Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Improving the Comfort of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Ear Pads

My Audio-Technica ATH-M50 are now my main headphones on my desktop. They are great set of headphones and real price performance winners. Shortly after buying them I stopped listening to them. I usually wear on-ear headphones when out and about. My JVC HA-S500-B don't bother me after hours of use. The ATH-M50 pads clipped the outside edges of my ears and the foam filter rubbed up against the middle of my ear. I couldn't stand wearing them for over 30-45 minutes. My ear would get hot and raw.

Because how uncomfortable they were my ATH-M50s rotted in a case for the last year until I bought a Schiit Stack. I tried them on a whim and realized I really dig their sound.  I hopped online and started looking for a fix.

* Note my ATH-M50s have am aftermarket removable cable mod

The first thing I decided to do was extend the depth of the ear pads using cotton. By placing a 1cm thick layer of stretched cotton balls under the pads I fixed a majority of the pain I experienced. The stock ATH-M50 pads are just too shallow for a guy with large ears. The more I used them, the more I fell in love with them. For about $1.50 in cotton balls I was able to use my ATH-M50s for extended periods of time.

Cotton modded (left) pad vs stock pad (right), notice the change in depth




Making the stock pads thicker and moving the driver off your ear greatly improves the comfort of the ATH-M50s. I recommend this mod to every owner. It's 100% reversible and cheap. You will be amazed at how much better your ears feel during extended listening sessions. I didn't notice a change in the sound signature either. Try it out and let me know what you think.


I decided to take the next step and look into replacement pads. There is a huge thread on head-fi.org about replacing the ATH-M50s pads.  I read all 26 pages of the thread and many of the linked articles. There was no clear winner on which pads were the best. I ended up going with the Shure HPAEC840 Replacement Ear Cushions For SRH840 Headphones. They are larger and deeper than the ATH-M50s ear pads.

Shure 840 pad (left) vs stock pad (right), notice the difference in depth and overall size. Much bigger than the stock ATH-M50 pad.






The Shure pads fit a tad loose on the ATH-M50s, slightly more than the stock pads but not enough to fall off or freely rotate when using them. You can sew them to make them slightly smaller. I'm debating if I want to break out the thread.

The head-fi.org thread is full of people discussing about how the sound signature of the ATH-M50s change with new pads. I haven't noticed a change in sound but I have noticed a huge change in comfort. The Shure pads are plush and soft. I can wear the cans for hours on end and not feel any discomfort. Well worth the investment of time and money.

Shure 850 pads on the ATH-M50s