Have you ever had to choose between these two? The Sennheiser HD25-1 II and Audio-Technica ATH-M50? I had to. And it was easier than I would have thought.
When looking for some good and not extremely expensive headphones for the home studio or for analytically listening to music you might come across these two. The Sennheiser HD25-1 II (where the ‘1’ just stands for straight cable versus the otherwise identical HD25-C II with coiled wire) and the Audio-Technica ATH-M50. There are a couple of differences as I will show you.
How do you transport them?
Well, never, have them lying on my desk… move on to the next paragraph then. Otherwise read on.
The Audio-Technica is very versatile when it comes to folding and twisting. The Sennheiser just is as is. I really like the ATH-M50 when it is not folded, just flattened by turning the head cups 90 degrees out. Then it even fits in my guitar hard case and in my rucksacks front bag. Both come with a plain carrying bag unless you get the Sennheiser in the cheaper Basic Edition.
Do they comfort your head?
Wearing them on the head (they are headphones after all) they show a big difference. The split headband on the Sennheiser is very cool, it let’s you find the right two spots on your head where you don’t feel the headphones much. And they are nicely cushioned. The Audio-Technica might fit your head well, I just cannot find the sweet spot on my head for it.
Ear cups, one shared approach and one totally different approach. Both want to protect you from outside noise, both do this pretty well. But Sennheiser goes for cups that sit just on the ear with a good and firm pressure, while the ATM-50 covers your ears fully. The Sennheiser goes much better with glasses and the ATM-50 makes your ears sweat nicely. For my head the Sennheiser wins by miles in terms of comfort.
Just on the HD25 you find a feature loved by the DJ’s. You can rotate the ear cups nicely to the back or the front of your ear.
How to wire them up?
Look at the picture. Nearly the same, one angled, the other one straight, a bit of gold on them, both adapters screwable to their small counterpart. Nearly the same, right?
Wrong. The Audio-Technica might not fit in your mobile phone in case you have a case around it. It’s too thick at the end of the jack, you will need to take the phone cover off. Probably Audio-Technica wants to prevent you looking too funny with their big headphones on when on the move.
The ATH-M50 comes just with a coiled cable, which I find totally annoying. It’s just far too heavy to carry a few feet of cable around. I actually use it only with a straight cord extension. The coiled bit then goes into my pockets (I have big, empty pockets, yes). The straight bit between the coiled part and the phones is at least long enough to do so.
HD25 comes with a short bit of straight cable, about 60″ long. But offers me another annoying thing: The cable goes into the headphones on the right side. I don’t know if it’s just me of all right-handed folks that like to have the cable coming out of the left side like the ATH-M50?
Could happen that both these headphones will have one day an appearance on my tinkering pages…
How do they sound?
Oh, I was surprised of the difference. In short, both analytic, but the HD25 far, far more analytic. The ATH-M50 is a bit more ‘hifi-like’ if you know what I mean. Sounds rounder, it creates more room in your head. The Senn sounds faster, tighter, dryer, nice mids but no feeling of a big stage in front of you. And, if you use them in your home studio… then your sound might sound good on the Audio-Technica but not on your Sennheiser. It won’t be the other way around.
HD25 wins in terms of sound and wearing comfort. The ATH-M50 belongs now to my girl-friend.
By the way… the HD25 was developed centuries ago and I think Sennheiser just cannot make it better for this price so they keep producing it. From time to time they try to make it look a bit fancier by selling you coloured versions, velour cushions, aluminium ear cups…