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Here's Why The Audio Technica ATH-M50X is a Terrible Headphone

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Edit: I just want to clarify for some people who didn't get this. I own these headphones. I am not merely writing a review based off of ignorant opinion of going off a hate train. I bought these headphones and I'm giving my honest impressions. I am willing to admit I messed up and they aren't very good.

 

For those of you who have decided to get into the realm of audiophile headphones you have probably heard of the Audio Technica ATH-M50X. When you say, "I want to get into audiophile headphones and I have a budget of $150 or less." you will most likely get tons of people saying "GET THE M50XS THEY ARE SO GOOOOOOOD" No they are not. I am baffled as to why anyone would recommend these headphones. First let me say why these are popular.

 

These headphones are popular because of a genius marketing strategy that Audio Technica has used. They sent the M50Xs to tech Youtubers who are not audiophiles and in turn gave them rave reviews because they don't know any better. I fully blame this MKBHD review for most of the sales of these headphones. I will tell you that none of the tech Youtubers know anything about audio and you shouldn't take advice on headphones, DACs, Amps, or anything else of that realm from them. This is list includes, but is not limited to, Linus Tech Tips, MKBHD, Unbox Therapy, Austin Evans, Jayztwocents, Hardware Canucks, Tech Source, Tek Syndicate, Dave2D, etc... Now I already know what you are thinking, "That's a bold statement. Why should I trust you over all these massive Youtubers that must know more of what they are talking about than you?" Honestly, I am not going to even answer that question, by that logic why take any tech advice from anyone on any forum because they must obviously know less than the Youtubers. The reason you shouldn't trust them is that they are not audiophiles. True audiophiles will point of the flaws in their audio reviews and the lack of total knowledge of the subject. Take Linus' Sound Blaster sound card review from a few months ago. In that video he didn't explain what an Amp and DAC was properly at all. He didn't even wear the headphones the correct way in the video. You need to take the advice of actual audiophile people when you want to get advice on headphones.

 

The next thing you are thinking is that, "I have a pair of M50Xs and they sound great, so you are obviously wrong." Okay they sound great, but compared to what? If all you have ever used was Apple earbuds and Beats, then yes M50Xs sound amazing. But you have no context. Have you tried other similarly price or even cheaper headphones? If you have no context you can't say that the M50Xs are good. If all you have ever seen for your whole life was 720p, 1080p might look amazing. But there is still 4K and that's better yet. You have to have context of what's available in a spectrum within $100 of where you sit.  I will get into recommendations at the end of this review, but I would take the $5 Venture Electronics Monk Plus earbuds over the M50Xs. I think part of the problem of why the M50Xs are still so popular is the fact that people cannot admit the fact that they made a mistake and bought a bad product. I will fully admit, I am as guilty of this as many of you are. Before I became an audiophile I did watch this same MKBHD video and I bought a set. And just like many of you I thought they were amazing. But then I started hearing other headphones. And suddenly my eyes were open to the utter load of crap the M50Xs are.

 

 

5742982D-1776-484B-B1E1-180F319EA428.jpeg.75554224464aacca1f010cab0dd1d839.thumb.jpg.58d12ca2ecd5d5701d5e2c3c8eef7e49.jpg

Build:

These headphones are of average build at best. The plastics are kind of cheap feeling and the creak a bit. The headband is an alright feeling pleather as are the pads. Speaking of the pads they are a thin 3 knuckle pad. (Build: 5/10)

 

Comfort:

The comfort on these is alright. The padding on the headband isn't much, but it works. Their biggest problem is the pads are thin and your ear hits the inside of the driver. This isn't an issue short term but starts to hurt after about an hour. They are also pretty light which helps a lot. Not crazy comfortable, but they are fine. (Comfort: 6/10)

 

Misc, Wires, Power, and Accessories: 

