Audio Technica have a bit of a hit on their hands with the ATH-M35s. For their price, they easily stand up to competition even if they’re not perfect. If you’re in the market for some affordable, good quality headphones without too many issues, read on.
Whilst it’s true that there’s no substitute for good monitor speakers when it comes to refining your productions, good monitor speakers also depend on a good room, good placement, non-existent or at least tolerant neighbours… the list goes on. If you’ve read our free OD101 guide (and if not, why on earth not?!) you’ll know that headphones are an excellent compromise, and the ATH-M35s are a pair of cans definitely pointed towards the home producer market.
As with most things, more money brings more options (and, yes Notorious BIG, more problems too). The M35s are a little way outside ‘budget’ level cost, but they’re definitely eminently affordable at £60 street price – a little searching and you may uncover them on the other side of £50. That said, it’s useless to benchmark them against ‘pro’ priced headphones, but when you weigh up the sound quality from the M35s against what they cost the value starts to pile up.
After a few hours of initial ‘burn in’ time, an inherent requirement of more or less any gear with moving parts, the M35s have a very clear and, for the price, transparent sound. Bass is tight and crisp, if a little over defined. Admittedly low mid range sounds get a little lost at times, something I’ve found I am a more harsh critic on for most monitors and headphones than most. Mids into highs are silky smooth and tail off gracefully, and whilst they’re not crystal clear they don’t have any of the harshness that you might expect for the price.
The sound stage is impressively open for a mid priced, closed back headphone, too; in fact, I think my slight critique of those tricky low mids may be compounded by the fact that the M35s achieve such good spaciousness. We compared the the M35s to a pair of Sennheiser HD215s we keep in the studio as something of a benchmark, and all of the above rang true – the bass is thicker, but the high mids and up are smoother in a good way and the sound stage is definitely more pleasant… and the M35s are cheaper from the right places.
As far as comfort goes, the M35s fall somewhere between good and great. The hinged and telescopic ear cups accommodate even the most awkward head shapes, and the spongy ear pads (which gently press the edges of your ears to your head rather than being completely circum-aural) and headband are comfortable, but I think once you’ve tried the velour offerings of Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, and the like, it’s difficult to go back. Again, though, this comes down to price, and the M35s aren’t uncomfortable to wear even for extended periods.
The cable feels never ending at times, at 11ft it’s easily long enough to jump around a bit if you’re caught by some mid-tune excitement. On the other hand, it could get a bit cumbersome during travel. Slightly more worrying is the fact that the cable isn’t a replaceable part, and 11ft is a lot of cable to get damaged. Touch wood, though, either end of the cable is protected from bending in the housing and the cable itself is suitably chunky – just try not to step on it too often.
When it comes to extras, the M35s come with a 1/4” adapter that has a very well constructed screw in mechanism for the end of the standard 3.5mm plug, and Audio Technica have thrown in a little faux leather carry bag. It’s a nice addition, but to be honest it’s not the greatest quality, doesn’t securely keep itself shut, and protection is minimal. It’s handy for keeping the python-like cable from tying knots around the rest of the things in your bag, but to that end I’d have preferred to find some kind of cable tidy in the box than the bag.
All in all the M35s punch above their weight, delivering good sound quality, comfort, and looks in a very affordable package – they get the OD seal of approval.