This is my first review, so cut me some slack, haha.
So I recently ordered a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50S's (yes, M50S; straight cable) and let me say, these are quite amazing. Here's a quick rundown of my first impressions.
*Note: These are the new ones in the white box, though I'm not sure if that makes any difference.*
1) For anyone who is picking these up in the store, please make sure that your cups are not dented in the box. I ordered mine online so it couldn't be helped, and after a month of delays, I couldn't be bothered, either.
2) The design of these beasts are just breathtaking. Sleek with that nice black finish while still maintaining the tank-like build.
3) The folding proved to be a bit of a problem when I took them out of the box, so be careful. I can see someone pushing and shoving the cups' swivel joints until they fall out.
Now, right out of the box, these babies (which ran me $200 at Best Buy; I know, I could have gotten a better deal on Amazon, but I prefer to have a good warranty) were somewhat disappointing. The mids were definitely way, way recessed. But my first track, Taking Back Sunday - Up Against (Blackout), I was amazed at the separation between the multiple guitars. The highs were somewhat shrill and the bass was a bit lacking, but they were better than my old pair of Sennheiser HD201's, out of the box, and that was all that mattered.
After that song, I let the cans un-clamp and burn-in over a Kleenex box overnight just to make sure that when I review them, they’d be better than out-of-the-box.
While letting that happen, I went around looking for some way to SHORTEN THE RIDICULOUSLY LONG CABLE. I didn’t want to do the hanged-man noose that I’d been recommended so much because I actually care about my cable’s lifespan and quality. I came across this interesting little “braiding” technique. After an hour of trying to figure it out, I enlisted the help of a female to help me figure it out. The finished result is here:
The cable length is now approximately 3.25 feet. As far as I can tell, there is no damage to the cables or sound quality. I did, however, do a microphonics test by tapping the headphones from the bottom up. From the halfway point and up, the microphonics do get a bit stronger. I’m not sure if this is the same as it would be unbraided.
If anyone would like to do a quick tapping of the bottom up on their M50’s and report here, I’d appreciate that.
So after approximately 24 hours of unclamping and burn-in, it was time for me to test out these bad boys on my Sansa Clip+ using 320 kbps MP3's.
Taking Back Sunday – The Union: The instrument separation of the guitars in the intro of this song is superb! Especially the bass guitar that hasn’t been distorted like the other cans I’ve used. I can even hear this extremely high-rising pitch that I’ve yet to hear on my Sennheiser HD201’s. The vocals are crisp and clear. In fact, I can finally assure myself that there are back-up vocals in the background of the verses on this song.
Zedd – Dovregubben (Original Mix):The extremely tight and punchy bass is made apparent right as the song starts. The M50’s handle this song so well, I can say that it feels as if the bass is thumping in my chest! The recessed mids do make themselves apparent, here. I feel as if they’re coming from another room when compared to the highs and the lows of this song. If anything’s for sure, though, this song proves that the M50’s can control bass quite well. The bridge of this song where the bass distorts and raises the pitch while swooshing from the left to the right ear cup is phenomenal! I feel like I’m right in the middle of two electro producers fighting for supremacy!
Brand New – Tautou: This was just a short song I just had to use to test out the M50’s capabilities with extremely quiet songs. I love listening to this track with the M50’s now. I can hear the guitar slowly detuning itself in the intro, and the vocals, drums, and guitar in the later portion of the song are made apparent. The guitar outro itself… I can count the number of times the rhythm guitar is being strummed. Well done, Audio-Technica.
Brand New – Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades: This is the perfect song for the M50’s. You’ll hear literally everything; from Jesse Lacey’s breaths in between each line while they pass from earcup-to-earcup, Vincent Accardi’s back-up vocals coming from the back of the room, to the cymbals crashing down. NONE of the guitars are distorted in the chorus of the song, which has always been a peeve for me in my Sennheiser HD201’s.
