Audio Technica is a renowned brand of both consumer and professional audio makers known for their uncompromising quality of good microphones and headphones. They are celebrating their 50th anniversary of Audio Technica and turn their flagship product ATH M50 into a fashion silver pair of headphones named ATH M50s/LE (s stands for straight cable 3 meters long and LE stands for ‘Limited Edition’). A bit of references, I used to have Grado SR60 and did auditioned few headphones at the market, some of them are Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro, ATH M50 (Coiled cord) known with their similar characteristics. Finally decided for the first time to go with this brand and bought a pair of these closed back headphones. Also to take note I also bought ATH-SJ33 and ATH-SJ55 Street DJ Portable Headphones series along with this headphones for travelling purpose.
A Brief Review
In one word, these headphones are fantastic. I don’t do studio recording or monitoring, using these solely for home-listening purpose. These headphones are designed for studio monitoring, but I am aware that this headphones are not flat sounding enough to be perfect for that purpose with a little bit emphasized low end and high end.
It does have a difference from regular M50s.
People says M50 have little bit of recessed mid but you have to try it for yourself to understand that this is actually a good thing because it makes this headphones more fun to hear (It is purely my opinion and have nothing to do with the fact that the mid are recessed on this headphones). Now this headphones I own are not regular M50, it’s M50s/LE, the Limited Edition of ATH-M50. It does have a difference from regular M50s. Audio Technica have refined this headphones and made this a little bit (just a little bit) less of low end frequencies and I found this headphones have more clarity also with more emphasized highs than regular M50s.
More Detailed Words of ATH M50s/LE
After a 40+ hours of burn in, it expands into a more beautiful, powerful entry level audiophiles headphones people are talking about. I used FiiO E6, a small portable amp to drive this headphones with an input from iPad and Desktop PC with all 320k MP3s. Also tried to drive it from my home Hi-Fi system Yamaha AX496 Stereo Amplifier from an input of Pioneer DVD Player with some audiophiles 24bit CD recordings.
To start off, I played some Classic Jazz tunes, starting with Robbie Williams’ Beyond The Sea. I really am impressed with the details and the sound quality of this headphones. The soundstage of this headphones is good, although not perfect. To be more detailed with it. I found that the musical instruments have better staging where each instruments can be felt and virtually differentiated by the location whereupon the vocals feels like more inside your head.
The audio quality are impressive for this price range of headphones. All the details for each songs can be noticed. Highs are adequately impressive and delivers good performance throughout the tunes I listened. Mids are good, not necessarily to be said recessed. And on the low end side this headphones deliver to the awesome depth of enough bass. These are not meant for bassheads, so the bass are there and more to the audiophile side of bass, not the punchy, bass-boosted consumer bass.
I am a fan of a lot of music genres, I like Jazz, Pops, Rock, R&B, KPOP, JPOP, and even Electronica. So it’s a good chance to test this headphones with various genre to find out more characteristics of this cans and what it delivers.
Starting with Jazz, it delivers just what it needs, a pure clarity. I can feel the beautiful instruments from Jazz musicians and vocals throughout this headphones. Some songs I really like for this headphones are Kenny G’s Don’t make me wait for you as it delivers amazing performances of Kenny G’s saxophone plays with the jazzy arrangements. I also like Spyro Gyra’s Springtime Laughter with Basia as the vocals and finally Beyond The Sea I mentioned earlier.
With some Top 40 Billboard songs, I played Maroon 5’s Payphone and it brings a really nice composition of the music and the vocals, even with Wiz Khalifa’s rap everything blended out perfectly together and the bass is just fantastic. It gives you a whole enjoyable experience just for this song and urges you to listen to it more and more. Next I got Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe and it also does amazingly well with this headphones and one thing I did notice is that the vocals expands from just the middle and I can feel the soundstage slightly better with this song.
Now it’s time for KPOP. First I go with the angelic voice of the Queen of KPOP, BoA. Stands for Beat of Angel, she really does stand up with her name, and also a partner of Audio Technica in Japan for their commercials.
I decided to play BoA’s Only One CD with my Yamaha AX496 Amplifier and surprised on how it turns out. With the title song of Only One, The bass are really deep and enjoyable. The vocals are stunning, crystal clear, the computer-generated musical instruments are also performing extremely good with this headphones. It’s like this headphones are best for this kind of music. Keyboard synths and strings feels really good, blended perfectly together with other instruments and vocals. to make it simple, this is one of my favorite song with this headphones.
Next thing I found myself in JYP’s composition of Wonder Girls’ Be My Baby. Now this represents most of KPOP sound characteristics. A lot of dynamics and crisp highs with a lot of computer-generated musical instruments and multiple vocals. It does drives well in this headphones, however I found that these type of songs, especially KPOP, are a bit fatiguing to the ears. The solution for me is to take off the amp or turn down the volume a little bit to make it more enjoyable.
Close thing with KPOP, we got JPOP and again I test this genre with BoA’s song I SEE ME and it delivers similar performance with BoA’s Only One. It is magical and brings what I like the most of this headphones.
ATH M50s/LE also does well with Electronica genre. I tried out with my favorite artists of this genre, Armin van Buuren and with one of my favorite track Minack. With the remix from Marx Sixma, it is a decent track to test the headphones out. After a few minutes trying out, I decided that this headphones is not bad for this genre, instead I found out that this headphones brings the music very well. The bass kicks out like pro. Also I heard that this headphones is good with equalizer tuning, so I try to boost the low side of the EQ. It does transforms this headphones to a DJ headphones, with enough bass for bassheads and DJs. Armin’s music rarely have the vocals in it so I didn’t try the vocals of this genre.
ATH M50s/LE has softer ear pads than the regular M50, that makes it feels a bit more comfortable in the ear. Wearing this headphones for long sessions are comfortable, but makes your ears sweaty and a little warm. Headbands are comfortable and does fit perfectly well on my head without too much pressure.
Comparison for Reference
In comparison, DT770 Pros are also a decent pair of headphones, even people says it’s better than M50. However I like the M50 more as I found DT770 a little more to the boring side and I never really liked the design either. And DT770 is more difficult to drive with regular MP3 players and PC Soundcard. So DT770 is a must to be driven with an amp even with their lower model (80 Ohm) compared to M50’s relatively easier to drive 38 Ohms impedance. Compared with my older Grado SR60, this one got a lot more sound quality and power (given the price range) although SR60 is a really good open cans headphones for the price range of below USD 100 if you are fine with their ‘unusual’ design. I also have SJ33 and SJ55 for reference although they’re not suitable for comparison along with these headphones but SJ55 does have the sound signature of ATH-M50 and good for travelling purposes for those looking for the miniature, baby version of M50 in terms of sound quality.
I have to say that ATH M50s/LE is the best headphones you can get for that price range, even better than regular M50 with more sound quality and fashion you can get.