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M-Audio Q40 Impressions (long w/pics)

post #1 of 1594
Thread Starter 
Another Head-Fi’er had posted asking about the M-Audio Q40s. No one had a pair at that time. I had not heard of these headphones till then but was very intrigued since I have a pair of BX-8 monitors that I love. I started to think – wouldn’t it be cool if M-Audio can capture the sound of the BX-8s in a pair of headphones. Well, I think they have and then some.

Aesthetics, Ergonomics and Build
Personally, I think the Q40s are very sharp looking. Simple design with subtle touches makes them easy on the eyes. What looks to be a grill on the back of the ear chambers is just a design element – these are fully closed headphones. They are also very comfortable right out of the box. I used to own a pair of RP-21s and I – as many do – found their initial headclamp combined with their earpads caused discomfort after a short period of listening. Not so with the Q40s. They have the perfect amount of headclamp – at least for my sized noggin. Enough that you can head bop with your music without movement but not so much that you feel like your brains are being squeezed.

The build of these headphones is solid solid solid. Typical of monitors, they do fold up but they don’t swivel. The hinges are metal which not only helps give it a solid feel but presumes extended life. All the pieces fit very neatly and tolerances are nice and tight.

Sound
I currently have a little less than 20 hours on the Q40s but they already are sounding quite good. I did some extensive listening with my 5.5g iMod/Hornet M combo that is loaded with 320 AAC music. I also did some listening from my Olive Symphony which contains nothing but FLAC music which feeds my Presonus Central Station.

I’m not one to be very exacting when it comes to relating what I hear. This is primarily due to not having exacting ears. But it has been my experience that, in large, what I hear is usually echoed by others who have listened to the same head/earphones. My preferred sound sig is an elevated but tight bass, warm mids and highs that are not piercing or too glassy. My favorite headphones are the DT990/600. I find them to be the perfect headphone for me.

The Q40’s bass is very good. They remind me of my 990s in regards to its almost bottomless ability. I could feel my eardrums vibrate from the organ in Camille Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3. The deep deep bass hits from Massive Attacks’ Protection that typically overpowers headphones and causes distortion were handled quite nicely. You can feel the impact of a deep kick drum. But the bass isn’t overpowering. Tommy Shannon’s bass lines support Stevie’s playing and never overshadows. When the bass is meant to be in the forefront, the Q40s deliver in spades but when it should be in the background it stays there nice and tight and wonderfully musical.

Vocals are luscious. Feist’s voice on So Sorry absolutely rings out true. Tony Bennett’s distinctive tone is accurate from the terrific recent recording of I Left My Heart in San Francisco. Jack Johnson’s voice, I find, can create some sibilance with some headphones. Not the Q40s. One of my favorite Cowboy Junkies’ songs – Just Want to See – was terrific to listen to hearing Margo’s ethereal voice nicely presented.

The highs are just how I like them. They extend nicely but are never harsh or piercing. I can tell they are rolled off a bit when listening to high notes played by violins but not so much so that I find it bothersome. If you are someone who really likes their treble to reach really high and distinct - you will be disappointed. I, however, am rather sensitive to treble and prefer them not so... um... THERE.

The Q40s also carry a good amount of detail. I could hear the pedals being worked and the keys being played on the piano during the aforementioned Tony Bennett recording. Venetian Snares uber rapid fire electronic percussions are clearly defined. These are fast headphones and nothing became muddled. Zero sibilance as well. Instrument placement is easily discernible. I could hear the violins to the left, the basses to the right, oboes in front and the organ – well, the organ was all around. Vocals from my favorite opera were nicely placed. I could tell when the singers were standing close or across the stage from each other.

I suppose you can tell by now that I like the Q40s a lot. I definitely like them more than the RP-21s but can’t offer specific comparisons since I sold mine awhile ago and my audio memory is just not that good. The M-Audios are definitely more comfortable than the 21s and obviously more subtle in their styling. The M-Audios also feels sturdier and look to offer a better build quality. I also find the Q40s versatile. I listened to rock, blues, classical and electronic and it handled them all quite nicely. They are closed headphones and sound it. In other words, "airy" would never be part of their description. Sound leakage is minimal and isolation is good but I live in a very quiet house and have yet to try them in a noisy environment.

I like their portability. The cable screws into the left ear chamber. With it out and the M-Audios folded up, it makes for a nice compact package and a carrying pouch is included. The cord has identical threaded 1/8” plugs on either end with a screw-on 1/4" adapter which is typical with many mini terminated headphones these days.

I’ve already built myself a shorter cable and have a pair of Beyerdynamic pleather pads coming my way. I love Beyer’s pads and the Q40's, though comfortable, are a bit thin and the pleather on them is pretty thin as well and I don’t think will stand the test of time. Of course that is purely conjecture on my part but, again, I’m a big fan of Beyer’s earpads so I probably would’ve replaced them regardless.

I plan on doing an A/B comparison with my Denon D1000s. I wish I still had my RP-21s since that would’ve been a real apples to apples comparison in regards to both being designed as studio monitors and both have similar price points. I’ll also directly compare them to my DT990/600s since the 990s are fairly well known on Head-Fi and will give others some point of reference.

I’m not saying the Q40s are giant killers but for the $130-$140 price point, they are very very good in my book.







You can see the threaded jack in the left ear chamber:


Though both ear chambers can be folded up, you have to extend the headband as far as possible first. Folding one, IMO, offers a more compact package:


Not often you see metal hinges:


Identical threaded minis on the stock cable:
post #2 of 1594
M-Audio headphones? I must buy.

