Audio-Technica StreamSet ATH-M50xSTS in practice test: The Creator headset with professional claim
Content creators are currently the target group par excellence, and rightly so. It's not for nothing that platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and others can boast constantly growing user numbers. To entertain them in an appealing and comfortable way, not only the right camera is needed, but also the audio solution plays an important role. Not only for the viewer, but also as a creator, you want to be able to follow the gameplay and Discord chats well. Ideally, the whole thing should also work comfortably for several hours and the control of one's own voice also plays an important role.
Classic headsets nowadays usually rely on a combined 3.5 mm jack for both the audio and the microphone signal or a combination of two separate jacks, if the home streaming PC supports it. Audio Technica goes a whole step further with the version of the StreamSet ATH-M50xSTS that we have in front of us and unceremoniously gives the output signal of the boom microphone a full-fledged XLR connection. In our hands-on test, we will find out whether and how well this rare connection solution for a headset works.
What's in it?
The attractively designed packaging includes an adapter to 6.3 mm stereo jack in addition to the actual headset, and the ear pads can also be replaced with the included alternatives. Besides the already installed pads made of synthetic leather and fabric/mesh, the alternatives are a bit flatter and completely made of synthetic leather.
Look & Feel
Basically, the build quality of the Audio-Technica StreamSet ATH-M50xSTS is okay. The headset's materials feel high-quality and all moving parts make a solid impression. The Beyerdynamic MMX 300 show that things can be much better in a similar price range (230 Euros versus 200 Euros/~$252 vs ~$219). This is also a (gaming) headset, but with a classic jack solution.
In all areas, from the casing to the fabric covering of the ear pads to the headband, the Beyerdynamic can score with a better workmanship and high-quality material impression. They are also a bit more comfortable due to the larger contact surface and softer pads, but that of course also depends very much on the user, their own head shape and subjective feeling.
The StreamSet is also not at all uncomfortable to wear and we did not experience any problems or even "pressure points" even over longer hours. In addition, the Audio Technica can score points during transport. In contrast to the very bulky Beyerdynamic, the StreamSet can be folded completely and thus takes up much less space when traveling.
The StreamSet's microphone is excellently integrated and manages the balancing act between a compact design and portability. As a nice gimmick, the microphone signal is deactivated as soon as the microphone is moved upwards into the rest position.
While you can plug the Audio Technica StreamSet ATH-M50xSTS directly into a 3.5mm jack as simple headphones, the microphone requires a little more setup. There's no getting around a USB audio interface, and we used a Focusrite Scarlett Solo* and with the WaveXLR* from the streaming specialists at Elgato. While this obviously entails an additional investment, the setup effort is still kept within limits.
After the jack is connected to the headphone jack and the microphone is supplied with power via XLR using phantom power, you can actually get started and especially in connection with the Wave XLR, the advantages of the, for headsets, rare connection solution quickly become apparent. The system volume, the level of the microphone signal and, above all, how much of yourself you want to hear can be adjusted for the streaming user in just a few steps and, above all, without having to resort to a software solution.
A set of hot ears please!
The StreamSet is based on the Audio Technica ATH-M50 X and should be at least visually familiar to anyone who may have had anything to do with music production. While we at Notebookcheck are not dedicated audio specialists, we will still try to describe the sound as well as we can. Since Beyerdynamic has a similar approach with the aforementioned MMX 300 (the headset is based on the equally well-known DT 770 Pro), it is perfectly suited as a comparison device.
Both headsets definitely live up to their professional claim and, in our eyes (or rather our ears), reproduce a wide frequency spectrum without unnecessarily emphasizing certain areas. Compared to the Audio Technica, the MMX 300 are almost too neutral and sound a bit thin.
The StreamSet makes much more steam and the sound generally sounds fuller and thus much more impressive. Above all, this is not at the expense of transparency. On the contrary, individual instruments can be located well in all genres and the three-dimensionality is also very impressive. The ATH-M50xSTS are thus not only suitable for evening streaming or audio and/or video production (we used the headset during the test period for our YouTube reviews), but also in leisure time for music enjoyment or of course for gaming.
Talk to me - Microphone expertise from Audio Technica
Let's move on to the microphone. Can the StreamSet with XLR connector clearly stand out from the competition? To answer this question, we supplement our article with a video at this point. We compared all the microphones available to us directly with each other to get an impression of what you can expect.
At this point, we also use our professional Sennheiser MKE 600, which we also use for our talking heads in our YouTube video, the Fox, from Beyerdynamic as a USB condenser microphone and the MMX 300 already mentioned.
Note: Mic comparison starts at 1:32
Of course, we were aware from the beginning that a headset can hardly keep up with a "real" microphone, and that was not our concern here either. Rather, we wanted to classify the expected quality and in comparison to the MMX30, it clearly shows that the Audio Technica is ahead.
Although the StreamSet ATH-M50xSTS also brings the typical slightly compressed sound, your own voice is transmitted clearly and the StreamSet delivers a convincing performance for a 200 Euro / ~$219 headset in any case.
+ transparent, powerful sound
+ very good microphone quality
+ compact dimensions
+ high operating comfort
+ good wearing comfort
– average material feel
- extra costs due to audio interface
Our conclusion on the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS
Audio Technica delivers a convincing performance with the ATH-M50xSTS. The discreet design does not scream for gamers with flashy RGB lighting, although the StreamSet could convince in various multiplayer sessions, both in terms of the sound in your own ears and in the communication with the competitors.
The headset can also prove itself in the home office and in customer calls and helps immensely with various zoom calls and the like. The XLR solution is not only an attempt to be different, but can also convince with the offered microphone quality, but especially with the outstanding ease of use through the audio interface.
If you are an aspiring streamer or ambitious multiplayer enthusiast looking for a high-quality audio solution without having to spend a lot of money on separate headphones and mircrophone, you should definitely make a note of the StreamSet.
However, this is exactly where a certain weakness lies in comparison to the competition. Without an interface, the StreamSet is only good as (very good) headphones, and while the price of 200 Euros (~$219) is on par with the competition for high-quality headsets, the audio interface still has to be included. Audio Technica seems to be aware of this and therefore still offers the StreamSet in a completely digital variant with only one USB port. Unfortunately, we cannot say how this affects the audio and microphone quality, but this solution should be much more flexible in use.
Prices and availability
The headset can be ordered directly from the manufacturer at a price of 199 Euro (~$219). The digital USB version costs 230 Euros (~$252).
The present test sample was lent to the author by the manufacturer or a store for testing purposes. There was no influence of the loaner on the test report, the manufacturer did not receive any version of the review before publication. There was no obligation to publish.