Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Etymotic Research MC5 Noise Isolating In-Ear Earphones (Blue) (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
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on August 15, 2010
I bought these very recently, but it doesn't take long to formulate a thorough review. Overall I would give these a 4.5/5 if I could, but you must also take into consideration I'm a bit of an Etymotic fan. I can't claim to be an audiophile, but I like my music to sound good. I'll try to do a normal review, and then compare them to the Etymotic ER-6i headphones because a lot of people have those or might be considering them seeing the similar price.

What you get:
Etymotic MC5 headphones with 4ft cord and removable shirt clip
1 carrying case
2 large tri-flange ear tips
2 small tri-flange ear tips (already on the phones)
2 foam ear tips
2 easy glide ear tips
1 filter changing tool
2 filters

Review:

If all you're used to is the ipod headphones or something cheap you will absolutely be blown away by your music. Putting these in adds sounds you didn't know existed. This depends on the quality of your music though. If you have music files at low bit rates it's still going to sound bad. Personally most of my music is 192, but varies between 128 and 320 kbps, and while there is a difference, it's not too bad. Just know that if all your songs already sound muffled and off they probably will continue to do so, but if it's CD quality or itunes quality it should sound just fine.

If you're new to in ear monitors these things go inside you ear rather than just sitting on top of the ear. I mean way inside. For some people this is painful and awkward, and it definitely takes some getting used to. When I first tried it with my old Etymotics it hurt and I couldn't figure out why people liked them. Once you experiment with the different ear tips and find what works best for you, you'll start to get used to the feel and eventually you won't notice it's there.

Sitting so far in the ear is what gives these buds their isolation. You cannot hear a thing with them in. I use the large tri-flange tips but the foam ones are supposed to give better isolation. I often use my ipod at the lowest or second lowest setting and can hear just fine. Sometimes this is problematic when you want to go back and forth from listening to music to doing something like having a conversation. It can also be dangerous if you try to use them while driving or something like biking near roads.

One thing that is definitely different from other headphones is that the sound feels like it's coming from inside your head. It's kind of hard to describe, but you probably won't feel like you're surrounded by sound like you would with the large over the ear sets.

Bass is something everyone mentions with Etymotics. This set was supposed to be their response to everyone's constant criticism that their products don't have enough bass. While they have ramped it up a bit, if you're a bass addict like most people you will find these unsatisfying. As someone explained, we are addicted to bass. It's common to turn up the bass in the car or on the speakers. These phones play the sound as it was recorded, not necessarily how you're used to hearing it. One of the first songs I listened to with these was Satellite by Guster, and I noticed that the bass seemed to just fit right in with the music and blend rather than stand out. This might not be what some people are used to. One of the next songs that came up on my shuffle was by In Flames which has heavy bass driving the beat and it managed to come through alright. Not the level you might expect, but definitely acceptable. After listening through the shuffle a while I came across some Ben Folds songs and they sounded absolutely amazing. Styles of music that don't rely on heavy bass should all sound this way.

Overall this is a great item for the price point. The isolation is wonderful when you need it, though sometimes annoying when you don't. Once you listen to ears with sound quality like this you'll wonder how you ever went without them.

Comparison:

I used my ER-6i's for about 18 months before the cord cut out to one ear. The cord is very thin and fragile and it ended up being the downfall. I loved the ears, they sounded great; but with just one side working it was time to get new ones. Apparently it's common for this kind of fault to happen with the ER-6 series which is why they only get a 1 year warranty instead of 2. The MC5 has a much stronger cord and is firmly fastened at the headphone. Definitely something I was glad to see. The cord on the 6i's also made a whole lot of noise. Any small movement was amplified to the ear and would overcome the sound of the music (I believe it's called microphonics). The cord on the MC5's must be made out of something different because it's much less noticeable (though still present).

Another thing is comfort. I found the 6i to be much more comfortable than the MC5, probably because the MC5 is much larger and protrudes out of the ear while the 6i fits pretty well in the ear. This isn't to say the MC5 is uncomfortable, just less so.

