6.03.2011

New Phones!!! Audio Technica ATH-M50s!!!




ATH-M50s

I finally broke my no-more-buying-shit-I-don't-need-a-thon. It was a nice 5 weeks while it lasted. These were a bit pricey at $160 but I've been corrupted enough to actually think they are worth it! My first pair of real headphones were the M30, also by Audio Technica, and at only $30 were so worth the money back then. True, the sound was too muddled but it was still so much better than everything I had put in my ears up to that point. I loved the isolation and bass and took them everywhere with me. I used them for years until they finally broke. The M50s is such a vast improvement it's ridiculous. 

The clarity and detail is amazing. This is even without any burn in, straight out of the box. The bass is nice, not overpowering at moderate volumes, although a tad boomy at times. Crank up the volume though and it will FEEL like an elephant just ran across the room. Haven't cranked it up enough to actually see but at a little over half volume (which is pretty darn loud, imo) I could feel it in my head. Like others, I agree that the mids are a little recessed, but as long as the bass doesn't get any bigger after burn in, I think it will be fine. Despite it's tendency to favor the bass, I find that these are actually very natural sounding, and very clean. What is really amazing though, is the detail that I can pick up with these. I plugged into my macbook and played a few faves off itunes and was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, by what I heard. On a few tracks, I felt like I was listening to a completely different song. I even had to take them off and look around the room because I was hearing things in the music I had never heard before! 

Now, let me just say straight out, that I am an isolation junkie. I simply cannot stand it when headphones leak sound. It drives me nuts. I'm getting nitpicky here, but these leak just a bit too much for my liking. I actually think my M30's did a better job of keeping the sound in than these! With the volume on low, you can't really hear them if the pads are right up next to each other. At 50% volume you can definitely hear sound. Any louder than 50% and I can make out actual lyrics! This is only a problem if you have someone inches away from you though. These observations are from me, sitting at my desk, in a quiet room with next to no ambient noise. Once I got out of my chair the sound leakage isn't as noticable, and if I take a step back, is even less noticable. At two steps away, maybe a yard or so, I can't hear them anymore. So yeah, I'm nitpicking here for sure. :) The sound isolation with these are pretty good though. I can barely hear a thing outside of the music with these on. I haven't tried them in a really noisy spot yet but for moderate ambient noise these do an excellent job of blocking it out.

Another aspect worth mentioning is how awesomely comfortable these are. In fact, it almost feels as though they were built for my head! I didn't need to adjust the headband at all and the cups completely, and I mean COMPLETELY, cover my ears. The leather/leatherette pads are soft and cushy, but as with all closed phones with this type of padding, they can get warm. The pressure is also perfect, maybe even a tad bit on the loose side for me. I do however, start to feel the strain after a few hours but nothing a quick rub of the ears doesn't get rid of. By far the most comfortable cans I've owned. And that's saying a lot. I have an industrial and these cans act like it's not even there. I don't feel any sort of pain or pressure on that ear, which is what happens to varying degrees with almost every other pair of phones I've tried. They are also really comfy around the neck, which not all headphones are, for me at least.

As for styling, I tend to think most audiophile headphones are pretty ugly looking with a few exceptions, and only in the context of their environment. On the flip side, the ones that look cute are severely lacking in sound quality. I think these are neither stylish nor ugly, which is fine by me. They are mostly black with a silver cirlce trim on each side and silver dots indicating L and R, and have Audio Technica silk screened on the top band. They are definitely not as stylish as Beats if you're walking down the street, but a lot less hideous looking than other phones out there. I would definitely feel comfortable walking around town in these, which I will probably end up doing a lot of since these are also collapsible and come with a pouch to tote it around in. They can either fold up into a little half circle with the cups under the top band, or the cups also rotate so it lies flat, which is great.

I've heard these get better after 100+ hours burn in so I can't wait to see how the sound changes for me once I hit 100 hours. I picked these up locally at Guitar Center for $160+tax, which is how much they are going for everywhere, even Amazon. I don't know why but the price on these jumped like crazy in the past few months. I wanted to wait for it to go down again but figured the extra $50 was worth it to be able to actually enjoy music again, and like I said, I got impatient. Guitar Center also has a protection plan that will replace them should anything happen to them, and with my track record the extra $27 will surely pay for itself in a year or two. :P I also tried out a few other cans before buying these; Pioneer HDJ1000 which I actually liked, Denon HP500 which were crap, a higher end pair of Denon DJ phones, which were good but too bass heavy for me, the Shure SR840/440 (the 840's were a demo and sounded awful, the 440's were new out of box and were MUCH better as crazy as it sounds!), Senn's HD280 which were ok but made me question all the hype, and a few others. Had I not bought the M50s, I probably would have gone with the Pioneer or Shure 440. If you're looking to get into the game, I would say the M50's are a great way to go. For half the price, the Shure SR440 are also great, closed, portable phones with excellent sound for the money. If you have unlimited funds and are willing to spend it on headphones...well then that's another story. And also, we should chat. :)




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