I'm the guy who ragged on the ER-4P in this thread
for breaking down 4 times and not sounding better than a $10 pair of SHE3580 EQed.
The SHE3580 still sound heavenly with EQ, but the amount of EQing required to make them sound that good are beyond the capabilities of any mobile device:
I get around the problem for mp3s by EQing the songs on the computer when encoding to mp3, but for stuff like podcasts and spotify there's no way you could get such a detailed EQ, if you can get any EQ at all. Also, they don't isolate nearly as much as etys.
So I began a hunt for a pair of phones that would sound best for me without EQ. I auditioned such heavyweights as the UM3x, IE80, XBA-1 to -4 (ironically I liked -1 the best), but in the end my ears told me to go back to etymotics. One song played through the MC5 and I was in love, both with the sound and the price.
Having been a user of the ER-4P for 10 years, I heard all of the trademark Ety sound in the MC5: detailed highs, uncolored mids and punchy lows in a presentation that was more neutral and natural to me than anything else I've auditioned in my search. When I re-auditioned the ER4 I felt that I might have been too hasty in selling my broken set; when I auditioned the MC5 I knew that I was buying one: for the price of an out-of-warranty repair of the ER4 I could get a brand new set of etys that captured everything I liked about them. (I bought the MC3, the mic'd-for-apple version, for just about $10 extra. It works on my android phone and will work on an iPhone if ever I get one.)
And perhaps avoiding what I didn't like: of the 4 times I broke the ER4P, twice was by breaking the nozzle stem (I have to admit, I didn't know how to change tips back then), once was by mysterious driver damage, and once was when the "detachable cable" detached by pulling apart the driver assembly (I wasn't playing with the connection; the sound had started to cut out on one channel and I only started detaching the cable when I suspected that there was a connection problem.) As for the MC5:
1. nozzle stem appears to be made of a sturdier material than the ER-4P.
2. dynamic drivers are hopefully more robust than BAs.
3. the cable is fixed. Not a minus in my book because I've never broken the wire of an iem before and as I found out with the ER-4P, the plug and socket of a detachable wire can itself be a point of failure.
What about EQing, my pet subject? With the right tips (stock tri-flanges or Shure gray silicone) the frequency response profile I hear is very simple: just one treble peak (probably the one inevitably caused by sound resonating off the tip / driver housing) at 7000-8000Hz (depending on tips used and your ears), and bass rolloff below 100Hz.
I can EQ these to near ideal with just two parametric filters:
This is within the abilities of even the stingiest parametric EQ on mobile devices, like the 4-band parametric EQ on Neutron MP for Android or 5-band parametric EQ on Rockbox.
Even without EQ they sound 80% as good as it gets. With Shure gray silicone I get a very good seal such that bass is almost just right even without bass boost, and the rest of the music sounds about the same, except for a moderate amount of tizziness and sibilance that is eliminated when the peak filter at 7xxxHz is enabled. Without the filter, the sound is "bright" in the sense that you often hear a hissing that goes with many percussion instruments, or even all the way throughout a sound track; with the filter, the background becomes "dark" but detail levels remain high.
Verdict: all of the Ety sound I remember, in a robust, affordable package that is hard to beat for portable use. Assuming they don't somehow fall apart on me like the ER4P, I'm retiring my EQ'ed mp3s and the SHE3580 will be used more for watching anime and movies at home, where their extra comfort and shallow insertion is a plus. (the Etys feel a bit too distracting for watching stuff, especially comedy.)
Edited by Joe Bloggs - 8/15/12 at 11:15am