Do you have to know what you’re talking about to be a snob? Wikipedia’s definition didn’t provide me with the answer, but I consider myself somewhat of an earbud snob. As with wine, or anything else, I feel as long you are happy with the product, that’s all you “need” to know. I am constantly on the prowl for a pair of quality earbuds, and with a myriad of companies offering them at various price ranges, it can often be a daunting task. I am here today to review the Altrio Series M5 Earbuds by Future Sonics.

According to the information I received on these earbuds, they are targeted towards music industry professionals, such as producers, engineers, and performing musicians, etc. Conversely, these earbuds dubbed as “In Ear Monitors”, can be enjoyed by anyone who listens to music “professionally”. I listen to mostly metal, but I am a huge fan of tone and production, which can be applied to all genres of music.

The first thing I noticed was how these earbuds represented the stereo field with precision and accuracy. Many albums in your collection you may refer to as “Ear Candy”, and with these earbuds you might want a recount. I immediately noticed several nuances in some of my favorite recordings that I had previously considered conquered and totally figured out. They have fair bass response and interesting enough Future Sonics claim to not have any bass boosters or enhancers; everything is created naturally. Overall the sound is very balanced, and I was generally very impressed with these earbuds, especially since I had never heard of Future Sonics. I also listened to some Hip Hop, some power ballads, other random genres and the M5′s held up well. Beyond straight forward music, I played Silent Hill Origins on my PSP using them, and was dazzled by the level of atmospheric recreation that the M5′s delivered. I can easily say that the only problems you’ll experience in respects to audio will be that of your source material.

A cool feature of the M5′s is that they come with a bunch of inserts that provide a more customized fit. Three sizes of rubber/plastic buds, and four sizes of foam inserts that are more like traditional ear plugs. These are unique to any earbuds I’ve ever seen, and for the most part work fine, except they tend to let you know that you need to buy q-tips on the regular. Other features include a carrying case that can attach to a belt or a lanyard, and a small cleaning tool.

Ok, on to the gripes. I mainly use earbuds on my commute to the city on my bike and at the gym. Cord length has always been a problem between me and earbuds, and the M5′s are no different. Most companies don’t think that far ahead I’m afraid. There needs to be a clip that breaks up the tension between the earbuds in your ear, the weight of the cord, and the eighth-inch plug inserted into your MP3 player. Not only would a clip keep the cord flush against your person, helping to prevent snags, but they would allow for the earbuds to be stabilized and actually remain in your ears. The only earbuds I have seen with these are the V-Moda Vibes, which are just OK beyond that feature. To compensate for this I wrap the cord around the back of my neck to keep the weight of the cord off the earbuds. This only works slightly adequately, as it prevents a full range of motion and still requires attention due to slipping caused by the weight of the cord. A plus is that the M5′s cord has a nice sticky feel to it.

On many occasion, the foam insert became unattached from the earbud and lodged in my ear! The foam inserts were otherwise very comfortable and stayed in my ears much better than the rubber/plastic ones, which needed constant readjustments. Also I noticed that the sound was affected if I yawned or expressed a large smile, moving the buds around in my ear canal. Additionally the markings denoting left and right on the earbuds themselves could be a different color to make them easier to read, as the shape of the buds are slightly ambiguous and alien looking.

Lastly my final gripe is the price point, as it may be a little steep for the average consumer. However, these are not targeted to the average consumer, so what can be said? I think if you are serious about your music and want to hear it like the people who made it do, I strongly suggest giving the M5′s a try. Beyond the oversights I mentioned above, these are some of the best earbuds I have used in quite sometime, and deserve your attention, especially if your are looking to up your ear bud styles.

Pros:

  • Exemplary reproduction of the stereo field.
  • Excels over a broad range of genres, especially metal!
  • Many inserts assure a custom fit.

Cons:

  • NO CLIP!!
  • May be pricey for some, try first to be sure they are for you!
  • Foam inserts can get unsightly, depending on you level of hygiene, and I use Q-tips on the regular!

Buy them for $179.99 here

M5 Info and Specs here!










Jeff B