Smaller differences include the carrying case for the MC5 feeling much cheaper than the 6i. The 6i had an L and R very visible on the side while the MC5 has it small and on the bottom. The MC5 has better bass response than the 6i. The MC5 uses much smaller filters that I feel like I'm going to lose. The MC5 ear tips sit more snugly on the phones and don't feel like they're going to fall off as easily. I think the 6i has a 5ft cord instead of 4ft. The MC5 plug is a 45 degree angle, and the 6i is 90 degrees.

I like both pairs of phones. I think the MC5s have a little better sound and it's nice to get a choice of color. I think the 6is are a little more comfortable though they have a tendency to break more easily. I really loved my pair of 6is but with how easily they broke I'd have to favor the MC5 over them. Hope this helps someone out.
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on September 8, 2010
Note: This review is based on excerpts from a review I wrote on the earphone forum head-fi, the full review can be found by searching the same title. The review terms are a little technical, but googling an audio glossary might help :)

The review makes numerous references to a similar earphone, the obscure but excellent Head-Direct RE0 found here:
http://www.amazon.com/HeadDirect-RE0-HEAD-DIRECT-In-ear-Headphones/dp/B001MQ8BL6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8=electronics&qid=1284009892&sr=8-1

I purchased the MC3's from Etymotic directly. Shipping was extremely fast (express international courier to Australia.)

What's in the Box- Spacer Laser Headset Pew Pew Pew!

The Etymotics come in a nice, easy to open and classy though understated cardboard box with a flip up cover that shows off the little space lasers inside. I haven't posted pictures of the unboxing, because I think the whole fascination with the unboxing process is a little unhealthy, but rest assured the unboxing inspires confidence considering the price of the product.

The accessory selection is relativey generous - you get a bag, filter changer and a pair of replacement filters, a pair of foam tips, the strange mushroom `glider' tips, and small and large silicone bi-flanges. The small tri-flanges come attached to the nozzle, which is surprising given how small they are. It does seem to be Etymotic's suggestion of how deep these are supposed to go in.

Build Quality, Cables and Microphonics - Bulletproof

This is probably the best part of the Ety's. The earphones are well built, and inspire a lot of confidence. The strain reliefs are meaty and thick, as are the cables which are supple with a nice texture, fairly tangle free and little memory effect. They are leagues ahead of any other earphones that I have - especially compared to the old style rigid RE0 cables. I'm not sure how much Kevlar is used in the product - I'm not even sure what the texture of Kevlar is - all I can say is that the cables are a high point. Microphonics/cable noise is average when worn down, and non-existent when either used with the included shirt clip or worn over the ear. With a 2 year warranty, I really couldn't be happier with the build quality of a 100 USD product.

Comfort and Isolation- If You Find Brain on the Tip, You've Gone Too Far

Here was my first stumble with the Etymotics. The MC3's have a narrower nozzle then I have ever seen on an IEM, though I understand this is relatively usual with sets from Shure, Ety, etc. The tips are described as deep insertion, and they were not kidding - I have never put anything so far into my ear canal except for Q-tips to clean my ears. And if you've ever used Q-tips to clean your ears, the feeling is almost identical.

It took me a long while to adjust to the tri-flange silicone tips, and initially I found the tri-flanges desperately scratchy and uncomfortable. The flanges would scratch against my ear canals, the small tips were difficult to get a secure seal with, the big tips sealed but the flanges rubbed against my ears painfully. I found myself using the foam and glider tips more and more, which after intial insertion were comfortable. However, they did terrible things to the clarity, taking away so much sparkle that I went back to wrestling with the silicones. I preservered, given other Head-Fi members saying that as the silicone absorbed body oils, they would become softer and seal would be easier to achieve.

