Review: Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Limited Edition Blue headphones
Audio-Technica has finally released a successor to the incredibly popular, ATH-M50 – a mid-level, professional-grade monitor headphone that has became one of the most loved and recommended headphones in their price range. The company’s latest headphones, the ATH-M50x, appears to retain all of the things that made the original great while adding one highly requested feature.
We somehow managed to get our hands on a pair of Limited Edition Blue, Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones last week and will now share our opinion of them.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Limited Edition Unboxing:
I was surprised when I first unboxed the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Limited Edition Blue headphones. I had seen and drooled over all of the pictures that had been released by Audio-Technica, but this pair of headphones look even better in person than they do in photographs. They really are an attractive pair of cans, but we’ll go over how great these things look in the next section of this review.
Other than the pair of headphones, the box also includes a few accessories. Each pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones include the same array of bundled accessories. The only way they differ is color. I have the metallic blue and copper/tan, limited edition version of the M50x, so all of my accessories are colored to match them. If you order the M50x in White or Black, you will receive the same items, but they will each be colored to match your headphones.
Included with the M50x is a protective pouch for storing the headphones when they’re not in use and three different length of cables. Each of the cables include strain relief, gold-plated connectors and are designed for use in different situations.
The longest of the cable measures 11.0 ft (3.5 m) and is straight the entire length. Next up, we have a partially straight and coiled cable with sections that reassures 3.9 ft – 9.8 ft (1.2 – 3.0 m) respectively. Lastly, Audio-Technica included a nice and short, 3 ft (1 m) cable for use with mobile devices.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Limited Edition Design:
As was mentioned in the previous section of this review, I’m a big fan of how the limited edition Audio-Technica M50x headphones look. In my opinion, the metallic blue and copper color combination makes for a unit it that is significantly more attractive than either the black or white versions.
The blue color used here reminds me of the bluing found on old Smith & Wesson revolvers from the 60’s and 70’s and the copper/tan color looks like a shade you’d find used for the interior of a luxury sedan.
Another nice touch that adds to the attractiveness of the limited edition M50x is the headband. All three color versions feature the Audio-Technica logo and name on the headband, but on the Limited Edition version, this is embossed into the pleather, while it is only printed on for both the white and black models.
We don’t know just how limited the limited edition ATH-M50x headphones actually are, but we have been told by Audio-Technica that they will only be produced during this year and once 2015 rolls around, the color combination will be retired permanently. They come with a price premium of around $20 over either the black or white version, but are well worth the extra cost in my opinion.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Limited Edition Hardware:
On the hardware side of things, we basically have a case of déjà vu here. Anyone who has used the Audio-Technica M50 headphones before will pretty much know what they’ll be getting with the M50x. From a hardware standpoint, they are identical in nearly every way, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Everything you see on the limited edition ATH-M50x that is blue is made of plastic and all of the copper is a convincing looking, pleather material. As was the case with its predecessor, the plastic used here feels great. Just from handling it, I can tell that it is a high-quality type of plastic, that should prove to be rather durable. However, the pleather is a bit disappointing as a material choice, but the same was used on the original Audio-Technica M50 headphones and proved to be durable, yet comfortable. So I’m not expecting it to be a problem here either.
Each of the M50x’s ear cups can be rotated and swiveled up to 90° and each feature a proprietary 45mm large-aperture, Neodymium driver with a copper-clad aluminum voice coil that is capable of providing a frequency response range of 15Hz to 28kHz. Other hardware specifications of the Audio-Technica M50x include a maximum Input Power rating of 1,600 mW at 1 kHz, 99dB sensitivity and 38 ohms of impedance. The result is a pair of headphones with the same great audio signature as the M50.
The most exciting new addition to the M-Series of professional monitoring headphones is something that users have been requesting from Audio-Technica for a while now. Of course, I’m talking about the detachable cable. The users asked for it, and Audio-Technica listened. You’ve gotta love it when things work out like that.
Not only are the M50x cables detachable, they also lock and unlock to the headphones with a twist, which is kind of a double-edged sword. On one side, it is awesome that the cables lock in place, but unfortunately, that locking design is only possible thanks to a proprietary connector design.
Want to use a inline remote and mic cable with the ATH-M50x? Or maybe you would like to use the V-MODA BoomPro Microphone with the ATH-M50x? Sadly, you can’t do either and that won’t change until Audio-Technica or someone else decides to make a converter that will work with the special connector. Honestly, I would rather be free to use any cable I want, even if that meant that the cables didn’t lock in place.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Limited Edition Sound Quality
For the record, I am not an audiophile. I don’t want to pretend to be one either. I’m just a normal guy that enjoys listening to audio on headphones. With all of that said and for what it’s worth, I am very happy with the sound quality of the limited edition Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones.
During the burn-in process, I used my ATH-M50XBL review unit with multiple devices, including a LG Nexus 4, Motorola Moto G, Nokia Lumia 521, Sony PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS, and a FiiO x3 Digital Audio Player. All of the devices I tried this set of cans with had no problems driving them, but it was clear that the M50x headphones do sound better or worse depending on which device is connected on the other end.
It should be no surprise to anyone that my FiiO, loaded up with FLAC files, sounded the best by a healthy margin, but the listening experience was also enjoyable from my phones, expesicailly the Moto G, which surprisingly done a better job of driving the M50x headphones than my Nexus 4 did.
Once broken-in, the M50x produce a pure, rich and full sound that is fairly neutral. The bass sounds clean and tight, it isn’t the exaggerated and cheap sounding bumping that you can get from something like a pair of Beats. Highs are bright without any harshness but mids do suffer and are slightly recessed, leaving some vocals and instruments a bit softer than I’d like for them to be.
Overall, they sound amazing for what they are. Sure, you could easily find several pairs of headphones on the market that will sound better than the M50x, but how much are you willing to spend?
Final Thoughts & Conclusion:
Audio-Technica’s latest professional grade monitoring headphone is an awful lot like their previous one and for that reason alone, I can’t recommend it to anyone who already owns a pair of ATH-M50 cans. The detachable cable simply isn’t enough to make upgrading from the ATH-M50 to ATH-M50x worth it. Besides, if you do happen to have a pair of M50s laying around, you can quite easily modify them to accept a detachable, non-proprietary cable anyway.
But if you’re reading this review and are looking to purchase a pair of durable, great-sounding, over-the-ear headphones in the sub $200 price range – then I highly recommend the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. You’ll probably be blown away by this pair of headphones if you’re accustomed to only using the consumer grade stuff that is typically sold at supermarkets or the mall.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is available in Black, White and super-awesome, Limited Edition Blue. The standard black model is shipping right now and will cost ya $169 from Amazon. While the white and limited edition versions are expected to ship on March 19th.