Is safety above all? Overview of Etymotic MC3 and HD5 Headphones

    Hello Giktayms! Many have never even heard of a company like Etymotic, but ask any audiophile, and he will immediately say why she is called an American legend. Etymotic ER4 headphones, introduced in the early 90s, were the first to be equipped with a reinforcing emitter. At first it was strange why one of the leaders in the field of sound prostheses succumbed to headphones, but as soon as the first reviews of intra-channel ER4 appeared, everything fell into place, and Etymotic broke into this market not as a pioneer, but as an innovator.  

    The manufacturer quickly realized that the public “wants more,” and soon expanded the range of its headphones: ER4RB, ER4PT (ER4 modification for travel), as well as ER4P with ER4S appeared. The last two models have not just brought Etymotic popularity among ordinary users: ER4S are still considered one of the best in-ear reinforcing headphones in history. The feature of these headphones in the almost linear frequency response, which the manufacturer managed to achieve with one reinforcing emitter. Needless to say, the connoisseurs of sound quickly turned the name Etymotic into a common noun. And if the listener was perfectly compatible with ER4S anatomically (the headphones maximized with a direct auditory canal), familiar tracks never sounded different for him again.

    Of course, there is some exaggeration in all this, and the fever around ER4 cannot be compared to gold, but few have so far managed to repeat the success of the American manufacturer. Not so long ago, he released the reincarnation of his legendary model in the form of modifications NEW ER4 : ER4XR (Extended Response) and ER4SR (Studio Reference), which we talked about in great detail on the blog , both versions equipped with a reinforced emitter with a balanced anchor and even have identical characteristics However, the sound is completely different. It may seem that Etymotic found itself only in the “fittings”, but this is not so: the MC3 and HD5 headphones , which we are going to talk about today, clearly demonstrate this.

    Features Etymotic MC3 and HD5

    Driver type
    Dynamic, 6 mm
    Dynamic, 8 mm
    Headphone type
    Closed, intra-channel
    Closed, intra-channel
    Frequency range
    20 - 15000 Hz
    20 - 15000 Hz
    300 ohm
    16 ohm
    76 dB
    100 dB
    Fixed, 1.2 m
    Fixed, 1.2 m (with remote control)
    Ear pads

    Contents of delivery

    The MC3 is made in a slightly aggressive Etymotic style. On the front side of the white cardboard box, the headphones themselves are shown, on the back there is the necessary technical information. Having opened the top cover, you can already see the headphones through a small window.

    Boxing with HD5 looks like MC3: the same logic of placing items, a hinged lid ... but under it there is no familiar window showing the appearance of the headphones. Instead, reference information was placed on the spread, from which it follows that with three-flange ear cushions the noise absorption is 22 dB, and with foam - 27 dB. According to the “passport”, the headphones “eat up” from 36-42 dB of excess noise without any active noise reduction there. It is not for nothing that the manufacturer attributed it to the Safety series with HD5: with such sound insulation, the risk of damage to the hearing during listening is minimal, since the headphones block external sounds so that there is no need to increase the volume.

    In the plastic casing we find headphones and additional accessories. At MC3, a carrying case, a set of replaceable ear pads (three-flange and foam two sizes), a plastic clip and, most importantly, two pairs of replaceable acoustic filters with a tool for replacing them were put in the kit.

    The HD5 package bundle is similar to the MC3 with the exception of replaceable acoustic filters, but they put an extra pair of foam nozzles for improved sound insulation.

    Already by the configuration of the headphones, it becomes clear what target audience they are intended for: if the MC3 has a pronounced “audiophile” orientation, then the HD5 focuses on security (300 Ohm after all!), Which children can not do without.


    At first glance, both models are similar: the shape of the headphones resembles a small tube with ear pads - “Christmas trees” at the end, which Etymotic loved so much. Nevertheless, there are plenty of differences: for example, in the case of HD5, plastic is used as the body material, while the MC3 is made of metal.

    The MC3 case is more like a barrel, as these headphones use an 8-mm dynamic emitter and a sophisticated acoustic camera to minimize distortion and sound artifacts. Despite this, the model looks small compared to many other in-ear headphones. HD5made in yellow (again a hint of use by children), the body of these headphones is slightly smaller and elongated, because a smaller dynamic emitter is used. Compared to the MC3, they look a little toy, which, however, does not affect the sound characteristics.

    The cable in both cases is non-removable. Slightly thin, but in the area of ​​the plug there is a special thickening for increased wear resistance. When it was below 20 degrees below zero, it did not harden, but the microphone effect of the HD5 was sometimes observed until the cable was attached to the clothes with a clip.