I can say, after a few days, that thankfully this is true. I've worked out a way to insert them so that they are comfortable, no part of the nozzle is digging into my ear canal, and I get a seal each time. Unfortunately, this way means that I have to wear them down rather than over the ear, which means microphonics are an issue. Also troubling, is that swapping out the foam tips so many times, the glue that attaches the rubber cores to the foam is coming apart. So I'm essentially stuck with the silicone bi-flanges.

Isolation is amazing, as expected. When music is playing you literally cannot hear anything else. This is dangerous in a way because not only can you not hear any screams if a dinosaur is going to attack your Jeep, but also because the lack of relative volume means that it's fairly easy to turn these up way too high.

An important thing to note is that Etymotic is running a program which means that you can go to an audiologist and have custom tips made for you from ACS, with a total price including impressions of $100 USD. This seems to me to be an extremely reasonable offer, though you have to like the MC's enough to more than double their price as a package. I'm considering this option, as the comfort of customs seems pretty attractive.

General Listening Impressions

Overall, the MC3 is a mixed bag for me. It has an accurate, transparent and detailed sound, with excellent reproduction of all frequencies. They certainly wouldn't be considered warm - it remains on the dry side of analytical. Because of its relatively etched sound, in my opinion it does quite poorly when coupled with a harsh source. On a badly mastered track, or even one that is mastered a little `hot', the sound signature can be sizzling. This means that on any track where they add a high pass filter to make the vocals sound a little more dry - an effect really frequently used in electronic music - the effect is actually doubled and it can be quite painful to listen to. This isn't the kind of usual "S" or "F" sibilance (though this can have that as well), but more of a general aggression to the tone. In those cases, you have to turn down the volume, though thankfully the isolation is good for that. If you don't mind a bit of EQing, then with a bass boost the MC3's are really fantastic sounding. Soundstage and instrument separation are nothing unusual for this price point - nothing that stands out as particularly great, but not poor either.

How much of this sizzling signature can be attributed to their hard to drive nature distorting the relatively low output on the iPhone headphone amp is hard to say. Certainly, it gets worse as you turn the volume up, which leads me to suggest not coupling the Ety with a weak source.

The suggestion that switching to dynamic drivers have significantly increased the bass on the Ety's is somewhat misleading - though not Etymotic's fault, considering that they never made the assertion themselves as far as I know. While these have good bass extension, and more bass than an unmodded RE0, they should still be considered bass light.

The sound of the Ety's can best be described as dry, with accuracy and extension on both ends - more bass extension than the RE0's and as much sparkle, but with less smoothness. This seems to match exactly with what Etymotic prides as their sound signature - tremendous accuracy and articulation. The signature is probably quite closed to a stock RE0 but fuller mids and better bass extension. Unfortunately, I cannot recall with 100% accuracy the sound of the RE0 before I messed with the foam.

For a $99 dollar iPhone headset, or a $79 headphone, considering the build quality and isolation, the MC5's are great for anyone who would like an analytical sound, and who is relatively immune to sibilance.

On another note, these are probably a great option for an iPhone headset at their price point, with the convenience of having music controls and a microphone really very useful. One amazing thing that I didn't consider is that the iPods allow for voice control for music playback with the microphone - for instance you can say "Play Arist The Flaming Lips" and it will do so, obeying your every whim. For anyone who is wondering if the headset version is worth the premium, the answer is yes, definitely.

Also important to note is that the MC5s do offer an upgrade path in the form of the relatively cheap custom tip option. I can't say how much that would change the sound, but if I do take Etymotic up on their offer I will write updated impressions in the second post.

If I had to choose between the MC5 and the RE0, it would be a harder question - depending on how important build quality and isolation was to the equation. The Ety's are more transparent and as long as nothing flips the sibilance switch, they sound detailed and balanced. For me, with the amount of electronic/filtered music I listen to, I think I personally still prefer the sound of the RE0's by a small margin - and only after I tweaked the RE0's to my taste. Your mileage may vary, as may it vary with the comfort and fit.

