Short review of Audio Technica ATH M40fs (edited)
Sep 30, 2009 at 9:19 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 4

Mink

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Audio Technica ATH-M40fs
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Bought as a side pair for my Audio Technica ATH-A500's and bought without audition them first or even reading about them.
I had a quick look, saw the price and had an immediate urge of buying them.

Oh yes right, my system:
A Marantz PM 7200 amp
Marantz CD 6000KI
Marantz CD 5000 (the best headphones out of the ones listed, the sound is excellent)
iMac 20 inch 2.4Ghz, connected via phones out on Marantz amp, when listening to MP3's I plug the headphones in the amp, instead of directly in the iMac.

I may skip the part about how they look, built quality etc...ehm allright: well built, look ok, pretty comfortable to wear, enough about that.

These headphones play music.
Nothing stands out or did 'wow' me, it is just all there, without holding back or adding something.
Flat, completely flat.
Boring?
If I had auditioned these first, compared them quickly with other phones in a store, I probably wouldn't have bought them, I would have listened for something 'special', something outstanding.

But then I never would have had the pleasure of owning a pair of headphones where essentially nothing is wrong with.
The more I listen to them the more I get the feeling they are right, everything sounds natural and non-fatiguing, even though they're pretty upfront and direct, not to say in your face playing headphones.

The tonal balance is excellent, never did I hear or did I own headphones with such a balanced sound, without compromising much (EDIT, see below).
These M40's sound smooth without veiling details, timbre and texture.
No not tube-like smooth, the sound is still somewhat dry, but not hard and never chalky.
Poor records and crappy MP3's sound crap, but always acceptable and never ear piercing.

The soundstage is not that big, my ATH-A500's are better in that aspect, they're more airy, give me a better sense of instrumental seperation and they can even give me the illusion of placing instruments behind my ears and way beyond the 'mental' stereo image.
But all this at a price: the A500's can sound hollow, 'cupped' and at times even thin in comparison with the more even and fluid sounding M40's

The resolution is almost the same, the M40's actually are more resolving.
What the A500's seem to do (for giving the illusion of a big soundstage) is stretching the image a bit and placing the midds a bit back, but by doing this the overall structure has gotten weaker and the total picture is less cohesive.
Not a big deal, because this mainly manifests itself in comparison, not while I am listening to music (and my ears easily adjust to the new sound character), but to me it is clear that the M40's are the better headphones, tonally and musically.

For classical music though I still prefer the A500's.
This type of music I find a soundstage (even if it is artficially created) very important.
The M40's are too direct, in big crescendo's instruments are all tightly packed together without enough space or air.
Pop en rock? The M40's all they way.
Upfront, but never harsh and they are very cohessive and fluid.
Early stereo records of The Beatles for instance do not sound weird, because the instruments and vocals are not torn apart in an exaggerated large space, but instead sound as a whole and complete.

These headphones (which had a retail price of $199) can be found for $60 or even cheaper, a true bargain.

UPDATE
I still like their upfront character and round, forgiving sound, but the tonal balance isn't that natural actually.
The mids are colored and placed forward which doesn't sound natural, it gives a weird 'echo-y' sound, I don't know how to describe this
Eq-ing them a bit, less mids, a bit more low mids make them sound more natural, more quiet and with a more solid sense for the acoustic of the recording
 
Sep 30, 2009 at 11:55 PM Post #2 of 4

ourfpshero

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the m40 is probably the lowest price neutral headphone out there. lots of home musicians i know use these, they are pimped by guitar centers as a lower cost monitor can
 
Oct 1, 2009 at 8:46 PM Post #3 of 4

Mink

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I never should have bought them I guess, I am starting to dislike the A500's more and more.
Cd's I always have regarded as poorly produced and crap sounding have in fact a pretty good sound.

Neko Case's "Star Witness" from her album Fox confessor Brings the Flood, I have always found her voice to be too bright and at times shrill sounding, both through my speakers (which high mids and low treble are hyped) and the A500's, with much sibilance.

With the M40's nothing nasty, her voice is full, warm, intimate and passionate.
The A500's make her voice sound distant, thin and shouty and it was for the first time it took me a very long while to get used to the hollow and honkey sound again.

Crap.
I don't want to go 'the upgrade route'
It seems I am considering a new pair of headphones exclusively for classical music...
 
Oct 1, 2009 at 9:16 PM Post #4 of 4

K_19

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I always demo these when I get the chance when I go to my nearest musical instrument store, and I definitely like their neutrality and comfort. It's too bad I don't have any room for them in my collection, though. But definitely a decent headphone for price that is unfortunately overshadowed by the M50.
 

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