final rating

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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Sound quality Scored for price. Bowl-shaped response - boosted highs/lows. Decent accuracy though so-so
  • Design and form factor Standard DJ issue design. Inoffensive but no standout features, though it folds. so-so
  • Comfort Circumaural pads do an excellent job of mitigating pressure, nice fit overall. good
  • Noise isolation Somewhat disappointingly, passive isolation slightly less than even the e.g. Triport AE2. Usable for travel, but not as good as many others of similar type poor
  • Durability Pretty much your average all-plastic DJ phone again. As with those type, earcup swivel is most vulnerable point, but generally well made so-so
Detailed review
I have to say I kind of get why the ATH-M50 has become very popular - and it's that sound signature. With the treble and bass boost, it is more overtly incisive and fun to listen to. And it's judged well - not excessively overdone in the trebles like the Triport AE2 for example, and the bass isn't a slow, almost solid wall like some excessively consumer-focused phones and it doesn't smear information higher up the frequency range - the Beats Solo this is definitely not. The mids do take a slight back seat in this sonic arrangement however, so vocals and so forth can end up sounding a tad hollow compared to more even-tempered phones.

Accuracy is overall pretty decent, and it has tackled everything I've thrown at it well. There is just a hint of the tin-can closed phone acoustics, but nothing which would prove distracting in isolation.

If all you've heard are significantly inferior phones, I can see this being a totally justifiable step up and clearly this is how a lot of people are moving to this phone.

In terms of an all-purpose phone though - well, I guess it depends on what sort of compromise you want. This phone is, as with other DJ phones, quite versatile in terms of storage options - it folds flat (sorta) and also into a quasi-ball. However both the coiled and straight versions have really long (and heavy) cables and the phone itself is a standard-DJ-phone weight of 300g, which is pretty heavy over time. Isolation is also not great despite the substantial cushions and bulky build, comparing slightly unfavourably to the Bose AE2 which is much more lightly constructed (it is half the weight) with - particularly surprisingly - more high-frequency bleed-through.

Comfort is good despite the higher weight - it is mitigated well through a combination of secure clamping and having that load distributed well through the pads, and a well shaped headband that will avoid point pressure on most heads.

All in all, you could do a LOT worse than the M50 and I think it's fair to say that it's a pretty safe choice if you're not yet sure of what you're buying into. But I think it is overpriced quite a bit for what it is without any readily apparent mitigation for that, though nevertheless a very decent, enjoyable phone which does nothing really wrong. I just don't see it as being such a definitive choice though, as it seems to be when I browse audio enthusiast forums - the Shure SRH840 costs about the same now in many outlets and is a demonstrably superior phone overall for example,

For me, I'd have to say the Sony ZX700 is more worth getting excited about. It's (sometimes a lot) cheaper, it isolates more, looks better for the aesthetics of the zeitgeist IMO, presents a sound / performance more amenable to critical listening without getting too po-faced, is slightly more comfortable (fit is better, pad is better and the 50g weight difference makes a difference over time) ,
review history
Edited comment on Sound quality
Edited comment on Sound quality
Updated detailed review

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Great review with useful advice regarding alternatives. Thanks!

Given the positive words elsewhere regarding sound isolation, I too was surprised how poor the sound isolation was relative to some other headsets (yes . . . know I switched gears a bit) I have - namely the Sennheiser PC 350 and Creative's World of Warcraft headset (aka the "I am a dork if I wear these in public" headset).