Despite all this, it's good to keep in mind that the RE0's originally retailed at over two hundred dollars, and are still heavily recommended by people on head-fi as an excellent first choice at their price point - they are giant killers with a few flaws. In the same way, the MC5's have a mix of good and bad, but with their build quality the best I have ever seen, and great sound for the price, I would not hesitate to recommend them for someone with around that much to spend - as long as they are aware of the caveats.
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on February 2, 2011
Even though I have been going to gyms for 20 years, it seems just recently (the last few years), all the gyms in our area have fallen into the irritating habit of blasting the overhead music excessively loud.

How loud ?

Conventional ear-buds and headphones are unable to drown out the gym's overhead music even with your MP3 player on 10.

From talking with dozens of other members, it seems despite numerous talks with management and letters to corporate offices, all the gyms in our area (Ballys, LA Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, etc..) continue this same bad habit.

Hey ..... these are supposed to be gyms, not night clubs or rave/dance clubs ....... right ?

Unfortunately the locally owned gyms have all been squeezed out of business, so there are few options available for joining elsewhere.

Making it worse, these gyms all tend to play hip-hop, rap, techno or some other form of overly simplistic, repetitive, bass heavy, mind-numbing noise that barely qualifies as music.
More like an audio version of Chinese Water Torture.

So we were searching for a set of noise isolating headphones that would be effective at shutting out the gym's noise and allow us to focus on our workout with a music of our own choice ... played at a reasonable volume.

I heard these earphones have the highest noise cancelling factor in the industry
(up to -42 db with the foam inserts , - 35 db with the plastic inserts)
This is even better than the - 33db of sound isolation/protection offers with the earplugs often used at gun ranges.

Let me simply say this .......

The first time my wife wore them to the gym, she looked at me smiling and mouthed the words ...... "I don't hear anything".

I signaled for her to remove them.

She took them out, and WHAM could hear how loud the gym was playing the overhead music that day.

She said ..... "These are great, I am glad you got these. Now coming here does not annoy me anymore. You can tune out the gym's irritating noise and it's like you are in your own zone".

What you have here is essentially an ingenious "amplified earplug".
The earplug blocks off 98% of external sound, while the small 8mm dynamic speaker delivers the sound directly to your inner ear.

Now a few comments .....

1) Like any dynamic speaker type system, these will sound better after they have had a chance to be played for 20-25 hours. Just like guitar amp speakers or any other dynamic speaker system, they tend to be a little stiff and thin sounding when brand new.
After 20-25 hours of use, they are broken in and better reproduce the full audio spectrum with smoother highs and better low end.

2) Some people have commented these earphones have a weak bass response.
After broken in as described above, their complaint is not true.
They have a very natural frequency response from about 60 hz - 18 Khz
I have worked in recording studios, mixing and mastering for years and I can attest to the accuracy of these earphones for the price.

My guess is the people complaining about the weak bass either .. (a) do not have them inserted in the ear properly .... or ....... (b) these people like to listen to music that has exaggerated subharmonic bass (dance, techno, hi-hop, salsa, rap).

3) A proper fit is KEY to getting the best sound isolation and full sound. At least 5 different sizes of earplug are available for this model. When installing the earphone into the ear, you should actually hear the sound of the room around you dissapear to virtually nothing as the foam expands to fill your ear.
The expanding foam works best for total sound isolation.

4) Because these earphones block out the external sounds and deliver your music directly to your inner ear ... BE SURE TO LOWER THE VOLUME OF YOUR MP3 PLAYER before putting them on !!
If you are accustomed to listening to your I-Pod on 9-10 wearing normal ear-buds or headphones, you will probably find that you only need to turn the volume up to 1-2 with these.

This is a great thing. Listening to your music in this quiet situation at a lower volume is much safer for your hearing than needing to blast your player with regular headphones to try and drown out external noises.

5) They are easier, better and more quiet than the various Bose systems.

6) Do not wear these outside walking, driving , hiking, etc...
These things really make the outside world go dead quiet.
For example, I can't even hear my own Cell phone ring or people taking right in front of you to your face.
At the gym, it is as though you are deaf.
You see people moving but you don't even hear the clank of metal weights.

