Earlier this week I took a look at the new Audio Technica ATH-SR50 headphone – a budget-minded set of cans retailing for a sweet $169. Now I’m stacking them up against the legendary Audio Technica ATH-M50x (originally priced at $169 but currently available for $149). But how do these two headphones compare, and which one offers the best bang for your buck?
Audio Technica ATH-M50x vs ATH-SR50 Comparison Review
While both headphones offer an over-ear fit, the M50x seems just a little bit clamp-y-er to me. Despite this, the thinner headband on the SR50 may not remain as comfortable for longer listening sessions. However, the denser earpads on the ATH-SR50 do feel more relaxing than the stock pads on the ATH-M50x.
Both headphones sport a 45 mm driver, nearly identical sensitivities, and low nominal impedance (so amplifiers aren’t essential). Likewise, the difference in overall dimensions remains negligible. Despite differing headbands and earpads, the weight and strength of both models seem comparable, too. Perhaps the biggest difference comes in the form of stated frequency range; the ATH-M50x seems a little more controlled, with some minor extension in the highs, while the ATH-SR50 boasts more emphasis in the lows and highs.
In the lows, the M50x delivers a slight emphasized bass. However, this same bass never seems too overblown or sloppy. Compared to the SR50, the improved control prevents any real bleed, resulting in a clearer, more distinct low end.
The SR50, on the other hand, offers a low end that exudes a sense of power. Punchier and deeper than the M50x, the SR50 definitely sounds more fun and engaging. A meatier bass also adds some extra special sauce to lows on any track – rock, hip-hop, electronica, you name it! While not as accurate, the SR50 is a toe-tapping machine.
Mids on the Audio Technica ATH-M50x sound slightly cleaner. Stacked up against the ATH-SR50, this part of the frequency range delivers less distorted vocals. Overall, the midrange sounds slightly recessed but still exceptionally clear.
More distorted in comparison, the vocals on the SR50 never seem quite as clean. Indeed, the Audio Technica ATH-SR50 sounds somewhat overshadowed or veiled, due to powerful lows and deep bass. While not the best sound for vocal-tracks, instrumentation still appears decent, with instrumental tracks not suffering as much.
Here the M50x sounds slightly, slightly brighter by a hair’s breadth, but almost imperceptible unless you want to do an hour-long A-B test. Better for female vocals than the SR50, highs on the ATH-M50x seem more isolated from mids and lows, leading to an impression of more clarity.
Almost identical to the M50x in this part of the frequency range, the SR50 sounds just a bit rolled off. However, the high end still sounds extended, thanks to the powerful low end and bass response. That being said, female vocals remain relatively smooth if slightly muddled.
In terms of soundstage, the Audio Technica ATH-M50x may seem more spacious, but never gets quite as deep as the SR50. To be honest, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the M50x remains the better choice for classical music. However, that lack of depth seems less optimal for other genres like rock and hip-hop.
When it comes to the SR50, though, that depth makes it a shoe-in for other genres, though not for classical tracks. Because, as deep as the soundstage is, it’s also more narrow. As a result, complicated tracks or orchestral pieces can sound jumbled or confused, as multiple instruments seem to occupy the same space.
The Audio Technica ATH-SR50 makes the M50x sound like the M40x. When stacked up alongside each other and tested through various genres of music, it becomes apparent that the M50x remains the more mellow headphone. What the SR50 does so well – deep, low-end extension and powerful bass – allows it to excel at some tasks while never fully supplanting it’s predecessor.
For folks who want an all-around monitor with a small amount of low end (or for fans of a more robust soundstage), the Audio Technica ATH-M50x offers superior value. However, where bass response and a fun sound is more of a priority, the SR50 wins out.
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