The comparison that we are going to do, is between two of the most popular and recommended headphones in the 150-200 US Dollars range, the too popular for their own good ATH Audio Technica ATH-M50x, and one of the favourite headphones of audiophile community, the Sennheiser HD598.
So starting with the build quality, I think that it is tough to match the tank like robustness of M50x, especially for a headphone in this price range. The build is completely plastic, but it is very reassuringly built. It is also one of the most flexibly usable headphone, 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 available with the HD598. It is also easier to wear them on 1 ear, or even folding one of the earcups to have this DJ look. These really look like they can take some serious punishment and durability should not be a problem with these headphones.
Now coming on to the HD598, the build is again completely 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 quality is bad in anyway, in fact the design and construction are very well thought out, and keep the headphones light. These will also last for a long time just like the M50x, it’s just that you cannot be as careless with them as you can be with M50x.
The pleather on the headband of my m50x has flaked off after around two years of use, and I also had to replace the earpads after around one year. The Sennheiser has a removable headband cushion.
I think that both headphones look great and their looks really give you an idea of how they are going to sound. The HD598 looks and sounds like a very comfortable and smooth headphone, and the M50x looks and sound in many ways, like a no nonsense tool made for studio use.
I got the Black Special Edition version of the 598, but if you are more adventurous, you can also go for the regular beige and brown version. There’s a new version for HD598, the HD598 SR, which has a newer designed headband, and a short cable that has a microphone in it for 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 some amazing skins for it, which is a really cool thing if you’re into that kind of stuff.
There is no comparison between the two headphones when it comes to comfort. The HD598 is regarded as one of the most comfortable headphones available, and that’s for very good reasons. It is very light on your head, the earcups are very large and are made of velour. You can really wear them for hours if not for 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 very uncomfortable for me. They are heavier by 60 grams, which is a big deal in headphones. The clamping force is really high out of the box, and its only after keeping the headband bent in an almost flat position for some time that I was able to achieve tolerable levels of clamping force, the is unlike the Sennheiser which have perfect clamping force out of the box.
The earpads on M50x are the main reason these are so uncomfortable, they are very small for an over the ear headphone, and when you wear them, over 2/3rd of your ear touches the earpads. And no, the Brainwavz HM5 earpads are not going to work. So this is unlike the Sennheiser, in which no 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, after which I continuously make adjustments to keep them comfortable on my head. Comfort makes a BIG difference in your desire to keep wearing a headphone, no matter how good it sounds, so the HD 598 have a big overall advantage over M50x in this area.
CABLES & ACCESSORIES
ATH-M50x comes with 3 cables, a straight long cable, a long coiled cable, and a short cable for use with portable devices.
Sennheiser HD598 DOES NOT come with a short cable for use with portable devices, but the Black Special Edition version does. You’ll also get a microphone if you go with the HD 598 SR version.
Audio Technica includes a 3.5mm female to 6.5mm male adapter, so you can use all cables with either an AMP with 6.5mm output, or your portable devices. But Sennheiser has a 6.5mm female to 3.5mm male adapter, so you can only use the long cable with a 3.5mm socket if use this huge adapter sticking out of the port, which might damage it if you accidently put too much stress on it, so you would have to be careful if you’re using it like this.
Both headphones have a removable cable with a 2.5mm jack going into the headphone, but you shouldn’t try using one cable with another as there are minor differences.
The cables with HD 598 are good and thick enough, but the cables on M50x are thicker and feel more durable.
The M50x also comes in this pleather travelling pouch if that matters to you.
So M50x clearly has a better and more logical supply of cables and accessories, and some people really like the coiled cable. Though it isn’t a big issue as you can buy cables separately for HD598 too.
The 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 plenty of it, it’s not lacking by any means. BUT the issue is that because of its wide sound stage, the bass doesn’t hit you in the ear like the M50x, so that can be, not as enjoyble. This along with other sonic characters of both headphones, makes M50x sound better for electronic and artificially created music in general, and also makes it more enjoyable for music that is dependent on bass rhythms.
With naturally created music, like instrumental or orchestral music, the bass on HD598 is going to sound better. The bass drums in orchestral music sound very natural 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 electronic music sounds good and sometimes even better on HD598 if the track has a good use of imaging and soundstage. And in some of the tracks, I even found the HD 598s sub-bass to be more enjoyable than M50x.
This is an area where HD598 really blows M50x away. The mids on HD598 are just amazing, natural and smooth. A big problem with M50x is that it has recessed mids, which means that when you’re listening to a song, the vocals have lesser volume than the bass and treble parts, so the instruments are going to overpower the vocals. Which means that you’ll have to raise the volume on M50x to listen to the vocals clearly which will make the instruments sound too loud.
