Review: Audio-Technica ATH M50XBT – It’s been quite a few years since the ATH M50 headset was released. From its origins it was considered a good headset, with a remarkably technical character and good material quality. It has always been a durable and reliable option.
Despite the fact that it was originally designed to be used in professional settings, it soon found its place in domestic use as well, since even with a fairly balanced sound profile, on the flat, it was not lacking in musicality.
In its domestic use it has been understood mainly as a desktop computer, but due to its characteristics it also allowed portable use, especially when with the passage of time the size and aesthetics of portable headphones in general made it increasingly relatively discreet.
Within the portable audio sector, to which we have already dedicated an article previously, we believe that any product should more or less effectively meet certain conditions. Basically I would summarize them in four points, namely:
- Small size . It is the most obvious, although over time it has clearly increased in order to achieve more sound quality. However, portability establishes certain natural limits that make transporting it comfortable and easy.
- Acoustic insulation . Either actively (the most common and demanded for its effectiveness) or passively, a portable headset must be able to be used in environments with a certain background noise, and this is not something easy to achieve, especially actively, as it tends to influence negatively on the sound result.
- Comfort . Perhaps the most difficult section to polish, and perhaps the one that receives the least attention. Among other things because the portable use means that the listening time is not very long, and to a certain extent this conceals the possible shortcomings of a not very refined design.
- Appropriate sound profile. We are not talking here about sound quality, but about a specific frequency profile or curve. In practice, a headphone that shows a flat and precise tonal profile usually presents problems when sounding in noisy environments, and it is also not very permissive with recordings of questionable quality, either due to the type of file or poor quality in the source recording. Unlike normal listening, portable listening will not allow us to delve so deeply into the pure sound quality, but will have to, in a correct and studied way (hence the “appropriate”), highlight certain frequencies of the reproduction. I am not saying this because of a question of commercial sound (they usually have an equalization curve in “V”), but because in environments complicated by background noise, the low frequencies are the first affected, Furthermore, in light listening, a warm profile is more relaxing and less tiring than analytical. It is these psycho-acoustic themes with which manufacturers know how to play with an efficiency and mastery based on the experience and preferences of the users.
I insist on this aspect of the portable sector because the evolution of the M50xBT towards an implementation of the reproduction by Bluetooth makes the portable or semi-portable (travel) use is greatly enhanced due to the disappearance of the cables.
Audio-Technica already had with the m50 a headphone with excellent results, with a quality recognized and appreciated in the headphone market. It remains to be seen if this adaptation has been successfully carried out, if the natural sound of the classic wired headset has changed anything, and if so, to what extent and in what way.
Material quality of Audio-Technica ATH M50XBT
The material finish of the headset is exactly the same as the original model. We understand that the brand has not deemed any changes necessary. For those who do not know the original model, the dominant material is plastic, and with a simple finish. It has faux fur on the headband and ear pads, of an acceptable quality. Most importantly, it has proven over many years that it is durable and reliable, and that it stands up to the demands of professional use, so in less demanding home use, its performance is taken for granted.
The design is quite classic, being the archetype of a DJ headphone. It is foldable, and the cups also rotate 180 degrees with respect to two axes, vertical and horizontal. The cups are circumaural, of a fair size, but that manages not to touch the ear. They are quite comfortable, although in this section they do not reach the refinement of other portable models of recognized fame, such as the Sony WH-1000XM4 or the Bose qc35, with which, thanks to its new qualities, this model enters to compete, despite the fact that price is in a somewhat lower market sector.
It comes from the factory with a synthetic leather case, a cable with remote control and microphone, a USB cable for battery charging and a rigid cardboard box where they can be stored semi-folded if they are not going to be used for a long time. It can be said, therefore, that it sells well served by accessories. It is a detail to highlight in its price range, especially if we consider that the quantity and material quality of said accessories is a little above its sector.
It is not a heavy headset, and its ergonomics are quite successful. Perhaps we can feel that the pressure of the cups becomes a little strong in prolonged listening, but it is something common in professional products, where the pressure and grip must be greater than in domestic use. In short, it maintains all its original qualities.
Functionality of Audio-Technica ATH M50XBT
In large part, and having read the previous section, we can already get an idea of what this model offers. When it reached the market it was not a significant technical novelty, and simply Audio-Technica has decided to implement the wireless connection. Therefore, it has added one more function to adapt to current demands and give it a possible new functionality: portable or semi-portable use.
As we have discussed before, the headset can be used with a cable, in which case it does not depend on the battery to function. Its use in this mode is exactly identical to the model without Bluetooth. I have not stopped at it, although I have tried it with my tf. mobile and goes without problem, also working for conversations at a good level of comfort and audio quality. For music, just comment that, knowing the previous model (M50x) I have hardly noticed any differences in its sound.
