Headphone Review: Etymotic HF2

Sound, you hear it all around us, and headphones tend to add coloration to that sound when you listen to it. True to the ear, it’s not only a slogan for Etymotic, it’s the definition behind the name. To be true to the ear requires that a pair of headphones doesn’t color anything, and this can be especially tough to do with the engineering requirements to do this. Etymotic tackles the mid-hundred-dollar price range with their HF series of headphones, the HF2 build specifically for smartphones. The HF2s have a simple design, accurate audio, amazing build quality, good comfort quality, and an amazing bang for your buck.


  • Driver: Single Balanced Armature
  • Frequency Response: 20 – 15000 Hz
  • Impedance: 16 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 105 dB

In The Box

  • Etymotic HF2 headset
  • 4 Sets of ear tips
  • 2 Triple Flange (small, medium)
  • 1 Foam
  • 1 Glider
  • Carrying Case
  • Cable Clip
  • Documentation
The Etymotics come with a good amount of accessories 


The design behind these Etymotics is an earplug. If you look at them, that’s what they take the form of. The design isn’t peculiar; in fact, a lot of companies use this design. However, Etymotic takes it to the next level with the deep insertion design. The earpieces look like thin, long barrels with a little rubber piece sticking out of the back end. The HF3s come available to you in 3 matte-finished colors: cobalt, ruby, and black. The minute, tiny, and simple design that Etymotic uses on the headphones don’t turn eyes, but still work as a whole.

The design of the HF2s are really simple and resemble earplugs.

Design: ★★★★★


OK, this is where the Etymotics are supposed to shine with their true to the ear sound. The signature behind the headphones are analytical from the start, but it took time for the bass to really come in and the treble to settle down a bit.


This is definitely the weak spot of these headphones. I found that the bass was ever-so slightly below neutral at level, which isn’t a bad thing since it is the quality that counts. The bass is really punchy and tight, making it accurate as ever, which is true to the ear. However, the bass lacks some impact, which is the main problem I have with it. Is there impact? Yes, but it can use that slightest big more to allow the texture to come in correctly. Some may find this bass lacking in quantity, but the quality is still there and the bass extends pretty deep and can be heard from the mid-bass all the way down to the low bass. The lows on these take time to adjust to. The bass on these would be really amazing if it had the slightest bit more impact.

Bass: ★★★★½


The mids on these are analytical and really detailed. Every note, every micro-detail, everything can be heard through these. This can sometimes backfire and show you impurities in your music, so make sure you use high quality music. The mids are really transparent on these, but they don’t give up the dynamics and sweetness that I do like in the mids. The mid-range is clear as a bell and timbre couldn’t be much better than it already is. I really don’t know what else to say, but these neutral mids are just about perfectly tuned by Etymotic.

Mids: ★★★★★


Highs are normally what Etymotic is known for, creating really great highs, and these headphones don’t disappoint at all. The highs on these are amazing to say the least. The detail in the highs is really tremendously done as you can hear just about everything, hearing new notes in your music never felt so great. The clarity is amazingly crafted on the HF2s, something Etymotic is already well known for. The treble on these really know how to sparkle in their glittery goodness. It really gives the highs on these something special and the extension just cleans up the whole deal. The highs were really nice, but I did find they were a little too aggressive in some songs; otherwise, the highs were perfect to the touch.

Highs: ★★★★½

Noise Isolation

Can you hear me now? *Person shrugs*. Disgruntled person pulls out an earplug earpiece and screams, “TURN OFF THE MUSIC!” The other person replies, “There is no music playing, calm down.”

When I said these things looked like earplugs, I should have added that they also act like them too. Need to tune out the rest of the world around you? Just put these suckers in and enjoy your music, alone, even on a crowded train with the crazy man next to you screaming at himself.


OK, wearing these down, you will get some sort of microphonics out of them, but they actually aren’t too bad and are livable. The clip can get rid of it all. I just wear these over the ear to remove them all though, which seems to work perfectly. The microphonics are 100% livable, but the clip can rid of them.

Besides having a resemblance to the skull of a pterodactyl, the included clip can help reduce microphonics.

The Etymotics are true to the ear. They will play exactly what is in each recording without coloring it and allowing you to hear every single, little sound that is produced. The sound on these little miracles is really astounding. Now, this signature will not work for every person as the bass is actually a little less than the Apple IEMs, and many complain about the lacking bass in those. Otherwise, I really need to give Etymotic kudos for making such a great pair of headphones.

