Geek Zen: The headphone quest revisited! Meet the ATH-M50x

Let me state first that I’m not a professional anything. I’m usually the guy who has to be told anything twice because he wasn’t paying attention or he didn’t hear you since there was something else making noise in the background. I like music, I like sound, I prefer a good pair of headphones to any surround system.

(Source: Beats by Dre)

(Source: Beats by Dre)

I thought I’d never go back to this brand, but sometime in the last year I did purchase the Solo HD Beats by Dr. Dre. I know, it’s not like it was my first time. I kind of expected a better experience after the first generation of the Monster Beats Solo. Mainly, I didn’t expected them to sound amazing but fairly decent, light enough to carry, no noise canceling because I need to hear the street as a I walk with these on and have the smartphone control. Everything was still there. I also expected the cable to at least have a better life than my first model back during my first quest for the ultimate headphone in 2012.

There are improvements. The muffs on the cans stay on and no longer rattle. The cable seems to be less prone to snagging and so far durable. The headband didn’t seem that fragile. Still, the sound could be better. However as it turns out, the cans’ construction might look and feel more solid in the outside but not in the inside. And I say this because as of this afternoon, the right earphone no longer works.

I really thought it was the cable so I used a different cable and checked. Nope, it’s the cans. The cans are basically dead. You have to be kidding me. Yes, it’s been a year and change but what kind of headphone dies like this? I didn’t get the extended warranty but to be honest do I really want to drag on using these? Nah. I even have Monster N-Tune on ear headphones that are still working (got them on a sale, nothing to scream about, the control cable sucks and hardly works correctly). So, where do I go from here?

(Source: Audio Technica)

(Source: Audio Technica)

Well… I’ve been eyeing the ATH-M50x Professional Monitor Headphones from afar since last summer and keep hearing just good things about them. Finally, after cancelling some bills and saving up, I’ve gone for these. I must say the reviews should really do more for these, because they’re all about sound and they are lightweight enough to even use daily.

Which I might seriously consider as certain other headphones just decided to keel over. Advantages over these and the Focal Spirit One are not just in sound, but in richness and comfort. I dare say Focal might not be the clear winner given than I think these fit better on the ear, bringing more comfort and a better listening experience. If the Focal do sound better, the margin is micro-minimal and completely lost since they squeeze your head. Instead, the ATH-M50x are comfortable to use without sliding away and give you the closest experience to no leakage without artificial noise canceling and without putting your skull in a vise. The cable is also very thick and the connectors plug in with authority.

Notice that the removable cable plug on the cans themselves is a standard 3.5 audio plug connector but has a proprietary lock around it. You can’t use any cables but the ones that come with the headphone. For the record, it comes with three cables of varying length and even a curled one, all of them with a professional look and feel.

Yes, these are my new favorites. I only dread that my past reviews have glorified the beats so much. I didn’t really knew better. That is not to say that the Beats were completely awful in sound. They were pretty decent. Maybe even above average headphones. But with a lousy construction and the huge price tag, the Beats are just miles away from the quality and the value you get with the ATH-M50x. Unless you are getting the Beats because the box in which they come is prettier.

(Source: Focal)

(Source: Focal)

All that to say, I have to revisit the Focal Spirit One. Again, the sound is almost unmatched, but after recommending it to one friend he pointed me in the direction of more than a few reviews that have appeared since I last reviewed them in 2012.

Sound might be amazing, but construction – yes, these are the most expensive headphones I’ve ever owned – seems to be even below average.  The problem I have from saying this is that personally I have had no issues. However, I do not use these daily or even out of the house because… they are friggin expensive and cost more than my cellphone. Yes, the price has dropped a lot since 2012.

I’ve heard that the plastic parts in the headband crack and break. I haven’t witness it… yet. Not looking forward to when that happens. Even the store where I got them from has stopped selling them because of that issue. It’s a shame because quality wise they’re good. The vice-like grip was ridiculous when I got them. I kept them open on top of a guitar case so they would loosen up, and that’s better.

Unfortunately with so much external feedback I can only say, be wary. There’s even new models now at Focal so I hope they address the weaknesses of this model.

Tallying up the stats, the ATH-M50x might be the ultimate headphones for me after all. It pays to shop around, so test them out at your favorite brick-and-mortar store and then go bargain hunting online. You can get them close (but not quite) to half price if look hard enough.

That will do for now.

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