Etymotic mc5 Earphones – Review

At the time of this writing, I’ve been using the Etymotic mc5 Earphones almost every day for 2 years, 3 months.  I wear glasses, so using over-the-ear style headphones is out of the question.  Over the years, I’ve tried many different types and styles of in-ear Earphones.  A little more than two years ago, I made the decision it was time to do some research, get some recommendations, and spend some money on a quality product.  On a friends recommendation, I turned to the Etymotic mc5.

They sell for $59 and you can purchase them from their website, or from Amazon.

What I Like

I’m a programmer.  And, like many programmers, I listen to music a lot while I work.  Because of that, comfort is a must when considering a pair of in-ear earphones.  Especially when shelling out more than $5 or $10 dollars.  These particular in-ear earphones are, by far, the most comfortable I have ever owned.  They come with a few tips to choose from,  I chose the gel tips, which themselves come in three different sizes.  Speaking of ear-tips, they also offer a service where you can get ear tips made, custom to your ear.  I have not done this.

When I purchased these, I hadn’t caught the fact that they were noise isolating, but they are.  So much so, that when I plug them into my computer, I have to turn my volume down to 4, and I still can’t hear my wife when she comes up behind me.

When I’ve had to call customer service, they have been great, every time.

What I Don’t Like

Honestly, there are only three things I don’t like about this product.  And, one of those is a small inconvenience, which I’ll start with.

They are only 4′ long.  Which isn’t all that bad, but I tend to adjust in my seat often, and for my office setup, it’s just barely long enough.  A 6′ cord would go a long way for these earphones.

The product only has a two-year warranty.  For a product as expensive as this, and one I’ve heard should last for several years, a two-year warranty just seems too small.  Which brings me to my third issue.

In my 27 months of use, I’ve had to send it in for replacement twice, so I’m already on my third pair.  The problem has been the same with each pair.  The adhesive that holds the two main pieces together, wears down.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know that earphones don’t last forever.  But, for the price-tag, and such a high-quality earphone, I would expect the quality of the construction would be the same.  It should also be noted, that both times I called Etymotic to initiate the exchange process, and they were nothing but helpful and friendly, which I find hard to find these days.

Conclusion

As company that has it’s roots in designing and manufacturing hearing products, I had high expectations for my Etymotic earphones.  And they met those expectations.  I would recommend these earphones to anyone who is looking for a quality earphone at a reasonable price.

Technical Specifications

Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 15 kHz
Accuracy Score: 85%
Transducers: High-output 8mm neodymium moving coil driver
Noise Isolation: 35-42 dB
Impedance (@1kHz): 16 Ohms
Sensitivity (@1 kHz) SPL at 0.1v: 100dB
Maximum Output (SPL): 120 dB
Cable: 4 ft.
User Replaceable ACCU-Filters: Yes
Warranty : 2 Years
Custom-Fit Option: Yes

Das Keyboard Prime 13 – Review

Das Keyboard sent me the Prime 13 about a month ago, and I’ve been using it ever since. As a software engineer, the keyboard plays in important role in the ability to complete my job functions as a software engineer.  Beyond the hours spent typing code, I also look for features to make my job easier.  I was excited to try this one.

This keyboard sells for $149.00 and is available at www.daskeyboard.com.

You can read my review below, skip to my conclusion, or visit the technical specifications.

Initial Reaction

Weighing in at nearly 3 pounds (2.9 to be exact) and featuring an anodized aluminum top panel, this keyboard is both extremely sturdy and stylish.

If you’re interested in the detailed technical specifications, click here, or just keep reading for the review.

What I Like

As I mentioned in my initial reaction, this is a hefty keyboard.  Whether intended or not, the weight is an important feature and the more I use it the more I notice it doesn’t slide around on my desk like other keyboards do.

As a coder, I use my function keys much more often than the average typist. The fact that these function keys are full-size is a major bonus. Many keyboards out there don’t have full-size function keys, making them a pain to use. Along those lines, this keyboard doesn’t have a “special key row” above the function keys, which my old keyboard had. I don’t miss this. Since using the Das Keyboard, I’ve not once opened outlook, or a chat window while trying to press a function key.

I’ve wanted to use a mechanical keyboard with Cherry switches for a while, and this was my first experience with one. Not only did I like Cherry switches much more than I thought I would, after only 5 minutes of typing I already started seeing an improvement in my typing speed and accuracy which was quite surprising to me.

As with any new keyboard, I did have to get adjusted to the new travel spacing, but it was very intuitive, and I adjusted quite nicely.

