Monday, January 20, 2014

Audio- Technica ATH-M35 Review

Audio- Technica
The Audio- Technica ATH-M35's provide entry into a much more gratifying listening experience when compared with marginally less expensive headphones and does so at a price that won't break the bank.  At the suggested retail price of $140 dollars, they do not necessarily represent the best value.  However, in my experience, it is nearly impossible to find these headphones at the $140 dollar price point. One can usually find the ATH-M35's in the $50 to $70 dollar price range, depending on where you look, and this is where the ATH-M35's start to provide a particularly compelling value.  For around $60 dollars, you get a well built, reasonably comfortable over ear headphone with the ability to fold up into a ball for travel, a thick gauge 3.4m long cable, a carrying pouch as well as a 3.5 to 6.3mm screw on adapter. For the $50 to $70 dollar price bracket, these are some of the best headphones one can buy, and here is why:

The build quality.  For $50 to $60 dollars you really can't ask for any more.  The ATH- M35's utilize the same thick gauge cable, spring strain relief and connector as the more expensive ATH-M50's.  It's nice to see that Audio- Technica did not cut corners where the cable is concerned.  Now many may ask, "why so much fuss over the cable?" The importance of cable strength, quality, thickness and the inclusion of strong enough strain reliefs is paramount in any headphone.  The first and most common fail point of any headphone is always the cable, specifically where the cable enters the ear cup and where it terminates (the 3.5mm connector).  The inclusion of a spring strain relief where the cable enters the termination point and a rubber strain relief where the cable enters the ear cup ensures longevity for years of prolonged use and the elimination of left or right channel cutouts over time.  As far as the overall build, the headphones are almost entirely plastic in construction. The plastic feels durable enough, but is much lighter and less dense than the plastic found on the ATH-M50's (keep the price point in mind here).  The headband is extremely flexible, and is supplemented with just enough padding to label it as adequate.  I have two issues where the build is concerned.  Number one, the ear pads are made from the cheap pleather or synthetic leather variety, similar (actually almost identical) to the ear pads used on my now four year old pair of Sony MDR-7506's which, over the years have deteriorated almost completely.  It is yet to be seen whether or not these pads will suffer the same fate after prolonged use, but judging by the inherent similarity between the two, I can only fear the worst. Second, the ear cups only swivel ever so slightly to accommodate different head shapes and sizes.  I wish the range of motion was a bit larger, but this particular gripe is rather minor.  As far as the ear pads are concerned, replacements are relatively inexpensive but I do wish Audio- Technica selected some higher quality pads for these headphones.  You will be guaranteed to get at least a few years use out of the pads or more, depending on your usage scenarios and also how much your ears/ head sweats, as this is what causes the eventual break down of the material.

As far as aesthetics are concerned, the ATH-M35's follow the trend set by most studio monitors and remain very plain looking.  No flashy styling here, the M35's are designed to be a purely functional headphone, performing their job without any nonsense.

The sound quality.  In a nutshell, the ATH-M35's sound like a much more laid back version of the ATH-M50's, with far less aggressive bass and a not as clear and sparkly upper range.  Obviously the M50's overall sound quite a bit better, but the ATH-M35's perform well in their own right and easily beat out similarly priced headphones (cough, Skullcandy cough cough). The ATH-M35's also sound great with pretty much any music genre you throw at them, truly living up to their no-nonsense, studio monitor pedigree. Once again comparing the M35's to the M50's (as the M50's do provide a good reference point) the M35's are quite a bit warmer, which I tend to like.  The bass has a tendency to get a bit loose in the lower ranges, but tightens up as you go up the frequency spectrum.  As with most studio monitor headphones, the bass is not overly exaggerated or boosted in any manner.  If you are looking for bass heavy cans, I would advise you to look elsewhere. The mid range is ever so slightly recessed (similar to the M50's but not as severe as the M50's mid range recession) and the highs are decently crisp without being piercing, the lack of which makes these headphones sound very warm in comparison. The M35's feature 40mm Neodymium driver units with a frequency response of 20 to 20,000Hz and a 65 Ohm impedance rating.  As for the impedance rating, yes, the ATH-M35s CAN be used, un- amped with a portable music device/ player. However, an MP3 players output is not going to be able to drive them to ear splitting volume levels.  The M35's do benefit slightly from amping, mostly in increased volume level and just more overall clarity (in my case, using a FiiO E7 portable headphone amp/ DAC)

Braiding the cable can reduce cable length making the M35's
more portable.
The Audio- Technica ATH-M35's lack the obvious features present in many modern headphones, such as a smartphone compatible inline remote/ mic.  The ATH-M35's also have a particularly long cable, making them more difficult to use on the go (although I have my cable braided in a loop to make it shorter). However, that is not the point of these headphones.  The point of these headphones is to provide good sound quality at an attractive price, and the ATH-M35's definitely fulfill that role.  The price of the ATH-M35's tends to fluctuate a bit, but finding them anywhere in the $50 dollar price range makes them practically a steal and a great value in comparison to other, similarly priced headphones.  Just stepping up from your $20 to $30 dollar headphones to these makes a HUGE difference, and I suggest seriously considering a pair of ATH-M35's if you want a taste of what a truly good pair of quality entry level headphones sounds like.

CLICK HERE for Audio- Technica ATH-M35 Product Page
CLICK HERE for Audio- Technica AT-M35 Amazon Product Page


  1. could you maybe give a guide on how to do the nice braid you did, it seems very clean.

  2. Hi, am planning to buy ATH M30. Do you think it will work well with Mobile phone/Laptop without an amplifier?

    1. It will still achieve reasonable volume levels without an amplifier, not ear splitting, but no louder than you should be listening to music anyway if you value your hearing. The M35's are a bit of a lower end headphone, so they only benefit a little from amplification as far as sound quality is concerned.