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A Concise View of Why The ATH-M50 is No Longer King

post #1 of 736
Thread Starter 

As recently as a few months ago, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 was at THE headphone to recommend to new audiophiles. However, due to factors like price hikes, a design change, and new players in the headphone game, it has now been displaced at the top. How did this happen?

 

On Head-Fi, there are 346 registered owners of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 and ATH-M50S (The M50S simply denotes a straight cable). Compared to the Ultrasone HFI-580, one of its original competitors (which has 27 registered owners), that number is astounding. In a spiral of recommendations to inexperienced owners to more recommendations, it gained the lead for a long time. However, many factors have lead to its demise as one of the top recommendations. Please let it be known that number two has recently been proven to be untrue, but that I have kept that part intact for the purposes of preserving the original post to make responses relevant. They are:

 

1. Many more senior voices in forums such as Head-Fi have come out of the woodwork to fight the cycle of first-time headphone buyers immediately recommending their only headphone to other first-timers. Up until recently, whenever a question was asked to an online audiophile community, newer members who had only owned the M50 jumped into the conversation and claimed the M50 as the best thing ever until other voices were simply drowned out. Since they’d never tried any other similarly-priced can, these people had no frame of reference and were more likely to overhype (think Beats). Now, many dissident members have taken back control of these discussions and lead to a more educated decision based on each person’s preferences.

 

2. A redesign has made the M50 obsolete at its original use. When it first came out, it was known as a very satisfactory can for budget-minded bassheads. However, the new white-box version of the headphone approaches the situation with a more neutral sound. While it is, on the whole, still bassy, it has nothing on headphones from Ultrasone or other basshead brands. Since it is still not quite neutral, though, it cannot truly compete with true monitor headphones employed in studios.

 

3. Audio-Technica, in conjunction with the redesign of the M50, increased the price of the headphone. This opened it up to a slightly higher level of competition and made many of its peers in the lower price range seem a better value. Now, instead of the M50 being suggested for a budget audiophile, now competition from other established brands has effectively shut down its cause.

 

4. Finally, new competition from previously-unknown manufacturers has been in vogue recently, with the wealthier members of the forums going out and trying almost every no-name brand they can find. Companies like KRK and M-Audio have managed to excel at everything the M50 was known for, often even besting it at a lower price.

 

Don’t get me wrong. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50 is still a great headphone. I owned one that had over 2000 hours of listening time on it and was still used regularly until the day I sold it. However, a combination of many factors has seen to its value becoming less and less as time goes on, and there are now other cans out there that beat it for the same price or are on par at lower. Most importantly of all, the hype train for the M50 has been slowed, with lots of response to any recommendation of it.

 

The old king is dead.


Edited by ssrock64 - 7/3/13 at 7:24pm
post #2 of 736
Thread Starter 

Aww, c'mon guys. I took a long time to write this.

post #3 of 736

 

Quote:
Aww, c'mon guys. I took a long time to write this.

Nobody forced you to write as much, especially about the M50, lol

 

Unfortunately i have never been a big fan of the M50. Technically speaking, a very good headphone for the price, but for me, I feel no pleasure to listen to the M50.

post #4 of 736

I don't really know what to say. I agree with it all though. I really don't see the merit to the M50... I've always wondered why it was such a popular recommendation when it sounded fairly mediocre compared to all of the other phones, closed and open, that I've heard in the price bracket.


Edited by pyrokid - 1/17/12 at 4:48pm
post #5 of 736

when did they redesign it? I have one from 2 years that I used until about a year ago. I know it was cheaper when I bought it but is there anyway to figure out / point out specifically?

 

I loved them as a first "good" headphone but for the newer price of 150, knowing what i know now, id recommend people look around.

post #6 of 736

Yep, I bought my M50s a year and a half ago at the price of ~$100 new, and that's what kept me here looking for even better headphones/earphones xD

I'd say it is an amazing entry can, but as scoopbb, with the new price, there are other competitors out there that are ready to take the kings spot

post #7 of 736
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by scoopbb View Post

when did they redesign it? I have one from 2 years that I used until about a year ago. I know it was cheaper when I bought it but is there anyway to figure out / point out specifically?

 

I loved them as a first "good" headphone but for the newer price of 150, knowing what i know now, id recommend people look around.



If yours came in a white box like this, it's the newer version. If the box was multicolored (like this), it was the older, bassier version.

post #8 of 736
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DVDRey View Post

 

Nobody forced you to write as much, especially about the M50, lol

 

Unfortunately i have never been a big fan of the M50. Technically speaking, a very good headphone for the price, but for me, I feel no pleasure to listen to the M50.



They were my first recommendation when getting into headphones (how far I've come...), but I never truly fell in love with them. I listen to them on the go simply because they're relatively portable and my Westones are long gone, but I find myself yearning for my home cans.

post #9 of 736

Thanks for the write up. Any recommended M50 "replacements" in similar price range or lower?

post #10 of 736
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffreyk View Post

Thanks for the write up. Any recommended M50 "replacements" in similar price range or lower?



If you're looking for something bassy, the Ultrasone HFI-580 will do. If you're looking for something to use for monitoring, the Shure SRH840 is a popular choice, though I cannot attest to its sound as I haven't heard it myself. If you want something smooth, luscious, and open-sounding, the Fischer Audio FA-003/Brainwavz HM5/LINDY Premium Hi-Fi is for you. All of them benefit from an amp, with the lattermost choice almost requiring one to sound its best.