Linkin Park – What I’ve Done: The bass in this song is great and all, but it’s nothing to write home about. What this song brings out in the M50’s is the instrument separation and the vocals. In the chorus I can tell the difference between the guitars, the piano, the drums and cymbals, and Chester’s voice. It’s difficult to really describe how it feels to listen to the song with these on my head. All I can say is… Wow.
Neutral Milk Hotel – Holland, 1945: This song is quite borderline for the M50’s. The distorted guitars are nothing more than static with some pitch changes here and there. It’s quite a shame because I enjoyed hearing the trumpets in this song. God, those trumpets were amazing…
If this is how the M50’s treat “low quality” songs (even though the guitars were distorted on purpose), I’d definitely recommend people get some 320 kbps MP3’s or even some FLAC’s (even though I can’t tell the difference between the two).
Taking Back Sunday – Set Phasers to Stun (Live from Orensanz): No listening session would be complete without any live tracks, now would it? This is just to test the soundstage of these closed headphones. I can hear everything in the crowd. I can easily tell where just about every instrument is with these things. It’s amazing how these closed-back phones manage to do this. I didn’t have such an easy time with this with my open-back Sennheiser HD201’s…
Taking Back Sunday – Your Own Disaster (Live from Oresnsanz): I’d held off on this song until my final listening just so I could truly appreciate it, because I believe this is the best live song I have in my library. The instruments slowly work its way together. The acoustic guitar on the left. The vocals down the middle. The acoustic guitar on the left. The bass on the back left. The drums in the middle. The piano in the back right. Every instrument comes into perfect harmony with each other while the crowd claps to the beat.
In the outro to the song, the way the three vocals can be heard together is perfect. Lead down the middle, back-up on the front right, and an unexpected entrance from the bass player’s voice in the back left. As the song pans out, you’re reacquainted with where each instrument is by each one dropping out one by one.
Do I recommend these headphones? Hell yeah, I do! But if I may, I’d like to rate these headphones in certain qualities that they hold.
Sound (5/5): After everything I’ve just written about up there… I’m sure you can tell.
Comfort (5/5): I don’t seem to be facing that clamping problem everyone else seems to be talking about. I let them unclamp over a Kleenex box while burning in like recommended and it’s just perfect on my head. The pleather cups don’t bother me and I don’t really feel my ears getting sweaty, haha. Then again, I’m just one person, but ratings from a person are subjective so they retain the 5/5 they have.
Portability (3/5): This is where the M50’s are lacking. Whether you get the coiled cable or the straight cable, the cable will always be ridiculously long. Yes, I know that these are meant for studio monitoring, but some of us like to take these out. Fortunately, you can braid the headphone cable (which I will detail below) so there’s always that.
Value (5/5): I personally bought these for $200 from Best Buy, but only because I like having warranties. As of the moment, you can find these on Amazon for $149.99 which is quite the steal. I’d advise you to get them quickly, as the prices seem to be rising because of the demand for these bad boys.
So the final verdict on these bad boys?
Considering portability: 23/25*
Not considering portability: 20/20*
*Sound is weighted twice because really, that’s what we’re looking for in a pair of headphones.*
So I can now tell why these headphones are so widely recommended by Head-Fi’ers and I’m glad to say that this is one pair of cans that I’ll be keeping for a long time.
So you want to shorten your ATH-M50 cable? All I can say is braid it. I’ve made a quick diagram in MS Paint (ever the standard for professionalism in digital art…) to show you how to set up the cables.
Basically, I'm going to try my best to explain this.
You take the cable down to the 1/3 length (as seen in the red).
Then you bring the cable back up to the top while leaving about 1 to 1.5 inches in between the jack and the spot where the braid will start.
Now, you take that blue length and wrap it once around red length and use a twist-tie to keep it together.
Now you've got three strands of cable. Now you braid it.
Once you get close to the bottom, make sure that there is still about a 1 to 2 inches left between the stress-relief spring and the end of the braid.
Take another twist-tie and secure that.
Congratulations! You've just shortened your ATH-M50 cable by following by far, the worst tutorial and worst diagram of all time!
Finished result is above for comparison.