I was doing some research on some budget headphones for my home studio that I could also use to listen to music on any device as well.
After reading loads of reviews I decided to try out the Audio-Technica ATH-M40X, and I absolutely love them.
I purchased them about three months ago and have been using them for at least 5 hours a day, which is why I feel like I can give my honest opinion on whether or not you should consider them.
In this article I’ll try and give you my honest opinion and whether or not you should get a pair.
Let’s get straight to it…
Audio-Technica ATH-M40X Overview
The ATH-M40X are closed-back headphones that were designed mostly with recording and mixing in mind, but they can definitely be used to listen to music since any regular smartphone can provide enough power to drive them.
Contrary to some other headphones out there, the ATH-M40X don’t come with a remote control, built-in mic, or even Bluetooth for the simple fact that these headphones were made for one purpose and one purpose only; Listening to music.
Having all those extra features would only make them more expensive, but the audio quality wouldn’t be any better.
Now, unlike most commercial Headphones out there, the M40X don’t have a hugely boosted low-end, in fact, they sound pretty “flat”, which simply means that they try to give you an accurate representation of how the signal actually sounds, without affecting it in any way.
Regular commercial headphones bump up certain frequencies a lot to make music sound “better”, but that’s not really the point of these headphones (more on this in a bit).
So, if you’re interested mostly in recording and mixing music, then the ATH-M40X might fit your needs.
What comes in the Box?
- The ATH-M40X Headphones
- A Straight Cable
- A Coiled Cable
- Storage Pouch
The storage pouch isn’t padded, so be careful when storing the headphones in there since it will barely protect them.
I bought these thinking that they would be “ok”, mostly because of their surprisingly low price tag, and I even had my doubts despite reading loads of fantastic online reviews…
But I honestly think that they sound fantastic!
Of course, you can’t compare the audio quality of closed back- and open back headphones, but with the ATH-M40X you can definitely hear everything that’s going on in a mix with great detail, and I believe that mixing with them can be done, especially if you are on a very low budget.
They offer a frequency response of 15Hz to 24kHz, and they sound fairly flat; flatter than all the other ATH-M**X models, at least to me, which is good if you’re going to use them to mix music.
I wrote a post about the differences between open-back and closed-back headphones that you should definitely check out, but you shouldn’t choose between one or the other since getting both is the best way to go about it.
This is because they both serve a different purpose; Open-back are generally better for mixing while closed-back are always better for recording, but even for mixing there are times when using closed-back headphones can be better since the low end sounds punchier, etc.
I was afraid that the lower end wouldn’t sound as good as it does on other headphones that have bigger drivers, but the M40X with its 40mm drivers can actually deliver a very good-sounding low-end.
Having smaller drivers will especially affect the low-end and not so much the rest of the spectrum, and in this case, I think it’s actually beneficial, because there is no boominess going on and it’s easier to differentiate all the elements in those lower frequencies.
I believe that this is where the M40X shine; both the low-mids and the high-mids sound great, and hearing all the different elements in a mix that usually take up those frequencies, like vocals, guitar, keyboards, and almost any other instrument, is very easy to do.
Since they feature a boost to their higher frequencies, I thought that these headphones might naturally sound harsh.
Lucky enough, they don’t, at all!
However, as I mentioned before, if you’re used to consumer-grade headphones, you might find these a bit “dull”, for the simple fact that they don’t exaggerate certain frequencies as much.
If you’re used to consumer-grade headphones, then you will notice a pretty big difference when switching over to the Audio-Technica ATH-M40X.
They have an overall flatter sound as far as headphones go, meaning that they try not to alter the signal in any way in order to make it sound “better”, and this is something that’s absolutely crucial for mixing.
I also use them for listening to music on a daily basis, not just recording and mixing, and I don’t think that they lack bass, mids or highs, it’s just a matter of getting used to it.
Important Note: There are no completely flat headphones out there, at least as far as I know, so if someone tells you that their headphones are actually flat, they are probably wrong, so keep this in mind mostly because of false advertisement issues.
If you want, you can make them sound completely flat by using a software called Reference by Sonarworks, which will tune them to sound completely flat.
One thing you will notice, is that you won’t be able to feel the spread of the instruments as much, in other words, with closed back headphones you don’t really get that 3D feel of the music, where you can place every instrument in the stereo field.
Build Quality and Durability
To be honest, I can’t complain at all here!
The M40X are extremely well built considering their price, which is usually under $100.
The cups can be rotated 90 degrees, which is extremely useful for monitoring with just one ear.
Additionally, nothing feels as if it was going to break soon, quite the opposite in fact.
The only thing I could see myself having problems with in a couple years, is with the cable connectors;
Audio-Technica came up with a special connector type that is unique to their headphones and that basically makes it so that once the cable is connected, it’s really hard for you to disconnect it accidentally.
However, this means that in order to change said cable, you’ll have to purchase a new one, and it has to be the exact same one or it won’t work.
For now, I haven’t had any issue with this, quite the opposite in fact, since I more than once stepped on the cable by accident and thanks to this special connector it stayed connected without any issues.
We’ll have to see how long this lasts and if at some point I accidentally tear it out, but I honestly doubt it!
The first thing I noticed while unboxing them, was their overall size; they are pretty big.
I worried that they might get uncomfortable quickly because of this, since thanks to the size they are also quite heavy.
Additionally, the headband could use a bit more padding, at least in my opinion.
But after using them literally for 5 hours or more every single day over the past few months, I can definitely say that comfort and fatigue aren’t an issue, unless I turn the volume up too much.
The padding on the earcups isn’t bad at all, the only issue I ran into is that if I don’t fit my ears inside them nicely and the padding ends up in contact with any part of my ears, after about 10 minutes of use they will start hurting a bit and I have to wiggle the earcups around to make them fit in a better way.
I read multiple online reviews that the pads on the earcups should be replaced by these ones, which I didn’t do because I wanted to see whether or not I liked the stock pads and if they were built to last, so I will probably try those out in a couple months and update this post as well.
Apparently, not only do these other pads help with comfort, but also with increasing the overall quality of the sound.
Now, the clamping force on the headband feels just right, at least to me, and I even forget that I’m wearing them from time to time, which is what you want.
I did have some issues with sweat though, especially during hot days, since closed back headphones won’t allow for proper air circulation.
This is definitely not too bad, since it only happened to me on really hot days and after extended use, but it’s something that you should take into account before moving forward and purchasing them.
One other con I ran into is that the headphones are a bit on the heavy side, like I mentioned earlier, and when working with my Laptop, since I have to look down at the screen, the extra weight often ended up giving me a headache.
Again, this might just be me, but if you plan on working for long hours with headphones and you are also using a laptop, this could be an issue for you as well.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M40X are closed-back headphones designed mainly for studio use, however you can definitely use them to listen to music on virtually any device.
The audio- and build quality are excellent, especially considering that it’s a pair that sells for under $100, and they should last you a really long time.
The only negative to these headphones are; the weight, which in some cases can be annoying, and the special cable that they use, since if it breaks, you will have to get a new one and it has to be the exact same one.
Other than that, I think that they are one of the best, or THEE best, closed back headphones available under $100.
I hope this information was useful.
Have a wonderful day!