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ATH-M50 coiled w/ Shure 440 for comparison

A Review On: Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Studio Monitor Headphones

Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Studio Monitor Headphones

Rated # 52 in Over-Ear
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Price paid: $120.00
Posted · 97882 Views · 23 Comments

Pros: Decent "punch" for certain music/awesome DJ set/VERY COMFY

Cons: Muffled sound/ not very "musical"

First things first...I was expecting WAY better sound than this after having read over 30 reviews from all over on these phones....I would say the "warm" sound people speak of is the most prominent "feature" the M50's have.


Taking the M50's off and then putting on my Shure 440's made is seem like a curtain was lifted off of the music and can finally clearly hear the details the music has to offer. I find myself searching and looking for details while I wear the M50's, and can simply listen and hear all the music when I wear the 440's. Using bass testing FLAC files on my Xonar sound card (192k/24bit & amped), the M50's do have some nice qualities in the mid-lowish bass range and the amount of bass is decent too. I suspect the thick padding on the inside of phones to comfort the ear could be a culprit to some of the muffled qualities.


Games movies with the M50's carried with it these same "muffled" qualities, like people are eating bread while performing their music tongue_smile.gif.


I play SC2 and Mass Effect 2, mostly. Sounds such as opening doors, background voices, weapon sound details, etc didn't sound nearly as clear as the 440's did. With the 440's I feel like I'm in the spaceship and fully immersed in the action because all the details are clearly heard. The M50's give me no such feelings, mostly meh. Sort of like watching a play from the upper comfy expensive seats in theaters that are quiet enough to have a conversation. To be fair, some the bass and some of the mids do sound quite nice and mostly with effects that have punch or rumble.


Overall, I find them an okay can at best. They'll be a great replacement for someone who has $100-$180 to spend and enjoys terms like "punchy bass" and "warm sound" maybe somewhat "neutral".


I had actually bought these because I thought they were going to be replacing the 440's but.....NOT. A. CHANCE. I basically never use the M50's, even after 15+hrs working them in. If I was a DJ, I'd likely keep these but will be selling them instead of becoming one.


Wearing them on my head is another story. It's like I have a playboy bunny hugging each of my ears while another is draped over my head. Mmmmmm. Mark these up @ 6/5 stars for comfort. Keep this in mind, travelers, they are also comparatively light.


The 440's let you hear everything very clearly throughout the entire frequency. The bass is very detailed, but there isn't quite as much as the M50's. Sometimes, with the 440's, the highs do get tiring with music at higher listening volumes because Shure probably put more juice into the higher frequencies, anybody know 4 Shure? This is most present with music that involves alot of cymbals, or alot other very high-pitched sounds. So super hard rock and metal might not be ideal for the 440's & better suited to the M50's. Also the quality of the recording would be more important to the 440's because of their detail.


I tried the Shure 840's at a store and quite liked those as well, they sound just a little better than the 440's. Price was a little high though.


I am by no means a pro audiophile, I just have a naturally discerning ear & I'm very picky and critical of stuff I buy. I thought I'd share my 10 cents (inflation has risen since the 2cents days.)


Thank you for reading, head-fi's.


edit: After 80+hrs burn in, nothing new to note for M50. Although the 440's continue to tickle the area below my stomach. Looking forward to changing the ear pads.



