Today I review the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Headphones, which are headphones that are most often used by audio engineers, pro DJ’s, and high end audio lovers due to their particular design which lends to such work, due to their large-aperature drivers that come with copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils and rare earth magnets. Fancy stuff! But it does have a purpose as well.
Of course, if you just love listening to music recreationally, gaming, or you listen to audiophile types of things re-mastered studio albums, or you like to put on binaural beats that are made for long sessions of studying or meditation, then these are other applications these headphones were made to enhance. More on that in a bit.
Basically, these Audio-Technica ATH-M50x’s are purported to be an all-around tour de force when it comes to listening to music or any audio at all really. Seemed quite promising to me going in!
Personally, reviewing these headphones at this juncture couldn’t be better for me. Why? Because it timed perfectly with some recording work I was doing at my studio and I needed a new pair of headphones, so having these available for mixing was perfect, or at least it seemed so a few weeks ago when I got started with what ended up being over 100 hours of mixing. Here’s a tune I mixed with these headphones recently.
I was looking forward to using these, partly because I expected these headphones to be made for the job, as they’re designed to convey audio from a source to your ears without any manipulation, but also because I would be doing this work for hours and I heard these were comfortable. So that’s what I’m going to get into first here – are they comfortable?
Comfort, Professional, Portable
Honestly, I was willing to sacrifice comfort for being able to mix properly if it came to that, but luckily these Audio-Technica ATH-M50x’s really lived up to their “professional” label, as I was able to hide out in my studio for hours on end, and I wasn’t leaving with a headache due to any discomfort from the headphones.
I think if you’re going to call something “professional”, you should be able to do your actual profession using the product and have no complaints. In fact, it should be the opposite – you actually WANT to use the product for that job, because that’s what it was designed for. This may sound redundant, but I’ve used many products that claim to be professional grade, and they seem about as good or worse than products that don’t make such claims.
Luckily, these headphones aren’t just called “professional” for nothing. In all the literature I’ve read on these headphones, they insist that they’re designed for the pros. Personally, I was able to do up to 4 hours of work at a time wearing these, and I probably could have gone longer, but when it comes to mixing, I find it best to do work in 3-4 hour stints, so that’s when I take the headphones off regardless. That said, wearing these headphones for 3-4 hours of a time was “like buttah”, if you get that old SNL reference. If you don’t have time to Google that, it means these are smooth headphones in that they’re very comfortable to wear.
The padding around the ears is super soft and pillow-y, which makes these excellent for the purpose of wearing for long periods, but it does nothing to interfere with the sound whatsoever. This, in combination with the headband, which doesn’t apply too much pressure on your head, is the perfect recipe for wearing these for longer sessions if you prefer.
Whether it’s studying, meditating, mixing, listening to podcasts, listening to full albums – I don’t think you’re going to have a problem with these at all. In addition, the ear cups swivel in whichever direction you please, so that makes them customizable to any shape of head. I personally have a huge head, so that works for me! It’s also good for doing single ear mixing, when you’re trying to balance something. My friend did notice that they put some pressure on her glasses which caused a tiny bit of strain, but she ended up taking the glasses off after a while, which I would also recommend, if you’re just listening. If you’re reading something at the same time, I can see how this might be a problem.
Also, I should mention that at 953 g, these are super light headphones that aren’t going to drag you down to the ground as you carry them around in your bag. Which, by the way, these headphones have a cool way of folding up so they’re great for popping into your bag or backpack.
I certainly wouldn’t wear these to the gym or anything, but I’d be tempted to just because of the comfort and the audio quality. That said, no one wears these types of headphones to the gym that I’ve ever seen. No one wants to look like a dork at the gym wearing some big honking headphones, and these aren’t exactly hard to notice! I mean, these headphones aren’t that huge, but I just wouldn’t wear them to the gym, is all. I have the bluetooth adapter for these, which makes them a lot easier to wear outside, but I still don’t really like wearing them at the gym, or running with these on. For that I still prefer ear buds.
