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Best under $150, Really?

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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Posted · 96801 Views · 24 Comments

Pros: Build quality, non-revealing, fun, bass, highs

Cons: mids, comfort, Price

(disclaimer: My rating scale is based off of what i paid for the headphones not msrp, Review is based off of what i think of them compared to their respective $150 price point)



     Ah the all mighty hyped best under $150 giant killers the m50s. Every noobs first step into audiophilia, and to many their last. Why is this such a popular headphone amongst noobs and the most recommended headphone on head-fi? I honestly don't know. There is nothing special about these headphones and they are far from giant killers beating out headphones 2x their price. I would be hesitant to pay the $150 they go for nowadays but for $96 dollars i feel they are great.


     Let's look at it's competition.

We have the shure srh440, 840, and 750dj, We have the sennheiser hd 25 1 ii. Of these i owned all but the 440s so i will leave them out of this review. The srh840 from shure can be had for a really cheap price of $130 which imo is a steal for what you get. While the sennheiser hd 25 1 ii is a lot more expensive but i still believe their $199 price point is justified. Of these 3 headphones i felt the sennheiser hd 25 1 ii were the funnest to listen to, the shure srh840 were the most detailed and accurate, so where does this leave the m50s? While they don't even compare. Some would call them an entirely different can altogether, i beg to differ. The m50s are relatively neutral but have a slight recession in the mid range. The highs though relatively extended are quite harsh and the louder you listen to them the more harsh they get. They also sound slightly muddy to me. Not hugely but ever so slightly. I don't understand their praise unless everyone bought them for $100. Even then i think they are decent until you reach their $150 price point. At that price the competition far surpasses the m50s leaving the m50s in the dust.


     I think the true value in these cans has to be their versatility in being able to handle any genre you throw at it. They sound impressive with electronic, Rock sounds fun and aggressive, Acoustic sounds lively (though a little fake to me), and classical has enough instrument separation to still be enjoyable. Sound stage on these cans however is quite closed in.


      Comfort on these is average, Shallow pads with little space to circumaurally cover your ears can be a little cramped and partly leads to this closed in sound stage. I ran with this data and applied the shure srh840 pads to these cans. Soundstage was definitely improved but at the expense of the aggression. Highs are tamed which is to me a good thing but some people would hate this. Also the bass is drastically reduced. The 840 pads improves the comfort exponentially however.


     Now the question is do i recommend these headphones? If you can get them under $130 then go for it. They are versatile and easy to drive, but at $130 better competition shows up. We get the shure srh840, and soon the sennheiser hd 25 1 ii. The srh440 for $80 may still beat out the m50s but i am yet to hear those.


     I draw my conclusion that like anything on the internet things are blown out of proportion. One person recommends someone to a noobie, noobie buys it and recommends it, then everyone recommends it and it spreads like a virus. The m50s are that virus but they aren't a bad one. In the last few months the m50 hype has died down exponentially based off of a more expensive price point. It's for the best even if the m50s have brought fun and enjoyment to thousands who have had the opportunity to purchase or audition a pair. I only hope we can grow to understand that like many things, just because it's popular doesn't mean it's the best.



Have a nice day and thank you for reading my review.


please try and get a pair of Shure SRH440's at some point, just so you can compare. Great review, well done
Quick question, what do you generally listen to? (And what do you define as rock and electronica, old classic rock, hard rock?)
I'm being a tad pedantic but I've had almost an entirely different perspective on some of what you said haha.
Dear ViralRazor
I mostly listen to heavy metal, I consider rock music as the umbrella genre which includes heavy metal, punk, and rock. Electronic i tried was average run of the mill electronic (random eurobeat remixes, basshunter was easy to find, E nomine, some random dubstep), for classical i tried some beethoven, bach, and you know the generic stuff, I also tried symphonic based metal and found the performance to be quite good. Hope this answers your questions. Good cans but undeserving of their unanimous praise.
Ahhhh. Try listening to EDM (hardstyle, hard trance) and some alt rock (like Muse). Heavy metal. Hmmmm, I haven't listened to that in quite a while, more into hard rock and a bit of punk these days. Though try deathstars on these - industrial metal with synth elements. I dunno they seem to handle every song I throw at em (except hardstyle tbh, they're pretty good but the mid bass just isn't good enough for me) exceptionally.
And I've found the best praise of them has come from professional reviewers and not really head fi haha (which just FotMed it for quite some time). Which is interesting.
Okay I hope I don't come off too much like I'm defending my purchase (:P - I really like these, and yes I paid $169. Shure 840s here are $199) but harsh highs? I don't feel the highs on these are harsh at all (based on my extensive, extensive collection of hardstyle and its typical synths, I feel it does the synths justice - go listen to scope DJ stargazer) though can be a little weird with certain high hats in certain songs.
Note that I find nothing I have heard so far harsh so my ears may be very accomodating and others have noted that the highs can be harsh or excessively bright.
What other headphones around that price point have you tried? Compared to my shires these are very harsh my Sennheiser hd 25 1ii is nearly as smooth as my srh840
I've tried my mates 440 and his IE6 (not actually a headphone but meh :P) so not too many however read on!
Its just that I don't hear the harshness haha. My ears/brain is tuned that way probably! Personally I feel that you should only care about harshness, brightness if it bothers you and these don't interestingly. Haven't had any fatigue from em yet!
Well good on ya. If your satisfied I'm happy for you.
Great review! I bought my HD25-II for 125$ mint condition- seems like I've cheated.
Rudewolf. Thats an amazing price. Wish i could get it that cheap in canada.
To jerk your chain even more- as a matter of fact I did buy it from a Canadian head-fier.
I bought mine at a retail store (best buy) for $199. That was the cheapest i could find them.
Wow, thanks for the honest review. I tried the M50's briefly and I was a bit disappointed with them even though a lot of people seem to be hyped up about them. They sounded good, but not amazingly good. People claim it's really good at its price point. I would like to try an Ultrasone HFI580 someday just to compare the two.
Quick question Casey - and I'm not knocking your review - I didn't think the M50's were worth the hype either. Why the high rating, when your actual review says otherwise? I would have expected 4 stars at the most (maybe 3.5) - and that's being generous. Just curious .....
I based the rating off of what i paid.
OK - that explains the value rating - but audio quality 5? Design 5 - with the shallow ear pieces and the poor earpads? See what I mean? Then 5 stars for total given the deficiencies you listed in the review. Just making comment that the overall score does not match the commentary ;)
If you think i should i will change the score to match the $150 price tag. I gave it a 5 for design because i think they look awesome. And they fit around my head well. Unlike my shures. The 5 for the sound quality was based on me paying $100. For $100 they are fine.
No Casey - you don't need to change it unless YOU want to. It's your review - not mine. I was just curious as to the reasoning behind the overall rating. You've explained it. Thanks
Oh and brooko, you always complain about me not hearing the srh940 and making assumptions. While don't worry i just placed an order for a pair. Should have it in a couple weeks.
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