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[REVIEW] Ortofon e-Q5 – Less is More

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

I want to thanks Dimitri @ Musica Acoustics Japan (MAJ) for providing the review sample. MAJ is one of the biggest Japanese earphone exporter. If you are interested in getting an e-Q5 from MAJ (which ship internationally), you can email them for detail and mentioned you are a Head-fier, which might get you a discount (depends on whether they still have the promotion running or not, though it won’t hurt asking).

 

Just a little over a year ago, I reviewed the e-Q7, one of the first IEM to use the innovative moving armature transducer and certainly one of the top-tier universal IEM in the market. For those who are not familiar with moving armature, this Japanese invented transducer is a sort of hybrid, with diaphragm like moving coil transducer and motor like balanced armature (BA). It is this combination of design that gives the moving armature a unique sound –the speed and accuracy of a BA plus the dynamic and impact of a moving coil under one single driver. Yet this single driver is well enough to compete with some of the best universal multi drivers IEM in the market. With the success of e-Q7, Ortofon follows up with the recent release of e-Q5 – Built on the same moving armature technology, it is said that Ortofon is managed to make a less expensive IEM, yet retains the level of sound quality. Is it too good to be true?

 

eQ5-01.jpg

 

Spec
Driver: Single Balanced Armature
Frequency Response: 10Hz – 20kHz (+/- 3dB)
Sensitivity: 118dB SPL/mW
Impedance: 40 ohms
Maximum Rated Input Power: 5.0mW
Weight: 15.9g
Cable: 1.2m, Silver Plated 4N OFC.

 

Packaging, Accessories, and Build Quality

Unfortunately I only receive the IEM itself but not the full package, so there won’t be much discussion on packaging and accessories. In any case I think there is enough picture of the packaging floating around on the web that you can research it out yourself. The interesting bit is that Ortofon goes with a metal cylinder, or biscuit can as I like to call it, for the package (with a paper box on the outside). Accessories wise, the filter, filter ring, filter cleaning tool, silicone eartips and Comply foam tips are pretty much the same as e-Q7. The one thing missing is the really great leather case. I can understand they want to save cost since e-Q5 is supposed to be cheaper than e-Q7, but I do think they should have at least included a hard nylon case, as those are pretty cheap. e-Q5 is simply too nice to not have a case of its own. I’ll strongly suggest those of you who want to get a pair of e-Q5 also find yourself a hard case at the same time.

 

eQ5-02.jpg

Ortofon e-Q5 (top) and e-Q7 (bottom)

 

eQ5-03.jpg

From the back

 

The build quality is excellent, as you would expect from a brand like Ortofon and a place like Japan (which is where the IEM is manufactured). As you can see, the earpieces feature a strain-relief-less, earplug like design. Though it is almost the same type of cable as e-Q7 (*the new cable is a tad softer actually), the new design means you shouldn’t in anyway try to remove the earpiece by pulling the cable. Also, Ortofon also removes the fabric sheath (found on e-Q7’s Y-splitter down) and replace it with the same type of extra soft rubber as like those closer to the earpiece, but thicker in diameter. I don’t have any problem with the old cable, but I guess there are those who find the fabric sheath a bit too microphonics for them. The other improvement on the cable is the strain relief on the 3.5mm plug, which isn’t hard anymore and more functional. Unfortunately not all are great. First, the new earpieces design means over-the-ear wearing is not easy for me, to say the least. The lack of cable slider on the Y-splitter is not helping either. Second, the same design coupled with the weight of the cable make the earpiece much easier to fall out than e-Q7. The easy solution will be to use a shirt clip, which unfortunately is not included. To make it work, standard shirt clip won’t fit properly on the thicker cable. After destroying one shirt clip in experiment, I ended up modifying one that will work on the e-Q5 cable (basically it is a Etymotic ER6i style shirt clip with part of the side cut away to accommodate the thick cable). With the shirt clip in place, the first and second issues become much less a problem. As a bonus, it is actually even less microphonics that the rubber cable alone. Isolation is a bit below average. Decent for street use but not for busy commute or any noise environment.

 

Beside those minor issues, my overall experience of using the e-Q5 has been quite positive. I know there are complaints from user with smaller ears on fitting issue with e-Q7. Since the new e-Q5 has almost the same nozzle design as the e-Q7, I can foresee the same fitting issue will arise with people of small ears. This will be something to consider before you pick up a pair of Ortofon.

 

eQ5-04.jpg

The cable on e-Q7 (top) has fabric sheath, while the cable on e-Q5 (bottom) is just soft rubber. Also notice the better strain relief on e-Q5.

 

Sound Quality

As usual, a 50+ hours of burn-in is carried out before the review. Like e-Q7, I didn’t detect any particular improvement after the burn-in process even though moving armature features a moving coil like diaphragm. Like moving coil transducer, the housing actually plays a part in tuning the final sound. Similar to e-Q7, the elongated housing at the back of the transducer forms an acoustic chamber to help deepening the mid and bass body, given a more moving coil quality to the final sound that is unusual to balanced armature. There are saying (which I can’t confirm) that the e-Q5 could have shared the same transducer as the e-Q7, which won’t be surprising given the great degree of sonic similarity between the two IEM. Yet they are not identical sounding, which perhaps attribute to the different tuning made by the housing.

