Audio-Technica is one of the most popular brands in the headphone space. They offer a wide range of options from entry-level to pro studio gear. In this review, we check out the affordably priced ATH-M40X to see how it stacks up in a crowded market.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M40X offers a lot of the same qualities as the more expensive ATH-M50X. This makes them one of the best cheap closed back headphones available. But with the cheaper price point, there are a few key differences worth noting. Here are the quick hits before we take a close look at these headphones.
At this price point, there are a plethora of options available. Below we take a deeper look at what the ATH-M40X has to offer both casual and pro users.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50X is among my favorite pairs of headphones so I was very curious to see how the cheaper ATH-M40X performed. Surprisingly the sound quality was very similar to the ATH-M50X.
First, let’s cover the low-end. I thought the drop from a 45mm to a 40mm Neodymium Magnet Driver would have a greater impact. As a pair of DJ headphones, these deliver a satisfying and distinct thump. Not as punchy as the ATH-M50X but still much better than other headphones at this price range. What I like is how the bass is slightly colored but not overbearing to the point of muddiness.
This warmth extends to the midrange. Especially the lower mids. Well-rounded with plenty of character and clarity. I listen to a fair bit of Melodic House so I’m always looking for distinct tonality in the midrange. These were up to the task.
The 40mm Neodymium Magnet Drivers deliver a tight bass response.
Extending to the high end the frequency response is just as clear. No harshness and the brightness is minimal to keep everything in check. These are a great pair of headphones for casual listening. For DJing, these also perform well but isolation could be better. I would not feel confidant taking these to a party where the speakers are thumping.
There is one other issue worth addressing. These are not very neutral. For general use and DJing that is perfectly fine. But if you need highly analytical headphones for serious studio work there are better options out there. Having said that at this price point you’ll be hard-pressed to find amazingly neutral cans.
There is plenty of range with a frequency response of 15Hz-24kHz. Coupled with a 98dB sensitivity. These are loud and clear with an accurate representation of the source material. Albeit with a hint of color to produce a lively and engaging listening experience. The low impedance of 35 ohms also means these sound great with lower-powered devices like smartphones.
The sound stage is a little cramped and not as roomy as the ATH-M50X. But with a smaller driver and the closed-back design, that issue is hard to avoid.
Overall these headphones perform way above my expectations. A pleasant sound profile that retains definition throughout. One of the best options available at this price point.
My initial concern was that the smaller earcups may lead to some discomfort issues. But I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable these are.
The ear padding is professional-grade and comfortable. They encompass your ears easily. But as with most headphones if you have larger ears you may experience some issues. As with many closed-back headphones, heat build-up is a bit of a problem. It does take a while though so this will only become evident with longer listening sessions.
The ATH-M40X features high-quality ear padding.
The clamping force is on the tighter side. On a personal level, I prefer the security that a tighter force provides. I’m constantly moving my head to the music.
Nothing drives me crazier than headphones that slip and slide all over the place. But this increased clamping force may lead to come discomfort if you have a large head.
The headband padding is decent but a little on the tough side. I could feel the pressure on my bald head. But that didn’t lead to any discomfort. Having said that I was aware of it. Other headphones offer a more plush headband. At 0.53 lbs. (240 grams) these are not overly heavy either.
For most people, these headphones will be excellent when it comes to comfort. The tight grip and ear padding combine for a secure yet comfortable fit.
There is nothing overtly amazing about the appearance of the Audio-Technica ATH-M40X. The all-black design is perfectly suited for studio work. They are not loud or brash. A few metallic accent points and the Audio-Technica logo are the only embellishments. If black isn’t your thing there are some after-market vinyl skins available.
Audio-Technica does release limited-edition options. But they reserve this treatment for the flagship ATH-M50X series. I’d love to see Audio-Technica extend this treatment to the ATH-M40X.
The ATH-M40X offers a space saving collapsible design.
Beyond appearance, the Audio-Technica ATH-M40X does offer some other features worth mentioning. For DJs, the swivel earcups are a great design inclusion. With a full 90-degree swivel you can comfortably monitor with one ear. These headphones also offer a collapsible design. Great for transport with a carry pouch also included.
