The Audio Technica ATH-M50
Ask any headphone geek that's been around for a while for a recommendation between $100 and $200, and there's a very good chance the Audio Technica ATH-M50 will be the first thing out of their mouth.
With good reason, if you ask me. Let's check them out.
The Audio Technical ATH-M50 ($199 MSRP - $159 street)
I'm staring here at my keyboard trying to think of something interesting to say about these headphones to get us started. The problem is the M50 has all the charisma of a 2"x4". They're about as plain-Jane as headphones come. But as we all know, beauty is more than skin deep, so bear with me here as we dig into these cans.
Styling, Ergonomics, Build, and Comfort
Form follows function with the M50, and little attention is paid to styling for its own sake. They're black plastic and pleather with a couple of shiny bits on the earpieces and headband. Move along ... nothing to see here.
The earpieces swivel significantly in three axis and are sometimes a bit of a floppy affair when picking them up. But DJs who like to hold the cans up to one ear will appreciate it, and there is one moderately comfortable way to wear the headphones with only one earpiece on. (See video.)
The headband has good padding and range of adjustment. The band rests on the top of your head only, making for a potentially uncomfortable hot spot on the top of your head during long listening sessions. Fortunately, the headphones are relatively light and the pad is fairly large and soft. I would consider this a minor point.
The earpads are full-size and around the ear with ample room. My ears barely touched inside the earcups, and I would say the earpieces are slightly more comfortable than average. These headphones, like most sealed headphones with pleather ear pads, will get pretty warm after a while. The clamping pressure is modest; I generally feel these are pretty comfortable headphones.
The cable is coiled and about 4' long normally, and 9' stretched out. The cable enters the left earpiece and is not removable. The cable connector is a fairly large 1/8" mini-plug with a metal housing and a wound spring strain relief. This plug may not fit through some protective cases on portable devices. The headphones come with a screw on 1/8" to 1/4" screw-on adapter and a carry pouch. There is a model of this headphone available with a straight cable: ATH-M50S.
The Audio Technica ATH-M50 isolation is below average for this category at -9dB broad-band attenuation. If you plan to use these headphones in significantly loud environments, I'd probably try to steer you in the direction of the Shure SRH440, SRH840, or Sony MDR-ZX700.
On to sound quality!