The M50Xs come with three wires that are all ok. They are all 3.5mm and use a locking 2.5mm for the connecting to the headphone. One is 4ft, one is a 6ft coiled cable that looks to stretch to around 10ft that has a proprietary screw on 1/4in adapter, and the last is a straight 10ft with the same piece for the single screw on 1/4in adapter. These don't come in any presentation box like the HD6XXs do, however they do include a carrying bag which is kind of nice. As for power, these are about the easiest headphones to drive there are. I don't know if any of you ever made a potato battery in school, but that thing could push M50Xs. These will have no problem running off any source you want, be it a phone or a laptop. These are so easy to drive that the tiny bit of sound leakage my Amp has at 0% is enough for almost 25% volume on these, and I can't even hear the leakage on anything else. On my X7S these are anywhere from 8:30 to 10:00 depending on the song, while something like the T50s sits about 3:00-5:00. The M50Xs are also foldable which is nice for travel and the ear cups rotate 270 degrees.

 

Sound:

This is where these headphones suffer the most they just don't sound good and have major flaws.

 

Overall Sound:

If you ever hear anyone say M50Xs are flat and are great for monitoring, you should instantly know they don't know what they are talking about. These are the most V shaped headphones I've ever heard. Now these are not like most headphones that are V shaped where it is somewhat even, these are the most lopsided V I have ever heard. This graph is honestly what they sound like. Slightly elevated bass, garbage mids, and just the most murderous treble you've ever heard. (Overall Sound: 3/10)

5a95f2bd70d44_M50XGraph.png.5885b43345d1b6dc23e620ace78f181a.png

Mid Range:

The mid range on these headphones is absolutely awful. I don't know how no one realizes this. It is also confusing to me. The M50Xs are somehow mid focused and muddy at the same time, which is a weird combination. The vocals no doubt sit forward in the music, they aren't veiled like something such as the HD650s, but the vocals are so muddy. They have no clarity and sound unbelievably muddy and distorted. It's almost hard to describe, but they do vocals incredibly poorly. (Vocals: 3/10)

 

Treble:

Oh boy here we go. These are the second highest treble headphone I've ever used falling just short of their bigger brother the ATH-M70X. But that doesn't make them any better. The treble on these headphones is absolute murder. This is outside of the range where you could argue treble sensitivity, this is too much for any human being. I'm going to link a few tracks later on for people with M50Xs to listen to and it will show you how insane and unbearable it is. It truly hurts to listen to and there are some songs that I flat out can't listen to. It feels like someone is stabbing a knife in you ears.....actually no that would hurt less than these do. Talk about fatiguing to listen to, these are about the most fatiguing headphones there are. And the sad part is the treble isn't even good. There a ton of it and it is super pronounced, but it has no sparkle or clarity, it's very dull. Listening to the same tracks through my 6XXs, Mayflower T50s, and 1997 pair of HD500As, all have less treble, but they all have some crispness that these do not.  (Amount of Treble: 10/10) (Quality of Treble: 4/10)

 

Bass:

This is the M50Xs best category, but they still don't do great. They have some bass for sure, more than HD650s, but not quite on the level of the T50RPs. Still though more than enough for EDM and gaming. Now the bass itself is also average. You hear it, but it is not focused and is very loose. Bass should have a boom or pop sound, while these have more of a blah sound (very technical audiophile terms right there xD). They aren't bass monsters like some people like to think, but they are alright in this category. (Bass Amount: 6/10) (Bass Quality: 5/10)

 

Imaging:

These headphones don't image well either. They have some, but it is very vague. I wouldn't even give them an average score. (Imaging: 3/10)

 

Sound Stage:

These have no sound stage. Nothing ever sounds like it comes from outside of the cups and they have some of the narrowest sound stage I've ever heard just shy of the Sennheiser HD280 Pro. (Sound Stage: 2/10)

 

Gaming:

These are the headphones that I am sad to say I've used the most for gaming of any headphones. I've owned these fore years and I have played a lot with them. Once again I lacked context.  They have the low end, but they don't really have the sound stage or imaging for foot steps. I wouldn't recommend these for gaming either because they don't fit into either category of gaming headphone, either the crazy bassy fun headphones, or the super accurate footstep headphones. (Gaming: 4/10)

 

Test Tracks:

Here are a few tracks that I think show off the flaws of the M50Xs, particularly the treble. If you own a pair try and listen to these songs loudly and see if you can stand it, I certainly can't.

