Japanese audio equipment maker Audio-Technica is famous for producing professional-grade hardware including headphones. All over the world, audiophiles swear by the ATH-M50 headphones for their great sound. Now, the company hopes to introduce its brand of high-quality sound to people who cannot afford products that expensive. The Audio-Technica ATH-S500 is one of the more affordable offerings available right now, and we have reviewed it.
Design, Fit and Specifications
Unlike most expensive professional-grade headphones, the ATH-S500 is navy blue and flaunts its street cred by looking very casual. The entire body is made of plastic except for the soft foam padding on the earcups. Not surprisingly, considering the asking price of the ATH-S500, there is no foam padding on the headrest. The earcups can swivel 90 degrees, which helps in portability. The 1.2m long cable is of regular quality and should last a long time unless put through a lot of stress.
There is no prominent Audio-Technica branding on the headphones apart from a logo on each earcup. One can't miss the bold 'right' and 'left' labels on the earcups, though. The foam is white, so it's bound to get dirty over time.
Thankfully, all these design negatives do not affect the comfort of the ATH-S500. The headphones weigh approximately 140g but we were oblivious to them while listening to music. Also on the positive side, the headband extends easily and the mechanism feels sturdy.
The ATH-S500 has 40mm drivers for the powerful bass that it promises, and operates in the frequency range of 8Hz to 26KHz. It has an impedance rating of 48ohms and sensitivity rating of 104db. This should make the headphones really loud.
The first thing we noticed when we put on the headphones was that they block external noise to some extent. The moment we played Rasputin by Hard Rock Sofa, the bass just assaulted our ears. It sounded like someone had placed two subwoofers right on our skull. The bass is punchy, crystal clear and kicks in right when the song demands it. The only downside is that it tends to drown out all other frequencies. Channel separation is great but the sound staging is not very impressive, which is okay considering the asking price.
Staying true to Audio-Technica's reputation, the ATH-S500 has warm mids and songs with an emphasis on vocals sound good. Higher frequencies aren't bad either, but they are a bit more subdued.
Movies and games both sound great on the ATH-S500. We could easily distinguish the layering of the sound of explosives against background music while playing Watch Dogs.
At Rs. 4,199 (street price is Rs. 3,780), the Audio-Technica ATH-S500 is priced decently for its performance. We haven't reviewed the ATH-AX3 yet to compare them but if you are someone who listens to music with emphasis on low frequency sounds, we would suggest going for the ATH-S500. In fact, in our opinion, they sound better than the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x and Skullcandy Hesh 2 in the bass department. If you prefer a more balanced sound, you can take a look at the Sennheiser HD419.