Audio-Technica ATH-M40x - Reviews
I hadn't owned a closed-back pair of headphones in a decade, and these are awesome. I was looking for phones that fold flat and inward and didn't expect this much sonic awesomeness. I also didn't expect to enjoy them so much I'd be writing a review of them.

I much prefer them to the ATH-M50x model. And although the M40x has less booming/cloudy bass to my ears than the M50x, it's still a bit much for me, but that's to be expected w/ this type of headphones. I have EQ'd the bass down successfully.

I'm playing a Cayin N5ii into them, a mix of various genres (for example: Iggy Pop, Zombi, Cathedral, The Crystal Method), and they all sound great. Imaging and separation of elements in all these genres is better than I'd expect from an $80 pair (on sale) of closed, portable headphones. Very punchy, accurate bass.

They're very comfortable for long listens and fit in my backpack perfectly.

4.5 instead of 5.0 due to the 1.2m cable being an extra accessory--I'd rather have that than either of the included cables--one too long and one coiled.
Pros: For neutral studio monitoring.
Above average technicalities.
Foldable.
Quite cheap for the price.
Detachable cables.
Cons: Clamp/earpads very uncomfortable.
Can be boring for those who want more bass/more fun signature.
Average soundstage width.
Propetiary audiotechnica cable, so hard to find other aftermarket upgrade cables.
Disclaimer:
I bought this headphone at my own expense and am not affiliated with any company.


Hi this is my second review on this forum.

I have used about 15 pairs of IEMs/headphones so far in my fledging audio hobby journey, and by far, the M40x is the most neutral gear I have ever used.

It is quite cheap for its abilities and sound qualities, and is not as well known as its bigger brother, the M50x in audio circles. The M50x definitely boasts a more boosted bass, and is more for casual listening. The M40x on the other hand, is very neutral, and more for studio monitoring rather than leisure listening.


Specifications:
-
Driver Diameter: 40mm
- Magnet: Neodymium
- Voice Coil: CCAW (Copper-clad aluminum wire)
- Frequency Response: 15 - 24000Hz
- Sensitivity: 98dB
- Impedance: 35Ohms
- Weight: 240g (without cable or connector)

Build:
It is a set of closed headphones. Mostly plastic, but seems quite sturdy. I have read reports of the headband snapping, but these issues seem to stem from the first few batches of the M40x. It seems audiotechnica has reinforced the metal sheets on the headbands for newer batches and it seems to be less of an issue.

It comes with 2 detachable cables that are propetiary (one straight and one curvy). So it would be difficult to find aftermarket upgrade cables. The stock cables are very long and have minimal microphonics.

Isolation/comfort:
The pads are one of the more uncomfortable ones I have used. Especially if you use spectacles, the clamp is pretty uncomfortable, and the pads are too small for average ears. It limits my use of the cans to < 1 hr each time, YMMV.
I have read forums where people buy other ear pads which are more comfortable to be used on the M40x due to this discomfort. I have personally changed mine to angled Brainwavz leather pleated ones, but this totally changes the sound signature of the cans, so I had to revert to the stock pads as for me sound is more important than comfort.
The pads are very important in headphones in influencing the sound that is percieved by our ears, so definitely changing the pads will have an effect on the sound unfortunately.

Isolation is below average for a closed set of cans. I tried using them on stage for live monitoring, but the isolation doesn't cut it for me compared to IEMs or other headphones. The isolation is also below average when I used them on the subway.
So these set of cans are truly meant for home studio monitoring IMHO.

Sound:
As above, if you use the stock pads, this is one of the most neutral gear I have used so far. It is truly flat, and doesn't amplify any frequency. This is perfect if you want to hear what the artiste intended for us to hear when they recorded their songs. Hence, it is excellent for studio monitoring. It gets boring when I use if for recreational listening though.

It is easily drivable, and doesn't require external amps. Most smart phones should be able to run it.

Instrument separation resolution/timbre/details/clarity/imaging are all above average. I have heard better gear for microdetails/resolution/soundstage, but for the price point, I don't have much complaints. Soundstage width is average.

