Etymotic hf2 vs Ultimate Buds UB7EB (FS1) vs Ultimate Ears 4VI

Patrick Nosker November 27, 2008 0

What is the best iPhone headphone set?  Well I would imagine for over $1,000 you could get custom monitors for the iPhone with a microphone attached, but what about for a realistic price range that a regular person could afford?  That's a good question, and to find out the answer, I tried out three excellent sets of headphones for the iPhone.  I'll do this review in pieces.


Etymotic hf2:


I have owned a set of Etymotic ER-6i headphones for a few years now.  Actually I have owned two sets but one got left on a plane in Japan on accident along with my 40gb iPod Photo, but that's another story.  I bought these headphones because I saw them really cheap online and decided that I would splurge and get a real set of decent earbuds.  I had been enjoying my Bose Triports until then, but they were just too bulky for me.  It was hard to get the ER-6is to fit into the iPhone plug slot and they had no mic. so I couldn't use them all the time.  The sound quality on the other hand was beyond amazing.  So I looked to see what else I could get and amazingly enough, I found the hf2s which use a driver supposedly even better than the ER-6i.  The Etymotic ER-4 drivers are found in the hf2.  These headphones are twice as expensive as the ER-6i but are found in an earbud package WITH a microphone, for $100 less.  That didn't make much sense to me but as a wise consumer, I didn't ask why that was because I like getting more for less.  I found out later that they aren't tested as thoroughly to meet the high demanding standards of the ER-4 but that's just fine with me because the sound coming out of an iPhone isn't perfect anyway.  The hf2 come with two sets of regular flanged ear plugs as well as foam tips.  I found the foam to have the best sound and comfort but the regular flanged ones to be pretty good too.

Ultimate Buds UB7EB (Future Sonics FS1 with custom cable):

After already feeling impressed with the hf2, I couldn't imagine another earbud set to be good too.  Thankfully I was wrong.  The UB7EB use the earbuds from the Future Sonics FS1 which are also phenomenal.  They are a little bit more bass-heavy while sacrificing a little bit of flat frequency response, but that's ok.  Some people like bass more.  The fit of the earbud was slightly better than the hf2 and it came with two sets of foam instead of one!  I found that the foam fit best here too.

Ultimate Ears 4VI:


The third set of earbuds I was testing arrived after the UB7EB and looked more like the generic Skullcandy earbuds I've seen.  I figured they would perform as such but I was wrong.  These also had an excellent time blowing music into my ears.  The fit of the tips was probably the best on these compared to the others, but there were no foam tips to try.  They are the only aluminum earbuds in this comparison and looked very flashy compared to the others.

Sound quality-
hf2 – 10/10
UB7EB – 9/10 4VI – 9.5/10

hf2 – 8/10
UB7EB – 9/10 4VI – 9/10

Noise canceling-
hf2 – 9.5/10
UB7EB – 9/10 4VI – 8.5/10

OVERALL Consensus:
hf2 – 9.5/10
UB7EB – 9/10 4VI – 9/10

All three contenders were quite good.  For the person who wants the best accuracy in their music or the audiophile, get the hf2 earbuds.  For the bass lover, get the UB7EB.  For the aesthetic aluminum lover who likes small earbuds (the shortest of the three), get the superfi.4 VI.  All three systems had very good microphones and performed equally.  The UB7EB were slightly easier to use as they look almost the same as stock headphones by Apple (but in fact now use a custom designed cable with a wind-screen for the mic).

[Etymotic hf2] – $179.00
[Ultimate Buds UB7EB] – $149.99
[Ultimate Ears superfi.4 VI] – $149.99

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