When it comes to high-quality headphones here in India, we’re limited to a few select brands. Users have to try and get high-quality products from the US and European markets. Fortunately, the good people over at Pristine Audio have managed to bring in brands such as Audio Technica to the country. One of the products we’ve got our hands on are the ATH-M50 headphones, a pair that lies in the Professional Studio Monitor lineup.
The ATH-M50s are some of the better looking headphones around. The cans are surrounded by synthetic padding. The cups rotate a little bit, so carrying them around becomes easy. They’re not the most compact of designs but are smaller than headphones such as the Sennheiser HD518 and the JVC RX700/900 range of headphones. The bundled cable is of top notch quality and the second half of the cable is coiled. The headphones also come with a 3.5mm to 6.3mm connector. The connectors are all gold-plated like is the case with most high-end headphones these days. The coiled cable can stretch roughly 3m which is a lot -1.2m without stretching it. The connector is wrapped with a metal coil so that the cable doesn’t snap or damage itself in the long run.
Comfort-wise, the ATH-M50 as a new pair,aren’t the most comfortable headphones around. The tension on the band and the cups is strong enough to keep them securely fit. However, if you drop the headphones a little lower, then part of the headphone puts some pressure under your ears. Things can get a little stuffy after an hour of use. It’s by far more comfortable than the JVC RX700 and RX900 headphones.
The ATH-M50 are driven by two 45mm neodymium drivers. The frequency range of the headphones is stated to be 15 to 28,000Hz. Offering just 38 Ohms of impedance, these should be an easy set of headphones to drive with integrated audio solutions on motherboards and if necessary, mobile phones and PMPs. The M50s are a circumaural pair of headphones and they just about cover the ears.
We’re quite impressed by the design and the build quality of the M50, but what really matters with products such as headphones and especially somewhat high-end ones like the M50, is the performance. We tested the ATH-M50 across a number of products ranging from notebooks to mobile phones, the iPad 2, the ASUS Xonar DX and a Nuforce Icon uDAC. We used WASAPI and ASIO protocols to output music on the PC.
High quality cable and accessories
The first thing that strikes you is that the sound is a bit on the brighter side and don’t have the mid-heavy sound that you normally find on Grados. There’s a good bit of detail as well and the brighter sound tends to emphasise that. Even at lower volumes, the M50 manages to perform well.
Driving them is really not a problem with almost any source. There’s decent bass audible at lower volumes. Sound separation is great and the sound staging is somewhat narrow but still better than some of the headphones around. You can use a crossfeed plugin for your media player to try and widen the staging.
The M50 is great for metal and rock genres of music where sharp, gritty sounding guitars play along a mellow bassline and punchy bass drums. The bass on the M50 is accurate to a fair extent and it doesn’t cut out or eat into other frequencies. This characteristic is irrespective of the volume. If there had to be something missing, it would be the scooped sound because of a slightly underwhelming mid-range frequency range. The bass is not too boomy but the phones sound great across all genres of music. Those looking for a rich, warm tone might find the bright sound a little difficult to get used to. There's no fatigue after listening to it for long hours. It's only that the fitting of the headphones on your head might get a bit tiring after a while. This is likely to go away after using the headphones for a while.
The Audio Technica ATH-M50 are without a doubt, a good pair of headphones for music enthusiasts. The headphones are priced at Rs. 8,500 (market price of Rs. 7,500), which makes them a little expensive but considering the few options freely available in the market, it’s one of the best you can find in this price range.
Attractive design, but there's more to it
They offer a much superior sound to products priced at some 20 to 30 percent cheaper. With no need for amping, this means your overall investment for a good desktop audio setup is minimized as well. We just recommend using a good discrete audio source though to get the most out of these cans.
Updated 23 May, 2013, 11:11 am IST
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