The M-50 is branded as a monitoring headphone, but it would also work as well as a DJ headphone. The M-50 is one of those rare headphones that is able take the strengths of two different headphones, and add more good things into the mix.
Starting from the build quality and finish, the ATH M-50 is a step nicer than both Shures. In terms of wearing comfort, the M-50 also combined the best features of both Shures: a good amount of clamping force and yet remaining very comfortable. Compared to the SRH-840, the M-50 has a slightly stronger clamping force, but the combination of good pads material and good ergonomics design makes the M-50 remain very comfortable to wear. Build quality is slightly better than the SRH-840, and way better than the SRH-750DJ.
The two Shures was somewhat a little polarized. The SRH-840 more refined but lacks the PRaT and forwardness, and the SRH-750DJ being the opposite. I was happy with the performance of both Shures, but the moment I wear the ATH M-50, I know that there is no more reason to own either Shures. The M-50 is very refined, even more than the SRH-840, and yet it still has a good amount of forwardness that I didn’t find on the SRH-840. It’s not exactly as forward and as energetic as the SRH-750DJ, and so the 750DJ would still be better for Rock fans, but it’s much smoother and much more refined than the 750DJ.
Playing a good instrumental recordings such as the Buena Vista Social Club, and the M-50′s superior refinement level really shows itself to be above the SRH-840, and leagues above the SRH-750DJ. Quite understandable, given Audio Technica’s long background in high end headphones, while the SRH-840 is Shure’s first entry to the headphone world.
Not only does the M-50 able to bridge the two strength of the SRH-750DJ and SRH-840, it also adds other things on top of it. If the midrange is just average on the Shures, the M-50 has a much more seductive, fuller bodied, and smooth midrange. Just everything that you would expect from a good midrange. Additionally, the treble is also more refined than the Shure, while showing a more linear extension. On recordings that has a lot of treble presence, such as Oasis’ Supersonic, the abundance of cymbals in this song can get a little bright on the M-50, and the SRH-840 as well. The SRH-750DJ’s less upper treble presence somehow deal with this hot presentation better, but the SRH-750DJ may not make treble lovers happy with the limited treble performance.
Soundstage imaging performance is also better on the M-50 than it is on the SRH-840 or the SRH-750DJ. The soundstage size is slightly smaller than the SRH-840′s but still bigger than the SRH-750DJ. The imaging performance of the M-50, however, betters both Shures, and ultimately I’ll take the M-50′s soundstage performance over either Shures.
The M-50 is also fairly good at bass. There is plenty of bass body, and the extension to the low bass is smoother on the M50 than for both Shures. Bass punch is very good, stronger than the SRH-840, but still less than the 750DJ. What’s debatable, however, is the bass control on the M-50. It’s not exactly boomy, but it does have a longer decay than on the Shures, thus complex bass passages are less articulated on the M-50 than on the Shures. If your music has a complex bass, then you may want to consider the other options like the HD25-1, the SRH-750DJ, and the AKG K181DJ, all of those have very tight bass. Everyone else would be happily satisfied with the M-50′s bass performance.
If I were to generalize, then for the majority of people, the M-50 has pretty much killed the demand of the Shure SRH-840 and the SRH-750 headphones, and as you’ll see later, also for the other headphones. Truly a magnificent all rounder from Audio Technica!