One thing I’ve read about these Audio-Technica ATH-M50x’s is that they sound good on just about any device, and I’d say that’s pretty much true. But that doesn’t mean that all devices will sound great, since certain devices just aren’t that great to begin with. So, if you’re plugging these into a Macbook vs. an iPhone, you will get a different result from the same song. Or a gaming PC, or what-have-you. It depends on the sound quality of the device as well, ie. sound card. So, if you’re running your headphones into an adapter, that runs into a pre-amp, that runs into an audio interface, being used on a computer you got out of a dumpster, keep that in mind and don’t necessarily judge the headphones if the audio you’re hearing isn’t up to snuff.
The main thing about these headphones is that you’re getting the god’s honest truth about what you’re listening to regardless of the device you’re using or the platform. Certain sound formats will be exposed for the bad audio they are, and certain recordings will show themselves to be inferior, if that’s how they are recorded. This can be jarring to some folks who are used to hearing their recordings all artifically enhanced by speakers and headphones they’ve used before.
Budget Vs Expensive Headphones
There is a raging debate about these headphones being sort of mid-range in terms of price, in that you can get cheaper headphones by the same brand like the M40x’s, which are the relatives of the M50x, of course. You can also go into a higher price range if you are an audiophile with very specific requirements for listening. That said, these are great because they offer you the comfort (extra padding for this model) as well as the audio clarity and honesty, but for a price that is not too high, if you’re basically investing in a pair of headphones that will last you a long time and excel at multiple applications.
One big reason I wanted to try out these headphones is to see how hard it was to mix bass with them. The problem with some headphones, not to mention monitors, is that bass is often over emphasized. For instance, on my car stereo, bass is always given a “boost” just because they assume I want it boosted. I have adjust the bass manually to get it in the right spot. Same with a lot of headphones I’ve owned – they also give the bass a boost. These Audio-Technica ATH-M50x’s are meant to give you the bass as it is – that is, completely accurate.
Your average music listener probably isn’t going to be too finicky about the mix of the music they’re hearing, as most people I know just listen to MP3’s, meaning they don’t really care about sound quality all that much to begin with. That said, that’s not actually true. Just because you listen to MP3’s doesn’t mean you don’t want quality audio – it probably just means that you don’t know that MP3’s aren’t designed to be high quality, but that is a different discussion. In any case, the base, as conveyed through these headphones, is very much in it’s own place in the mix, and doesn’t bleed into other frequency ranges. This makes bass, in particular, very easy to mix with these headphones. Dig it!
As I mentioned earlier, one application that these headphones are great for is listening to binaural beats. If you’ve never heard of this, we have a great article on this website here you can read about this:
Anyway, these ATH-M50’s are actually great for this. If you want to enhance your meditation practice, or get some serious studying done while listening to the right “waves”, I highly recommend these particular headphones for doing so.
This is a big thing with these headphones, as the advertising emphasizes that these are excellent headphones for sound isolation, owing it to the circumaural design contours. This is very important for audio mixing, but also for studying, and especially meditating. Basically what this means is, you can be in a loud environment, and the audio coming through your headphones is all that you can hear. I agree that these headphones are excellent for this, as I’ve been in loud environments and I can still get things done while wearing these. It’s actually amazing what sound does NOT get in while you’re wearing these headphones, as people have basically tried to talk to me while I’m wearing them and I can’t hear them at all (thank god).
On the flip side, people also can’t hear what I’m listening to unless I crank the volume up a bit. So, if I listen to something with these headphones at a moderate volume, someone near me can’t tell what I’m listening to or really how loud it is. This is also handy, if you are at a library or in an environment where they want you to be quiet. The sound will leak out eventually, but not unless you turn it up quite a bit – about 50% or more on various devices I’ve tried.
Yes, these Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones are all they’re cracked up to be, and more. For me, they’re great for mixing or doing whatever else that might involve listening, such as meditation. Sure, I could go for something more pricy that has a few more features, but I think when you include the bluetooth adaptor into this whole package, there’s very little you can’t do with these headphones. It’s also nice that they offer different colours, and the removable cord is a nice touch as well. I think you’ll love ’em!