On an average, casual music lovers seek a certain kind of oomph and pronounced bass response from headphones. On the other hand, audio professionals yearn for headphones possessing balanced and neutral sound. It’s not often that any particular headphone receives universal praise from professionals and the audiophiles alike. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50 is one such headphone. Audio Technica has released a slightly tweaked version of the bestselling original dubbed as the ATH-M50x. The company swears that new model has the same sound signature as that of its elder sibling, with the major change being the addition of a detachable cable.
Mild cosmetic and magnetic changes
The ATH-M50x continues the legacy of ATH-M50’s circumaural design. The contoured ear cups sit comfortably on the ears and isolate ambient noise well enough. The removable cable plugged to the left ear cup is the only design change from the original. The headphones aren’t flamboyant like the Skullcandy Crusher, Sennheiser Momentum, or Philips Fidelio. The body is fashioned out of good quality plastic and sports a matte finish. The back-side of the ear-cups has an embossed Audio-Technica logo with a metal ring around it, which lends it a premium look. The ear cups and headband feature soft leather padding, which is noticeably better than its predecessor. Although the cushioning makes the headphones sit comfortably on your head, it also leads to sweaty ears in summers, especially if your room isn’t air conditioned. Unfortunately, the headband stiffness is on the tighter side and that could prove uncomfortable on extended usage, despite the soft ear pads.
Since the ATH-M50 is positioned as a studio monitor, it allows the ear cups to be swivelled 180-degrees in order to allow single channel monitoring. This also saves considerable storage space too, because the ear cups can then be folded flat to make them compact. The 45 mm drivers employs powerful neodymium magnets and copper-clad aluminium coils, which makes it both versatile and capable enough to handle a wide variety of music genres.
Although the headphone features a detachable cable design, the unique twist-lock mechanism means that you can’t just pop in any aux cable. On the bright side, the same mechanism prevents the cable from popping out accidentally. The best part is that the unit ships with not one but three high quality cables of varying lengths. Talk about redundancy!
The generous three metre cable is great for using the headphones with TV for watching movies or the hi-fi system for listening to music. The shorter 1.2 metre cable works best with laptops, mobiles, and portable media players. The coiled cable is best suited for studios. The ATH-M50x looks classy despite carrying a traditional design with a black matte chassis. But if you aren’t a fan of the colour, the headphones are also available in white and the limited edition blue version bearing brown accents. However, the black units are available widely, with the other colour variants proving hard to find.
Wider soundstage is impressive
Dubbed as the part of Audio Technica’s “Studio Monitor” line and excellent track record of its predecessor had forced us to set some expectations. Bearing a sensitivity of 99dB, the ATH-M50x worked perfectly with lossless digital music and even better with a dedicated amplifier. We listened to a lot of FLAC files and a few MP3s, while the headphones were hooked to devices ranging from the iPhone 6s Plus to a MacBook paired with a FiiO Alpen E17 portable amplifier.
In Adele’s ‘Hello’, the vocals sounded a bit recessed but powerful. The fast-paced ‘Joker And The Thief’ by Wolfmother had good quality mids but were slightly recessed. The bass was tight in ‘Above & Beyond’ by Bassnectar & Seth Drake. With the FiiO amp, the bass was deeper but still didn’t overpower the overall music delivery. We did feel that the upper bass had a tendency to become boomy.
We typically enjoyed Ennio Morricone’s ‘L’Ultima Diligenza Di Red Rock’ instrumental track created a dramatic march atmosphere using an interesting mix of wind instruments with violins and thunderous drums. Treble response was quite clean, but the highs are rolled to some extent. This is especially true for the ride cymbals on Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’, which sound just right and not ear-piercingly sharp as evident with treble-heavy units. Imaging too is marginally better and soundstage wider than the ATH-M50.
Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50x packs a mean punch and is a worthy replacement for the legendary ATH-M50. Available for Rs 9,999, the headphones are a bit costlier than the outgoing model. However, the new removable cable mechanism with two extra cables makes it worth the price. Moreover, the swivelling ear cup design makes it flat and compact enough to fit in the bundled carrying case.
The plush ear cups provide good comfort for prolonged usage and decent isolation to boot. The three detachable audio cables of varying lengths cover a variety of usage needs. However, it would’ve been great if at least one of them was outfitted with an in-line microphone. The high-sensitivity headphones are and easy to drive and can be used with mobile phones and a number of portable gadgets.
While the ATH-M50x is a part of the company’s Studio Monitor line up, it does have some accentuated bass, especially in the upper bass region. Otherwise, the bass response is tight, treble is detailed, mids are slightly recessed. This makes them the best sounding headphones in the sub Rs 10,000 price range. That said, the pair is not exactly neutral because of the pronounced upper bass.
We can easily recommend this pair for the new audio enthusiasts, amateur sound production, and for professionals who don’t seek an extremely neutral pair. The ATH-M50x exhibits an impressive tonal balance, whereas the comfort and sound isolation add up to provide the best bang for the buck.
Audio Technica ATH-M50XRs 9,499
What Is Good?
- Sturdy build
- Balanced and detailed sound
- Deep and full bass
- Detachable cable
What Is Bad?
- Slightly tight, proves uncomfortable on extended use
- Leather pads lack ventilation; lead to sweaty, clammy ears
- Regular Aux cables not supported