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One of the Best Headphones for Starters

A Review On: Audio-Technica ATH-M50S

Audio-Technica ATH-M50S

Rated # 2 in Over-Ear
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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $125.00
gamefreak054
Posted · 433 Views · 4 Comments

Pros: A decently balanced sound, Punchy Bass, Cheap, Built like a tank, great introductory headphone, easy to drive

Cons: Bass can be uncontrolled at times, sibilance can occur, highs are lacking, horrible pleather pads

I see a lot of people saying how overrated these headphones are lately, but most of the time these people compare these headphones 50% to twice its price or higher. In my opinion the ATH M50s are one hard to beat package for a beginner looking to get into better audio at a cheaper price. These headphones are better than many retail stores headphones that cost twice as much or more. I have been using these headphones for hundreds of hours over the past 2 years and have finally upgraded to the Mad Dogs (which blow these out of the water in the majority of categories).

 

Sound:

I do not think these are balanced or flat sounding like some people claim, these headphones do have an easy to listen to sound signature especially for a beginner or some one on a budget. Where these headphones excel is definitely in the lower frequencies. However being a huge fan of these the sound has a major flaw, and that is the highs. These headphones have a lot of sibilance even from uncompressed 16/44.1 files from ipod. Some of my favorite bands like Skillet and System of a Down are nearly un-listenable on these headphones. However many types of rock sound pretty good on these headphones, and they excel at Dubstep and rap. I find instrumental type music to be kinda boring on these headphones. The sound stage is quite small which make these a poor choice for gaming and movies even though these headphones have a fun sound (imo). 

 

Amplification:

These headphones do not require amplification, however I do find the ipod amplifier quite lacking (if you are using an ipod). I ended up buying and trying some of the fiio amps. The fiio amps do provide a little bit of extra juice for the driver and it helps the sound a decent amount. The LOD cable definitely probably makes the biggest difference (and is a must have if you are buying an amp for the ipod). Overall if you need a little extra sound without going to a new headphone an amplifier may be helpful.

 

Isolation: 

It is pretty decent but starts to get worse as the pads get older and start cracking. 

 

Build Quality:

Top notch for a plastic headphone at around $100. These things are nearly unbreakable. The only broken pair I have ever seen was a pair with a dog chewed cable. One thing I would like to bring up is that not all the headphones are built equally. My headphones sound quite a bit better than my brothers (same box), but mine are a year older and have been played much more. This either proves a) that burn in does make a difference in some headphones and is not a myth or b) not all the M50s batches sound the same. Another complaint is that the cable choices are annoying. Either you have a obnoxiously long cable which is annoying for portable use or you have an annoying coiled cable (imo). I chose the straight cable and to limit the length I braided the cable like you do with hair and it reduces the cable to a 1/3 of its length and is much more manageable

 

Conclusion:

You may be questioning why I gave these 5 stars after all the complaints I had in this review. Well I must say while the sound is not perfect and definetely what I would not consider an audiophile sound headphone but more of a fun one (get the SR80i if you want a cheap audiophile sound), the build, decent sound, and price is what helps this earn the 5 stars.  I see them for what they are a great beginner headphone. There are better sounding headphones for a bit more cash ($50-$100) but for somebody on a budget that extra cash is a lot of money. Overall I recommend these headphones to all my friends trying to get into audio and try to prevent them from buying an over price consumer headphone.

4 Comments:

 I understand the hype for the M50, I think it's a good phone, and the perfect one to recommend to potential Beats customers; it has enough bass impact and treble pizzazz to impress someone who is new to nicer headphones. It's also built like a tank and is collapsible, which kicks ass.
 
However to me, the places it falls short for the price IMO are its mids and presentation. The Senn HD439, which is around the same MSRP but easily found for $50 refurbed on Amazon or eBay (DAHMART refurbs are good, I've had 2), sounds nearly open by comparison, and has a level of midrange detail and fullness of sound that I think easily outshines the M50, which is dry and a bit hollow in the mids. It also has a replaceable cable, which is huge for me personally.
 
