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Etymotic Research MC5 Earphones Review


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Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £55.00

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.

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.

Trusted Score

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Score in detail

  • Value 6
  • Sound Quality 6

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