Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones

Hands-on review of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Headphones

I recently purchased a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones, and I decided to share my opinion of them. Here’s the short version: they’re good, big, recording studio headphones. If you’re not using them for production, they’re nice headphones for regular use, but, they’re bulky and lack built-in controls for smartphones. In my case, this turned out to be a problem.

Before I get into it, here’s my history of professional headphone ownership:

AKG 240’s – My first “real” studio headphones. They sound great, but they’re a bit clinical sounding. The pair I owned had a high ohm rating, so they didn’t get loud enough when used with consumer audio equipment. They fell apart after a couple years of use, and it seemed like they should have lasted longer. I never bought another pair.

Sennheiser HD 25-1 II – I loved these headphones to death. I loved their design, and the sound quality blew me away. Unfortunately, they simply didn’t fit. After I wore them for twenty minutes I would get a headache. They were too tight on my fat head. I was forced to return them.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40fs – I shared a recording studio space with my roommate when I bought these, and she had a pair of Sony MDR-7506 headphones that stayed in the studio most of the time. I used the 7506 a lot, but I needed my own pair for when they weren’t available. I bought the M40fs right after I returned my HD 25’s. They were a decent choice. They weren’t very high quality, but they did the job. Oddly, the connector plug was a full size 1/4″.

Sony MDR-7506 – I bought these a year or two after I moved onto a new living situation, away from my former roommate’s 7506’s. These headphones are great for music and video production. I used them on every paid location audio job I worked. I got velour ear pads for them, which made me love them even more. The downside of 7506 headphones is that they have a very long coiled cable, which makes them annoying to use for consumer purposes, such as walking down the street listening to music on a smartphone. Plus, they don’t have the flattest frequency response, so they’re not the best choice for critical listening purposes, such as mixing an important music project.

In addition to the 7506, I also owned two pairs of MDR-7502 headphones. These are decent inexpensive headphones, but, like the larger 7506, their attached cable is too long for consumer uses. After several years my 7506 started cutting out in one ear, and the leatherette pads on both of my 7502’s started peeling off, which turned out to be a nasty problem. Put these headphones on and you get a bunch of tiny pieces of leatherette stuck inside of your ears. It’s super gross.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphonesfolded flat
The ATH-M50x fold flat for travel, but they’re still bulky

I found myself in need of a good set of headphones. Even though I had always wanted Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro’s (as I recommend in the Best Gear List), I decided to try out the ATH-M50x. Why? The headphones that suit you best must fit your needs at the present moment. I wanted headphones with great, immersive sound, but I wanted to use them primarily with consumer equipment. I wanted headphones with a short cable, and I kind of wanted built-in controls for a smartphone.

The ATH-M50x had most of these qualities. The DT770 did not.

Another thing that drew me to the M50’s is that so many people liked them. Making a new model of headphones become popular is no easy feat. Audio-Technica did something truly impressive with the M50’s. During a period of time when the headphone market was exploding in popularity, with ambitious new companies and brands springing up everywhere making competition fierce, Audio-Technica scored a major hit.

The original headphones that Audio-Technica put out were the ATH-M50’s. They are very similar to the pair I bought, with the main difference being the detachable cables on the ATH-M50x. This was the main selling point for me. I wanted great-sounding headphones that I could use with a short cable to plug into my iPhone 6S, and my laptop computer. The ATH-M50x come with three cables: a short straight one, a long coiled one, and a long straight cable. The fact that I could also use these headphones for production was a big plus.

My decision to purchase was a bit impulsive. Even though I knew a lot about these headphones, I didn’t realize that the detachable cables connect with a small 2.5mm plug. To me, this was an issue. I prefer more robust connectors. With microphones I’ll always choose XLR when I have the choice between it or a smaller 1/4″ or 1/8″ jacks. Why? They sound better.

Connector jacks for ATH-M50x headphones

The physical connection that smaller jacks provide mean that fewer electrons are transferred. Maybe I’m an idiot, and none of this means anything, but I still don’t like it. I want full, rich sound. The fact that all of this sound needs to pass through a tiny sub-mini connector just bugs me. In short: I don’t want it.

Another downside to these removable cables is that the connector on the headphone side protrudes outward a bit more than usual, because a plug and a locking mechanism are required. If you accidentally stepped on these headphones, even lightly, it seemed like they would be much more likely to break. I didn’t like the idea of the headphones breaking sooner than they needed to.

I had read that some people found the ATH-M50x fit too tightly. I was worried about this, especially considering my sad experience with the Sennheiser HD 25’s. (Side note: I can’t use Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones either. They’re too tight on my head, too).

I’m happy to report that tightness is not an issue with the ATH-M50x. When you first put them on your head, they do feel a little tight. But, after a few minutes, you realize that they are not uncomfortably tight. They just fit snuggly, as they should. Audio-Technica did an excellent job designing this element of the headphones.

Sound wise, these headphones were great. They are very immersive, without shrill highs, or over-extended lows. They have a very balanced sound, and they do an excellent job of transporting you out of normal life and into the world created by your music. I loved this about the ATH-M50x.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones

Even though these are closed-back headphones, it did seem like they leaked sound quite a bit. When I would listen to music at moderate volumes, my wife would complain that she could hear too much of it, and that it distracted her. I’m not sure if this is a problem with the ATH-M50x, or if my wife is too sensitive to noise. But, for us at least, it was a problem.

I realized that these headphones didn’t have iPhone controls when I purchased them, and I figured I could live without them, but, ultimately, I realized that this is something I currently need. One afternoon I was walking through town in the rain. I was holding an umbrella and listening to music. My wife called, which required me to unplug the headphones and take them off of one ear so I could talk, all while holding an umbrella. During the call, the M50x’s started slipping off of my head. They nearly crashed down, and I got covered with rain trying to save them and not drop my phone. Simply put: it sucked. This wouldn’t have happened if the headphones had built-in iPhone controls.

I decided to return my ATH-M50x headphones. They are an excellent product. The price does seem a bit steep for what they are, but they’re quite good. However, they just don’t fit into my present life as well as they could. I have decided to replace them with more consumer-oriented headphones. I am thinking about getting the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear headphones. They’re a little smaller (less bulky), they deliver excellent sound, and they have the iPhone control. This is what I need.

If you like the removable cable aspect of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, you should consider Senal SMH-1000 headphones. Their design is mirror image to the Sony MDR-7506, with the added benefit of having removable cables. They also connect with a sub-mini 2.5mm connector, so, if you’re like me and this will bother you, then you should look elsewhere. But, if you don’t mind this, you can save a decent chunk of change with the SMH-1000. The sound quality of the ATH-M50x is better, though.

In summary, ATH-M50x headphones are very good, they just don’t suit my current needs. I do recommend them — they’re just not for me.


Purchase links:

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x - Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France
Sony MDR-7506 - Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France
Senal SMH-1000 - Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France
Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro (80 Ohms) - Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France

Published by

Sam

Writer, musician, photo taker and video maker. When not writing somewhat longish articles for this blog, I write incredibly short things on Twitter: @SamMallery

One thought on “Hands-on review of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Headphones”

  1. Dear Sam, thanks for your blog. Very interesting. I have a Canon 5d Mark 2 and I wish to record good , clean audio, documentary and also interviews. I wish to be able to monitor this audio going into the camera. There are two options I believe, the TAscam DR70 d or the Zoom H5. Someone said that it is very hard to mount the Zoom onto the camera and that the Tascam has a better pre amp? I wondered what you thought please?

    Thanks very much,
    Phil

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