Note: I do not actually own the m50. They were loaned to me for two weeks, and this review is based upon my impressions of these headphones over this two week period.
Note 2: I unfortunately sent the m50 back before I thought to take pictures myself, so I’ll give credit to google images for the pictures below.
Specs from Audio Technica Website
Type Closed-back dynamic
Driver Diameter 45 mm Magnet Neodymium Voice Coil CCAW (Copper-clad aluminum wire)
Frequency Response 15 - 28,000 Hz
Maximum Input Power 1,600 mW at 1 kHz
Sensitivity 99 dB
Impedance 38 ohms
Weight 284 g (10 oz) without cable and connector
Cable 1.2 - 3.0 m (3.9' - 9.8') Coiled, OFC litz wire
Connector Gold-plated stereo 1/8" (3.5 mm) connector with strain relief and professional screw-on 1/4" (6.3 mm) adapter
Appearance and First Impressions
Simple packaging, nothing fancy. A case would have been appreciated, but I like the fact that Audio Technica didn’t waste money on a bloated box like so many other manufacturers out there.
The headphones appear simple and elegant without being overdone. They don’t draw attention to themselves, but closer inspection reveals them to be quite stylish in an understated sort of way. It’s a design I wholeheartedly approve of, though the Skullcandy and Monster crowd may disagree.
The cord is perhaps the most striking feature of the m50. The m50 come in two versions, one with a straight cord and the other with the coiled cord pictured here. The coil is designed to save space, and make the headphones more “portable.” More on that later.
The build of the m50 is plastic-fantastic, but it at least appears and feels to be high quality plastic. The hinges themselves feel reasonably secure, and the headphones don’t suffer from any excessive creaking. The cable is of good quality, nice and rubbery, with very well made stress reliefs. The stress relief on the plug deserves special mention, and is perhaps the most sturdy (if unsightly) I have seen.
The headphones themselves are quite comfortable, and light on the head. Some might find the pressure to they exert to be slightly annoying, but that was not the case for me. The earpads are soft, and easily conform to the contours of my head.
What deserves comment though is the size of the earcups themselves – they are quite small in my opinion. Now, I have small ears so for me the m50 are a perfect circumaural fit. But I can easily imagine the m50 being supra-aural for larger eared individuals.
The m50 also become rather hot after extended use, more than other closed headphones I’ve tried. As always, “hot” is subjective, and could very easily be a byproduct of the local weather right now. And for those of you who prefer it a little warmer, this may well be an upside.
The sound of the m50 can be described as relatively balanced, with a slight tilt toward the low end.
Bass is clear, with good extension, and respectable low end impact. It stays where it’s supposed to, and there is no mid-bass bloat that intrudes into the midrange. The m50 do have a slight warmth to the sound, but it isn’t anything intrusive or ungainly. It would be almost as accurate to simply state that they aren’t bright sounding headphones. Needless to say, basshead phones these are not. But there is enough that bassheads would still find them listenable, just as the AKG/Etymotic crowd would find the level of added bass presence low enough to still consider the m50 manageable as well.
The midrange itself stays in line with the bass. It is neither forward nor recessed. The lack of added warmth leaves it a little dry, but in a good way, unless warmth is what you’re looking for. Balanced is the name of the game here.
Treble is a little recessed relative to the bass and mids. This does not mean that the m50 lack treble extension, not at all. The treble extends as high as I am able to hear. It is just that the treble is slightly less prominent than the mids and bass. It’s a sound signature which allows long listening without fatigue, but one which some might find boring.
Detail retrieval is very good, and the m50 are a fairly revealing headphone. The lack of treble emphasis also means they are relatively forgiving of poor recordings. Soundstage is about average compared to other closed headphones I’ve tried. It’s not anything to brag about, but still larger than what I hear with my grados.
On the Go
What impresses me most with the m50 is its impressive noise isolation compared to other closed headphones I’ve tried. They isolate about as much as my hippo VB – some 20db give or take a little. In layman’s terms, this means the m50 are good enough for the street, office, or bus; but not isolating enough for subway and airplane use.
The m50 fold up in the traditional sense and the earcups do rotate enough to allow you to lay the headphones down flat. This also allows you to keep one ear open to listen to your surroundings without having to wear the headphones in a shifted position.
The coiled cord of the m50 is designed as a space saving mechanism, over the 3m straight cord version. It works well enough. But for those of you with soldering skills, purchasing the straight cord version and trimming the cord to a desired length and adding a new plug would work better, as the cord would be less thick. An extension cord would easily add the extra length should you ever miss it.
Lastly, the m50 are very efficient, and do not require any sort of portable amplifier. My sansa clip is more than capable of powering them to earsplitting volumes.
A personal note
I typically listen to music at low volumes, and prefer a V shaped sound. When using the m50 I kept wishing for a little more sub-bass impact, and more treble energy/sparkle. Though I freely admit that the m50 are very proficient technically, especially at their current price point, I could not help but find the m50 to sound borderline boring for my tastes.
The Audio Technica m50 represent a great value for those looking for a well isolating closed headphone. They are built about as well as anything out there at the $100 benchmark, and should be comfortable for most people. Technically the m50 is very proficient, and offers a fairly balanced and non-fatiguing sound. But people who are after a little more excitement may find the m50 a little boring. Large and elephant sized eared individual should however come prepared for a circumaural fit.
At this time, the m50 are available for about $110 at most online retailers.
Edited by JxK - 8/23/10 at 11:57am