Before receiving M50x, I thought my review of this new updated version of a legendary M50 model going to be just a basic short comparison since the main advertised change was a removable cable with everything else remaining the same. Once I received it and had a chance to spend some time with it, I feel this pair of headphones deserves a full review - all over again! I really do feel Audio-Technica guys were a bit too modest downplaying the changes since beside the cable I can also hear sound improvement. Let's take a closer look at what I found.
I always start with a packaging because I find presentation of the product very important and always imagine if it would capture my attention if I see it on the shelf in the store. With M50x model the packaging was completely redesigned where instead of open view display now it's a sealed slick box with a main focus on the high quality image with a detachable cable. I can only imagine how much feedback AT received to push them over the edge to update their best selling model with this small, yet very significant change while leaving the rest of the design details the same. Typically a cable attachment is a weakest point in a design due to stress at the joint to earcup. Adding detachable cable extends the longevity of the headphone and adds flexibility for different replacement cables.
Audio-Technica included 3 different cables to make everybody happy. You get a straight 1.2m cable, a straight 3m cable, and a coiled cable which extends from 1.2m to 3m. Since the later two are intended for a more professional use, their 3.5mm connector side which goes to the audio source has a threaded connector for 1/4" adapter, included with accessories. On the other side attached to a left earcup, you have 2.5mm connector with a groove for interlocking twist connector. It is proprietary, but I'm sure it won't be too long before we going to see an aftermarket cable, perhaps even with in-line remote/mic. I have found myself using M50 while watching movies on my smartphone quite often in the last 6 months since I got it, so being able to pickup a call might be a good option as well.
In addition to 3 removable cables and 1/4" adapter, a storage drawstring pouch was also included which is a perfect size when M50x folded inward for the most compact storage. For those who would like a better case to protect your M50/M50x headphones, I would highly recommend Slappa Hardbody Pro Headphone case (http://www.amazon.com/Slappa-Sized-H...dp/B009NE7B06/) which is even more convenient to use now since you don't have to bend a cable and can just disconnect it for a long term storage or when traveling. Alternatively, you can place M50/M50x folded inside with a room for your DAP or DAC/amp.
Regarding the overall design, it remained the same - if it ain't broke, don't fix it! The headphones are build like a tank, though most of the material is quality plastic. Thanks to a double-joint connection mechanism between headband and y-fork two-point connection to earcups, these can swivel and rotate 180 degrees to accommodate any head shape, to wear in DJ-style, to keep them around your neck with earcups flat, or to place them flat on any surface. The headband adjustment still has a precious click. Also, it's still has a very compact inward fold which significantly reduces a footprint for storage. The headband has a soft inner padding for comfortable extended period of time wear, and a decent clamping force which doesn't put too much pressure while still providing good passive noise isolation. Now, here comes something new. The earpads have been redesigned and now have a much softer pleather with a thicker padding feel. Another change I noticed was "ATH-M50x" label being stamped on y-fork of each side instead of being printed outside of earcups shell like with M50.
At this point, I would have concluded my review saying M50x has the same neodymium 45mm dynamic drivers, with the same frequency response and impedance and max input power rating. All of this looks the same on the paper, but once you start listening and doing A/B comparison between M50 and M50x you will quickly hear that a tuning is slightly different and improved! It's still a well balanced warm sound with a great bass response which extends down to fast mid-bass punch and low sub-bass layer - great in both quality and quantity. It still has a nice upper mids details and clarity, and crisp treble without being too bright and harsh, and without a hint of sibilance. But when compared very close to M50, the sound is less veiled and the bass is more detailed. Keep in mind, this is just a relative comparison since M50 is great to begin with, but M50x sounds brighter and more clear to my ears which I found to be a nice bonus in addition to removable cable and new earpads. Both still have a wider than average soundstage, and in general great for non-fatigue extended listening.
Overall, I was very impressed with this update and completely justify price difference between M50 and M50x models considering improved design with a set of 3 removable cables, a more comfortable earpads, and an improved sound signature tuning. Sometimes it's a risk to take a winning formula and try to change it or to update it, but in case of ATH-M50x this change was a definite success!
Here are the pictures.
With Slappa case.