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Audio Technica ATH-M50 Review

The Audio-Technica ATH M50 has been around for almost three years now. Since it was released, it has received countless positive feedbacks from audiophiles and casual listeners because of its superb sound reproduction for its price. Find out why these pair of monitors has gained the hearts of audioheads around the world in our full review after the jump.

I’ve been wanting to buy myself a decent pair of headphones for a long time now but never really got the chance to do it because of tight budget. We all know how expensive a professional monitor can be. But since my birthday is just around the corner, I gave in to my desire and decided to not go home without a pair of cans.

While I was at the MOA I went to AstroVision and MAC Center to try out few professional over the head monitors. I’ve narrowed down my list to two headphones; coincidentally both of them are of the same brand. I was tossed up between getting the ATH PRO700MK2 (Php12,000) at AstroVision and ATH M50 (Php8,999) at MAC Center. I’ve been eyeing the ATH M50 ever since but an additional Php3,001 wouldn’t hurt so much considering that the PRO700MK2 has a better sound reproduction when amped. But instead, I opted to go for the cheaper ATH M50 — because of one reason.

AstroVision only offers the ATH PRO700MK2 for 6 months installment while MAC Center offers the ATH M50 for up to 12 months. I could’ve went for the PRO700MK2, but it would be a bit difficult to squeeze in the Php2,000 every month for the credit card installment unlike for the M50 which would only cost me Php750 every month. This is the part where I wish I was a little bit wealthier, but life is still good as long as I have enough to sustain my needs and occasionally get a few wants along the way.

The ATH M50 comes in a fairly large box. Beside the circumaural headphones, the only thing can be found inside the box was a leather carrying pouch, 3.5mm to 6.35mm screw-on jack and user’s manual.

The ATH M50 originally comes in two color variety, Black and White. But in celebration of their 50th anniversary of providing exceptional audio equipment, they’ve released a limited edition Silver colored M50. Unlike the initial batch of A-T’s flagship headphone that has a coiled cable, the silver colored M50 has a straight cable.

Apart from that, everything is pretty much the same. The one that I got is the black version. Although the silver version of the M50 was also available at the time when I purchased mine, I still went for the black one. Maybe because I just can’t see myself walking around with silver cans around my head, I find it too flashy.

One of the strongest features of the ATH M50 is its design and construction. Audio-Technica did a very good job of keeping the design simple with the important parts (which are usually more prone to breaking) reinforced and keeping the whole thing lightweight for a comfortable wear even on extended periods of use (which is inevitable because of its superior sound quality).

There’s nothing really eye catching about the ATH M50’s design. The headphone doesn’t have any over-the-top accents on it besides the company’s brand printed on the headband and the silver ring on the cups. If anything, what will catch your attention though is its simple but sophisticated design. For those people who are not really in to flashy cans and prefer to walk around with a headphone without grabbing too much attention, the ATH M50 will be a perfect music companion.

Since the ATH M50 is intended for professional studio monitoring/mixing the headphone offers a wide range of adjustments for maximum comfort and wearablity. The brace that holds the cups can twist for up to a 180-degree. The large enough pleather-cushioned cups, which are made of synthetic leather, can also swivel up to the same angle as the brace.

The headband is padded quite nicely which is aimed at comfortable wearing even in long periods of use. It clamps on the head with just the right amount of force. Not too tight and not too loose. The firm clamp of the headband along with the pleather cups can provide a decent amount of noise isolation.

It can also be adjusted for users with a slightly bigger head. Adjusting it will reveal that the gap is reinforced with steel to more durability. Each side can be adjusted for up to 10 clicks which is roughly an inch and a half. That equates to a total of 3 inches adjustment.

The ATH M50 was able to achieve a lightweight body because most of it is made of plastic. But unlike other headphones made of the same material, this headphone will not give its users a cheap feel. The cans actually feel sturdy in the hands and won’t give users a fragile feel to it. As I mentioned a while ago, I liked how the parts that are usually the first to get broken are reinforced a bit.

Apart from the reinforced headband, the other little adjustments adds rigidity and protection to the headphone. This in turn gives a little peace of mind to its users that their not-so-cheap cans can withstand most of the usual wear and tear. Here are some photos of the added protection on the ATH M50.

The tip of the cable where it’s connected to the left cup is strengthened with an additional rubber protection. The other end reinforced with coiled aluminum that adds durability when bending. The actual tip of the coiled cable just before the 3.5mm gold-plate jack is also made of aluminum.

