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Audio-Technica ATH-M40x review

In this review, I’ll be taking a look at some of the most popular headphones available, the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x. Owned and loved by many, these are respectable budget headphones for beginners and professionals alike.

About the author

I’m a producer, audio engineer, and songwriter with a decade’s worth of experience with a wide range of gear and recording techniques. I have worked with and tested a huge variety of headphones, including Shure, Sennheiser, AKG, Beyerdynamic, Sony, and Audio-Technica, among others.

testing the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x studio headphones
Image: Higher Hz

Final verdict on the ATH-M40x 4.0

While these aren’t the best studio headphones by any stretch of the imagination, for those of you on a budget the ATH-M40x are capable of most everything you need out of a pair of headphones.

Their comfortability, detailed sound, and portable design make them a great first step towards serious music production.

What I like

  • Detailed imaging and fairly flat response.
  • Comfortable.
  • Affordable.

What I don’t like

  • Enhanced bass can be slightly muddy.
Buy Audio-Technica ATH-M40x at: SweetwaterAmazon

Power and frequency response 4.0

These headphones have a frequency response of 15 Hz – 24 kHz, which is standard fare for most of the cans out on the market. The highs are clean, the mids are fairly detailed, and the low end is slightly enhanced.

It seems that Audio-Technica was trying to rope in a bit of the EDM crowd with these, but they’re still workable. While the low end still isn’t as deep as the ATH-M50x, it’s more than enough to help you get an accurate-sounding mix.

In my opinion, there are smoother studio headphones in the world, but for $100 it’s pretty hard to complain.

Build quality 4.0

The build overall is rather nice, the collapsing headband and swiveling ear cups make them extremely portable and space-saving. They do feel a bit dainty, as if any mishandling could snap them, but I have yet to experience any issues with this myself.

ATH-M40x headphones build quality
Image: Higher Hz

Comfortability 4.4

The ATH-M40x are quite comfortable, and can easily be adjusted to your needs. This makes them great for long-running sessions when fatigue might pose an issue. However, you won’t have to worry about that with these.

One gripe I do have is with the padding, which is a bit rigid – if the weather is hot you might feel the sweat behind your ears feeling a bit nasty. Besides that, these are just shy of perfect.

ATH-M40x headphones comfort
Image: Higher Hz

Stability 3.0

It should be noted that these headphones were not made for sport, so they’ll slip off while running and the like. However, for simple monitoring they’re perfectly stable.

Noise cancellation and isolation 2.0

The ATH-M40x don’t have the best isolation, and at levels above 90 dB you’ll begin to experience significant amounts of bleed.

These are headphones meant for studio monitoring. If you plan on wearing these on the train, be prepared for the noise of the outside world to obliterate any peaceful listening. Likewise, you should hope that the passengers next to you enjoy your taste in music because they’ll certainly hear it.

This becomes a problem when it comes to tracking, as you may experience a significant amount of headphone bleed leaking into what would’ve otherwise been a perfect take. So just to reiterate, these are best for studio monitoring, preferably in a quiet confined space.

Accessories 5.0

The ATH-M40x comes with two 1/8-inch cables, a carrying pouch, as well as an 1/8 to 1/4-inch adapter. This is everything you need to get started and I have no complaints here.

ATH-M40x headphones with accessories
Image: Higher Hz

Compared to other studio headphones

The ATH-M40x are probably the best cheap studio headphones you can buy. But here are a few alternatives to consider in comparison.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x vs ATH-M50x

The ATH-M50x is the slightly more expensive, older sibling to the ATH-M40x. Wider frequency response, deeper bass, and far more isolation make these a great option if you have the means.

However, all of this comes at a price as the ATH-M50x suffer more coloration than the M40x. For music production, the ATH-M40x is the winner.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x vs Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

The trade-off here is that the Sennheisers are objectively better-sounding headphones, but they’re far less comfortable. This can be a nuisance for longer sessions, but is a trade-off only you can decide upon.

Read the full Sennheiser HD 280 Pro review

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x vs Shure SRH440

In my opinion, the Shures are the more comfortable and flatter-sounding headphones in comparison to the ATH-M40x. However, the ATH-M40x has far more to offer in the low bass region.

Read the full Shure SRH440 review

Who are the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphones best suited for?

The ATH-M40x are best suited for producers looking for an affordable and comfortable pair of headphones for studio monitoring.

Buy Audio-Technica ATH-M40x at: SweetwaterAmazon