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Hi everyone,

My professor has been recommending the Sony MDR-7506, which has been the standard in movie-editting for quite a while, but I'm not too keen on buying something because someone else tells me to.

While researching on the net, however, I found a headset called AUDIO TECHNICA ATH-M50. It has recently been acclaimed by many audiophiles in many websites, but my fear lies in the fact that these reviews might be unprofessional or even unbiased. These headphones are supposed to be monitor headphones, meaning that they shouldn't add anything to the sound reproduced (no "ultra-bass" so to speak), but I'm wondering if they are superior to the "recommended" Sony MDR-7506 ones.

Please help me out you guys. I'd be very grateful.

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8 Answers

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The MDR-7506 is pretty much entry level as far as monitor headphones go. Also, it is not particularly neutral, so I doubt you would find it in many audio post facilities. I personally found the frequencies around 100-200Hz and 1-3KHz a bit hyped. This does not always translate well to your final mix, as you may be inclined to overcompensate by decreasing these frequencies in your mix.

The big question is how much time you will be spending on a regular basis with headphones on your head. Any longer than an hour a day means it plays an important part in your life and, if this is the case, I would recommend listening to at least 4 or 5 different sets within your range of affordability.

Always take along a selection of tracks with which you are very familiar and which represent good examples of the type of material that you expect to be working with. Whatever you do, don't listen to anything provided by the salesperson. The set that reproduces your tracks the closest to your expectation, subjectively of course, will most likely be the best set for you. There are other factors that must be considered, such as comfort and construction, but only you can determine how to weight these in relation to your specific requirements.

I think you should include the Sonys in your audition as a reference point and, at the end of the day you may even end up choosing them depending on your subjective experience. Personally, I have been converted to Ultrasone (you must include a set from their PRO range in your audition), but AT, AKG, Sennheiser, Shure and one or two other companies all make quality monitor headphones in a similar price range.

I used the ATH-M50s for a while and quite liked them tracking, as they have quite a natural sound and allow for extended use with minimal fatigue, although I would not use them for mixing, editing or mastering, as I feel they are a bit lacking in detail. Then again, I do a lot of restoration work, so detail and comfort are the two most important factors for me, as I use my headphones 90% of the time in relation to my near-fields.

In effect, what I am trying to say is that headphones are personal and, if you intend to spend a lot of time with them and use them in a professional capacity, you should not underestimate their importance.

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Thank you Bluesman69, your review rocked! As a matter of fact I use headphones for a solid 3-5 hours sometimes, and one of the courses I'm following is about sound restoration. I hope that my lack of "ear-experience" won't lead me in the wrong direction while choosing. My greatest fear is that I'll end up finding most/all of these monitor headphones flawless, hence not knowing what to objectively choose from. Your comment was extremely useful nonetheless. Cheers! –  SFaPiL May 26 '11 at 19:34
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My experience with headphones is that it's all about your own hearing and what sounds good to you, you can never judge headphones by word of mouth or reviews, you have to hear them for your self. I have been recommended many different headphones which others say are the best, but they don't sound good to me, and they say the same thing about my personal favorite, the Sony MDR-7506. I use my 7506's mainly for field recording and for sound design if I don't have access to decent monitors, they are built to last (although mine are looking a bit worn after 5 years, but still sound as good as the day I got them). Have a listen to as many as you can and then make a choice.

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Thank you for replying, Si Charles. As wise as your answer is, my problem lies in the fact that I have no serious hifi shops in the vicinity. However, I'll do you as you say and find the closest one possible... It's an important investment after all. –  SFaPiL May 26 '11 at 19:12
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I have Audio-Technica Headphones. For the money? Absolutely recommended - very flat and natural response. Little heavy and for me large. Next one I will buy Sennheiser HD 25 (smaller and excellent sounding).

But if you need headphones go to shop and test it!! You newer know if you have head or ears like others. Take your equipment and test it. Headphones are for long time (2-5 years with some care) that don't be "girl" with magazine about headphones and go to test it :)

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sennheiser headphones have replaceable parts and i've had the same pair for more than 7 years now.. –  georgi May 26 '11 at 12:43
    
Indeed, I'd better check it out first-hand (even though there are no good shops around). Thanks for the reply Bìlek –  SFaPiL May 26 '11 at 19:22
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I bought ATH-M50 a few years ago. The headphone itself is tight, good at isolation. But this causes fatigue when wearing for long period. It sounds good in detail, I usually use it for voice-over editing. The frequency response is nice but not that good because of a bit of bass-boosting.

