When you don’t want to share what you’re listening to with the rest of the world, you’ll want a good set of earphones. Many models also have an inline microphone and audio controls, so you can use the earphones as a headset for your smartphone as well as for your tablet.
Did you know you can also use your tablet as a master remote for your home theater system? Although some smartphones and tablets come with remote functionality built in, Logitech has a solution that gives your tablet even more, as we'll how you in just a bit.
Etymotic hf3 headset + earphones
Etymotic claims the hf3 headset + earphones are “The world’s most accurate noise-isolating headset + earphones under $200.” That’s quite the claim, but it’s one we feel the company lives up to. The sound quality of these headphones is very good, but what makes them stand out among the competition is the Awareness Pro application which you can download for your tablet or smartphone. A free version of the app is available, but we chose to upgrade to the Pro version to enjoy all of the features available.
With Awareness for Etymotic Pro, you get programmable noise isolation which lets you control how much outside noise is heard through the earphones. This is especially handy when you’re on an airplane and need to be able to hear instructions from the crew but don’t want to constantly hear the people chatting behind you. The app has a dB Noise Meter which helps you find the best settings to eliminate unnecessary outside noise while still hearing important announcements, the doorbell, or other important sounds. When the app senses the outside noise has exceeded the microphone threshold, it can automatically pause your music and amplify outside sound through the earbuds. The music will resume when the outside noise decreases below the threshold. Etymotic claims the hf3 headset + earphones can provide 35 dB - 42 dB of noise isolation.
The noise isolation functionality of the hf3 headset + earphones works great and the headphones themselves provide very clear audio with decent lows, mids, and highs. We didn’t hear any crackling or distorted sounds while listening to music or watching videos. The hf3 headset + earphones feature a Kevlar-reinforced cable for added durability.
The hf3 headset + earphones come with a variety of ear pieces to provide a comfortable fit. During our tests, we were able to wear the earphones for extended periods of time without discomfort. A carrying case is also included in the box. You’ll also find ACCU-Filter user-replaceable filters in the box that help protect the balanced armature drivers from ear wax.
Etymotic offers a few models within the hf series that have similar features. The hf3 headset + earphones is designed for use with iOS devices, providing a 3-button inline remote with volume controls and a play/pause/end/send button. Etymotic also offers the hf2 and hf5 earphones which use the same drivers and provide identical sound quality as the hf3. The hf2 provides more universal compatibility with Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile devices and features a single button in-line remote which acts as an end/send button for calls and play/pause for music. The hf2 will also work with Apple devices. For users who don’t require microphone capabilities, the hf5 earphones are a good option.
Logitech Harmony Smart Control
Logitech's Harmony line of universal remotes have attracted the attention of geeks for some time now. The company's latest edition to the line, known as the Harmony Smart Control, lets you use your tablet or smartphone as the remote. In the box, you'll find a Harmony Hub, remote control, IR mini blaster, USB cable, AC adapter, and some documentation. According to Logitech, Harmony is compatible with over 225,000 home theater devices.
The Harmony Hub works by turning Wi-Fi signals from your mobile device into IR and Bluetooth commands. As a result, you can control your home theater devices that are behind cabinets or walls. Technically, you don’t even have to be in the same room to control them. You can use up to four tablets or smartphones with the Harmony Hub. The Harmony Smart Control can control up to eight devices.
Although there isn't much documentation included with the Harmony Smart Control, the setup is pretty easy—you simply plug in the Harmony Hub, download the Harmony app to your tablet or smartphone, and then follow on-screen instructions to get everything setup. If you want more detailed instructions, they are available from Logitech's website.
You'll need Internet access, Wi-Fi, and a tablet or smartphone with Bluetooth in order to complete the set up process from your tablet. You can also set up the Harmony Smart Control on your computer. If you have a Harmony One remote or another Logitech remote that was set up using Logitech Harmony Remote Software, you can copy the settings from your previous remote to the Harmony Smart Control.
During setup, you'll have the option to configure various activities such as watching a movie, listening to music, playing a game console, and more. You can also create favorite channels for easy access. Once configured, you can swipe or tap your tablet's screen to control various settings such as volume, the channel, pause, play, and more.
If your tablet or phone isn't handy, the included simple remote control can step in and do the job letting you change channels, adjust the volume, and much more. The remote has a few keys for favorite activities which you can customize during setup.
During use, it's possible one of your devices might get out of sync with the hub and remote software. Thankfully, Logitech has an easy solution that even non-geeks should be able to figure out. For example, if the TV did not receive the signal to power on when you told it you wanted to watch TV, the Help menu can bring up controls that will get things working again. It's a pretty easy to understand process that will get you up and running quickly.
During our tests, the Harmony Hub, tablet app, smartphone app, and simple remote control functioned well. We had no problem switching between activities changing the volume or channel, and powering our home theater system on and off.