Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS StreamSet | Audio-Technica Australia | RRP: from $319
Those of you who know the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones will instantly be drawn to these, as you’ll no doubt understand the comfort and quality that those headphones offered. They have stood up to the rigours of many users and held their own over the course of many years. So, it makes sense that Audio-Technica would use the ATH-M50x as the foundation for these new streamer and gaming headsets. Why reinvent the wheel, when the one you’ve got goes around perfectly well already! But, the addition of a quality microphone and other key features makes the ATH-M50xSTS-USB an obvious choice for gamers and streamers alike.
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So, for those of you who’ve not previously had the pleasure of a listening session on these aforementioned headphones, let’s look at how they work in the format. These headphones come with a pair of 45mm large aperture drivers, so they are able to cover a wide frequency response, all the while ensuring that the rumbling low end is not left out. These are housed in a large framework that covers the ears, without being overly bulky. The ATH-M50xSTS-USb comes with a choice of two different earpads that can be swapped out to suit your desired comfort needs. After all, if you’re going to be sitting at the computer for hours on end, you want your headphones to be comfortable. One is a soft leatherette feel, the other a super soft fine velour feel, which doubles as a wonderful pair of earmuffs to keep you warm through the winter months of streaming. The overhead band is also padded with the same leatherette material, so it pretty much goes unnoticed when on your head, it’s just that comfortable. All you need do is adjust the extension arms on either side so the overhead band gently rests on top and balances the weight distribution out. Then, you’re set to go. These are headphones I have worn for several hours without fatigue, so I should think they’ll fit the bill quite nicely in this arena.
Now, Audio-Technica didn’t get a great reputation just by building on comfort alone. As their name suggests, it’s all about the sound, and these headphones deliver. I’ve had ATH-M50x headphones side by side with other brands’ models in similar price points and have always been impressed with the quality sound the Audio-Technica offers. They are clear an crips for listening to vocal takes and podcast streams, with a good bottom end that allows you to hear what is really being recorded. Furthermore, for those who are using these for gaming options, especially RPGs with big atmosphere, big sound effects and big soundtracks, you’ll find yourself fully immersed in the moment with these cans. And that’s what it’s all about, with environmental noise all but blocked out from the over-ear design.
The other main element in this system is the microphone, and we can’t do the ATH-M50xSTS-USB justice without mentioning that microphone. For those of you who have used Audio-Technica studio microphones, you’ll probably be all too familiar with their 20 Series of condenser microphones. These have set the standard on quality studio recording at an affordable price over the years. I’ve used and reviewed just about every microphone Audio-Technica have made in the past fifteen years, so I know what they’re all about. What is exciting is that they have taken that cardioid condenser microphone and housed it in a gooseneck housing combined into the ATH-M50xSTS. Forget the shock mount, forget the microphone stand, don’t worry about the cables and mic preamp, it’s all sorted out and mounted on the left side of your headphones now. Yes, this isn’t just a little add-on microphone to increase market share. Audio-Technica have listened to gamers and streamers and taken the feedback onboard to deliver a seriously high quality microphone, that doesn’t require the hassle that is usually associated with studio condenser microphones.
The ATH-M50xSTS is available in both a USB and a TRS/XLR model. The analogue version has an TRS input for the headphones and an XLR output for the microphone. Phantom power can be supplied via the XLR from your mixing console, and monitoring adjustment are made on the console or interface. With the digital USB model, all audio both in and out is handles by the USB-A connector which runs straight into your computer and phantom power supplied through the USB connection. A 24-bit/96 kHz analogue to digital converter in inbuilt in the housing to ensure the audio recorded and on playback are top notch. Audio-Technica have included “Sidetone” circuitry in this sage which enables you to hear your voice through the earphones, much as you would feed back some of the signal from the monitoring mix. This makes for a more natural sound when speaking, not leaving you feeling like you’re removed from the recording. Of course, this USB model works as a plug & play device and will appear in your computer audio settings once detected, so you just need to assign the inputs and outputs if they don’t automatically line up. After first use, the bus memory should take care of future connections.
One handy feature that appeared on some of the USB microphone models was the mute button that allowed you to engage and disengage the audio input right on the microphone housing, all without any loud pops that might occur with switch on a preamp. Audio-technica have taken that concept one step further with this system in a really clever function design. The microphone automatically mutes when you flip the boom arm up, so it is out of the way. When you flip it down again into position, the audio stream is re-engaged. There’s no need to look for a button, or fiddle about with your keyboard or mouse. Just flip the microphone up to the standby position and you can say what you like about your opponent and not have them hearing a word. If you’re that sort of competitive gamer. It’s ideal for podcast and streaming applications too when you need to go silent without having to mess about with software settings.
Take a comfortable pair of cans, great sound reproduction, great audio capture from a condenser microphone and an ease of use that just makes sense and it all adds up to a pretty healthy bundle. You want to be able to focus on the screen and live happenings and not be bothered with connectivity issues or technical problems. Audio-Technica have sorted all that out with the ATH-M50xSTS-USB. So, game on!
For more information, head to Audio-Technica.