Audio-Technica ATH-M50X. The Only Headphone You Need. Unless You Hate Them.

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This cable detaches. The mechanism is very very satisfying. I sometimes just attach and detach the cable for fun. I’m not joking.

Ah, the Audio-Technica M50X. I like to call them “The Internet Darling.” They are the best-reviewed headphones on the planet. Their price is relatively affordable, starting at 150ish bucks. They now come in a few different colors, some of which cost more. They get recommended over and over, by countless outlets, as the perfect starter pro-grade headphone.

And some people really hate them.

I’m not one of those people! Not at all! I think they’re great and I’ve used mine pretty consistently over the last 6 months I’ve owned them. The original M50 was designed over a decade ago, primarily for use in recording applications. It became something of a cult sensation, and the M50X was designed to improve it, in part to capitalize on its unexpected popularity. It became Audio-Technica’s all-around performance headphone. They added a removable cable. They included three different cables in the box: a short mobile cable, a coiled cable, and a long straight cable. Please everyone, do this!!! Copy this! Seriously, why does only Audio-Technica do this? They also slightly refined the sound signature.

That sound signature is the main reason why some people have recently grown to hate these. Hate them, with a capital H and all the italics. Although it has its roots in a “balanced” studio sound signature, this headphone’s sound is tweaked in certain ranges. Enhanced, just a little. Critics say they just sound bad, that they’re not “flat enough.”

Here’s the thing. Thanks to Physics and the fact that we live within their bounds, no headphone can provide a truly “flat” response across every audible sound frequency. It’s just not possible. Further, because of the way the human ear works, and the way that sound enjoyment is highly subjective, a truly flat headphone would probably sound terrible to our ears. This subjectivity also means that some people will loathe the M50X in spite of most people thinking they sound great.

In spite of the tweaks, the M50X still has a studio- style balanced sound overall. The audio just pops a little more to human ears than is normal in this…genre. Do headphones have genres? Sure. Why not?

Detractors don’t like the strength of the bass and treble, and I get that. Both ranges are just a touch stronger than in most other studio-style headphones. But that’s what allows these to be jack-of-all-trades cans. That sound is what makes them so cool, at least to me. The bass is detailed and punchy, and the mids and highs are well-articulated, to the point where these aren’t super forgiving of poorly recorded material.

You could totally use these for monitoring. You could totally use them for fun, whether it be games, music, or movies. They’re light, durable, easily portable thanks to their folding hinges and included bag, and super comfy, thanks to the most adjustable design this side of the Blue Mo-Fi. The ear cups can rotate 180 degrees and also tilt up and down. They’re as easy to wear on your head as they are your neck. I only have to extend the arms about half-way out to fit them on my gargantuan melon. Impressive!

Perhaps some of the hate against the M50X seems like it’s just because they are mega-popular. Or maybe, it comes from unrealistic expectations for the sound of a “studio monitor,” especially in this price range.

Comfort is another point of contention I’ve seen. Some feel they’re too clampy. I agree that they’re clampy, but I don’t find them uncomfortable and as mentioned, I have a large head. I can whip my head around and they don’t fall off, but they also don’t cause any pain in my jaw or along the top of my head. They seal just fine around my glasses too. I described the feeling of wearing them to my girlfriend as “like wearing soft kittens around your head that are snuggling to you as tightly as they can.”

Some think the soundstage is too narrow. Headphone soundstaging is a…weird topic to talk about, because the little speakers are so close to your ears, that this actually won’t differ all that much from headphone to headphone. With well-recorded material, I find these to be just as spacious-sounding as any other premium headphone.

So. I love these personally. I easily see why they’re so recommended. They’re my go-to headphone for monitoring, they isolate reasonably well, and they’re light enough that I can toss them in my bag for my on-the-go use, no sweat. The three different cables are great too. You might be among those that hate them. You might think they’re too bright, or too bassy. I respect these opinions, and they’re not without cause. But odds are good that you’ll love them. They’re the most recommended headphone for a reason. They’ll expose detail in recordings you’ve never heard before. And they’re not very expensive. You can’t beat that!

Get them. They’re the safest buy in premium headphones. And then hope you’re not one of the people who thinks cilantro tastes like soap. Or something. Yes. Here is another photo because the internet likes photos.

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Can you tell these were designed for Studios over ten years ago? I actually kind of love how they look and feel. They’re mostly plastic save for a strong metal headband and hinges, but satisfyingly solid.

The end kthxbye.

I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

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