Conclusions:
If you do want to buy these set of cans, do know that they are very neutral, and meant for studio monitoring. I find it boring for casual music listening, but of course you can always EQ some frequencies and YMMV. The discomfort of the pads also limits my use of these cans, but for the price, it is not too bad. I use them now and again on recordings to get a sense of what the music artiste truly intended for us to hear, but when I need a fun sounding pair of IEMs/headphones, these ain't my cup of tea.
Pros: Very pleasant and listenable sound signature. Not bright or fatiguing. Comfortable. Killer for the price.
Cons: None - but if i had to pick, i hate the loose swivel cups and the headphones could be a bit less warm and detailed if you're looking for something more accurate
I debated 4 or 5 stars. But i really have no qualms with these at all. They check almost every box

PRESENTATION - Excellent. I believe they're pretty much the same as the M50x. Box feels very luxurious and high end and the headphones themselves are of excellent quality. Plastic but the subtle "clicks" when adjusting them and the clean style make these feel like a higher end product. I actually HATE the fact that the cups swivel so much. I get that they want to make them portable, but for me, these will never be portable. They're not big for an over-ear, but they are over ear, and the long cable makes it even more unlikely i'll be traveling much with these. But back to the swiveling - every single time i have to pick up and deal with these things, the earcups flop around and swivel like a dead animal. I always spend way too much time trying to "reset" them and get them back to the neutral position where i can simply put them on.

Cables are fine - it's nice that they included both coil and straight. I don't mind the length, for me it's fine since these pretty much stay at my computer, but some might prefer a shorter cable for mobile use. It is rather irritating that they chose to use both 2.5mm AND a proprietary locking cable. I would have preferred either simply a normal 2.5mm, or ideally a 3.5mm that can breakaway. But the cable quality seems to be excellent.

COMFORT - These are extremely comfortable to me. I edit video and i cant remember them ever really bothering me, even after long half day editing sessions. I guess some people advise changing the stock pads, but i have no issue with them.

SOUND

I'd say that these are flat and neutral *enough*. For light video editing they are fine, but if you're a serious musician and need something for pinpoint accuracy when recording or mixing, these might not be it. For the price, they're probably as close as you're going to get (i think i paid like $75 for mine), but these seem to have a slight coloration to them, and i actually love it. Sound signature reminds me of my Vmoda XS, which is a huge compliment. They are fun and warm without being super inaccurate. They add some fun and punch to the music while still remaining true to it, and are excellent for bass heavy stuff, and do everything else well too.

BASS - Definitely seem to have emphasized midbass but they do subbass well too. Seem to me to have a slight V-shape and the mids are underemphasized to me.

MIDS - This is not to say that they are bad, because they sound just fine, but i listen to a lot of really loud, distorted guitar, and for rock/metal i prefer a more aggressive mid-centric headphone like maybe a grado or certainly my Sennheiser HD25-1 ii. Even metallica guitar seems a bit more warm and not as biting. Certainly not bad, but doesn't grab you by the balls like a good metal can should. They definitely do the job.

I wouldn't say that "laidback " is the best word to use, but it's definitely not the last word i'd use. They have a very non-fatiguing sound to me and remain engaging without any crazy harshness. I've never used these and thought that there was anything harsh about them.

Stuff like Radiohead's In Rainbows, and Beck's Sea Change sound very nice on these.

TREBLE - Something about the treble i really like. It sounds very "smooth" and crisp without being bright. The song Never Meant by American Football is an amazing song with some of the best drums i've heard and these 40x's deliver the attack and punch of the drums very nicely.

They don't sound incredibly detailed to me, but aren't really lacking to me. I do think at least a small amp is almost required. They're not insanely hard to drive and get loud enough off my phone (but not off my PC headphone jack), but definitely don't sound nearly as full, warm or detailed as with an amp. Even a small, cheap Fiio should be a requirement.


Guys, keep in mind through all this that i'm comparing these beasts against $200+ headphones that hit well above their weight class. For the $70 that i paid for them, they sound incredible.
Pros: Clear, detailed and accurate sound, detachable cable, sturdy construction, easy to drive, great value for he price.
Cons: Uncomfortable after extended use, a bit light on the bass, on rare occasions treble can spike.
I don't have golden ears. I can't tell you why something sounds good or why it sounds bad, I can however tell how much enjoyment I'm getting out my headphones.

My old IM-70's died (the left cable) and since they were still under warranty, I returned them and got the ATH-M40X (why spend money on a cable when I can have them replaced, right?).

Packaging
The box is big. Almost like a small moon that happens to be a battle station.
Inside you get the headphones (duh) and 2 cables. A straight 3 metre and a nice curly one. Both of them are pretty long, but obviously, the curly one is the most portable.
I did however buy a 1.2m cable from Ebay for about AUD $17 to use with my Fiio X1ii.
You also get a nice pleather bag to stash your headphones. I would've preferred a carry box instead, but hey, I would've also preferred to get an Orpheus 2 too, so I guess you got to take what you can get.

