Etymotic Research MC3
The MC3s are a set of noise isolation earphones from Etymotic Research, a company that takes sound quality seriously. The buds have a solid metal construction that look great in gunmetal grey.
Etymotic places a lot of emphasis on audio quality through effective noise isolation, and provides several different sized tips with the MC3s for all ear shapes. The various tips are designed to completely seal the ear canal to provide the best noise isolation. We found the foam versions better suited to larger ears while the rubber tips sat comfortably regardless of ear size. Once we’d found the best set of tips for our ears, playing music at medium volume cancelled out the noise of our office. Out on the street, we had to turn up the volume to completely block all outside noise.
Sound quality was a mixed bag. Music of all genres sounded clear, with very little distortion from high-end notes. Classical music was rich, as were acoustic tracks, but a distinct lack of bass left electronic and heavy rock tracks sounding rather empty. Volume was also low; we had to turn up our MP3 player to match our reference headphones.
An in-line remote control is a handy extra, providing playback and volume controls for your music and a microphone for answering calls on your smartphone. The remote is designed for use with iPhones, but the MC3s also work with other modern smartphones. The remote is situated high up the cable towards the right earpiece and is held in place with a clip. It’s light enough not to pull the buds from your ear, but we still prefer remotes to be further down the cable. The included travel pouch can carry the extra tips and filters as well as the headphones themselves.
Etymotic encourages its customers to have custom ear buds moulded to the shape of their ear canal. This is done through specialist audio company ACS, and doesn’t come cheap – the mouldings cost around £80 and will only fit the MC3s. You can find local fitting specialists through the ACS website.
Once the moulds have been made, they slip snugly onto the ear buds and seal your ears from the outside world. Whether they are worth the extra money is down to personal preference; if you spend a lot of time on packed commuter trains or in other noisy environments they are worth the investment.
We were impressed with the noise isolating abilities of the MC3s, but were slightly disappointed with the mixed audio quality. While they work well with certain musical genres, the lack of any significant bass makes them less than ideal for fans of rock and electronica. If you mostly listen to bass-heavy music, the V-Moda Remix Remote headphones produce a stronger sound but still do a great job at isolating noise.