Audio Technica ATH-M40x: The Little Brother that Could
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Audio-Technica ATH-M40x
 
The M40x’s big brother, the M50/x, has been reviewed in many a place on the internet. Information, reviews, etc. are scarce about the M40/x. I hope this post will help remedy this dearth of information.
 
I opted for the M40x over the M50x because I wanted a quality headphone with a more neutral balance. The lower price ($99 vs. $169) helped me easily rationalize purchasing the M40x. The M50x’s price is out of impulse buy territory for me.
 
First, as bias is in any review/description here are mine. I listen to many different genres, preferring, in no particular order, classical, JPop, jazz, classic rock, and electronic music. It is rare that I like a tune in the rap, hip-hop, R&B, death metal, or country genres.
 
All tunes were listened to on an iPhone 5 using Apple Lossless format. I tested some tunes on an iMac. Monitoring was done using a Yamaha THR and a Fender Blacktop Strat. Music I listened to for reviewing the M40x:
 
Defune                                                      Yo-Yo Ma
Nebula                                                       Tripshots featuring Miku Hatsune
Over the Mountatin                                  Ozzy featuring Randy Rhoads
Stranglehold                                              Ted Nugent
Pie Jesus                                                   Katherine Jenkins
Flamenco Sketches                                    Miles Davis
Singin’ in the Rain                                     Mint Royale
Miyabi                                                      Rin’
Yachyo No Kaze                                      Rin’
Eternal                                                       Rin’
1812 Overture                                           Tchaikovsky
Overture (Metal Gear Solid 4)                  Henry Gregson-Williams
Mushaboom                                              Feist
Princess Mononoke Theme Song (Inst)   Joe Hisaihi
Always with Me                                      Joe Hisaishi
Achille’s Last Stand                                  Led Zeppelin (Mothership Re-mastered)
Flavor of Life                                            Utada Hikaru
1 Mm                                                        Perfume
Dream Fighter                                           Perfume
Milk & Honey                                          Immi
Let’s Twist Again                                     Chubby Checker
Clap Your Hands                                      Sia
Called Out in the Dark                              Snow Patrol
I Can’t Give You Anything But Love      Sophie Milman
Sussudio                                                    Phil Collins
En Aranjuez con Tu Amor                       Andrea Bocelli
 
Accessories
 
Soft pouch, one straight cable and one coiled cable. The box the headphones came in was rather Spartan, but served its purpose.
 
Comfort
 
This is a work in progress. At first the clamping force was quite painful. Now, after about 50 hours of use, the headphones are fairly tolerable on the ears for wearing one hour at a time. I wear glasses. FWIW, my head is shaped somewhat like Bert’s from Sesame Street, a skinny, tall head. All in all, not an impressive showing.
 
Sound
 
Out of the box, the phones sounded to have a somewhat v-shape, but this has smoothed out significantly with use. The M40x lacks that pseudo-reverb that some headphones have. Both treble and bass have impressive extension. The bass is detailed and tight with impact. The mids are rich and detailed. The treble is smooth and detailed. Notice a pattern? The treble brings out the silibance in some recordings (Sophie Milman), but is never harsh. Instrument timbre is exceptional, far superior to my other headphones. Woodwinds are a revelation. I never paid much attention to woodwinds until I listened to them with the M40x. Synths are stunning. Cue up Mint Royale’s Singin’ in the Rain and enjoy of the rush of the VCF slowly open from 0:38 on or Tripshot/Miku’s Nebula at about 0:45. The synth bass in Sussudio is wet and resonant. Percussion is amazing, literally amazing. Bells, bass drums, and everything in between are reproduced so well. Bowed strings are quite enjoyable. Plucked strings are wonderful. Electric guitar is merely good. All the details are there, but compared to the M40x’s abilities with other instruments, guitars do not stand out. Bass guitar comes out exceptionally well. Vocals are quite strong, especially for mezzo-sopranos (Katherine Jenkins) through tenors (Andrea Bocelli). Be warned, the M40x will expose less than impressive vocalists and recordings. The M40x can handle complex music passages without breaking a sweat. For monitoring purposes, the phones do the job and can take a fair amount of push without issue. I would never do a mixdown with any headphones, so I won’t comment on the M40x for mixing.
 
Compared to the similar-priced Sony 7506, with the M40x, the Sonys have more than met their match as monitors and also as headphones for using with a mobile device. The 40xs are far, far superior to the 7506s sonically. The M40xs are better than my beloved V-Moda M80s sonically. The M80s have a fun soundprint, but do not come close to the detail, range, and ability to handle complex musical passages the M40x is capable of. If you like vocals, classical, jazz, and electronic music, I think you will have a very, very hard time finding an equal or better sonically performing pair of headphones in the $100 price range. That said, the M40x is not a comfortable headphone until you wear them for about 50 hours. In my opinion, it is worth the pain. I plan on buying a second pair.
 
 

 
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I also own both the 7506 and the m40x's. You're so right, the AT's blow them away. If anyone liked the m50's but thought their bass was a bit much, then try the M40x's. They are more neutral, but retain the impressively punchy dynamics. The bass is there when it's in the recording, and it's so well defined too. At $99 USD they are an absolute no-brainer. At $149 AUD (which is what I got them for), they are great value. I actually prefer them to HPs at twice the price (eg VModa M-100, Amperior). I also think they make better studio monitors too.
 
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FunkDrummer

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Great review thanks dude! These headphones look really good as well O.o Would you recommend these over the Shure SRH440's?
 
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I don't have experience with the Shures. Sorry, I cannot help you there.
 
