Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Studio Monitor Headphones

Redcarmoose

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: See Review
Cons: See Review
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The M50 Professional Studio Monitor Headphones by Audio-Technica

Specifications
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
Input impedance: 47kOhm
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
Accessory Included: Protective pouch



Features:
Exceptional audio quality for professional monitoring and mixing
Collapsible design ideal for easy portability and convenient storage
Proprietary 45 mm large-aperture drivers with neodymium magnet systems
Closed-back cushioned earcup design creates an outstanding seal for maximum isolation
Adjustable padded headband for comfort during long mixing/recording sessions
Single-sided coiled cable terminates to gold-plated mini-plug with screw-on ¼" adapter
Available in white color with coiled cable (ATH-M50WH), black color with straight cable (ATH-M50s), and silver color with straight cable (Limited Edition ATH-M50s/LE)

I have waited a while to write this review. After over a two years of use I have come to understand just what the ATH-M50 is, and dramatically what it is not. As with many things on Head-Fi, it is not that simple to just write a short review. Hopefully I can shed some light on what the M50 is for headphone enthusiasts in 2016.

Around 2011 life was a little more simple for the M50s, they were $70 and filled a hole in the market. The hype soon followed and a headphone legend was born. At that point in history it was easy to see the trend, as we were experiencing a wave of new members and in 2011 it seemed, headphones were now going mainstream. The M50s in those days offered an entry level walk into the world of quasi-audiophile land. Gazillions were sold and many jumped on the sonic soap-box to tell the world of their new find. The model became an affordable headphone for the masses. It was and is a good all-around-er of sorts and is basically everywhere! It plays all genres at an "OK" level, never excelling or ever truly failing.

In 2012 many seasoned members also started to get curious as to why the M50s had become the most recommended headphone on Head-Fi. Not only were they recommended but also ridiculed and put down. We also found a group to be wildly defensive explaining how the M-50s were the best headphone under $400, anywhere. Some maniacs offered them to be more flat than most headphones on the market offering a trueness untouched by only a few flagship headphones. Still good or bad, press is press and the more threads were written the more advertisement the headphones achieved.


The new headphone phenomena:
Many times there is a wave of interest called the headphone of the month, or the flavor of the month. At times it may not be a headphone but could be an amp. People in the hobby are searching. There is always a product that gets traction in the marketplace. Much of the time this newness, can be a form of hype, where products become the next hot thing, regardless of lasting sound qualities. Whole audiophile groups can gravitate towards a sound because it is new and different, but not always better. At times whole sonic pitfalls can get masked on a group level. There can even be times when the naysayers are afraid to speak-out due to peer-pressure. Later when the dust settles products then actually appear true in reality as to what they really are and what they are not. Whole groups can get caught up in this research frenzy only to flood the used market a year or two later when the next THING comes along.
Musical perception is funny like that, much of the time an incomplete character can actually attribute to a new product sounding fresh, when in reality it is not adding anything but taking away a response trait. At times you have to wonder if the popularity of the M50 was not that it was revolutionary but in-fact left-out many of the qualities searched for in a sound signature?

I have other headphones but just out of curiosity I succumbed to the peer pressure in the end. I didn't get the new M50x which has detachable cables, but the original M50 with the coiled cable. On a side note the original M50 is still offered with a straight cable today. The M50x offers both coiled and straight cables.

I had heard it a couple times and knew what I was getting into. What I hoped was to slowly become enamored with the headphones and gave myself time before making a full assumption as to sound-quality or character. Upon first holding them you realize they are well made. They have a rugged plastic, metal and aluminum build. Usage is easy due to simple right and left markings and multiple movements allow a simple and complete ease of use. They only weight 10oz so they are easy to wear and get ear placement with. The plug is solid steel and exits with a gold plated mini-plug making use with a phone on the go easy.

There is a generic low-flash style to them, most of all nothing to get scratched or scuffed. You could see these in a studio environment where they could be thrown around without consequence. The 180 degree rotation of the cups allows you to wear them around your neck with the cups laying flat. In many ways the M50s contain a special magic in construction due to the fact that they are low weight, non squeaky and have well engineered strain relief in all the best places. They move in every possible direction allowing there to be a level of confidence (nothing to bend, ever) sometimes missing with more straight and strict designs or ideas. All these crazy angled joints don't fail and become loose or creaky. The cord though long and heavy, still ends up being strong and unchanging over time. The standard black color resists scuffs or discoloration skidding just under the radar in X-fashion style. Everyone's head and ears are a different size and headphone placement and fit are critical with most headphones allowing the user to gain both comfort and placement for the best possible sound. The M50s fit well and stay in place, they work around glasses and are generally a nice experience. I did find the leather style ear pads to be a little hard and rugged feeling. Of course, just like the perception of sound quality, most ideas are in relationship to what your past experience is. Many have made a choice to change out the ear pads for aftermarket cloth style pads, which are noticeably softer. Even DJs put them to use due to being closed back and showing a strong beat could be used to beat-match in live DJ sessions.

As of 2016, Amazon.com sells the old M50 for $133 and the new M50x for $152. Amazingly there are 5180 original model reviews, with 80% being marked as 4.7 stars out of a possible full five star score. The newer M50x gets 2819 reviews also averaging 4.7 stars. So judging by Amazon.com folks are pretty happy. Again reading reviews there you find it's the first entry level Hi/Fi headphone many have ever owned.

So the question that comes to mind for many is if I don't buy a pair what would I get? Another good question is how and why do these seem to excel for their target consumer and why do folks like them so much?

