Audio Technica has been in business for almost as long as Sony, and as a result, you know that they have to be good to still be around.
No surprise then that they have provided full audio kits and fitted out sets of entire shows like Big Brother, Deal or No Deal, and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions, as well as several Olympics events.
You can also see a certain type of design style that is prevalent in Japanese company made headphones, with the circum-aural design and knobbed hinges.
The first thing that strikes us most about the Audio Technica ATH-M50 is it’s build.
While it’s not exactly the most lightweight of all headphones or even in the lightweight category for that matter at 10.1 ounces, it looks and feels study and comfortable, something that few other headphones made almost entirely out of plastic polymer can achieve.
The hinges, while they have been around and in application in other products, are seen in use in the ATH-M50 and other models exclusive to the Audio Technica brand mostly, and they’re study indeed.
The principle behind their joints is to use strong double ended joints to connect to each other, and also to place them close so that during adjustments, as little torque is applied to possible to parts that are not meant to twist and turn.
Quite ingenious and cunning if we may say, and an excellent example of not just innovation, but research and development that we very much welcome.
The ATH-M50 comes with a non detachable cord that extends from the left earcup down, that has coils and ends in a 3.5mm metal cased audio jack, that is also gold plated. Another small feature that is present and goes unnoticed almost always but is very vital in cable cord lifespan preservation is the small spring like coil that extends from the metal audio jack casing to provide tensile strength and overbending of the cable.
This is especially important for models like the ATH-M50, since you will have to replace the entire set if the cable spoils since the cable cannot be disconnected. A ¼” stereo jack for a home audio system is also included.
The headband is very comfortable and well padded, which makes it great for long hours of wearing, and while the earcup leatherette pads don’t have that ultra soft plush look and feel of old headphones, or the super thick and soft modern urethane foam padding, they look just right, and a good mix in between. Audio Technica clearly knows how to get their stuff right.
The ATH-M50’s boast a pair of powerful neodymium magnets in their proprietary 45mm drivers, capable of producing a sound frequency range from 15Hz – 28kHz, with a rated impedance of 38 Ohms, and a sensitivity of 99dB/mW.
Now, while you rate these up against other headphones that are meant for the studio, also known as monitor headphones, do keep in mind that they use a closed back system. What this also means is that long wear usage, while comfortable, might cause sweaty ears.
The frequency range, while not adjusted to be bass boosting is pretty solid. The good thing about these drivers is that they are meant for one kind of music, which is the design and product philosophy of several celebrity endorsed headphones these days.
While you can toss about almost whatever kind of music out through their drivers, the response, although not completely flat, feels like a personal surround sound audio system. Clear, sharp and precise, but also robust – no favourites anywhere.
While this may not sit well with the younger crowd who may prefer more bass heavy tracks with lots of boosted lower end frequencies, this makes the ATH M50’s very versatile.
However, do keep in mind that the power capabilities of the ATH-M50 are although not as demanding as several other studio headphone models, they do happen to have a 38 Ohm rated impedance with a sensitivity of 99dB/mW.
These two factors combined together might drain battery juice on mobile players with less power faster than other headphones with more power efficiency, if you like to play your audio loud.
While the ATH-M50 is a great all rounder, giving excellent comfort, and good audio quality, several things could be improved, in our opinion. As with almost all stereo or monitor headphones meant for the studio, they have become victims of their own success, of a sort, and now consumers and users want to use them out of the studio.
An in line playback, microphone and volume control function would be good, although this won’t be a problem for audio purists, and a replaceable cable. As mentioned earlier, the weight could still be improved on.
However, we also recognize that Audio Technica has made strides in making modern headphones for the mobile consumer, as the ATH-M50 can fold into a nice little compact package and even comes with its own carrying case. The case however, could have been a hard case to protect against a life of hard knocks, as even the durable build of the ATH-M50 could use that.