ATH-M50x vs. Sennheiser HD 598 (SE/SR): BIG differences!

 

So the comparison that we are going to dotoday, is between two of the most popular and recommended headphones in the 150-200US Dollars price range, the too popular for their own good Audio Technica ATH-M50x, andone of the favourite headphones of audiophile community, the Sennheiser HD598. Hey guys, I am Siddharth, and this is goingto be an interesting one. So starting with the build quality, I thinkthat it is tough to match the tank like robustness of M50x, especially for a headphone in thisprice range. The build is completely plastic, but it isvery reassuringly built. It is also one of the most flexibly usableheadphone, you can fold it and keep it in its bag for travel, the earcups turn 180 degree,so you can wear them around your neck and lay them flat on your chest like this. This kind of flexibility isn’t availablewith the HD598.

It is also easier to wear them on 1 ear, oreven folding one of the earcups to have this DJ look. These really look like they can take someserious punishment and durability should not be a problem with these headphones. Now coming on to the HD598, the build is againcompletely plastic, but it doesn’t look and feel as robust as the M50x. The adjustments and hinges are well designed,but they don’t give you the confidence of being handled roughly. This doesn’t mean that the build qualityis bad in anyway, in fact the design and construction are very well thought out, and keep the headphoneslight. These will also last for a long time justlike the M50x, it’s just that you cannot be as careless with them as you can be withM50x. The pleather on the headband of my m50x hasflaked off after around two years of use, and I also had to replace the earpads afteraround one year.

The Sennheiser has a removable headband cushion. I think that both headphones look great andtheir looks really give you an idea of how they are going to sound. The HD598 looks and sounds like a very comfortableand smooth headphone, and the M50x looks and sound in many ways, like a no nonsense toolmade for studio use. I got the Black Special Edition version ofthe 598, but if you are more adventurous, you can also go for the regular beige andbrown version. There’s a new version for HD598, the HD598SR, which has a newer designed headband, and a short cable that has a microphone in itfor use with phones, but it is otherwise, the exact same headphone. The M50x also comes in a variety of colors,just don’t go with the white one. Due to their popularity, dBrand makes someamazing skins for it, which is a really cool thing if you’re into that kind of stuff.

Now coming on to the comfort, there is nocomparison between the two headphones. The HD598 is regarded as one of the most comfortableheadphones available, and that’s for very good reasons. It is very light on your head, the earcupsare very large and are made of velour. You can really wear them for hours if notfor whole day, and sometimes even forget that they are on your head. You ears won’t get sweaty or even warm,and there is no ear fatigue while listening to them. The M50x on the other hand have been veryuncomfortable for me. They are heavier by 60 grams, which is a bigdeal in headphones. The clamping force is really high out of thebox, and its only after keeping the headband bent in an almost flat position for some timethat I was able to achieve tolerable levels of clamping force, the is unlike the Sennheiserwhich have perfect clamping force out of the box.

The earpads on M50x are the main reason theseare so uncomfortable, they are very small for an over the ear headphone, and when youwear them, over 2/3rd of your ear touches the earpads. And no, the Brainwavz HM5 earpads are notgoing to work. So this is unlike the Sennheiser, in whichno part of your ear touches the earpads because they are so large. These are the true over the ear headphone. I have slightly bigger than average ears,and I wear glasses, so you might find the M50x more comfortable for you. But these are 1 hour headphones for me, afterwhich I continuously make adjustments to keep them comfortable on my head. Comfort makes a BIG difference in your desireto keep wearing a headphone, no matter how good it sounds, so the HD 598 have a big overalladvantage over M50x in this area. So M50x comes with 3 cables, a straight longcable, then we have a long coiled cable, and then we have a short cable for use with portabledevices.

