Australian HIFI - - CONTENTS -

Blue, blue, blue and more blue… but you can also buy them in red, white and black… and there’s a good rea­son that you should, be­cause they’re a great buy!

This is the lat­est ver­sion of the head­phones cre­ated for Au­dio-Tech­nica’s 50th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions back in 2012, since when not a year has gone by with­out a spe­cial or limited edi­tion ar­riv­ing with tweaks and/or some new colour scheme. Last year the M50x went red. This year’s colour is blue.

The pack­ag­ing is im­pres­sive—strong re­cy­cled card­board in­ter­nally, while the head­phones them­selves emerge, well yes, ex­tremely blue. To para­phrase Spinal Tap, aside from the black head­band and ear-pads (hence the full name of ATH-M50x Blue/ Black), it’s hard to imag­ine how they could be any more blue.

These are closed head­phones, us­ing large 45mm di­am­e­ter driv­ers backed by cop­per-clad alu­minium voice coils and neodymium mag­nets, and they come with three ca­bles: one curly coiled for home/stu­dio use, one long 3-me­tre mini­jack-ter­mi­nated ca­ble and a shorter but still sturdy 1.2m mini­jack ca­ble for por­ta­ble use, though there are no in- line smart con­trols, so you’ll need to get your phone out for track and vol­ume con­trol.

Their first achieve­ment is their high level of pas­sive iso­la­tion to shut out ex­te­rior noise. Nor are they overly tight to achieve this—firm, but not dis­tract­ingly so. Their next de­light is the de­liv­ery of a pow­er­ful and punchy sound that is very well sup­ported in the bass; they of­fer a flat re­sponse to a per­cep­tual sweep but their de­liv­ery of mu­sic is nev­er­the­less no­tably full in the bass up to the lower mids. This gives great sub­stance to all man­ner of ma­te­rial. How full and at­mo­spheric the or­ches­tra­tion of Chick Corea’s Aus­tralia pi­ano con­certo, while clas­si­cal pieces gained a great size and weight of pre­sen­ta­tion, along with open but smooth tre­ble al­low­ing full sound­stag­ing and a fine tone to strings and pi­ano—Mozart’s Sym­phony No. 25 in G mi­nor was highly en­gag­ing, a-pow­er­ing out of the gate.

The deep­est bass notes of Neil Young’s Walk With Me were not only de­liv­ered but also clearly sep­a­rated from the ad­di­tional lay­ers of grunge around them, a very fine job in­deed. My tor­ture tests of slightly thin record­ings were swept away by the M50xBB, that lower weight com­bin­ing with their lack of in­sis­tence in the tre­ble to both fill and soften these dif­fi­cult tracks—I won­der if Dion’s I Read It (in the Rolling Stone) was per­haps mas­tered on a pair of MT50s, since I’ve never heard it more ac­cept­ably bal­anced than here!

Oc­ca­sion­ally they could pivot the bal­ance into a touch of over-em­pha­sis around the se­cond oc­tave of bass guitars—the bass on kd lang’s The Air that I Breathe rather too for­ward, and on spo­ken word record­ings male voices could be a lit­tle over-full and rel­a­tively lack­ing in def­i­ni­tion. Even so, let’s call it a larger-thanlife pre­sen­ta­tion rather than a de­fect—they never lost their mu­si­cal­ity, al­ways re­mained en­joy­able, and I much pre­fer full sup­port to a lack of sub­stance. On the daily com­mute, their pas­sive iso­la­tion and full­ness of sound worked to present mu­sic pow­er­fully over the rum­ble of bus travel. And of course they only sound bet­ter given the ad­di­tional con­trol of a de­cent head­phone out­put from home hi-fi or pro­fes­sional au­dio gear (they swivel to pro­vide handy one-ear DJ mon­i­tor­ing).

Sound good but just too blue for you? The red, black and white ver­sions of the M50x re­main avail­able in Aus­tralia at the same price. An­other bonus of a head­phone with his­tory is that new pads and re­place­ment ca­bles are eas­ily avail­able, and likely to re­main so, po­ten­tially ex­tend­ing the us­able life­time of your pair of M50xs.

In ev­ery re­gard these Au­dio-Tech­nica are a lit­tle larger than life—from their phys­i­cal di­men­sions to their sonic size to their ex­treme blue­ness. I loved them, and their price makes them a great buy. Jez Ford

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