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Setup build series: audio [Quickie 2]

Top Setup Magazine
January 29th, 2017 · 3 min read

Audio is more important to some people than others, some can use any audio output and they won’t complain, some can spend thousands to get high-end enthusiasts and pro gear and still complain. We found our taste in the middle, we want something good, not crappy, that will work well for office and won’t break the bank.

Keep in mind audio is a very subjective topic. Probably you will disagree with everything we did, but the main point of this post is sharing ideas (not gear) that might work for most people to choose gear or replicate our setup.

If you didn’t follow the journey from the beginning please check part 1, 2 and 3 with bonus quickies:

Eliminations and decision

Due to our constraints we will not opt for speakers, speakers are good in an entertainment setup where you plan to play movies, sports, play games… we are building a productivity setup that isn’t for pro musicians and composers so we will eliminate the speakers for now.

That left us with headphones, there are many types of headphones:

  • In ear, around ear or on ear
  • Closed back or open back
  • Wireless or wired

In-ear isn’t comfortable and get loose with time, on ear doesn’t goes perfectly on the ear and causes strain on the ear. The around the ear with some comfortable padding look perfect.

Wireless isn’t valuable when you are in the same spot all day, with extra charging gear and another battery to remember charging .. Nah! we will go with wired if we found a detachable option that would be awesome.

Open back headphones definitely give a superior experience because they don’t make you isolated from your surrounding and make a song sound like the band is next to you. But the downside is they let everyone hear it and let all noise pass, so not good for public places. Also they lack the punchy bass too, but we don’t care about bass, if you do keep that in mind. Closed back on paper ticks all the boxes:

  • Good isolation without any active noise canceling
  • Doesn’t leak much
  • Many good options are affordable

So wired around the ear closed back headphone, as you’d imagine still a lot of options.

Making the choice

If you combine the time that went into choosing the headphone during the preliminary planning and after building the desk, it would be at least 3 days of watching reviews and reading articles and Amazon feedback. Audio is so subjective that you will read about people loving very cheap stuff and others hating crazy expensive products. If we learned something it’s that the genre of music you listen to is the most decisive factor. When you start looking for headphones that will suit your taste of music things start to make sense. Listening to vocalists, epic, alternative rock, indie and some pop, we need a headphone that have good sound reproduction without too much changes and no boosts. That puts us in the category of pro headphones used for monitoring because they’re used by professionals to inspect the sound output so they needs to give a high fidelity reproduction of the sound wave.

Once we know what we want we found a few options and after a long process of “does it really worth the price?”, we have chosen the Audio technica ATH-M50x, WOW SERIOUSLY !! after so much efforts checking 250$-400$ headphones we decided to go with the widely popular choice that every tech Youtuber recommends. We were planing to choose something high-end and add the M50x with V-moda and some other as budget-friendly options. But now we understand the popularity of this headset, it offers a great value, pro grade audio for a fantastic price. Some people say that to get a slightly better sound you will need to jump to the $300 zone which we will revisit in the future, but for now M50x FTW.

We can’t do a full review, there are experts who reviewed this headphone and we trusted their judgment.


For a clean look, we are routing the audio cable under the desk, we used a Jack extension cable with a 90 degrees Jack for a clean look and a Y splitter to provide 2 Jack ports on the front side of the desk for multiple headphones usage if needed.

Jack extension
Y jack splitter

We are using the Brainwavz Hengja for hanging the M50x, it’s very strong, well made, and fits our massive counter-top. Brainwavz offers other types for dual headphones we will get that once we decide to try new headphones.

Brainwavz Hengja

That’s our audio setup, we will get the Brainwavz earpads to replace the stock M50x ones, not that they’re bad but for extra comfort. Our plan includes an amplifier too, that would a subject for a future post, stay tuned for more.

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