Comfort

To start with, they feel comfy. The pleather is soft and firm and the clamping force is reassuring. This is great for a couple of hours, but after that, my ears began to ache. The pleather pads are not large enough to accommodate my entire ear. This causes quite a bit of discomfort.
I'm seriously considering getting some HM5 pads to replace the stock ones.
Thankfully, despite being huge monsters, they are pretty light (240g), so at least it won't snap your neck when you bend over to tie your shoe laces.

Sound
Coming from the ATH-IM70, my first impressions where mixed.
The treble is far more detailed and brighter. Bass felt a bit light, but that's my preference. There are quite a few people complaining that the bass is too high. Horses for courses I guess.
I guess the revelatory moment came when I started to notice a whole lot of details that I could not hear with my old IM70s. The instrument separation is really nice and you just don't get muddle sounds. Everything sounds really tight and well controlled.
Voices do sound a bit receded, but then again, that could just be me coming from the IM70.
The one low point I found with these cans is the soundstage. I was hoping for an improvement from my IM70s, but they sound almost exactly the same.
The IM70s soundstage was good for an IEM, but underwhelming on a pair of headphones.
Imaging is OK. No issues with it whatsoever.

Conclusion
For the price, the ATH-M40x is terrific value. Good, sharp sound that reveals little details in songs. I'm happy rediscovering a lot of my music as it has added new depth to my music library. Yet still, I don't love the M40x like I did my old IM70s.
The IM70 had a really distinctive sound signature that made vocals drip with honey. The M40x is far more flat and clinical. Not to the point of being boring, mind you, but it lacks some of the character and personality. However, I do find myself making excuse them to put them back on, so I guess that counts for something, right?
Pros: Good Extended Frequency Response, Overall Flat And Neutral, Lots Of Bang For Your Buck
Cons: 7-9khz Freq Cut Annoys Me
When I first put on these headphones I noticed that around 7-9khz there was some really nasty frequencies going on. After letting them burn in for just a few hours it was less nasty. I think I would have preferred if the cut wasn't there or at least a few khz higher like the m50x before cutting? Overall I like how these headphones sound and will probably keep them. You also get a lot for only 77 bucks. The extended frequency responses is nice and I like how neutral they are. I think they'll probably sound even better over time. I would recommend. This is what I expect headphones to sound like.
Pros: Audio quality, Build quality, Comfort to wear for long time
Cons: Swivel Cups can be point of irritation sometime
Well, This was my birthday Gift from my friend and turns out to be one of the best gifts I received.
 
Things I own:
Fiio X1
Shure SE215 in ear
audio technica ath-m40x
Harman Kardon IENC in ear
Harman Kardon AE in ear
JBL TMG81BL Tim McGraw Artist Series On Ear Headphones
Knowledge Zenith (KZ) ED9 in ear
AKG K451 on ear
Velodyne vleve
 
I always wanted a good around ear headphones and my friend who's a fellow music lover gifted this post some good research.
 
Build Quality: Good, Swivel cups do the job, very comfortable (Have used it for good 3 to 4 hours with my Fiio x1) and a carrying case.
 
Packing: Nothing Fancy.
 
Testing process:
 
I usually connect my earphones to lapop and play a 20+ hour play list to ensure new earbud or headphones burn in.
 
Source: Fiio X1
 
Audio quality:
After a day burn in coupled it with my Fiio and started playing my latest collection. Wow, I was in love with the headphones. The audio is clear.The sound signature is refreshing. The headphones are very well balanced and neutral sounding but sometime I feel the presence of added bass than usual. The best point is vocals, they are so damn clear and make you fall in love with the singer. 
 
I have tried Bose quite comfort and truly they are so comfortable and M40X will not meet quite comfort in comfort factor but it does a good job. 
 
Conclusion: You cannot go wrong with it.
jedi5diah
jedi5diah
how is it compared to the m50x? 
gprs007
gprs007
Never got a chance to try M50x Jedi. But have heard good words about M50x
Pros: Sound, folds flat for portability, accessories
Cons: Would have liked a little more metal in the construction, only swivels 90 degrees.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x's are one of the best, if not the best, headphones you can purchase for the unbeatable price of $99 US. Now, there are many reasons why that statement is an undeniable fact, and i think the main one is that these are a studio type monitor headphone, therefore, they have been tuned by Audio-Technica, the Japanese audio masters, to have a flat, or neutral sound signature. This is great for sound engineers, producers, or people who want to enjoy a true to the source sound signature. Now, if you would allow me to explain further, i would be happy to.
 
