not as clear as my 310's but I will say the base was better than my old se310Now for the reason of the 2 star review."
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"I have read some complaints about the level of base but I think the level is acceptable - they actually have a really nice balance of base and treble on my iPod nano that has no equilizer."
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"I received these today, played one song off my iTunes list, and was speechless regarding the spectacular clarity and modest but tight base response."
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"very pleased with the head phones, black in colour the base quality is exceptional as is the noise reduction capabilities of the product"
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"Proper install will reward you with tight, deep base, bell clear mids and highs like at the concert hall."
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"Personally, I didn't find any problem with the base, but I ordered FiiO E6 toegther with HF5 (before trying HF5)."
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"The sound signature took some getting used to because I am accustomed to a warmer sound with heavier base but after a short time I have come to appreciate hearing every part of the music at the same level with nothing dominating the rest of the music."
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Cable

Cable:
"Only one gripe- my shirt clip broke while trying to attach it to the cable."
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"That softened the blow considerably and after more research now know in the event cables get wonky or some other failure, I can have them serviced-throwing stuff away when a wire breaks gets old in a hurry where I come from!"
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"I use these for the gym where I don't want a bulky cord (or the risk of damaging or losing my very expensive earbuds)."
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"I do have to say, I'm a bit disappointed with the cable length."
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"One annoying thing is that you head the cord rubbing on everything."
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"The sound quality of these is every bit as good as everyone says, but the cables are terrible."
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"and be nearly perfect l listening like flights, for casual listening while on flights or camping,Unfortunately the second night I had them, one of our cats absolutely destroyed the cables, Contacting support was a wonderful experience--quickly directed me to the exchange program which would basically apply 45 bucks to a purchase of replacements."
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"Construction is quite nice, and the last foot of cable up to the ears is solid, rather than the fragile-looking twisted pair I was constantly worried about on the ER-4P."
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"The cable is a good length for listening to a personal device in your pocket but is a bit of a stretch when working on a computer or using it with cameras or other recording devices."
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"The HF5's seem slightly less durable and the cord is shorter than the ER4's."
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"These sound like $15 earbuds you buy at a drugstore because you have a long bus ride ahead and have kinked the cable of your good ones."
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Comfortable

Comfortable:
"At first, I thought that it would be painful all the time, but as my ears got used to them, the comfort improved tremendously."
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"The comfort is average once your ears get used to them, but they're terrible before hand."
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"comfort can be an issue.. a COMPLY COMFORT+ solves the problem at ~20$."
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"However, I could never be satisfied with the HF5 due to the comfort issue."
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"Pros:- Clarity: I can hear each individual sound effect in music and movies- Sharp: Sounds start when they are meant to, and stop when they are meant to; there is no 'muddiness'- Range: I can hear additional sounds (effects in movies or notes in music) that I have missed when using other headphones- Comfortable ear tips: Many ear tips of different types are supplied which makes finding a suitable and comfortable pair very easyCons:- Microphonics: touching or rubbing the cable sends very audible interference, forcing the user to wear the IEMs in an 'over-the-ear' fashion- Weaker bass: the bass is not as loud as on other IEMs, but it is 'punchy' and clear instead of 'muddy'I recommend these IEMs for anyone who actually care about their music."
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"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."
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"Really comfortable and cut out ambient noise perfectly."
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"You have to take the buds a little depper than might be initially comfortable, but the seal it creates is the best."
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"Additionally, they seemed quite comfortable and the fidelity was also good."
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"Clear, crisp, rich sound, comfortable in my ears, they are wonderful."
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"Comfortable, durable, and the sound is spectacular."
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Design

Design:
"(Maybe there's a fault in my ear design? )"
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"I was somewhat skeptical about the passive noise cancelingtechnology (vs active in other headphones) possible discomfort due to in-ear design and sound quality."
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"For me, the triple flanged eartip design was uncomfortable."
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"The unique deep ear canal design is very comfortable on my ears and delivers a solid mix of treble and bass, as well as excellent clarity (as long as the song being played wasn't produced during the loudness wars....)."
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"You get more than decent sound here, but even better is the fact that this design (fits in the ear canal) will filter out most ambient noise."
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"I was happy to see that they improved the design and have a hard kink at the point where my previous pair had failed."
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"I workout like an ANIMAL - sweat profusely....and I've only had one design actually work great for running and gym workouts...and that's Etymotic."
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"They had *major* design flaws in my opinion that negatively impacted comfort, usability, and ultimately, the sound quality that you're able to achieve in real-world use."
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Fit