I will attempt to answer these questions as well as do some other comparisons to put the Audio Technica ATH-M50 in a realistic view. I'm also going to go into maybe why we read so many positive reviews and why owners defend them with such emotion.


The sound:
If you have read this review so far then you may also have read the unbelievable reviews by the Head-Fi M50 lovers around. Like most stuff you read, it's just one persons opinion, and better to be viewed as just that, a single experience. Amazingly I still have the exact same thoughts about the sound signature as I did when I first heard them. My mental ideas as to the accuracy and color, the fun and individual character of the headphones have not wavered ever since I first demoed them with a friend years ago. My original idea is that they had a moderate sound-stage, a non-layered or complex treble and slightly over-pushed lower bass signature. The moment I heard them the lower mid detail was fun and slightly dramatic in character.

After years of ownership I thought I would find the treble maybe a little more interesting? There is a theory here that if you live with a headphone that over time you learn to almost hear into a sound signature and come to a higher level understanding of sorts. After years of trying, I have to admit, emotionally I'm still confirming my initial ideas, and have become even more confident in what I feel the M50s are.

The negatives and positives of the sound signature.
First off we always have to remember these are well-built $133 headphones that play just as well from a phone and scale up to a point with a nice home system. I have come to realize that the boring part of what they do has to do with the mid and treble sound-stage. The fact that the mids are actually recessed don't help matters but contribute to this sterility at hand. Combine that character with the fact that much of the musical information is all coming from exactly the same point source. If you place your finger on the symbol on the outside of the cup, that is the exact place 80% of the sound-stage is coming from. Such a signature has an exciting aspect when the lower mid-bass or room echo gets placed outside of this central cone. The only positive thing is that all audio signals become easy to understand due to all the information being emitted from one place. Imagine a group surrounding you and all talking at the same time, then listen to the group being place shoulder to shoulder across from your ear. The visual example is having you keep looking all over the room, but the second example has all the information coming from a point area of interest.

In daily use if you just didn't have any other choices much of these sound-stage issues could be overlooked. Also I do realize my opinions are from listening to the M50s side-by-side with much more expensive headphones with better sound-stage and side-by-side headphones with better treble detail and sound-stage which cost less. Many members have made the jump from the Audio Technica M50s to the Fostex TH-X00 from Massdrop.com. In many ways the two headphones are similar in that they are closed back and contain a dramatic lower bass apposed to treble centric headphones like the AKG-k701 open back headphones. The Fostex line ends up being a nice place to climb to after the M50s as the sound signatures both have some parallel aspects. In so many ways the Fostex line gets an improvement due to the increased detail in the sound-stage and treble area, which we find missing so much of the time.

Listening to the 1978 Van Halen self titled Japan Import first pressing "You Really Got Me" the hi-hat has a nice sparkle and 3D placement in the sound-stage head-space. Such sonic artifacts are actually entertaining because so very little musical placement comes out of that small congested mix 2.5 inches out side of your ears. When a nice treble sparkle makes it out into the air outside your head, it does add excitement. Still when the bass starts in the song it seems at a level inconsistent to how the song REALLY is? The lower bass level is of such non auditory impact, I actually had to switch over to my reference headphones the Denon AH-D 7000 closed backed headphones to listen if the problem was in the recording or another area in my playback system? As guessed the Denons are slightly less responsive to signal and needed extra volume to replicate the playback volume level. Also as guessed, the lower mid and lower bass detail was there but somehow drowned out in the mix by the M50s. So I may come off as hypercritical of these $133 headphones? I'm going to get to what they do well at, but still, even after a lot of trial and error, I just don't find these headphones to be as special or as magic as some find them to be. They perform a job in the most simple and basic of ways. They do offer a no nonsense sound which does have clarity of sorts? It's maybe this generic all around performer at a great price which has made the legend what it is?

Still, we must come to the realization, there are no perfect headphones made. What we are left with is musical instruments which are either loved or tolerated for their minor imperfections. After using headphones for years and years, the one best thing is the M50s are easy to drive, they don't distort even at high volume levels and have a warm bass response even from a phone. If that sounds like a simple thing, be forewarned it is almost never achieved by a single headphone model. In practice the M50s do contain a nice complex smooth lower mid which is entertaining fast and fun. Such a signature seems to scale up with a better source and coincides with a wider sound-stage offered by the lower mid and bass response.

If I was to design a perfect fix for the signature I would ask for a more complex and spread out upper mid and treble sound-stage. There is also a super low bass response set of tones which have no detail at all, a place in the response where all definition seems to fall into a blurry smear of muck? At first I actually thought this area could be with the recording or upstream playback equipment? Still after further testing I came to realize this area in the response is just a character of the headphones. The bass is detailed in the lower mids and lower bass but the sub-bass has a definition area of total loss.

So what is fun?
Listening to The Beatles 1962/1966 Compilation CD Japan First Pressing song "Help!" showed a dynamic musicality. When those lower guitar strums arrive they have a rock and roll time and movement. Still the recessed mids just don't do the vocals any justice? This ends up being a perfect song to demonstrate why these are not vocal headphones, they just are not.

Again music from a band like the Beatles needs vocals that are complex and upfront, not buried in the murk and muck of our M50 receded mid-range. Some headphones are vocal centric, some just replay what the track contains, and some just pull everything in the mid back. So to sum up our sound signature we have a pronounced bass response detailed to a point, but not lower. We have a pulled mid range which does not excel at vocals and a sparkly treble which again does not hold a very complex personality. I make this sound drastic but in reality the M50 does all this in a slightly reserved manner. It does all the above in a polite and modestly simple fashion. All this in such a smooth way, many members EQ the headphones back to a place they figure overcomes many of the issues I suggest here. I myself do not use EQ but know it's a tool used daily to try and address the issues at hand here.

