Last updated: 3/6/16
Reason: Amazon no longer carrying the Red option. It’s been swapped out for Matte Gray.
Hi friend and Welcome!
The ATH M50 vs. HD 558? These two headphones are very different and I will get into why in a jiffy! Before we get started though ..
Grab a snack, sit back and relax because..
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
of each headphone
- Video Review
- Amp/DAC requirements
- Who this headphone benefits
- Similarities & Differences
- Final Word
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!
Audio Technica ATH M50 (and 50x)
M50x price: check amazon!
M50 best price: check amazon! | check eBay!
type: closed back, dynamic
fit: circumaural (on ear)
impedance: 38 Ohm
frequency response: 15 – 28,000 Hz
material: plastic, faux leather, metal
It should be noted that the M50’s are a bit different from the 50x’s. The 50x’s are in essence a slightly updated version, and come with:
- Removable cable
- A choice of 5 different colors (White, Blue, Black, Green, Matte Gray)
- contoured ear cups that seal tighter for improved isolation
- a bit of added bass emphasis!
Outside of these things, the two are nearly identical in sound & build.
Expect to put these on and be amazed. After listening with them on for the first time, I really got a sense of what I had been missing. If this is your first foray into audiophile type equipment, these will really make you look at music in an entirely different way.
They aren’t neutral per se, but do excellent as a mixing/reference headphone. They are colored in a sense, but to me it never feels over the top. I would describe the sound as huge, full, and detailed. You will start to hear things in recordings that had previously been lost. One of the biggest differences between these and the 280’s is bass response. These reach down really low, and give you a nice thump, without sounding bloated or artificial. They are tighter than a panty hose homie!
Think of it this way: They do extremely well in a variety of different listening situations and musical genres. My friend who just purchased the 50x’s bought them for this purpose. There’s a reason these are so popular. They are a remarkably versatile set of cans.
- Versatile. Expect to be using these as your go to cans almost (if not outright) daily for a variety of different things.
- Bass. It’s tight and controlled, while at the same time being loud and hard hitting. Contributes to the “wow” factor upon first listen.
- Comfort. These are a bit more comfortable overall than the 280’s, and you will find yourself wearing them over a longer period without adjustment.
- Flexibility and build. Contorts and folds in many of the same ways as the 280. A bit more flexible in this regard. This is one of their strongest suits contributing to longevity. There are simply less ways these can break given their ox like build.
- 3.5 mm jack. The little things are what impress me most, and the fact that these come with a protective coil at the end of the chord running into the 3.5 mm jack is priceless. I’m sure it’s saved these on many occasions since I’ve had them. Truly extraordinary.
- Choice of coiled or straight cable. I normally opt for the straight cable, but the fact that you have a choice is nice. If you plan on using these out and about, I’d suggest the straight version.
- Out of your head. Even as a closed back model, these do exceptionally well with instrument separation and sound-stage. You may frequently remove them from your melon to see where the sound came from. They have very impressive imaging in this regard.
- Ear cups. While comfortable, the ear cups are prone to cracking over time. I wouldn’t advise wearing these right out of the shower, as this has probably contributed to mine having this issue. The ear-cups can be replaced, and should be because they also flatten out a bit over a long period of daily use.
- Even being able to wear them over a long period, the sound can get trapped inside your dome, leading to fatigue/sibilance. Take a break man!
Check out the video review!
At 38 Ohms, none! How to choose a headphone amp!
Tube amp vs. solid state (No not Solid Snake 🙂
Who these headphones benefit?
- Bass-heads will love the tight, controlled, yet thumping quality these provide. Prepare to be amazed.
- Producers who need a good mix-down. While not entirely neutral, these do excel in studio as a reference monitor.
- People who are looking for longevity and versatility from their purchase
- Those who want to be able to listen for long sessions with the occasional adjustment or break
A slick set of casual consumer headphones that also do well in studio. Highly versatile, comfortable, and built to last. The ear-cups have been known to crack over time, but are replaceable. Closed back design will force you to take a break every so often. Overall an amazing set.
The Sennheiser HD 558
- best price: check amazon! | check eBay!
- type: dynamic, open
- fit: circumaural (over ear)
- impedance: 50 ohms
- frequency response: 15 – 28,000 Hz
- material: plastic, velour ear pads.
- color: black
An open backed model, the 558’s sport a tight bass response that knows it’s place. The sound only gets better the more you listen with them. A revealing set of cans, you will start to notice a bad mixing job from a good one. They tend to excel at more laid back music, and struggle with aggressive, dense tunes. They do really well with classical and jazz. They do not particularly do well with rap/hip-hop, so buyer be warned. What they will make you do is sit back, close your eyes, and relax. A warmer, more beautiful sounding set.
A secret to getting a better sound-stage and a bit of a punchier, more pronounced bass is modding them. The ear pads on both sides can be taken apart and a small piece of foam can then be removed. Check out this video on how to do it! Really easy! Some people say that doing this enables these headphones to sound identical to the HD 598, while others claim it does not at all. It does however make a difference in sound regardless..
Check out the video review!
- great clarity
- tight, smooth bass response
- neutral and balanced
- immersive music, movie, and gaming experience
- *extremely comfortable*
- comes with adapter
- lightweight and durable
- impressive sound-stage
- good channel separation (instruments can easily be picked out and listened to)
- replaceable cable
- Chord is a bit long; can get tangled easily.
