Most people have a pretty similar wish-list when it comes to looking for a decent set of headphones to accompany their iPhone. Generally speaking, comfort, sound-quality, and a lack of outside noise all fall somewhere around the top. Fortunately for us all, Etymotics appear to have done a pretty good job at ticking all of those boxes with their MC range of earphones.
The MC3 set that we’ve got our hands on are designed for iPhone, and even bear that coveted ‘Made for’ emblem that so many accessory makers strive for. Naturally then, they sport a three-button control function with built-in close proximity microphone. Much like Apple’s own in-ear and on-ear options, the controls allow you to play, pause and skip tracks as well as answer and end calls. Although all these features have pretty much become the expected standard of iPhone-compatible earphones now, it’s nice to see them follow Apple’s lead on how they function so closely.
Extras aside, the bread and butter of these earphones are, well…the earphones. Etymotics pride themselves on the sound quality of their products, and the EC3s seem to hold to this pretty well. The key to getting the EC3s to sounding as good as they can is to get the right fit using the four different ‘tips’ included. The tips fit on the main body of the earphones and come in a variety of shapes and sizes to ensure that they fit right inside every ear. We stuck with the medium-sized ‘flange’ tips that were attached out of the box and these seemed to work okay.
One of the only negatives to the Etymotics design is the way these things fit in your ear, to the uninitiated they can seem a little odd or, at worst, uncomfortable as you push these things up your ear canal. Obviously, the usual caveat of ‘if it really hurts then stop and don’t keep pushing them in’ applies, but even still, it’s a slightly odd sensation having the MC3s in your ears, but needless to say the end result is well worth the extra effort of fitting.
Once you’ve selected the correct ear tips and correctly found a seal within your ear (you’ll know when these things seal because you can’t hear a great deal of what’s going on around you) you’re fairly well isolated from the world around you and the musical experience is incredibly immersive. Bass response is clear and punchy but not so loud that it smothers the other frequencies, the top end is crisp if only a little hissy at times but overall the sound is well-rounded and incredibly pleasing to the ear irrespective of genre. We’ve listened to everything from Americana Blues to Pop-unk to Hip-Hop to Heavy Metal on the MC3s and their response has been very consistent. Some of the big bass fans would maybe like a tad more reassuring low-end thump in the mix, and that’s only a matter of a few EQ tweaks, but that’s not really what these earphones are about.
Accuracy is the name of the game with Etymotics. Based on the idea that when you see a gig or concert live, you’re hearing the exact sound the artists want you to hear and that’s 100% accuracy, they reckon that the MC3s deliver sound with a staggering 86% accuracy. We’re not quite sure how they work this out, believe us we tried to keep up with their explanation, but we’re not quite cut out for such technological genius. Either way, we’re inclined to agree that these earphones do produce an incredibly faithful sound.
All in all, the Etymotics MC3s are certainly the most impressive sounding earphones we’ve experienced for under £80. The process of getting them in your ears might feel a little weird, and we certainly wouldn’t recommend wearing these whilst you cycle in traffic (although Etymotics do offer an app that might help with this) or anywhere where concentration on the world around you is required, but if you’re looking for a set of faithful earphones that put sound over style and block out that screaming baby on bus, train or plane, then the MC3s are just the ticket.
Expect to hear more about the Etymotics MC3s at a later date, including a look at the AWARENESS! app and calling with the iPhone controls, but if we’ve got you excited enough to make a purchase already, they’re available from Apple, amongst others, for around £79.95.