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hi, loved your review! and it seems like this is a pretty decent buy + it fits my criteria well ( i mainly listen to anisongs, j-pop, j-rock, jazz, instrumental, electronic) i am already half convinced to buy this. But just wondering if compared with the ATH M50x what is the difference? and how big is it? i know both pricing are off but im wondering here which will net me a better value. 
 
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You will win whether you go with the M50X or the M40X. If all decisions in life could be so good. :)
 
Here is a link to AT's M-series website:
 
http://www.audio-technica.com/monitorheadphones/
 
Here is a video overview of the M-series:
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uB-JC2b_pbU
 
I hope it helps.
 
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lootr5858

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how the soundstage of m40x? does it sound in your face(ear) like the CAL!2?
 
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  You will win whether you go with the M50X or the M40X. If all decisions in life could be so good. :)
 
Here is a link to AT's M-series website:
 
http://www.audio-technica.com/monitorheadphones/
 
Here is a video overview of the M-series:
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uB-JC2b_pbU
 
I hope it helps.
That's the video that just caused me to impulse buy the ATH-M40x just a few hours ago on Amazon. Well, not really, I read about it a lot first. That's the headphone on all of Sonic Sense that sounds literally so close to the reference material that you need a seroiusly trained ear to hear the VERY slight coloration to the sound vs. the reference they use. I'm definitely going to be weighing in on this can when I get the unit and have listened to it for a while just to see how neutral it really is.
 
I'm pretty sure that site is quite trustworthy most of the time, because the colorations in my current headphones, the 280 Pro, K240S, and SRH440, all sound just like their demos on their SoundCloud page...when I stop telling myself that they were worth the cash in terms of neutrality cause none of those three are VERY neutral. The SRH440 is the closest though by a lot, but the M40x may be the new neutral king <$100. I've also heard an HD600 and that is my current definition of the as-neutral-as-possible can.
 
If for some reason I forget about this thread in the sea of my finals this week, don't hesitate to quote me and nag me for my thoughts if you're interested.
 
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metal571

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WOW these are good. But they aren't perfect.

First of all yes these are incredibly neutral, this is the most neutral can I've heard yet under 100.

Some people will not like the size of the ear cups though, they don't fit completely around my ears like some other models but at least the pads are actually pretty high quality on these, much softer than I expected.

Also the soundstage is almost 0. Very in-your-head kind of sound.

But wow, the FR. It's shockingly neutral, all the frequencies are there and it's very hard for me to tell you what's missing except maybe the extra treble detail that you get on an HD 600. But even so they are just as nicely extended in both bass and treble, just as extended as the SRH440 but much more neutral. The rest is basically the definition of flat. Really really good sounding can. Beats the crap out of everything I own in terms of neutrality. People should start recommending this over the M50x unless you really need that short straight cable. These simply sound better.
 
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lootr5858

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huh zero soundstage? i guess i have to look somewhere else
anyways thank you very much for your reply^^
 
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metal571

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huh zero soundstage? i guess i have to look somewhere else
anyways thank you very much for your reply^^
Yeah they make my K240 Studio sound wide open. Lol. Even the SRH440 has better soundstage but nowhere near as grain-free of a sound. M40x sounds I'd dare say better than it should at its price but the soundstage is very small. I think the M50x is probably no better in terms of stage. This line of cans isn't known for that. Basically the M40x is a dead neutral, well-extended FR can that is extremely boring both due to its sound sig which has almost no unique properties other than being flat and its great lack of a soundstage.
 
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I beg to differ on the flatness of the M40x, they have no deal-braking colorations (for my taste) but are a far cry from neutrality (check here for measurements and possible modifications), I attribute the limited soundstage to the angled drivers, they move the stage slightly to the front sacrificing the depth and width that an enveloping soundstage provides. I rose the 2-6 KHz region by 5-6 dB using parametric EQ and found out it helps with imaging and depth, I also reduced the midbass by 3 dB. There's also some felt in front of the driver to tame the boosted highs which I found fatiguing (not piercing, just fatiguing). Otherwise the pair does sound good for the money and is a good package overall.
 
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I beg to differ on the flatness of the M40x, they have no deal-braking colorations (for my taste) but are a far cry from neutrality (check here for measurements and possible modifications), I attribute the limited soundstage to the angled drivers, they move the stage slightly to the front sacrificing the depth and width that an enveloping soundstage provides. I rose the 2-6 KHz region by 5-6 dB using parametric EQ and found out it helps with imaging and depth, I also reduced the midbass by 3 dB. There's also some felt in front of the driver to tame the boosted highs which I found fatiguing (not piercing, just fatiguing). Otherwise the pair does sound good for the money and is a good package overall.
It's not perfect but you have to nit pick really...I haven't heard anything more neutral in this particular price range is what I mean. There is a slight midbass rise and probably a slight lower mid recession, and the upper treble could be a bit more extended than it is. That makes sense on the angled drivers, I did notice a very frontal sound with almost nothing virtual coming in from the side or rear. Also that graph looks compensated, I'd like to see a raw FR graph as well
 
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Those are uncompensated plots form a rigid plate measuring rig (acoustically treated to prevent reflections and resonances), so no pinna / ear canal contributions. I've come to trust these more than the usual compensated HATS plots from HeadRoom, InnerFidelity and GoldenEars.
 
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Those are uncompensated plots form a rigid plate measuring rig (acoustically treated to prevent reflections and resonances), so no pinna / ear canal contributions. I've come to trust these more than the usual compensated HATS plots from HeadRoom, InnerFidelity and GoldenEars.
Yeah I'm still perusing the site. Haven't seen this one yet. Usually I trust InnerFidelity the most, at least for their raw data.
 
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