It’s strange that Etymotic is not more widely recognised, as it was the company to devise the canalphone – an earphone that slips so intimately into the ear that it forms an airtight seal and shuts out practically all outside noise.
More than that, the acoustic seal caused by snug silicone rings truly augments and tightens the bass response. The earphone is often working more efficiently, so overall distortion is far lower and volume can be kept down on the personal stereo. They also prevent the kind of sound leakage that otherwise makes you the pariah of public transport.
The hf3s have a microphone for use in conversations on mobiles, with a three-button in-line remote to answer calls and add full volume control for the iDevices.
The main body of the earphone is made from aluminium, and available in a choice of three colours. Additional foam and glider eartips, a filter changing tool and zipped carry pouch are included.
The unique design of these earbuds mean they fit snugly in the ear
Sound quality is firmly in the high-end audio class. A solid foundation is formed from deep, extended bass – apparent as a firm kick to bass drum in rock and jazz, and a presence in good live recordings. They perfectly recreate the atmosphere of a performance, with sweet, detailed treble. This is evident in the dulcet chime of steel-strung acoustic guitar, letting you into the finer strokes of the guitarist’s strum. Vocals are clear, and sound natural and well balanced in a mix where lesser earphones struggle to succeed.
High volumes are also possible from the sensitive transducers. Played on an iPhone 4, we rarely needed more than 50 per cent volume setting for a comfortable rock ’n’ level.
The Etymotic canalphone was the original and the hf3 sits comfortably among the best earphones at any price. The hf3 are a superbly balanced earphone/mic combination that will bring out music like few others.