And: How a multimillion-dollar audio company was born after a series of listening sessions.
In the early 1950s, a 32-year-old audio afficiando named Hideo Matsushita landed a job at Tokyo’s Bridgestone Museum of Art –– now called the Artizan Museum –– after an introduction from a relative. The museum, located in the central part of the city, had opened a few years earlier to house its wealthy founder’s art collection, but the complex also programmed film screenings, lectures, and recitals.
“At the urging of the museum’s director,” Matsushita recalled in an archival interview, “I began organizing LP concerts. These were much more successful than anyone imagined.” Those public sessions were presented on gear from the soon-to-be center of the global hi-fi movement, which was then starting to produce components for high-end customers. Matsushita was excited by the response but frustrated that high-fidelity listening was cost-prohibitive for the masses. So in 1962 he struck out on his own and established an audio company called Audio Technica. It’s aim was to bring great sound to The People.
Added the Audio-Techica founder of the beginnings: “The company immediately launched its first product, the AT-1 Stereo Cartridge. At that time, we were headquartered in a rented one-story barracks in Shinjuku. We started out with three employees, but quickly grew to 20. We worked late each night, stopping only for dinner at the ramen shop in front of the premises.”
Anyone obsessed with public full-album listening sessions, hi-fi sound and late-night ramen is okay in our book, but it wouldn’t mean much had all that history not led us to Audio Technica’s ATH-M50x headphones, a perfect blend of design, technology and affordability. There are sleeker headphones; headphones that in an A-B test might outperform the M50x; headphones with better noise-cancelation; headphones that more adeptly mimic surround sound. But they are not under $200, and you don’t see them in studios of producers who can afford $1,000 headphones but still go for these utilitarian bangers.
This is the part of this recommendation where we’re supposed to get to the specs and explain in detail how Audio-Technica does it.
Type: Closed-back dynamic Driver Diameter: 45 mm Frequency Response: 15 – 28,000 Hz Maximum Input Power: 1,600 mW at 1 kHz Sensitivity: 99 dB
As you’ll see when comparing the ATH-M50x with other brands and models, the specs aren’t show-stopping. You can find headphones with double the driver diameter and high-end frequency response (numbers to pay attention to when comparing headphones) for $50 more, but they won’t be as durable, efficient or time-tested. Audio-Technica’s fancier ATH-AD500X headphones, in fact, have a driver diameter of 53 mm, which sends the waveform toward your eardrums through a slightly wider aperture. (By comparison, most earbuds have a driver diameter of 9-15 mm.)
It should be said that M50x headphones aren’t bluetooth-enabled; you need a 3.5 mm audio jack or adapter to use these with most portable devices, and dongles suck. Which is to say, these work best for users who are okay with being tethered to their systems with a cord.
The solution: The ATH-M50xBT2, which according to Audio-Technica has “the same sonic signature of the legendary ATH-M50x studio headphones.” Though bluetooth-enabled headphones do result in more signal loss than cord-reliant models, the difference is barely discernible, at least to these ears. Plus, the M50xBT2 comes with a jack and cord, so if need be these can be used just as you would the M50x.
Note: a few reviewers have complained about sound cutting out, so be sure to research this issue before you buy. That said, we love our wireless M50xBT2s and have never had connectivity issues with them.
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