Etymotic MK5 Isolator IEM Review

Company Name: Etymotic

Company Website:

Headphone Model: MK5 Isolator

Frequency Range: 20Hz-15KHz

Headphone Style (Open, Closed, etc.): In Ear Monitors

Impedance: 32 Ohms

Sensitivity: 95db


Pros: Great sounding IEM’s for low cost.

Cons: The ear tips are very hard to change. Small assortment of tips. Lack of a low end.


Rating Definitions

  • Audio Quality: How good a set of headphones sounds in relation to other headphones I’ve heard. This will be subjective with any set of headphones that are reviewed.
  • Micro-phonics:Noise that can be heard from the cable being moved around. The less noise the higher the value, the more noise the lower the value.
  • Comfort:How comfortable a set of headphones is over a prolonged period of time.
  • Design:How well a set of headphones are designed. This includes cables, reinforcement points, jacks, and materials used.
  • Isolation:How well a set of headphones blocks outside noises and allows you to hear the music you’re listening to. This also includes sound leakage from the headphones to others around you.
  • Value:Performance to cost ratio. If performance exceeds cost this value will be high. If performance is on the low end for the cost the value will be low. This will be subjective based on audio quality. Everyone hears different things.
  • Overall Rating: This is the average of the other 6 criteria


Rating scale is based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 being the worst, 3 being neutral, and 5 being the best.

Audio Quality: 3.8 out of 5

Microphonics: 4 out of 5

Comfort: 4 out of 5

Design: 4 out of 5

Isolation: 3.5 out of 5

Value: 4 out of 5

Overall Rating: 4.55 out of 5


The Etymotic MK5 Isolator headphones come with 2 sets of tri flange tips (Small and large) and a set of foam tips. It also comes with a fabric carrying bag and shirt clip.

Songs that were used to test (320KBPS MP3 converted from FLAC):

  1. Twista – Misunderstood
  2. Tonic – If You Could Only See
  3. Rob Zombie – Superbeast
  4. Usher – Scream
  5. Wayne Wonder – No Letting Go
  1. In Twista’s Misunderstood the beginning starts out without background music. Once the background music starts Twista begins rapping and a bass line drops. With the Etymotic MK5’s everything remains relatively flat with an emphasis on the highs. There is a lack of bass output in this song. Throughout the song you can hear cymbals in the background music as they pan left to right and back again. The treble was never harsh throughout the song. Overall the song played very clear and sounded great with the exception of the bass output.
  2. In Tonic’s You Could Only See the MK5’s again are very clear and analytical. Again a lack of low end extension. Everything from the singer’s voice to the background music sounded great. I’m noticing an emphasis on the highs with this set of IEM’s.
  3. Rob Zombies SuperBeast starts off with some nice background music that’s pretty midbass and treble heavy. The MK5’s were a little harsh in the intro. Normally this song sounds a little bit muddy no matter what the output device. With the MK5’s this song is crystal clear. Towards 1:33 you can hear the background music pan left to right for about 10 seconds. The sound stage is presented well and each instrument is defined.
  4. Ushers Scream starts with a nice beat. Around 30 seconds into the song clapping is introduced into the music and its very obvious even though the background music and clapping blend well together. The MK5’s are very upbeat throughout the song and present even the mid frequencies well in this song. The MK5’s sounded the best on this song. The lower to mid frequencies were there and the treble wasn’t harsh at all.
  5. Wayne Wonders No Letting Go starts off very clear and analytical again. About 30 seconds into the song a short lower frequency line starts. It sounded great compared to the bass line that was absent in Twistas Misunderstood. The song didn’t display very much separation in background instruments and sound effects.

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Overall these headphones are great for upbeat, mid to high tempo music. Based on my listening these seem to be more suited to music in the R&B, Hip-hop, Alternative Rock categories. Anything with a lower bass line will be lacking. Overall these are a very natural sounding headphone for the right genre with a V shaped signature.

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