Friday, April 25, 2014

Audio- Technica ATH-M50X Review

Audio- Technica ATH-M50X's

The Audio- Technica ATH-M50X's retain all that made the original ATH-M50's a favorite among the professional audio community and add a few features, among other slight improvements, making an already stellar headphone even better.

It's important to note that the ATH-M50X's are sonically identical to the original ATH-M50's. They utilize identical 45mm neodymium drivers with a 99dB sensitivity rating, 38 Ohm impedance and the same 15-28,000Hz frequency response. As per my original ATH-M50 review, the M50X's have a relatively U shaped frequency response. This means emphasis on the lower range as well as the treble, and less emphasis on the mid range. In terms of sound quality, the mid-range recession would have to be a weakest point of the M50's. Despite the "Studio Monitor" moniker, the M50X's do not reproduce a very analytical sound signature, they are not dead pan flat.  They possess the aforementioned U shaped sound signature, an aspect that I actually prefer to a very flat, analytical sound.

Black, white and limited edition blue models
The build quality of the ATH-M50X's is up to par with the original M50's, and that is to say, rather good. Yes, they are entirely plastic in construction. However, as mentioned in the original M50 review, Audio- Technica obviously designed the M50's to be used in a demanding studio and professional audio setting, and to be able to take abuse.  Some improvements have been made to comfort of the M50X's in comparison to the original M50's.  For one, the headband no longer clamps as tightly on the head.  This allows for less ear pressure, improving overall comfort.  Furthermore, the ear pads are far and away better than the original ATH-M50 pads. The original ATH-M50's were plagued by an unfortunate problem that manifested itself over time. The ear pads on the original M50's would begin to harden after months of use, resulting in increasing discomfort.  The new ear pads have yet to harden as of this writing. They are also a bit thicker and contain more foam.  The pleather (fake leather material) has been significantly improved.  It is much softer and more supple.  I have also noticed that the new ATH-M50X pads are more breathable and this results in less ear sweat over extended listening periods.  Overall, I am very satisfied in the small improvements Audio- Technica has made to increase the overall comfort of the headphones. Another difference I noticed was that the ATH-M50X's joints move much more freely and with less resistance.  I am not sure if it is just my particular set or the entire line, but my M50X's ear cups swivel with much more ease of motion than my original M50's.  It's also important to mention that the new M50X's come in a variety of colors, the standard black, white and a new limited edition blue (which will cost you extra.)

Audio- Technica ATH-M50X's and
Objective 2 headphone amplifier
The biggest differentiating factor between the ATH-M50X's and ATH-M50's is the addition of a removable cable.  This is a welcomed upgrade for several reasons.  The cable is typically the first failure point of any headphone. Having the ability to remove and replace the cable ensures that, even if a cable fails (which any cable will eventually) it can be easily replaced for much less money than buying an entire new set of headphones. Of course, re-cabling is an option, but such an action requires time, know-how and more often than not a soldering iron. Having the cable simply be replaceable is a much more user friendly and elegant option.  Secondly, removable cables allow the user the select the length/ type of cable they want to use for a given situation.  The new ATH-M50X's comes with three cables, a 1.2 m straight cable for increasing ease of use and functionality with a portable media player, a 3.0 m straight cable and a 1.2 m to 3.0 m coiled cable for when the user wants some extra length in the studio or just to reach a far away source. The older M50's had a singular, non-detachable cable with a rather bulky connector, its bulk caused by its ability to accommodate a 1.4 inch screw-on adapter. With the original M50's, the cable would often nor fit in portable devices such as iPods and iPhones due to the bulk of the connector.  This issue has been remedied by the new ATH-M50X's, with the connectors on all three cables having been slimmed down in order to accommodate portable devices (no more taking my iPhone case off to listen to music!). The M50X's ship with a new logo stamped headphone bag, the aforementioned three removable cables, a 1/4 inch adapter and the headphones themselves.

The verdict.  Every single change Audio- Technica has made to the new ATH-M50X's has been a positive improvement. Audio- Technica has managed to improve the ATH-M50's while still retaining everything that made the originals great. One thing that has changed that I am not particularly pleased to see is the price.  I understand that the M50X's should be a bit more than the original M50's, considering the inclusion of three cables and the removable option.  However, the $40 dollar price hike over the original M50's is still a bit steep for the new features brought to the table.  A $15 to $20 dollar price increase would have been a bit more reasonable, and seeing that Audio- Technica is not retaining the older M50's, I guess future buyers have no choice but to spend more for features that they may or may not want or may not deem worth the price.  I feel as if this price hike has degraded the M50X's price to performance ratio to a degree. However, with the commendable pedigree established by the M50's, Audio- Technica is likely to continue to sell M50X's in large quantities, and despite the price increase, the M50X's are still solid performers.

CLICK HERE for Audio- Technica ATH-M50X product page
CLICK HERE for Audio- Technica ATH-M50X Amazon product page

(a big thanks to Audio- Technica for sending out this review unit among others)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your article. Audio-Technica ATH M50x are one of my best choice for listening music.