Audio-Technica ATH-M50S

  1. gamefreak054
    One of the Best Headphones for Starters
    Written by gamefreak054
    Published Sep 13, 2013
    Pros - A decently balanced sound, Punchy Bass, Cheap, Built like a tank, great introductory headphone, easy to drive
    Cons - Bass can be uncontrolled at times, sibilance can occur, highs are lacking, horrible pleather pads
    I see a lot of people saying how overrated these headphones are lately, but most of the time these people compare these headphones 50% to twice its price or higher. In my opinion the ATH M50s are one hard to beat package for a beginner looking to get into better audio at a cheaper price. These headphones are better than many retail stores headphones that cost twice as much or more. I have been using these headphones for hundreds of hours over the past 2 years and have finally upgraded to the Mad Dogs (which blow these out of the water in the majority of categories).
    I do not think these are balanced or flat sounding like some people claim, these headphones do have an easy to listen to sound signature especially for a beginner or some one on a budget. Where these headphones excel is definitely in the lower frequencies. However being a huge fan of these the sound has a major flaw, and that is the highs. These headphones have a lot of sibilance even from uncompressed 16/44.1 files from ipod. Some of my favorite bands like Skillet and System of a Down are nearly un-listenable on these headphones. However many types of rock sound pretty good on these headphones, and they excel at Dubstep and rap. I find instrumental type music to be kinda boring on these headphones. The sound stage is quite small which make these a poor choice for gaming and movies even though these headphones have a fun sound (imo). 
    These headphones do not require amplification, however I do find the ipod amplifier quite lacking (if you are using an ipod). I ended up buying and trying some of the fiio amps. The fiio amps do provide a little bit of extra juice for the driver and it helps the sound a decent amount. The LOD cable definitely probably makes the biggest difference (and is a must have if you are buying an amp for the ipod). Overall if you need a little extra sound without going to a new headphone an amplifier may be helpful.
    It is pretty decent but starts to get worse as the pads get older and start cracking. 
    Build Quality:
    Top notch for a plastic headphone at around $100. These things are nearly unbreakable. The only broken pair I have ever seen was a pair with a dog chewed cable. One thing I would like to bring up is that not all the headphones are built equally. My headphones sound quite a bit better than my brothers (same box), but mine are a year older and have been played much more. This either proves a) that burn in does make a difference in some headphones and is not a myth or b) not all the M50s batches sound the same. Another complaint is that the cable choices are annoying. Either you have a obnoxiously long cable which is annoying for portable use or you have an annoying coiled cable (imo). I chose the straight cable and to limit the length I braided the cable like you do with hair and it reduces the cable to a 1/3 of its length and is much more manageable
    You may be questioning why I gave these 5 stars after all the complaints I had in this review. Well I must say while the sound is not perfect and definetely what I would not consider an audiophile sound headphone but more of a fun one (get the SR80i if you want a cheap audiophile sound), the build, decent sound, and price is what helps this earn the 5 stars.  I see them for what they are a great beginner headphone. There are better sounding headphones for a bit more cash ($50-$100) but for somebody on a budget that extra cash is a lot of money. Overall I recommend these headphones to all my friends trying to get into audio and try to prevent them from buying an over price consumer headphone.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. gamefreak054
       Thanks for your opinion. I personally tried the HD429 at best buy recently (or atleast what I thought was the HD429). I was not a huge fan of them. I just did not really like the sound signature that much. However if you did want a cleaner sound I think the cheaper HD series would be the better way to go, or spend a little more dough to get even better. Also to be fair I did not plug this into my own source, and I only tried them for 10ish minutes. I also tried the UE6000, granted once again probably should not be a fair comparison as they MSRP at $150 atm. I really liked them, and much more than the sennheiser. To get my point through though I had to use bestbuys test strip with their music forced on me (I dont care what anyone says imagine dragons is not rock). I guess personally for the cheaper range of headphones I much prefer a more consumer or fun sound (v shaped sound sig) than the cleaner ones with the one exception of the Grado SR80i. 
