Ety-Com Hands-Free Noise
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
Compare/contrast this with our review of the
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
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 ½")
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 4¼" 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
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
A simple to understand user manual and a
warranty card complete the kit. The unit does not need
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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.
User listening to incoming call
Caller listening to cell phone call
||Poor, lots of
interference from ambient noise
Lots of noise interfering with hearing the
using no headset
Even more noise.
Worst of the four
lower than direct from phone, no blocking of
Worst of the four
Conversation was heard clearly and loudly, with
very little background hoise.
Best of the four
||Call was loud
and clear, ambient noise was blocked out.
Best of the
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.
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
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
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
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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9 Jul 2004, last update
21 Jul 2020
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.