Comfortable enough to wear all day, better with an EQ

A Review On: Audio Technica ATH-M40FS Precision StudioPhones

Audio Technica ATH-M40FS Precision StudioPhones

Rated # 267 in Over-Ear
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Price paid: $47.00
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Pros: Very comfortable, earpieces both swivel 180 degrees, rugged construction

Cons: Underwhelming bass, very forward mids, thin earpads

(Review edited 6/6/13 to add comparison to Sony MDR 7506, additions in bold text).


Disclaimer: My only other good cans to compare these to are Beyerdynamics DT770 (250) and Sony MDR 7506's. I fully realize this review will be biased because of that. So please keep that in mind. This review is my purely subjective opinion.


I bought these because of the nearly 400 gushing reviews on Amazon. Also, because they were cheap. I use them at work, and leave them on my desk when I go home. If someone walks off with them, I won't be heartbroken. They are powered by a stock Bravo Audio V2, driven by an ipod. Can't plug into the computer at work, so the setup has to be standalone.


The Pro's:


They are indeed comfortable. I wear them all day long, and have been doing so for a couple months. They are loose fitting, and will definitely come off if you move around a lot. However, if you are going to leave your behind parked in a chair all day, you will love how comfy these are. They are more comfy than my Beyers (which kind of feel tight after an hour or two). They are about twice as heavy as the Sony MDR 7506 (which are equally comfortable).


I suppose if you're a recording engineer and you need to keep one ear open, and the other covered with a headset, you will also like these. The construction seems very solid. Both head pieces swivel, and it seems like you can hold one on an ear and it'll support the entire weight of the device with no concern something will break. I do not use mine that way.


Compared to the headphones I broke (Sony MDR NC-40's), these are a world apart. But they need to be amped to sound good. I am not impressed at all, when driving them with my ipod and no amp. I'd sooner go buy another pair of the Sony's, if I could not run these with an amp. They are decent if you're going to plug them into a computer (which is an amp), and use Windows media player (which has the necessary EQ).


Sound isolation is excellent. No leaks, and I can't hear the phone ringing next to me when they're on.


The Con's:


I power these with a Bravo Audio V2 (also purchased because it's cheap, and I leave it on my desk at work). With all EQ off, the bass is there, but its overwhelmed by the really forward midrange of these cans. I honestly would not call these flat (though my caveat about comparing to the Beyer DT770s may make some of you giggle). I know, my Beyer's have recessed midrange, so switching back and forth between these two cans really shocks me with midrange. One set of cans has disappearing mids, the other is nothing but mids.


Now, about bass. With my ipod EQ off, the bass is there, but it's well hidden. If I cheat and hit the "Rock" EQ setting, this all changes. Suddenly, these cans aren't so bad. Take a look at iTunes and you'll see the Rock EQ setting boosts bass and treble, and cuts out about 5dB of the midrange. Brilliant! That's exactly what these cans need. Now I can go home to my Beyers and not feel so bad. LOL. More importantly, this bit of EQ allows the bass that these cans do have to come through (as well as some decent high end). So, pull my audiophile card. LOL. That EQ switch is making up for a poor purchasing decision on my part.


The earpads seem a bit thin. My ears are already starting to press into the cloth covering the transducer, so I can see it under the cloth. And I don't use mine like a recording engineer would. I might speculate that the thin earpads would become annoying to a recording engineer using them as I described above, because it won't be long before you're pressing the transducer right into your ear. This has not become an issue for me yet. I just notice the impression inside the ear cup when I take them off. Two months of use. This might become an issue soon.


In comparison to the Sony MDR 7506, the midrange sounds really bad. Artificial. Cheap. I can't really think of a better way to describe it. I would really not recommend using these for studio work, they simply aren't good enough. For under $90 USD, the Sony's are far better. The bass response of the Sony's is slightly better, and the high end is clearer. I can turn off the EQ on my iPod with the Sony's, and run it flat. I'm really astounded at the difference.




There are a lot of reviews on Amazon that indicate people are happy with these cans, but I only found one lone review here. I find that very interesting. I suppose many people rely on Amazon reviews (without coming here). Then again, I'm not sure how much patience people have when trying to take in the sheer volume of information on this website. Reading three old reviews on an Amazon webpage is enough if you're like me and you initially decide to spend 50 bucks or less on some replacement headphones. It only took a few minutes, not a few weeks. Once you realize you didn't get all you wanted, you spend more time.


And after spending a few weeks reading Head-fi, you start spending more money on better gear. Then you want more. You wonder how many upgrade paths there are. Tubes or solid state. Open back or closed. Should I really drop 35 bucks on a cable? Should I spend 50 bucks on a tube? Soon, the unofficial slogan of this website finally sinks in and takes on meaning:


"Welcome to Head-fi! Sorry about your wallet!"


So. Yeah. Ignorance is bliss. It is also cheaper. These cans were nice for me for a short while. Those days are gone. I suppose I will keep using them at work until they become uncomfortable, or something else happens. Then again, maybe not. I keep wondering if there are some nice 100 dollar cans I can use for work, and if I won't mind if someone walks off with those...


Epilogue: These are no longer my work cans. I've replaced them with the Sony MDR 7506's, which sound superior, are just as comfy, and lighter. I'm not sure what I'll do with them. Maybe I'll use them for a computer in my garage.


That's what they were like here, too, for the first week. Utterly cold and no contrast whatsoever. Later on, they had music played through with an adapted EQ for a night non-stop, and they improved. Burn-in with the right EQ makes all the difference. Now they're pretty much straight in frequency response, they also play nicely with an Apple Touch 4G player, though my ATH-M40 are modded rather heavily.
I'm curious, how did you mod yours?
Read my own review for the details, here's a photo of the current setup:
In brief: silver-plated copper shielded wiring, Blu-tack driver stabilisation, Blu-tack, cotton, soft plastic fibre padding inside the cups (isolation++), 3.5 mm. fat barrel plug.
The burn-in was simply Foobar2000 playing a few punchy tracks (playlist on repeat all/random) several nights, with an EQ calibrated with my own equal loudness tone test.
Also: the shielding now is copper braid, originally it was aluminium foil, which is worse.
BTW, it might be a different production batch, but the ones here are anything but bass-shy. They're accurate though, no exaggerations. Frequency response is close to straight-response monitor speakers. The MDR-V6, last time tried, were quite fatiguing and shouty in the treble.