Review of Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones w/lots of pics!!!


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  1. twister6

    twister6 Guides Guide

    This is a review of Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones. ATH-M50s Professional Studio Monitor Headphones || Audio-Technica US

    Since I'm on a roll with on-/over-ear headphone reviews, I have been doing more research lately about these types of headphones, trying to find the next review sample. I have seen Audi-Technica topping the Amazon list with #1 rated DJ headphone, and that threw me a bit off because I was looking more for a balanced sound with a decent build quality and at a reasonable price - something which is not typical for dj-intended headphones. To my surprise I started to come across more and more references to Audio-Technica flagship ATH-M50 in actual audiophile forums, and that caught my attention. Now, I finally got a chance to review a pair of ATH-M50 and let me tell you - these are the first class headphones with an amazing sound quality for under $150!!!

    ATH-M50 come in a very modest package with a big open "window" view of headphones and some technical spec on the back. Nothing too flashy or fancy, clearly not your typical rap star or celebrity endorsed product, just a straight forward message of "exceptional audio quality for professional monitoring and mixing". The review sample I received came with a straight cable option, but it's also available with coiled cable which I strongly recommend for anybody who is planning to use these headphones while on the move. Straight cable is perfect for use at home or in your office where you don't want to be limited by a distance between your audio source and headphones, and where you will have 11 feet of cable to play with. Along with headphones and cable, which is not detachable, you also get 1/4" screw-on adapter and soft draw-string pleather pouch. Everything is very minimalistic, and there is a good reason why. Offering at such an amazing budget price (yes, for this type of headphones this is an amazing price), Audio-Technica put all of their focus and resources into the actual headphone build and sound quality.

    Since I already started to talk about cable, let me point out the design of 3.5mm connector housing is all metal with a spring strain relief and the actual connector being gold plated. The wire itself is OFC litz wire, which is high quality oxygen-free-copper wire that consists of individually wrapped, isolated, and woven multiple-wires. This really sets it apart and puts it up to a higher professional level of audio processing using enhanced conductivity wires. Maybe it's something not everybody will appreciate connected directly to your smartphone, but on a larger scale with ATH-M50 being used connected to your favorite amp - there will be an improvement in sound quality using OFC wire. And speaking of smartphones, these headphones have 38 ohm low impedance which makes them perfect to work connected directly to your phone.

    High quality of the cable extends to a very high quality of the actual build. As I mentioned before, there is nothing too flashy about these headphones, and as a matter of fact they use a lot of plastic material. But the quality and durability of this material is simply outstanding. I have read a lot of testimonials and reviews from people who used them for years, and everybody raves about how well these hold up over time even under heavy abuse. The design itself is very flexible where earcups could swivel to fold flat on the table, or they can fold in for storage to occupy very little space which is great when you are traveling. They also swivel along horizontal axis for a perfect adjustment once you put them on. By far, these are one of the most comfortable headphones I have tried so far. At about 284 grams they are not necessary lightweight, but with a soft foam lining of over-ear earcups and foam lining of adjustable headband - once you put these on after about 5 minutes you'll forget you even wearing them. They also don't put too much pressure around your head, but still tight enough to provide a very nice passive noise isolation.

    Of course, the star of these headphones is their sound quality. These are Audio-Technica flagship headphones, and it really shows. Designed with 45mm neodymium magnet right out of the box they sounded not bad, and I didn't hesitate to start right away my typical white/pink noise burn in process. I probably put at least 8-9 hours on these already, and I believe the sound will continue to improve. To describe the overall sound, I would have to say it's very well balanced. These are designed for professional monitoring and mixing where sound engineers rely on a balanced sound without too much exaggeration. Everything sounds crystal clear and detailed with a relatively wide sound soundstage where you can hear a very accurate positioning of every instrument. But if you are thinking these are just another "boring" balanced headphones, Audio-Technica threw in a very nice "fun" surprise of bass enhancement and a slight dip in upper mids. I wouldn't say there is a big bass boost, but its definitely noticeable with a nice punch beyond typical balanced low end, its nicely controlled and very clean. Also, upper mids are not recessed in a typical V-shape, just scooped slightly so the vocals are not really in your face.

    Overall, I was VERY impressed with these headphones. Everything from the design, the quality of build, and the sound quality - says these are professional headphones that can equally fit in the studio with multi-track mixers and can also deliver a great performance connected directly to your smartphone. No, they will not offer a flashy design, or have removable cable with options for different in-line controls and mic to answer your phone. But if you want to just sit down and relax at home or during the train ride to work, these will wrap around your ears, isolate you from outside noise, and will spoil you with a very impressive sound for the price which is a lot cheaper than some other headphones in the same category.

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  2. dontpanicbobby

    dontpanicbobby Guides Guide

    I don't like the straight headphone plug. I've found straight plugs tend to snag on things more than L-shaped ones.
  3. twister6

    twister6 Guides Guide

    Oh, believe me, I like L-shaped or 45deg angled (like V-Moda) connectors as well. But this ATH-M50 is a professional studio headphones where typically they use more heavy duty straight connectors, especially with a screw-on 1/4" adapter which goes into headphone amp or mixing console. But typically pro headphones have 300-600 ohm impedance which means if you plug it into your smartphone directly you will hardly be able to hear anything (you need more power to drive pro studio headphones). In this case, the headphones are designed with a low impedance to be driven from a portable mp3 player or iPod or Smartphone.

    The only thing I would suggest for anybody thinking about these is to order coiled cable version. The one I got with a straight cable is way too long (11ft!!!), and I just have it folded and wire-tied. Coiled version in theory has the same 11ft cable if you stretch it, but the overall length coiled is about 1/3 of that.

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