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!

Audio-Technica U.S., Inc.
1221 Commerce Drive
Stow, Ohio 44224

donunus's picture

The good measurements that I saw on headroom were what made me decide to try these out before but I also couldn't stand the recessed mids and the boom--tsss type of sound that these have. So many people like this type of sound though so I guess AT still made themselves a winner by being able to please their target crowd.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Did you find something you preferred for a sealed, full-size headphone at this price?
dalethorn's picture

I'm always on the lookout for good medium-priced headphones. My recent searches have turned up AKG's, AT's, Beyer's, and Sennheiser's from $200 up to $600 or so, but nothing that jumps out at me. My experience with the more specialized DT-1350 was disappointing as an all-around headphone, and as I read the reviews on these other brands and models I noted, I look for a neutral frequency response signature first, but don't see anything. I was lucky with the Phiaton - hoping that I could tame the bass and have the fashion look as a perk, and it worked! Now if I could be so lucky with another couple of purchases, my credit card is ready.

donunus's picture

I liked the Denon D1001 much more than these for example

Tyll Hertsens's picture
So do I, but they stopped making them and the D1100 is not near as good. Care to recommend another?
donunus's picture

Ahh I see your point :) I can't recommend another because for this budget, I usually can only stand to listen to open headphones. It was only the d1001 that I could really say that I liked more than some open cans at the price range. I also get the feeling from yours and others reviews that the sony you recently reviewed could also be something that I would enjoy.

donunus's picture

Oh, I don't think its as good technically but I actually enjoy listening to the cheap AKG K44 more than the M50. Its less damaging to the ears in the treble department :)

donunus's picture

I just listened to some senn hd201s again and those $20 cans beat the m50s in musicality and overall balance IMO.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Yeah, the 201 is a headphone I'd like to review someday relatively soon.
Negakinu's picture

probably THE most recommended headphone over at Head-Fi. :) The hype is so huge that it actually influenced pricing. They seem to be getting slightly more expensive every day.

Much more interesting, and worthy of praise in my opinion, are the Superlux-brand headphones. I own about every single one of them (don't ask, not affiliated though) and am amazed at the bang for your buck you're getting with these cans. It would be great if you could get your hands on a HD668b and HD662F and do a Tyll-style review on them! :)

PS. Have been checking my mailbox every single day since your uCube review but still no sock. ;)

dalethorn's picture

I find the Phiaton MS-400 almost perfect. Slightly bassy, and when the bass is reduced somewhat as with an iPod, the sound is then slightly forward. But overall, and as sensitive as I am to colorations, I don't hear anything amiss with the MS-400 - just sweet sounding music. I removed the fabric inside of the earcups, but there is still a plastic mesh over the drivers. Given the Amazon price of $170 I thought these were a bargain.

Armaegis's picture

I regret trading away my MS400. Coloured and kinda mushy (I always describe it as chocolate for your ears), but just so fun to listen to. I wouldn't have minded so much if the headphones I traded for weren't damaged. Ah well, such is the price we pay for insatiable curiosity and the pursuit of new toys.

maverickronin's picture

Is it the averaging or different HRTF that makes these measurements look less bass heavy and more mid-focused than the ones over at Headroom?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Not sure but it looks like the HeadRoom measurements were done with more clamping pressure on the headphones. Their 50Hz square wave kinda indicates it as well. Maybe the cans were brand new when measured at HeadRoom, and the ones I measured were well used (which they were) so there was a clamping difference. Dunno for sure though because the HeadRoom M50 measurements were don a long time ago, and I didn't do them.
maverickronin's picture

Do they have a different dummy head? Maybe if it was wider it could cause that change.

When I had a pair I don't remember the bass changing that much with position either. I bought them used though so who knows how old they actually were.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
No, same head.
dalethorn's picture

If measurements were done long enough ago with any brand/model, there's a possibility of the mfr. changing the spec, yes? I've observed changes of the same model by different mfrs., and have heard recently about significant changes to the Sennheiser 600/650 models as well. Maybe that's the difference?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
mironov's picture

i'm planning to buy this headphones

but first, do they sound good in metal and dubstep?


(sorry i'm just a newbie)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
They're good all arounders. Should be just fine.
DaveinSM's picture

Hi Tyll, just wanted to say that I really enjoy your reviews and the Innerfidelity website. I especially appreciate the detailed measurements, which is really helpful, objective information.

It may not be worth the effort, but I've heard that the new ATH-M50X have slightly improved sound over the ATH-M50. I think there are actual measurements out there on a review site.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
mironov's picture


prad's picture


I am a sound engineer and I always mix on Monitors but now I am away from my studio and want to mix a project on Logic Pro, Duet 2 on a iMac. Can you please suggest me which Professional headphone would be best for me to buy for MIXING? Please give me 2 options, 1. under $200 price range and 2. under any price range.

Waiting for an early response..Help!