I also have both and I have to agree with your assessment but on the other hand they aren't bad per se. I deem them worthy of the money spent on em but you are absolutely right.. A bit overrated.. In fact I find many Audio Technicas overrated.. Not just the M50s.
I have to agree that IT SEEMS that Shure headphones are "clearer" and have more details. It is simply because they have a wide bump in 3-5 khz range and a cut at around 500 hz. It always depends on your personal preferences and you might like it better, because it seems more detailed. I personally don't like it at all (I have SRH840), because to me it sounds too hyped and unnatural. M50, to the contrary, sounds more natural, apart from a bit "overdone" bass, though I like it as it doesn't generally get in the way of other frequencies, with few exceptions.
It's a little hard to argue having two headphones side by side in the store, and one outsells the other 6:1. People nearly rip the M50's off to get the 440's on. The booth sells the 440's for me in that price range. The sources we use are their media player, or a Bluray with a decent HK amp, or a computer with a Xonar DX in stereo playing FLAC files or CD's when we get the odd request. A Canadian will be extremely lucky to find a pair in Canada for a dime less than $150(unless the price came down recently since I last checked). And m50's are about the worst for fakes which is why I take none back to resell. I'm aware of the bump in freqs and is the reason I mentioned the phones becoming a little tiring after listening to certain music (mostly music with continuous loud cymbals or similar cont. very high freq sounds.) I bought mine for 120 plus 20 shipping for my personal pair. I'll trade you the 840's for the M50's in a instant, seriously.
Well, people will always have different opinions about headphones, speakers and so on, because we all have different level of experience, different taste and a different purpose. For me Shure headphones are useless, because they exaggerate mid frequencies and make it all sound nice (or horrible - depends on how you look at it), so I cannot judge my mixes accurately on them. But it’s also a matter of getting used to the headphones as well. Sorry, I cannot trade as of yet, because my wife likes the SRH840 for music listening, and she has not decided whether she wants to keep them or not :) Plus I have two M50s and two Rolands (RH-300 and RH-A30) already. With that said, you would not like Rolands even more, as they introduce even more of "muddyness", compared to M50 ;)
Also, why do you people evaluate stuff on a computer audio cards that have no amplifier of any sort? I have M-Audio 1010Lt card, a professional audio dedicated card, and it makes almost all of the headphones sound differently from how they sound through an amplifier. It just sucks the power out of them and shrinks the bass response considerably, even on such power efficient models as ATH-M50 and HD595.
The DX is in store and doesn't have amp, the Xonar DS I own has a dedicated built in headphone amp that drives very sufficiently all phones. I fail to understand how not hearing most fine sounds in nearly all my good recordings, music and games is superior to one where you do hear everything. Now just keep in mind we're talking $90-100 phones, not 150, 250 or 350+ as the m50's and the Rolands run.
You're commenting in the wrong place when you speak of proper mixing and sound reproduction, you're in a m50/440 thread, you need to hit the $500+ mark before you get anything you can call close to really good. I can get a similar sound to an m50 by putting my shirt over my head, then the Shure over my padded ears, it's quite interesting.
What you need is an lcd-2...it's what the pro's like to buy here for proper mix judging and creation, this sub $400 stuff doesn't cut it and gets sent back. I'm pretty sure I was just pooping on m50's $/perf., & not putting in $150 worth of phone in their phones. I don't say the 440's are the all in one cure for cancer.
"you need to hit the $500+ mark before you get anything you can call close to really good"
Ok, I see now that with this attitude we're not getting anywhere :)
"people will always have different opinions about headphones" me as well :)
This is the most words I've seen someone put down about being objectively wrong. The shure srh 240/440 phones are equally horrible, exaggarated things for people who enjoy messing with software equalizers.
I have to add that some people don't quite get the fact that there are objective things involved in hearing musical equipment, they think it's all subjective. I think it's wrong, and you can make an objective opinion about headphones, if you have sufficient experience. But generally you can't prove anything to those people, because that is the way their brain works.
It's never about the price of the equipment, it's always about how it sounds. Now I haven't heard the LCD-2, and I cannot say if it's better or worse than M50. It doesn't make it better just because it's 5x as expensive, that's for sure. In my book, it might be worse (if it's hyped like the Shures are) or indeed it might be better. All I know is, from my experience, M50 is a better headphone for audio production than SRH840 is.
Wow, fanyboys galore in here. So since when do we have so many pro audio producers that can't afford stuff better than m50's? In this city, there are none. The m50's are old, overpriced and overhyped. The 440's are NOT a BETTER phone. I simply laid out, the differences that I had found and how much of a ripoff they are. If you guys can't handle the heat, get the heck outta here. A website that only posts what you want to believe is right, is obviously more suited to some people like flower boy. Funny how not hearing whole ranges of sound in a m50 is considered good. I want to enjoy hearing all my music and the m50's are not for that. I always turn up the highs when I put on the m50's using a hardware equalizer. You know, with knobs on a numbered scale. With the 440's I can hear more of the music and clearer, maybe they won't sound like headphone 2-3 times their price. Which IS WHY THEY WERE $100, YOU IDIOTS. Some of you obviously don't read everything.
Hear more of the midrange you mean, because that and a bass hump that make the 770's sound modest is what the cheapo shures are all about. Sorry about your damaged hearing though, frenchie. Too much cheese, no?
Still talking to me, flower girl?
Love the ath m50 arrogance. How is a present midrange bad? The srh840 doesn't have an overly represented midrange in fact it's quite good. The m50s are supposed to have RECESSED MIDRANGE, that means it's less prevalent then it should be. I own both the m50s and the 840s (well sort of, the m50s are still at the post office). Once i receive them i will compare them and tell you guys and the entire forums which one i prefer and which one is technically better.
Every headphone is different, everyone's taste and preference is different, so you should go with what you prefer sound wise, no matter what anyone else says. It always depends what your purpose is, also. Plus, there's a natural representation and there is a skewed one, with some frequency range being more pronounced than others. Shure SRH840's frequency response is not neutral, neither is ATH-M50's. Shures are weird sounding headphones, ATH-M50 sounds more natural, IMO, although they are emphasized in the bass, but the balance is good, the bass is not overpowering like on some other cans. If you're a casual listener and you like Shures, then stick with them - the most important thing is to enjoy the musicc, if that's your goal. If you want to dig deeper, read these posts by Purrin: http://www.head-fi.org/t/566929/headphone-csd-waterfall-plots/480 or my round-up of 7 closed headphones, compared to high-end studio monitors: http://www.head-fi.org/t/575445/7-closed-headphones-vs-dynaudio-bm15-monitors-srh840-ath-m50-ath-a900-rh-300-q40-hfi680-pro-dj100-etc. All the best!
rayjuodas... you seem to forget I paid 90 bucks and sell them 90 bucks (440's). All those earphones you speak of are near $200. The Koss Pro DJ 100's are cool and cheap, I like them and would be the only phone you could use to compare to the 440's thus far. Now if I said I paid $200 for the 440's and wrote this review, I would offer you to slap me across the face with a bag of oranges. Unfortunately for you, this is a $90 review. Not $150, not $250, not $219.89 with free shipping... $90. Maybe the bold will help you, rayj. Now go find me the $65-$110 headphone reviews, and then maybe I will have been more enlightened. Cause right now, you are playing my $90 440's in a $200 ballpark and that just about says it all right there, rayj.
I paid 99 dollars for my ATH-M50, Shure SRH840 costed at least 160 at the time I bought them two years ago. I never talked about SRH440, only about SRH840, so maybe if someone here needs some bolding it's probably not me ;) I haven't heard 440s, maybe they sound better, maybe they sound worse, who knows, it doesn't matter actually. But I know it's not about the price mostly, but about your preference or, in some cases, if you know what you're hearing - about your purpose. I wrote my comments, you felt that I insulted you personally (it seems), but hey - that's life. I still suggest you read those threads I posted in my previous comment, you might find them helpful.
Rayjuodas, your wrong on your interpretation between the m50 and the srh840. Owning both and comparing them side by side the srh840 sounds much more real while the m50s sound fake. The m50s are highly colored while the srh840 is fairly neutral. I get sick and tired of m50 fanboys. They are good headphones but their not the best at their price. They were great at $110 but not at the $150 they go for now. You can get the srh840 (much better) for $130 on amazon.
How do you know I'm wrong? You THINK I'm wrong because you like Shures more, of course! :) I also see Alessandro M1 (most unbalanced and harsh headphone I've ever tried?) in your arsenal, it says a lot to me also about your headphone preference, as these two have something in common, with Shures being less harsh and more smooth, but still weird high-mid-forward sounding. Anyway, it is my opinion, nothing else, can't say it enough. Although I think I have a ground to stand on, I mix music, I'm into sound engineering and I think I have a pretty good idea what the balanced sound is, but everyone should go with their subjective taste when choosing a sound component. BTW, I understand your choice, as you listen to metal music, and these headphones' sound signature complements heavy distorted guitars, so they are probably more enjoyable to listen to metal with, to you, compared to M50. So I'll leave it at that :)
rayj, you define M50 fanboyism and take it to a whole other stratoshpere. Being into "sound engineering" doesn't mean squat. Your little graphs are for 1% of the people that buy 'phones. Anybody who does any proper recording wouldn't touch a M50, because there is so much better product for that. Hey, I've been offering my M50's around the net and at the store for way too long at now $65 and can't find any bites. The M50's are overpriced and over-hyped. You paid $99? Then, and only then and at that price point, do they become even come close to any sort of "good deal".

