What do you do with a stone cold classic product? Well how about finding a different application for the same technology? Which is what Audio-Technica have done to produce their ATH-M60x headphones.
The M60x builds on the massive success of the M50x monitor headphones, using the same drive units, but packages it in an on-ear rather than an over-ear design, which is a bold move but in some ways very obvious and completely logical. To date, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x (and the M50 before it) have owned a huge chunk of the ‘monitor’ quality market at an incredibly affordable price and A-T have also successfully landed the higher end M70x which have made a big splash further up the price spectrum. But both the 50 and the 70 are over-ear headphones, so what about an on-ear product using the drivers out of the M50x? Est voila the M60x.
But there is a risk; on-ear is actually quite a difficult trick to pull off in terms of comfort, especially long term comfort. As has been famously said, ‘I’ve never been able to stand wearing on-ears long enough to decide whether I like them or not!’ That’s an exaggeration of course but for on-ears comfort is an issue. However, for location work and other situations where spill is a significant problem, the on-ear approach is long established.
The M60x is a well finished product with a single headband (as opposed to long time location favourite the Sennheiser HD25 which features a split headband which adds a bit of security), adjustable metal yokes which give the headphones a very sturdy feel, and some very comfortable memory foam ear pads that are a joy to wear. Both the headband and the ear pads are detachable and designed to be replaceable.
And comfort is a big deal. Location sound work means wearing cans all day long, in all kinds of weather, so comfort allied to durability is paramount. Another key feature is interchangeable cables; when your headphones are an essential part of your daily working kit then being able to easily replace the cable is a big plus. However the connection of cable to headphone is then a potential weakness and in some cases (no names no pack drill) a pain to the point of frustration. The last thing you need on a shoot is to turn your head and have a dodgy connection ‘unplug’ your cans. Was it the cans, or maybe it was one of your radios dropping out? Arggh! Here A-T look to have done a good job with the same 2.5mm bayonet connector (at the earpiece end) as fitted to the M70x. I haven’t thrashed them in the field yet but the connection feels very solid, inspiring confidence. Audio-Technica supply the M60x with three cable options – 1.2 m – 3.0m coiled, 3.0m straight, and 1.2m straight – which seems very generous really. And now there is even after market ‘upgrade’ cables available if that is your thing.
In terms of sound, the M60x delivers a convincing performance, which is what we would expect given the fact it shares the same drivers as the M50x. Bass in headphones is a little tricky, not least because there is a mechanical factor and therefore dependent to some degree on your head! As far as the M60x goes the low end has weight and authority, gives away a little in extension but eschews bloom or boom. Probably the greatest strengths are in the mid band where there is a detailed lucidity delivered without forwardness or strain. Dynamics have punch to spare and the top end is smooth enough to listen to all day. With the M60x and the M70x both driven by the excellent Audient iD44, I think the 70 has more top end sparkle but probably the biggest difference is in soundstage. Stereo is always a bit tricky when the drive units are an inch from your ear and I suppose on-ear is going to be that little bit trickier again, in the world of on-ears the M60x is a top performer but the over ear M70x does a better job of getting the soundstage out of your head.
In terms of packing your bags the smaller profile of on-ears like the M60x is very welcome. I wish they folded like the M70x but if push comes to squash as it often does in your sound bag I’ll take the metal yokes for long term durability. Logically enough the M60x finds a price spot between the 50 and the 70 although the on-ear design makes the purchasing decision a little more complex. If you want monitor accuracy, robust construction and on-ear isolation then you’ll find the ATH-M60x is a belter!
- Low-profile closed-back, on-ear design
- Proprietary 45mm large-aperture drivers
- Clarity throughout an extended frequency range
- Low-impedance design for high output level from any headphone output
Alistair McGhee began audio life in Hi-Fi before joining the BBC as an audio engineer. After 10 years in radio and TV, he moved to production. When BBC Choice started, he pioneered personal digital production in television.