Etymotic Research mc3 review

Aimed at smartphone users the Etymotic mc3s work best when burrowed deep in the ear Tested at £80

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Although in some ways ace, the mc3s aren’t balanced enough for five-star glory


  • +

    Supreme detail and pace

  • +

    nice build

  • +

    mic and remote

  • +

    custom mould compatible


  • -

    Lacks bass weight and depth

  • -

    a little bright

  • -

    bundled buds won’t work for everyone

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

The rise of the multimedia phone at the expense of the standard media player has been phenomenal.

It means that these days people are looking for a pair of earphones that not only offer great sound, but also have buttons for controlling music and a mic for making calls. The Etymotic mc3s aim straight for those people.

The problem is, while we have no issues with the phone functions – the three-button control works well and is positioned for maximum clarity through the mic – the sound quality is a more qualified success.

Detailed and fast, but lacking in bass

For pace, attack and detail, they’re pretty much untouchable at under £100, and that makes them an exciting listen, but there’s very little bass extension, which makes for an overall balance that’s just too thin and lightweight.

Add a little brightness to the top and that can make for a slightly uncomfortable long-term listen.

Speaking of which, we struggled a bit with the four sets of bundled buds, which need to be inserted a rather long way into the ear canal.

That’s a very personal thing, though, and many people may find they fit fine – and if not, the mc3s are compatible with Custom Fit earmolds, details of which can be found in the box.

Etymotic is far from the only company releasing products in this market, though, and overall we think you can find a better-balanced sound for this sort of money.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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