      If I was more accustomed to a more audiophile sound at the time, I would have bought them. I think the Grado SR80i is a steal of a headphone at that price range. However the headphone is definitely not as well built and is not portable as the whole room will hear whatever music you are playing. I tried these for about 30 min and I absolutely loved them except for the bass was quite lacking.
      gamefreak054, Sep 13, 2013
    3. Gilly87
       Sounds like you just prefer slightly brighter phones; I remember the UE6000 being v-shaped with nice subbass, but, like the M50, it sounded a bit artificial to me. Personally I prefer a more "warm and sweet" sound, with a forward midrange, which is what Sennheiser does best, so it's no surprise I prefer the HD439 to the M50 and UEs. I do enjoy the SR80i too, though; they are nice and aggressive and the punchy bass is really fun, even if it's not super deep.
      On the 439s, their bass is tighter and they are not quite as warm in the mids as the 429; they have a slightly more neutral sound, and the treble is not quite so dull. Both also benefit noticeably from amping. The 429 isn't quite a fair match for the Ue6000 or M50, its MSRP is less than half of either. The 439, however, has an MSRP of around $100, which exactly half, and while it might lag slightly behind the M50 in terms of absolute detail, it has fuller mids and a more natural presentation. I think anyone who found the M50's mids too recessed and the soundstage cramped may really enjoy it.
      Ultimately I think for the most part we just prefer different sigs: I prefer smoother treble, whereas it seems you prefer a brighter sound. This is why I wish the M50 was mentioned alongside others, instead of just being universally recommended, as it has been for some time on Head-Fi; I think if people didn't recommend it heedlessly, and thought to offer other suggestions based on sound preference, then there might not be so much "anti-hype" or pushback about it. I like your review, though; it is unbiased and you state exactly what you like and don't like about the sound. Overall there is nothing wrong with the M50 at all, it sounds great with modern music and is both an affordable and better-sounding alternative to Beats; I just wish other worthy headphones in the general price range got an equal amount of attention, both for the sake of potential buyers, and for the reputation of the M50s.
      Gilly87, Sep 14, 2013
    4. gamefreak054
      Yeah I am just not entirely sure if I would enjoy sennheisers sound signature for the 400 series. It may change for the higher series but I have yet to hear them. I guess for the $100 range of headphones I prefer the V shape. I kind of find the the cheaper headphones around that range without a v shape a bit boring otherwise and never really engage me in the music. They just kinda sound like they are there to play music at you without any sparkle or wow moments. Maybe it is just because I accustomed to my mad dogs now, or I expect to hear more but dont. I hate to label people but I really think the average consumer does enjoy v shaped headphone when first starting their audio path. From what I have noticed a lot of people criticize these headphones after they are used to hearing the best of the best which I do not nessecarily think that is fair, as these headphones are not geared towards that set of buyers.
      However when it does come to a better headphone I like flatter frequencies a lot. I am absolutely loving my Mad Dogs. The planar magnetic driver creates a sound signature that I just absolutely love. So I do believe my taste in sound signature changes when the quality changes... If that makes sense. I know my brother will always stick to the same sound signature as he actually prefers his M50s over my Mad Dogs. Either that or he is just playing games with me. Though I know he would pick the Denon AH DXXXX series and probably stick with that forever (he is lacking money at the moment w/ too many expensive hobbies lol).
      Regarding price I have been noticing that pricing between some of these headphones vary a lot. So I can kinda see why people always compare one headphone with a higher priced one. For instance I have found the ATH M50s 3 times (various family members) for $125 with ease, yet they are listed on amazon for $150. It also would not shock me that you could find them $100 with some searching. Granted every once in a while people compare them to something way out of its range like the Vmoda M100. While they could sound better than the M50s, they should be sounding way better as there are some solid choices in the $200-$300 range. Even at the $180 range you are reaching a new bracket of headphones to explore.
      gamefreak054, Sep 14, 2013
  2. thelostMIDrange
    Written by thelostMIDrange
    Published Aug 9, 2013
    Pros - Fullness of sound
    Cons - accuracy
    I'm an older fellow whose been listening to headphones for 30 years and I've enjoyed the AT house sound of treble enhanced yet fairly realistic sound. I've owned and used many of their phono cartridges and headphones over the years and generally find that it's good practice to stand up and take notice of any product from any company who has been involved in vinyl sound reproduction, Grado and AT come first to mind. The m50 however are not the typical musically bright sound but have a fatter, more rolled off sound.........Regardless, these are a great all'rounder that offers the average man/woman something to use for many purposes. I find the bass a bit too 'fudgey' for me and not enough 'air' but both of these are part and parcel of a closed back phone perhaps. I can't recommend these for those who are critical listeners or who demand ultimate accuracy in sound reproduction, but for the most part, all instruments come across sounding more or less as they do in reality and there is a good sense of dynamics. The price point as they say is right on and these are great for musicians who just need something to throw in the rehearsal bag etc. Long live AT.
