Review: Etymotic mc5

The Etymotic name may not be well-known among the general public, but to earphone snobs, it’s as familiar as the names of their children and spouses. The company built its reputation on its excellent pro-level in-ear monitors, which cost hundreds of dollars. But with the mc5 in-ear headphones, Etymotic has produced a much more affordable IEM that’s equally impressive.

These slim and compact aluminum nuggets are worth every penny of the $60 you’ll spend on them, and we recommend them to anyone who doesn’t need a microphone/remote assembly (because there isn’t one). If you need the mic, you’ll have to spend an extra $20 on the mc3 earphones, which are otherwise identical.

The sound is pristine, and much of this has to do with the fit. They ship with tri-flange mushroom tips made of semi-soft rubber, as well as two different types of foam tips. All three options give you a tight seal blocks out almost all ambient noise and gives you a extra helping of bass. Vocals and other mid-range details are full and accurate, and the highs are natural, never harsh or tinny.

I thought the rubber tips could have been softer, but that’s a matter of preference. My only real complaint is the lack of a remote or a microphone at the $60-70 price point. Given that most earbuds and IEMs in this price range are marketed to people upgrading from bundled buds, it seems like a big omission.

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