I have a love-hate affair with Audio-Technica’s “dual symphonic driver” offering, the IM50.
I love it since it’s probably the best $450 HKD (around 58USD) I’ve ever spent. The only IEMs I had back then were the Xiaomi Pistons 2 and Havi B3, but I had heard about the IM50 and was curious. I picked it up immediately after demoing it at a shop. Now that I’ve gotten much deeper into the audiophile trap, I’ve started to hate the IM50s. And it’s not because they sound bad – it’s because they have such an enjoyable sound for the value that even after having tried many better IEMs, the IM50 still makes me reluctant to spend 10x the money on a nicer pair.
Here are the technical specs for the IM50 :
|Driver Diameter||8.8 mm|
|Frequency Response||5 Hz ~ 25,000 Hz|
|Maximum Input Power||200 mW|
|Cable||1.2 m / Y-type|
|Weight||About 3 g|
|Connector||Ø3.5mm L-type mini-stereo, gold-plated|
|Accessories Furnished||Carry case, Silicon ear pieces (S,M,L), and foam earpieces|
|Colour||ATH-IM50 BK (Black);
ATH-IM50 WH (White)
TL;DR version: two dynamic drivers, low impedance so they can easily be powered by your smartphone, a decently long cable with L shaped 3.5mm jack, a bunch of silicon tips and 1 Comply tip. Also comes in Black or White!
Comfort and Build
The best way I can think of to describe the form of these earphones would probably be “curvy, rounded cubes” that transition into the sound bores. You won’t be able to find any sharp corners or edges on this earphone – the housing transitions organically from a flat outer matte plastic surface with an engraved Audio-Technica logo to a curved glossy plastic body to ensure a comfortable fit that won’t cut into your ears when worn.
However, the IM50s are definitely on the chunky side. Probably due to the fact that they have to fit two 8.8mm dynamic drivers in one enclosure. They fit my ears snugly, but I would not be surprised if someone either found the shape awkward or too big. While they do stick out from my ears a little, it’s nothing as awkward as the Sony XBA series which come out perpendicular to your ears, which makes the user a little like Frankenstein.
They’re meant to be worn over-ear and come with memory wire. I personally like memory wire but I often see people complain about memory wire, especially people who wear glasses. As someone who wears glasses myself, I find that it’s comfortable once they’ve been adjusted to fit your own ears and have had time to settle in, and they also help to secure the earphones to your head, but of course everyone is different. Luckily, the IM50 allows for custom cables of the 2-pin connector variety, so if you find that the memory wire is getting in the way or just want to use custom cables you can.
The sound bores are also on the long side, and while this may seem like a good thing, I have had issues sometimes when the silicon tips get pushed in too far. This causes the tip to get compressed and prevents the sound from getting through properly.
For this review, I stuck to using ATH Silicon tips, as I find that the silicon tips give a more balanced sound from the earphones, while Comply tips muddy the low-mid end and recess the highs a bit too much for my liking, although they do provide better seal and comfort.
IM50 has a really great sound for just $450 HKD. A common complaint of dynamic drivers is that there is a lack of clarity and separation between different frequencies, but I feel that the IM50 has addressed this problem by having a dual dynamic driver setup. The sound is very warm and lush without compromising on the clarity and separation of different frequencies. An advantage of dynamic drivers is also the cohesiveness of the sound that it produces, and the IM50 definitely sounds very natural. Overall, there is an emphasis on the bass and mid frequencies, with the highs taking slightly more of a backseat. In terms of soundstage and spaciousness, it extends just enough to have hi-hats and cymbals sound like they’re coming from past your head, but not like you are in a huge space. More intimate, studio recordings is where it excels at reproducing.
Warm, lush, full, yet not overwhelming are words I would use to describe the IM50’s bass signature. It reaches deep into subbass and bass territory – you will definitely find yourself tapping your feet and rocking to the music while listening to the IM50’s warm and full pleasant low-end frequencies.
Even compared to the Sennheisser IE80s with its bass turned to full, I find that the IM50 still has a fuller, warmer more pleasant bass sound. The dual dynamic drivers deliver a fun, encompassing bass sound with just the right amount of that sweet rumble that every bass fan looks for. Listening to the massive bass in Daft Punk’s Alive 2007 hit with such authority and rumble, you can really imagine being right in the midst of the concert hall with the bass pounding through your body. However, as much as I enjoy the warmth of the IM50 low-end, I find myself sometimes wishing for slightly more clean punch to the bass with certain genres such as rock.
There is some bleedover and muddiness in the low-mid range, but this is an earphone for the bass lover, but a bass lover who’s learned to appreciate having mids and highs present in the listening experience as well.
Like the bass frequencies, mids are also presented with lots of warmth, so much that it may seem muddy to some people. Distorted guitar chords chugging in metal tracks, both male and female vocals in pop songs sound throaty and full and are pushed quite forward, but not more so than the bass. It is full bodied lower midrange which rolls off gently towards the mid-high range, giving a warm sound which does tend to occlude some of the finer details.
The highs are much more subtle, less in your face than the bass. They take a step back from the spotlight, but still do their job and shimmer in the background. It is most evident when listening to the subtleties of snare drums and hi-hats, as the sparkly and twinkle of the high frequencies roll off very early, and get obscured by the bass and mids. Snare drums hit with a decent amount of authority but if you’re looking for a crisp, snappy thwack, and a sense of airiness, you won’t find it in the IM50. At the same time, sibilance is not an issue at all, and for those who prefer a darker or warmer sound, more recessed highs may even be preferable.
Concluding remarks and Score
I cannot stress enough how highly I recommend the IM50s to anyone who wants to listen to better audio, or just wants to dip their toes into the water and not spend a lot on a new pair of earphones. The IM50s are, in my opinion, one of the best budget earphone choices, and with a detachable cable that can be replaced, this could be a long lasting pair of IEMs for anyone to use. I also highly recommend it for its deep, warm bass sound – it’s honestly perfect for listeners of EDM, rock, and hip hop.
They are a bit chunky though, and stick out a little, so make sure you try them on before you make your purchase.
Going by the radar graph, the average of all the values would be a 7.5. Which seems quite low despite all the praise I’ve just given it. However, this radar graph doesn’t seek to be the be all and end all of defining what an IEMs review score is, since audio is so subjective and everyone has different preferences for sound. Rather, this graph seeks to as much as possible, objectively rate the quantity and quality of each of those 6 values that we have decided are the most common factors people consider, and in future reviews we can use this as a tool to easily provide a visualization of how one IEM compares to another.
Taking into consideration its price range and the fun, dynamic sound it provides, I would definitely give the IM50 a 9.0/10!
Below is a list of albums that I listened to while writing to this review.
Polyphia – Renaissance
Animals as Leaders – The Joy of Motion
John Mayer – Where the Light Is
The Living Sisters – Love to Live
Star Wars – The Force Awakens OST
Chon – Grow
Chimp Spanner – All Roads Lead Here
Joshua Radin – Wax Wings