The HD598 DOES NOT come with a short cablefor use with portable devices, but the Black Special Edition version does. You’ll also get a microphone if you go withthe HD 598 SR version. Audio Technica includes a 3.5mm female to6.5mm male adapter, so you can use all cables with either an AMP with 6.5mm output, or yourportable devices. But Sennheiser has a 6.5mm female to 3.5mmmale adapter, so you can only use the long cable with a 3.5mm socket if use this hugeadapter sticking out of the port, which might damage it if you accidently put too much stresson it, so you would have to be careful if you’re using it like this. So this is how Sennheiser wants you to roll. Both headphones have a removable cable witha 2.5mm jack going into the headphone, but you shouldn’t try using one cable with anotheras there are minor differences. The cables with HD 598 are good and thickenough, but the cables on M50x are thicker and feel more durable. The M50x also comes in this pleather travellingpouch if that matters to you. So M50x clearly has a better and more logicalsupply of cables and accessories, and some people really like the coiled cable. Though it isn’t a big issue as you can buycables separately for HD598 too. So low end of M50x is a little accentuated,so some people don’t like it, but it’s very good very enjoyable.

The bass of M50x is one of the few strengths,sonically, that the m50x has over the HD598. The bass on HD598 is good too, there is plentyof it, it’s not lacking by any means. BUT the issue is that because of its widesound stage, the bass doesn’t hit you in the ear like the M50x, so that can be, notas enjoyble. This along with other sonic characters ofboth headphones, makes M50x sound better for electronic and artificially created musicin general, and also makes it more enjoyable for music that is dependent on bass rhythms. With naturally created music, like instrumentalor orchestral music, the bass on HD598 is going to sound better. The bass drums in orchestral music sound verynatural due to the wider soundstage. The presentation of bass is also very controlled,so whenever it’s there, it’s enjoyable. It is however not as fast as M50x. In spite of all this, a lot of electronicmusic sounds good and sometimes even better on HD598 if the track has a good use of imagingand soundstage. And in some of the tracks, I even found theHD 598s sub-bass to be more enjoyable than M50x.

Now coming on to the mids, this is an areawhere HD598 really blows M50x away. The mids on HD598 are just amazing, naturaland smooth. A big problem with M50x is that it has recessedmids, which means that when you’re listening to a song, the vocals have lesser volume thanthe bass and treble parts, so the instruments are going to overpower the vocals. Which means that you’ll have to raise thevolume on M50x to listen to the vocals clearly which will make the instruments sound tooloud. This is unpleasant and means you must usean Equalizer to make things balanced. HD 598 on the other hand has an amazing soundsignature, it is a little mid forward, but it’s done in a way that the vocals takethe central stage, with the instruments accompanying it. Artists like Adele and Celine Dion sound reallynatural, their voices sound amazing, and with that wide sound stage it just immerses youinto the music in a very emotional way. Now finally coming to the highs, this is anarea where you might prefer different kinds of things. The M50x are on the verge of sounding tooharsh, and in some of the tracks the highs are actually not easy to listen to.

This makes the M50x have a lot more ear fatiguethan the HD 598. If a song is badly recorded, you might evenfeel the treble parts to be scratching your eardrums. HD598 on the other hand have amazingly wellpresented but controlled highs, and they are more forgiving towards bad recordings. They are a little rolled off in this area,inheriting the distinguishable sound signature called Sennheiser veil by many people. I personally like this a lot for non-criticallistening, as it makes everything very easy and natural to listen to. It doesn’t mean that the highs are lackingin any way, they are there and are very enjoyable, it’s just that they aren’t in your facelike the highs on M50x. But because the highs are more prominent onthe m50x, drums and hats sound like they have more impact than the HD598. This makes the M50x sound better for musicwhich depends on its highs to make it sound impactful. Still, I find the highs to be, to high onthe M50x, so I have to use an equalizer to make them more comfortable and easy to listento, so that’s why I prefer the sound signature of the HD 598. Now soundstage is an area where there is nocompetition between M50x, and the HD 598, obviously because the M50x is a closed backheadphone and the HD 598 is an open back headphone.

