Audio-Technica ATH-M40X Review

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x featured photo

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 get hands-on with the affordably priced ATH-M40X and put it through our testing to see how it stacks up in a crowded market.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x

Three quarter view of the Audio-Technica ATH-M40X headphones

Overall Rating

7/10

Pros

Cons

RATING SCORECARD

RATING METRIC

OUR RATING

Sound

8

Neutrality

6

Comfort

8

Design

8

Durability

7

Portability

8

Accessories

8

Isolation

6

Value

7

AVERAGE

7.3

Table of Contents

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.

Features

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 music listening and critical listening applications.

Sound Quality

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, after our extensive testing, the sound quality was very similar to the ATH-M50X, albeit with a different sound signature.

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 in this price range. What I like is how the mid-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.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40X Specifications.

The 40mm Neodymium Magnet Drivers deliver a tight bass response.

Extending to the treble response, 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 confident taking these to a party where the speakers are thumping.

There is one other issue worth addressing. These are not very neutral and don’t offer a balanced sound signature. For general use and DJing, that is perfectly fine. But if you need highly analytical headphones with a flat frequency response, 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 engaging audio quality with a hint of color. 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.

Comfort

My initial concern was that the smaller earcups may lead to some discomfort issues. But I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable these are. I slipped these on and did not notice the difference from the popular M50X.

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, so this will only become evident with longer listening sessions. Once I was a few hours deep into a mixing session, it became noticeable, but I tend to dance a bit, which certainly doesn’t help the situation.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x ear cups
Click for High-Resolution Image

The clamping force is on the tighter side. On a personal level, I prefer the security that a tighter fit provides. I’m constantly moving my head to the music and these headphones struck the balance between stability and comfort perfectly.

Nothing drives me crazier than headphones that slip and slide all over the place. But this increased grip may lead to some discomfort if you have a large head. While these headphones fit firmly, this doesn’t result in excellent isolation. Some background noise does seep in, and there is a little sound leakage. Not horrible, but these would struggle in a loud environment.

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 pads combine for a secure yet comfortable fit, with enough space in the ear cups to accommodate most people.

Front view of Audio Technica ATH-M40x headphones
Click for High-Resolution Image

Design

There is nothing overtly amazing about the appearance of the Audio-Technica ATH-M40X. The all-black design is perfectly suited for the studio or as a comfortable pair of day-to-day cans. 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. I’d love to see Audio-Technica extend this treatment to the ATH-M40X since it is also a popular pair of headphones.

Side view of Audio Technica ATH-M40x headphones
Click for High-Resolution Image

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 are also highly portable headphones due to their collapsible design. Great for transporting in the included pouch.

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 cable and a straight cable. At 9.8′ (3m), the cable is also long.

The combination of features and muted aesthetic results in a refined and capable pair of headphones.

Durability

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 stock pads and headphone padding are tough and hard-wearing. A must for long sessions and frequent use. Connection points are also secure and well-executed. I’m always happy to see cable flexibility and no exposed wires. These are often some of the components that can cause durability issues. 

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Build Quality.

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. After putting these headphones through my usual rigorous testing these do a decent job of withstanding some punishment. 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.

Value

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.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x accessories
Click for High-Resolution Image

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 having to hand over the big bucks for expensive headphones, these are an excellent choice.

Customer Reviews

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 cable flexibility. 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.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Detachable Cable

Detachable cables allow you to switch cable types based on your preference.

My headphones take a beating, and I’ve encountered issues with hardwired cables. They can be pulled on, which can lead to connection issues. Detachable audio cables help keep everything securely in place and avoid damage to connection points. And while you can look at fixing your headphone cables yourself, it’s not exactly an easy task.

Having separate cables is also great because you can replace them. With other headphones, once the cable fails, you’ll be up for a new set of headphones. If you are anything like me you don’t like to spend money unnecessarily.

These 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 replaceable cables, you can interchange them as needed.

When looking at headphones, consider how you plan to use them. You’ll likely find the benefits of replaceable cables are worth the investment.

Alternatives

If you are looking to buy 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 if you want accurate sound.

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 fit is fairly tight, which might make it uncomfortable for some people.
Three quarter view of the V-Moda Crossfade M-100 headphones

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 good. After countless hours with these over-ear headphones, there is little to really complain about.

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 need a flat response for studio monitoring I would look elsewhere. But if you want satisfying audio quality without a big-ticket price tag, the ATH-M40X is a great choice.

Three quarter view of the Audio-Technica ATH-M40X headphones

Audio-Technica ATH-M40X

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Article by Patryk Biernacki
Article by Patryk Biernacki

Patryk has been immersed in the world of music since the early 90s. This coupled with his creative talents, drove his passion to become an expert writer in the music industry. He constantly researches and tests new products, and enjoys playing with all types of gear in his spare time. Electronic music runs through his veins and he absolutely loves DJing in his home studio.

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