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

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About Author

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.


  1. Jmop on

    How does the bass depth on these compare to the CK10?

    • ljokerl on

      Honestly hard to say – when people say “deep bass” they typically mean quite a bit of sub-bass is present, which is not the case with either of these. I think the CK10 has more linear and marginally more extended bass overall… it really doesn’t drop off. The e-Q5 tends to be a little more sculpted and starts to roll off a little faster.

      • Jmop on

        Man, I can’t catch break. The CK10 sounds prefect for me and I’ll probably never hear it because it’s so hard to find.

        • ljokerl on

          Haha. To be honest even I think its current “legend” status is influenced by its rarity… if it was still in production it would be just another really good analytical IEM among the several we have available.

          So far the VSonic VC1000 is still its closest peer to me. Those are nearly as hard to find these days but I’ll never get rid of mine.

          Sadly the newer ATH-IM02 is more similar to the ATH-CK90PRO than the CK10 of the same generation.

          • Jmop on

            Yeah I really enjoy the VC1000 and I’m not getting rid of mine unless I get my hands on the CK10. Fortunately, the GR01 still exists so all hope isn’t lost if something happens to it.

            I somewhat have my mind on the ER4S but I can’t stand multi-flange ear tips and it might be too dry of a tone for my liking. Not really a fan of Complys either and custom tipping sounds like a hassle.

            So true about the CK10s though, not being able to find them just makes me want it more lol.

          • ljokerl on

            Custom-tipping an Ety is a hassle and I’m the first person to admit it’s too expensive, but I have to also be fair and admit that I’ve not used another tip since I got my ACS tips. All they do for me is combine the comfort of a single-flange with the isolation of a triple-flange, but that’s quite enough.

            Hopefully I’ll get to try one (or more) of the latest generation of TWFKs (Rock-It R-50 mkII, Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkIII, and the new q-JAYS) – perhaps there’s a CK10 or at least VC1000 replacement in there somewhere.

          • Jmop on

            The only problem is that the old models always seem to be better than the new ones lol. I’m actually planning on selling my re600 because I liked the re262 so much. To me, the 262 has better bass depth, is more fluid sounding, has less shouty mids, and crispier treble. I suppose the 600 is more i 3D sounding but not by a whole lot. I know the 600 isn’t meant to be a direct upgrade to the 262 but it’s just an example from my personal experience.

            The DBA-02 mkIII looks pretty awesome actually. The frequency response graph on Fischer’s website doesn’t too bad, a bit more sub bass and a somewhat gradual lower treble emphasis I’m guessing? Might turn out alright.

          • Jmop on

            That previous statement may have been a bit biased since I listen to a lot of electronica. The re600 is much better for rock and what not with its flatter bass and drier sound.

  2. Ezekiel_77 on

    Hi Joker, this is an older review but would you be able to compare this with the GR07?
    I love the balance of the GR07, bass amount and treble sparkle.
    Would the eQ5 sound too similar to this?


    • ljokerl on

      Yeah, I suppose it’s not as different as you might want in a complimentary earphone. Overall the q-Q5 is less v-shaped – the treble is smoother and the bass is not as punchy as it is on the GR07. I also very much like the bass amount and quality of the GR07, and the e-Q5 won’t be an upgrade or even a match (if you consider quantity) in that regard. Treble sparkle is good on the e-Q5 and treble quality may even be better than the GR07 (e-Q5 is less sibilance-prone) but again not an upgrade unless you specifically find the GR07 overly sibilant.

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