In the end we have an entry level headphone which is sturdy and can be driven out of anything with a power switch. It does a number of things wrong but in an almost non-noticeable way. Such a polite response and at such a mass produced price and volume they have become pseudo-audiophile for the masses. They offer an easy to read sound signature with just enough color and warmth to endear people. They have just enough clarity to get an improvement for most buyers. They are built well enough to last for most and still seem to fit a certain area of the headphone markets needs. The ATH-M50 is almost a stepping stone on the road to better things, a Head-Fi right of passage of sorts. Still in all it's genericness it does a combination of things well and exists as a jack of all trades but master of none. There is a musicality that can have you forget the AM-radio vocals, a bass that can distract you from your sound-stage, and finally a construction that could make you forget it was 90% plastic. They are a first-timers favorite which like many firsts in life are romantically blind and near-sighted. My motto for their stance is "naïvety is bliss".

Listening to "Nothing Else Matters" Metallica-Metallica 1991 turned out to be my favorite song ever with the headphones. I like to think the recording overcomes much of the inherently wrong attributes of the signature. Remember too that there is music out there which can make many a headphone shine and sparkle. The song has an abnormally lush and expansive sound-stage. Such dynamics seem to energize the headphones to another level. When the bass drums kick-in they are married to the frequency response, also remember they do put compression on rock vocals 100% of the time, something the M50s continue to accentuate with vocals. And in all this your treble is not strident or sharp, there is a slight high-end smoothness which never gets too much, even on loud rock music. Still if the treble was better it would make a world of difference with the sound of the orchestra in classical genres here. Maybe nowhere is our boredom more noticeable than in classical playback? Still remember that as a rule our older Head-Fi members are going to be frequency lacking in treble as it is the first and major loss in the hearing spectrum for old timers here. Luckily those same old timers have often mixed our CD remasters and added that treble range right back into the digital remaster. Most likely our target purchaser here is the under 40 crowd with all their treble hearing correctly in place. If anything that treble hearing accuracy is going to help with our M50 sucked out mid-range. Added the bass energy for genres like Rap and it's no wonder the M50 is the Coke Cola of the headphone world.

So in ending I'm listing my sources and playback equipment and due to prior testing know my hardware and software are showing me the reality of our headphones at hand. In ending I still feel there is a place in the world for the M50s, they still fill a gap, though that gap gets smaller every day. They may not be the original value they were at $70, but do a job that few headphones can do, when you factor in SQ, build quality and daily ease of use. I may have sounded critical here, still my goal is to try and explain why these headphones are realistically not always as great as recommended. I'm not selling mine as I find them entertaining despite their flaws and shortcomings . I have not heard all the headphones in the world but the M50s are unique in a world filled with $133 headphones to buy.


Equipment used:
JDS Labs c421 Headphone Amp
PC Foobar 2000 with 16 bit 44.1 kHz FLAC files
Schiit Audio Asgard One Solid State Headphone Amp
Cambridge Audio DAC Magic Plus (line out mode)
Audio Technica ATH-M50 Headphones
AKG k701 Headphones
Denon AH-D7000 Headphones
Sennheiser HD-439 Headphones (cost less and have better treble and sound-stage, though only better for Classical and New Age genres in the end)
AKG k512 MK2 Headphones (cost less and have better treble detail and sound-stage) (lacking bass)
Woo Audio 3 Headphone Amp


:thumbsup: Well built and easy to use
:thumbsup: Easy to drive and does most genres well
:thumbsup: Easy to find, both on the used market and in new market
:thumbsup: Even at 2016 pricing ends up being a value
:thumbsup: Offers the masses a fun and warm modern sound signature
:thumbsup: $133 free shipping
:thumbsup: Headphones can provide a fun experience for new members
:thumbsup: Easy resell mode


:thumbsdown: Has a tight congested sound-stage
:thumbsdown: Has receded mid-range playback not befitting vocals
:thumbsdown: Maybe many more choices of "keeper" headphones to choose instead
:thumbsdown: Bass response is both heavy and at a point not detailed
:thumbsdown: V shaped signature can be fun at first but covers important sonic details in the long run
:thumbsdown: Leather style ear pads can feel rough in comparison to some choices out there
:thumbsdown: Could have purchased Sennheiser HD598s instead? (Better headphone which costs less)

Final thoughts :
Much of sound and musical perception is a personal experience. As with much of what you read, this is just my humble opinion. YMMV

If I was going to recommend headphones it maybe would be the Sennheiser HD600 at $110 more for strictly home use. Of course the price is almost double the cost of the M50s. Still for first full-size headphones someone could buy both then sell which ever he or she didn't like as both have a fairly simple and fast resale.

If the member needed portable a direct comparison would be get the Sennheiser HD598. Still it would be interesting to read about folks preferring the M50s over the HD598. With the sale price of the HD598s and their ability to be both home audiophile headphones and portable headphones, I don't see why anyone would buy the M50s?

I truly believe in using a wide range of gear and wide range of music to get a feel for a pair of headphones. Another factor is time used to test equipment. Combining product of the month hype with the new toy hype has never arrived at reality but further added to the deluded opinions at hand.

Music Used:

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Disclaimer:
No headphones were harmed in the making of this review, though many cans of beer were sacrificed to the Gods of Audio.
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peter123
peter123
What a great read, thanks a lot for the entertainment!
Redcarmoose
Redcarmoose
Thank-you. Fun to write it. Hope I didn't come off as an audio elite, attempting to belittle the headphone reviewed.

