Audio-Technica ATH-M50S

  1. samrusoff
    Great 'phones
    Written by samrusoff
    Published Jul 30, 2010
    Pros - Comfortable, Passive Canceling
    Cons - Heavyweight, slightly muted
    These are great headphones for some one who is looking for great, isolated sound for cheap.
  2. Yonler
    Written by Yonler
    Published Jul 15, 2010
    Pros - Clear sound, good bass, comfortable, solid design, strong cable
    Cons - although cable is coiled still kinda long
    Like the title says my first real pair of headphones, i couldnt be any happier with them i love hearing all my music on these headphones and i hear music from many genres from classical to hip hop and rap. Love the bass since it doesnt drown all the other sounds like other headphones do, there really comfortable i wore them while being in nyc and the whole 4 hour trip back and i didnt have any complaints but that depends on how big your ears are i consider mine not to big so i didnt have much trouble with the size. Bought them at B&H superstore in NYC no regrets have great prices and great service even got to try them before buying. Over all I cant say anything bad about the headphones
    there great and do what they are said to do.
  3. Lunatique
    Excellent quality and value
    Written by Lunatique
    Published May 30, 2010
    Pros - Excellent value, substantial sub-bass , non-fatiguing, relatively neutral/accurate, folds for traveling
    Cons - Pleather gets sweaty, rotating earcups annoying if you're not a DJ, soundstage a bit small, not for those after perfectly neutral frequency response
    (Disclaimer: This review was written while considering the very low price-point of the M50, and what you can get for that amount of money. It does not mean the M50 can go up against the high-end headphones that cost several hundred to thousands of dollars. My main headphones are high-end headphones, and the M50 is only used while I'm doing tracking or traveling. I wouldn't use it as my everyday headphone since I have superior headphones for that, such as the Audez'e LCD-2.)
    The ATH-M50 is one of those rare products where the quality/price ratio really hits the sweet spot, and in fact is like a small miracle in the world of pro audio. When you get Grammy Award-winning audio engineers and producers like George Massenburg, Frank Filipetti, Al Schmitt...etc singing its praises publicly, you know it's got to be something special. (Though let's be honest--those guys probably wouldn't mix on the M50, although they'd do tracking on them.)

    The M50 pulls off the difficult balance of being neutral, accurate, and detailed while not causing listening fatigue, and that is one of the most important things to get right when it comes to any audio device. If the device hurts your ears with shrill or piercing treble, then no matter how "detailed and revealing" you think it is, you won't be able to withstand the sonic torture anyway. Designed as professional studio monitors, the M50 can be used all day long without any listening fatigue, and it's tonal balance is accurate enough that many respected audio engineers would not hesitate to do tracking with them (though mixing on them is probably asking a bit much). Being sealed headphones, they also are a favorite among musicians and singers when recording, as they do not bleed into the microphone like open headphones (which means you also won't bother the people sitting near you, unlike open headphones where others will hear a tinny version of what you're hearing).

    One of the most outstanding characteristics of the M50 is its sub-bass extension (50Hz and below), which is both deep and substantial. The quantity of bass is slightly more than neutral, so it's a good headphone for those who likes a bit more bass than neutral. Its raised bass is a broad and gentle curve and sounds quite natural and pleasing, and is not annoyingly bloated or distorted. 

    The mids and the treble are smooth, and the treble never gets gratings like many other headphones. If I must nitpick, I might say that the treble is slight hard and has a metallic timbre when compared to open-back headphones. But it doesn't get in the way of the music too much and it's only noticeable if you do A/B comparisons with headphones that have very smooth/neutral treble response and know intimately how specific instruments are supposed to sound (such as the cymbals on a drum kit). What I really love about the M50's upper mids and treble is that it follows the rule of "First, do no harm." With other headphones that "fake" detail by raising a few to several dB's in the lower treble/high-mids region, some songs can sound very shrill and fatiguing--especially on sharp snare hits or vocal sibilance--but on the M50, those tracks sound quite balanced and natural, never harsh and irritating.

