The Audio Technica ATH-M50WH
Opening The Box....
The packaging of the ATH-M50WH is identical to the older M50s (assuming you have the white box one). The packaging is fairly simple, but it is enough. You get the M50WH along with a white carrying pouch and a gold plated screw on 1/4 inch audio jack adapter. However, the star of the show really stood out. The M50s in white look amazing, a great variant of a great pair of headphones. Absolutely stunning, the paint job is slightly glossy, with a very lively white color.
*The only difference with these and the older M50s is that the ear pads on the older M50 were rigid, while the M50WH and other newer M50 models have very plushy padding, which is substantially more comfortable.
Build and Aesthetics....
The M50s have been known to have great build quality and the M50WHs are not different. The M50WH are built of very durable plastic(I believe it is ABS plastic, not sure), with metal reinforcement on the head band. The cable is also built very well, each cable, left; right; and ground, is cabled separately inside the surface jacket. This makes it very durable, less prone to tangling, and makes it very easy to recable. The jack at the end of the cable is also built very well, it uses a spring to reinforcement the cable. However, in the past I have found the spring to be fairly insecure, it has popped out several times on my previous M50s, but it was very simple to put back in. The cups themselves are plastics, and on the inside they have cotton dampeners, and the cable is knotted on the inside so that the cables will not pull out the soldering before breaking the ear cups. The cups have a very flexible rotation system, which I have never really been a fan of. I would love it if they added some resistance when you are turning the cups; like this it becomes very difficult to keep folded up without using the pouch. The band of the M50WHs are also built very well, in fact IMO the best built part. There is metal reinforcement, which is very flexible, and makes the adjusting system brilliant. The adjustment system on these headphones is great, especially on the headband. They have counters, so if you're OCD like me then you will really appreciate it. The headphone on a whole is built with so much precision, I cannot find a flaw on these or the previous models.
They also look fantastic, the white variant of the M50 is absolutely gorgeous. The paint job is beautiful, and the gray pads compliment the headphones perfectly. Granted, the headphones are huge, so outside wear may not be ideal; however, they still look amazing. I was also able to see the M50 anniversary versions a week ago, and while those did look great, I personally love the elegance of the M50WH. It is somewhat flashy, but still oh so elegant.
Comfort and Convenience....
The M50WHs are very very comfortable. They are slightly heavy for portable use, but considering their size they are rather light. I find them comfier than my HD25s and almost as comfy as my previous MS400s. Depending on how you break them in and how you wear them, they put more pressure on your ears than head. However, the pressure can hardly be felt. At first I felt a lot of pressure at the top of my head, but after about a week of breaking them in, they started to even out and the pressure came on my ears, but again you can barely feel it. When you have it on, you will be believe that something as big as the M50WHs are on your head. They are very adjustable, but monitoring with one ear for DJs may not be the best, in my opinion.
I find the M50WHs to be very convenient, for at home; they are perfect. They fold up to take up less space on your desk, have a coiled cable, and a very durable cable. A detachable cable would be nice, but at home it would be virtually useless, unless the cable stop working (which will probably not be the case). In addition, while they do fold up nicely, the join mechanism is fairly loss, and keeping it folded up can be a pain. However, the M50WHs have slightly more resistant joints than my older M50s, but this may be because of break in. Now, here is where the pouch comes into play, they make it easier to fold up; and helps put everything into a small organized package.
Sound and Isolation....
Source : Iphone 3GS, Gigabyte UD3 on board sound card (Realtek), and 7.1 Yamaha receiver with pure direct (I consider the sound of all of them)
I find the M50WH to isolate better than my older M50s, but this is because of the softer plushy pads which provides more isolation. They are enough for a bus ride, car ride, or a noisy house. However, I would not recommend these for a plane or train/metro. At about 75% on an Iphone 3gs you cannot hear any talking to you, unless they are yelling.
Now for the sound, First off, these do sound identical to my previous pair of M50s; however, even though the older ones had the old pads, they still had the new box.
Back to the M50WH.... The Bass is nice and tight and makes good impact. To me, I don't find these to be bass heavy or even bass prominent. Granted, I do like bass, but I still do not find these bass prominent, I find them to be about as prominent as the HD25s bass. Now, the bass is tight and provides a decent punch, it is not like the MS400s, which are very mellow and smooth lows. The M50WHs lows are very versatile, they provide a punch when needed, and smooth full lows when needed. However, I believe these suit punchy bass more so than something like a cello. The M50WH's lows are very tight and very agile, it never misses a beat, and while the HD25 is just a touch cleaner and faster the M50 is still very transparent and provides clear, energetic, and full bass.