  3. thermal666
    Excellent sound for an affordable prince
    Written by thermal666
    Published Jul 28, 2013
    Pros - Versatle, Portable, Powerful Sound, Comfortable (Short Periods)
    Cons - Pressure against head, sweats after prolonged use
    Good quality sound but it is pretty stiff at first and creates a lot of pressure on your head.
    Cant fault the audio quality though
  4. wahhabb
    Best bang for the buck of closed-back cans
    Written by wahhabb
    Published Jul 27, 2013
    Pros - Dollar value, fairly accurate sound, good build quality
    Cons - Bulky for travel, rather high pressure on head
    I'll add my voice to the many who say these are a freaking bargain. I bought them over cans costing two or three times as much, and have no regrets. I say this as someone who also owns Audeze LCD3's. I don't want to take those with me when I travel, so these are my travel pair, and while they obviously aren't in the same league, I'm still happy to listen to them.
    After comparing options, I bought them from Amazon for $120 with free shipping. I typically use them with a Fiio E17, which greatly improves the sound quality when listening from my Macbook Pro--without it, I don't really find the music enjoyable, even though people say these don't need a headphone amp.
    I listen primarily to classical, vocalists, some jazz and other acoustic music.
    The pressure is still fairly high on my head. Fortunately, they go around the ears, so it is not the ears that get the pressure, but the sides of my head. Still, I tend to take them off every hour or so to relax before resuming listening. It may be that over time they will loosen their grip a bit--I don't use them all that often.
    My rating is based on their price; obviously there are much better cans if price is no object.
  5. JoeDoe
    Solid Sound from a Well-Known Studio Phone
    Written by JoeDoe
    Published Jul 9, 2013
    Pros - Sound quality, Looks, Price/Value, Design
    Cons - Clamp, Pleather Earpads
    The M50 is without question, an excellent studio headphone that really strikes a great price/performance ratio.
    The bass extends quite well and is never overbearing. 
    Mids are present and very articulate. 
    The trebles are the biggest surprise in that they, IMO, are balanced wonderfully relative to the other frequencies. I haven't found myself wanting more clarity or sparkle yet!
    The fact that the M50s are just as useful with my iPod as they are in a studio makes them very versatile and a great buy. If you can pick up used for around $100, I'd recommend pulling the trigger. 
    The only negative about which I'll comment is that the pads, like many say, can make things uncomfortable after long sessions. The pleather is just low quality and can make ears hot or sweaty depending on how long the session is.
    If you're interested in upgrading your Beats or Skullcandies, look no further. The ATH M50 will retain the fun sound sig while boosting clarity and overall depth for a very budget-friendly price.
  6. MMansell
    very clear but certainly not for audio pros
    Written by MMansell
    Published Jun 2, 2013
    Pros - detailed overall SQ , good highs , tight bass, excellent isollation
    Cons - small sound stage for my taste , leather is bad quality , it's not flat and is slightly colored (if that's a downer for ya)
    hi everyone 
    It's been two years since I was introduced to the audiophile world and these are my first over ear monitoring headphones and I've burnt them in for about 40 Hrs.
    you shouldn't worry about treble extent . they are pretty good at controlling the highs.
    Detailed but as I said you wouldn't feel like you're sitting in a philharmonic concert. the sound stage could use some improvement.
    Punchy and detailed . they don't sound like a sub woofer and they pretty much depend on your audio source. but They have got ENOUGH bass for majority of audiophiles I guess.
    overall sound signature is not flat and is slightly colored. Maybe the only flaw is the sound stage but remember every review is based on the product's value which means if these where more than 200$ they wouldn't have been rated so high .
    so if you've got a small pocket like me, I totally suggest these to you. 
    the ear pad and headband leathers are not high quality and start peeling after a few months!