Perhaps in the 2 second break between songs on your own player, you MIGHT hear very faintly that there is something being played in the gym's background .......... but is is almost not even noticeable.

7) Some of the more expensive Etymotic earphones may sound slightly nicer, but these MC-5 are more durable and better suited for rugged activities.

In summary ........

These MC-5 give you your own zone of privacy and silence by tuning out 98% of all external noise.
They offer very accurate sound.
They allow you to listen to your music at a lower volume, thus protecting your hearing.

It is always nice to find a product that really excels at what it was intended to do.
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on October 29, 2011
I should start off by saying I'm a musician in a professional orchestra. Having studied and performed the repertoire for much of my life, I have a good idea of what an orchestra/chamber group sounds like in a good acoustical space. Because performing orchestral repertoire is my job, I often listen to popular music on earbuds, so I need an IEM that can both accurately reproduce an orchestral/acoustic sound and also deliver the punch and excitement of dance/rock music. I ultimately returned these, but they are not without merit.

Acoustic sound reproduction is fantastic. Listening to the recap of Mahler 3 1st mvt, I can accurately hear the warmth, body and burn of 9 Horns at fortissimo and then the woody buzz of the winds as the music fades. The ultimate test I normally put buds through is the opening and conclusion to Mahler's 8th (Symphony of 1000) to hear if it can deliver a sense of spatial awareness and reproduce all frequencies at maximum volume (organ, large orchestra, large choir), and these sound phenomenal. The timbres are accurate, the lows are warm and present, the highs are clear. Listening to Donizetti's Dirti Addio for horn, voice and piano, I can actually hear the performers moving and breathing as they prepare to sing and play. In short, these reproduce recorded sound extremely well, especially for the price.

Popular Music performance: quite flaccid, especially in the bass. I wasn't expecting these to sound like Beats by Dr. Dre, but they make my favorite popular music (Bodyrock remixes, RHCP, Radiohead, Cake, Midlake, Kayne, etc) sound really lackluster. Clarity, yes. Excitement, definitely not, which kind of sucks because that's a large part of what I enjoy about popular music.

For me another problem with these is the eartips. You shouldn't have to stick a rather stiff triple flange halfway to your brain to get good sound isolation from an earbud. Neither of the foam tips or the small triple flange sealed well for me, but the large triple flange definitely did. When you get the right seal, you can hear almost nothing. 35 db of isolation is a lot. After wearing these for a few minutes, I had an indent inside my ear's tragus (the triangular cartilage up from your earlobe) from the flange. Really uncomfortable. I now have a pair of Monster Turbines, which achieve great sound isolation with a simple round rubber tip. If the Etymotics had Monster's tips and slightly better popular music performance, I would have been thrilled with them. Also, I had to have the volume on my iPod turned nearly all the way up, which I definitely shouldn't, given the level of sound isolation.

In the end, amazing acoustic sound reproduction is not worth extremely uncomfortable eartips and lackluster popular music performance for me.
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on October 6, 2010
I purchased 3 different in-ear earphones for use with my gixxer 600 sportsbike. I have repeatedly tested them using the same songs on my iPhone 3GS, same helmet and gloves for about 1 week. Here is how I would rate them (considering price):

Klipsch S4i >>> noise isolation C, bass response A, remote A, ear canal comfort B. Cost $99
Etymotic M3 >>> noise isolation A, bass response C, remote B, ear canal comfort C. Cost $99
Eytmotic HF2 >>> noise isolation A, bass response B, remote C, ear canal comfort A. Cost 159

The Etys were best at noise isolation (really blocks out engine and road noises). But there ENDS the similarities between M3 and HF2.