    Continuing the conversation about the cable, it is impossible not to note the presence of the playback control panel on the MC3: it is equipped with three buttons (two extreme ones for adjusting the volume, the central one is responsible for pausing / playing), as well as a microphone for using headphones as a headset. The microphone copes with its task on the solid five, but to learn how to use the buttons blindly, it will take some time - they are too close to each other. By the way, the remote control is ideally compatible with Apple technology, so controlling music by connecting the MC3 to an iPhone can be used without any problems.


    If you ever tried Etymotic headphones, you know that with the fit of the headphones of this manufacturer, not everything is simple. MC3 with its "Christmas trees" are also designed for deep landing in the ears. In order not to experience discomfort during initial wear, the headphones should be carefully “screwed” into the ear canal, before that, be sure to choose the appropriate size nozzles. Previously, many complained about the shortcomings of such a design, but a year ago Etymotic fixed everything, and now there are no problems with the sock. Especially if you put the headphones in the ear canal correctly, you get such sound insulation that you never dreamed of: the noise of the street, metro, plane, neighbors with a punch - all this disappears somewhere when the headphones are worn according to all the canons.

    Those who still can not cope with the three-flange ear pads, the manufacturer decided not to torment and carefully put a set of foam nozzles in the kit. By the sound, they do not lose at all, but they are worn much more comfortably.

    At HD5, the landing is not so deep at all, so putting them on for the first time is much more pleasant. They do not need to be screwed in carefully: they simply inserted them to a comfortable position and turned on the music, you won’t have to twist with the ear canal.

    The main feature of this model is its high impedance, which works in symbiosis with excellent sound insulation. 300 ohms muffle the sound slightly, be it a smartphone or portable audio player, but all this is compensated by ear cushions that hide the sound from the outside like behind a stone wall. The only thing is that you should be careful on the street with HD5, because the noise isolation is even too strong if you use the “foam” from the kit.


    For the purity of the experiment, in both cases we decided to evaluate the sound with the Cowon Plenue D and iPhone 7 Plus.

    According to subjective feelings - both pairs of headphones have sufficient flexibility to be able to "shake" smartphone, but if you want the most interesting experiences, best of all, of course, take advantage of player like plenue D . The same MC3, for example, on the street you can listen with an iPhone (it’s not for nothing that they laid a special cable), and at home it is more serious to indulge in sound enjoyment with the equipment. HD5 are perceived as quieter than MC3 (for obvious reasons), they drown out the bass a bit, due to which the sound seems less natural.

    When listening in both cases, it is very important to choose the right tips for yourself and adjust the optimal fit. If this is not done, you may encounter either a bass leak or excessive persistence of the high frequencies. It’s the “Christmas trees” that produce the highest quality sound, it’s not for nothing that they are so loved in Etymotic, however, with MC3, one must not forget the level position of the sound guide in the ear canal. With HD5 there are no such troubles, and with the foam nozzles the “children's” model was much more liked.

    Etymotic boasts for a long time fine-tuning headphones to the sensitivity of the human ear over the entire audible frequency range. Work on the sound leads to the fact that the frequency response is as even as possible, strong peaks and drops are not observed. Using the MC3 as an example, you can verify this.

    Etymotic MC3delight with deep bass and pronounced vocals, so the jazz and soul work out for these headphones especially well, like hip-hop. Of course, the difference between listening to lossless songs on the player and using the same Apple Music on the iPhone is enormous, but unlike many other models of the manufacturer, this one does not have such a strong sensitivity to the sound source.

    After MC3, it took several hours to get used to the HD5 sound - nevertheless, it is no longer audiophile, but safety headphones. But then you get real pleasure from listening to the compositions of the violinist Lindsey Stirling and the tracks of System of a Down, after which you don’t want to call these headphones “childish”. Headphones sound as neutral as possible, there are no obvious peaks and dips throughout the frequency response. In some tracks, you sometimes lack bass, but here you should not forget about the specifics of HD5, which were created just in order to protect the user's hearing. Too much bass contradicts this approach.

    Therefore, instrumental music, jazz, blues and country rock fit in perfectly with these headphones. For heavier genres, it is better to pay attention to the MC3, but do not forget that everything is subjective, and someone can take a little "freshness" for a kind of highlight.

    Safety or agility?

    First of all, it is worth noting that the MC3 and HD5 are by no means competitors, they are just two interesting dynamic models of the eminent manufacturer, which we decided to talk about. Therefore, you should rely entirely on personal preferences, choosing what is more important for you - a natural sound or slightly “tinted” by safety (but it's nice when your health is taken care of, isn't it?). MC3 is much more vigorous and easy to swing, while the high resistance of the HD5 makes them slightly "taut" if you use these headphones with smartphones. In general, both models have their own merits and a different target audience, while the price does not differ too much - about 5 thousand rubles for HD5 versus 6 thousand rubles for MC3.

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