    1. Dongle
      Last time they went on sale I bought a pair for $100. So far, I haven't spent more than $120 on a pair of headphones. I've owned about 9 pairs now and I keep coming back to these. There seems to be a bit of backlach against them now, so I was weary, but I see why they've been so highly praised: there are no glaring weaknesses.

      I put them up against some Creative Aurvana Live (CALs) hoping that I'd like the CALs better, since they were $40 cheaper. They're nearly the same, but they have a weakness that the M50's do not: they distort when you EQ the bass up.

      I'm "EQ"ing them with a Digizoid and they easily sound 2x as good now because of bass enhancement. I just couldn't get the bass I wanted using software EQs in Foobar2000 and I tried everything. The Digizoid does everything I need in real amp and it's easy to put it in line forT
      Dongle, Jun 2, 2013
  7. Swollen17
    My gateway drug into good headphones.
    Written by Swollen17
    Published Apr 27, 2013
    Pros - Comfortable, good bass.
    Cons - Get a little warm on the ears after a couple of hours.
         I'm new to this so take everything with a grain of salt, but I play guitar, and piano so I have a pretty good ear even though I don't know what I'm talking about I know what I like, and I like these alot. This was my first real set of good headphones. I had some $30 AKG plastic things that I thought were great, and some Sennheiser CX380 IEM's before, and was happy with both. Compared to all my friends and there Skullcandys they were awesome. Then I got these, and I was blown away. The cliche of hearing new things in all my music, and being like listening to all my music for the first time again applied.
         Like I said I'm new to this whole thing, but long story short I bought these about four months ago, and since have gotten deeper into it. I now also have ME Electronics M9, Vsonic GR-04, Shure SE-215, Fiio E06, and last week got Beyerdynamics DT-880 250 Pro, Fiio E17/E09K.
         Overall they are a good set of headphones, and a great value. If you are just starting with the whole audiophile thing they will do you wonders, but can quickly lead to a wallet draining aresnal.
         My only complaint is that since they are closed back, and leatherish ear cups they don't breath, and my ears gets a bit sweaty after a couple of hours. But it is possible that is just a closed back thing. My new Beyers are ridiculously comfy for hours on end, but at this point that is all I have to compare.
    In response to
    "It looks like you appreciate the comfort level your new Beyerdynamic DT-880's have over these. What are your thoughts about the sound quality comparison between the ATH-M50S and your new DT-880's?"
    To answer the question in my not know what I'm talking about version of the vernacular. They Beyers sound better. Not as much bass, so for some stuff I am fiddling with EQ's, but haven't found anything that amazes me yet, and they are bad enough to demand some EQ. So I'm still up in the air for that. Have some Nickel Creek going right now, and it is just about perfect for that. The sound stage is definitely better, although the M50's being my first real headphones I thought they were pretty good. From what I have gathered, that is a consequence of the open back (the DT-880s are semi open back whatever that means).
    I have only had them for literally two days so far so I haven't had much chance to really pay attention to the little details yet so I can't say any more than they sound better in almost every way, aside from the aforementioned bass. 
    But the caveat to that is that the 250 pros won't run very well on the same setup as the M50's. I have the gain turned down, and lo bypass on the E17, and the gain turned off on my E09K, and that setup runs about half volume on the E09K for normal level, and cranked is just on the loud side of the loudest I would ever want to listen to it. But I tried it with my phone setup (Droid X2, and Fiio E6, and I had to crank everything to get it to just above normal listening volume, versus the M50's which would blow my ears out with this. So the 880's (at least the 250 version) need more oomph to get them going. So you may have to change you setup if you switch between headphones. From my collection I can say the they all run on the same basic setup without issues aside from the Beyers. Due to that I can't say what is strictly the Beyers, and what is the new setup. Since they are nicer they were intended specifically for my home setup at my desk, and the M50's are my around the house, and at school over ears. But I can backwards compare them with the M50's on my new setup and they definitely don't have the bass, but everything else is better, which if need be can be doctored with an EQ a bit.
    Sorry for being a bit rambly.
    1. StratocasterMan
      It looks like you appreciate the comfort level your new Beyerdynamic DT-880's have over these. What are your thoughts about the sound quality comparison between the ATH-M50S and your new DT-880's?
