If you've ever shopped around for a pair of headphones, you've probably noticed a trend: there is a seemingly endless array of choices in the ultracheap, sub-$50 range; plenty of options in the $80 to $110 range; and quite a few luxury selections that run for $200 or more. There are surprisingly few models that list around $150, which might just be the sweet spot between "nice" and "ultra high-end." Etymotic seems to have recognized this deficiency and answered it with the hf5 High-Fidelity Noise-Isolating Earphones. These sleekly stylish in-ear 'phones strike an excellent balance between price and sound quality, offering audio on par with some pairs priced well above them.
The design of the hf5 earphones is strikingly similar to that of the hf2, except without the microphone. Like the hf2, the hf5 earpieces are long and thin, which means they go farther into the ear than many other noise-isolating sets, such as the Shure SE320. Even the sleeves that come in the package--two sizes of triple flange silicone fittings and one set of foam tips--are extra long, so if you're uncomfortable sticking things into your ears (or have shallow canals), it's best to look elsewhere. That being said, we found the earphones to be quite comfortable and liked that there wasn't a bulbous 'bud sticking out of our ears, thanks to the sleek, skinny shape. We're also taken with the understated, slightly shimmery color options (black, cobalt, and ruby).