First, i would like to talk about what you get when you purchase these. You are given a vinyl leather carrying pouch, a 1.2 to 3 meter coiled cable, a 3 meter straight cable, and a screw on quarter inch adapter. 
The cables are made of a high quality thick rubber material that will reassure anyone that these will last a long time. Now, i would not go around slamming these on a table or anything that would harm these headphones, but as far as durability is concerned, if you take care of them, they should last a good long while.​

 
Comfort is actually pretty good for me. The earcups are shallow and not very deep, but they do a decent job at encompassing my ears. Since these have no vents around the ear cups, your ears do get a little warm, but not to the point where my ears get incredibly sweaty.
 
As far as sound quality is concerned, i would say that these are indeed a very neutral and well balanced sounding headphone. The bass is deep, tight, and well controlled and it blends well into the midrange, which is accurate, well extended and balanced. Vocals have a nice presence to them, and do not sound as if they are in the background. Treble response is well extended and behaved, although it can be bright for some people. Due to these being closed, the soundstage is not extremely wide, but it is decent for a closed pair of headphones. Everyone has their own take on the sound quality, but when it comes to me, this is what I think. Vocals are very organic and lively sounding without being harsh or fatiguing in any way, shape or form. The plucking of a bass guitar or electric guitar is easily heard with amazing e's, and it really brings you closer to the music. The smashing of a hi-hat or any drum cymbal is heard with an accurate representation of detail. Now, these are by no means perfect, i wish they sounded a little more refined or lifelike, but given the price that these sit at, i still think these sound wonderful!
 

I have no idea how these would really compare to the ATH-M50X's from the same company, as I have not heard those, but from what i have heard, those are more bassy in their overall presentation, which makes them not as suitable for studio work as these.
 
Overall, these are wonderfully priced, wonderful sounding headphones that will make any first time studio monitor headphone user smile. I would highly recommend these headphones.

Pros: Well balanced, doesn't lack in any one area, sound stage isn't too wide or short
Cons: The bass can be exaggerated
Compared these to Grado SR80i, SR225i, AKG K702, and Sennheiser HD598, HD650 headphones.
 
Build quality is good, strong plastic with a durable headband. The cords are detachable if they were to become damaged.
The comfort is moderate, with soft ear pads that mostly covered my ear.
The headband adjusts well and rests nicely without too much clamping force.
I prefer the pads on the HD598 or the AKGs.
 
Soundstage is shorter than the AKG and wider than the Grado. It sits near that of the Sennheiser HD598.
For gaming these provided good positional cues and kept up with the action.
 
Treble is more detailed in all of the headphones I compared the M40x to, but that is to be expected at the price point.
Mids sound accurate and are nice. I preferred male vocals on the M40x compared to the AKG.
Bass seems overly extenuated, too punchy, and not very accurate to response when compared to Sennheisers.
 
They compare well against the HD598 making these a great buy for the price point.
If you're considering a budget headphone then this is not a bad choice at all.
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PETEBULL
PETEBULL
So they suck at treble? Why no one had said it before? I was beginning to think of buying them.
Pros: Balanced, epic sound quality, fantastic value
Cons: Would've liked a bit more of a metal build
I did quite a bit of research when I got these. I wanted a true, flat response, and I got exactly that. My main source of info on these was Sonic Sense Pro Audio. They've developed a way to compare the sound of headphones without physically handling them. Of course, the method cannot represent the true tone of the cans, but that's not the point of their method; instead, it is to showcase how true headphones are as compared to the original source of the music. With that in mind, it is mind-blowing how accurate these are...far more accurate than cans that cost even 10 times more. I couldn't be happier 
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thatBeatsguy
thatBeatsguy
Oh wait...this is the M40!?
Whoops. I take it back.
Hi 5
Hi 5
Haha I used sonic sense too before purchasing the 40x

The 40x are an excellent set of Cans. Awesome sound and pretty durable.

I bought them for my 11 year old daughter. she's been using them pretty heavily for the last 6 months
Paired with a Sansa fuze. She loves them!

They have held up very well so far zero problems!
Sp12er3
Sp12er3
Ho, quite a gear your daughter has... and she doesn't complaint about the design? I don't think it's popular for youngsters ...
Pros: Good tonal balance, plastic, but well built, nice long cables
Cons: Bass can be a tad wooly, don't like swivle cup feature
Okay, so I ended up picking up the M40x as I needed a headphone that was reasonably priced, would likely sound good (based on having heard an M30 and an M50) and had a long cable for my home cardio workouts. Yes I jump around and make a fool of myself. I tried doing this with my HE 560, but the cable is far too short, plus they are a little big. Truthfully I didn't expect a great deal from the M40x as the last time I heard an M30 while decent, it did seem a little flat sounding overall. So totally colour me very surprised by the M40x. I have the V-moda XS which would be the closest headphone in terms of tier by price that I currently own. I will not be doing any direct comparisons in this mini review.
 