I’ve noticed that many keyboards either don’t have indicators on the actual keyboard, ordaskeyboard-logo-on-prime13-mechanical-keybaord they don’t have notifications on screen (it’s either/or). The Prime 13 has both lights for Caps/Num/Scroll Lock, and toast notifications. I like this very much. I want to have the toast notification when I get in a hurry and turn off NumLock, and I want to see that NumLock is on when I come back to my computer after walking away.

Being able to adjust the keyboard backlighting is nice, although I never do.

The aluminum plate adds a nice look to the keyboard. Just looking at the thing you know it’s going to be a good typing experience.

I don’t need keyboard backlighting, nor do I need a USB pass-through, and I like a clean desk, so I was initially disappointed that this wasn’t a wireless keyboard (though, good luck finding a decent wireless mechanical keyboard). Having said that, because the weight of the keyboard keeps it in place well, the cable doesn’t move around, which keeps my papers behind the keyboard nice and neat. Though I would still prefer a wireless keyboard for cleanliness, this isn’t a con for me since it hasn’t had any negative effect.

What I Don’t Like

As for things that I would change, there aren’t very many, but here they are.

mechanical-switches-prime13The keyboard backlighting has 7 levels of brightness, including off. This is great. However, there are some inconsistencies in the brightness level of some of the keys.  This could be by design, or it could be a small oversight.  Either way, I’m not a fan of it. Without getting into specifics of why, the end result is that the Function keys, which share media controls, have lighting for the Function and the media control, for example, “F5” and “Previous” are the same key, and both symbols have the same level of brightness.  However, the number row keys don’t share brightness with the character it represents, for example, “2” is bright, but “@” is dim.

The thing I would change the most about this keyboard is the media controls which are embedded with the Function keys.  This means simple functions like mute, volume down, volume up, etc. are accessed via two keystrokes, which is more than a little annoying. If this keyboard had designated media buttons, that would be a major bonus.

It’s not a big factor for me because I don’t use the USB Pass-through, however it is a little disappointing that a keyboard as new as the Prime 13 has USB 2.0 instead of 3.0.

I was also disappointed that not all keys sound the same. As I got used to typing on the keyboard, it became less noticeable to me and it hasn’t affected my typing any, but it was still an initial disappoint that a keyboard with this quality would have those inconsistencies. The following keys have a different sound than the main keys:

  • The spacebar is more “hollow”
  • The backspace key has a “tinny” sound
  • The enter key has a “blunt” sound
  • The shift key has a “tinny” sound, though not as noticeable as the backspace

Conclusion

It has been an absolute joy to type on this keyboard over the last several weeks, and it lives up to the reputation that comes with the Das Keyboard brand.  I would recommend this keyboard to anyone who is looking for a quality mechanical keyboard.

Technical Specifications

Keyboard Layout

  • Standard 104-Key: US layout with n-key rollover
  • Standard 105-Key: UK, DE, and NO layouts with n-key rollover

Switches

  • Cherry MX Brown (Soft Tactile) mechanical key switches
    • Feel: Soft Tactile
    • Actuation Force: 45g
    • Tactile Force: 55g
    • Lifetime: 50 million actuations
    • Total travel distance: 4mm
    • Pre-travel distance: 2mm
    • Operating Point: 2mm
    • Reset point: 2mm
    • Keycap stem: MX (Cross)

Key Caps

  • Black thermoplastic key caps with white laser-marked inscriptions

Interface and Connectivity

  • One USB 2.0 pass-through
  • 2m (6.5ft) USB braided Y cable with dual USB type-A connectors, gold plated (fixed, not detachable)

Backlighting

  • 1 Zone: entire keyboard
  • Color modes: 1 color, White
  • Brightness: 7 modes/levels which include off
  • Lighting Mode Memory
    • When keyboard is plugged into the computer and upon a power down/powering off of the computer, the keyboard will remember and return to the last used lighting mode/brightness level.
    • Default brightness level: 3
  • Keyboard will auto-dim after 10 minutes of inactivity

Compatibility

  • Compatible with Windows, Mac OS, ChromeOS, and Linux Operating Systems
  • Compatible with USB 1.1 and 2.0 standards
  • Compatible with USB KVM switches

System Requirements

  • One USB 1.1 or 2.0 port (for keyboard)
  • One USB 2.0 port (for USB pass-through port)
  • No custom driver required

Product Dimensions

  • Length: 45.80 cm (18.03 in)
  • Width: 17.20 cm (6.77 in)
  • Height: 3.11 cm (1.22 in)
  • Weight: 1.32 KG (2.9 lbs)