Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Headphones: An Understated All-star

Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Headphones: An Understated All-star

We’ve reviewed a lot of headphones here over the last month, but today we come to a pair that have quickly become my go-to set of monitors. I’m talking about the Audio-TechnicaATH-M50X professional monitor headphones. Now, they’re not gaming headphones, but they’re great for it; and have been great for everything I’ve thrown at them. If you have a standalone mic, you absolutely should be eyeing the M50X as one of the best pairs of affordable headphones you can buy.

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Specifications

MSRP: $149.99 Type: Closed-back dynamic Driver Diameter: 45 mm Magnet: Neodymium Voice Coil: CCAW (Copper-clad aluminum wire) Frequency Response: 15 - 28,000 Hz Maximum Input Power: 1,600 mW at 1 kHz Sensitivity: 99 dB Impedance: 38 ohms Weight: 285 g (10 oz), without cable and connector Interchangeable Cables: all detachable, 1.2 m - 3m coiled cable, 3m straight cable,1.2m straight cable Accessories Included: Protective carrying pouch, 6.3 mm (1/4") screw-on adapter

Right away, it’s apparent that you’re dealing with a different caliber of headphone than most gaming sets. When you unbox the M50X, behind the headphones themselves are three high quality cables, two for normal audio devices and a longer 9ft straight cable for studio use, as well as a high quality faux leather travel bag. Needless to say, most headphones gamers are looking at won’t be shipping with a studio cable. These are headphones made to serve a huge array of needs but their mission is absolutely clear: deliver an amazing sound at an outstanding price.

The headphones are understated in design, all matte black with only a silver ring on each earcup highlighting a glossy Audio-Technica logo (which has got to be one of the most stylish in the business). Along the headband the brand name is printed in grey. They look great, and I have no problem wearing them out of the house. In fact, I regularly use them on stage when I play guitar with my local church. In the past, over-ears have always made me feel self-conscious. Not only do these headphones look completely fine to wear out and about, but they completely outclass my last pair of $100 Shure SE215 in-ear monitors.

Build-wise, you’re looking at a largely plastic design, but one that is very well made. The headband features metal inserts, ridged to adjust to different head sizes, and has enough flex to withstand strenuous use. The hinges connecting the ear cups are thick and multi-part, allowing them to articulate. You can rotate them to rest flat on your chest as well as snap them inward for easier storage. The earcups use a breatheable foam trimmed in more faux leather. They’re comfortable and do an excellent job of sealing around your ears for noise isolation; at the same time, I am concerned how they’ll hold up years down the line. If they do wear down, it won’t be soon and replacement ear pads are readily available. 

But build quality doesn’t matter if the sound isn’t up to snuff, and the M50Xs are. I’m trying out many, many headphones in this review series and there are a handful that really stand out. In the case of these Audio-Technicas, if I want the best sound, they are absolutely the headphones I’m going to reach for. Sound is subjective, and there’s at least one other pair coming up next week that I would say are as good in a different way, but for all of that, I would have no reservations recommending anyone buy these headphones.

The reason why is simple: Audio-Technica has tuned the M50Xs to deliver a richness and clarity across the frequency spectrum. They’re powered by a pair of 45mm neodymium drivers and don’t overly color the sound. If you’re creating content, you can count on these to give you a real picture of the audio you’re creating. In games and music with uncompressed audio, they sound fantastic and true to what’s being delivered.

The first place it really hit me how good these headphones are was on stage. Our church uses a monitoring system with enough power for great volume and clarity (they require no amp, FYI). Before this day, I’d used the M50Xs on a smartphone with a weak output and had to really crank them to reach a comfortable volume (note: this was a problem with this particular device - everything else I paired them with worked perfectly). When I strummed my guitar for the first time and heard how exactly they caught the voice of my instrument, I was in love. I haven’t played a day since without them.

In games, that same experience can be had. Listening to lossless music, too. It’s a common refrain in this review series, but clarity, clarity, clarity. The M50Xs allow you to hear every instrument in an acceptably large soundstage (especially for closed back ‘phones). You can hear the minutia happening in the background of songs that you’ve never heard clearly before. I games, you’ll hear every footstep, every echo, every alerted mob. They really are that good. That said, you can expect a certain balance from them too. I was very happy with their reference sound, but for big, heavy bass, you’ll want to punch up the EQ.

The only downside would be that the 3m cable doesn’t feature any in-line microphone. But then, even though they’re great for it, the headphones’ history isn’t exactly tied to smartphone use, so I get it. These are headphones with one purpose: to sound great. Plugging them into a mic like the AT2020USB+ makes for the perfect pairing for any streamer or gamer looking to up their audio game.

Final Thoughts

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50Xs are a beloved headphone and for good reason. They sound fantastic at a fantastic price, making them one of the best value headphones around. If you’re looking to bump yourself up from the average gaming headset and have a standalone mic to pair them with, well, what are you waiting for?

Pros

Amazing sound that doesn’t overly color the audio Great build quality Stylish looks Affordably priced Extra cables and travel bag

Cons

No in-line microphone

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for purposes of review.l

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