 

Sincerely,

post #11 of 736

I purchased my M50s for ~$90 about two years ago. The fact that the price has increased saddens me greatly. 

 

However, I agree. The old king is dead.


Edited by ltyu - 1/18/12 at 12:43pm
post #12 of 736

I disagree with all points.  The M50 is one of the best closed headphones on the market IMO.  We have objective CSD measurements that show it measuring better than the Denon D7000. 

 

The M50 is well balanced in tone and frequency response, it is fairly fast, has little resonance artifacts, has excellent deep bass response and good treble extension.  It's not perfect, it has a bit of bass and treble emphasis, but it's minor and pales compared to the hugely flawed response many other headphones present. 

 

The "M50 backlash" is just as silly as the M50 hype.  Except the M50 hype is actually more accurate. 

post #13 of 736

I agree with some of the points.  For me its big limiting factors are its lack of soundstage and its lack of dynamics.  Its frequency response is decently flat and its bass goes very deep, but its clean csd plots mean little when the actual dynamics of the headphone aren't as good as others.  Soundstaging, instrument separation, overall timbre and bass punch aren't what they could be.  For a headphone with quite a lot of bass, its punch isn't very strong.  Almost makes it into a borderline fart cannon, but I won't go that far, because its bass isn't extremely bloated.

 

The comfort was the biggest reason for my getting rid of it, however.  

 

 

I think as an all-rounder king for around 100usd though, it's still a good contender.  HF-580 is far more colored.  It's too bad its price has peaked, though.

post #14 of 736

Hating things that are popular is really cool....

 

The m50's are widely excepted as a great sounding closed headphone. Chances are, if you buy them, you'll like them. That is why they are recommended.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ssrock64 View Post

1. Many more senior voices in forums such as Head-Fi have come out of the woodwork to fight the vicious cycle of first-time headphone buyers immediately recommending their only headphone to other first-timers. Up until recently, whenever a question was asked to an online audiophile community, newer members who had only owned the M50 jumped into the conversation and claimed the M50 as the best thing ever until other voices were simply drowned out. Since they’d never tried any other similarly-priced can, these people had no frame of reference and were more likely to overhype (think Beats). Now, many dissident members have taken back control of these discussions and lead to a more educated decision based on each person’s preferences.

 

2. A redesign has made the M50 obsolete at its original use. When it first came out, it was known as a very satisfactory can for budget-minded bassheads. However, the new white-box version of the headphone approaches the situation with a more neutral sound. While it is, on the whole, still bassy, it has nothing on headphones from Ultrasone or other basshead brands. Since it is still not quite neutral, though, it cannot truly compete with true monitor headphones employed in studios.

 

3. Audio-Technica, in conjunction with the redesign of the M50, increased the price of the headphone. This opened it up to a slightly higher level of competition and made many of its peers in the lower price range seem a better value. Now, instead of the M50 being suggested for a budget audiophile, now competition from other established brands has effectively shut down its cause.

 

4. Finally, new competition from previously-unknown manufacturers has been in vogue recently, with the wealthier members of the forums going out and trying almost every no-name brand they can find. Companies like KRK and Fischer Audio have managed to excel at everything the M50 was known for, often even besting it at a lower price.

Don’t get me wrong. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50 is still a great headphone. I own one that has over 1200 hours of listening time on it and is still used regularly. However, a combination of many factors has seen to its value becoming less and less as time goes on, and there are now other cans out there that beat it for the same price or are on par at lower. Most importantly of all, the hype train for the M50 has been slowed, with lots of response to any recommendation of it.


1. I haven't heard anyone claim the m50's are "the greatest things ever"

 

2. "Basshead" and "Audiophile" are two very different things. Also studios don't monitor with headphones, they use MONITORS.

 

3. It is still worth what they are asking, apparently.

 

4. Not many people have heard the KRK or Fischer headphones. If they are as good as you say, then people will start buying them and naturally they will "replace" the m50 as the suggested headphone here.

I don't think there is a "hype train", when so many people have bought them and been satisfied. I cannot say the same for 75% of the other brands that mentioned here...

 


Edited by Eisenhower - 1/17/12 at 9:27pm
post #15 of 736
Quote:
Originally Posted by TMRaven View Post

I agree with some of the points.  For me its big limiting factors are its lack of soundstage and its lack of dynamics.  Its frequency response is decently flat and its bass goes very deep, but its clean csd plots mean little when the actual dynamics of the headphone aren't as good as others.  Soundstaging, instrument separation, overall timbre and bass punch aren't what they could be.  For a headphone with quite a lot of bass, its punch isn't very strong.  Almost makes it into a borderline fart cannon, but I won't go that far, because its bass isn't extremely bloated.

 

The comfort was the biggest reason for my getting rid of it, however.  

 

 

I think as an all-rounder king for around 100usd though, it's still a good contender.  HF-580 is far more colored.  It's too bad its price has peaked, though.



What the csd's are measuring is very important to me as it is directly measuring the resonance problems that almost all headphones have and which even cheap speakers do not.  I don't know how the M50 could lack dynamics to you, the bass is super punchy IME though I agree it's not the tightest or the most defined bass around.  Again, I can live with that over resonant peaks in the response.  Also, soundstage isn't a big priority for me because they're headphones.  I think the M50 have excellent timbre for a headphone. 

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