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Audio-Technica ATH-M50 ($199)

January 1, 2010

0.000A-T_ATH-M50These are the second least expensive headphones in this roundup, but are quality, durable performers with a smooth and balanced response. Thanks to the circumaural design and heavily-padded ear cushions, they offer great isolation for tracking and remain comfortable for hours at a stretch. Further emphasizing its tracking abilities, the earpieces can swivel 180 degrees for those into single-ear monitoring. The isolation is very good, as the ATH-M50 offers above-average noise rejection from the outside world.

The high end is not as transparent as more expensive models; the overall sonic signature is a bit “warmer” or “darker” (depending on your viewpoint). But that doesn’t mean you can’t mix on them—it just means there’s a little less “air.” On the low end, the bass is solid and sounds very even, with a midrange that’s both defined and free of significant “peakiness.”

The ATH-M50 can deliver some serious SPL, which is important in a tracking headphone if there’s a lot of ambient noise in the studio. And as someone who’s used an ATH-M50 for a while, I can attest that it can handle a certain amount of abuse and keep on going. Bottom line is that the ATHM50 is all about performance/price ratio, where it scores very well indeed. (An alternate model, the ATH-M50s, is available with a straight cable instead of coiled; neither model offers detachability.)

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