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