 

I am not going to do any direct compaisions in this review because I don't have any headphones that I would consider true competitors. The closest thing I have are my T50RPs, but they have had some modding done to them and are now twice the price of M50Xs so that's not a fair comparison.

 

Conclusions:

I don't know why these headphones are popular and who they are for. Everyone must have bought into the marketing because they are terrible. They aren't bass cans, so not for bass heads. Their mid range is absolutely horrendous and muddy, so not for vocal people. Their treble is ear bleedingly too sharp and impossible to listen to.They aren't monitoring cans because they are V shaped and are not neutral like you want monitoring headphones to be. They aren't for gamers because they don't have the bass, imaging, or sound stage to meet either of the two categories of gamers. They also do a terrible job at producing micro details. Now the ones that they do produce they are super intense and just bash them into your head and are super fatiguing. I know a lot of people would say, "The M50Xs are overpriced and if they were under $100 they would be pretty good." I disagree with that 100%. I don't think these headphones are good for basically any price. Their treble is so insane I just can't use them. As I said the $5 Venture Electronics Monk Plus earbuds, are better than M50Xs. Before you call me crazy, go buy a set and see, they are $5 you have nothing to loose. The M50Xs truly are terrible headphones and none of you should ever buy them. If you own a set, try and sell them I will give some recommendations of other headphones that are alternatives to M50Xs around the same price. All of these are going to be $150 or less

 

Closed:

Audio Technica ATH-M40X:

A thing that's hard for people to grasp is just because something has a bigger number doesn't mean it's better. Let's look at Lamborghini. The cheaper Huracan is quicker to 60 MPH despite less horsepower because of a better transmission. Similarly the M40X is a much better headphone than the M50X. However they just need one thing done to them, they need HM5 pads added to them. So if you add the $22 pads to the $80 M40Xs you get a headphone that has more sound stage than M50Xs, less highs, better mid range, and comparable if not slightly more low end. They are an awesome gaming headphone and also great for music.

 

Takstar Pro 82:

These headphones are cheaper and have a very balanced well rounded sound. Not a ton of sound stage, but are unbelievably comfortable. They do a great job at producing micro details and have spectacular imaging. They also have a 3 way bass switch and will satisfy the needs of all you bass heads out there. Also they come with a crazy nice case.

 

Status Audio CB-1:

Another well rounded headphone. Good sound stage and imaging. Good bass with controlled high and good mid range. Very comfortable, but not the best built headphones ever.

 

Audio Technica ATH-WS1100iS:

Technically these are semi-open. These are a much prettier, much a better built set of M50Xs. They don't have the INSANE BASS like claimed on the box, but they still have more than the M50Xs. Their highs are still a bit high, but tolerable. Mid range is ok, but not spectacular. Not much sound stage, but these are a great gaming headphone. They even come with a mic for all you who want to use them as a gaming headphone. For music these should be tubed to make them sound amazing. These are what the M50Xs should of been and they are basically the same price.


Monoprice Retro: This is another one where you are going to call me crazy for saying $25 headphone are better than M50Xs. Believe whatever you want to, but these are amazing. Insane bass and sound stage. Their highs and mid range is also shockingly good for a $25 set of headphones. These are one of the best gaming headphones there are just because of that hilarious low end and sound stage. Imaging is also shockingly good. They do however benefit from some Brainwavz XL Pads if you have a bit more money to spend. When these come back in stock I'm buying a set.

 

Open:

Phillips SHP9500:

One of my always go to headphones. They sound a lot like HD600s with a bit more sound stage and low end. These are a killer headphone and are worth more than they $50-$70 they go for. Realistically one of the only headphones you need under $200.

 

Sennheiser HD559:

If you are looking for gaming headphones take these over the more popular HD598. They are not as clean overall, but have more low end which makes them a bit better for gaming. They have that classic easy to listen to Sennheiser sound.