Nice review mate. Great pics too, nice looking headphones.
post #3 of 1594
I am definitely intrigued, especially since my favored sound signature seems to mirror yours, warrior05. One more point which I would love for you to touch on: How do they fare when driven from an unamped portable source/DAP? Is an external amp essential to enjoy listening to these?

In any case: X-mas list, here I come...
post #4 of 1594
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by epithetless View Post
I am definitely intrigued, especially since my favored sound signature seems to mirror yours, warrior05. One more point which I would love for you to touch on: How do they fare when driven from an unamped portable source/DAP? Is an external amp essential to enjoy listening to these?

In any case: X-mas list, here I come...
I'm listening to them now straight out of my Trekstor Vibez and sounding mighty fine. I believe they are only 32 ohms so they are relatively easy to drive.
post #5 of 1594
Quote:
Originally Posted by warrior05 View Post
I'm listening to them now straight out of my Trekstor Vibez and sounding mighty fine. I believe they are only 32 ohms so they are relatively easy to drive.
Nice write-up. Thanks for being so willing to test out new things for the rest of us.
post #6 of 1594
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterDLai View Post
Nice write-up. Thanks for being so willing to test out new things for the rest of us.
Thanks. I figure since I'm an M-Audio fan and I got them for a good price, the risk was relatively low.

My Beyer pads came in today. Will be putting them on soon and report back.

I just love playing with new headphones!
post #7 of 1594
Quote:
Originally Posted by warrior05 View Post
I'm listening to them now straight out of my Trekstor Vibez and sounding mighty fine. I believe they are only 32 ohms so they are relatively easy to drive.
Excellent news. This just shot to the top of the list! Another thanks here!
post #8 of 1594
Interesting news, warrior05. Boy, this formerly moribund category is really heating up. I remember when you just had to shell out for an HD25-1 or get something far inferior. Now with the D1000, RP-21, ES7, and these Q40s if they catch on, there are plenty of good options in the $100-150 range for the non-IEM portable listener.
post #9 of 1594
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by facelvega View Post
Interesting news, warrior05. Boy, this formerly moribund category is really heating up. I remember when you just had to shell out for an HD25-1 or get something far inferior. Now with the D1000, RP-21, ES7, and these Q40s if they catch on, there are plenty of good options in the $100-150 range for the non-IEM portable listener.
I was thinking the same thing. These days, a very good pair of headphones can be had for relatively little. Spend your money wisely and you can build a very good sounding budget system.
post #10 of 1594
Quote:
Originally Posted by warrior05 View Post
Spend your money wisely and you can build a very good sounding budget system.
Or, if you're like me, spend your money unwisely and you can build several good sounding budget systems.
post #11 of 1594
Thread Starter 
Had an idea. Since the Q40s remind me of my DT990s, I thought I would try my spare set of Beyer black velour earpads on them. First off, they are now even more comfy. With the velour pads these headphones are very comfortable indeed. It also seems to have brought out greater detail in the highs but not annoyingly so. I remember how when I tried velour pads on my RP-21s it virtually destroyed the bass and just made an otherwise nice sounding headphone sound like poo. But with the Q40s, the bass I talked about is still there but the highs have come out a bit more. I think I have a winning combination!
post #12 of 1594
Quote:
Originally Posted by warrior05 View Post
I like their portability. The cable screws into the left ear chamber. With it out and the M-Audios folded up, it makes for a nice compact package and a carrying pouch is included. The cord has identical threaded 1/8” plugs on either end with a screw-on 1/4" adapter which is typical with many mini terminated headphones these days.
is this the same cable as on the akg k271s? if so i have a zu cable that might be interesting to try with them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by warrior05 View Post
I plan on doing an A/B comparison with my Denon D1000s. I wish I still had my RP-21s since that would’ve been a real apples to apples comparison in regards to both being designed as studio monitors and both have similar price points. I’ll also directly compare them to my DT990/600s since the 990s are fairly well known on Head-Fi and will give others some point of reference.
next time you're headed down this way drop by and perhaps we can compare them to the k271s, k181djs, rp-21s and es-7s.
post #13 of 1594
Quote:
Originally Posted by warrior05 View Post
I remember how when I tried velour pads on my RP-21s it virtually destroyed the bass and just made an otherwise nice sounding headphone sound like poo.
Loving the technical terms.

These look like great cans for out and about. My purchase list is getting out of control. Ouch!
post #14 of 1594
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by daveDerek View Post
is this the same cable as on the akg k271s? if so i have a zu cable that might be interesting to try with them.
Can't say if it is, Dave. I've never had a pair of 271s but it would be interesting if it is and to give them a try.


Quote:
Originally Posted by daveDerek View Post
next time you're headed down this way drop by and perhaps we can compare them to the k271s, k181djs, rp-21s and es-7s.
Will definitely bring them with me.
post #15 of 1594
Isn't the K271 a mini XLR connector?

Anyway, these seem nice but M-audio just rebrands and charges more. So, maybe there is the cheaper OEM of this phone somewhere?

I also like the website description talking about those XL 40mm drivers. Extra large, I don't think so. 53mm and 57mm might be XL but only noobs would fall for the XL 40mm driver line. Not that they aren't good drivers though but there is some BS going on...

"Superior drivers

Full frequency response owes much to the size and construction of a speaker’s driver. The Studiophile Q40 headphones feature extra-large 40mm-diameter drivers—bigger than most other headphones—for extended low frequencies. Bass response is also enhanced by efficient components like neodymium magnets, copper-clad aluminum voice coils and vented diaphragms made of low-mass treated mylar. These elements come together in M-Audio’s custom enclosure, which has been specially tuned to further maximize low-frequency extension."

I am looking for closed, easy to drive, decent size phone with a replaceable cable but I'm not quite convinced yet. Maybe I would try them at $99.
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