I would say it's good for field recording and voice-over editing, but not for mixing, especially with a long period working.

anyway, better try it yourself :)

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Thanks for the heads-up Wit Suksilpchai. I'm starting to wonder what's the best way to test the fidelity of these headphone monitors in a shop. What sound samples should I bring with me to test it out?... hmmm... –  SFaPiL May 26 '11 at 19:24
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Ive been using my Shure SRH840s for a couple years now, for production sound, studio, and live audio work. I love them. They are very comfortable to me and are a pretty accurate representation, to my ears. They were highly recommended by some really great live sound engineers so I took the risk on them and have not looked back, my sony's stay in the backup bin now.

I also really like the removable coiled cable design.

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Thank you Gilbert. If I'll manage to find these headphones in a shop (if I'll manage to find a professional shop nearby) I'll certainly give them a try. –  SFaPiL May 26 '11 at 19:36
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Soundonsound magazine ran a pretty good article on studio headphones in the Jan'10 issue.

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan10/articles/studioheadphones.htm

I'm using the Sony 7509s and I quite like them. They are one of the less fatiguing headphones that I've used. Reviews are one thing, what does matter the most is how well you know your headphones. How well I understand and trust my headphones, for example to translate a mix to speakers, is perhaps more crucial than specs to me. Comfort rates highly for me too.

So as long as you like the pair of headphones and they are comfortable, go for it. Then start getting use to it and learn it's characteristics.

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Thank you loads, Tak. I'll certainly read this article in depth.I agree with you in part about understanding your headphones since (1) it's true that once you get used to them and know how your mix sounds without them, you can automatically compensate its "flaws" by ear (2) when doing restoration work high-fidelity and sound transparency is key to removing even the smallest imperfection, imho. All these reviews gave me the correct input to seek the most fitting answer myself. Thanks to all of you! –  SFaPiL May 26 '11 at 19:44
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As long as you like them go for it. The main thing is to learn how they compare to other headphones and loudspeakers, have some test audio files that you can use for comparisons. Also be aware of how different headphone amps colour the sound, and how much your own hearing changes due to noise exposure throughout the working day.

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You pointed out a very interesting aspect, lain McGregor: hearing changes due to prolonged noise exposure. I didn't even think of this aspect and, quite honestly, never considered it while making some songs in my DAW for 4-5+ hours. Thanks alot! I'll try to focus on this more. –  SFaPiL May 29 '11 at 10:08
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Headphones are an extremely personal item. As such, I won't drop any names. I have my favourite pair of ever ever phones, but yours will likely be completely different. Probably ones that I would hate : ).

The best way around the problem would be to head to a store that sells a wide range of headphones and spend three or four hours. Try every pair of "studio" headphones they have. Find yourself a chair (or a comfortable spot on the floor), close your eyes, and just listen. Take the time to figure out what each pair is doing to the sound and whether or not you like the results. You're going to be spending an assload of time with these things, so you have to make sure they're going to do what you want them to.

The other thing I would do is if you're going to bring an iPod or something like it, take your favourite record of all time and convert it to .WAV files, not mp3. Most mp3 players actually play .wavs as well. The algorithms used to make mp3s have a tendency to mess with things like stereo width, extreme low end, and extreme high end, all of which are of the utmost importance in a pair of headphones you're planning to actually work with. Plus, your working materials are not going to be mp3s.

The other thing is that after a few months of working with whatever pair you buy, you'll probably end up finding a bunch of things you don't like about them. That's ok, it just means that you're refining your tastes and learning what works for you. You could buy the most fantastically perfect headphones in the world, but if you hate them or find them uncomfortable your work will suffer anyway.

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Thank you very much g.a.harry. I was planning to do something very similar to this. mp3s have lossy compression algorithms and psychoacoustic corrections that make them lighter in MB-size but less faithful to the original, so I was going to bring a lossless wav or wma file, just like you said. I hope that the shop-keeper will (a) let me try the headphones and (b) let me stay for 3-4 hours testing most/all of them. Anyway, thank you once more for the insight. –  SFaPiL May 29 '11 at 10:03
    
@SFaPil, If they sell high end gear they'll definitely understand that the people coming in want to use the stuff to see if they like it before they drop a wallet bomb. –  g.a.harry May 29 '11 at 15:57
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