 

Sennheiser HD598:

These are very popular headphones. Probably some of the best under $200. They are a bit more than M50Xs, but often can be found on sale for around $100. These are just a step below something like the HD6XX or K7XX.

 

Hifiman Edition S:

These can be used open or closed with removable covers, but are better open. These are a portable headphone and have the foldability like the M50X. These are surprisingly good. They aren't on ears like they claim, they are small over ears. They do have some sharper highs, but are very fun with good low end and good imaging. 

 

 

Thanks for reading my review. I know it's long overdue. I hope I have opened your eyes as to why the M50Xs are terrible and hopefully prevented someone from buying them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Not saying you're wrong here because I know very little when it comes to audio, but I've seen top artists use these headphones. Surely they're not that poor if chart topping artists are using them? I personally have a pair of M30x's and while definitely not the best around, they're pretty good for the price imo. I thought the vocals was an area they were quite decent at. Maybe the M50's are just not great for the price compared to the cheaper options. 


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Posted · Original PosterOP
Just now, Connor Price said:

Not saying you're wrong here because I know very little when it comes to audio, but I've seen top artists use these headphones. Surely they're not that poor if chart topping artists are using them? I personally have a pair of M30x's and while definitely not the best around, they're pretty good for the price imo. I thought the vocals was an area they were quite decent at. Maybe the M50's are just not great for the price compared to the cheaper options. 

And top artists use Beats. Why does them using them mean these people know about headphones? They only care about their music and singing, not the technical side of the recording, that's the job of the studio people.

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This is a very in-depth review, but your statements about the headphones frequency response isn't corroborated by reviewers who have actually measured it. Do you intend to measure the performance of the headphones or are you just going to stick with how you feel they sound?

 

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Posted · Original PosterOP
Just now, neowolfie said:

This is a very in-depth review, but your statements about the headphones frequency response isn't corroborated by reviewers who have actually measured it. Do you intend to measure the performance of the headphones or are you just going to stick with how you feel they sound?

 

That was sarcasm. I know how they have been measured. They show what I have said. Slightly elevated lows, with a dip in the mids, and elevated highs.

BD071A4D-C962-4547-A85F-EEF4B73B51E5.png.96be353c508dcf385c2cdf8dff824721.png

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10 minutes ago, Max_Settings said:

And top artists use Beats. Why does them using them mean these people know about headphones? They only care about their music and singing, not the technical side of the recording, that's the job of the studio people.

I was referring to the ones who do their own side of the producing as well. But yeah, there's probably a lot of artists who know nothing of the technical side of things.


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Posted · Original PosterOP
On 2/19/2018 at 2:57 PM, neowolfie said:

You greatly exaggerated the performance, why do you have such a problem with these headphones?

Just because something measures a way means nothing for how they sound. They could measure having mids, but that means nothing of the quality of them. I don’t like measurement graphs because they don’t tell you anything about how headphones sound.

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Posted · Original PosterOP
8 minutes ago, Connor Price said:

I was referring to the ones who do their own side of the producing as well. But yeah, there's probably a lot of artists who know nothing of the technical side of things.

And that still doesn’t mean they’ve studied headphones enough to know what’s good no not.

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Posted · Original PosterOP
On 2/19/2018 at 3:05 PM, neowolfie said:

They tell you exactly how they sound. Do you understand what a frequency is? Do you know how sound works?

Ok, here's two headphones frequency graphs. Tell me how they sound, what the lows, mids, and highs sound like. Now tell me their sound stage, imaging, and which is worth more and has higher quality sound.

hd600-2.png.e63e0ef09cb2e86e42be6476df694fd5.pngfrequency-response-graph.png.6a6679e34d465107b954fcf1a9d547fd.png

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Posted · Original PosterOP
On 2/19/2018 at 3:12 PM, neowolfie said:

This review is just you talking trash on a pair of headphones

Let's compare the M50X to the HD650. As you can see the M50X have a peak and 10K fall off a bit and peak again at around 18K.

frequency-response-graph.png.f4b4c1a5607e90cab0fd71aa3d0132f2.png

The 650s fall off at 10K and roll off the highs.

graphCompare.png.7817febc876ec5cb9762ab4ed2a1e41c.png

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What if I own a pair of M30X's? :( 


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Just now, silentprototipe said:

What if I own a pair of M30X's? :( 

Those are different because their price is much lower and honestly are good for the price point, the M50X's are not good for their price point.