Usually, headphones only excel at just one part of the sound spectrum. Headphone makers only put emphasis on one aspect of the sound, which is typically the bass, and pay little or no attention to the other. As a result, the overall sound quality is often compromised as the other aspects are being overpowered by the can’s emphasized sound feature. This is where the ATH M50 smoked its competitions. By not being bias to a specific facet of the sound spectrum, this headphone was able to achieve a well-balanced sound reproduction.

The monitor can deliver deep and strong bass but not too strong that it muddies the overall sound quality which is typically the case for most bass-driven headphones. The highs are crisp and sparkly with a fairly low level of sibilance that is almost unheard unless a listener will really look for it. Mids are as well reproduced as the previous two sound category. Although it is a little bit withdrawn in comparison to the Highs and Lows, it doesn’t really affect the overall sound quality.

The soundstage is also pretty impressive. Although it’s not the best that I’ve heard from a professional monitor, the ATH M50 can provide a very decent sense of space and depth; which is a rare feat for a closed back headphones especially on the less than $200 price range.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the pleather padded cups and headband can provide a very decent sound isolation. But not only does it cancel most external noises, it also keep the sound in which is very evident on the headphone’s minimal sound leaks. The sound leak is so minimal that you’d have to get really close to the headphones in order to hear it.

Another good thing about this headphone is that it is relatively easy to drive. Unlike other professional headphones that sound horrible when not connected to a portable amp, the ATH M50 can still provide an above average listening experience even when unamped. Just plug in these pair of cans into a decent PMP (Portable Media Player) and it’s basically good to go. But to maximize the ATH M50’s outstanding sound quality and have an even more enjoyable listening experience, we strongly suggest investing on a good portable amp. I have mine paired up with a FiiO E11 and it sounds even more amazing.

It is also worth mentioning that the ATH M50, just like other headphones require a little bit warming up in order for it to reach its optimal performance. This is what we call burn-in period. It can range from 2-8 hours depending on the headphones. In most cases after 4-6 hours of music playback you’d start to notice that the sound is warmer and brighter. So don’t be surprised if you tried this headphone out for the first time and don’t get an exceptional result from the get go.

I buy headphones because of the sound quality it brings to the table, not because it looks good on me or it’s advertised by my favorite artist or band. Of course, the design and build is also an aspect that needs to be considered before buying a headphone. But a well-built headphones with decent design is nothing but a paperweight if the sound coming out of it bad. I personally believe that it takes more than a cool design to please an audiophile.

At some extent, some would even go for a weird looking headphone that delivers exquisite sound quality than an eye-candy monitor which has poor sound performance. Most of the time, cans are just either good looking or great sounding. But there are some headphones that have successfully combined these two critical features. In my opinion, the ATH M50 is a marriage of designing ingenuity and superb sound quality.

Audio-Technica has outfitted the ATH M50’s insides with the same amount of attention to details as its exterior. The result is a sleek-looking and lightweight headphone which is very comfortable to wear and capable of providing excellent listening experience. It may be a bit pricey here but if you look hard enough this pair of cans may only cost you $149.99 (Php6,390). But even at its regular SRP, the ATH M50 is certainly one of the best professional headphones in the below $200 price range. It’s certainly not bad for birthday present.

This article was written by Ronnie Bulaong, a special features contributor and correspondent for YugaTech. Follow him on Twitter @turonbulaong.

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4 Responses

  1. mr.cuccuou says:

    dude, i bought my pro700mk2 at bestbuy for 170$, sa amerika lang nga pero if may kamaganak ka dun, which all juan should have, ipadala nlang nila… dats wat i did, pero having it now for around 3 weeks… i can safely say this can is ELECTRONIC music genra only, period. If you want godly bass, amped it (fiio e11 does the job nicely), and if you do, mann you dont hear bass you feel it! i urge you to try the superlux 660/330 though, better than the m50 imo..

    • Turonbulaong says:

      Even before I bought this I already knew how cheap the price is in the states. Unfortunately, I don’t have relatives in the US. So what you’re suggesting isn’t really feasible in my situation. And although there other alternatives to deliver an item from the US, I still went for the a bit more expensive but sure way of purchasing an item. Kaliwaan. And if there’s something wrong, I can always go back and have it replaced.

      BTW thanks for suggesting the Superlux 660/630. We hope we can get a review unit for that so we can compare it with the M50. :)

  2. garz says:

    Most smartphones (like my Galaxy) need to have a certain plug (forgot the name) to be able to hear the sound these headphones can offer. I’ve been eyeing the ATH-PRO5MS for quite sometime now and I was wondering if it can get the job done without that plug. Para kasing ang awkward. Para kang may antenna sa phone mo.

  3. zeugirdor says:

    i would definitely appreciate if yuga would review and compare superlux 668b and the more handy 661
    Im really considering both but my student budget suggests only one for the meantime.

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