One of the killer elements to the Etymotic headphones range is that they can be fitted with a mould that perfectly fits your ears. Of course that's an extra that will set you back around £70, but trust us when we say it is worth it.
The bad news is that the mc5 don't come with the mouldings, or a voucher in the box, however the good news is that they will work with them. That means you could opt for this model, which is considerably cheaper than some of the other headphones available from Etymotics, get the mouldings and end up with an awesome solution.
Now we've got what we think is the killer point to the Etymotic range out of the way what about the mc5s? Are they any good without the dedicated mouldings, do they sound up to the job? What about overall look and performance?
The high-gloss polished aluminium earphones come in four "chromatic" colours: blue, green, red or black. The headphones are compact and small, fitting snugly in the ear. There are four tips in the box (in addition to the mouldings option) and these range from two 3-flange (Christmas tree) style fittings to a mouldable foam option and a traditional ball design Etymotic calls "the Glider". Once you've chosen the fitting that suits your ears, it's a case of plugging in and listening to the sounds.
The headphones come with a 120cm cable with an angled 3.5mm socket at the other end. The cable comes with a clip so you can attach it to your shirt to stop it bouncing around when on the move to reduce cable noise.
We tested the mc5 headphones with a range of different music. On the noise cancellation front the headphones performed very well. At low volumes they were good enough to block out most noise. At high volumes, almost uncomfortable volumes, we couldn't hear anything in the environment around us including building work, cars, and Mrs Pocket-lint shouting at us.
When it comes to sound they perform well but don't push beyond the expectations of their price bracket. Listening to Fiest, the headphones struggled with the high notes while delivering the lower bass heavy guitar riff. That lack of bass is prevalent in tracks like Gorillaz's Dirty Harry, which makes that low riding bass almost non-existent, instead pumping up the treble levels. That lack of bass is also illustrated in Justin Timberlake's Futuresex-Lovesound, which just doesn't come across as it should.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, it means when it comes to listening to podcasts and spoken word you'll be able to hear it loud and clear. It's also handy if you listen to more acoustic tracks like Fyfe Dangerfield's She's Always a Women as they sound great. Basically it's a harsher sound than the company's hf2 headphones, lacking the dynamic range you'll find elsewhere.
The mc5 headphones are pitched as a budget option for those not yet ready to go up to the Etymotic hf3 headphones (£130) that are just about to be released. At £55 you will get what you pay for, but for most people looking at a pair of headphones in this price bracket, these will do nicely.
Personally we would recommend upping your budget and getting a pair of hf2 headphones for £15 more. They come with a mic for voice calling from your phone, and while they don't include the same "advanced" tech as found here, do sound very good.
The mc5 might feature better tech, but for us while they are good, it's no cigar.