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Earbuds are easily the most commuter and travel friendly form of headphones on the market today. Just about every mobile device in the world ships with a pair or earbuds. The ubiquitous white iPod/iPhone variants may be the most noticeable and recognized.

It would seem that earbuds are considered disposable forms of headphones, mainly due to their price point. They are plugged into ears, yanked out, wrapped up and stowed away into pockets and bags. For many, this is fine as they serve a purpose: plug and play music. After a while, they will eventually begin to fail. The decision then is what pair of headphones to replace them with.

For those that take this opportunity to step up their headphone and audio game, the door opens up to a new world of musical clarity without hurting your wallet, by moving into in-ear headphones like the Etymotic HF-5.

Photography: Jeff Carvalho/Selectism.com

Read and see our full review of the Etymotic HF-5 in-ear headphone after the click.

If sonics are not important, we honestly, recommend buying the cheapest pair you can find. They will work as good as the stock pair that came with your mobile device or audio player. If they are, please read on.

For those who are not familiar, in-ear headphones sit just inside your ear canal like an earplug and, when properly fitted, offer a few benefits over the typical earbud: a sealed isolated fit that blocks out most surrounding noise as well as very clear sound. If you take the subway or work in loud environments, in-ears may be the step up you have been looking for.

We have been testing the Etymotic HF-5 in-ear headphones for a few weeks now. A step up from their MC line, the HF-5 is unique in that it features a deep canal fit to establish a seal between your ear and the in-ear headphone; this is awfully important in sound reproduction especially when listening to bass heavy music. The sealed fit of the HF-5 did take a day or so to get used to (we recommend swapping between the multiple sizes of earpieces to ensure a comfortable and wearable fit) but once you acclimate, the sound is outstanding.

The HF-5’s clarity in the mids and highs are as good as most full-sized headphones with the bass coming impressively close to many. Again, the energy pushed out in the bass frequencies will require a proper seal with the HF-5. Play around with the fit until it feels right. Most listeners will instantly recognize a major step-up in clarity – and you should. At $149, the Etymotic HF-5 will absolutely give you a sonic gain for your hard earned dollar.

Build-wise: they are rugged, but we recommend that you do not pull on the cables to remove them from your ears. Grad the HF5 by the stems when removing and wrap them well before stowing them away. Color does matter; they’re available in black, cobalt blue and ruby for those that want a more subtle look as white tends to let people know what you have in your pocket.

The gain with the Etymotic HF-5 is a big one for those upgrading from stock earbuds. Your iPod/iPhone music and phone calls will sound better than they ever have. Amazon has them.

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