    The soundstage of the M50 is smaller than the average open-cans, because of its sealed design. This is perhaps the only thing sonically I wish it could be improved upon, but this does not mean the soundstage of the M50 is claustrophobic or in any way detrimental to the listening experience--it's simply not as open and lush as headphones like the Sennheiser HD6XX/5XX series (and other high quality open-cans).

    Physically, the M50 is pretty comfortable to wear, but pleather tends to get a bit sweaty, and is a necessary evil for sealed-headphones. The rotating earcups are a bit annoying when taking the M50 on and off, since sometimes you have to rotate the earcups back into the correct orientation. For traveling, the M50 folds down to about half of its normal size, and that makes it very easy to travel with, not to mention more durable because it's harder to accidentally bend them or twist them out of shape. The overall look of the M50 has a pleasant, no-none-sense professional appeal--they really do look like they were designed to feel right at home in professional studios.

    On a side note, the Sennheiser HD280 Pro is often recommended to musicians who need sealed-cans, and I highly suggest anyone considering a pair of nice sealed cans check out the M50, as they walk all over the HD280 in every single way possible, while still remaining very reasonably priced.
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    2. zunehdrocks
    3. DigitalGrounder
      Since these are closed back headphones it would be hard for them to have a wider soundstage than open back headphones but for what they are, they do have a wide soundstage for being closed back.
      DigitalGrounder, May 12, 2014
    4. Pompone
      Lunatique has a key point when he says that current technology is far more accurate in every segment than 10 or 15 years ago and that this enables astonishing hifi experience compared to those days. But so are the recordings. It's the full music production chain that has drastically improved. Today's recordings hardly compare to those days either. Digital music from A to Z enables the simple human ear to get closer and closer to natural sound, at a lower and lower cost. What's missing is dynamics. A big band live will hardly sound the same at home, unless you can spend thousands of €.
      Pompone, Jun 3, 2014
  4. TheWuss
    The ubiquitous M50 - a closed headphone at $100.
    Written by TheWuss
    Published May 11, 2010
    Pros - good isolation, substantial bass, pretty balanced sound
    Cons - tight clamping, feeling of pressure that closed cans create
    the m50 was released a few years ago by audio technica as the flagship of their "m" studio monitor line. 
    and, like all audio technicas, it is colored in one way or another.
    this particular headphone definitely has more bass than a strictly neutral set of cans should.  but, the bass is quite impressive for a phone of this caliber and price range.  using the "heartbeat" test track from the "Open Your Ears" headphone test album, the m50 produces more low frequency rumble than any headhpones i own or have heard.  (bear in mind i have not heard denons or ultrasones).
    the general sound is warm.  the headphones are colored forward in the mids such that the bass does not step on them too much.  this creates a fairly engaging sound signature.  the highs are recessed just a tad, fortunately, because they are just a tad grainy as well.
    the imaging and soundstage are pretty respectable for closed cans.  but, the soundstage doesn't really "take off" until they are amped and turned up pretty loud.
    when listening to these extensively, you get used to the presentation, and the one drawback that reamins is the mid-bass is just a tad unresolving.  i wouldn't go so far as to call the mid-bass "sloppy", but it doesn't have the attack and decay of higher end headphones.
    overall, the m50 performs very well for a headphone that you can buy for around $100. 
    it's biggest drawbacks really don't come so much in the form of sound quality as they do in the region of comfort.  As the clamping force is a bit much, and prevents me from wearing them longer than a couple hours at a time.
    Also, as a result of them being closed cans with a tight seal, your ears will require quite a bit of adjustment when putting these on.  after a few minutes, the pressure will equalize, but at first it feels like your ears need to pop.
    as for audio quality.  i struggled between giving these 3.5 stars and 4 stars.  but, i have to be honest here.  if 3.5 stars is "very good" and 4 stars is "excellent", then 3.5 stars it must be.  they sound very good to my ears.
    edit:  after a couple months constant use, it seems to my ears that the midrange took a backseat after burn-in.  i'm not certain whether burn-in is real or placebo, but either way, the mids on the m50 afer a few hundred hours use are now somewhat recessed, possibly even slightly veiled.  not too objectionable, but noticeable.