The Apple Core Last-Minute, Stocking-Stuffer Gift Guide 2013

Summary:Is there an Apple user on your gift list? Here's a short list of useful, unusual, and yet practical hardware accessories for Macintosh and iOS devices.

Etymotic Research's hf3 headset earphones — $149

Etymotic Research's hf3 headset earphones use passive noise reduction.


When it comes to noise-reduction technology, I have long expressed my preference for what is called "passive" noise reduction over the "active" kind. Active headphones cancel noise by listening in real time to the acoustic environment and then generating counter-noise and bringing that mix to the listener. This approach requires battery power and doesn't always work effectively in some conditions.

Instead, the passive-style earphones fit inside the ear canal to block out the noise. There's no batteries to run out. They just work like ear plugs with tiny speakers (except there's a lot of acoustic science to make them sound right).

With my iPod, I use a pair of Etymotic Research ER•4 MicroPro headphones, which I admit are expensive with a list price of $299. And for my iPhone, I use the company's hf3 headset/earphones.  Yes, Apple keeps improving the iPhone adding extra microphones to introduce noise reduction. However, real clarity comes into play when you are "isolating" out between 35 to 42 decibels of noise. You can really hear the caller. 

Etymotic also offers interesting software for this headset called Awareness! This app is used when customers use the headset as earphones for recorded content. The app performs "programmable noise isolation," which is a twist on the active noise reduction system. Awareness! listens to the environment and then boosts certain, programmable noises that you might want to hear, such as an announcement at an airport. It's a free download.

Topics: Apple, iPad, iPhone


David Morgenstern has covered the Mac market and other technology segments for 20 years. In the recent past, he founded Ziff-Davis' Storage Supersite, served as news editor for Ziff Davis Internet and held several executive editorial positions at eWEEK. In the 1990s, David was editor of Ziff Davis' award-winning MacWEEK news publication a... Full Bio

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