The problem with M3 is its tiny 3-button remote is barely usable unless you have really tiny fingers (it gets worse when I am wearing gloves while riding, it is impossible to "feel" the buttons). The built-in microphone is also of poor quality (my buddies say I sounded thin over the phone). The actual speaker tubes are quite thick (inserting them into my ear canal caused a lot of stress and became uncomfortable after extended period of time). It is also the least sensitive (requiring about 25% more volume dial). Its sound quality very good but not as good as the HF2 or S4i.

The HF2 is hands down the winner in all categories, but it is the most expensive one and lacks 3-button control. Although it uses the same 3-flange eartip as the M3, I found the HF2 very comfortable because its "balanced armature" speaker tubes are really tiny (about the size of a pencil lead, very easy to insert into ear canal). It also offers the highest sensitivity (requires about 25% less volume dial on my iPhone 3GS) and the highest accuracy (as in highs are clear, lows are punchy and none of the frequencies are over-blown). The noise isolation also superb (blocks out 90% of the engine and road noises).

The S4i offers the best bass response. I would say it is about 50% stronger than the Etys. This much bass may or may not suit you, depending on personal taste. I find it great for hip-pop type of music but poor for instrumentals (the pianos sounded a bit distorted). Its microphone is better than HF2. Its 3-button remote is bigger and easier to use than HF2. Its sensitivity and accuracy are very close to the HF2. The only problem I want to point out is that S4i uses oval-shaped eartips that do not seal as well as the Etys. They did not fit my ear canal well and blocked out only half the noise. Comfort wise, it is better than M3 but worse than HF2.

Of all these 3, I would say either go with the Etymotic HF2 for its supreme noise isolation, in-ear comfort and clarity - OR - go with the Klipsch S4i for its stronger bass and better remote. Skip the Etymotic M3 because it is uncomfortable (thick tubes), has tiny remotes (hard to "feel" buttons) and offers the lowest sensitivity (requires highest volume dial).
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on August 20, 2010
I'm no audiophile but if you are looking for noise-isolating earbuds, these are the way to go. They block out the sounds of a moving train, loud side conversations you don't want to hear at work and the music just comes through crisp and clear.

I have yet to try these on a plane but I have no doubt that they would turn the loud plane engine to a low hum.

I used the large ear flanges that the come with the earbuds because it is actually more comfortable and because you can get a much better seal from them. Please make sure to read the directions on how to insert the earbuds before you start using them because it makes a HUGE difference.

Also, the fact that the cables are made with Kevlar, just makes me a lot less scared of roughing these earbuds up, considering that all other high-end earbuds complain about the cables wearing over time and the wires being exposed.

The only thing I can say is that users may feel like they are uncomfortable. When you create a seal from the earbud, it literally just feels like you've wedged something plastic deep into your ears. I'd complain that the flanges are not soft enough but if that were the case, I think there wouldn't be such a high level of noise isolation.

Overall, these are best pair of headphones I've ever owned as far as sound quality and noise isolation. I'd recommend them to anyone looking for those two features over comfort.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 8, 2010
Size: With Mic|Color: Black|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Etymotic Research has daringly dove into the under $100 earphone category with their mc3 in-ear monitor headset (IEM). Competition in the earphone category has exploded, to say the least, thanks primarily to the iPod and iPhone. IEMs have popped up from just about every consumer electronics company known to man. Can Etymotic fend off the competitors with their latest "canalphones?"

PROS:
- Beautifully accurate and detailed
- Durable build
- Convenient inline remote & mic
- Useful accessories included
- 2 year warranty

CONS:
- Under represented bass
- Sound quality below average, out of the box

Historically, Etymotic used balanced armature transducers in their high-end IEMs. The mc3 and mc5 are their first moving coil drivers, used mostly as a cost-reducing measure. I have often been let down by companies introducing "value" versions of their successful products so I was skeptical about the mc5s. Consumer Reports' rating did not invoke confidence either. I was able to obtain a pair of mc3's from Amazon for evaluation. As it turns out, Consumer Reports got it wrong and I almost did too.