Fit:
"Not as great a fit as the ER-4s, but the sound isn't far off."
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"These do not fit well."
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"I listened to the SE215 and even though I liked the fit in my ears and its excellent noise isolation, I was disappointed by it's excessive bass and recessed and muddy mids highs."
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"earbuds don't fit well in my ears."
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"That tight fit in my ears is a little uncomfortable."
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"My problems with these were: poor fit of supplied ear tips and anemic bass."
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"So I'd definitely recommend these to you, as long as you can get them to fit properly."
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"These sounded great, but I could not get them to fit correctly."
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"The fit is very comfortable and I noticed no ear fatigue after a long listening session."
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"The sound quality is very good, and initially the noise isolation was very good, but the only one of the earbud covers that would fit my ears were the domed foam ones, and they tore after only a couple of weeks."
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"Great sound, good fit, good noise isolation."
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Heavy

Heavy:
"Not recommended for the person looking to blow their eardrums out with heavy bass."
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"I don't really do heavy bass but if you are looking for that these are the wrong products for you."
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"The sound quality is perfect, the bass isnt as heavy as any of the other phones ive tried, but most popular headphone companies today seam to mistake really heavy bass for good sound quality."
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"Just wish there was a good dynamic driver alternative for bass heavy electronic."
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"A great choice for anyone who wants beautiful balanced crisp yet heavy enough sound from their music."
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"Yes, it may not be good enough for people who love hip hop electronic music with heavy bass, but for people who like listening to music heavy on instruments and vocals, these are a real treat."
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"The sound is amazing on these but as some of the reviews have said they are not very bass heavy so if you are looking for that booming bass these are not for you."
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"I unfortunately lost this pair of headphones and immediately came to order a new pair because of the amazing quality -- I use these on the subways and at the gym and they block out about 90% of the external sounds -- they aren't ever going to be as good as the giant headphones that cover the ear, but those are big and heavy and I like something light -- these are perfect for this audiophile"
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Light

Light:
"These have excellent sound reproduction, they are very light and have good sound isolation."
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"Very light, comfortable, and stays out of the way."
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"Sound quality is OK. Good for use with light exercise (e. g., walking)."
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"I unfortunately lost this pair of headphones and immediately came to order a new pair because of the amazing quality -- I use these on the subways and at the gym and they block out about 90% of the external sounds -- they aren't ever going to be as good as the giant headphones that cover the ear, but those are big and heavy and I like something light -- these are perfect for this audiophile"
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"These headphones are absolutely perfect: light, tightly fit with multiple tips of different kinds, clear sound, and good bass levels."
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Listening

Listening:
"No matter how you try to adjust volume and EQ, the listening experience is simply harsh and very unpleasant."
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"The only caveat I offer is that truly flat listening instruments require eq for the deep bass emphasis that many listeners are looking for."
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"1 - Sound is pretty good for mid range but absolutely no bass2 - flimsy cable, poor material quality and very cheap pouch3 - very good noise reduction4 - three flange isolation not comfortable for long period listening5 - never listen over 70% volume since treble sounds cause headache6 - when insert in ears too much, feel pain since tip of headphone a little thicker7 - never use them when you are in motion"
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"The bass is great for listening to music too- the fidelity is fantastic."
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"and be nearly perfect l listening like flights, for casual listening while on flights or camping,Unfortunately the second night I had them, one of our cats absolutely destroyed the cables, Contacting support was a wonderful experience--quickly directed me to the exchange program which would basically apply 45 bucks to a purchase of replacements."
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"The cable is a good length for listening to a personal device in your pocket but is a bit of a stretch when working on a computer or using it with cameras or other recording devices."
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"Listening to a professionally done live recording, I was able to hear edits in on the cd that I had never heard with any speakers or headphones of any price or quality."
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Loud

Loud:
"Its loud enough to be annoying even with foam earplugs."
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"Perfect for loud environments"
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"I wanted to listen at a volume setting of 5 or 6 (out of 50), which is loud enough to hear the music comfortably while drowning out all normal ambient noise, but not quite loud enough to prevent hearing a bomb or fire alarm going off."
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"In this sense, the HF5s even exceeded any reasonable expectations for earphones, and for someone who really likes to listen to their music LOUD, I think you would be extremely pleased and impressed with these."
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"Great for a loud office setting."
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"I really like these headphones because they do an amazing job of blocking out noise, even on loud NYC subway cars."
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Music

