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Audio-Technica ATH-M50x vs Sony WH-1000XM4 (2021): Which Headphones are Better?

One of the easiest ways to greatly improve your audio listening experience, whether you’re a professional or just an everyday listener, is to invest in a high-quality pair of headphones. 

In this article, we will be looking at two of the highest-rated headphones in the market: the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x and the Sony WH-1000XM4. We’ll go over their performance and features to see which of these top-rated headphones will be your most suitable audio companion.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x and Sony WH-1000XM4 Comparison Chart

ModelAudio-Technica ATH-M50xSony WH-1000XM4
 Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Black, Professional Grade,...Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Industry Leading Noise Canceling Overhead Headphones with Mic for...
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
DesignOver-Ear (circumaural), Closed-backOver-Ear (circumaural), Closed-back
FoldableYesYes
Driver TypeDynamicDynamic
MicrophoneNoNo
WirelessNoYes
WiredYes – 3 detachable cablesYes – 1 detachable cable
Battery LifeN/A30hrs
Active Noise-CancellationNoYes

Design

Both Audio-Technica ATH-M50x and the Sony WH-1000XM4 are well built and comfortable to wear even for long hours.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x (left) and Sony WH-1000XM4 (right)

Designed as professional monitor headphones, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x certainly does not miss the mark in its build and design. It is built almost entirely of plastic except for the strip of metal in the headband, the rings on the cup, and synthetic leather paddings. It can provide comfort for long hours of use. The only downside is that you might find yourself taking them off from time to time in hotter environments since the padding doesn’t breathe very well.

The ear cups can swivel up to 90 degrees and fold into the headband. This makes them easy to adjust for the most comfortable fit and allows for better portability when traveling. This design also makes the headphones easy to use for one-ear monitoring.

Built for exceptional comfort, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is made with high-quality plastic and flexible faux leather paddings. This is a product that is light, durable, and comfortable to use for long hours. Outside the earcups, you will find control buttons for power, Bluetooth pairing, and a button to cycle through different noise-canceling modes. You will also find a 3.5mm aux jack and a USB-C charging port. There is a section of the exterior that acts as a touch-sensitive control panel that lets you control playback and volume.

It should be noted that both pairs of headphones are not water-resistant, much less waterproof. It is recommended to keep them away from moisture at all times. These headphones are not designed as workout headphones.

Features

Compared to the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is the more high-tech pair with wireless connectivity and a ton of advanced smart features.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x: Wired. Sony WH-1000XM4: Wireless

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x comes with three detachable cables of different lengths for different use cases. You get a 1.2-3.0m coiled cable, 3.0m straight cable, and 1.2m straight cable. These cables have a proprietary locking mechanism, which means you will not be able to use just any 3.5mm aux cable with the headphones.

Given that the ATH-M50x was released in early 2014 and designed as studio monitors, it does not have the competitive features available in most consumer headphones today. It doesn’t have wireless capabilities, active noise-cancelation, or built-in controls. It’s worth mentioning that Audio-Technica has released a wireless version of the ATH-M50x, the ATH-M50XBT. Not only does this version have wireless features, but it has also done away with the cable locking mechanism which now allows you to use any 3.5mm to 3.5mm TRRS cable. 

The Sony WH-1000XM4 comes packed with new features while improving what was already great about its predecessor, the WH-1000XM3. The most significant among these features is its advanced active noise-canceling system. While the previous iteration of this device did a great job with noise-canceling, the WH-1000XM4 can give you a better feeling of isolation by attenuating lower and mid-frequency sounds better. Once you have audio playing through the headphones, your surroundings become incredibly quiet. 

To maximize the benefit of advanced noise-cancellation, Sony has included two smart features: Unique Atmospheric pressure which optimizes the headphone’s audio output for high altitudes, and the Personal Noise-Cancelation Optimizer that analyzes usage patterns and other environment details that affect the sound output and optimizes it to best suit your environment. 

Adaptive Sound Control is another smart feature incorporated into the WH-1000XM4. When enabled, it uses geo-location to calibrate the appropriate level or mode of noise-cancellation depending on where you are. It’s also able to detect whether you’re walking, traveling, or just sitting down, and then appropriately sets the ambient sound settings to best suit your surroundings. 

The WH-1000XM4 is designed for convenience. It has built-in sensors that know when your headphones are on your head and when you take them off. Your music is automatically paused when you remove the headphones and resumes when you put them back on. A power-saving feature will also turn your headphones off when you don’t put them back on your head for some time. 

The Sony WH-1000XM4 also features Bluetooth multipoint connection which allows it to be paired with two Bluetooth devices at the same time. This feature allows you to easily and smoothly transition between both connected devices. 

Another notable feature of the Sony WH-1000XM4 is Speak-to-Chat. When enabled, this feature can identify when you talk and automatically pause your music while letting in more ambient noise to help you better participate in conversations. While there are people that find this useful, others won’t appreciate their music being paused whenever they try to sing along.

Sound Quality

The ATH-M50x appeals to professionals while the WH-1000XM4 appeals to more casual, non-professional users.

In terms of sound performance, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is a very flexible pair of headphones. Marketed as professional studio monitor headphones, it is a top choice for studio tracking and mixing, as well as live sound and DJ monitoring. But it is also great for personal listening because of its top-notch audio-quality. 

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x produces a neutral, more accurate sound. This is very important for music production. These headphones perform well especially in upper frequencies where most stringed instruments lie. They also reproduce mid and high notes without sounding harsh or losing details. Being a top choice for professionals even several years after their release is a testament to the quality of these wired headphones. 

The Sony WH-1000XM4, on the other hand, delivers amazing sound quality. Taking the best from its previous iterations and adding new technological improvements, the WH-1000XM4 can deliver warm, balanced, and clear sounds. Technologically assisted by its DSEE Extreme feature, these headphones can dynamically adjust sound quality across different kinds of sound formats. 

Users also have the option of manually customizing the sound output of the WH-1000XM4 through the Sony Headphones Connect App. Using this app allows you to get the most out of your Sony headphones and gives you access to settings for its other smart features. Combining its superb noise-canceling feature with amazing sound reproduction, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is a top choice for headphones.

Verdict

If you need the best noise-canceling wireless headphones, go for the Sony WH-1000XM4. Otherwise, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is the go-to choice for more professional use cases.

If you need headphones for professional music production, you can’t go wrong with the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. With its capability to deliver neutral and unsweetened sound, it allows professionals to produce music more accurately. If you are looking for the best pair of wireless active noise-canceling headphones for everyday use, the Sony WH-1000XM4 will be an excellent choice. Packed with a ton of useful and advanced features, it is built with travelers and everyday consumers in mind.

FAQs

📌 How do you customize the Sony WH-1000XM4?

You can download the Sony Headphones Connect app from the Google Playstore or the App Store. Using the app, you can access all the customizable features of your WH-1000XM4.

📌 Is it still worth getting the ATH-M50x in 2020?

Absolutely. The ATH-M50x can provide professional sound quality that still meets today’s standards. It’s durable, light, and comfortable to use as well. The fact that it’s still among the top choices for professional studio monitor headphones today is a testament to its quality.

📌 Is the WH-1000XM4 compatible with PS4 and PS5?

Yes, the WH-1000XM4 is wirelessly compatible with both the PS4 and PS5.

📌 Is the Sony WH-1000XM4 worth it?

If you have the money and want wireless headphones with the best active noise-cancellation technology available, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is a worth pair of headphones. With its advanced features, Bluetooth multi-pairing, and long battery life, it is a good all-around choice for most people.

Last update on 2020-12-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Manolo Martinez

Senior Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about music, film, and DIY projects.