As you can see by the fact that I gave the M40x a full value rating I consider it money very well spent indeed. Comfort wise I have no issues at all and find it comfortable enough. I strongly prefer over ear designs and while the XS has less clamping pressure than my M80, it isn't without some pressure. There is perhaps a slight bit of clamping pressure with the M40x, but it has not resulted in me feeling any discomfort and I have it at the smallest setting possible. I find the ear pads quite comfortable, but certainly not luxurious, but seriously, for the price what should I get, supple leather?
 
The swivel cup feature drives me nuts sometimes. If I take the headphones off and rest them around my neck which I often do, the cups swivel and it can require I take them off of my neck to get them back in position. Minor quibble, but worth mentioning.
 
The M40x has a very good, cohesive tonal balance that works. I would characterize them as having a somewhat mid-bass centric signature which works quite well as you would expect. I like the tone and timbre of most everything. Vocals are nice, perhaps a slight hint of sibilance, but very minor effect. As has been mentioned by others, percussion sounds quite nice (I'm a drummer and I tend to notice percussion). I find the M40x to have a decent balance of speed and sustain so that notes don't reverberate too long, or drop away too quickly. I have been playing plenty of electronic music with the M40x as well as some harder rock music and my stand by reference Steely Dan cuts.
 
The mid-bass is very nice if a tad un-differentiated, but very nice. I like to pay close attention to the bass lines in songs and just today I listened to Achtung Baby by U2 which made use of very prominent bass energy as an omnipresent soundscape throughout much of the album. This album is a tough task to handle in this respect as the music can start to clump and bass lines will merge into a bloom. What the M40x did here was quite commendable. I found that to very acceptable levels the bass energy wasn't mud and when the bass lines were mastered to come out and be distinct, they were there and had plenty of detail. Certainly not reference detail, but very engaging. In fact, if I was forced to use one word to describe my overall impression of the M40x I would call them engaging.
 
The sub bass isn't as well defined, feeling a little lost in the mix, but still present enough and with enough control to add to the character of the signature, but certainly not a strength per say. The mid-bass will make the music very inviting while the adequate deep bass performance ensures that you don't get muddy performance when the music gets busy. The bass, be it mid or deep isn't the last word in control or articulateness, but it is by no means unaccomplished and certainly full value for the money.
 
The treble is tilted forward, but while I may say there are times when it feels a tad etched in detail, I have not found it to be strident or fatiguing at all. In fact, I am surprised that I like the treble as much as I do. Cymbal work is very nice and the edges of notes have some nice energy to them. I put on some fairly aggressive rock and I found that the M40x really held it together and didn't feel overmatched at all. Overall the M40x is tonally balanced, meaning the sound signature is cohesive and musical. I am floored by how good they sound. The soundstage seems okay to me, I was expecting it to be very close, but it seems to be decent. I can actually listen to music for long periods of time (by my standards anyway) and if the soundstage is too close I usually find I need a break as I feel closed in by the music. To this point anyway I haven't felt like that with the M40x. Edit ** Just now listening to River The Joni Letters I did find the soundstage too narrow. This is the first time I really noticed it which makes me wonder if it is in part the album mastering? I will compare with my HE 560 and update.
 
As my review title suggests, I feel the M40x delivers beyond the $109 CAD I paid for them. I feel they are a decent all-rounder with spots of very good performance. I really like the M40x with electronic music and when the music is well mastered I find the quality very high indeed, certainly more than what I feel a headphone in this price range would be expected to deliver. Well done Audio Technica, well done indeed.
Cobaltius
Cobaltius
@Sonic Defender 
 
Hey, nice review, I just ordered these guys, specifically for portable uses and for a close-back pair. (Didn't want to keep using my HD 598's for portable use)
 
I was wondering since you play drums? Do you have an acoustic or electric, because I bought these also to practice my drums with for both ear protection and to play along with the click or play along to some tunes. How well do these guys isolate when playing drums?
Sonic Defender
Sonic Defender
Sorry for missing your question, likely you've made your decision already. I play acoustic drums and the M40X isolate pretty well in my view. If I play without them everything sounds really bright to me.
jinxy245
jinxy245
Love the review....spot on (IMO). I've been loving my M40X since I bought them for myself as a Christmas present...best value for $100 closed back that I've heard. I used to own the Shure 840, and I think they're just as good...I enjoy them as much, anyway. Tonally I think they're closely matched, but this is from a VERY imperfect memory. They've been on sale a lot lately...if I didn't already have them I'd jump on it.

Thanks again for the review.
Pros: Fantastic neutral sound for every type of music,detachable cable,value for money
Cons: creaking when moving head
 

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