Serious sound quality packed into sport-style headphones. Balance, clarity and isolation for days. By Alex Wilson

Out of the box, the ATH-E50s look like swankier versions of your standard consumer-grade sports headphones. The cable is nice and long at 1.6 meters, and standard accessories like a case, 1/4” stereo adapter and various ear-tips are included. The real question is whether these little buds xan deliver the pro-level sound implied in their name.

The short answer is: Yes, they can. The quality of sound coming out of these little guys made me reconsider what in-ears are capable of - especially ones that come in only at a few hundred dollars. It’s easy to see several applications where the ATH-E50s would come in very handy, ranging from field and set recording to serious mix jobs done on the go.

The E50s are able to cover frequencies from 20 Hz to 18 kHz, due to their three balanced armature drivers. Comfortable, bendy memory hooks keep the buds where they need to be. Inside the ears, the isolation imparted is profound, blocking out all but the loudest of outside noises.

Sound-wise, these headphones are balanced, clear and impressive. Highs seem slightly attenuated, yet the effect here is one of smooth precision. Top register information sparkles transparently, pleasantly in proportion to the other frequencies. Midrange sounds are present and detailed without overpowering the mix - a common issue with consumer-grade headphones. Finally, the bass frequencies of the E50s can impart some satisfying and visceral heft, but retain clarity and separation even when handling busy and complex low-end signal.

Listening to some of my favourite tracks, I felt that I heard details I had missed before, and the music sparkled with a freshness imparted from the excellent balance and clarity of these ears. They sound great in a straightforward, effortless manner.

The elephant in the room with in-ear monitors is how comfortably you can jam them in your ear-holes. If they fit nice and snug, the innate character of the drivers will shine through and give you the balance and clarity you want. If not, issues in the sound field will spring from the fit and problems with isolation.

As an owner and frequent user of custom-molded in-ear monitors, I’ve been told by audiologists that I have particularly small and bendy ear canals. Most headphones, the E50s included, don’t fit me properly. I found that the various sizes of silicon ear-tips provided weren’t sufficient for comfortable long-term use — good sound was possible, but required constant adjustment and fiddling. Over time, they simply felt uncomfortable.
This is not a deal-breaker, but it’s an issue worth considering for any potential purchase of pricey in-ears. While it’s frustrating that Audio Technica didn’t bundle any memory foam tips with these ears, third-party tips are easily obtainable in a variety of fashions. The hassle of this would be a small price to pay for the quality-to-price ratio the E50s otherwise offer.

Fantastic sound quality in an elegant package, delivered right into your ear canals for a decent price. What more could you want?

• 20 Hz to 18 kHz frequency response
• Three balanced armature drivers
• Memory cable that loops over the ears
• Detachable 1.6m cable, with newly developed A2DC connectors at the headphones
• Carrying case and silicone eartips

• Lightweight and elegant
• Excellent sound isolation
• Impressive sound quality

• Your mileage may vary with the fit

Technical Audio Group

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