Less easily remedied than the disappointing selection of tips is the slightly lacklustre performance of the MC5 earphones. It's not that they don't sound good; just that they don't sound as good as similarly priced rivals, such as the Klipsch Image S4 earphones.
Of course, it's characteristic of Etymotic earphones to have a bass-light sound, but the MC5s are just a little too clinical for our tastes. As such, the clear, crisp mid-range and high-end notes end up coming across a little sterile, as the low-end doesn't have the warmth of tone we'd like to complement detailed sound. Although they're accurate, that accuracy seems to come at the expense of warmth of tone and in this instance the trade-off is greater than we can tolerate.
The reason for this seems to be that despite their low 16 ohm impedance, the MC5 earphones seem to take a lot of driving. Even with an iPod touch on full volume, the output was still a bit underwhelming. Hooked up to a Trends PA-10 amplifier the Etymotic MC5s definitely sounded better, but that's not a realistic set-up for a £55 pair of earphones. Unless you really don't care about hearing the bass notes in your music, we'd have to recommend looking elsewhere.
Despite delivering a clear, detailed sound, with surprising accuracy considering their £55 price tag, the Etymotic MC5s aren't the best earphones available for the money. To our ears they're just a little too clinical, and we'd probably pick up a pair of Klipsch Image S4s instead.