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review

A review of M-Audio’s M50 studio headphones

Good Sound - Good Value
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M-Audio M50
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M-Audio M50

HiFi/audiophile headphone from M-Audio .

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Every recording musician needs headphones, and there’s no shortage of choices. It’s not hard to find a good pair if you’re spending $200 and above, but especially in the sub-$100 range, it’s more of a crapshoot. M-Audio recently released two models in that range, and we’ll focus our review on the more expensive of the two, the over-the-ear (circumaural) M50.

Cups and cables

The M50 features an adjustable headband that’s a tad stiff to adjust, compared to other headphones I’ve used, but works fine. The ear cups feature thickly padded foam cushions that are quite soft, and could certainly be worn for long periods of time without discomfort. The M50 is not designed for DJs, so the ear cups don’t flip around.

 
 
The M50s feature an over-the-ear design which provides good isolation

I compared its isolation with my KRK KNS-8400 ($149, also circumaural), and my subjective evaluation was that the M-50 offered close to or equal isolation.

At the bottom of each ear cup on the M50 is an 1/8” TRS female headphone jack into which you can connect the included 1/8” cable, which can also be used for 1/4” connections using an adapter that also comes with the M-50s. I like that you have the choice to connect to either ear cup. Having two jacks also makes it possible to daisy chain the M50s to another headphone pair, which could be handy in certain situations.

The M50’s connector cable is made of a rubberized material and is flat as a ribbon. Because of its thinness it gives the impression of flimsiness, but it’s hard to say for sure.

In any case, 1/8” cables are not expensive to replace, and the fact that you can use a standard one in the M50 is a big advantage should the cable break. Most studio headphones that I’ve used feature dedicated cables that are expensive to replace, and have to be ordered from the manufacturer or dealer. A standard 1/8” cable, on the other hand, can be found almost anywhere; drug stores, convenience stores, department stores, music stores, and electronic stores.  If the cable were to go on the M50s, you could easily and cheaply replace it, which is great.

In the driver’s seat

The M50s feature a 50 mm driver, which is large for headphones in their price range. They offer plenty of output, excellent bass reproduction and highs that are crisp — perhaps a bit overly so. I found elements like hi-hats seemed to jump out more than I expected.

 
 
The end of the M50's rather flat cable, with included 1/4" adapter attached

I also compared them with a set of M-Audio’s other new headphone, the M40, which cost $20 less per pair. The M40s have smaller ear cups and are considered on-ear (supra-aural) rather than over-ear headphones. The M40s also have a smaller driver. Sonically, the M50s are noticeably fuller sounding, and for the extra $20, I’d say you’re much better going for the M50s.

The ears have it

Overall, I found the M50s ($79.99) to be a solid bargain. They provide sonics that are better than what you might expect from a lot of models in that price range. With their comfort and isolation they’d make great tracking headphones, and could be used for mixing, as well, although they wouldn’t offer as much accuracy as high-end reference headphones. If you’re looking for bang for the buck studio headphones, the M50s will not let you down.

8/10
Pros
  • Good sound and performance for the money.
  • Good imaging and detail
  • 50mm driver offers solid bass reproduction
  • Detachable 1/8” cable easy to replace
  • 1/4” adapter included
  • Dual inputs allow for daisy chaining
  • Comfortable ear cups
Cons
  • Thin, flat cable has questionable durability
  • Sound is a little bright
  • stevedaniel
    stevedaniel
    New AFfiliate
    10 posts
    Nice information about this. But they are expensive.
  • DaRealist
    DaRealist
    New AFfiliate
    2 posts
    For the fact that they fit nice and have a nice a good bass response I'm definately going to pick a pair up, sounds like they're well worth the price. Thanks for the thorough review, was glad to finally find some info on these.
  • Mike Levine
    Mike Levine
    AFicionado
    1064 posts
    Yes, they do fit comfortably over your ear, and they sound quite good for their price range. As mentioned in the review, I think their best role is as tracking headphones, but you could use them for mixing, assuming you have another way to listen as well. You can't expect them to be as accurate as accurate as reference headphones that cost 3 to 5 times as much. That said, they have good bass response, but aren't overly bassy, which is probably a good thing for mixing hip hop beats.
  • DaRealist
    DaRealist
    New AFfiliate
    2 posts
    Been wondering whether to buy these after selling the krk 6400's. I need something with better bass response for producing dark hip hop beats. One question is are these accurate enough for mixing without much trouble? Also it says these are over ear but they look small like on ear ones, do they fit nicely over the ear? Overall do you think that they have a good sound to them?
    Thanks
  • Mike Levine
    Mike Levine
    AFicionado
    1064 posts
    I don't have the frequency response chart. As for your question:
    Quote:
    you think pretty much any headphones will do for tracking? I'd like to spend no more than $50 if I have to, on tracking headphones with 1/4" output

    I wouldn't say "any headphones" will do. For tracking you want "over the ear" headphones (circumaural) for better isolation. They should also be comfortable. If you're the engineer, you would ideally have some pretty good quality reference headphones for auditioning sounds, but musicians who are just playing don't need anything fancy sonically, although you don't want total garbage. If it sounds crappy to the musicians, they probably won't be as inspired. I do think you can find $50 headphones that will do the trick for the musicians' headphones.
  • thesweetspot
    thesweetspot
    New AFfiliate
    8 posts
    Sounds almost too good to be true. Couple questions.

    • Do you have a frequency response chart or any comparison to other similar headphones that we can check out?
    • I'm particularly in need of good headphones for tracking, as the AKG K702s that I use for mixing are open-eared and make it difficult to record vocals. Do you think pretty much any headphones will do for tracking? I'd like to spend no more than $50 if I have to, on tracking headphones with 1/4" output


    Thanks in advance :D:

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