Music:
"This will also bring out poorly cheaply-produced music, but that's not really the headphones' fault."
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"(It does mean that I have to update my music to all be at 320 kbps so I enjoy it more... but)While most negative reviews bash the bass, I really enjoy it through these."
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"I've also never been able to distinguish music played at 320 kbps and below it..."
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"These headphones cover both sides of music wonderfully and I cannot recommend them enough."
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"I will tell you this straight out, music will not sound that good if you expect that the headphones itself will make the music better."
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"If sound quality matters to you and you listen to music anywhere but in your living room, I highly recommend these HF5 earphones."
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"The bass is great for listening to music too- the fidelity is fantastic."
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"Not only do they isolate outside sound extremely well, but the sounds you'll hear, in music you listened to for years, is will amaze."
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"Only good thing is music is very clear and crisp but no bass."
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"Get this if you listen to classical music, or better still, an ER-4S if you have a decent headphone amplifier"
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Noise

Noise:
"I'm able to use my mp3 player at a low volume but am not able to hear environmental noise."
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"I hate over the head earphones, couldn't find noise isolating behind the neck earphones, so ear buds it was."
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"I listened to the SE215 and even though I liked the fit in my ears and its excellent noise isolation, I was disappointed by it's excessive bass and recessed and muddy mids highs."
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"Drawbacks: 1, As with other noise isolating earphones, any movement of the cord or chewing on food causes fairly loud noise in the earphones."
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"Small soundstage, weak bass and lacking a little indefinable sparkle compared with more expensive gear, but I find these a great choice for flights (much better than noise cancelling headphones) and an OK choice for exercise - with the caveat that the earbuds slip out with sweat and the microphonics are intrusive."
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"It's not a good sound, in my opinion, but it is just white noise afterall, so I've gotten used to it."
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"Really comfortable and cut out ambient noise perfectly."
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"The companys claim is true: these earphones keep out more noise than the best foam earplugs I can find."
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"To my mind, if you have other noise bleeding in, it doesnt much matter how good your earphones are."
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"The sound quality is very good, and initially the noise isolation was very good, but the only one of the earbud covers that would fit my ears were the domed foam ones, and they tore after only a couple of weeks."
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"The combination of crisp, warm sound quality and superb noise isolation make these the perfect choice."
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Plug

Plug:
"Very much worth the higher cost but I broke the plug (my fault) so I bought a cheap pair of $12 Sony's until I got back from my trip, and decided to order a better pair of in-ears."
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"I was always very careful with these and never forceably inserted or removed the plug, especially after the first set broke so easily."
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"Most ear plugs do not provide a good seal against the out side noise."
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"Last one's were Er6's and worked excellent for over 3years with no problems until the wire connection failed a the plug."
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"You'll be totally disappointed with the Etymotic Research HF5 earphones if you don't plug them into your ear canals properly."
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"The wire at the plug was bad, and finally the intermittent problem became permanent."
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"But for listening to music from the PC or cellphone, the audio is great, and if you don't need something with a wire to plug in, that's the one I'd recommend."
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"I was always very careful with these and never forceably inserted or removed the plug, especially after the first set broke so easily."
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"The same is true of these earphones until you get a good fitting ear plug, the thumping bass and high volume will be slightly out of reach."
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"The plug has a slight angle, and plugs easily into iPhone 5 even with an Otterbox case."
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Price

Price:
"So, as much as I hate throwing my money away, I am putting these Etymotics in the trash can and looking to buy the old-style Monster iSport Immersions."
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"Very much worth the higher cost but I broke the plug (my fault) so I bought a cheap pair of $12 Sony's until I got back from my trip, and decided to order a better pair of in-ears."
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"If the price of the custom earplugs is uncomfortable, I highly suggest the cheaper earplugs mentioned earlier in the review."
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"I tried a few (Sennheiser, Sony) from the big-box stores in the $60-80 price range and of course was disappointed - very irritating and strident sound."
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"For the money I wouldn't recommend anything else."
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"They were pretty nice, but definitely not what I expected out of headphones that retail for $400... Would have been unhappy had I paid full price."
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"for the price they are great quality."
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"I have since found a more robust and equal sounding in ear in this same price range so no longer buy these headphones."
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"There are many other choices that are more robust and sound as good for the same price."
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"Price seems high but it works well."
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"For sure though, I thought at the price point they were very good earphones that for a little over hundred bucks would outperform the much pricier BOSE noise cancelling units,Beats and many if not most offerings from Sony, Shure, Sennheiser etc."
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Quality