The other notable design feature is the included detachable cables. The twist-lock mechanism keeps everything in place and secure. The cable quality is high and you’ll have access to a coiled and straight cable. At 9.8′ (3m) the cable is long which is great for studio work.
The combination of features and muted aesthetic results in a refined and capable pair of headphones.
Despite the predominantly plastic build, the Audio-Technica ATH-M40X is very durable. There is a little bit of creak in the plastic but you’d have to be fairly rough with these to cause any serious damage.
The ear-padding and headphone padding are tough and hardwearing. A must for long sessions and frequent use. Connection points are also secure and well-executed. I’m always happy to see detachable cables and no exposed wires. These are often some of the components that can cause durability issues.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M40X features a primarily plastic build.
The only weak point would be the hinges. These are also plastic and I can foresee these breaking at some point. But that would be a fair way down the track and after a lot of use. At this price, I don’t expect metal hinges but it is worth pointing out.
Component quality is also high with excellent Neodymium Magnet Drivers. Cables are also robust and dependable. The included carry pouch also offers some protection from the elements.
These are a rugged and solid pair of headphones that are highly unlikely to give out on you early.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M40X offers excellent value. The sound profile is not too dissimilar from their more expensive bigger brother the ATH-M50X. Punchy and satisfying but at a much lower price point.
The ATH-M40X also comes with a 1/4″ adapter.
Yes, it doesn’t offer any extra inclusions like Bluetooth or phone control but that isn’t the purpose of these. The ATH-M40X is a solid and capable workhorse pair of headphones with a price that is very attractive. If you want great sound without wallet pain these are an excellent choice.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M40X is a very popular pair of headphones. The aggressive price point coupled with great sound quality has made it a favorite. There are a staggering amount of 5-star reviews from people who have purchased these.
Detachable Cables For The Win
If you’ve read any of my headphone reviews you’ll know how much I like detachable cables. It is often an overlooked feature that provides a bunch of benefits.
The primary benefit is how they help increase the longevity of your headphones. I wear headphones daily and even more so now with working from home with two young rowdy kids running around.
Detachable cables allow you to switch cable types based on your preference.
My headphones take a beating but I’ve encountered issues with hardwired cables. They can be pulled on which can lead to connection issues. A detachable cable helps keep everything securely in place and avoids damage to connection points.
Detachable cables are also great because you can replace them. With other headphones, once the cable fails you’ll be up for a new set of headphones.
Detachable cables allow you to just get a new cable which can save you a lot of money. They also give you freedom of choice. There are times where a coiled cable is better than a straight cable. With detachable cables, you can interchange as needed.
When looking at headphones consider how you plan to use them. You’ll likely find the benefits of detachable cables are worth the investment.
If you are looking at buying a pair of quality closed-back headphones there are several alternatives available. Here are three headphones worth adding to your shortlist of options.
AKG K371 Review
The AKG K371 is another popular pair of closed-back studio headphones that are worth adding to your shortlist. They also offer a reasonable price point considering how good they are.
- High clarity level across the full frequency range. Mid-range in particular is very clean.
- Features a relaxed clamping force for excellent comfort during long sessions.
- The highs might be a little sharp for some people’s liking.
PreSonus HD9 Review
Stepping down in price the PreSonus HD9 offers excellent value for money. Good build quality for its price and a sound profile that is fun and lively.
- Warm and generous low-end that can compete with the ATH-M40x.
- Affordable while retaining a level of quality that is not common at this price point.
- The sound profile is not the most neutral. Not the best choice for serious studio work.
V-Moda Crossfade M-100 Review
If you have more to spend the Crossfade M-100 is a superlative choice. High build quality and fantastic audio delivery along with unique features.
- A punchy and lively sound profile that is excellent for modern music genres.
- Customizable side metal panels. Choose from a range of colors or design your own.
- The clamping force is fairly tight, which might make it uncomfortable for some people.
V-Moda Crossfade M-100
Should You Buy?
I’ll admit I’ve been a little over-critical of the Audio-Technica ATH-M40X. But a lot of that is because I’m a big fan of the next model up. So let me backtrack a bit and view these for what they are. Affordably priced headphones that sound fantastic.
To be fair these are among the very best headphones at this price point. High build quality, comfortable and secure fit, plus good accessories included. If you want satisfying sound without a big-ticket price tag the ATH-M40X is a great choice.