JosiahEpple

New Head-Fier
Pros: Good bass, Decent Isolation, Great Value, Comfortable, Not Fatiguing, Neutral
Cons: Pleather pads (for some), Perhaps too much bass
Two years ago, I purchased my first pair of headphones. SkullCandy Hesh 1's. And. I. Hated. Them. They were incredibly uncomfortable, and the sound to me, wasn't any better than my apple ear buds. So I sold them after a day and did some serious research into the most affordable entry-level cans. I bought these and I was really satisfied. The isolation is good, I know a lot of people really like to listen to music at ear-damaging levels, but I don't, so in a small college dorm I could listen to music and watch movies, and they isolated well enough that my roommate couldn't hear them at all, which is a major plus. A lot of people just getting into headphone listening seem to think that bass is the most important quality, and while I strongly disagree, the bass in these headphones is more than enough to satisfy. One thing I will say about comfort and the pads, they aren't really soft, they are a firm pleather, and some people like them, and others hate them. About the grip: I thought it was fine, and they didn't grip hard at all. I have the HD-650's and they are like an iron vise compared to the gentle pull of the M50's.

For the value, you really can't go wrong, and these are a great introduction into the headphone world!
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cr1-stal
cr1-stal
 I have the ath m50 from only 3 months and have been my initiation into the world of hi - fi headphones. Thanks to them opened for me this way to listen to music in high fidelity. I still have them, and if I find a bit uncomfortable because sweat ear and occasionally have to airearme priate , also tightened, but I'm having them as reference and priate time to listen to them . I like the " v "
kauljp
kauljp
I agree with you whole heartedly on the issues with sweaty ears from this headphone. I have owned a pair from early 2013 and I loved them. Sweaty ears and the areas around them is the one issue I have with these headphones followed closely by lack of bass. Trees headphones opened my eyes / ears to the audiophile world and I believe that these are a great entry level audiophile cans for anyone.

VioIet

New Head-Fier
Pros: Audio Quality is amazing for this price.
Cons: NOT COMFORT AT ALL, fatiguing , undetachable cable
not comfortable
TomNC
TomNC
You can bend or stretch the headband of the M50. I did this with my Grado and Sennheiser cans as well to the level that the clamping pressure is about right on my ears. Give a try and you may be surprised how big a difference this can make.

ChronicLiar

New Head-Fier
Pros: Build Quality, Long Cable, Clean balanced sound, Very Warm
Cons: Bass (In my opinion) is a bit loose, Recessed mid- section, VERY Flat (But you might like it)
I don't like this headphone, I can't tell you otherwise.
 
I like open back cans because it's generally less-fatiguing for me and spacious. But for the price range, and for being closed-back these REALLY are hard to beat.
 
It is one the most detailed/aggressive cans I have ever tried on, but I admire it's detail ( this is why it got 3 stars.)
MrTechAgent
MrTechAgent
The most forward , harsh , grainy and un-balanced headphone for the price 
There's nothing commendable about this ubiquitous headphone 
Valhallatier
Valhallatier
the only thing good about this headphone is the frequency responce...
other than that, others are better

Im2spec1al

New Head-Fier
Pros: - Very deep and semi-tight bass - Sparkly and detailed treble - Clarity - Isolation compared to competing phones - Comfort - Sleek looks - Price
Cons: - Lack of mids - Bass can be loose - Pads can get sweaty - Coiled wire not all that practical - Can cause spot-pressure pains
Like many others on this site, these phones are my stepping stone into the realm of "hi-fi"-headphones. These are indeed a good pair of phones for beginners and old-timers alike, because of their price/value ratio and ability to play all kind of music well. These phones can be the only ones you need if you aren`t planning on spending hundreds or thousands of dollars/euros on headphones. There are more than enough competent reviews of these headphones on this site, so I will keep this short. Buy these! Good entry-level headphone for beginners. Veteran headphone-enthusiasts should have these in their collection just because of their value and sound isolation compared to same level phones. For example, my next headphone will probably be the Sennheiser hd 650, but they are open so I will save the m50 for portable use and when ever I need isolation, but don`t want to settle for my in-ear phone`s (shure se215) inferior sound quality.

Valhallatier

Head-Fier
Pros: Uncolored sound, highly detailed at an affordable price point.
Cons: Not musical, very congested, Soundstage below average compared to others. Sibilance.
This is my first headphone when i was wanting to hear what a 'true' headphone sound like, and this is my review. I'm not that much of an audiophile but i know a thing or two about audio.

HEADPHONES
 
The actual headphones look pretty nice, not too heavy or too light. The clamping force is juuuust right(note: i have a big head, i need to stretch the headband to full length).
but there's one problem, the earcups, the interior is just too small to fit in my ears, and i can feel the pressure on my ears. The earpads itself doesn't do justice because it makes my ears sweaty and after a long time of usage, it can turn rock solid.
A little issue i have is when i plug the headphone into the jack, the spring on the cable shocked me. I manage to plug it in though using rubber gloves, but later duct taping the whole conductive metal shielding of the plug

SOUND

i plugged the headphone to my PC onboard audio ( Realtek ALC887) just an average consumer...
The actual sound itself... i was BLOWN away when i heard it, like it was SO real. I watched a few movies and some animes and i was like can't stop feeling it... the actual voice actors is like inside my head.
Also i heard it fresh out of the box, without burn in.
 
