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Etymotic Research hf2 Custom Noise Isolating Earphones review



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Etymotic Research hf2 Custom Noise Isolating Earphones


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The term noise-isolating is bandied about a lot when talking about earphones. Certainly, 'phones from the likes of Shure and Philips do a great job of blocking out external sound thanks to the great foam tips supplied therewith. To a lesser extent the silicone tips that are a feature of just about every canalphone bundle also offer some exclusion from invasive noises. And, of course, this isolation works both ways - enabling fellow passengers in a car, train or plane to remain undisturbed by your undoubtedly impeccable taste in music.

However, as great as these a-few-sizes-should-fit-all solutions are, they never offer quite the level of exclusion you might hope for. There's a simple reason for that: no two persons' ear canals are quite the same. Certainly, foam tips do a decent job of trying to fill these differing shaped ear canals by expanding to fill the available space, but it's still an imperfect solution.

Getting closer to perfection requires a simple extension of common sense: outfit your earphones with tips custom mounted to the exact shape of your own ears ensuring a flawless fit. That's exactly what the Etymotic Research hf2 Custom earphones offer.

The idea is that by using exactly moulded tips, significantly better isolation is provided. Because there is less external interference whatever player is driving the custom-tipped 'phones can be run at lower volume levels which means less distortion and a reduced chance of long term hearing damage.

As purchased - exclusively from the Apple store either online or at a retail location - the hf2 Customs are just a pair of normal hf2s - still £100 a pair - with a voucher in it which is redeemed with a company called Advanced Communication Solutions (ACS) which deals with the business of creating the custom moulds. At £90 adding these tips in effect doubles the price of the phones. Both Etymotic and ACS reckon that's worthwhile.

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Hamish Campbell

May 15, 2009, 4:55 pm

Didn't you mention this a wee while ago, and someone suggested you could get the same custom tips (from different suppliers) for a bit less?

Can't find the article on here....maybe it was another site?

Bryan Kerr

May 15, 2009, 5:21 pm

How long do the custom buds last and how easy are they to clean?


May 15, 2009, 5:47 pm

@haim + @Bryan - what Bryan raises is an important point. ACS moulds are of very high quality and it says you can expect to get up to five years from them. You can find cheaper moulds but you'll replace them far more frequently (which doesn't really make them cheaper).

As for cleaning: 1. you get a little tool to do the job though it's easy with any number of things and 2. no need to if you keep your ears clean ;)


May 15, 2009, 5:48 pm

haim - I thought I mentioned that, oops. Yeah, ACS will do custom tips for any earphones (also for £90 I believe). The difference here is pretty much just the packaging of the bundle.

Bryan - I think they're supposed to last nigh-on indefinitely. Very easy to clean, they're silicone so you just run them under some warm water and wait for them to dry.


May 15, 2009, 6:10 pm

Hmm, wouldn't it be great if you could get a custom set of moulds that would last years and fit many types of earphone from many manufacturers? Just thinking out loud...


May 15, 2009, 7:06 pm

In theory that would work as a lot of tips are interchangeable between various Shure models, see here on the Comply website for specifics http://www.complyfoam.com/Prod....

If you get the moulding and sleeves through leightons they will do the mouldings for free, as opposed to £20 or £30 pound, so all in it's £88, which is a pretty good imo, makes my phonaks sound excellent as I struggled to find a decent tip for ages.


May 15, 2009, 7:32 pm

@comedian - All in that's the same price as the ACS custom option (which as Hugo states can be made for any brand of earphones you like). I can't vouch for the quality of Leightons moulds but if that £2 is important to you... ;)


May 15, 2009, 7:47 pm

Yes for £2 difference my point was rather moot.

I was trying to say that the cost of a custom sleeve was lessened if you used that sleeve with a number of different but compatible iems as opposed to getting a mould for each 'phone.

Ricky Archer

May 15, 2009, 10:22 pm

For the sake of an extra £80, I am happy with my 'Beats' by Dr Dre. They come with the inline microphone so I don't miss any calls, they have a mute button so I can hear people when I need (want) to and they are VERY comfortable. I used to use the Ultimate Ears, but got fed up with maneuvering them into a comfortable position! OK so I used to get some stares walking around wearing them, but since every artist and their dog now has them in their music videos, people just tend to nod instead!


May 15, 2009, 11:00 pm

Beats by Dr Dre!?! *runs and hides*


May 15, 2009, 11:03 pm

Actually a really good set of headphones those 'Beats'. Obviously they're somewhat tailored to certain kinds of music but they're still at least good for all types.

Ricky Archer

May 15, 2009, 11:09 pm

Still waiting to see a review on these by you guys, or have I missed it? All my music on my iPhone is lossless format and they give a rich sound that is very crisp at the top end. The bass is slid but not overpowering, try them on Guru Josh's Infinity 2008, there is a slid whoomph of bass that shows off their ability pretty well


May 15, 2009, 11:10 pm

@Ed - fair play. Audio is extremely subjective and for me they're the equivalent of a crass Bass Boost button, but I'm not suggesting any one else runs and hides *runs and hides*


May 19, 2009, 9:11 pm

Ricky, we're getting in some Beats soon. Both the headphones and earphones.

Chris F

May 27, 2009, 8:01 pm

I already had a pair of custom tips made from ACS for my Shure SE530s and they actually mould the tips so that the silicon comes flush onto the drivers and not just the exit channel, so it may make swapping custom tips a little more difficult. However, the upside is that the when in place, the tips and earphone body is lined up perfectly to allow the cable to tuck neatly over and behind your ear!

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