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Very durable, slick-looking headphones made for serious listening.

Exploring these cans, you'll notice the band of the ATH-M50 is adjustable and very comfortable, not to mention the fact where the ear cups meet the band, you can swivel them a total of 180 degrees if you don’t want to wear them, but still listen to one channel. Leading out the left ear cup is a cable that is as beefy and durable as they come. Not only does it have significant wire insulation, but it also even has a section of spiraled cable, allowing some give before it is pulled taut.

The ATH-M50s are extremely comfortable to wear when you first slide them on your head.

Terminating that cable is the plug of the ATH-M50, which is not your standard 1/8th inch affair. Included in the package is a 1/4th inch adapter screwed onto the threading of the plug to keep it secure. In addition, the entire assembly is constructed out of metal, which should withstand several gigs or shows. These cans are very durable: they're made of high-quality materials, and much attention is paid to commonly-broken features.

The ATH-M50s are extremely comfortable to wear when you first slide them on your head, as they firmly grip your skull, but are soft enough that there isn’t much pressure. They are a bit heavy, but tolerable, and the fit doesn't change much over time. Still, despite our assessment of the ATH-M50’s comfort level, you may have a different experience with them as you have different heads, so you may want to try them on before you buy so you can know exactly how they’ll feel when you listen to music.

Great audio quality for the price, and super low distortion.

These headphones are among the best at their price point when it comes to reproducing the sweet, sweet melodies of your music. Not only do they do a relatively good job of reproducing your music in the way that it was created, but these headphones also have a very low distortion level, meaning that there won't be any annoying crackling or fuzz added to your music.

These headphones are among the best at their price point.

They're not perfect, but then again no headphones are. There are minor imperfections in the performance of these headphones, but overall they will provide bass fans with a decent bump without overpowering the rest of their music, and will give you some of the best audio quality you could ask for below $200. The closed backs mean that the ATH-M50s will prevent a certain amount of outside noise from pestering you while you listen, as well.

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Durable, high-performance headphones for a low price.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50s aren’t a bad set of over-ears, although they aren’t studio or monitor headphones by any stretch of the imagination (as their branding claims). Still, if you’re using these at home or at a show, you shouldn’t be disappointed with them for the amount of money they’ll set you back. They have their ups and downs (specifically in frequency response) but they are above average in their price range. They dazzle in some places, and they definitely won’t disappoint.

We don't recommend using these headphones as studio monitors like their branding would suggest, but they offer a good frequency response, super low distortion measure, and great all-around performance. They do tend to leak a bit of sound if you listen at a high volume, but if you keep your controls in check, you should be fine.

Not perfect, but will definitely appeal to bass fans and equalizer junkies.

As you can see from the chart below, the frequency response of the ATH-M50 was a little more dynamic than what we usually like to see, but for some people the overemphasized bass and subdued 5-10kHz ranges might be preferable to other headphones. Still, don’t let the branding fool you, these are not headphone variants of studio monitors. Not even close.

In addition to feeling like you have a subwoofer inside your head, you’ll also notice that sibilants (s, sh sounds), cymbal crashes and high-hats will all sound a little muffled in comparison to other instruments and voice sounds due to a slight underemphasis in the 3-6kHz range. Given that these specific sounds are typically pretty loud in comparison to others when their levels aren’t toned down a bit in an unmixed track, it’s not terribly surprising that Audio-Technica would elect to downplay these sounds. We still believe that if the track is mixed correctly, this underemphasis is unnecessary (and leads to bad mixing if you use these headphones at home to create tracks). These are not ideal headphones for this purpose.

Somewhat poor isolation makes these not ideal for the outside.

Given that these headphones aren’t really designed to keep all noise out, it’s not surprising that they let a bunch of noise through, and don’t isolate very well. Despite their closed-back design, over-ear headphones like the ATH-M50s will never be as good at isolation as in-ear headphones. It’s just what we’ve come to expect. Still, if your tunes are bumping, don’t expect to hear a bunch of noise anyways.

These cans in particular let in low-end noise like car engine noise and moving furniture almost unimpeded, so it's possible that they're not all that ideal to be listening to if these are common occurrences in your listening environment. They do a fair job of preventing human speech and animal noise from reaching your ear canals, however.

If you do elect to take these cans outside, be aware that the louder you listen, the greater the chance of getting overheard. These cans leak a fair bit of noise, so be cautious.

Super low distortion, and a high potential listening volume

The ATH-M50 had no troubles here, as it has only a negligible amount of distortion, well below the level at which it would become annoying to your average human being. In fact, unless you're a robot, it will be completely inaudible. Even at volume, these headphones have a maximum usable volume of 115.83 dB, which is more than most mobile devices can output at max volume. After this decibel level, the amount of distortion exceeds the 3% mark, which is the threshold where it can get pretty annoying.

Like always, we would like to mention that for no reason should you be listening to your headphones at 120dB or above, as this is the level at which permanent hearing loss can occur instantly. Even more troubling is the fact that prolonged exposure to decibel levels even lower than this can cause permanent hearing loss, so you should probably cap your volume output at 85dB. If you’d like to know more about Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), please visit our page on the subject.

Meet the tester

Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas

Staff Writer, Imaging


A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.

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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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