LOWS: Just about right, not too boomy or thin, it hits hard without any distortion. But lacks control and precision of what an actual drum 'thump' sounds like.
MIDRANGE(vocals): WOW...just WOW, i'm suprised of how detailed it is at this type of price point. The actual sound is really 'lifeless' and sounded what it sounds like. You could even feel the breaths... BUT not without this silly issue,... why is it so MUTED! Like i barely hear it, turning volume up makes other frequency go wild. The midrange is what i call 'waldo'.
HIGHS: Quite bright, cymbals can sizzle alot. sibilance can be an issue for some. For me, it sounded too 'crunchy', like some tones can get harsh on my ears. i think its... overdriven?
SOUNDSTAGE/IMAGING: I think this is my biggest gripe of this headphone, the soundstage... its so small. maybe TOO small for what you pay for. VERY very hard to pinpoint. Even my cheapo headsets have bigger soundstage...
MUSIC (mostly cons):
Playing music in this thing feels muffled and almost all things wanders free, and leaks to all frequency. Everything feels in your head. Bass bleeds and feels flabby, vocals too hard to hear, highs can be dominant.
 
GAMING EXPERIENCE: I played some battlefield games 3 and 4 mostly... and wow this thing is BAD at games. The sound itself feels too stereo(left/right). If i hear something upfront, it feels hollow and small, but if i hear it near my left/right sides, it feels too loud... just can't get it right. I also can't hear the difference in sound from 3m and so on. I think this has something to do with its soundstage.
Also another con is when i tried the attack boat in BF4, that thing totally rape my ears apart. It screeches so hard and harsh.

BURN IN


It does change the sound, but not by much. I fully gained the peak burn in after around 2 weeks of daily use (music and gaming).
 
CONCLUSION

Do i recommend this?... well
NO

Unless you're monitoring one instrument source at a time, i can't recommend this to anyone. Bad for games and music, but accurate representation of what sound should sound like.
There are lots of headphones out there that can be an alternative to about everything this headphone does.

------------


Thanks for reading, as this is my first review on Head-fi :)
feel free to comment if you want.

 

tszhang217

New Head-Fier
Pros: Good sound
Cons: uncomfortable, unremovable cable
the sound was really good, but i cannot still anymore for a headphone that's not comfortable and hurt my head, the headband and ear pads was not soft enough and make my ear hot and sweat, and i also don't like the heavy and unremovable cable.

Triquatra

New Head-Fier
Pros: Great sound, longevity and comfort
Cons: Not the best looking
I use my M-50s for both studio work and DJing. In the studio they do a fantastic job at giving crystal clear highs, mids and bass - though the more I think about it the more I think the bass may be little too loud - clearly it isn't loud enough to mess with the other frequencys but it's something to look out for in the mixdown. I've only just started using them for DJing since I was unhappy with a pair of Pioneer HDJ500s and then a Sony MDR ZX600 (both returned, sold on), I'm using my M-50s whilst I wait for a pair of sennheiser's to arrive. For DJing the clarity of the the highs and mids helps no-end whilst mixing (highs and mids are very important to me whilst DJing) the M-50s cut right through the mix and with their wonderfully clear cut sound easily helps you distinguish the pure basic which song is which and you can hear if a beat is even slightly off. Fantastic stuff - well, at least it would be if they weren't so ugly. Seriously, the packaging and pictures on the net make them look much much nicer than they are - the cans look like they're right out of the 70s. Not at all attractive in my eyes.

Runefox

New Head-Fier
Pros: Good audio quality, good isolation, heavy duty cable and connector, very accurate, collapsible for storage
Cons: Uncomfortable over long sessions, leatherette cracks over time
Ah, the Audio Technica ATH-M50's. These guys have been reviewed to death and praised to high heaven. They were also my first foray into the audiophile category, and overall, I'd say I've been very satisfied with them.
 
The audio quality is amazing for the price, though it excels at nothing in particular; In fact, that seems to be their main goal as monitors. They provide an accurate, relatively 'flat' sound stage and frequency response, and in doing so aren't actually very 'fun' to listen to for extended periods of time. There isn't really much that can be said about them that hasn't already in this respect, and by no means am I knocking them for prioritizing accuracy over fun factor; Quite the opposite, I was delighted when I first received them and was able to identify for the first time many things I'd previously missed in much of the music I listen to. As monitors, they do a superb job, and I've used them for that purpose in the past.
 
There are some issues with build quality and comfort, however. The leatherette ear pads seem to crack over time, and these cracks are very sharp to the touch, which seriously impacts my ability to wear them for extended periods, especially combined with the well-known issue of excessive clamping force. That having been said, the cable is incredibly thick and the gold-plated connector is heavy enough that there's no doubt that it will survive a substantial amount of punishment, with a nice matching spring stress reliever in place of a standard plastic or rubber one.
 
Overall a great value, and a great entry into the audiophile market. They got me hooked for sure.

pileman

New Head-Fier
Pros: Good isolation, good midrange, quite nice soundstage for a closed back headphone, price/performance, sturdy, rotating cups, great looks? , portable
Cons: Heavy non detachable cable, horrible earpads, high clamping pressure, muffled and overemphasised bass, metallic treble
The ATH-M50 headphones are one of the most recommended headphones on the Internet. Sure they do sound quite good as for a 200$ headphone, but there are far better sounding headphones in the same price range. In my opinion coiled cable headphone version is more bulky than the straight cable version and adds an unnecessary weight. I have both versions of these headphones and I can say that the straight cable version is much much nicer.
 
