Entry-level audiophile headphones has always been a competitive market, with the Audio-Technica M50 and M50x being competitive offerings from a single brand. These headphones seek to be a provide a premium listening experience for their users. As such, they have cemented themselves as exceptional options for the budget conscious consumer looking to upgrade to quality phones.
This pair of headphones (also known as cans within the headphone community) was one of Audio-Tehnica’s first offerings for the budget conscious user. The M50’s contain a number of excellent features:
- Collapsible design helping with portability and storage.
- A closed-back design that provides isolation from ambient noises and assists with boosting bass responsiveness.
- An adjustable headband accommodates nearly any size and ensures maximum comfort for extended listening sessions.
- Powerful drivers that provide exceptional quality to all audio applications.
- Single-side coiled cable terminates to 3.5mm jack, a ¼” jack adaptor is included.
With a long list of attributes, these cans provide at a high level for a budget price. They have large 45mm drivers developed by Audio-Technica themselves and come with a convenient carrying case. For those looking for more technical specifications, these headphones have a frequency response of between 15 – 28,000Hz. Additionally the rather low impedance of 38 ohms means that these phones can be powered by nearly any device, whether that be an Ipod, computer, or other portable device. However, this pair is not without some deficiencies, such as the narrow soundstage, tinny highs, and the insanely high clamping force.
The M50x is very similar to the original M50, although this model is newer and benefits from a few tweaks and additional features including:
- All new removable cable design, allowing users to store the original cable or make easy replacements.
- 45mm large-aperture drivers that deliver excellent monitor level audio quality.
- Adjustable headband and compact folding design for increased portability as well as comfort.
- Closed-back design for excellent isolation and bass responsiveness.
The main difference between these two headphones is the M50x has a removable cable and the new design seeks to alleviate some of the flaws in the previous model. While the M50 had tinny treble, the M50x has a much more refined treble. The new headband also has reduced clamping force and does not cause as much discomfort for users. Unfortunately, it still suffers from a somewhat limited soundspace; though this is a problem that is rarely addressed at this entry-level for quality headphones.
Upon initial inspection these two pairs of headphones seem to be very similar, while this is true, the few differences between models can be used to determine a winner. The M50 provides users with some excellent qualities and caters to the market exceptionally well. It is hard to miss the benefits of purchasing the M50x though. The M50x model is newer and serves as a direct replacement made by Audio-Technica for the M50. The M50x capitalizes on most of the areas where the M50 falls short. Too much treble in the M50? The M50x tones this down and revitalizes it in a more refined experience. Tired of the M50 clamping tightly on your head? Again, the M50x performs better, with a more relaxed and comfortable headband that lends itself better to extended periods of wear. Having trouble with the M50’s 3 meter long and sometimes unmanageable cable? The M50x allows for this cable to be removed and the user can replace it with a shorter cable that fits your needs better. This provides some peace of mind if a cable were to break as well, just an easy swap out rather than an arduous repair process.
Overall, the M50x is the better headphone and surpasses the M50 where it falters. So why consider the M50 at all, you ask? Well it really comes down to a matter of price, and since they can vary wildly from place to place it comes down to what you are willing to pay and when. So if you can afford it, purchase the M50x; if not, then the M50 is still an exceptional headphone that provides great value and shouldn’t be looked down upon just because it isn’t quite the same as its younger brother.