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Just now, Max_Settings said:

They aren't amazing either. For $60 the CB-1s far outclass them.

I still enjoy my M30X's anyways xD. But meh ill take a look when I need a new pair of headphones 


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Posted · Original PosterOP
12 minutes ago, DeadEyePsycho said:

the M50X's are not good for their price point.

As I said, I don't think they are good at all. even regardless of price. I wouldn't use them if they were $60.

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yeah it is true that you can't tell everything about a headphone from a graph, this inclused the signature. It can only give you an idea of the sound and comparing across different measurement systems is totally useless, the measurement setup needs to be exactly the same and even then it isn't great. It also happens that from time to time that the actual headphone sounds nothing like what you would expect from the graph. An exsample of this would be the B&O H6, it doesn't measure well at all, but yet it doesn't sound as wonky as the FR would imply. It is actually a pretty relaxed headphone to listen to.

 

Also good review. I would like to add that if you play music with a lot going on at the same time, then they just die. It is legit like they give up. They litterly cannot handle music with a lot going on at the same time. It just becomes one big blur of sounds with no real separation. It might not seem like this if you come from your typical low quality headset, but if you come from something better, then it is pretty clear that they simply can't handle it. 


Before you buy amp and dac.  My thoughts on the M50x  Ultimate Ears Reference monitor review I might have a thing for audio...

My main Headphones and IEMs: HE 560, K612 pro and Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor

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Posted · Original PosterOP
Just now, Dackzy said:

yeah it is true that you can't tell everything about a headphone from a graph, this inclused the signature. It can only give you an idea of the sound and comparing across different measurement systems is totally useless, the measurement setup needs to be exactly the same and even then it isn't great. It also happens that from time to time that the actual headphone sounds nothing like what you would expect from the graph. An exsample of this would be the B&O H6, it doesn't measure well at all, but yet it doesn't sound as wonky as the FR would imply. It is actually a pretty relaxed headphone to listen to.

 

Also good review. I would like to add that if you play music with a lot going on at the same time, then they just die. It is legit like they give up. They litterly cannot handle music with a lot going on at the same time. It just becomes one big blur of sounds with no real separation. It might not seem like this if you come from your typical low quality headset, but if you come from something better, then it is pretty clear that they simply can't handle it. 

Yep, I sort of said that when I said they don't do micro details well. But yes I might add that point.

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4 minutes ago, Max_Settings said:

Yep, I sort of said that when I said they don't do micro details well. But yes I might add that point.

Ah yeah, though I think the problem is deeper than just micro details.


Before you buy amp and dac.  My thoughts on the M50x  Ultimate Ears Reference monitor review I might have a thing for audio...

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I don't own the ATH-M50/50X (though I'm a proud owner of the ATH-R70x and the ATH-A900X LTD), but I did audition the M50X back when I was looking around for more cans to buy.....in a word, YUCK! Imaging was piss poor, soundstage was pretty narrow (dunno how some would say the M50X is good for gaming), the headphone sound reproduction sorta loses cohesion when the sound gets too 'busy'.....great for movies I guess. Nice enough bass, treble was decent enough as well (I'm a bit of a treblehead) though even I find treble a tad irritating after a half hour of listening (surprisingly, I don't get irritated with the HD800, AKG812 and DT990). Only other headphone that sorta irritates me with the treble is the HE4XX though I don't think it was as irritating as the M50X. I have nothing against Audio Technica selling tons of the M50X'es, better than Beats and Sol Republic (being a tad prejudiced here) anyway, but I do wish many would at least look at other options first before jumping on the M50X bandwagon is all I'm advocating.