The Mids are very entrancing, while they are not quite so prominent; they are position well in terms of staging. They are surprisingly neutral, I personally like warmer mids because of harshness, but the M50WHs produce such natural mids, and still provide a very easy going and easy listening tone. There is hardly ever any harshness, and the mids provide a very full sound in many cases, but it is very dependent of the track. This is because the mids are slightly forward, yet are recessed in terms of volume. I personally find the mids to be very very versatile, but they really miss the cue for some songs. Female vocals are great and again not harsh and very sweet. They are also very revealing and have surprisingly good transparency with the Iphone. Low mids are really nice, Frank Sinatra’s voice benefits a lot at times and Johnny Cash’s voice is really powerful with the M50WHs. The detail retrieval in the midrange is very good, almost as good as the highs.
The Highs are very nice, bright, fast, and still sweet. There is wonderful retrieval up in this spectrum. They can be analytical, yet sweet and smooth at the same time. They are very revealing and transparent with any source. The highs aren’t harsh at all, but that comes at the cost of some dynamics. Still, the tradeoff is definitely worth it. In terms of frequency response there is definitely a boost in the highs, the M50 has a U Shaped response curve, but this isn’t too noticeable thanks to the presentation they offer.
The presentation is very nice, the mids are just slightly forward, the treble is very versatile, but mostly right in your face, and the same goes to the bass. So essentially these really pump the music into your ears, and they are not distant by any means, but the still supply good imaging and a fairly large sound stage, the width and depth are lacking, and 3d directional separation isn’t the best, but for music they are very good. These attributes along with the U shaped frequency response makes these headphones relatively fun to listen to, they are not excessively colored, and there is no excessive articulation of sound, so it remains very accurate; and relatively natural sounding.
Music (strengths and weaknesses)....
A perfectly flat and versatile headphone would be in the middle for all genres
Weak Genre < - - - - - | - - - - - > Strong Genre
This should show how the articulation and frequency response of the headphones favor certain genres
< - - - - - x - - - - - > Hip Hop – good bass impact; yet, portrays the whole spectrum very clearly
Empire State of Mind (Lossless) – Jay-Z and Alicia Keys – The drums really stand out at the beginning, with great impact, but not intrusive at all when other instruments come in. Jay-z’s voice sounds somewhat sterile, but it is Jay-z and it still is oh so natural. Alicia Keys voice benefits from the M50WHs exciting treble, but I notice a small ditch in the response, which I assume is there to prevent sibilance. You can really blast this song without any harshness or sibilance. The Piano in the background doesn’t sound like it’s in the background, it is there assisting the music, playing a prominent role in the harmony. The M50WHs imaging is very nice in this song, not exaggerated at all; but it gives you just the right amount of space, especially for a Hip Hop song. Still, consider that this Hip Hop track is filled with a lot more rich music, than some other tracks, such as A Millie by Lil Wayne.
< - - - - - | - x - - - > Strings (I compare this to real string sounds, I have played the violin for 5 years) – sounds great, the contact the bow makes with the strings is heard very accurately, and there is just enough reverb/ decay to make it sound like you are listening to a live orchestra.
Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, BWV 1041: I. (Allegro Moderato) (320 kkbps) - Julia Fischer & Academy of St. Martin in the Fields – Great use of space in this song, the imaging of the m50 suits this song very well. The strings are very full and clean. However, the higher mid frequencies are lacking a touch of fullness, but again for the sake of sibilance and harshness. The slurs are executed nearly perfectly, absolutely beautiful. The staccato is executed just as nicely, you can hear the air made from the brush again the string, I love it! Still, I can’t help but notice that while the imaging is great for what is present, some accompanying harmonies are lacking in transparency. The clearest part of the music is the higher frequencies of the melody. The dynamics are really good, but not perfect, which is expected. Still, I feel that it would have benefited from a slightly louder midrange.
< - - x - - | - - - - - > Jazz – Although the mids are positioned so that you can hardly notice the recession, in Jazz, the mids are really lacking.
New York New York duet with Tony Bennett (320 kbps) – Andrea Bocelli – Wow everything sounds so great: the brass, drums, even the crowd. The imaging is great, but lacking airiness, a lot. Now, when Andrea Bocelli comes in, that’s where these sound very lacking. Now, they can be eq’ed, but I will not describe them with the eq on. The voices are lacking both in transparency and in body. Tony Bennett’s voice is a little fuller and forward, but still not the M50WH’s strength. Again, the biggest hit is that the male vocals are really not that good, one of the M50WH’s weaker areas, but by no means bad.
