Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) review: gaming meets the studio

 Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) HERO.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) HERO.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB): Two-minute review

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) is a great sounding headset. However, it brings up a familiar question when looking at gaming headsets – and that’s figuring out what’s important.

After all, some of the best gaming headsets offer all sorts of bells and whistles to take gaming audio to the next level, but don’t quite hit the mark when you’re just leaning back and listening to music. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset is undoubtedly one of the best wired gaming headsets out there right now, but it flips the script. You won’t find much in the way of features – there’s not even an app. Yet the sound quality alone makes up for that.

For me, that sound quality is more important than being able to EQ or use directional / spatial / insert-gimmick audio to process or change what you’re listening to. Since this is a headset version of the well-loved Audio-Technica ATH-M50x known for its outsized performance to price, it’s no surprise that the company went in this direction.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) with accessories
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) with accessories

Before digging too deep into the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset, it’s important to point out that there are two iterations: the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS-USB reviewed here and the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS-XLR.

The only differences between the two are connectivity. The USB version has an attached cable that terminates into USB-A (it also comes with an adapter for USB-C ports), while the XLR version uses that type of connection that requires an audio interface to connect to your computer. Plus, it needs phantom power for the mic.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) USB connector
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) USB connector

The boom mic here has a convenient flip-to-mute function, but is most noteworthy for using a capsule from a condenser mic as opposed to the dynamic ones most use.

The differences between these two types are beyond the scope of this review, but the quick version is that condenser mics usually sound better with a fuller frequency range while dynamic mics are better at just picking up the sound in front of them.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) mic
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) mic

As far as the aesthetics of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset goes, it still keeps that belongs-in-the-studio all-black look. Though the company is marketing this headset to streamers and gamers, especially since the original version has been recommended as a headphones alternative to gaming headsets on every other forum, there’s no gamer-focused design choices other than the inclusion of that mic.

That said, Audio-Technica does include two different types of earpads, specifically fabric and leatherette, so you can adjust the comfort a bit. They do offer slightly different experiences as I find the leatherette to be a little hotter to wear. Whichever one you install, you probably won’t want to go back and forth too much as they’re a pain to install.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) earpads
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) earpads

When it comes to ergonomics, there’s plenty on hand as the earcups can tilt and swivel 180 degrees. And, of course, the headband has plenty of extension on hand for different sized heads.

At the end of the day, the comfort on these headphones are decent but not amazing. Though the clamping force is not excessive, it is a little tight. The way the weight is distributed here ended up with most of the headset’s 330 grams bearing on my skull. That means that after long sessions, I did feel a little pressure where the headband sat.

Luckily, the sound quality makes up for any other issues. Not only did I use it for games such as Starfield, Far Cry 6, and Battlefield 2042, but I actually used them to do some mixing. That’s because the sound quality here is not only detailed with plenty of resolution but fairly evenly balanced. There’s a little more bass than the most neutral headphones out there, but it’s not overly pronounced. The mid-range is similarly full without being overbearing. And, the high-end retains all the clarity one could ask for, again without being overly bright.

There’s also plenty of headroom so audio never gets compressed due to the headphones. However, the soundstage is not a standout feature. Make no mistake, it’s good – just not especially wide. That said, the imaging (placement of sound elements within the soundstage) is very precise so I always know where something is, whether it’s a guitar or gunshots.

As far as the mic goes, it has a little bit of a double-edge sword. As it uses the same capsule as Audio-Technica’s 20 series microphones like the AT2020USB-XP, it has the benefits of a condenser mic as well as the drawbacks meaning that the speaker’s voice is clear and uncompressed sounding, which is almost never the case with most boom mics, but any environmental noise will also get picked up.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB): Price & availability

  • How much does it cost? $229.00 / £199.99 / AU$469.00

  • When is it available? Available now

  • Where can you get it? Available in the US, UK, and Australia

Gaming headsets come in all sorts of price ranges from ultra-budget to fairly pricey. While they don’t reach the level of audiophile headphones, asking for up to $400 for a gaming headset is enough to turn most people away.

Luckily, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS StreamSet, while a bit spendy, is still within reach of most people. There are two versions that have been available since the beginning of 2023. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS-USB is the more expensive of the two, going for $229 / £199.99 / AU$469.

The slightly cheaper Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS-XLR, with a going price of $199.99 / £169.99 / AU$399, trades in a digital USB connection for XLR. If you’re a streamer using an interface to connect multiple sources, the XLR is probably the better way to go. Outside of the connectivity and the fact that the USB one needs a built-in DAC (digital-to-analog converter), the two headsets are completely identical.

Though wired headsets go for cheaper than wireless as many of the pricier options from SteelSeries, Razer, Audeze and the like tend to reach above $300 / £300, models like this from Audio-Technica are a slightly different breed than most wired ones. And, that’s because the wired connectivity is not a cost-cutting decision, but one to provide the best possible listening experience.

That means that the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS StreamSet will sound better than most wired gaming headsets. The models that will give this headset a run for its money are also mostly focused on the audio experience such as the Beyerdynamic Tygr 300 R, which is an excellent sounding headset that might have an even better soundstage than the Audio-Technica due to its open-back design.

It’s also a bit cheaper at $199 (about £150, AU$280), though you need to factor in the fact that it doesn’t come with a mic so you’ll have to invest in a USB or clip-on mic. And, since it uses an analog 3.5mm connection instead of a USB one, it might not have quite the fidelity of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS StreamSet. For instance, the mic picked up the fan from my bathroom almost ten feet away.

  • Price: 4.5 / 5

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB): Specs

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) from above
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) from above

Should you buy the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB)?

Buy it if...

You want excellent audio
This headset might not be as fully featured as other headsets, yet the sound quality alone is reason to get it, as they offer studio-level audio.

You want to get straight to the point
The lack of features is a boon for some as you don’t have to worry about fiddling with anything. Plug in and start using them with the top-notch performance right away.

Don't buy it if...

You want a lot of features
There’s no surround sound, EQ, or even an app. If you like to finetune or want those special gaming-related features, you won’t find them here.

You have a limited budget
Though the price on this headset is more than justified, it’s not cheap. For those with limited funds, there are plenty of decent options for half the price.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB): Also consider

How I tested the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB)

  • Used regularly for a couple weeks

  • Tested with all sorts of games and music

  • Tested the mic

I used the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS Streamset (USB) regularly for a couple weeks. I used it with a number of games including Starfield, Cyberpunk 2077, Control, and Rocket League. I also used it to watch some streaming video and listen to music.

I looked at other aspects beyond performance, of course, such as comfort and ease-of-use. I also tried both earpads that were included.

I’ve tested a lot of tech gear over the years from laptops to keyboards and speakers, and so have been able to use my expertise towards giving an honest and fair opinion, not to mention a critical eye, to any product I test.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed November 2023