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Etymotic Research MC5 Earphones review



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Etymotic Research MC5 Earphones
  • Etymotic Research MC5 Earphones
  • Etymotic Research MC5 Earphones
  • Etymotic Research MC5 Earphones
  • Etymotic Research MC5 Earphones
  • Etymotic Research MC5 Earphones
  • Etymotic Research MC5 Earphones
  • Etymotic MC5 In-Ear Earphones - Red


Our Score:


Newer, cheaper and better; three words we love to hear at TrustedReviews, and apparently an appropriate description of the Etymotic Research MC5 earphones. Newer is impossible to dispute, as is cheaper, but better? Well, apparently the MC5 earphones deliver a more detailed, fuller bass response than previous - and more expensive - models, without sacrificing Etymotic's trademark clear mid and high-end.

The big difference between the MC5s and previous Etymotic earphones is the use of moving coil drivers, rather than the balanced armatures featured by earphones such as the hf2 headset. The downside of this type of driver is that it needs a larger housing, so the MC2 earphones are much larger than other models in Etymotic's range. As a result they stick out of the ear much more, which can prove a little annoying, but it's nothing we couldn't live with if we had to. Style-conscious earphone shoppers will appreciate the choice of four colours; red, green, blue and black - although the latter is more of a dark grey.

Although Etymotic supplies four pairs of eartips, we found only two of them to be any use. The triple-flange silicone tips were next to useless for us, barely fitting in the ear, but both types of foam tip gave a good fit and offered good noise isolation. More importantly, though, without a secure fit the bass response of the MC5s was almost non-existent.

A possible solution is available, as Etymotic offers custom-fitted tips for the MC5 earphones, but at £70 a go we're not sure the money wouldn't be better spared on buying a better pair of earphones in the first place. Something along the lines of the Phonak Audeo PFE 112 earphones, for example, would be a sounder investment.


August 16, 2010, 6:47 pm

Hello Hugo,

I currently own the hf2 headset. Although it sounds fantastic, the cable is not up to the job. After some use the remote control only works sporadically, which by the way happened to my first set of hf2 as well, until one the earbuds stopped working forcing me to have the headset replaced.

Seeing the MC5 I am wondering if Etymotic has done anything to improve the cables. Or is it just me having these problems?


August 17, 2010, 3:17 am

@imba > I also had the hf2 and although their top and mid range was excellent, they lacked bass. In addition one earphone stopped working intermittently and the dodgy cable also appeared to be the culprit. Thankfully I was able to sell it on but you're not alone with those problems.


August 17, 2010, 3:50 am

Hello Hugo,

I'd love to see a review on the cheapest custom in ear monitors that Ultimate Ears makes. Either the Ultimate Ears 4 Pro $399 US, or Ultimate Ears 1 Pro $450 US, http://ultimateears.com/en-... . I'm not really a music aficionado, but my current phones (Shure SE102) don't fit quite right, and I'm considering going with a custom pair for better fit. The only other brand I've found that offers custom fit on a budget is Livewires, http://mylivewires.com , $249 US, cheaper but not as good looking as the Ultimate Ears. I think anyone considering spending $200 to $400 on a pair of universal fit earphones, which you review regularily, would also benefit from reading a TR review of custome earphones at comparable prices. Thanks.


August 17, 2010, 3:53 am


I also own hf2s which I adore for their sound quality but not their build quality. The remote also only works sporadically for me. However I also find that the volume will go up or down depending on the position of the cable where it goes into the 3.5mm plug. This can be very frustrating as movement changes the volume rapidly. It appears that it actually moves the volume of the iPod up and down!


August 17, 2010, 7:33 pm

imba - Between the TR team we've gone through about five sets of hf2 headsets with various failures. They just kept breaking. Supposedly those issues are fixed now, though.

MGDdrinker - I'll look into it :)


August 17, 2010, 8:00 pm

Hugo is spot on. Etymotic suffered cable and connector problems with the HF2, something that was only fixed in latter batches of the product. The HF3 addresses these issues and I believe a review is in the pipeline.


October 27, 2015, 7:08 pm

How many hours of listening was done on the earphones before conducting this review? Earphones like this usually need 20-30 hours of "burn-in" time before you can truly assess the sound quality. I'm guessing you wrote this review on the same day you received the earphones.

Rodger JOHN

April 13, 2016, 4:49 pm

I have reached a ripe old age before ever buying a product as disappointing as these MC5s. I have returned them to the vendor believing there had to be something wrong. They assured me they are intended to sound this bad, and so returned them as they had been worn, albeit for only a couple of hours. They make Melody Gardot sound like she records in the bath tub.

Other reviews suggested that they did not colour the bass. My perception is that there is next to no bass definition. Compared to €15 unbranded units, they are completely useless.

I would score these less than 1 out of 5 stars. Perhaps after 20hours they might seem better, but as I only bought them to use on flights and trains, it will be a very long time coming.

My recommendation would to be very very wary before purchase.

I wish that I had just bought some standard Apple units to use with my iPad, or stuck with the unbranded ones.

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