12 Days of Christmas: Etymotic hf3 or hf5 with custom earmoulds

With four presents already sorted in the Pocket-lint 12 Days of Christmas, you must have got the majority of your loved ones covered by now. Just in case they're not into books, are already sorted in the home entertainment department, are not a parent or a teenage girl, then it's probably time we gave you another solid gold gift idea to consider.

For on the fifth day of Christmas, as turns out, my true love actually gave to me a rather special and personalised item that might not just be the best present of 2010 but for quite some time as well. So, if your giftee is into personal audio, then you've meet Yuletide nirvana.

Etymotics hf3 or hf5 with custom ear moulds

What is it?
Custom fit in-ear headphones

Who are they for?
Anyone who with a PMP

How much are they?
£129.95/£71 + £90 for the moulds

Delivery speed?
2 or 3 days

 

They're steets ahead of the free ones

There is absolutely no excuse for using the headphones that came in the box with the media player/phone. They are, without exception, always complete junk. As Jimmy Iovine put it, they're there to check that the iPod works. So, if your giftee is walking around with a pair of white, in-ear heaphones or anything branded the same as their media player, you can bet that the present of some hf3s or hf5s is in dire need.

They're sound isolating

The Etymotic headphones are good but they're only half the story. What makes these really special is the custom moulded ear buds as made by ACS. Because they're custom moulded, they fit precisely into your ear canals and that means that hardly any noise from the environment can bleed into the music that you're playing. As a result, it doesn't matter if you're on a plane, in a cafe, in park or trying to compete with the sound of the Tube carriage, you'll still be able to hear your music as clear as a bell.

They're super confortable

The tight fit of the silicone moulds also means that they fit reall snug and, of course, if they're snug, there's no rubbing which makes them very comfortable to wear for long periods of time. They're also incredibly light, as opposed to a number of other high end headphones options, which, again, adds to just how easy these things are on your skin.

They make music sound better

Because they're sound isolating, you don't get environmental noises dampening out certain frequencies of your music when your listening to it. That gives your tunes the proper balance they should have, so you'll get a more complete, rounded experience. What's more, because you can keep the volume relatively low, you won't need to work the drivers in the headphones too hard and to the point where their sound quality starts to deteriorate.

They'll get the best out of your media player

In much the same way, what tends to happen with non-noise isolators is that you have to have the volume jacked up almost to the top of your media player in order to hear the music. The harder you push your device, the more distorted the sound coming out of it becomes as, generally speaking, the amplifiers in portable media players are not that strong and not built to be pushed too hard. So, once again, the lower volume range that the custom moulds allow you to use will make your music sound better.

They'll make you fall in love with your library again

Because the Etymotic hf3/hf5 with custom moulds will make your music sound much better you'll find yourself falling in love with your music all over again. You start hearing subtleties of the songs that you haven't heard before and a richness of sound that you'd forgotten existed. So, hearing your old favourites can be alomst like listening to them for the very first time. It's a real joy.

They protect your ears

The sound isolation also means that you're less likely to damage your hearing as well. The sound of a Tube carriage, for example, is dangerously loud enough but if you're pumping your music up even louder than that and directly to your drums, then you could be doing some serious long term harm. On top of that, the sound isolation generally means that you don't have to fiddle with the volume knob quite so much on your audio journey, so you're less like to unintentionally give yourself a dose of full blast when all is quiet.

They keep your ears clean

A rather nice but, admittedly, slightly grubby by-product of custom moulds is that they remove loads of nasty ear wax for you. Walking around with these snug bits of silicone getting warm in your ears tends to melt all your ear crust and, because the moulds sit so deep in your lug holes, just about all of it tends to stick to them. While that's all very good for your ears, it will gross out anyone around you to see lumps of orange goo sitting on your headphones, so perhaps it's best to take them out in private. Also make sure to use the little cleaner pick for the buds that comes in the kit.

No one else can use them

No one can borrow these things from your giftee because they simply won't fit anyone other ears. So, if you're buying these for a teenager, you know that they're not going to lend them to anyone else and never get them back.

You get to have gunk poured in your ears

The whole adventure of getting your custom moulds fitted is actually quite fun. Your giftee has to go and find their nearest fitting centre where they'll get some strange gunk poured into their ears while sitting in a chair relaxing for five or ten minutes. It's a little weird, it's a little amusing and it's certainly an experience. Think getting your gumsheild fitted without the gag reflex. In fact, probably best to ignore that analogy.

They're Apple endorsed

We're not saying that Apple is the be all and end all, because they're not, but they're also not in the habit of peddling crap either. The Etymotic hf3s are Apple endorsed because they're in a select group of non-Apple products that the Cupertino company is happy to sell through the company website. These headphones are sitting alongside the likes of Harman Kardon soundsticks and other fairly luxury treats. They're good.

The hf3s work with the iPhone

Not everyone has an iPhone and not everyone wants one either. However, if your giftee does have one, then the Etymotic hf3s come with a handsfree unit built into the cable so that you can make calls without having to bring your phone out of your pocket or take the headphones out of your ears. It'll also act as a basic remote control as well. If you're giftee doesn't have an iPhone, then go for the Etymotic hf5 instead which also come with custom moulds - only not through the Apple Store. They're just as good, they just don't have the iPhone compatibility but, as an added bonus, it also means they cost quite a bit less.

FULL REVIEW

Share you thoughts on hot gift tips for Christmas 2010 in the comments below and don't forget to take a look at the other 11 days of Christmas on Pocket-lint.