 

The overall sound signature is warm, sweat and smooth with a good sense of balance and detail, less mid focus compared to e-Q7. Bass loses a bit of impact and quantity from e-Q7, but gain better depth and slightly more texture. Mid is still sweet with good body but not quite as forward as e-Q7. While still a dominating factor in the overall sound, it allows the other frequency to play a bigger role. Treble no longer has the slight roll off at the top and extends at a very smooth yet detail way, sparkly while not bright in any sense. Soundstage is where I find the most improvement over e-Q7. While it might not be a lot wider, it is airier, more transparent with better depth and layers.

 

In my review of e-Q7, I described its sound as “the midway of SE530 and UM2”, a good mix of the sweetness from SE530 with the warm, smoothness of UM2. With e-Q5 however, I like to think that the IEM has gone above SE530 and UM2, giving a new definition of what is warm and sweet at its best.

 

eQ5-05.jpg

 

Verdict

Sonic wise, I think e-Q5 has edged out its elder brother a little bit with a more transparent and balanced sound. However, it is not to say e-Q7 is not a better choice for vocal listener. I predicted a year ago that this new generation of moving armature transducer will become better with time, and e-Q5 is here to proof it. While I can still see minor physical improvement that can be carried out on the new e-Q5, the fact that it is slightly cheaper that e-Q7 and Ortofon is having better international availability than a year ago do make this a more attractive buy. Though e-Q5 does have a lower street price in Japan (around $250), the popular demand of this model* internationally probably means we won’t see a significant drop in street price too soon, at least not till the demand slows down. In any case, a less than US$300 top-tier IEM is still well worth my recommendation to you. Please refer to the list for a complete list of numeric rating.

 

*Ortofon Japan already runs out of stock and still waiting for the next batch to be manufactured in early 2011.


Edited by ClieOS - 12/19/10 at 10:35pm
post #2 of 18

thanks for the review!

post #3 of 18
how would you compare it to the re-262 , sound-wise ?
post #4 of 18

Airy?  I like airy.

 

It's nice to see Ortofon make improvements with new models, but I'm curious how that leaves the e-Q7.  Would they leave it as is while the cheaper e-Q5 possibly sounds better or update the e-Q7?

post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by proedros View Post

how would you compare it to the re-262 , sound-wise ?

I think technical wise the two are very much comparable. e-Q5 is more of a wow type of IEM compared to RE262, while RE262 is more relaxing and laid back. At the time, I find the whole music experience with RE262 more immensive, which makes it a better IEM in my own experience. If anything, I do prise gear that let me forget about the gear itself and just enjoy the music.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mvw2 View Post

Airy?  I like airy.

 

It's nice to see Ortofon make improvements with new models, but I'm curious how that leaves the e-Q7.  Would they leave it as is while the cheaper e-Q5 possibly sounds better or update the e-Q7?

Interesting question, but e-Q7 is still a good vocal IEM and suitable for those who want something with a fuller body and sweeter tone, while e-Q5 will appeal for those who are looking for a more balanced presentation. For the least I think Ortofon should get credit for not afraid on pushing a cheaper product with at least the same SQ as the previous model. I'll hate to see a company dumbs down SQ on some model in order to make another model seems better.

post #6 of 18

Great review as always, thanks ClieOS! I've been waiting for your detailed impressions and concur with pretty much everything. Sorry to hear about your fit issues, I have no problems with my rather large ears and wide ear canals wearing the e-Q5 either over-ear or downwards. They fit me quite securely both ways. For those interested, here are pictures of my fit (scroll down a bit).

 

One word regarding the warm sound signature you mentioned, these are sweet, smooth, maybe even lush sounding IEMs. Yet the impression of a certain warmth with the e-Q5 is IMO due to this refinement and smooth sound signature and not like with a lot of other warm phones due to excessive midbass. Just my 2c for the sake of clarification, hope you're hearing them the same way.

post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:

Originally Posted by james444 View Post

 

One word regarding the warm sound signature you mentioned, these are sweet, smooth, maybe even lush sounding IEMs. Yet the impression of a certain warmth with the e-Q5 is IMO due to this refinement and smooth sound signature and not like with a lot of other warm phones due to excessive midbass. Just my 2c for the sake of clarification, hope you're hearing them the same way.

No doubt. If anything e-Q5 has a more refined and mature sound than e-Q7, which is more energetic.
 

post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 

Here are some photo update of the red e-Q5

 

eQ5-21R.jpg

 

eQ5-22R.jpg

 

eQ5-23R.jpg

 

eQ5-24R.jpg

 

eQ5-25R.jpg

post #9 of 18

I just got this a few days ago and liking it more then the IE8. I wasn't too impressed at first but after listening to several hours, it grew on me. It's still not the best for bass heavy tracks but for everything else, it sounds amazing. biggrin.gif

post #10 of 18

I really like the presentation on these.

post #11 of 18

These are tremendously underrated around here and really should be mentioned more - top tier sound at a great value.

post #12 of 18

Agreed. I also love the build quality of these things. Maybe that's because I haven't seen the CK10. The e-q5 also suprisingly sounds great with hip-hop.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Omnirai View Post

These are tremendously underrated around here and really should be mentioned more - top tier sound at a great value.



 

post #13 of 18

+1 on these being very nice iems

post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by proedros View Post

+1 on these being very nice iems


Totally agreed.

 

post #15 of 18
How would they compare to T-Peos 100s?

Which would be best for electronic music?

Thanks
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