Then again, the HD439 is built of cheaper materials, doesn't isolate as well, and isn't collapsible. I think they both occupy a similar place in the market, though, and I wish the HD439 got as much mention as the M50s, because they are a great set of cans and can be had for a huge bargain right now. They cater to similar price points and uses, but different listening styles, and, IMO, should be mentioned in the same breath to people looking for good semi-portable cans in the $100 area.
 Thanks for your opinion. I personally tried the HD429 at best buy recently (or atleast what I thought was the HD429). I was not a huge fan of them. I just did not really like the sound signature that much. However if you did want a cleaner sound I think the cheaper HD series would be the better way to go, or spend a little more dough to get even better. Also to be fair I did not plug this into my own source, and I only tried them for 10ish minutes. I also tried the UE6000, granted once again probably should not be a fair comparison as they MSRP at $150 atm. I really liked them, and much more than the sennheiser. To get my point through though I had to use bestbuys test strip with their music forced on me (I dont care what anyone says imagine dragons is not rock). I guess personally for the cheaper range of headphones I much prefer a more consumer or fun sound (v shaped sound sig) than the cleaner ones with the one exception of the Grado SR80i. 
 
If I was more accustomed to a more audiophile sound at the time, I would have bought them. I think the Grado SR80i is a steal of a headphone at that price range. However the headphone is definitely not as well built and is not portable as the whole room will hear whatever music you are playing. I tried these for about 30 min and I absolutely loved them except for the bass was quite lacking.
 Sounds like you just prefer slightly brighter phones; I remember the UE6000 being v-shaped with nice subbass, but, like the M50, it sounded a bit artificial to me. Personally I prefer a more "warm and sweet" sound, with a forward midrange, which is what Sennheiser does best, so it's no surprise I prefer the HD439 to the M50 and UEs. I do enjoy the SR80i too, though; they are nice and aggressive and the punchy bass is really fun, even if it's not super deep.
 
On the 439s, their bass is tighter and they are not quite as warm in the mids as the 429; they have a slightly more neutral sound, and the treble is not quite so dull. Both also benefit noticeably from amping. The 429 isn't quite a fair match for the Ue6000 or M50, its MSRP is less than half of either. The 439, however, has an MSRP of around $100, which exactly half, and while it might lag slightly behind the M50 in terms of absolute detail, it has fuller mids and a more natural presentation. I think anyone who found the M50's mids too recessed and the soundstage cramped may really enjoy it.
 
Ultimately I think for the most part we just prefer different sigs: I prefer smoother treble, whereas it seems you prefer a brighter sound. This is why I wish the M50 was mentioned alongside others, instead of just being universally recommended, as it has been for some time on Head-Fi; I think if people didn't recommend it heedlessly, and thought to offer other suggestions based on sound preference, then there might not be so much "anti-hype" or pushback about it. I like your review, though; it is unbiased and you state exactly what you like and don't like about the sound. Overall there is nothing wrong with the M50 at all, it sounds great with modern music and is both an affordable and better-sounding alternative to Beats; I just wish other worthy headphones in the general price range got an equal amount of attention, both for the sake of potential buyers, and for the reputation of the M50s.
Yeah I am just not entirely sure if I would enjoy sennheisers sound signature for the 400 series. It may change for the higher series but I have yet to hear them. I guess for the $100 range of headphones I prefer the V shape. I kind of find the the cheaper headphones around that range without a v shape a bit boring otherwise and never really engage me in the music. They just kinda sound like they are there to play music at you without any sparkle or wow moments. Maybe it is just because I accustomed to my mad dogs now, or I expect to hear more but dont. I hate to label people but I really think the average consumer does enjoy v shaped headphone when first starting their audio path. From what I have noticed a lot of people criticize these headphones after they are used to hearing the best of the best which I do not nessecarily think that is fair, as these headphones are not geared towards that set of buyers.
 
However when it does come to a better headphone I like flatter frequencies a lot. I am absolutely loving my Mad Dogs. The planar magnetic driver creates a sound signature that I just absolutely love. So I do believe my taste in sound signature changes when the quality changes... If that makes sense. I know my brother will always stick to the same sound signature as he actually prefers his M50s over my Mad Dogs. Either that or he is just playing games with me. Though I know he would pick the Denon AH DXXXX series and probably stick with that forever (he is lacking money at the moment w/ too many expensive hobbies lol).
 
Regarding price I have been noticing that pricing between some of these headphones vary a lot. So I can kinda see why people always compare one headphone with a higher priced one. For instance I have found the ATH M50s 3 times (various family members) for $125 with ease, yet they are listed on amazon for $150. It also would not shock me that you could find them $100 with some searching. Granted every once in a while people compare them to something way out of its range like the Vmoda M100. While they could sound better than the M50s, they should be sounding way better as there are some solid choices in the $200-$300 range. Even at the $180 range you are reaching a new bracket of headphones to explore.
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