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Etymotic's hf2 headset left us wanting very little. Not only did it have a great, accurate, sound, it also sported a convenient iPhone-compatible in-line remote and microphone. You might wonder, then, what the hf3 headset can offer by way of improvement upon its predecessor to justify the £130 asking price.
The only outwardly discernable change is the presence of three, not two, buttons on the in-line remote. As usual the middle button works as both a play/pause, a skip forwards and back, and a voice-command activation control with various press-and-hold combinations. The placement of this remote in one half of the 'Y' section of the hf3's cabling puts in close to the mouth, and no-one we called had any complaints about the clarity on our end, so there's no problem there.
The cable is somewhat prone to transmitting noise as it waves about, which can be a tad annoying. Fortunately a clip is provided which eliminates that problem, and while the slightly rubberised cable does rub a little, it also seems remarkably good at not turning into a tangled mess when pocketed. Less functional, but still appreciated is the choice of three colours - red, blue and black - for the hf3 headset, all of which look pretty suave.
The accessory selection is par for the course with Etymotic, contained within a soft zip-case. Typically, the hf3 headset is bundled with all-but-pointless triple-flange tips; does anyone find these comfortable? Less naff is the choice of two different types of foam tip - a softer cylindrical pair, or a firmer nub-like pair. The latter proved both the most comfortable and gave the best noise-isolation for us, but your mileage may vary.
If you want to go all out Etymotic offers the choice of custom-fitted tips for the hf3 headset. While expensive, this gives a definite step-up in terms of noise isolation, which in turn lets you hear your music that much better. Whether the £70 these custom tips cost would be better spent on a headphone amplifier, or put towards another set of earphones entirely we'll leave for you to decide.