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Ears-on with the Etymotic hf2 sound-isolating earphones

Etymotic's brand-new sound-isolating earphones are in the house and kicking out a racket. They're taking the fight to Shure and Denon for the high end of the market

If you know your high-end earphone manufacturers, you'll have heard of Etymotic. It's made a whole bunch of earphones over the years and we at Crave are massive fans. So we're not going to pretend we weren't excited when Etymotic slipped us a pair of its new hf2 earphones. But we're more excited still to say they're really rather terrific.

So fresh are they there's no confirmed price, but £99 is the rough figure we've been given to work with, putting them in Shure SE310 and Denon AH-C700 territory. Like those two models, the hf2s are sound-isolating 'phones, meaning they passively block out ambient noise by using either flanged silicon or foam tips. The silicon tips are less intrusive in the ear, but the foam ones are better at isolation, with the advantage of giving bass an extra kick.

Inside each 'phone is a balanced armature driver with a frequency response of 20Hz-16KHz. This is much less responsive than Denon's old C700s, which rock 12Hz-24,000KHz, but arguably on a par with Shure's SE310s, with their response of 22Hz-19KHz. For those of you scared of frequency tables, that means on paper the Denons have better bass and treble, but the new Etymotics have a lower bass-response rate, so bass will be that bit fuller.

But numbers mean about as much as the opinions of Jade Goody if performance is rubbish. Fortunately, it's on a par with what we'd expect of Etymotic. The hf2s have a balanced sound, with strengths in overall clarity and definition. Bass isn't a strong point, so they're not a pair to consider if you thrive on bass, but if you want terrific clarity they're a good choice, with extremely punchy mids and a bright treble.

There's one more thing though: a microphone sits in-line for iPhone chin waggery. A button lets you mute your music when you answer a call, and apparently this works with some music phones, though we're yet to discover which.

For the full-pelt, full-power, red-hot maximum bass lowdown, check back soon for our full review. It'll be an adventure of intrigue, mystery, double-crossing and backstabbing. Oh wait, that's the book we're reading. Yeah, the review's just a review. But it'll be a good one, and you won't want to miss it. No, really, it'll have pictures and everything! -Nate Lanxon

Update: Read our full Etymotic hf2 sound-isolating earphones review