Friday, July 4, 2014

Audio- Technica ATH-M40X Review

Audio- Technica's newly redesigned ATH-M40X's provide an exceptionally compelling value, even compared to their older and much more popular sibling, the ATH-M50X's.  The ATH-M50's and their subsequent successor, the ATH-M50X's have earned quite a reputation on professional and consumer review sites alike.  The result is that the rest of Audio- Technica's M line is often overlooked by consumers. Many people want 'the best' and are often unwilling to buy a product that costs less and that appears and/ or is marketed as being inferior than higher end products in the line.  The ATH-M40X's provide all of the features that makes the M50X's great, but at a much more reasonable price.  Thus, the price to performance ratio of the M40X's is better than the M50X's and I would argue that the M40X's provide a much better value for your dollar.  Here's why:

The M40X's are built just as well as the M50X's.  All plastic in construction, but durable, the M40X's are designed for persistent day to day use.  For the price, the M40X's are more than adequate in their construction quality.  Many similarly priced headphones are not built to the same spec, while a few are better.  Audio- Technica took the middle ground with the build quality here. However,  throughout years of owning several Audio- Technica products, I can state with certainty that the companies products are built to last.  The M40X's feature detachable cable functionality, just like the ATH-M50X's but only come with two included cables instead of the three included with the ATH-M50X's. I found this fact to be slightly irritating as I really like the short cable (absent with the M40X's) for using the headphones out and about with a portable device.  The two included cables are a 3 meter straight cable and a 1.2 to 3 meter coiled cable.  Both are great in a studio environment or around the house, but neither are very portable.  As with all of Audio- Technicas M series, the focus is on sound quality and durability.  Everything else is secondary.  Neither of the included cables feature an inline microphone or volume rocker, so don't expect that kind of functionality.  I actually prefer headphones that lack this "feature" as I have had nothing but bad experiences with inline remote/ mics.  As with all of Audio- Technicas M series headphones, the ATH-M40X's ship with a carrying pouch and an 3.5 to 6.3mm adapter.

The M40X's share identical ear pads with the M50X's.  I mention the improvements that Audio- Technica has made to the ear pads in my ATH-M50X review. Needless to say, they are very comfortable and much improved over the last generation.  The clamping force of the M40X's was much tighter than the M50X's for some reason, it could be because I have used the M50X's many more hours than the M40X's.  Despite this, the comfort is not negatively affected, and the M40X's have less of a tendency to slip off the head during headbanging sessions.  The headband is extremely comfortable and is well padded.  All in all, the comfort stays in line with what I have come to expect from Audio- Techica's M series.

Sound quality.  My opinion on the M40X's sound might come across as quite controversial, but in my opinion, the M40X's sound slightly better than the M50X's.  Imagine the sound that the M50X's produce; slightly recessed but still detailed mids (an inherit flaw present in the M50's and M50X's) pronounced, crisp and occasionally harsh yet accurate treble, but with once exception: the bass.  The M50X's bass has a tendency to sometimes get out of control, too much impact, overpowering the rest of the frequency spectrum and muddying the sound.  The M40X's however, provide the same bass feel but in a tighter more controlled package.  The M40X's bass is highly accurate, very tight and it unveils more depth and detail.  It is also slightly less pronounced, resulting in an overall more balanced sound.  Bass heads will likely prefer the M50X's sound signature, but for those on a quest for a more balanced sound, the M40X's are a better bet.  The M40X's utilize 40mm drivers as opposed to the M50X's larger 45mm units, which could explain the tighter bass.  As for the rest of the frequency spectrum, they are very similar to the M50X's.  The aforementioned mid range recession is probably their only major flaw sonically at this price point, and the treble tends to bring out sibilance in certain recordings more than others (the symbol crashes in Muse's "New Born" being one particular example.)  All in all the, the sound quality is extremely impressive and becomes exceptionally impressive once you consider the $100 dollar price difference between the M40X's and the M50X's.  Keep in mind however, that like the M50X's, these are by no means flat headphones.  They still retain the same gentle U sound signature that the M50X's produce (emphasis on bass and treble with midrange recession) but with more tightly controlled and accurate bass.  All in all, the sound quality was extremely impressive, and I was very surprised that I found myself enjoying a lower end model more than a higher end one.

The verdict.  The Audio- Technica ATH-M40X's have replaced their big brother as my go to recommendation for people who want an affordable, aesthetically pleasing, relatively feature packed headphone with good sound quality for the price.  In my opinion, the ATH-M40X's provide a far more compelling value than the ATH-M50X's, and I would highly recommend not instantly purchasing the top of the line product without first evaluating the "lower end" products in the line.  The M40X's really did outperform all of my expectations.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected the M40X's to outperform the M50X's sonically (keep in mind the subjectiveness of sound quality however) but when choosing between the M40X's and M50X's, I honestly would recommend the M40X's.  They truly are stellar headphones, and perform more admirably than the M50X's given the price differential and the similarity between the two headphones.

CLICK HERE for Audio- Technica ATH-M40X product page
CLICK HERE for Audio- Technica ATH-M40X Amazon product page


  1. Just bought the Audio Technica ATH-M50 and I'm lovin it. It has good sound quality style and design. One of the best headphones today!

  2. I can totally relate to everything written here about the sound quality of the M40x. I owned the M50x and I returned it because they sounded too harsh sometimes which made them uncomfortable for prolonged use. Also, the mids were clearly recessed resulting in loss of huskiness in the vocals. Whereas, the M40x offers a much natural and balanced sound which is the way the artist intended.

    1. Agreed, M40x is really close to the original audio source, simply pure! If we want to push M40x even sounding better, I have backed Vero cable, I feel it could further unlock the details and even more natural sounding.

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