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Ortofon e-Q5 Review

Ortofon e-Q5
Reviewed Apr 2011

Details: Second in-ear earphone from well-known cartridge maker Ortofon
MSRP: est. $290 / manufacturer’s page
Current Price: $215 from amazon.com / $198 from musicaacoustics.com
Specs: Driver: Moving Armature | Imp: 40Ω | Sens: 117 dB | Freq: 10-20k Hz | Cable: 4’ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 4.5mm | Preferred tips: Sony Hybrid
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (3.5/5) – Silicone single-flange tips (3 sizes), Comply foam tips, filter changing kit with two pairs of spare filters, filter cleaning tool, and ‘tin can’ storage case
Build Quality (4/5) – Weighty aluminum shells with rubber strain reliefs feel rather solid. The cabling has been improved over the e-Q7, with the nylon sheath below the y-split replaced by thick and flexible plastic cabling reminiscent of the stellar CK10 cord and a new, flexible strain relief on the 3.5mm plug. There is still no cable cinch and no external strain relief on the shells but as a total package the build of the e-Q5 easily keeps up with that of its predecessor
Isolation (3.5/5) – The nozzle is still short and deep insertion is only possible with longer tips but isolation is nevertheless impressive
Microphonics (4/5) – The flexible cable of the e-Q5 makes them a bit easier to wear over-the-ear (compared to the e-Q7) despite the odd design but microphonics are still quite good even with cable-down fitment
Comfort (4/5) – For those with smaller ears the short nozzles and wide housings of the e-Q5 may be uncomfortable but I found them surprisingly inoffensive even over longer listening sessions. I’d still like a set of cable guides or at least a cable cinch to be included but for everyday use they are quite convenient

Sound (9.1/10) – Ortofon’s first attempt at implementing a moving armature transducer – the e-Q7 – laid down the foundation for the other MA earphones released thus far. However, while it is an excellent performer overall, the e-Q7 never really appealed to me personally with its slightly mid-centric sound and laid-back treble presentation. Enter the e-Q5, Ortofon’s second in-ear and the least expensive moving armature earphone on the market. Despite its many sonic resemblances to the e-Q7, the e-Q5 provides a more neutral and balanced sound, acting to bridge the gap between the e-Q7 and earphones such as the brighter, more fluid-sounding dual-BA ATH-CK10.

Cliché as it sounds, one thing can be said with certainty about the bass of the e-Q5 – the apple has not fallen far from the tree. The low end presentation of the e-Q5, like that of its predecessor, is very well-rounded. Like the e-Q7, the e-Q5 can be mistaken for a very clean-sounding dynamic-driver earphone when it comes to bass performance. Unlike the e-Q7, the e-Q5 does not emphasize the lower half of its frequency spectrum more than the upper half, which gives the bass a slightly less prominent role in the overall sound. Still, the low end boasts impressive extension and can hardly be said to lack body. Texture and detail levels are very high and the bass is punchy enough to compete with almost all BAs and many of the more analytical-sounding dynamics in impact. On the whole, the low end of the e-Q5 is quick and resolving, yet natural, again striking a good balance between stereotypical armature and dynamic-driver bass.

The mids of the e-Q5 take a more noticeable detour from those of the e-Q7 than does the low end, trading some of the midrange focus of the older model for slightly better balance and a more neutral overall tone. The characteristic thickness of the e-Q7 drops off a bit as well, though the mids of the e-Q5 are still a touch more weighty than those of the ATH-CK10 or UE700 and retain most of the e-Q7’s organic richness. A slight predisposition towards warmth is also still present with the e-Q5 but on the whole the midrange is smooth, refined, and transparent. The note presentation of the e-Q5 is slightly on the soft and gentle side, which results in less aggressive detailing compared to something like the ATH-CK10. In fact, I think the e-Q5 is a bit too smooth on the microscopic level in the midrange and treble, which is why it yields even to the dynamic-driver GR07 ever so slightly when it comes to texture and microdetail.

Compared to that of the e-Q7, the treble of the e-Q5 is more extended and more energetic, making the whole signature lightweight and airy. It is more forward than with the e-Q7 but still retains the softness and refinement of the midrange. Minimal sibilance is noticeable with a handful of tracks but for the most part it is free of any grain or harshness. Detail and clarity are very impressive and there is a fair amount of sparkle to be found. The presentation is altogether not too different from that of the e-Q7 – the air added by the treble definitely plays a role but even with a more e-Q7-like balance, the excellent separation of the earphones would have been noteworthy. The soundstage is spacious and well-rounded. Positioning is fairly precise and the overall presentation is quite convincing – easily on-par with most similarly-priced BA-based and dynamic sets.

Value (8.5/10) – With the e-Q5 the folks at Ortofon have taken a stab at refining an already-competent performer in accordance with customer complaints – out with the fancy packaging and noisy cable of the e-Q7; in with a lower price tag and more balanced sound signature. However, to say that it is an improvement in sound quality over the e-Q7 would be a mistake – for a warmer, more mid-centric sound with excellent texture, the e-Q7 is still the earphone to beat. For me, however, the e-Q5 has both superior practicality and the more appealing sound signature of the two.

Pros: Very refined, detailed, and balanced sound; better cable than pricier e-Q7 model
Cons: No cord cinch, no carrying case, fit issues possible for those with small ears

About ljokerl

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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