The Bluetooth connection is aptX type (among other codecs: Audio Qualcomm® aptX ™, AAC, SBC), and it is very easy to use. It is not difficult to connect it to any device (it supports up to 8 connections to different equipment), and once the connection is made for the first time, the commissioning is almost instantaneous when we turn on the headset. The volume, start-up and song step controls are simple and fast-paced. I have not noticed any problem in the connection during playback, and only on a few occasions have I noticed a small latency problem or a small cut in the music, I suspect that more from the phone than from the headset. The distance at which it can work is about 10 meters without obstacles, which is quite reasonable. And the duration and battery charge is somewhat higher than usual in these devices: 7 hours for full charge, 40 hours of use in operation. I have not stopped to precisely measure its durability, especially when we know that it depends a lot on the way of use and the ambient temperature, but I can say that the duration has been very long and I have barely had to charge the headset once. during the test. In other wireless models on the market, the duration is usually closer to 20 hours, although it must be recognized that this model does not have active noise cancellation, and that works in its favor. but I can say that the duration has been very long and I hardly had to charge the headset once during the test. In other wireless models on the market, the duration is usually closer to 20 hours, although it must be recognized that this model does not have active noise cancellation, and that works in its favor. but I can say that the duration has been very long and I hardly had to charge the headset once during the test. In other wireless models on the market, the duration is usually closer to 20 hours, although it must be recognized that this model does not have active noise cancellation, and that works in its favor.
As in the previous sections, this Audio-Technica ATH M50XBT does not stand out for its revolutionary functionality, but the truth is that they have been able to provide it with the most important qualities in a practical and efficient way, and it is difficult to find any fault.
Returning to the subject of portable use, which is perhaps the fundamental part of this update, I must comment on some aspects. Being able to use the M50xBT wirelessly transforms it to a certain extent into a different headset, and places it in a market where, although it already had half a foot in, the cable markedly limited its practicality. Now the headset is much more comfortable, and we must consider how it defends in the aspects that are essential for this use.
The size is close to the top that can be considered portable from my point of view. It is perhaps too big. In its favor, the market has already presented portable models of a similar size, if not larger, such as the excellent Nad Viso or to a lesser extent the Bose qc35, 700 or the Sony WH-1000XM4, all of them circumaural. But I must admit that if not for the cup, the size of its headband is large for what is usually found on a laptop. However, its successful design means that, despite its size, the position does not attract much attention, since it fits very well and naturally and ergonomically to the head, remaining discreet and well attached.
As a closed earphone, its isolation is excellent. Again, it finds itself with very tough competitors, since active cancellation achieves better results, but I must say that I have had no problems in almost any case, except perhaps in a cafeteria with a risque ambient noise, in which yes, an active cancellation does a perfect job, and we don’t have it. Still and everything I think it can play its role in a remarkable way, since it passively works at a high level.
In terms of comfort I think that, again, it is very well achieved. However, certain models on the market are a notch above, and have softer pads and less weight. In this way, for example, a Bose qc35 allows a longer use, since you hardly notice that you are wearing it. But of course, it is not entirely fair to compare them directly since the M50xBT moves in a different market sector (we measure it with headphones that, I will repeat as many times as necessary, double their price). Even so, I must say that I did notice some fatigue when we got closer to the hour of use.
I leave the sound section aside, since I dedicate its own section to it in the analysis (later), but overall I think we can say that the M50xBT notably complies with its possible portable use, and due to its excellent value for money it can be a clear alternative to the models that today we consider a reference in this market, being able to get the colors to more than one due to their price difference.
Sound quality of Audio-Technica ATH M50XBT
In the end, and as much as the headset plays within the portable sector, as is the case, it is the sound quality that will decide whether the model is really worth it or not. And I sincerely believe that it is right here where the Audio-Technica ATH M50XBT stands out greatly compared to its possible alternatives on the market. It is for this reason that I have been forced to compare it with the aforementioned models, which double in price. And no, it is not an exaggeration at all, it is something literal. Just as in other purely portable aspects the M50xBT was perhaps a point behind, in sound it plays at least on par, being able to give a pleasant surprise to anyone.
This has probably turned out to be the case because the Audio-Technica ATH M50XBT starts from the base of a headset originally intended for stationary use, and also with a certain professional character, which has been based on passive cancellation instead of active. The model from which it originates, the M50x, already an evolution or retouch of the M50, is a headset with unquestionable sound quality. I am not a fan of professional sound, but in this case I cannot fail to appreciate its virtues.
During the test time I have used it mainly wirelessly, and I make it clear here that, either because it has worked in this regard or because the headset works like this naturally, I have not noticed significant differences between its use with cable and wireless. . Perhaps, spinning fine, it can be said that there is a brighter or more intense point in your wireless listening, but I do not dare to affirm it categorically, and I leave it only as an impression.
