Details: Etymotic’s volume-limiting safe listening earphones
MSRP: $49 (manufacturer’s page); $79 for ETY-Kids 3 w/ mic & 3-button remote (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $39 from amazon.com for ETY-Kids 5; $59 for ETY-Kids 3
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 300Ω | Sens: N/A | Freq: 20-15k Hz | Cable: 4’ 45º-plug
Nozzle Size: 2.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock triple-flanges, Shure Olives
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear
Accessories (3.5/5) – Triple-flange silicone tips (2 sizes), Etymotic Glider tips, shirt clip, and zippered soft carrying pouch
Build Quality (4.5/5) –Though the ETY-Kids are lightweight and made of plastic, the cords are Kevlar-reinforced and well-relieved all around. The cabling is very flexible and doesn’t stick or tangle, making the entry-level Etys feel like a quality product
Isolation (4/5) – Typical of Ety earphones, isolation doesn’t get much better than this
Microphonics (4/5) – Quite low when worn cable-down, nonexistent with over-the-ear wear
Comfort (4/5) –The slim housings don’t put pressure on the outer ear and the cable exit angle works well for over-the-ear wear. The included assortment of tips is on the smaller side but it should fit most listeners comfortably as long as they don’t mind the deeper fit of Etymotic earphones
Sound (7.6/10) – The ETY-Kids are the second dynamic-driver earphone from Etymotic Research and the company’s most budget-friendly set yet, marketed to parents as a child-friendly safe hearing model. Volume-limiting earphones are not a novel concept – we’ve previously seen similar designs from brands such as Ultimate Ears and Harman-owned dB Logic. The ETY-Kids achieve this with their 300Ω impedance, which makes it difficult to power the earphone to dangerous volume levels. Unlike headphones with dB Logic’s SPL2 technology, the Etys will still hit high volumes when driven with a powerful enough source, but they do a good job limiting output with conventional mp3 players.
The limited volume of the Etys should be sufficient for most Head-Fiers. At worst, it is a minor inconvenience to turn up the volume, and on more powerful sources such as my desktop amp and HiFiMan HM-901, it is barely noticeable that the volume pot needs another ¼ turn. More importantly the ETY-Kids, low price and all, sound very much like an Ety should. The bass is tight and clean, albeit a touch rolled-off at the bottom. This means the ETY-Kids won’t produce the type of deep, rumbling bass the Beats by Dre generation may be expecting, but it also keeps the tone neutral and midrange free of bleed. In comparison, the VSonic VC02 has slightly punchier bass but keeps it just as clean and controlled as the Etys while the warmer, bassier VSonic VSD1 sounds a bit more bloated.
The midrange of the ETY-Kids is likewise clear and neutral, bumped slightly in presence to make vocals more prominent and intelligible. Due to this, and because of the lack of bass and treble emphasis, the Etys can sound a bit mid-centric – more so, for example, than the VSonic VC02. On the other hand, the fantastic midrange clarity means there is no need to turn the earphones up to discern vocals, which fits nicely in with the whole “safe hearing” push. The ETY-Kids are clearer even than the balanced armature Astrotec AM-90, though they lack some of the warmth and fullness of the Astrotecs as well.
The treble of the ETY-Kids is nicely filled in, though it seems to lack a bit of extension and presence next to the higher-end armature-based Ety models. It is smoother than the treble of the VSonic VC02 and VSD1 but not as smooth as the similarly-priced balanced armature sets from Astrotec and Rock-It sounds. The overall tone of the Etys is a bit on the cool side and the presentation tends to be a little laid-back. Soundstage depth and overall dynamics could be better, but for the price the junior Etys do a great job.
Value (9.5/10) – The ETY-Kids name may be off-putting to some but there is nothing childish about the design or sound of these earphones. Like all things Etymotic, the ETY-Kids are well-built, highly isolating, and boast sound that is clear, accurate, and neutral, though for some listeners perhaps lacking in desired bass presence. They promote hearing safety with a combination of immense noise isolation and volume-limiting impedance. All in all, the ETY-Kids are a great entry-level audiophile IEM that – we can only hope – will help introduce the next generation to Etymotic’s signature sound.
Pros: Stellar noise isolation; solid build quality; clear, balanced, and accurate sound
Cons: Deep-insertion form factor can take some getting used to for new users. Volume-limiting design may be undesirable for some