The M50x has a narrower soundstage, even fora closed back headphone, and the HD598 has a wide soundstage, even for an open-back headphone. M50x is advertised as a studio monitoringheadphone, so everything sounds very close to you and you can hear everything that isgoing on in your audio. The HD598 has a very open and wide soundstage,but they are also a more laid back headphone, meant for enjoying your audio. This means that both the headphones have differentqualities that you might prefer. The M50x has a very analytical sound, andit is really great for doing any kind of work with your audio, whenever I record anythingfor my videos, I use the m50x headphones to process the audio, because you can hear eventhe minute levels of background noise, the slightest of breathing noises, and every smallmistake. This is an area where HD598 don’t work well,because there might be many things in your audio that you won’t be able to hear withthese as clearly, and background noise isn’t easy to pick up. Combined with their open nature which letsthe outside noiseses come in, they aren’t great for this kind of use. The disadvantage that M50x have because ofthis character is that watching movies or listening to music in general isn’t as pleasurableand immersive as it is with the HD598. Gaming is also a lot better with the HD598,with their amazing soundstage, the positioning and immersion really makes them one of thebest gaming headphones. The separation is also a lot better on theHD598, so you can differentiate between different layers of music, or the different instrumentseasily, while on M50x they are not as easy to focus on. And after listening to HD 598 for some time,it feels like M50x just doesn’t have enough ‘space’ for music which has a lot goingon.

The M50x will work well with watching movies,gaming, and listening to classical orchestral music too, but it’s just that it’s a nextlevel of experience with the HD598. So for me, the M50x serves more like a tool,while the HD598 is more of a media consumption headphone. Then again, I have to go to M50x when somedependent or electronic music doesn’t work well with the HD598. I also play piano, and I connect my digitalpiano to my PC, and use a VST instrument to get the best samples of piano notes. Using the HD598 for output, it is almost impossibleto feel that the sound is coming from a headphone and not from the piano that I am playing. This is really important and immersive forme as a musician. Many people say that listening to open backheadphones is like being in a concert, but I think that’s a little inaccurate, you are’in’ the music if that makes sense. You get a feeling of the music playing inyour mind rather than through headphones like on the M50x. The M50x are closed back headphone, and theHD598 are open back. This means that with HD598, here is very littleisolation from outside noises, while the M50x blocks a lot of environmental noise.

This means that wherever noise is an issue,the HD598 are almost unusuable. Open back design also means that the soundis going to leak outside of the headphones, so people near you will hear what you’re listeningto, but I don’t find the leak to be a big issue, and at normal listening level, youshouldn’t disturb anyone using these in an office, as long as you are in your separatecubicle. M50x in my opinion is in more need of a separateDAC and AMP, even with my computer’s on-board ASUS SuperFX audio, which has one of the bestRealtek Chips, M50x sounded harsh in some frequency ranges, and bass was a little looseand muddy. HD598 also benefit from a DAC, but I thinkthat they improve less than M50x with a separate DAC and AMP. M50x is just a much more revealing headphone,so if your source is not good, M50x is going to make it more apparent. So if you don’t have a separate DAC andAMP, or a very high quality in built one like on some LG phones, M50x are significantlyworse than they are with a DAC, but HD598s are going to sound fine enough without a dedicatedDAC+AMP. M50x is the kind of headphone, where you’llturn the volume up and rock your head with the music, while with the HD598, everythingwill sound perfect at the moderate volume, and you will lay back as your music surroundsyou and the feeling of listening through a headphone disappears. The M50x is a more consistent headphone, whichmeans it will perform similarly well with different kinds of music. The HD598 is amazing when it works, and itworks well most of the times, but you are going to find that one track, 1 out of 5 times,when the HD598 just doesn’t work at all, and that’s why I need M50x too. m50x has 38 ohm impedance, and HD598 has 50ohm impedance but have higher sensitivity, both are easily driven by a smartphone.

So I hope that with this detailed discussion,you’ve got a good idea of which headphone you should get. There are very good reasons to get both ofthese, as one of them isn’t a clear winner over the other, so if the question is thatwhich one you should get first, it completely depends on what your needs are. If you need to go outside, travel, or listento headphones in a noisy environment, then the M50x are a clear choice as HD598 are unusablein those cases. If you do any kind of audio work, then M50xare a better choice, as they let you hear everything that is going on in your audio,that’s why so many YouTubers use and recommend it. If you only listen to electronic music, thenthe M50x will also perform better most of the times. For most other people, I think that HD598is a better choice. It is much better for majority of genres ofmusic, it is much better for movies and gaming, and it is much, much more comfortable thanthe M50x which is a really big deal. Both headphones can get engaging and moveyou, but when the HD598 unfolds its immersion and makes you one with your favourite musictrack, you might have to hold your tears back. Wow, so that was a long one, and if you havemade it this far, then thanks for watching. So I hope that you liked this comparison,in which case you could give it a thumbs up which could help.

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