< - - - - - | - - - x - > Rock – One of my favorite genres with these headphones
The Unwinding Cable Car (320 kbps) – Anberlin – The guitar strumming at the beginning is great, the perfect amount of reverb, and a tremendous amount of detail. You can really hear everything, the strumming of the strings is just portrayed perfectly, surprisingly analytical. The vocals are really spacious, airy, and enveloping. They are perfect in terms of spacing and loudness. The drums are in the background here and are definitely not in your face, but they still make impact. The song focuses more on the guitar and vocals, and the M50 really portrays them with accuracy and detail. The detail that’s picked up is kind of ridiculous. Still, I love where all the instruments and harmonies are, placed very well.
< - - - - - | x - - - - > EDM – Great bass impact, but these are relatively balanced headphones, and EDM heavily benefits from a colored headphone. Still, these headphones never skip a beat, and still bring the bass in these songs when called for, and in EDM the bass is normally called for ^^. Now, with an amp the M50WHs can really bring out some bass, paired the Z02 and they will please even the most demanding bass head.
Juggernauts (Nero Remix) (320 kbps) – Enter Shikari – The M50WHs are very lively, and this shows well in this song. The bass hits hard, and the lows are very fast and agile. However, the synthetic vocals are suffering in terms of spacing; and they are recessed, and even though they are meant to be recessed, the vocals just don’t sound right on the M50WHs. This is especially true when compared to the HD25s, which are noticeably faster. The other sounds made in the song (I don’t know what to call them) are surprisingly nice, following the beat well.
< - - - - - | x - - - - > Dubstep – relatively good with the M50WHs, but again since they are not colored you will not get the head shaking blasts of bass, but with an amp + eq they are very capable of doing so. Rather than that the reason the M50WHs are still able to play dubstep well is primarily because of the deep bass, which extends pleasingly low. Even with dubstep the M50Whs are surprisingly revealing.
Strange behavior (320 kbps) – Feed Me – There is a lot more rich sound in this song than most other dubstep tracks. That being said, the M50WHs do wonderfully with the vocals found in this song, and when it gets to the drop the M50WHs keep the vocals alive, but don’t steal the focus from the drop. The positioning is great, and the bass is never over powering. However, I would enjoy and little more bass, but that’ preference. I do find that the rest of the instruments/ sounds are played very nicely with the M50WHs.The girls voice in this song is also airy and holds a lot of reverb, but the M50WHs use this to their advantage. The voice is very encompassing, but when the drop comes in it kind of fills in some of the space, the effect is very nice, and allows a good amount of detail to be heard.
< - - - - x | - - - - - > Natural Pop (E.G. The Prayer with Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli)
< - x - - - | - - - - - > Pop with auto tune
< - - - - - | - - x - - > Modern Pop without auto tune
– I really can’t specify too much with pop because there are so many different kinds. For more natural sounding pop, like the Prayer with Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion, the M50s sound pretty good, but experience problems similar to those found in Jazz. Now in anything, I mean anything, with auto tune… well…. Let’s just say that you will truly hear the horrors of auto tune. This is experienced the most when listening to FLAC. T-Pain + FLAC + M50WHs = crap. The strengths of these headphones actually make them sound bad for anything with auto tune, if you listen to a lot of modern pop with auto tune, look for smoother and less revealing headphones. For other modern pop without auto tune, these sound fantastic. The bass is always right where it needs to be, and the vocals are always very nice. Melodies are positioned perfectly in conjunction with other aspects of the music.
Wrap up, are they worth it?
Heck yes, the M50WHs can be found for around 150$ and they are great for someone who is not sure about what they want from a headphone, they are very versatile. However, they aren’t the smoothest, and I normally feel that a smooth and warm sounding headphone is always best for a newcomer, but the M50WHs would be more for someone who already appreciated good headphones, but just doesn’t know where to start. They do sound phenomenal, and they run well without an amp. I do find the mids a touch more prominent with the Iphone. The headphones are also a little more transparent when ran through my receiver. All in all, this is a great headphone for on the go and at home, they use their sound stage to their advantage. Granted, the staging is not gigantic, but it is still executed very well. They are neutral sounding headphones and yield just the perfect amount of articulation and coloration so that they may be fun and versatile. I really think these are a good deal at 150$. They used to be sold for around 120, but due to a few aesthetic changes the prices are typically a bit higher, but still definitely worth the money.
Build and aesthetics – 9/10
Comfort and Convenience – 8.5/10
Isolation – 8.5/10
Sound and presentation - 9/10
Versatility – 4.5/5
Value – 9.5/10 – the only reason I didn’t give these a ten is because of the recent price increase, which I didn’t believe was totally justified. However, along with this there have been two new options to choose from when buying a pair or M50s, and that is the Limited Edition pair and the White pairs.
A picture of the HD25 Adidas (left), ATH-M50 (middle), and the ATH-M50WH (right)
A picture of the white and black variants of the ATH-M50
And there you have it, a "Beautiful Take on Beautiful Sound"
Edited by WakiDabeast - 6/19/12 at 8:57am