The one thing missing for on-the-go listening is a built-in microphone and in-line remote for making cell phone calls. But this set is more for purists and it doesn't have any extra bells and whistles. One thing I did appreciate was that while the cord is long, it isn't crazily long like that of the step-down Audio-Technica ATH-M30. I also liked that the cord had a coiled section at the end (like old corded phones used to have) that allows you to the extend the cord if need be. Audio-Technica also makes a version of the M50 that has a straight cord (the ATH-M50s), and that model comes in a white version as well as a limited-edition silver version.
Aside from the build quality, the ATH-M50 headphones' signature quality is their sound. These headphones are nicely balanced and offer impressive detail and good tight bass that's ample but not overpowering. That bass may not be quite big enough for folks who are looking for a booming low end with big thump, but I gravitate toward headphones that are a bit more laid-back, well-balanced, and accurate.
In terms of technical specs, the ATH-M50 headphones feature "proprietary" 45mm large-aperture drivers with neodymium magnet systems. I ran an eclectic mix of music through them and the headphones sounded really good with everything I threw at them (they're designed to play well with just about any kind of music -- or movies and games for that matter. Like higher-end headphones that cost even more, these headphones make you want to go back and listen to old songs in your music collection that you haven't heard in a while just to hear what the headphones can bring out in the song. As I said, there's lots of detail; the sound is rich, refined, and open for closed-back headphones (by "open" I mean the music doesn't feel stuck inside your head).
Both editor Justin Yu and contributor Steve Guttenberg felt the same way I did about these headphones, and Guttenberg, whom we often turn to for reviews of high-end headphones, had very high praise. "They're just really good headphones," he said. "I'm very familiar with them and I've always liked them." Yu and I also like the $149.99 Incase Sonic Over Ear Headphones in this price range. They're lighter than the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones, are very comfortable, also sound very good, and have a built-in microphone. However, the ATH-M50 pair have an arguably sturdier design, sound a bit better, and fold flat.
Alas, we should have reviewed this model and the more affordable Audio-Technica ATH-M30 Closed-Back Dynamic Stereo Monitor Headphones, also an excellent value, sooner. But now that I have spent some time with them, it's clear that these are among the best headphones available that cost less than $200. At around $160 online, they're an excellent bargain. Highly recommended, particularly for those looking for full-size headphones.