The profile it offers in terms of tonal balance is quite balanced at the beginning, it does not seem to highlight any frequency, and certainly not the bass, something more or less common, as I mentioned at the beginning, in portable headphones. On the contrary, one immediately finds a special richness in the upper part, which brings a surprising level of detail and resolution in this price range. It stands out, therefore, for its transparency.
However, it does not turn out to be a headset that I would rate analytical at all. Both the mid-range and the low zone have presence, body and impact. In fact, sometimes the bass is notably surprising for having a very strong punch, something that compensates for its resolution quite well. If something can be said about the M50xBT, it is that it turns out to be a musical and addictive headphone, and despite the fact that it faithfully preserves its tonal balance it manages not to be boring in any case, adding intensity and passion to the music it plays.
The soundstage has also pleasantly surprised me, especially considering that we are talking about a closed headphone and a relatively small cup. It shows a good amplitude of the scene, and clearly separates the different sound planes. We are not going to say that it looks like an open headphone, but it is clearly above what I know in closed ones of this size.
Despite all this, high resolution and relatively open and airy scene, it turns out that the M50xBT is quite tolerant of almost any recording, and also versatile with different musical genres. Somehow it succeeds, and it is still surprising in a headset in this range. Surely it is so because of that good dynamic, punchy, PRAT or however we want to describe it, but it seems not to renounce any sonic virtue and moves in an almost perfect balance between neutrality and musicality. It is something really difficult to achieve, but it is like that.
If I compare it, for example, with the Bose qc35, a headset that I have owned for years and that I consider an excellent laptop, the sound of the M50xBT seems more natural and realistic, and more airy. It is true that Bose may be looking for something else, a more relaxing and closer playback than what we described at the beginning as “suitable” for portable use, and make listening less tiring in the long run. But it cannot be denied that the ATH timbre is more natural and not technically inferior at all. It is also more dynamic, and I think that achieving this is already quite an achievement compared to a higher-end competitor. And I make this extensive comparison to many other portable models on the market and with active cancellation.
In short, I think I can say that we are facing a headset that offers much more than what one expects from it, especially when I consider that materially it appears to be much more humble than the headphones with which I necessarily have to compare it. It is an impression that the old model already gave me, and I was happy to see that it remains in its wireless operation.
Audio-Technica ATH M50XBT – Conclusion
I think Audio-Technica is very aware that with the Audio-Technica ATH M50XBT they had a great success and created an excellent model, and they have taken great care to keep it on the market by updating it periodically so that it does not become outdated for commercial reasons. It is a headset with a robust and functional design, and a tremendously competitive sound quality. The implementation of Bluetooth connection that we deal with in this analysis has been carried out in a serious and simple way, almost austere, without unnecessary complications, and the result is that the model remains in its usual sectors and also occupies others for which , surely, originally it was not designed. And it does so with great solvency, proposing an alternative that is very difficult to overcome.
Able to compete in sound quality with much more expensive models, it represents a very reasonable option for those who are looking above all for a serious headphone, with a balanced character and with a natural and dynamic overall sound. Versatile in its use, versatile with different musical styles and all kinds of recordings and also versatile with the sources to which we want to connect it. Those who already know him know what I’m talking about. And those who do not probably get a big surprise when they hear it, and another no less big when they compare it with its competitors, direct and not so direct.
Pros of Audio-Technica ATH M50XBT
- Well balanced and dynamic sound.
- Excellent and timeless design.
- Great versatility of use.
- Unbeatable value for money.
Cons of Audio-Technica ATH M50XBT
- The old model cable was longer.
- It does not have active noise cancellation.
- Portable wireless design that delivers the same critically acclaimed sonic performance as the original ATH-M50x professional studio headphones.
- Touch control that allows easy access to your smartphone’s voice assistant.
- Microphone and controls built into the headset for easy call handling, music playback and volume adjustment.
- Patented 45mm large aperture elements deliver exceptional clarity across a wide frequency range, with precise bass.
- Circumaural design for extraordinary sound isolation in noisy environments.
- Professional-grade ear cushions and headband for added durability and comfort.
- Up to 40 hours of uninterrupted use at full load.
- Compatible with aptX and AAC codecs.
- Foldable design for easy portability and storage.
- 1.2 m cable with micro / controls that allows use with a wired connection when the use of wireless connections is not allowed or when the battery is low.
- Compatible with the Audio-Technica Connect app for iOS and Android, which offers a host of practical tools and functions.
- A 12 ” USB charging cable and carrying bag are included.
- Type: Dynamic.
- Frequency response: 15-28000 Hz.
- Sensitivity: 99 dB / mW.
- Impedance: 38 ohms.