Sound:
Bass: bass is overemphasised, muffled, loose I would rate it 6/10 and use EQ to bring it down a bit.
Midrange: the midrange is very nice when bass is EQ'd down, I would rate midrange 9.5/10.
Treble: treble has poor detail, quite harsh sounding, after 100 hour burn in it does improve. Overall I would rate it 6/10
 
comfortability:
 
Clamping pressure really makes it, impossible to listen to these headphones for long periods. Also the earpads warm ears up. I would rate comfortability 7/10
 
Conclusion:
Even though these headphones have problems with comfortability, bass, treble and non detachable cable I would really recommend these headphones for portable use and getting straight cable version, instead of coil cable, as it adds unnecessary weight. Overall I would rate these headphones 8/10
Kunlun
Kunlun
Hi, could you outline in a few sentences the qualities of some of the other headphones in the $115 range that you feel clearly outperform the ath-50?
Thanks!
autoteleology
autoteleology
I really hope you didn't actually pay $200 for these. They can be had new for about $110, and used for less than a hundred dollars. They might not be the most competitive in the two Benjamin range, but for a hundred bucks you'd be hard pressed to find a lot of legitimate competition.

satoukaito

New Head-Fier
Pros: They can handle any genre thrown at them acceptably well. Also amazing for recording voice acting.
Cons: They are not the best at anything. They lack specialisation.
I originally bought these exclusively to catch more finite details with my voice acting and they did not disappoint at all. They handled the studio scene extremely well. They were very unforgiving to even the slightest falter in my voice. After I finished recording, I decided to try them out as just a regular fashion accessory pair of headphones. I got many comments from people. The design matches nearly every outfit I own very well. Also, the thick padding makes incredible ear warmers! :D But enough about useless blurbs. The audio is excellent for casual listening of random things on my phone. It handles the electronic pop sounds of Caramel Pop incredibly! However, the headphones make the more acoustic sounding bands, such as Tokyo Karan Koron, sound fabricated. I don't know how to exactly define it, but its like if the the music was a pencil drawing, someone grabbed a soft eraser and blurred it to the point of being Picasso. Other than its failure to convey the full acoustic experience, the M50 are excellent headphones. They aren't quite audiophile material, but for the general music listening community, they're one of the best all around 'phones one can get.

JGrignon

New Head-Fier
Pros: Sound quality, Price
Cons: Long cord, Can get uncomfortable
Bought these because they were cheap and because everyone says such great things about them. Didn't expect much but was pleasantly surprised with their sound. I don't know much about good sound quality but these certainly sound a lot better than your average pair of cans. I did not realize the cord would be so long, I probably should have better researched them. Obviously these headphones were;t designed for walking around with, but that is what I use them for. The cord is really long and just gets caught on everything so perhaps not the best choice for a pair of walk-around-cans. Build quality is superb, no issues. They tend to get uncomfortable after a couple hours but, what else is new. 
 
Overall, for an average consumer, they are great headphones. I am very happy with them. 
 
* March 2013 *​
 ​
I sold them. Not because I didn't like them, but because they weren't getting used. I wanted something that was easily portable, which these were to some degree, but they were not fun to walk around with with such a long cord. Plus, I got the coiled cord which, sometimes can be great, was a pain in the ass since it kept getting caught on my pockets, etc. If the cord was shorter then I would have kept them. I am not complaining though, I should have known how long the cord was, they are for DJs after all and not leisurely listening. Some may not have a problem with it of course.
OPR8R
OPR8R
Hi, JGringon. I'm new here too, and only recently started getting into this hobby in earnest. Glad to hear you're enjoying your M50's. I had a similar experience. I still very much enjoy mine.
I originally got mine to replace some AKG 81's I lost on a business trip (along w/my PA2V2 amp) and was floored as soon as I put them on my head. I know this will sound crazy to some, but I preferred their sound to my HD580's, especially out of my Headroom Micro Stack. Unfortunately, this led me to Denon D5000's, which led me to where I am now, LCD-2v2's. For your sake, I hope the M50's don't have the same "gateway" effect that they had for me.
ayaflo
ayaflo
if everyone buys an m50 and starts to consider themselves as audiophiles . .what really left of the 'real' audio addicts?
sonicx2218
sonicx2218
I didn't really like these headphones myself. I found them great for tracking, but they weren't very fun to listen to music with. I'd prefer the grado 225i's in this particular cost range...though everyone has their own preferred sound signature and you have to listen around to find what works for you.

revgrectifier

New Head-Fier
Pros: Bass, detail, portability
Cons: Comfort, soundstage
I've bought these because I needed a bass-pronounced headphone since all I had back then was an AKG K242HD that pretty much doesn't have any bass at all.
These headphones are absolutely spectacular if you listen to trance, drum n bass, dubstep and even metal. I just listened to SBTRKT's last album and I really enjoyed it. The bass is tight, precise and detailed (sometimes even a bit too punchy for me, i get headaches, ahah), something you may like or not. The mids are present and you can hear everything without any problem. The highs are sparkling and really pleasant. By the way, these headphones can get a little too harsh for me if you turn the volume up a little bit, so you might need to eq to your taste. If you listen to classical, jazz, ambient don't get them. The soundstage is really small compared to my AKGs and they sound unnatural on these genres. 
 
