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Your cell phone is a 'go anywhere' device, but in some places, using it is not possible due to noise conditions around you.

Unleash the full flexibility of your cell phone with a noise cancelling headset.

 
 
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Ety-Com Hands-Free Noise Isolating Headset

The Ety-Com headset is lightweight and attractive in appearance, and easier to wear than large boom type headsets.

It is held in place by simply friction fitting into your ear.

Compare/contrast this with our review of the Boom Headset.

 

 

Traditional cell phone headsets suffer from a major problem.  Because the microphone is located a long way from your mouth, your speech is not heard as clearly by the microphone, while noises around you are - relatively speaking - heard much more clearly.

Etymotic Research's Ety-Com headset addresses the problem of noise interfering with a phone conversation in three ways.  Firstly, its earpiece passively blocks out the noise around you, making it easier for you to hear what the other person is saying.

Secondly, its microphone is closer to your mouth so hears more of your voice and comparatively less of sounds around you.  Thirdly, it features dual microphone noise cancelling technology so as to further reduce the background noise for the person at the other end of the conversation.

The net result is a much better experience for both you and the person you're talking with.
 

What You Get

The Ety-Com headset from Etymotic Research comes in a small plastic display case.  Small is a consistent theme with this headset - indeed, when I opened up the little plastic container, the bulkiest item inside seemed to be the folded up warranty card!

At first I thought they'd left out the headset, but opening up a small thin carry pouch (3" x 3" x ") revealed the headset inside.

It is tiny and lightweight.  The headset has an ear piece that sticks into your ear, about 1" long; and then at right angles to that, a bendable arm about 4" long runs down to the microphone.

The in-ear weight of the unit is a negligible 0.2 ounces, with most of the weight at the top in your ear.  In comparison, the Boom headset weighs 0.7 ounces - okay, so that's no great weight either, but it is 3.5 times heavier.  The Boom also has its weight distributed all the way down its boom, making it even heavier feeling on your ear than just the weight difference along would imply (due to leverage).

The headset comes with one foam and four different sizes of flanged soft rubber earpieces so you can choose the style and size of earpiece that best suits your ear.  It is important that the headset is sealed into your ear because this is the way it blocks out the noise around you, by creating a physical noise barrier.  This also means that the headset is less likely to fall out while in use.

Also included in the small little pouch is a replacement filter that goes inside the earpiece and a tool to use when replacing this filter.  The filters are liable to get blocked with ear-wax after repeated use and may need to be occasionally replaced.

The plastic pouch has a zip sealed inner compartment that can be used for storing the very small (3/16" x 1/32") filter and tool, and the main compartment that - in theory - can hold the headset.  Unfortunately, when the headset arm is bent to fit your face, it won't fit in the pouch.

A simple to understand user manual and a warranty card complete the kit.  The unit does not need batteries.

You get a 90 day warranty, extendible to one year if you send in the warranty card.  There is no provision for registering online.

Etymotic Research offers a generous 30 day return if you decide you are not satisfied with any of their products.

Description

The Ety-Com headset is a masterpiece of lightweight design and construction.  It looks clean and neat and is easy to mount on/in your ear and easy to position the microphone arm close to your mouth.

The cord from the headset to the plug is 46" long.  This is short, but not too short, and is probably exactly right so as to avoid unnecessary lengths of cord getting tangled.

The plug at the end is a standard design 2.5mm 3 conductor plug.  Adapters are available to fit phones that use non-standard connectors.

The headset can be worn on either ear, with no need to reconfigure or flip anything over.  Just plug it in whichever ear you wish and it will work fine.

Functionality

Because the headset is held in your ear purely by the strength of its  friction fit against your ear canal, it is important that it be placed securely in your ear, and then you absolutely must clip the cord to your shirt collar or somewhere near-by so the cord doesn't tug at the headset.

The user manual gives instructions on how to insert the headset into your ear.  You should pull the top lobe of your ear upward and outward, then stick the headset in so that the eartip seals 'deeply and comfortably' (for some of us these words are mutually exclusive!) in the ear canal.  This is a difficult two handed operation, and some of us will want to be able to quickly shove the headset in our ear when answering or making a call, rather than permanently wearing the headset for hours at a time.

What the manual did not sufficiently stress is to exercise extreme caution when removing the headset!  The first time I removed it, I simply tugged at the headset and pulled it straight out of my ear.  The low pressure vacuum caused by pulling the sealed eartip out of my ear was very painful.

I decided I preferred using the foam rather than the flanged rubber earplug design.  I found it easier to stuff into my ear and to pull out again.

The inside the ear fit is necessary not only to hold the headset in place but also to block outside noise so you can clearly hear the other side of the conversation.  Some people find wearing things inside their ears uncomfortable, whereas many other people don't object at all.

It is important to keep the microphone close to your mouth - Etymotic Research recommends within half an inch. The closer it is to your mouth, the bigger the relative difference it detects between your voice and the background noise.  To my surprise, I wasn't able to get the microphone as close as they recommend - maybe I have a long face, but the arm holding the microphone wouldn't get closer than an inch or so.  It is possible that with a more careful series of bending the arm each time I put it on my head, I might get it closer to my mouth, but in my 'real world' testing I couldn't achieve this.

