Audio-Technica M50XGM Gunmetal Amazon Exclusive Studio Headphones Review
I’ve already written about a million articles about the near-universally-loved-until-they-were-also-hated M50X studio headphones. There’s this review. Or this other review. Or this almost-parody of an article where I compared them to many of the other headphones I’d heard until that point.
The M50X is still a phenomenal value for the money, if you value a Harman Target-esque style of neutral sound but also appreciate a pinch of fun in the bass and treble. It has a reasonably flat sound signature, solid studio-like build quality, and a good selection of extras.
So why am I doing this again? Well, I just properly reviewed an M40X for the first time, and I wanted a refresher on the sound of the M50X. Although I’ve personally owned a couple pairs in the past, and have access to a pair at my place of work, I didn’t currently have one in my ever-evolving rotating collection.
Thus, the perfect excuse arrived to buy one of Audio-Technica’s limited edition colors.
Every year or so, AT releases a limited edition M50X color. They’ve done white. They’ve done green. They’ve done blue, red, and “matte gray.” I don’t know why matte gray specifically called out that it was “matte,” because none of the other colors are glossy. But hey.
Often, these models are on the market for a year or so before Audio-Technica discontinues them to make way for the next one. They haven’t launched a new one yet this year, though they did just do the Bluetooth M50X, so perhaps around the fourth quarter they’ll “surprise” us with “new” colors for that model that just so happen to look like the colors listed above.
The Gunmetal M50X is a little bit different. When it first released a little over a year ago, I thought it was another typical limited edition M50X. I didn’t pay much attention to it, except to look at it and go “That seems neat!” and then promise myself I wouldn’t buy one, because it would be ridiculous to own more than one color of the same headphone.
It’s hard to find much mention of the Gunmetal color on any retail or product site other than Amazon…and that’s because it’s an Amazon-exclusive product, just like the Sennheiser 598Cs is in the US.
The core of the headphone is the same as it’s always been. Same exciting-yet-balanced sound signature. Same slightly-clampy but comfortable wearing profile. Same studio build and wide range of adjustability.
I really enjoy the color scheme, and the way it extends into both the headphone adjustment sliders and the two included cables.
Wait. Two included cables? Isn’t the M50X famous in part for coming with three cables?
Normally, yes. But the Gunmetal version cuts out the 3 meter straight cable, leaving only the 1.2 meter coiled and mobile cables. That’s fine if you’re planning to use these on the go, or in a desktop amp setup, or perhaps even with an editing bay. But that 10 foot straight cable was useful for a lot of scenarios, like reaching around the back of a computer or tracking in a studio environment, and I’m sorry to see it go here.
On the plus side, the standard Audio-Technica leather bag is replaced by a hard shell case! The case is pretty nice, with a mesh pouch inside that can hold your cables. Although, the pouch is loose enough that the cables have a tendency to slip out of it…meaning I usually store them next to the headphones.
While it’s nice to get a hard-shell case, especially since the Gunmetal M50X’s basically never deviate from the full $169 retail price point…it’s also the source of my biggest frustration with these headphones. All of the other M50X versions are packaged in a standard Audio-Technica box. The headphones are fully unfolded and rest gently in a cardboard insert, with the extras carefully fitted into nooks and crannies around them.
The M50XGM is packaged in a much smaller, more eco-friendly box, with every single component folded up and tucked into the hard case. I’m totally fine with eco-friendliness, and the small box no doubt saves Amazon a lot of storage space in their warehouses.
Since the headphones are shipped in their most compact folded state, the pads kind of ram into each other. And mine were placed in such a way that one of my pads had been pancaked into oblivion. In this picture, there’s a fresh pad on the top and one of my squished pads on the bottom.
Frustrating! Nothing else was wrong with my pair thanks to the protection of the case, so it’s ironic that the case also inadvertently lead to padding downfall. The M50X doesn’t use memory foam in the pads, so no amount of clever massaging and reshaping got my pad to unflatten.
Fortunately for me(?), I finally got to solve the mystery of the M-series padding, and I explore that more in an article here. But I had to order new pads for my new headphones. Yes, I could have exchanged them, but thanks to the way these are packaged, there was no guarantee that it wouldn’t happen again.
The color and hard shell case are great. The fact that you’re losing one cable and looking at potentially-squished pads is…not so great. And when you consider that the regular M50X is often on sale for less money than this exclusive version, I can’t really recommend them. If you need a hard shell case, there are plenty of third party options.
I’m fine with Audio-Technica selling additional colors and models of their most popular and most lauded headphone. But they should probably all come with the same cables, and the special editions should probably ship in a way that the pads don’t get messed up.
Here’s a picture of me wearing these. The manic look in my eyes is both because I stayed up late playing Kingdom Hearts 1, and because I was carefully trying to block everyone’s face behind me.