- Clamp force will squeeze your dome piece when you first put them on. Takes a bit of time to get used to.
- The 1/4″ to 3.5 mm adapter is awkward, since usually it’s the other way around.
What they are good at/for
- These have been praised mightily for being very versatile. They do great with fps gaming, music, as well as movies. Also, there have been numerous nerds reporting that these things are great for CSGO. I had to look that up; it is the name of a game called “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.” The sound-stage for gaming will knock your effing socks off, no joke. You will be able to tell where every sound is coming from with pinpoint precision and accuracy. Guy shooting at you from behind? 360 spin and WASTE HIM!
- They do well with laid back genres like classical and jazz.
- Also do well with rock
- They are very open and have an airy, laid back sound. A beautiful sound.
What they aren’t good for
- They are not for bass heads. Please don’t buy these expecting to be blown away by the low end. The bass will however improve with time/burn in.
- These are open backed, and not for noise reduction or noise cancelling. People will be able to hear what you are listening to at higher volumes. They are best suited in an isolated studio environment where you can really critique a mix or game out in your underwear. 😛
A really comfortable, versatile set of cans that handle a variety of applications such as gaming, music, and movies well. The cable however is a bit of a liability, and the 6.3 mm jack is a bit of an inconvenience for the casual listener.
Similarities & Differences
- Both have a very nice build quality, and excel in the longevity department.
- Both have similar impedance, and can be plugged into any mobile device and sound great! The 558’s do benefit from an amp of some sort, but it isn’t mandatory.
- Color. Both are mostly black.
- The HD 558’s hover under the $100 range, while the M50’s stay around $150, give or take.
- The M50’s stand apart from many headphones in that they contort and fold in a myriad of different ways.
- The HD 558’s by contrast are a bit more limited in that regard.
- Perhaps the most important difference between the two. The HD 558’s are a mixing/reference headphone that distributes the sound evenly across the spectrum. They are about as flat and neutral as it gets, but still remain a very enjoyable and eye opening listen.
- The M50’s have a slightly exaggerated low end, but never feel overpowering, bloated, or cheap. It’s just more pronounced. So the M50’s are a bit more “colored” if you will than the 558’s. Their “studio reference” label is a bit misleading. I would consider them more for the consumer looking for phenomenal sound and build quality. A headphone that is immediately rewarding.
- The M50’s do better with rap/hip hop, EDM, and music that generally thumps. 😀
- The 558’s do well with classical, jazz, and acoustic stuff. They also excel in gaming and movies because of the subtle nuances that are heard in their sound signature.
- The 558’s sport that extremely comfortable velour padding that people rave about in reviews.
- The M50’s have a sort of “faux leather” padding which, while comfortable, is prone to breaking down and cracking over time.
- Both are good for mixing, but the 558’s are better suited for it because of their flat signature and open back design, which lets some sound escape.
- The M50’s as stated above have more of a colored sound and sport a closed back design. The sound has more of a tendency to get trapped inside of your dome.
- The M50’s have been accused of having a recessed mid-range, which basically means that because the low end and high end are more pronounced, the mid-range gets forgotten about and thus isn’t as recognized.
- By contrast, the 558’s mid-range is exceptional, and to many is the highlight of the headphone overall.
- The 558’s don a detachable cable, while the M50’s do not. Note however, the M50x’s do have a detachable cable.
- The 558’s have a remarkable sound-stage, while the M50’s do not. With the 558’s you will feel immersed in the music, as if the band is playing live in front of you. You will be able to place different musicians on stage, and really get a sense of depth and space. This is common with open back models.
- By contrast, the M50’s sound does get trapped inside of your head with little room to breathe. When you first put them on, you will feel as though the sound is huge. This feeling does last quite a while, and you will experience hints of sound-stage, but it fades with time. This leads into the next point.
Open back vs. closed back.
- The M50’s are closed back, and do isolate sound from the outside. People won’t be able to hear what you are listening to, even at a pretty high volume. You also will not be able to hear what’s going on outside of the headphones.
- By contrast, the 558’s are open back, meaning some sound does escape, leading to a more pleasant experience overall. If the sound doesn’t have room to breathe, fatigue can set in faster. You will have to give your ears and head a rest with the M50’s.
If you’re looking for an open back headphone with all the qualities of the 558 but better, check out the HD 598. Both are very similar but nearly everything I’ve read says that the 598’s are a better buy. Yeah they’re a little more expensive, but the sound-stage is improved, the overall sound is more refined, and you get a choice of colors Ivory/Maroon, or Black. They are by all accounts an upgrade over the 558’s!
4.6/5 out of over 2,000 reviews, with a 77% 5 star rating.
Go with the M50’s if:
- You want that hard hitting bass and want to be instantly rewarded with amazing sound
- You prefer a closed back experience, and prefer sound isolation. Are you trying to avoid that incessant rambling & nonsense from one of your annoying co-workers? The M5o just may be your solution! Lol.
- You need a headphone that does well on the road. The M50 is extremely durable and can take a lot of abuse. It also comes with a nice carrying case/bag.
M50 + M50x: 4.7/5 out of over 8,000 reviews, with a 80% 5-star rating.
Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve come away with some valuable information in this ATH M50 vs. HD 558 comparison!
Are you convinced that the 598’s are a better buy than the 558’s? What do you think about the M50’s? Let me know!
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I leave something out? Let me know as well or Contact me! I would love to hear from you..
All the best and God bless,