Quality:
"These were very expensive and I'm very unhappy with the poor quality of the two sets of foam earbud covers."
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"Terrible sound quality."
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"HORRIBLE BUILD QUALITY."
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"Cons: Sound quality is good, accurate, transparent, but by my reference, weak in the bass."
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"Background info: I am a former professional musician, have worked as a sound engineer (operating the mixing board at live concerts and assisting the engineer in a recording studio), and so I am perhaps more fussy about good quality sound than most people might be."
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"The quality of sound is good but not excellent."
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"Good quality stuff."
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"for the price they are great quality."
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"I find the HF5 sound isolation and audio quality are excellent."
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"The build quality of these IEMs is fantastic -- anodized aluminum it feels like, and the cobalt blue is understated and fashionable."
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"Excellent sound quality once you find theRight size earbud"
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Range

Range:
"I tried a few (Sennheiser, Sony) from the big-box stores in the $60-80 price range and of course was disappointed - very irritating and strident sound."
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"I own the following headphones in this price range: Sony MDR-V6 ($100); Sennheiser HD-280 ($100); Bose QC-15 ($300), which is why I'm disappointed that I'm not getting the right sound in this smaller package."
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"Don't mean to be arrogant but if someone is claiming to be disappointed with these, s he is either comparing the HF5's to 400-1000$ range audophile earbuds, or is not familiar with the proper insertion and use of ear-canal buds."
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"I have since found a more robust and equal sounding in ear in this same price range so no longer buy these headphones."
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"These provide much greater frequency range than my Sony studio monitor headphones or my Shure earphones that are within the same price range."
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"The range and sound quality are excellent."
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"Pros:The acoustic reproduction across the entire human hearing range is amazingly accurate, and you can easily pick out all the minute details in whatever you're listening too."
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"Clear, crisp mid and high range and a full defined sound stage."
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Response

Response:
"These etymotics have a nice clear balanced sound, but the poor bass response is unacceptable."
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"They don't have great bass response, so if booming is important to you, look elsewhere."
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"These are horribly uncomfortable with no bass response, and imagine paying $150 for the privilege."
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"If you prefer heavy bass response, Etymotic earphones won't satisfy you."
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"Even a partial break of the seal compromises the bass response, isolation, and apparent volume."
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"Although general quality and mid and high frequency response was excellent, I personally missed the low end frequency response."
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"The clarity is absolutely fantastic, and the mid- and high-end response is brilliant and shimmering, clear and punchy, sharp and crystal."
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"These etymotics have a nice clear balanced sound, but the poor bass response is unacceptable."
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"Great isolation for riding mass transit, good frequency response, sounds clear."
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"They have good frequency response all around."
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"I received these today, played one song off my iTunes list, and was speechless regarding the spectacular clarity and modest but tight base response."
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Size

Size:
"It's a mistake not to offer several sizes of eartip after spending that much money, plus the additional eartips that come with the package appear designed to function as regular ear buds, not 'in ear'.Added to that it's not clear where I can find smaller eartips ."
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"I need the larger size inserts and am disappointed that they were not included."
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"Is it so hard to believe people have small ear canals?"
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"Small soundstage, weak bass and lacking a little indefinable sparkle compared with more expensive gear, but I find these a great choice for flights (much better than noise cancelling headphones) and an OK choice for exercise - with the caveat that the earbuds slip out with sweat and the microphonics are intrusive."
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"Excellent sound quality once you find theRight size earbud"
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"The standard flanges were too small for my ear, since they inserted easily all the way in with no resistance, and didn't block the ambient sound from the room at all."
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"Get these, they work great and they give you severayl earpiece sizes."
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"The earbuds are really comfortable, and as a man of medium size - 5'9 - I found the larger cone size to fit the best."
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Sound

Sound:
"Not as great a fit as the ER-4s, but the sound isn't far off."
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"They sound amazing (and have a great warranty) however they fail easily (one ear will stop working or one ear speaker will rattle and then blows, etc.)"
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"They were good for 3 months until the right speaker blew they sound horrible now."
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"These in ears sound great but unfortunately are poorly constructed."
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"Excessive highs making the sound ear piercing."
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"Terrible sound quality."
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"These are great sounding in ear monitors."
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"When I did get them in perfectly, they did really block out sound."
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"I find the HF5 sound isolation and audio quality are excellent."
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"When it was time to buy new earphones, I did the same research and got the same result: no one else makes earphones with both excellent audio and excellent sound isolation."
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"They do a great job of isolating the sound."
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Speaker

