The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are the consumer follow-up to the ATH-M50, a pair of headphones designed for the pros that proved so popular with normal folk it seemed silly not to make a slightly more friendly edition.
This new pair isn’t much more expensive than the original, selling for under £120 online, and gets you interchangeable cables and the same great sound that made the original set so popular. If you’re out for portable headphones and don’t mind them being a little large, you’d be remiss not to consider the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x.
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The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are large over-ear headphones, which are generally much bigger than the kind of style-driven on-ear headphones you see at this price. While they are more a rival to the Beats Studio than the cheaper Beats Solo 2, they cost a good deal less than either.
It’s refreshing to see a pair of high-quality portable headphones designed for normal people that cost less than £150. Some of you might think spending more than £100 on headphones is madness, but you’ll have to trust us: you’re getting a pretty good deal here.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x’s pro audio roots are still pretty clear, though. Where many style headphones try to look sleek, and put expensive-feeling materials like aluminium and leather near your fingertips, these are largely – and unashamedly – plastic.
There’s a little ring of metal inlaid into the ear cups, and the headband is reinforced with a band of steel. But the look is “I’m here, deal with it” rather than being desperate to please.
Taking this style into account, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x look is actually pretty good. While big, the earcups don’t stick out miles from the side of your head, and neither does the headband (although it is beefy). Audio-Technica has not made any major changes to the look in making this more wide-reaching version of the original M50s.
The one big difference is that the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, like most new full-size headphones, have a removable cable. While the socket is a standard 2.5mm affair, there’s a twist-to-lock mechanism that means you wont simply just be able to use any 2.5mm cable.
However, you shouldn’t really need to as you get a very generous three cables in the box. There's one 1.2m cable for portable use and two longers (coiled, straight) one for use at home, in the studio, in the DJ booth: whatever is your bag. There's no iOS remote, but then the cable is much thicker than the type that normally has one.
We find these headphones fantastically versatile. As well as having the cabling for both portable and at-home use, they have the comfort for both situations too.
Using much larger ear pads than, for example, the Sennheiser Momentum gives your earlobes plenty of room, and the headband successfully spreads the pressure over your head. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x have a mid-firm grip on your head that we think most people will find no problem with thanks to the expansive earpads.
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Like most other headphones with a hint of DJ style, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x also fold up for extra portability. As long as you don’t need headphones that are tiny or as slick-looking as an iPhone 5S, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are excellent.
There’s just one practical – and slightly surprising – issue with the hardware. Noise isolation is just OK, where big over-ears headphones like this often excel in this area. We’re not entirely sure why – it may be simply down to there being not all that much between your ear and the outside world bar the driver and the relatively thin layer of plastic that makes up the back of the ear cup.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x offer sound we think will appeal to an extremely wide audience. And that’s not an insult.
They offer the bass power, the low-end beefiness, that virtually all headphones seem to aspire to these days, but match it with the control, the expansiveness and the separation that stops it from clogging the sound up.
At the price, the kind of breadth of sound on offer here is very rare in a closed-back headphone. Actual width of soundstage is naturally bettered by an open-back pair – by something like the Sennheiser HD 598 – but comparing like-for-like, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x do extremely well.
Add to this a detailed-but-smooth treble and you have headphones that sound lively and exciting, while having enough of the high-end flavour to satisfy those with discerning ears. It’s a winning combo that deserves to win the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x much more mainstream recognition than they get at present.
We do still think they’re better at listening for enjoyment rather than the more professional applications the original ATH-M50 were often associated with. Here’s the thing – there is a bit too much bass going on here than is strictly accurate. We found that it only really detracted from the actual listening experience with spoken-word stuff (audiobooks, anyone?).
There is some of the low-end resonance you get in a bassy headphone with lone voices, although with music the sense of scale and separation here is great enough to ensure that the bass emphasis doesn’t trample over everything else.
And, boy, does it make listening to music fun. As well as bringing extra power, bass depth is great too. This is particularly useful for gaming and movies, where deep bass adds extra impact to action scenes.
In the last couple of years we’ve reviewed a lot of style headphones. Some good, plenty not so good. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x show that you generally get a lot more bang for your buck from something a bit more traditional.
They have the bass skew of most style headphones, but execute this sort of sound with the panache that’s rare enough at £250, let alone the £120 you need to pay for these.
At the price the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x wipe the floor with most rivals, and offer a pretty good alternative to headphones twice the price like the Sennheiser Momentum.
Great sound and good comfort make the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x a smash. Isolation could be better, but they come highly recommended regardless.
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