Audio-Technica’s M series is a classic line of studio headphones. The headphones are intended for professional applications, but the company have kept the pricing at reasonable levels. We’ve previously reviewed the ATH-M30X ($69) and ATH-M50X ($148), and now it’s time to have a look at the ATH-M40X ($99).
Who is the Audio-Technica ATH-M40X for? The over-ear design lends itself to recording, audio production and audiophiles who want to get the best out of their home set-up. While being fairly lightweight, the headphones are bulky enough to discourage listening while out and about.
Studio headphones are destined to be worn for hours on end, so comfort is a key factor. The light build is a big plus in this area. Unfortunately, the earcups are a bit stiff and they can tend to heat up your ears. It seems Audio-Technica had to make some concessions somewhere to keep the price at $99. The comfort level isn’t too bad for the price, but it’s certainly not standout.
ATH-M40X punches above its weight in audio department
The big question is, how do the damn things sound? In a word: Excellent. They punch well above their weight in this department. When running Deftones’ Prayers/Triangles through the cans, the drum track sounds crisp and detailed, while the bass is thick and full. Chino Moreno’s vocals are brought forward and blend beautifully with the guitars.
The bass and drums of Aphex Twin’s CHEETAHT2 [Ld spectrum] sound punchy and in your face. You can pick apart the various layers in the song without things sounding disjointed. Listening to it on the ATH-M40X reminds me how great Richard D. James’ production is.
In a nutshell, the headphones do justice to great mixes and highlight the flaws of bad mixes. There’s better headphones out there if all you want is a fat, punchy pair of cans, but for pro applications, the ATH-M40X is perfect. For the intended use, I can’t think of a better sounding pair of cans in the sub-$100 range.
Audio-Technica offers solid build quality
Audio-Technica kitted out the ATH-M40X with a sturdy build quality. I don’t doubt it would survive a few drops or some knocking around in the studio. The connections are pretty tough for the price, and in any case it ships with two cables. The coiled cable is 1.2 m-3.0 m while the straight cable measures 3.0m.
How does the design stack up against the ATH-M30X and ATH-M50X? The more affordable ATH-M30X only ships with the single, non-detachable straight cable. Its earcups only swivel 15 degrees, unlike the 90 degrees offered by the ATH-M40X. All three headphones feature broad frequency responses. Both the M30X and M40X have 40mm drivers, with a response of 15–22 kHz and 15–24 kHz respectively. The ATH-M50X boasts larger 45mm drivers and expands the response to 15–28 kHz.
Great results for pro applications on a budget
The Audio-Technica ATH-M40X provides great audio results for a $99 pair of headphones. If you need a solid, budget pair for audio production, then you’re onto a winner with this model. Audiophiles looking for something to use at home will also find plenty to enjoy. If you’re really picky when it comes to headphone comfort over long sessions, you’re probably better off moving up the range though. You could also consider a semi-open design like the AKG K240 MKII, which is a breeze to wear.