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Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Review

Audio-Technica was established in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, in 1962 by Hideo Matsushita as a manufacturer of phonograph cartridges. One of their most famous products was a portable battery operated record player called Mister Disc that was sold in the USA in the early 1980s.

Today the Audio-Technica corporation manufactures and designs a wide range of professional microphones, headphones, turntables, and various other audio equipment.

After Purchasing a substantial amount of new equipment a few years back, I was gifted a pair of ATH-M30X headphones by the retailer. Being a huge Audio-Technica microphone fan, I couldn’t wait to have a listen. I was aware at this point of the M-SERIES headphones and knew that the M50x’s were a really great pair with an aggressive studio style sound.

But unfortunately…

The cheaper headphones in the M-SERIES, although big sellers, were a bit of a letdown for me; let’s find out why in our in-depth Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Review…

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x
Our rating:4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)

Overview

I am, of course, reviewing the ATH-M20X and not the free headphones I received, but they are pretty similar. Audio-Technica are well known for making high-quality audiophile-headphones, and the M20x is supposed to be one of those, but for those of us that are on a strict budget.

The ATH-20X is a closed-back wired set of headphones, and It comes with ten feet of cable, and a 6.3mm adapter, which snaps on to a gold plated 3.5mm jack.

Design

Design wise these headphones are great and exactly what you’d expect from Audio-Technica. They are mostly made of plastic with an oval shape to the speaker casing. They are extremely light and weigh in at just under 190 grams without the cable. I do wish they folded properly in the middle like the M30x’s, but sadly you can’t have everything at this price.

The cable is not detachable, which may annoy some people, but it is pretty common place in headphones in this price range. They certainly feel like a pair of headphones that can handle a lot of wear and tear with the abundant use of solid plastic.

The headphone cushions and the headband are made from a leathercloth fabric called rexine, which is embossed to look like leather and is quite soft and durable.

Fatigue

Some headphones can cause you to feel fatigued after wearing them for long stretches. I never felt that with these, as the padding really does feel comfortable and never catches around your ears. However, if you are listening at very loud volumes for long periods, then yes, your ears will tire.

Comfort in M-SERIES headphones has always been a key point, and they do indeed feel great and fit well. Unfortunately, by not having angled drivers, there is a little less room in there for your ears.

Drivers…

These are a large 40mm and have a frequency response of 15-20,000Hz. The impedance rating is 47ohms, which can help reduce buzzing created by electrical signals passing through the headphones. Isolation is pretty good but by no means perfect.

On the road test…


I assumed with the 3.5mm jack that I could just plug into my phone or i-pod and see what these headphones were all about. But without a good amplifier to drive them, the M20x headphones never show what they are capable of and just sound soft and muffled. Its kind of what you’d expect, though, from a pair of headphones at this price being sold as professional monitor headphones.

Amplifier Test…

Using a proper amplifier, the M20x headphones are loud but have a very flat sound profile and sound a little cold and hollow to me. I usually use something like the Sennheiser HD595 to record my vocals because I like a bit of color and the clarity, drama, and warmth that brings you more into the track.

(I do have to cover the backs of my open-back Sennheisers with thick tape, but t’s worth it)

The M20x’s have nothing like the HD595’s warmth, and it’s kind of like having a blanket put over your ears.

Enhanced low-end performance…

Apparently, they are tuned for enhanced low-end performance, but although acceptable, I thought they were lacking in bass response.

The high-mid cut and high-frequency boost is common in most headphones, but the M20x’s are pretty conservative, cutting only 5dB, respectively. The low end is sadly almost flat down to 60Hz, and they don’t extend any lower. These are not the cleanest headphones available, but harmonic distortion produces no audible issues.

Sound Staging…

The sound staging is average, but it’s always difficult to get right and is an issue with many professional grade studio headphones. It’s down to a lack of angled drivers. The imaging is reasonable at this price point, even with the not-so-great mid-range and treble.

(As a side note: the sound stage allows the listener to hear the location of instruments when listening to a given piece of music)

Extras…

  • Only the headphones and one 6.3mm adaptor.

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Review Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Very comfortable to wear.
  • A good price- point.
  • Long cable

Cons

  • Average sound-staging.
  • Not good on the move with phones or i-pods.
  • The veiled sound quality.

Specifications


  • Type: Closed-back dynamic.
  • Driver Diameter: 40mm
  • Frequency response: 15 – 20,000 Hz
  • Max input power: 700 mW at 1 KHz
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB

Looking for more quality products from Audio Technica?

Well, if it’s headphones you’re after, then check out our in-depth Audio Technica ATH M50XBT Review, our Audio Technica ATH 40X Review, our Audio Technica ATH WS1100iS Review, or our Audio Technica ATH AD700X Review.

In terms of microphones, you might enjoy our Audio Technica AT4040 Review, our Audio Technica AT2020 Review, our Audio Technica AT2005usb Review, and our Audio Technica AT2035 Review.

Or, if you’re looking for an affordable high quality turntable, take a look at our comprehensive Audio Technica AT LP 120 USB Direct Drive Professional Turntable Review or our Audio Technica AT LP60x BW Review for 2021.

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Review – My Verdict

For a first set of headphones, the M20x’s are a good option, and they do sell by the bucket load, so lots of people are enjoying them to some degree.

I think the Audio-Technica M20x headphones are a perfectly adequate pair of headphones for tracking, but I wouldn’t use these for mixing, although other engineers have suggested they would be fine.

They are very comfortable, and I really do like the Audio Technica headphone design, but it’s a shame they don’t fold in properly like the M30x’s do. Plus, the 10-foot cable is great as so many headphones come with such short cables.

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x


As far as sound goes, they feel a bit too veiled in comparison to other headphones I like to use.

If you already own a pair like the M50x’s, then I’d leave these alone, to be honest. Personally, I found them too flat and, as I mentioned, felt like I had a blanket over my ears… but maybe I’ve been spoiled.

Happy listening.

Niall Flynn

To find out more about Niall or our other writers, please check out our About Us page.

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About Joseph L. Hollen

Joseph is a session musician, writer, and filmmaker from south Florida. He has recorded a number of albums and made numerous short films, as well as contributing music to shorts and commercials. 

He doesn't get as much time to practice and play as he used to, but still manages (just about!) to fulfill all his session requests. According to Joseph, it just gets harder as you get older; you rely on what you learned decades ago and can play without thinking. Thankfully that's what is what most producers still want from him.

He is a devout gear hear and has been collecting musical instruments all his life. As his wife, Jill, keeps on saying, "You're very good at buying nice instruments, but terrible at selling them!".

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