Speaker:
"They were good for 3 months until the right speaker blew they sound horrible now."
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"But, the new HF5 Right speaker or connection is failing within 3 MONTHS!"
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"I use them in my spa where my exterior speakers are not effective due to the noise of the pumps and water action."
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"Pro's: Excellent separation, Excellent clarity- you really do hear musical detail you missed in other earphones or speakers."
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"They were good for 3 months until the right speaker blew they sound horrible now."
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"One of the speakers pretty much went out 10 months into owning them, I was bummed."
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"I think they sound terrific (I have Magnepans at home for an indication of the kind of speaker I'm accustomed to) and do a great job of isolating you from outside sound."
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"Listening to a professionally done live recording, I was able to hear edits in on the cd that I had never heard with any speakers or headphones of any price or quality."
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"Only my wonderful KEF 104AB's floor standing speakers give me flat that I like until now."
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Treble

Treble:
"The downside of the Etymotic, which indeed offers a more treble eq, is having to constantly replace the filters (about every 6 months)."
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"The EM are very good, very flat sounding, with space around the instruments, but they lack warmth and they don't image as well as the RHA, they aren't as detailed, particularly in the treble (cymbals), they definitely have less bass."
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"The unique deep ear canal design is very comfortable on my ears and delivers a solid mix of treble and bass, as well as excellent clarity (as long as the song being played wasn't produced during the loudness wars....)."
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"Once you seal your ear with the proper cover.............the music is very enjoyable and balanced (all sections of the bandwidth - treble, bass, midrange)."
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"It is very clear and accurate in the midrange and treble."
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"Treble is strong and accurate overall but there seams to be a falloff of the upper frequencies that are near the top of my hearing range."
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"So far, the 1st iem that doesn't need me to turn on equalizer, adjust treble bass or any other effect to get to satisfaction."
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Value

Value:
"Accuracy can always be better but the value is unquestionable."
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"For those who want a more bassy sound, these IEMs respond fairly well to equalization, so long as your preamp value is as low as your amp value is high."
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"Good value for the quality."
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"Overall, a good value, especially if the included ear tips work for you."
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"They are also exceptional value."
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Volume

Volume:
"Only negative is the lack of volume control on the earphones themselves but that to me is only a luxury item."
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"I'm able to use my mp3 player at a low volume but am not able to hear environmental noise."
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"No matter how you try to adjust volume and EQ, the listening experience is simply harsh and very unpleasant."
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"They are quality than the previous set and do a better job of keeping the earpiece on the device instead of getting stuck in your ear, however, they incorporated a microphone button control pod in the unit that, when it gets wet (i. e. from sweat) the volume goes up uncontrollably and weird things happen."
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"The most frequent complaints are: not enough volume and not enough bass."
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"Using the custom earplugs, anything above 70% of volume on my tablet is very uncomfortable."
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"This poor quality effectively makes them useless for me unless I turn up the volume to drown out the noise."
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"The Klipsch are the only close 2nd to these as far as sound and comfort go, and those do have the volume control and mic to use with a phone."
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"But since they needed a higher volume level in order to start sounding good, I chose to return them."
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"Turning the volume up to 15 or 20 makes a good improvement in the bass, and once I turned it up to 30 or so, it sounded really, really fantastic."
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"If you want to physically block out as much ambient noise as possible so you can actually lower the volume of your iPhone and still enjoy your audio, these are that."
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Warranty

Warranty:
"They sound amazing (and have a great warranty) however they fail easily (one ear will stop working or one ear speaker will rattle and then blows, etc.)"
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"Now, the reason for the 3 stars, build quality, i am on my second set this year, on both the back of the housing detached, i am sure the first set would have been covered by warranty, but unfortunately, before i could RMA them there was a kitten mishap lol."
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"One was the original I purchased off of Amazon, and one was a replacement from etymotic when my first ones broke under the warranty period."
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"Etymotic does offer a good warranty on these (two years), but since I'm just past the warranty end date I've missed my chance to have them replaced."
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"The cable damage is not a warranty issue."
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"They sound amazing (and have a great warranty) however they fail easily (one ear will stop working or one ear speaker will rattle and then blows, etc.)"
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"Once they are broken in, I can only expect them to sound better, but right out of the box, they are 5 5 sound wise, 5 5 build quality, 5 5 comfort, 5 5 warranty."
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"Etymotic does offer a good warranty on these (two years), but since I'm just past the warranty end date I've missed my chance to have them replaced."
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"Their durability was amazing, and recently I found out there is an out of warranty discount program through Etymotic - sweet."
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"I can see these lasting me well past the two-year warranty."
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