Audio: ★★★★½


Etymotic really went after creating a perfect IEM with these as the HFs continue to excel in the build department; I really haven’t seen a better built pair of headphones. The headphone jack is angled which is always a great start since many companies forget about this. The gold plating resists corrosion. The jack itself is flexible and really nicely built.

The angled headphone jack ensures that it will last just a little longer.

Moving up the cable, you’ll notice a thinner cable that really doesn’t like to tangle. The Kevlar reinforcement will definitely help keep it from snapping and breaking. This cable is actually comparable to the ThinkSound TS02’s cable. Being thin, yet strong, and tangle free really helps the cable out. This cable is built as well as the TS02, which I said was built to perfection. These are no different.

Now this brings us to the build of the actual headphones themselves. The casing feels really nice, but more importantly is really strong. For tiny things, it seems that these are built like steel. Coming out of each earpiece is a strain relief that is medium in size and also very flexible.

The HF series come with a little carrying pouch that can help protect the headphones when not in use. Although they may not be 100% necessary, it’s still a good idea to use it. The size is portable and there is a small pocket in it. It’s also the perfect size to carry a small iPod with you, like a Nano or Shuffle.

The carrying pouch is really portable and protects your IEMs when not in use. 

The HF2s are built to perfection, I really couldn’t ask for a better build. The cables are strong and don’t tangle. The housings are tough with strain reliefs. Finally, the headphone jack is angled, flexable, and gold plated. Etymotic definitely did everything they could to ensure these headphones would last a lifetime.

Build: ★★★★★


The comfort on these headphones varies depending on which tip fits you the best. Regardless of which one isolates the best, choose the tip that will seal the best and provide the deepest and most impactful bass. The most comfortable tips included are the foam tips as well as the foam glider tips. The gliders don’t require that deep of an insertion. I prefer to use the small tri-flanges though. These took me a week to get used to, but sealed the best. With these tips, if you’ve ruptured your ear drum, it’s in too deep. If you had a piece of brain stuck to them upon removing them, you put them in too deep. Jokes aside, you do have to put these IEMs pretty deep into your ear and it can get uncomfortable. However, once you’re used to it, it’s not that bad. The rest of the tips were comfortable as ever though, and were able to give adequate seals for me.

Etymotic includes 4 pairs of ear tips (from left to right): Gliders, Foam, Small Triflange, Large Triflange. Each have their own degree of comfort. 

If you feel that these four tips won’t suit you, Etymotic also offers the option of going custom. Custom ear tips aren’t known too much by this community, but it requires you to go to an audiologist to get a mold of your ear. You send this mold to Etymotic and they make a tip for you. I have yet to try this, but it costs 100 dollars, which is much cheaper than many other companies that offer this same service.

Due to the fact that 3/4 of the tips were really comfortable, and the option of custom tips Etymotic has at a low price, these headphones are actually quite comfortable overall giving them a four and a half star rating.



The HF2 and HF3 both retail at 180 dollars each, which actually isn’t a bad price for these. They are right on par with what you get. The excellent build quality and sound quality you get is extremely worth this price. If you are one that doesn’t like to shove ear-buds through your ear-drums, you may want to skip on this purchase. The HF5s retail at 150 dollars, which is an exceptionally great value as you get the same audio quality and build. The HF2s come with a remote and mic while the HF3s also add a volume rocker for your iPod. Now, they are on par for 180 dollars retail that is not the cheapest you can find them. The HF series can easily be found for about 100 dollars through online dealers like Amazon, which is also an authorized dealer. This price really makes this a complete steal.

The remote and mic included with theHF2 is actually a pretty high quality mic.


Final Thoughts

The Etymtoic HF series has proven to be true to the ear at a quite affordable price. Believe it or not, 100 dollars is not a lot of money to put down, and with something that gives as much quality as these do, it’s a steal. The audio quality and build on these are top notch and really seal the deal when it comes to audio equipment. They don’t look hideous either, which helps them out. If you don’t mind the deep insertion depths of these earphones, they are definitely a worthwhile investment.

Overall Score


Etymotic HF2

† All prices are in US currency.
This review was written by the iFans.com Review Team. Cumulative scores are rounded to the nearest half or full star.
All accessories, applications, themes, tweaks, or other products were purchased by iFans at their respective prices unless stated otherwise.

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