Product: Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
Type: Closed Circumaural Headphones
Preferred Use: Portable/Studio/Stage
Cheapest Place to Buy: Amazon.com
Warranty: 2 Year Warranty
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, Overview
Very rarely do you find headphones that are as optimized for in-studio use by music professionals as they are for everyday use by the layman, so rarely do you see this that I’ve almost become resigned to the fact that you have to choose one or the other.
However, with some simple but effective maneuvering, Audio Technica has managed to pull off the seemingly impossible quite well. The Audio Technica ATH-M50x is a nigh-on identical replacement for the popular Professional Monitor ATH-M50 headphones, with just a few design changes made to accommodate the portable use they had become unexpectedly popular for.
Comfort and Design
With an outer casing and headband made almost exclusively from plastic materials (the headband is reinforced with steel as well as the inner ear-cups) my first thought on opening the ATH-M50x was these headphones weren’t designed to look pleasing to the eye in any way.
However, when I took them out and got a good look at them, I realized that the design is more targeted to a younger crowd and that it does seem to be quite cool in a DJ booth or studio.
The pads are made from a soft leatherette which felt fine at the beginning but grew more and more uncomfortable with each passing hour of use, and eventually led to ear-fatigue, something I think most people will not find as forgivable as aesthetic. I don’t know if in my case this was enhanced by what I found to be a little-too-tight hold from the headband, but either way the comfort could be so much better.
The fact that they are on the bulky side and are heavy to wear didn’t help matters, although that’s a little less noticeable, probably because it feels more intentional than anything else.
The headband, on the other hand, is nicely padded which slightly made up the comfort levels of the headphones as a whole.
The biggest advertised difference from the ATH-M50 is the cable which connects to the left ear-cup, where the previous version had one 3-meter cable the ATH-M50x model has a straight 3-meter detachable cable secured by a twist to lock mechanism. It also comes with two other cables, a portable 1.2-meter cable and a coiled 1.2-meter cable that extends to 3-meters, all of which come in handy when doing different activities.
However, none of them has a line-in remote, a shame really. Although being detachable along with the classic in-folding ear-cups means these are well adapted for travel and I can pop them into my bag whenever I need to without any trouble.
Despite the largely plastic build of the ATH-M50x, it is quite sturdy and feels durable.
The plastic is reinforced with steel where it needs to be and the cables are all thick and the detachable feature serves to increase their durability as the cable connection is the point where most headphones are vulnerable, being able to remove it means I don’t have to worry about it breaking when I fold them up for travel or just to put them away and the fact that there’s three also means I wouldn’t have to worry about finding a replacement if one of them does break or get lost.
No doubt as a result of the steel reinforcement and the early 00’s DJ design, they tend to be on the heavy side.
The popularity of the earlier ATH-M50 model came about mostly because they were often seen as anti-establishment, the anti-cool headphones that were actually better sounding than their much cooler rivals in the same class (mostly the Beats by Dre headphones really).
The ATH-M50x has continued in that same vein, producing almost the same classic sound as its predecessor but ever so slightly improving it (to my ears and a few others at least, Audio Technica actually claims they have the same sound).
The main difference I noticed between these headphone and most other high-end headphones is they don’t overemphasize on the bass (unlike the Beyerdynamic DT 770 80 ohms) nor do they overly rely on power to amp up the listeners experience, opting instead for a much flatter frequency sound (meaning no notes are artificially reinforced over others).
The bass is tight and full on this one but if you’re a complete bass head then these aren’t for you because they won’t fulfill your needs in that regard. Again, check out those DT 770’s 80 ohms.
The mid-range and the highs are all just as tightly packaged so the vocals never suffer whatever the song may be.
The treble is however slightly tinny and I think could be better, although I am nitpicking at this stage to be fair.
The one real problem in the sound quality area comes in the noise isolation area. While these aren’t active noise cancelling headphones, they are large and closed back so they should do better with closing out sounds than they actually do. For me not to hear any real noise at work or on my commute, I often found I had to play my music at full volume and even then I could still hear quite a few sounds, trains, very loud voices, etc.
These are still professional studio use headphones so expect any poor quality song you may have on your playlist to be exposed as just that.
The ATH-M50x underwhelms in a few areas, namely noise isolation and comfort and if this is entirely your basis for selecting headphones then you might do better to look at other options because these headphones will disappoint in those aspects.
Given that these headphones came about purely to accommodate portable users, the fact they don’t have a line-in microphone is also a disappointment. But however, in the areas where they do excel, they are truly exceptional.
The sound quality is high grade and lived up to its billing as in-studio headphones by providing a steady, rich sound across a wide spectrum of sound where some headphones tend to exaggerate certain sounds at the expense of others.
Incidentally, apart from acoustic music, I particularly enjoyed this flatter frequency sound when watching movies on my laptop as the sound effects were rich and dynamic without sacrificing the voices of the actors in any way.
All things considered, if you can put up with slight discomfort and some bulk for great audio quality then these are just the headphones for you. Conversely, if you enjoy the retro look and feel then you’ll certainly get your money’s worth with the Audio Technica ATH-M50x Professional monitor headphones.
That’s it for this review folks! As always, if you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.
The ATH-M50x continuous on the path of the still solid M50 by adding a removable cable to the design. However, if you already own the previous M50’s, there’s really no need to upgrade for any other reason than the removable cable.