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Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Review

Audio-Technica makes great sounding headphones.

The ATH range all offer studio-quality listening. And the ATH-M40x sits in the middle of the range and offers great value for money. If you’re looking to make a fashion statement, these won’t be for you. However, if you’re looking for some high-quality headphones, and are prepared to give up some functionality, they have a lot to offer.

So, let’s take a closer look…

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x
Our rating:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Design

The design is very much what you’d expect from Audio-Technica. There’s nothing fancy or flamboyant about their headphones or their products. Audio-Technica is all about performance.

A look well suited to their natural habitat of the studio…

The ATH-M40x headphones have an all-black color scheme. The earcups have a silver logo inside a circular pattern. The name and logo, again in silver, is proudly emblazoned on the headband. These are a set of headphones that won’t draw attention to themselves. The look is somewhat minimal, yet stylish in an understated way.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphones are quite bulky for an everyday set of headphones. They do have a relatively small cup profile but don’t have the same slimline look you get from a pair of Beats or Skullcandy.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x

Not exactly eyecatching…

They also don’t have the same kind of features you’d expect from an urban set of headphones. Although you could just about get away with wearing a pair of these on the train to work, without people staring, you’d possibly choose not to.

They can fold away into a smaller profile for storage or transport. But they only come with a soft case, so you wouldn’t want to make a habit of taking these out of the house too often. The fact is that these are studio headphones. The studio is where they belong, and the studio is probably where they should stay.


Build

They are reasonably well made, and although they are mostly made of plastic, they’re durable enough to take a few knocks. The headband has a metal core which helps to reinforce them. Unfortunately, this metal reinforcement isn’t carried over the hinges.

This is a shame really as the hinges are the weak point of the headphones build and design. If there’s any point on the headphones that’s likely to fail, then it’s this — no real surprise as it’s a common failure point on a lot of headphones.

Just don’t go throwing them around the studio in an artistic tantrum, and you should be fine.

Comfort

They’ve got this right. You can wear the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x for hours on end, and they don’t feel at all uncomfortable. They are, of course, a closed-back design, so they may make your ears feel a little bit warm, but it’s nothing to complain about.

The ATH-M40x headphones are adjustable for all head sizes. The good news is that if your head is small or large, they adjust and fit well. There’s plenty of adjustability in the headband to get a secure but not an over-tight fit. Additionally, since the earcups also swivel, it is easy to get them in an optimum position.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Professional Studio Monitor Headphone

One ear or two?

Also, being able to swivel through 180 degrees makes these headphones perfect for Dj-ing as well as also making them suitable for one-eared monitoring when a guitarist wants to still hear his amp in the live room, for example.

Both the headband and the ear cup have soft padding. It’s not as soft as we’d have liked, but the padding does a good job of cushioning your head and ears. The material used for the padding is PU leather, so it doesn’t have breathable qualities as something like leather, for instance.

It would be nice to have the headband and earcups made out of a more breathable material, but this isn’t a dealbreaker. It wasn’t a big issue or source of any major discomfort. The fact is that PU leather is a pretty standard material at this price-point.


Need new earcups… no problem!

One positive about the padding on the earcups is that they can be replaced. This is probably one of the first parts that will wear and need replacing. New earcups are readily and cheaply available online, which is nice.

Features

If you began reading this review looking for a feature-packed set of headphones, you’ve come to the wrong place. There’s not much in the design of these headphones to make them suitable for your daily commute or session at the gym. No Bluetooth, no facility to organize and play your music or take your calls. There’s also no noise-canceling to cut out traffic noise, or much else to be honest.

However, they do have a couple of features. But, these are very much based on their design as studio monitoring headphones. So, though this will be short, let’s take a look at the limited features they can offer.

Connectivity

There’s no Bluetooth connection. These offer wired cable connections only. The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphones do, however, come with two useful detachable cables.

One cable is a coiled cable that runs between 1.2 meters to 3 meters. The second is a straight 3-meter cable. Both are perfect for studio use.

A good length of cable…

The straight 3-meter cable is a much more satisfactory choice of length than the cables that come with some of the AudioTechnica headphones. The ATH-M50x comes with a straight 1.2-meter cable that makes no sense at all for a set of studio headphones.

 Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Professional Studio Monitor Headphone, Black

Both cables are detachable and come with Audio-Technica’s own proprietary locking system. It’s great to have a detachable cable as they can frequently get damaged. And it’s also nice to be able to replace an old cable with a new one cable that isn’t a chore to fit.

