Review: Audio-Technica ATH-M50

Let me start off by saying that I’m not a serious audiophile. I don’t have an all bells and whistles stereo and home theatre set-up at home. I’d rather spend the coin on mountain bike parts! But I do appreciate good sound quality and I was looking for some over-the-ear headphones to compliment my Klipsch S4 earbuds I purchased some time ago.

My musical taste is “sort of” eclectic. I love trance music, and the majority of time that’s what I listen to, however, I’m not adverse to rock, folk and even a bit of country every now and then. You may even catch me listening to the odd classical tune but opera’s where I draw the line. For me, trance is where it’s at, and I found the Klipsch S4’s to be pretty well suited for playing that sort of music on my iPod.

I wanted something more though. The S4’s are perfect for the gym and active pursuits, made even better with Comply ear tips, but I wanted some over-the-ear phones for work and home where I could put them on, not be disturbed and immerse myself in the music and whatever else I was doing. When I started researching headphones more questions were raised than answers and it made my head spin. Did I want open or closed, on-the-ear or over-the-ear? What about noise cancelling? What sort of system was I going to use it on?

In the end I decided I wanted headphones that I could play on my iPod, were of a closed type so that I didn’t have outside noise interfering with my music and I didn’t want to disturb people around me. You know those people on trains whose iPod is up so loud the whole carriage could hear what they’re playing? I didn’t want to be that guy. Oh, and I wanted over-the-ear of course! But even more important was that I wanted something with a bit more bass than standard. Not distorted and boomy but clear and tight. I wanted to feel like I was right there in the club listening to Above & Beyond or Tritonal.

So after countless hours researching, talking to friends for recommendations, listening to their headphones and more researching I settled on a set of Audio-Technica ATH-M50’s. Now if I was going to do this properly I would’ve head over to the local DJ store and tried them out. But once I’ve made up my mind on something it’s sometimes difficult to change. I got a bit excited and dove straight in and ordered a set on-line from the nice guys at www.headphones.com.au. These guys are Aussie owned (being based in WA) and had pretty reasonable prices to boot.

AUDIOTECH

About three days, my package arrived and like a kid at Christmas I tore open the bag to reveal a box with a sweet looking set of cans inside.
So what was included in the box? The headphones of course and a nice little carry bag to store them in. There are two different versions of these headphones available, with a coiled cord or a straight cord. I went for the coiled version, for no particular reason. The cord is 3 metres long, which some might baulk at. However, I’ve never had an issue and it tucks up neatly in my jeans pocket. The audio jack is a cool 6.3mm number, which means I can use it on my home stereo, then unscrew it to reveal the 1.5mm jack underneath for use on my iPod.

They’re a solid little unit and I suspect could take a bit of a beating, not that I wanted to test that out! The ear cups do swivel so you can get all DJ like if that takes your fancy. They are in fact part of Audio-Technica’s studio headphone line-up. The ear cups also fold up so they can fit in the little carry bag that comes with them. This makes them a little more compact for transporting around. The padding on both the adjustable band and the ear cups are generous and comfortable, and boy, do they look the biz!

So enough of the niceties, how does it sound?

Initially when I used them the first couple of times I was a bit… meh about them, but I found they needed to be ‘burnt in’, or run in to use a car analogy. After the initial burn in period of about 10 hours, these babies now sound awesome. Bass is strong, clear and tight but not overwhelming or booming like Beats by Dr. Dre headphones. Mids and highs are clear, crisp and doesn’t sound tinny or drowned out by the bass. In fact, I was now recognising some highs I hadn’t heard before with other phones.

I feel they’re a well-balanced headphone for those that like a bass bias but where the bass is not the be-all and end all. I thought that I would need to use the equaliser function on my iPod, and I tried them all out but I found that my music sounded just fine without it turned on.
Drawbacks? Only one, and it’s a *really* minor issue. I found was that my ears got a little warm after extended listening periods, but it’s not until I take the headphones off that I really notice it.

Overall, I really love these headphones and I take them everywhere with me, despite the extra room required in my work bag (compared to a set of earbuds). The sound is top quality and perfect for the majority of music I listen to. The price is also a winner. Recommended retail is $219 (according to Audio-Technica’s website) but if you look around you can score a set for less than $175.

Best for: people who don’t have massive wads of cash to burn on a set of headphones but want a great set of cans for their hard earned, like good quality sound with a bass bias and prefer listening to electronic music.

I give them 9 out of 10.

Steve K [@fatboyridin]

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