SOUND QUALITY
Most of my review is based on the mc5, which I had the chance to listen to first but the mc3 and mc5 have identical sound characteristics. My initial impression of sound quality was not good. Though the details were phenomenal, it just did not sound right. I struggled with the 3-flange eartips for a good hour before I eventually found a better fit and seal with the gray glider eartips. Even with a good seal, I thought it was harsh with poor bass response. I had completed my review based on about 5 hours of critical listening but then decided to give them a 24 hour burn-in for a retest. In my opinion, those 29 hours of use completely changed the sound. The mids and highs were very detailed and clear and the harshness smoothed out. The bass improved slightly and retained a quality tight sound. I usually prefer a flat sound from headphones or speakers and my favorite headphones currently are the Sennheiser HD 555s. Despite this preference, I found the bass on the mc3/mc5 to be under represented. Eminem, Usher and Black Eyed Peas were not as enjoyable to listen to as Sarah McLachlan, Liz Phair, ELO, or Keane. If you prefer artificial bass, the mc3s are NOT going to be to your liking.

SOUND ISOLATION
Sound isolation with the mc3/mc5 is excellent. Etymotic claims 35-42dB of isolation. They are so good that you should take caution when using them while jogging or cycling outdoors. They are however, ideal for commuting on buses or trains and perfectly acceptable for air travel. Best of all, no bulky noise-canceling controls or batteries to deal with. There is some microphonic effect but attaching the shirt clip and or wrapping the cord behind your ears help.

COMFORT
Some people will not find universal Etymotic in-ear monitors comfortable. The default 3-flange eartips require them to be inserted far into the ear canal and it can be a harrowing experience. For me, the glider eartips were more comfortable and provided a better seal so even though Etymotic offers custom-fit eartips, I found at least one pair of comfortable universal eartips. One minor drawback to the glider eartips is that they make the rest of the IEM stick out further from your ear, but I personally don't care how I look with them. The 4 foot cord is a perfect length for a wide variety of portable use and the included shirt clip can help keep the cord in place while you're moving around. The slim inline remote responds well and the included mic is sufficient for phone calls.

DURABILITY
I own a couple of under $30 IEMs and never wanted to spend beyond that because I always feared breaking or losing them. Etymotic addressed that fear by coating the cables with Kevlar, providing a protective case, and backing it up with a 2 year warranty.

MISC
I really appreciated that the mc3s came with a protective case. It also included 4 types of eartips, shirt clip, a pair of filters, and filter removal tool.

If you like the mc3 but don't need the inline remote and mic, go check out the Etymotic mc5. They have identical sound characteristics.

CONCLUSION
The sound quality of the mc3/mc5 improved greatly with some burn-in time and proved that Consumer Reports grossly misjudged them. Though I still feel that the bass response needs to be improved, I think the price for performance is very good. Etymotic IEMs are not for everyone, but if you prefer accurate details without distorted sound (bass boosting), then you are sure to enjoy the mc series from Etymotic.
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on September 1, 2010
With the MC5, Etymotic Research has brought their clear, detailed sound down to a cost that most semi-serious music listeners can afford. On headphone forums, the MC5 gets reviews that the sound quality is within 90% of it's more then 2X more expensive big brother, the ER-4.

Since the MC5 has a dynamic driver (a first for an Ety phone), it really benefits from letting it burn in for 40-60 hours, helping the driver to relax and reach it's full bass potential. The bass on the MC5 will not blow anyone away, except maybe for the quality of the bass. The bass response is completely clean and clear, but it is not earth-moving in quantity. And it does respond well to some EQ if you want to bump up the bass.

The mids and trebles are very balance with the bass, and both are very natural sounding. Voices sound real, and acoustic instruments have a very natural, authentic timbre to them. Highs are not fatiguing but very present all that way past the delicate shimmering of brushes on cymbals.

With several types of tips provided, you should try to find the tip that allows a good seal from outside noise. Once sealed, you will hear very little outside noise when no music is playing, and when music is playing, you should hear a rich sound, balanced in both ears.

