Today we have two incredible headphones in the under-Rs. 10,000 price category. These are the Ultrasone Performance 820 and Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. Both headphones are known to excel at what they do and to find out which one is the best, we have created this comparison. So what are we waiting for? Let’s Go!
Ultrasone is a company from the charming location of Bavaria. It is known for its premium headphones which give you a great sound as well as are comfortable.
The Performance 820 is the entry-level headphone from the brand’s Performance series. This headphone has been entirely made of high-quality plastic. On holding it, it feels that it won’t give away very easily.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A BAVARIAN COMES FACE-TO-FACE WITH A JAPANESE?
Imagine being on a boat, lost in the middle of the sea for days and suddenly seeing a lush green island. That’s how it feels when I see an Ultrasone headphone in the midst of all other bulky headphones on their stands. The matte black and silver accents on the earcup certainly make it look classy. It also comes in two other variants i.e. red and white.
Ages ago Audio-Technica, the Japanese giant released the ATH-M50. This took the audio world by storm. Soon, people were not only using them in the studio (the reason the headphones were actually created) but also on-the-go, anywhere and everywhere. Seeing this, the company made a few tweaks to its original flagship and introduced the ATH-M50x.
Just like its older brother, the ATH-M50x is well-built and feels heavy-duty (literally). While it is built entirely of plastic (just like its Ultrasone counterpart), the fact that the headband is made of steel and the earcups have an inlaid metal ring was quite reassuring.
On unboxing the Performance 820, you get the headphones, a 1.2m detachable cable and a carry bag. In the box, there was also some written material on Ultrasone (I’m not exactly sure what’s in there as I meant to read it later but somehow misplaced it somewhere).
The cable has a remote and mic and can connect to your device with a locking gold-plated 3.5mm plug and to your headphone with a bayonet connector. This cable is pretty thin so you may have to watch out on those tugs and pulls. The ATH-M50x, in contrast, has quite thick cables that probably won’t snap that easily.
Overall, the headphone is really comfy. The plastic build makes it really light. The earcups can swivel and the adjustable headband is wide enough to fit perfectly. While the clamping force gives a good amount of noise isolation, this was the only issue I found with this headphone as I could feel the pressure of the clamp on my head.
Just a guess, but perhaps that’s why Ultrasone added so much (generous) padding on its headband and earcups. This protein-leather padding is a little more than finger-width thick and is really soft and pillowy.
SUPER-PORTABILITY, NUMEROUS CABLES OR COMFY EARPADS: YOUR PICK?
I simply had to leave the coolest feature of this headphone until the end of this section and that is SIRIUS. This is a Bluetooth adapter that lets you go wireless. All you have to do is plug it in instead of the cable. It comes with aptX and has play/pause and volume controls. SIRIUS gives you up to 12 hours of battery life. (Note: you get SIRIUS only on selecting the ‘with SIRIUS Bluetooth Adapter (aptX)’ variant from the product page’s drop-down).
Thus, in terms of portability, the Performance 820 surpasses the ATH-M50x. It can go wireless while the ATH-M50x cannot. While both can fold, the Performance 820 is more compact and tiny. It is also (as mentioned before) much lighter.
Unlike the ATH-M50 and Performance 820, the ATH-M50x comes with 3 detachable cables so you don’t have to choose between straight and coiled. In the box, you get a 3m coiled cable, 3m straight cable, 1.2m straight cable, 1/4-inch screw-on adapter and carry pouch.
The cables come with the normal 3.5mm gold-plated jack with a Twist-to-Lock mechanism. This will keep it from being accidentally yanked out (But, Jugaadus beware. You cannot use another 3.5mm cable with this headphone).
Coming to the padding, well, like the Performance 820, even the ATH-M50x has comfy, thick and soft leatherette earpads. They provide enough space even for people with large ears. The differences in the padding—When I wasn’t sitting under the AC, the Mumbai heat was enough to lead to sweaty ears within no time. The headband (and headpad) fit easily and I could not feel any pressure or clamping force like I did with the Performance 820.
When compared to most over-ear headphones, the noise isolation was OK and did not live up to my expectations.
The Ultrasone Performance 820 has a warm and smooth sound that casual listeners will certainly enjoy.
The bass is powerful, precise and well-balanced with the clear and lively vocals. Overall, it is quite pleasant, in that, it does not muddy any of the other frequencies. While the mids could do with some sparkle, they still try to keep up with the other frequencies. The highs are crisp and clear. On some tracks, though, I felt they were recessed.
In terms of detail and clarity, these headphones are certainly precise (though not in an analytical way). And, the 32Ohm Impedance, can easily drive these headphones on your smartphone, so you don’t need an additional amplifier.
YOUR OWN PRIVATE CONCERT OR THE PERFECT CD RECORDING?
We can’t write a review on Ultrasone headphones without mentioning their patented S-Logic Plus technology. This tech involves the drivers being positioned a little lower so that the sound travels around your ears as it normally does instead of going directly in your ear canal (as it happens with most headphones). This results in a wider soundstage, something I enjoyed the experience of in this headphone. Listening to the live versions of my favourite songs gave me the feeling of having my very own private concert.
To describe the ATH-M50x’s sound signature in a line, it is flat. As flat as the table on which my desktop is currently placed. For the uninitiated, a flat sound signature means that there is no boost in any frequency. This is great for mixing in the studio as it does not drastically alter what you are recording.
With these headphones, you get a full sound. The bass is deep (but not really much if you are used to listening to an extra bassy headphone). The highs are smooth and clear. However, you may experience some sibilance on badly recorded tracks.
The headphone is quite accurate. The instrument separation is great. In terms of soundstage, well, I can certainly say that after the Performance 820, these headphones have one of the widest soundstage for a closed-back.
In a nutshell: Both headphones shine in their respective niches. I would recommend the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x for use in the studio due to its build and flat sound and the Ultrasone Performance 820 for use on-the-go because of its enjoyable sound as well as stylish looks, not to forget its wireless capability.
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