This is my first review and I'm not english so please don't be too hard
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iDriveFerraris
iDriveFerraris
good job
A1945
A1945
Good job on the review, well written.

mrcrazyshoes

New Head-Fier
Pros: Sound, comfort, isolation, sturdy coiled cord
Cons: Made of all plastic (sturdy plastic so not really a con)
Great set of closed headphones! I haven't really owned any other good closed headphones besides the PRODJ100. These sound comparable to my HD558 in terms of detail. There is a slight emphasis in the bass but the bass is very good so that's not really a problem for me. The bass extension is really amazing and there is a lot of impact, sounds amazing with Long After You've Gone by Chris Jones and Earth Wind and Fire! Highs are incredible, and the mids are good also, although recessed. This V shaped sound signature in fine for more modern styles of music but not very good for jazz or classical. The soundstage is fine for a closed headphones although not as wide as the prodj100 and doesn't compare to open headphones like the hd 558's. Overall, great sound. They block out a surprising amount of outside noise and don't leak at all. Very comfortable except that you ears get kinda hot (mostly unavoidable for closed headphones). My only complaint is that they are made out of all plastic and i wish they were made from metal like the PRODJ100 but the plastic seems extremely durable and strong so that's not really an issue. Overall, amazing headphone, especially for the price!
tdockweiler
tdockweiler
The soundstage of the M50 improves with a good amp and computer DAC. I also felt the newer M50 in the white box was much better than the older version.
mrcrazyshoes
mrcrazyshoes
Hi, sorry for the confusion, I am very new to more serious headphones so my assessments are really not extremely accurate. As I said in the review the sound stage on the m50's sounded impressive to me compared with other closed headphones i've heard (PRODJ00), not open ones like my HD558's. I don't think its that fair to compare closed headphones soundstage's with open headphones soundstage's, at least at this price point. Also, I should have elaborated on the mids a bit. They are very good imo, even if they are recessed. It obvious that the mids on the hd558's are more prominent and better, but the mids on the m50's are not bad, just less prominent. Hope that makes sense!
mrcrazyshoes
mrcrazyshoes
I will edit my review to make more sense.

Headphonezz

New Head-Fier
Pros: everything
Cons: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
everything about these headphones is flawless. Everything is balanced, and perfect. Any of the reviews that didn't like them most likely have a fake pair, or, hate life. The only thing I could say for these is that there isn't a TON of bass, but the bass is very good. You have to turn them up really loud to hear really good bass, and the bass is amazing when you turn the volume up. And one of the best things, for me at least, these do NOT leak. At full blast in a quiet store you could barely hear anything when they were on my head (My friend was with me) and it cancels out noise like none other. I have never tried a better headphone. I compared these to the beats pros, that cost $399.99 and the $150 ATH-M50 are about 3x better at least in any and every aspect of the headphones. Try them on at your local guitar center. You will not regret it.
headphonatic
headphonatic
Then again, their beats pro.
sonic1heaven
sonic1heaven
These headphones in one word are "Spectacular." The sound, build and comfort are #1. For the price this has to be the best bargin. The quality that Audio Technica put in these headphones shows you don't need wallet-busting headphones for great sound and comfort. I do not need to turn the volume up for great bass. Just on low volume bass, mids, and high's are present and well balanced. Comparing this beauty to Beats Pro is like comparing a lion to a pig. All Beats are crap, they are the worst headphones on the market. So for anyone looking for quality, economical headphones get the ATH-M50 you will be glad you did. A+

Shogunner

Head-Fier
Pros: Very pretty, does some new genres like indie rock well.
Cons: Fatiguing, Uncomfortable, Terrible bang for your buck
[size=small]These cans were decent, back when they were just above 100 bucks. They've inflated to 160 and that's just ridiculous. There is better in this price range. The SRH840's for example on eBay for 120~ bucks new, does everything better than these cans. The M50's have really punchy bass, and extremely stringent highs, they're very loose in the low end, and their mids are recessed. That combination makes for a fatally tiring listening experience. The pads are pleather and terribly uncomfortable, whilst having an almost starchy texture to them. The headband clamps onto larger heads and lacks decent padding underneath. These phones are also terrible in regards to any soundstage at all, which means for gaming, these will be pretty terrible. They do some... SOME... new genres alright, but their extremely aggressive presentation makes these phones just hard to listen to. They also can't do lighter genres like Jazz and Classical due to their poor positoning. There are much much better monitors in this price range than these, the Shure SRH840 as I've said before totally outclass these headphones in all areas.[/size][size=small][/size]
[size=small][/size]
[size=small]The Head-Fi vets are right, stay away, don't fall victim to the hype.[/size]
Shogunner
Shogunner
If anything, when I used an amp with these, it just brought out the qualities I didn't really like even more. It's all a matter of taste I guess. I just returned them due to Amazon's awesome policy, after hearing the SRH840's which were 20 bucks less, I just didn't see a point in keeping the ATH-M50's besides their portability, but then I think I'd rather just get some good canalphones.
But yea, burn them in a bit more, and just test the waters really.
XxDobermanxX
XxDobermanxX
Good review
Haha i thought i was the only one that say these were overhyped , what i realise too is that people always say its perfect and so on and no one mentions the flaws/cons( comfort etc). but when they review other stuff they say "this headphone has no bass blah blah "
Custom1
Custom1
Are you sure the SRH840s have more bass... I tried them both at the local store and the M50s seem to own them.

peck1234

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Great Frequency Response, Bass is just perfect, highs are crisp.
Cons: I feel like they have slightly reccesed mids, wish ear cups were even bigger.
a

Bassix

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Great bass, extremely clear, comfy and tight on the head which is nice :3 Highly recommend.
Cons: none ;3
:D

alvincapalad

Head-Fier
Pros: Pristine sound quality, Great build, Price, Versatile
Cons: Heavy clamp, but you'll get use to it
Dr. Dre like this
View attachment
 
This is probably the most recommended headphones in the audiophile world. The Audio-Technica is an instant classic, the value for its price is simply unbeatable. Its versatility? A chameleon of headphones. Classical, club, dance, pop, reggae, rock, techno? name it, and this set of cans can play it.
 
