The Legend Continues: The Audio Technica ATH-M50x
Audio Technica ATH-M50x (MSRP $239, ~$169 street)
"A Revolutionary New Technology!" certainly makes for a more captivating headline than "We Continue to Evolve Our Decade Old Classic", but the latter generally yields as good or better sounding headphones than the former, in my experience. And so it is with the venerable Audio Technical ATH-M50 as it has evolved into the M50x. Unsubstantiated rumors have circulated about changes in the "white box" version of this headphone a couple of years agoof this I have no knowledge, but I can tell you that the current M50x headphone is different sounding than the previous M50s I've heard...and it's quite a bit better to my ears!
The Audio Technica ATH-M50x is a full-size, circumarual (around the ear), sealed headphone constructed largely of rather pedestrian looking black plastic parts. Some metal parts are used in the headband construction. My previous experience with these cans is that they're about as durable as a bench vice...and about as stylish. In an effort to spark up the looks a bit, Audio Technica now offers this model in both blue and white versions in additional to traditional black.
The headband padding seems just slightly more plush on the new model, and ear pad covering pleather and foam pad both seem significantly softerthough the foam does not appear to be memory foam.
Rather than being hard-wired, the M50x now has connector on the left ear capsule and comes with three cables: a 3.0 m coiled cable, a 3.0 m straight cable, and a thin 1.2 m straight cable (no remote or mic) for portable use. The short cable is terminated in a slim-ish 3.5mm stereo plug, the two long cables are terminated with 3.5mm plugs with mating threads for the included 3.5mm to 1/4" headphone plug adapter. The earpiece connector is a proprietary 2.5mm stereo jack with integrated locking mechanism. The locking mechanism works well and is desirable with relatively fragile 2.5mm stereo jacks, but in this particular case will make after-market cabling options difficult.
Styling, Comfort, and Ergonomics
The ATH-M50 is not a headphone you buy for its stylingunless you're into "utilitarian" as a fashion statement. The M50x is available in two colors other than black though: white, and blue/tan. Franky, I'm fine with utilitarian blackits not the way they look on my head that makes me smile. It seems to me quite a few of the recent headphones with a focus on style have had problems in the comfort department. Not so the M50, while the design may look a bit clunky, its quite comfortable and ergonomically functional.
The inexpensive materias of the ear pad and headband may cause these headphones to get a bit warmer and stickier than the nicer materials of more expensive headphones, but in this price range I find the generous proportions and good fit of the M50x a pretty good value. Headband adjustments are easy and secure; fit on the head is somewhat close and enveloping. This is one of those "hugs your head" headphones, in a good way.
The earpads fold up and inward to reduce in size for transport and storage, but they also swivel 180 degrees so the earpads lay flat on the table when you take them off, and flat on your chest when you wear them around your neck. DJs will be glad to know you can flip one earpiece up with the pad against your skull above you ear for single-ear listening. In other words, the Audio Technica ATH-M50x is a headphone that adjusts folds and swivels in all the ways you'd want a headphone to.
Usually I'm unable to comment on product reliability as most headphones reviewed are too new for any info, and/or I only have one product sample to look at. Since the M50x is is relatively unchanged from the previous model, I thought I'd have a peak at the reliability of the older ATH-M50. I gave Mike Olsen over at HeadRoom a callhe's the returns and repairs manager there and sees pretty much every failed product returnhis comment was that he doesn't ever remember seeing an ATH-M50 returned. I'm sure HeadRoom has sold hundreds of M50 headphones. My guess, which includes a decade of personal experience with the M50, is that the M50x is a pretty reliable headphone.
The new M50x sounds substantially better than the M50 of old, flip the page and we'll have a listen.