The only caution is the tightness of the tips on the nozzle. When removing tips to change them or clean them, you have to pinch the whole tip firmly and slowly rotate the tip as you are pulling the tip down the nozzle. Also be patient putting on the cleaned of different tip, slowly and firmly rotating it onto the nozzle.

Comply T-100 or P-Series tips also fit the MC5 to provide an excellent and comfortable seal.
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on February 2, 2011
If you're not familiar with them already most people know of Etymotic for the following pair of earphones - Etymotic Research ER6i Isolator In-Ear Earphones (Black)

I had a pair for 3 years and I admit I absolutely LOVED THEM! I can't emphasize that enough. I could go on all day for why I recommend them. With that said I'll be honest, now that I own the MC5s I'll never go back. Not only do these phones sound just as good (after burning in for about 50 hours they sound better) to me than the ER 6i but most importantly (this was a big issue and why I upgraded) the cord on the ER 6i is incredibly weak and after being snagged one time too many the left channel eventually went out. Now granted they lasted for some time for me, however I was always a little cautious with the cord because of apparent frailty of it. I can only imagine some people who are a little more careless could snag them too hard on day 1 and that would be it... With that said.

The MC5s have a MUCH better cord, I've snagged them several times and not once was I concerned about it. If you've owned the ER 6is you'll notice this immediately just the massive improvement in build quality by comparison. If you're concerned as well they isolate IDENTICALLY to the ER 6is. So no worries there. All things considered I'm surprised to see these actually cheaper here on amazon than the 6is when they just seem to be better in every way.

I've tried out the popular Klipch S4s as well after reading so many good things about them - Klipsch IMAGE S4 In-Ear Enhanced Bass Noise-Isolating Headphones" However the main reason I want an in ear phone is to ISOLATE, I found the Klipch just didn't cut it at all, if you want the best isolating ear phones I've learned my lesson it's Etymotic.

I really don't have any complaints about the phones themselves. They drive perfectly fine from my SanDisk Sansa Clip+ 4 GB MP3 Player (Black) (Which is an EXCELLENT portable MP3 Player BTW! With my micro SD card I have 20gb, I can always increase it with a 32gb card)

The only people who wouldn't like these are those who don't like In ear phones. However if you're like me and NEED ear phones that truly Isolate these are an INCREDIBLE VALUE I can't stress that enough, go out and get them now!!! You won't regret it!
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on September 6, 2013
I love these earphones for on-stage monitoring. I've used them for perhaps 8-10 hours total.... The sound quality and clarity is excellent, and the noise isolation is amazing: I can sit at an acoustic piano and not hear what I'm playing if it's not miced. Wearing the cables up over my ears and the cinch ring snugged up to the back of my head, the fit is solid and microphonics (noise from the cables rubbing) is nonexistent. The included carry case and cable clip are appreciated, and work well.

The sound clarity is excellent: I can easily pick out every instrument in the mix. Note that the bass isn't as heavy as it is on typical headphones (Skullcandy, Beats, etc.) This is generally a good thing. Overall, the sound isn't as "smoothed over" as it is on many other speakers and headphones. They let you hear exactly what's going on, and don't fill in what isn't there.... Music sounds a bit different. On the down side, listening to these 'phones has pointed out just how poor my old cheap earbuds are... I may have to invest in some upgrades.

Note that the isolation is a bit *too* good for general use: you're essentially deaf to everything around you when wearing these 'phones. You wouldn't want to wear them jogging or biking, because you couldn't hear traffic. I'm looking forward to trying them with a lawn mower or snow blower, though.

As other reviews and Etymotic's own website emphasize, the sound quality is directly proportional to the quality of the seal with your ear canal. Try different tips until you find the ones which fit your ears best. The included foamies seem to work best for me, followed closely by the rounded "glide" tips. I couldn't get the flanged tips to work for me at all. But that's a personal fit thing: everyone's ear canals are different. If the fit is bad, the bass is weak, and the sound is thin and tinny. With a good fit, the sound is great.
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