The arena of headphones–the big kind, not the kind that fit in your earholes–is crowded with contenders. You have pairs that surround your ears entirely and some that simply rest on top of them.
The arena of headphones–the big kind, not the kind that fit in your earholes–is crowded with contenders. You have pairs that surround your ears entirely and some that simply rest on top of them. Pairs with open backs that let the sound pour forth and ones with closed backs that keep you from inadvertently sharing your tunes with fellow subway riders (the most mortifying faux pas of the MP3 age). Some headphones actively cancel external noise and munch up batteries for the trouble. There are pairs that cost as little as an undershirt from the Gap and some that go for as much as a big screen TV.
So how the hell did we decide on a pair like theAudio Technica Ath M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones ATH-M50x?
Chris Thomas, headphone guru from HeadPhoneInfo.com, explained that there are three main considerations when picking headphones: comfort, frequency response, and isolation. The first one is big: putting on your new headphones and finding yourself immersed in a musical wonderland is great–until you’ve been listening for an hour and it feels like those headphones are a vise grip on your poor melon. So you’ll want something that feels good. Frequency response is how your headphones sound; audiophiles value a nice, even response across the board, while some consumers have come to like bass-heavy models, popularized by the Monster Beats series among others. Isolation is how good your headphones are at physically blocking out the sound of the world around you. A bad seal means you’ll be cranking up the volume to drown out the airplane engine you’re inevitably seated next to, and before you know it you’re looking up tinnitus on WebMD.
This is my choice, ATH-M50 Audio Technica.
Fortunately for you, heaps of headphones offer a reasonable compromise of these three important variables (and the fourth important one: price). In fact, there are so many quality sets that the best reviewed pairs on one headphone site are often nowhere to be found on the next. But there is one pair that crops up more often than others, to near-universal acclaim, and that is my pick, the Audio Technica’s ATH-M50s.
The Best Headphones for Music
The editors at the popular headphone community HeadRoom put them in their Top 10 and deemed them a “HUGE HeadRoom favorite,” citing textured bass, smooth treble and good comfort. HeadRoom’s users agreed, awarding them 4.5 out of 5 stars overall with 33 detailed reviews. They’ve got a respectable ranking of 13th on Headphone Info’s leaderboard–though when you remove earbuds from that list the M50s come in at 6th, mostly behind pairs that are one or two hundred dollars more expensive. And Jude Mansilla, founder of Head-Fi.org, recommended them as his “Midrange pick” in LifeHacker’s “How to Choose the Perfect Pair of Headphones” guide. “I see few headphones recommended as often by Head-Fi’s members,” he wrote.
Basically what the reviews come down to is this: these are $150 headphones that sound like a pair of twice the price. They have a closed back design, so sound leakage (and subway neighbor bothering) is minimal, and the folding design means they won’t take up much space in your bag. The ear cups themselves rotate, so you can do that cool thing DJs do where they hold one headphone up to their ear when cuing up a new track, and half of the cable is satisfyingly spiralled. And! They look nice. If you’re one of those brave souls who wears their headphones in public, the M50s simple, black and silver design won’t clash with any of your outfits, at the very least.
Are there other great headphones out there? Yes! Lots! Grado’s SR-60s give you incredible sound for just $80, though many find their foam ear pads uncomfortable during lengthy listening sessions. Shure also makes a good budget pick in the SRH 440s, though in head-to-head comparisons many have found their sound to be a bit dull and cool compared to the Audio Technicas we recommend. Sennheiser’s 280 are loved by Adrian Covert from Gizmodo, but some message board junkies found the Audio Technica ATH-M50s to deliver better sound quality overall.
And then there are always more expensive headphones to consider. For just under $200, Sennheiser’s HD 558s offer a full, bright sound and a lotta comfort–Jude from Head-Fi deemed them “among my most comfortable headphones (at any price), and I have a lot of headphones”–though they’re an open-backed model and thus not ideal for use outside the house. Other pricey headphones will offer a tad more fidelity than the Audio Technica ATH-M50s–discerning listeners might find sibilants (“s” and “sh” sounds) and hi-hats a bit muffled, making the M50’s official designation as “professional studio monitoring headphones” a bit of a reach–but for casual listening, it’s hard to justify spending significantly more to get the minimal acoustic returns. For most listeners, Audio Technica’s M50s should hit the sweet spot of price and performance like few other pairs
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Black
As the most critically acclaimed model in the M-Series line, the ATH-M50 is praised by top audio engineers and pro audio reviewers year after year. Now, the ATH-M50x professional studio monitor headphones feature the same coveted sonic signature, with the added feature of detachable cables. From the large aperture drivers, sound isolating earcups and robust construction, the M50x provides an unmatched experience for the most critical audio professionals.
If you're looking for an all-around solid pair of headphones you can use whether you're editing videos or listening to music on the bus, these should be on your shortlist.
- Great looking
- Great build quality
- Excellent sound
- Long cords provided
- Cord is proprietary
- Soundstage is lacking