This is unpleasant and means you must use an Equalizer to make things balanced. HD 598 on the other hand has an amazing sound signature, it is a little mid forward, but it’s done in a way that the vocals take the central stage, with the instruments accompanying it. Artists like Adele and Celine Dion sound really natural, their voices sound amazing, and with that wide sound stage it just immerses you into the music in a very emotional way.
Comparing the highs between these two headphones, these have slightly different (but not better or worse) approach, and you might prefer on over the other.
The M50x are on the verge of sounding too harsh, and in some of the tracks the highs are actually not easy to listen to. This makes the M50x have a lot more ear fatigue than the HD 598. If a song is badly recorded, you might even feel the treble parts to be scratching your eardrums.
HD598 on the other hand have amazingly well presented 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-critical listening, as it makes everything very easy and natural to listen to. It doesn’t mean that the highs are lacking in any way, they are there and are very enjoyable, it’s just that they aren’t in your face like the highs on M50x. But because the highs are more prominent on the m50x, drums and hats sound like they have more impact than the HD598. This makes the M50x sound better for music which depends on its highs to make it sound impactful. Still, I find the highs to be, to high on the M50x, so I have to use an equalizer to make them more comfortable and easy to listen to, so that’s why I prefer the sound signature of the HD 598.
Now soundstage is an area where there is no competition between M50x, and the HD 598, obviously because the M50x is a closed back headphone and the HD 598 is an open back headphone. The M50x has a narrower soundstage, even for a closed back headphone, and the HD598 has a wide soundstage, even for an open-back headphone.
OTHER IMPORTANT POINTS
- M50x is advertised as a studio monitoring headphone, so everything sounds very close to you and you can hear everything that is going 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 different qualities that you might prefer.
- The M50x has a very analytical sound, and it is really great for doing any kind of work with your audio, whenever I record anything for my videos, I use the m50x headphones to process the audio, because you can hear even the minute levels of background noise, the slightest of breathing noises, and every small mistake.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 with these as clearly, and background noise isn’t easy to pick up. Combined with their open nature which lets the outside noiseses come in, they aren’t great for this kind of use.The disadvantage that M50x have because of this character is that watching movies or listening to music in general isn’t as pleasurable and 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 the best gaming headphones.The separation is also a lot better on the HD598, so you can differentiate between different layers of music, or the different instruments easily, 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 going on.
- The M50x will work well with watching movies, gaming, and listening to classical orchestral music too, but it’s just that it’s a next level 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 some dependent or electronic music doesn’t work well with the HD598.
I also play piano, and I connect my digital piano to my PC, and use a VST instrument to get the best samples of piano notes. Using the HD598 for output, it is almost impossible to feel that the sound is coming from a headphone and not from the piano that I am playing. This is really important and immersive for me as a musician.
- Many people say that listening to open back headphones 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 in your mind rather than through headphones like on the M50x.
- The M50x are closed back headphone, and the HD598 are open back. This means that with HD598, here is very little isolation 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 sound is going to leak outside of the headphones, so people near you will hear what you’re listening to, but I don’t find the leak to be a big issue, and at normal listening level, you shouldn’t disturb anyone using these in an office, as long as you are in your separate cubicle.
- M50x in my opinion is in more need of a separate DAC and AMP, even with my computer’s on-board ASUS SuperFX audio, which has one of the best Realtek Chips, M50x sounded harsh in some frequency ranges, and bass was a little loose and muddy. HD598 also benefit from a DAC, but I think that 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 and AMP, or a very high quality in built one like on some LG phones, M50x are significantly worse than they are with a DAC, but HD598s are going to sound fine enough without a dedicated DAC+AMP.
- M50x is the kind of headphone, where you’ll turn the volume up and rock your head with the music, while with the HD598, everything will sound perfect at the moderate volume, and you will lay back as your music surrounds you and the feeling of listening through a headphone disappears.
- The M50x is a more consistent headphone, which means it will perform similarly well with different kinds of music. The HD598 is amazing when it works, and it works 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 50 ohm impedance but have higher sensitivity, both are easily driven by a smartphone.
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 of these, as one of them isn’t a clear winner over the other, so if the question is that which one you should get first, it completely depends on what your needs are.
If you need to go outside, travel, or listen to headphones in a noisy environment, then the M50x are a clear choice as HD598 are unusable in those cases. If you do any kind of audio work, then M50x are 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, then the M50x will also perform better most of the times.
For most other people, I think that HD598 is a better choice. It is much better for majority of genres of music, it is much better for movies and gaming, and it is much, much more comfortable than the M50x which is a really big deal.
Both headphones can get engaging and move you, but when the HD598 unfolds its immersion and makes you one with your favourite music track, you might have to hold your tears back.