Review- Etymotic hf2 Noise Isolating Headset

On December 10, 2008

Apple’s new in-ear headphones have been in the news lately. Word is they’re pretty good- not great, but good. I’m hoping to have a chance to test them out soon but I don’t have much incentive right now. You see, for the past few months I have been using Etymotic’s hf2s and they are nothing short of amazing.

Let me go back a bit in my iPhone-history.

About this time last year I was getting pretty sick of the stock Apple earbuds so I ordered a pair of  Etymotic 6i Isolators. They were my first pair of in-ear buds and I could not believe how much better they sounded than what I had been using. I did, however, have two small reservations with regard to them. First, they had a thin 5′ cord which tended to get tangled a bit too often. Second, they lacked an in-line microphone so I still needed to carry my stock Apple buds, as well. These were, however, small concerns compared to the vastly improved sound I was now enjoying. I was quite pleased with my purchase.

Last spring I began using the Etymotic’s hf2s. Wow! They were, and remain, one of the best possible iPhone accessories ever.

If the 6i Isolators sounded "great", the hf2s sounded… well… “greater”. Seriously, the sound they produced was fantastic! In addition, Etymotic had addressed both of my previous concerns. At 4’ long, the cord on the hf2s is a full foot shorter than the 5’ cable on the 6isolators. In addition, they are made from a heavier grade rubberized material that is super light yet doesn’t get tangled. Moreover, the hf2 headset added a high quality in-line microphone. The microphone doesn’t add any noticeable weight to the cord so it is extremely comfortable to wear. It is also positioned in the absolute perfect location– close to the mouth– while remaining completely unobtrusive.

The hf2s are "in-ear" headphones. That means the small, flanged tips are seated entirely inside the ear. It initially felt rather odd to me to be wearing earphones that went into the ear in such a way. (As the site shows, the tips do not come anywhere close to the eardrum so they are completely safe.) Once I found the right sized tip and got used to the idea however, they became the most comfortable earphones I have worn. Add to that the fact that the design not only prevents the 1.3 ounce earphones from falling out but significantly reduces outside noise, and you have the best designed earphones I have used.

The end/answer button in the microphone can also be used to pause, restart and advance the current music track. And, of course, if you are listening to music when a call comes in the music fades out and stops until the call ends. Best of all, the call quality with the microphone is excellent for both parties on the call.

As with Etymotic’s entire line, the hf2 headset comes in a nice carrying case and includes a number of different sized inserts (these are the type of earphone that fits into the ear canal and fills it in order to physically block outside sound), replacement filters and a tool to change the filters. And while the plug on the 6i headphones will fit into the iPhone without an adapter (barely), the plug on the hf2 is narrower and provides a far better and secure fit.

At a retail price of $179 the hf2s are a bit on the pricey side. As is the case quite often, however, you get what you pay for. The hf2s are comfortable to wear, sound fantastic for both listening to music and carrying on a conversation and are well constructed, (I have been using them constantly and they don’t show any sign of wear.) They are an investment in iPhone use and enjoyment and a good investment at that!

So should your next premium headset be the hf2 from Etymotic?  Perhaps it is best to answer these questions before making a decision–

Do you care enough about your music to want a high quality headset?

Are you willing to make sure that a high-end phone/music player isn’t crippled by low-end ear buds?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions the hf2 headset is for you.

They can be purchased directly from Etymotic ( or a number of other retailers for an MSRP of $179