      StratocasterMan, Apr 27, 2013
  8. schjlatah
    Perfect ƒ/x cost/quality/comfort
    Written by schjlatah
    Published Apr 2, 2013
    Pros - Clear sound, blocks atmospheric background noise, comfortable, affordable
    I listen to music at my desk all day to help drown out the rest of the office noise, these headphones sound amazing and block out the rest of the office.
    They are comfortable and look pretty good.
    Sound quality is phenomenal.
    I can afford them.
    The only down-side, and its a minor one, is that the metal jack housing (not the 1/4" jack itself, just the housing) is taller than my smartphone. When I plug it into my phone and set it on a table, my phone doesn't lay flat.
  9. darkshyed
    Great bang for your buck!
    Written by darkshyed
    Published Apr 1, 2013
    Pros - Versatile, Strong build quality, Great Isolation, Price
    Cons - A bit heavy for long term listening, Pads can make the side of your head sweat, takes some work to find it's sweat spot
    I was looking for a great pair of over-ear's to use for work purposes. Did not want to go open back as sound leakage is a concern when sitting next to my co-workers. Did my research and came across these as well as the aiaiai tma-1 studios and I am not disappointed that I went with this set of cans. Sound stage could be more but for a closed back work set I cannot complain. I play through an Int'l Galaxy S3 rooted with the Siyah kernal which lets me tweak the built in Wolfson Micro WM1811 DAC, being that the M50's sound really great with an AMP I paired that with a FIIO E11 and it really turned this into a "FUN" to listen to pair of cans, If your looking for FLAT, PURE then these may not be what your looking for. But for great sounding music to make the work day go by these are great and still let's you appreciate the quality of your tracks. I did however, find the "muddy" mids that some were talking about, but I seemed to be able to work that out with some EQ adjustments. It was not really enough to cause me to not pick these up to begin with but worth a mention. Bass packs a nice punch in a good clean way, High's are nice and bright. Clamping is nice a snug but not to tight, decent quality cable and A LOT of it!
    My current and only issue with these is that they sit a little heavy which I would imagine could make it a little difficult for long term listening for some.
    NOTE!: These are not meant to be a portable can (which i am fine with, I sit for a living), they are meant for DJ's and Studio's. So keep that in mind that they are a LARGE set of CANs. 
    Overall? I LOVE THESE CANS!
      Ifalna, chispa02 and pdrm360 like this.
    1. Ifalna
      Indeed they are quite big, they are "over ear", after all. But they clamp nicely, so no worries, they won't fall of when you move your head or run around a bit.
      Ifalna, Apr 1, 2013
  10. Frosty3258
    Do Audio-Technica ATH-M50S need an amp?
    Written by Frosty3258
    Published Feb 18, 2013
    Pros - good price for the sound
    Cons - get hot
    I bought these cans about a year ago and they sound pretty good. as many reviews say they are fairly flat sounding with a slightly recessed mid and slightly elevated bass, with good highs. another thing is the sound stage isn't that great but overall these are great cans. about seven months in i bought a Fiio E11 amp for them. by the way i use them on average of 5 to 7 hours a day. now a lot of people say these already operate at max which i found to be completely false. i am using a 4th gen ipod touch with the eq off. (flat) i have the amp set on high power high gain and its eq off as well. honestly at first i didn't notice a difference with having the amp compared to no amp for a while other than the mids were slightly more present and the highs as well. after putting a hundred hours appx. on the amp i listened to the M50's without it. then i noticed that the amp also really filled out the m50's quite a bit. personally if your dissatisfied with the quality of the M50's id suggest simply getting different cans but the amp defiantly does fill them out and gave them a slight raise the mids and highs. now for the E11 I've seen complaints about a hissing sound that they produce, i can turn the dial to 6 before i hear the hiss (with nothing playing) and the M50's distort at about 5 and a half depending on what is being played anyways so i have not found that to be an issue. i cant pinpoint the difference between the high and low power setting on it. it doesn't increase the volume and there is a slight sound change but it is very minimal so i just left it on high. however the high low gain is a massive difference and high gain just blows the low gain out of the water. actually they sounded worse with low gain than they did without the amp all together. and the eq. on it is only for lows. 0 is natural sounding. 1 would sound pretty nice for slightly bass lacking headphones or if you just want that extra little bit of bass and 2 simply vibrates your face and unless you are a bass head or have cans with nearly completely lacking bass has no purpose.