Audio Technica ATH-M50 Review. The M50 over ear closed back professional audio headphones have an interesting build quality and sonic signature that makes them ideal for DJ's or recording professionals.
Having being around since the 60's, Audio Technica is a brand that is renowned for their multi award winning microphone and headphone range that constantly strives to promote quality, durability and an astounding performance to price ratio. In this instance, the ATH-M50 headphones are absolutely no exception to this rule. Having been in production for two years, the M50 model is certainly well established and appears to be one of the first entrants to bridge a trend between what is sonically classed as a professional studio monitor series headphone, and what the standard consumer would desire as a fashionably desirable asset in a portable environment. Interestingly, the M50 is so desirable that, according to Google, the search term 'Audio Technica m50' is input over 66,000 times a month and it is easy to see why from our findings within this review.
Please note that at the time of writing this review Audio Technica currently offer these headphones in black and white as well as just releasing a black and red model to clearly to maximise on market appeal and aesthetically rival Beats.
The M50's arrive in a very sturdy white box with clear window that displays the contorted design capabilities that go to making these headphones so desirable. During the unboxing you will notice that the black and white models come with a coiled cable design that is functionally appealing in the studio environment. The master connection is a 1/4" jack that is attached to a flawless 1/4" to 3.5mm adapter with a screw design that allows a seamless transfer of design, if you didn't twist the jack you wouldn't have even noticed this nice touch. Concluding the unboxing in the package you will locate a plain drawstring leatherette carry case so you can safely store the M50's when not in use and a standard warranty information leaflet.
Overall I am really impressed with the build quality of these closed back headphones but I would first like to highlight the transformer like positions that the driver housing can be placed in. As the driver cups are mounted on a bracket that has a horizontal and vertical bilateral 180° swivel, the M50's have an ergonomic design feature that goes hand in hand with the thick yet soft headband and ear-cup padding to create a great degree of comfort in use. Additionally the bilateral 180° free move of the driver housing feels exceptionally polished, stays in place with a small click and when you take the headphones off the design firstly allows for them to lay on the worktop which protects the drivers and secondly gives the user an option to listen to one side in mono; a great design feature for DJ's. Moving away from this feature, what I also really like about these headphones is that they have a nice weight to them, use supple soft materials where needed, and, unlike other brands, the plastic doesn't feel cheap. It is quite clear that these headphones will last you a long time especially considering that the core of the headband is reinforced with a heavy gauge metal and that the 1/4" jack termination point is gold plated and has a two inch spring to inhibit any stress on the internal solder points. Unfortunately, unlike other brands, the coiled cable is not user replaceable and this is the reason why I cannot award these headphones the full 5/5 rating but as, for, when and if you wear through the ear-cup material, this is replaceable so there is a couple of pros and cons when considering this purchase. Finally, (and this is an important point) when turning the headphones to either side the left and right, the earphones are clearly marked on both sides where the indicator is printed onto a reflecting metallic base so it is unlikely that you will be left fumbling around in the heat of the moment.
From a pair of studio monitor headphones what you primarily want is a faithful frequency response that doesn't hype, muffle or depreciate certain frequencies and/or introduce sonic artefacts that will inhibit the translation between those and your monitor speakers, so it comes with great relief to announce that the M50's have a lovely tone which ticks all the boxes. First off the M50 stereo field can be likened to an airy playing field that is modestly wide yet balanced and allows for the replication of a well panned drum kit to sound big and in its element whilst vocal lines have a central definition. On some occasions, with earphones or headphones, you will notice that they may perform better or worse with different genres. Typically these types of products are aimed towards the hi-fi market and don't work well in the studio, but the M50's stick to their word and sound great with everything which confirms my opinion on how well these headphones will do in a mix-down. There is no boomy bass, it is tightly articulated and goes deep without becoming offensive or loosing punch. In the mid range the M50's sit in a perfect in intermediary state between smooth and precise so this range has a great extension where the lower performance is smooth without being muddy and the higher mid-range is highly focussed and bang on the money. When listening to the high end the M50's have a marriage of that desirable real high end modern sizzle with a classic lower high end so all in all a perfect balance. So now we come onto the closed back design... When listening back there is a small to moderate amount of leakage and the rejection of external sound is left just there; in the background and these headphones perform to just a bit higher than what you would expect of a pair of closed-back headphones in this price-range. Finally I really do want to say that the M50's are now my favourite critical listening and mix-down tool, and as this might sound a bit strange considering that these are monitor headphones, I strongly believe that the sonic signature and quality of sound will appeal to both studio and commercial users. As Audio Technica have just revealed that the M50's are being produced in a black and red colour I agree that these headphones do give those Beats a run for their money.
The sonic signature, performance and soundstage of the Audio Technica ATH-M50's have the perfect balance between what works great both in and out of the studio and have a superior build quality to match. At this price-range the ATH-M50's perform above and beyond expectation and the clear attention to detail in design makes these a wonderfully versatile pair with the exception of the non-replaceable coiled cable. Overall The Pro Audio Web Blog sits back, enjoys the ride and awards the Audio Technica ATH-M50 closed back monitor headphones a very nice 4.5/5 rating.