Overall its value is 5 of 5. I would gladly pay $250 for them.
 
Audio Quality: Lows: The bass is punchy, but just about right. It's is not overwhelming, it doesn't make the mids and highs muddy. The balance is just perfect. Very natural bass. Mids: a little recessed, but also positive in a way, they're not going to hurt your ears as they roll off quite well. Highs: Perfect, and they are not accentuated in a way that is very tiring to listen to. Very accurate high sonics may pierce to your ears and be hard for long listening sessions. The sound of these cans are like open-back headphones, but they are indeed closed back.
 
Design: The M50s are plain and janes, but I quite like them. They come in black with those stainless aluminum linings which is an-ongoing signature between Audio-Technica's products. These headphones are built like a tank, it is primarily build on very high quality plastics. I assume these are ABS plastics. The headphone jack is made out of gold and steel with a spring stress relief which looks very professional. The cord is very thick and the coiled cable is something I am pleased with. Since they are a swiveling closed cans, you can use the for either studio recording or DJing. Plus, they fold small, you can always bring them in your bag, very portable.
 
If there is something I would change on this headphones, is to add removable cables like the PRO700MK2s.
 
Comfort: This is probably the only con of this headphone. The clamping force of this headphones are headache inducing, especially fresh out of the box. Audio-Technicas are very notorious known for this clamping issues. I have a WS55s and they also clamp hard. But, you can stretch them out with some books, I personally put them on my computer speakers and they loosen up over time. When you are used to them, you won't find it as an issue. Maybe velour pads could help.
 
Since comfort was discussed, I'm going to discuss inside and outside isolation. I though the engineers produced this heavy clamp for isolation. M50s are terrible in blocking outside noise regardless it is a closed and sealed headphones, however, they are pretty good at preventing sound leakage.
 
Overall: No question, this is definitely the most recommended headphone in the audiophile world. A chameleon of headphones.

brgavino

New Head-Fier
I'm going to try to structure this review as a series (Day 1, Week 1, Week 2), to gauge the headphones performance over time. I'm not an audiophile, but will try to be as descriptive as possible.
 
Here's the frame of reference: This set of headphones was an upgrade from a Sony MDR-V150 set (that had multiple breaks in the top frame), and is used primarily for listening in a office environment to streamed music.
 
Initial, non-audio quality impressions: The headphones are SOLID. No part of this 'phone feels cheap. The ear cup padding feels soft enough, as does the padding on the top of the set (that rests on your head). The cord (coiled in this model) seems stretchy and long enough to not get in the way rolling back and forth between the terminal and a development area (~4 ft). Setting it at first on my head, I only need to make a slight adjustment for cup length. Clamping feels just right, a little more than the Sony, but needed due to the circumaural configuration (the Sony's are supraaural). After 5-10 minutes of wear, it is not nearly as painful as the Sony's had become. Putting these 'phones on instantly adds an isolation from the surrounding environment- sounds are nearly completely deadened. This really surprised me.
 
Day 1 (no burn in)
 
Source: CyanogenMod 7-based LG Optimus S (EQ on & flat, Bass Boost off, gain "low"/"medium" in DSP manager)
 
Songs: Pendulum "Showdown"/"Propane Nightmares" from Amazon Cloud Player App (~192 kbps)
 
The bass in these songs kick! I notice the bass will drag a bit- it isn't a simple "thump", it is more of a "boom". It is more reminiscent of my Onkyo home theater subwoofer than other pro-style woofers (not to say that is a bad quality). The highs are amazing, and detail and soundstage seem great. I notice a little bit of what people are terming "recessed mids"- it seems that the high and bass are slightly more pronounced than the mids, especially when listening to the drum 'n bass sound of Pendulum (although the mids in dnb aren't that pronounced anyways). Rob Swire sounds awesome- hear no issues with "s" sounds. Guitars/drums/bass/vocals are all very detailed.
 

Source: Dell PC with onboard sound, no eq or fancy features
 
Songs: Pendulum "Showdown"/"Propane Nightmares" from Amazon Cloud Player App (~192 kbps)
 
No difference from above, apart from slightly better volume control (60% volume on phone = 25% on PC)
 

Source: Dell PC with onboard sound, no eq or fancy features
 
Songs: Various electronica/rock from Slacker (? kbps)
 
Bass is totally different- less pronounced. Mids/highs retain their detail and volumes. Where the bass was hitting hard with the Amazon player of Pendulum, the same song through Slacker elicits more of a "rumble". It is still very acceptable in comparison with the Sony (which is sad in comparison), but isn't the true potential of the 'phones. Detail and soundstage are still great. Even at a lower bit rate, I've been tricked into thinking noises were occurring in another part of the office. I have hardly heard any office sounds since I started listening. Sounds form other parts of the office is greatly reduced, as is keyboard-noise. I can still hear my phone ring (good), but any more volume and I may not! Currently sitting at ~30% volume. Higher volume brings the bass out a little more, but is a little too loud for my taste.
 
Mid-day checkpoint: Wearing the 'phones for nearly 3 hours, and their still tolerable. Only a couple of nitpicks: The top band isn't painful, but isn't not-noticeable at this point, and I feel pressure on the lower portion of where the cups contact my head. Part of this was relieved by draping the cable to relieve cable strain (my PC sits below head level).
 
I'll report back more soon!
 
 
 
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