It’s also nice to be able to buy different length cables and b able to easily change them if the occasion demands. Just remember that a regular cable will not fit an Audio-Technica set of headphones. Happily, like the earcup replacements, cables are inexpensive and easy to find online.

Controls

We don’t need to take long with this section because there aren’t any. If you need loads of features for that commute, you need to look elsewhere.

However…

There is one option you do have with if you want to add a bit of modern connectivity and technology. The ATH-M40x headphones can be fitted with a BAL-M40x Bluetooth adapter that fits into the cable housing under the right ear cup.

The BAL-M40c adapter has all the modern features and functionality of a Bluetooth system. This includes having a built-in mic to take and make calls. The Bluetooth adaptor is small and semicircular. It fits just under the right ear cup, and once in situ, it looks like it’s part of the original headphones.


This is such a cool idea…

We love the fact that you can go straight from the studio, takeout the wired cable, put in the adapter, and head for the park. The BAL-M40x gives so much more versatility to what otherwise would be pretty much a set of headphones destined to live out their lives in the studio.

The good news is at this adapter won’t break the bank either.

Sound

The one thing where we expect any pair of Audio Technica headphones to excel is in their sound. Thankfully the ATH-M40x headphones won’t let you down in this respect. These headphones sound awesome.

The ATH-M40x headphones, much like a lot of the ATH range, have been a big hit with critics and music lovers alike. They always have excellent reviews in articles and forums. These are frequently commented on as being excellent alternatives to the more modern and bass-driven alternatives that are so commonplace in today’s market.

OK, So What Do They Sound Like?

These are studio headphones, so we’d expect a well-balanced and a flat response. And that’s pretty much what you get. Though not quite.

Although these are marketed as studio monitor headphones, they’re not completely neutral. You can hear some coloring in the bass that shouldn’t be there. It not huge or overpowering, but it’s still there. In fact, the bass is even more colored than the more expensive ATH-M50x headphones on which they’re based.

Starting with the bass…

They sound punchy, lively a little more prominent than you’d expect. It’s not the same as the ‘kick you in the face’ kind of bass that you get with a pair of Beats. It is more subtle. It doesn’t bury any of the detail in the mids and trebles.

Interestingly, this additional coloring is also taken through to the lower mids. Though again, everything is kept under control to prevent saturation of the lower frequencies.

Crystal clear…

This clever sound-shaping allows the richness and detail to shine through in the mid and the trebles. The detail and clarity are there to be heard where otherwise they are so frequently lost.

For discerning listeners wanting an engaging and exciting sound that has plenty of detail, these are an excellent choice. For music lovers who aren’t a slave to the bass, they are an excellent alternative to most modern headphones set up for listening to hip hop and other forms of bass-driven music.

So, what about for studio use?

They are still a great option, but it has to be emphasized that they don’t give you a completely neutral profile, if you want a truly flat response the ATH-M40x headphones are probably not for you.


If you don’t mind a small amount of added bass, they are fine. Also, if you only want to purchase a single pair of inexpensive headphones for multipurpose use, we think they’re close to ideal. What’s more, with the possibility of adding the Bluetooth BAL-M40x adapter, they become an even stronger package.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Pros & Cons

Pros

  • They’re comfortable.
  • Great sounding with an excellent sound-signature.
  • Detachable cables.
  • Earcups swivel through 180 degrees.
  • It can be upgraded with a Bluetooth adapter.
  • Inexpensive.

Cons

  • Not strictly a neutral studio pair of headphones.
  • Hinges are not strong.
  • No hard carrying-case.

audio technica ath m40x
Photo by Joe Sleeper

More Headphone Otions For Your Studio

Not quite convinced that the M40X is the perfect choice for your studio? No problem, please check out our reviews of the Best Studio Headphones for Home Recording currently available.

You may also be interested in our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones under 100 dollars, the Best Bone Conducting Headphones, the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, the Best Waterproof Bluetooth Headphones, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Headphones and Earbuds for Sleeping, and the Best Headphones under 100 dollars on the market.

Final Thoughts

These are an excellent and affordable set of quality headphones. They deliver a superb quality sound that is engaging to listen to across a broad range of musical genres. Whilst they’re not an all-out set of studio monitor headphones, and not quite as accurate as more expensive Audio-Technica headphones, however, the quality is still good enough for studio use.

What’s more, with the addition of the Bluetooth BAL-M40x adapter, they offer more versatility and functionality than ever before. If you’re only going to buy a single pair of headphones, these would be a great choice.

Happy listening and mixing!


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