Not hearing entire parts of recordings (M50's), at least in my book, does not mean "balanced sound". Most of the background stuff (including instruments) in Pink Floyd music is almost inaudible unless turned up higher than wanted. Rush looses all their presence & Dream Theater is only good on the M50's when Portnoy is laying in on the kicks and you can hear the bassy thump. Dave Matthews sounds like he's got the microphone cover in his mouth. This may be a wanted feature for some cavemen recorders but in this world, most people like to hear everything clearly.

See, I know this because I've talked to and watched hundreds of people come in and out of the store. No one ever comes in wanting to hear more sound less clearly. This just shows how far people will go to defend their babies. Shure is not "my brand". Shure only got me nearly $200 bucks worth of sound in a $90 can, clear sound. My M50's left me wanting more, so much more, especially after all the rave reviews (including yours) I had read. I expected the M50's were going to blow the 440's out of the water. Had I known how bad they were for what I paid, I would have saved up just a little more and gotten some DT770's or 225i's. At least I know now, through my experience with rayj and flower boy what "qualites" to look for in online fanboyery. My boss is a fanboy, loves his M50's, but hates all 6 of them sitting in the back, waiting to be sold..duh..same thing as last year...and the year before. Look bud, I know you love them like a child, but I think enough is enough. They are not a good phone @ their price range. Just mediocre at best. Like Dre Beats, you pay for name first, flash second, and quality last.
defrenchg, you don't know me, so all you can do is speak for yourself, isn't that right? well, I've learnt a thing or two recording and mixing music, so don't even start there :))) Do you know what kind of people tend to undervalue something they don't have the slightest idea about? Well then, you can draw your conclusions and I'll certainly draw mine. I can truly understand your points about M50's "blanketed" sound compared to Shures, and I've explained why that is. You don't agree, oh well, in my book it doesn't change a thing. It just proves once again that some people always know best, no matter what the truth may or may not be. If I encountered a better headphone for my purpose (not "clearer" or "more enjoyable"). I'd switch in a second. So far there has been none, including the Alessandro M1, Shure SRH840, Beyerdynamic DT150, 250 (both versions), Sennheiser HD595, Sennheiser HD600, ATH-A900, M-Audio Q40, Koss Pro DJ100, Ultrasone HFI680.
I could never understand this kind of logic: if people buy it, then it's good, so I'm not really following your point here, I'm afraid ;)
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