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Posted · Original PosterOP
16 minutes ago, GamerDude said:

I don't own the ATH-M50/50X (though I'm a proud owner of the ATH-R70x and the ATH-A900X LTD), but I did audition the M50X back when I was looking around for more cans to buy.....in a word, YUCK! Imaging was piss poor, soundstage was pretty narrow (dunno how some would say the M50X is good for gaming), the headphone sound reproduction sorta loses cohesion when the sound gets too 'busy'.....great for movies I guess. Nice enough bass, treble was decent enough as well (I'm a bit of a treblehead) though even I find treble a tad irritating after a half hour of listening (surprisingly, I don't get irritated with the HD800, AKG812 and DT990). Only other headphone that sorta irritates me with the treble is the HE4XX though I don't think it was as irritating as the M50X. I have nothing against Audio Technica selling tons of the M50X'es, better than Beats and Sol Republic (being a tad prejudiced here) anyway, but I do wish many would at least look at other options first before jumping on the M50X bandwagon is all I'm advocating.

I by no means hate Audio-Technica. I recommended some of their products in this review. I just think the M50X is a terrible headphone over all. I know you like treble, but there are treble heavy headphones, and then there are these.  

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I have a pair of M50S lying around somewhere. I only tolerated them (with daily use) for about 3-4 months or something like that. I agree with all the points you make in the OP, and I'd like to contribute a quick thing: Shure SRH440 with pads from the SRH840 (sold as Shure HPAEC840 and also fit the M50S) are a LOT better. Cheaper, more comfortable (I found M50S pads to be too small and as such rested on the edges of my ears and they got rock hard over those few months I owned them), a more balanced sound with better definition, a wider soundstage, and since M50S (old version) didn't have an easily swappable cable it was an easy choice to get the SRH440's. 


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On 2/20/2018 at 7:38 AM, seduce_me said:

-removed-

True, but don't forget the whole planet doesn't have the same products for the same price and availability as the US. People tend to forget that thing when they start saying things like "well product X is better for the same price just buy that online", if I could find product X at normal prices in my country without customs scalping my left butt-cheek, I would not have a pair of 80$ M40x's on my head right now. Price is extremely important, and for M40x's/M50X's, I think they are alright for the price they ask, especially if you have no other alternative at that price point. Bruh I would absolutely love to have a pair of HD598's if it didn't cost 500$ here, that's if you can find em mind you.

Edited by Crunchy Dragon

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1 hour ago, Generallee said:

True, but don't forget the whole planet doesn't have the same products for the same price and availability as the US. People tend to forget that thing when they start saying things like "well product X is better for the same price just buy that online", if I could find product X at normal prices in my country without customs scalping my left butt-cheek, I would not have a pair of 80$ M40x's on my head right now. Price is extremely important, and for M40x's/M50X's, I think they are alright for the price they ask, especially if you have no other alternative at that price point. Bruh I would absolutely love to have a pair of HD598's if it didn't cost 500$ here, that's if you can find em mind you.

I guess, but in my neck of the woods, an M50X cost about $205-$240 local currency, and a Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro Plus cost about $140 or a DT 770 250Ohm at $240, I'd go for the CoP or the DT 770 without a second thought. To me, the M50X sounds bad, and I'd rather spend my hard earned cash on something I actually like.....it's just annoying to see some proclaim the M50X as 'the best headphone they've ever heard' when it's THE only 'audiophile' can they own or heard or tried.


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Just now, GamerDude said:

I guess, but in my neck of the woods, an M50X cost about $205-$240 local currency, and a Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro Plus cost about $140 or a DT 770 250Ohm at $240, I'd go for the CoP or the DT 770 without a second thought. To me, the M50X sounds bad, and I'd rather spend my hard earned cash on something I actually like.....it's just annoying to see some proclaim the M50X as 'the best headphone they've ever heard' when it's THE only 'audiophile' can they own or heard or tried.

Jesus I would love to live near you if I can have a DT770 for that price. Oh well.

 

Yes, people who claim that are rather uneducated and annoying to more passionate enthusiasts. But I do not think it's a reason to completely dismiss a product that still has one redeeming quality : it's cheap and better than a pair o' Beats.

 

 


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