Review: Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Studio Monitor Headphones
Positives:High quality reference headphones capable of both tracking and mixing duty
Very well balanced (for the most part) in all frequencies
Comes with handy screw on 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch adapter
Huge bang for the buck and some of the best sounding headphones in their price range
Negatives:Bass and low mids may be a tad hyped, making it potentially more difficult to judge their true levels in a mix
Replacing parts seems difficult, if even possible
At this price point, in my opinion there are not a lot of headphone that can touch the sound quality and performance of the Audio-Technica ATH-M5s. I’ve had these headphone for over 5 years now, and they not only sound great, but have held up to the rigors of a portable studio very well.
The sound spectrum is well balanced, with good bass definition and an airy, open top end and accurate dynamics, even at high listening levels. I find these to be generally pretty good for mixing. Though the low end and low mids can be a little mushy and undefined, its not a deal breaker by any means, and in general once you understand the headphones mixes translate fairly well to monitors (though I do usually have to re-adjust the bass levels when listening back on monitors).
One major plus about these headphones is that though they can benefit from a high quality headphone amp, they do not require one to perform well! Their 38 Ohms impedance means they can be driven adequately by an iPhone or iPod, making it really easy to get to know these headphone outside the studio. They also come with a handy Gold-plated stereo 1/8″ (3.5 mm) connector with strain relief and professional screw-on 1/4″ (6.3 mm) adapter, allowing you to quickly go from the mini jack in your iPod to the quarter inch on your interface. In fact, I simply like listening to music with them, and will often use them when laying in bed or sitting on the couch relaxing. Of course with the size of full cans they might not make the best portable headphones, but they do actually fold down for convenient storage and easy travel in bags. They even come with a fairly nice bag for storage and transport.
As for comfort, I’ve warn these for HOURS in long tracking sessions and never had any sort of discomfort other than the need to take them off to let my ears get some air, which is true of most closed back headphones I’ve warn that cup over the ear – a trade off for good isolation. The pads are nice and firm, yet soft and comfortable, and the head band is not annoying at all. Because of this firm fit they do make great tracking headphone without much leakage when played at moderate levels.
The one knock is that if these were to break, they are more than likely done. It seems the ear pads and head bands are not really user replaceable (willing to stand corrected on this point) and for sure the cable unfortunately does not detach. However, like I said, I’ve used these headphones for over 5 years now and they have gone with me wherever my laptop studio has gone, and have held up without any problems.
The Audio Technica ATH-50s are Audio Technica’s flagship headphones and for good reason – they simply sound great! They are not the best sounding headphones out there (My AKG Q701’s blow these out of the water as mixing headphones – see my review here: http://littlefishaudio.com/gearevu/Audio_Gear-detail/akg-quincy-jones-signature-series-q701-headphones/ ) But at this price (you can find them for as low as $99 if you look around) there are very few headphones that can come close to their value. If you are in the market for headphones, make sure to listen to a TON before deciding, but make sure these are on your playlist.