Tyll Hertsens's picture
Boy that's tough. Under $200 There's not much I'd recommend for a pro. I'd guess I'd say the V-Moda V-80 right at $200. Usually I recomend the Denon AH-D2000 at about $350 or the Sennheiser HD800 at $1700 for mastering because they's very revealing of flaws. For mixing you need balance too. The Sennheiser Amperior ($349) sound very balanced to me, and the Audeze LCD-2 Rev2 or LCD-3 are very balanced tonally.

I'd love to hear what other readers think would be great pro headphones under $200.

I have to say though, that I don't see much difference between a good headphone for listening and a good headphone for mixing ... other than the need to be demanding and critical when selecting something that sounds good.

prad's picture


Thank you so much for your quick response. I really appreciate that. By the way I was also going through few other forums. People are were talking about Shure SRH 840 and AKG- K240 MKII for Mixing and Studio use. What is your opinion on those?
And what is your opinion about the Beyerdynamic DT770 pro and DT 48E for Mixing? Are all the above headphones balanced?

What would you suggest for mixing? Semi-open, Open or closed?

Sorry to ask you so many questions, but at this time I really need your help in figuring out a headphone. I have to buy asap to finish the project.


Tyll Hertsens's picture
Of the ones you mention, I think the Shure is most balanced, but it's a bit warm, so you may end up mixing a bit lean. I wouldn't recommend the others. See if you can stretch your budget a bit for the D2000 or maybe the Sennheiser HD 25-1 II (Not the HD 25).
prad's picture

Thanks a lott for the information.

Have a great time!!

Jollykorn's picture


I would like to know how is this compared to the Skullcandy Aviator and Senn HD 558 since it's on the same price range?


Audioaddict's picture

I own these and I like them, but if your into big bass go for the m50 they have a little more. The vocals on the aviators sound a little hollow too. Also with the aviators there is no sub kick if you listen to hip-hop and rap. But the aviators are still nice for 150.

runner4444's picture

I am looking to purchase headphones under 200 dollar range. I am considering the v moda crossfade lp, v moda crossfade lp2, or the ath m50s. I love my bass, but I would still like to be able to listen to classical or jazz music from time to time. Which would you recommend?

Audioaddict's picture

I'd go with the lp2 if your into bass, Tyll has said those are his favorite bass heavy headphones. Not to mention V-moda's 2 year warranty, 50% off lifetime replacement and the awesome build quality they hace. Also I think they wouldn't mud up jazz or classical too bad.

Eihcra's picture

I was gonna buy a pair of these, when I saw your review of the V-Moda V-80 headphones... which one should I pick?

kuneho's picture

Hi tyll, lurked around before getting my own pair and then again when I started looking for something different (ended up getting a KNS 6400) and I just noticed the new data sheet with the very different plots. Are those for a more recent production line?

cel4145's picture

I noticed that you have two different M50 measurement pages that show different frequency responses:

Is one the newer "white box" version that people say has a slightly different sound from the previous, blue and white box version? 

DomProfessor's picture

I own a pair of HD 380 and I am satisfied with the sound. A friend of mine asked me to recommend a pair of similar headphones - full sized, closed back and easy to drive even without amp, up to 150 - 200 dollars. 

I can get the Senn for about 115 dollars and the m50 for 210 dollars (significantly higher than Amazon where the price is in the same ballpark, but I am from Romania and this particular model is hard to find in shops). 

I am curious how does the m50 compare with the HD 380 (1. not taking price into consideration 2. taking price into consideration).

What other alternatives are there? 



DUDE's picture

Hi folks,

I own currently the Phonak PFE 012 and I'm searching for more music experience on my way to work.

Is it possible to compare in a few words the music experience between PFE 012 and ATH M50?

I'm looking for a wow effect when listening to my music. I'm happy with my Phonak's but I'd like to have more "room" or "stage" instead to have the music delivered in-ear typically. Although isolation is important (noisy train journeys), which will force me to compromise a little bit.

Thanks in advance for you feedbacks

Cheers, Richard

DuffCool's picture

Hey Tyll 

I am looking for a all around headphone and i dont know what to buy.

i have seen that you recommend the Audio technica ath-m50, but i have hear that an DAC is important for good music quality but my budget is still around that 140$ and i cant buy a pair of m50 and a DAC because in europe they are like 190$ and that is over my budget

i do long gaming sections and i want a headphone that is comfortable after 10 hours.

I hope you know what to buy, if it is best to go for a headphone for 140$ or half of the money on a DAC and the other half on a pair of headphones. 

i do not have a soundcard or an DAC and for the most time are i listening to electronic music so i want a pair of headphones that are good for electronic music and i could have in the backpack but also use in home and at the computer 

I hope you can help me.

Have a great day Tyll 


jessiengo's picture

How do these compare to the UE6000? Would you prefer the AT over the UE?

David Poitras's picture

I want to know the difference between these two headphone V-Moda M80 and Audio Technica ATH-M50. I know it's not the same categories headphone but i would like to know your opinion about what is the best about price/quality.

ath_finder's picture

Shortly,it's useful and detailed about the m50s ,by the way you may wanna visit this site to see more people's opinions about itath-m50-headphones

manish's picture

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