Comfort wise, the light weight makes the unit very easy to wear.  There is no sensation of weight, just a feeling of blockage in your ear.  It is great to wear while walking around and you're much less aware of its presence than you are with the heavier Boom headset.  I even managed to run a short distance with the headset plugged into my ear with no problem at all.  I did notice that the headset would slowly and slightly move so that the microphone arm was slowly dropping lower and lower alongside my face and further from my mouth, but this only happens over an extended time.

I could wear the unit for over an hour with no discomfort and even managed to eat a meal without having the microphone get in the way of my fork and food.  It was slightly strange eating with something in my ear -  it caused strange sounds while chewing, and my ear felt blocked (as of course it was).

It is possible to use this headset while wearing glasses and/or a hat, and due to its small size, it is easy to carry in a pocket when not in your ear.

Compatibility with Phones

I mentioned in my review of The Boom that it had problems working properly with my Nokia 3650.  Strangely, the Ety-Com unit also had problems with the 3650, but worked perfectly well with a Motorola phone.  With Nokia phones having an estimated 50% share of the market, it is regrettable that the Ety-Com doesn't work reliably with these phones.

Alas, cell phone manufacturers seem unable to agree on sharing a universal type of plug/socket for headsets, and neither my Sony Ericsson nor Siemens phones would accept the type of 'standard' plug that both The Boom and Ety-Com headsets use, but adaptors for these and many other phones are available for about $13 each.

The headset can also be used with most models of cordless phones and desk phones.  If the phone has the same sized jack, it may work, and we understand it does work with some models of Sony and Panasonic phones, although it didn't work with a Radio Shack desk phone we have here (very bad sound quality, probably due to mismatched impedances).

Replacement/Consumable Parts

Excuse the discussion on messy aspects of human physiology, but if you are sticking things far into your ear, you are likely to get some amount of ear wax transferring to the outside and even into the inside of the earplug that you're sticking in your ear.  Some people's ears create more wax than others, and before too long, your headset is probably going to start to look somewhat unsightly and dirty.

It is possible to replace the outside foam or rubber part of the ear plug, and Etymotic Research sell spares - five pairs (ie ten units) of the flanged eartips for $14, or three pairs of the foam eartips, also for $14.

There is another piece you may need to occasionally replace as well - a 'filter' that is inside the earplug.  Ear wax will travel down the sound tube and eventually block this filter.  New filters are $2.50 each (packs of six for $15).

Testing

The sound quality of the Ety-Com headset was excellent.  I could clearly hear incoming calls in any environment, and the people at the other end of the call could usually hear me clearly, too.

I compared the Ety-Com unit with The Boom, with a regular headset with a microphone halfway down the cord, and with using a Motorola V66i cell phone by itself with no external headset.

As can be seen in the summary table below, the Ety-Com unit was best for the Ety-Com user, and scored second best for the person listening at the other end of the call.

The Boom clearly gave the best results for the person listening at the other end of the phone, but also gave the worst results (by a small margin) for the person actually using the headset.

Which is more important to you?  To be able to clearly hear what the other person is saying, or for the other person to clearly hear what you are saying?

For most people, the Ety-Com unit will be the best overall solution, offering improved performance (compared to no headset or a generic headset) for both listening and talking, and at a moderate price point.
 

Headset Cell Phone User listening to incoming call Remote Phone Caller listening to cell phone call Cost
No Headset Poor, lots of interference from ambient noise Lots of noise interfering with hearing the person $0
Regular headset Similar to using no headset Even more noise.

Worst of the four options.

$10
The Boom Volume was lower than direct from phone, no blocking of ambient noise.

Worst of the four options.

Conversation was heard clearly and loudly, with very little background hoise.

Best of the four options.

$150
Ety-Com Call was loud and clear, ambient noise was blocked out.

Best of the four options.

Conversation was not as clear as with The Boom.  Background noise was much less than with regular or no headset, but not as good as The Boom. $70

 

Other Issues

Like most headsets, the Ety-Com has no volume control, but of course this is not necessary - you can use the volume control on the phone to adjust the sound level in your ear.

It also does not have a 'control' button. Many of the better headsets (and even some of the cheapest) have a button somewhere on them. You can press this button to answer an incoming call, or to activate the phone's voice command capability so as to place calls, or for various other functions, depending on the make/model of your phone.

Summary and Recommendation

The Ety-Com headset provides valuable noise reduction both to help you hear your caller clearly, and also to make it easier for your caller to hear you.  The unit appears to be well designed and manufactured and is easy to use, but may not work with Nokia phones.

At $69, the headset is very fairly priced.  It is available direct from the manufacturer, Etymotic Research, or from various retail and online stores.

Using a headset with your cell phone is sensible and (if in a car) safer than holding the phone to your ear.  It may also cut down on any radiation danger, because the phone is further away from your brain.

The Ety-Com headset costs only a little more than a generic headset, and offers much improved functionality.  Recommended, and with a generous 30 day return policy, it is a no-risk product you owe it to yourself to try.

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Originally published 9 Jul 2004, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 

 

 

 


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