Audio-Technica is a favorite among audiophiles across the globe.
Known for superior comfort, durability, and realistic sound reproduction, we’re about to put two of their most acclaimed headphones to the test – the M40x and M50x.
Audio-Technica M40x Review
Available in one color – matte black with a silver finish – the M40x headphones are sleek, professional looking studio headphones.
These are much larger than your typical consumer headphones on account of Audio-Technica having to fit those 40mm drivers in. Headphones with large drivers can often cause comfort issues, although with the M40x this isn’t the case.
Audio-Technica has designed these headphones with long listening sessions in mind. After wearing them for several hours we didn’t experience any fatigue or too much heat from the ear cups. Even though we would have liked to have had a little extra padding on the headband, it doesn’t noticeably affect the comfort, and for the price, we really couldn’t complain.
The ear cups swivel 90 degrees for one-ear monitoring. Other headphones that offer this same feature can have weak points where the cups rotate. The M40x headphones feel robust and durable enough to handle the knocks and bumps that come with use.
The Audio-Technica M40x are built with one thing in mind – listening to music. Equipped for monitoring, you won’t find any Bluetooth connectivity or a microphone.
Included with the headphones is a standard, detachable straight cable and a coiled cable which comes in handy.
The cables are 3.5mm on both ends but the M40x uses a locking mechanism on the headphone end. It’s super useful to prevent the cable from being ripped out if somebody trips over the wire, but can be a nightmare to replace a snagged cable. The coiled cable has enough stretch to help prevent this from happening.
The M40x doesn’t have the same rich, deep bass response of the M50x but that isn’t to say the bass here isn’t good. Too much bass can negatively impact the listening experience, which is an issue in many consumer-focused headphones. You won’t have that problem with the M40x.
The midrange is where a lot of the most important elements of the song are such as the vocals and guitars. So it’s important for good studio headphones to get the midrange frequency response right. The ATH-M40 delivers clear, accurate mids with great low-mid depth.
They excel in the highs, too, delivering bright, crisp highs with astounding tonal detail. If there is any harshness in the mix, you’ll hear it, but the M40x won’t add any. If the high-quality audio is going in, high-quality audio will come out.
With consumer-focused headphones, the soundstage can be exaggerated. If you’re used to listening to music with those kinds of headphones you might find the sound of the M40x to be a little narrow. We prefer to call it realistic!
If your mixes make use of stereo space then they’ll sound amazing on these headphones. Audio-Technica has sacrificed a tight seal on the ear cups for extra padding and comfort. So expect a small amount of noise leakage.
The M40x are obviously not quite as good as the M50x. If they were, they’d be the same price.
But stepping out of the shadow of the M50x, the M40x are a pair of incredible headphones. If you’re looking for something that doesn’t break the bank and delivers studio quality sound, then look no further than the Audio-Technica M40x.
For the price, you’ll struggle to find anything better. If you’re looking for something with a little more oomph in the bass, then check out the Audio-Technica M50x we’re reviewing next.
Audio-Technica M50x Review
Like the M40x, the M50x are around-the-ear, closed back headphones.
There’s a choice of several colors, from a sleek black to stylish brown and blue.
When you purchase these headphones, you also get a Naugahyde sack to keep everything together while traveling and 3 cords – 2 straight ones and a coiled one.
There’s been incredible attention to detail in regards to the design of the M50x, even the marking to show where the cord goes is accented. These small details give an impression of just how much work has gone into these headphones.
Audio-Technica hasn’t held back in terms of choosing quality construction materials. They are extremely solid and sturdy, made primarily of heavy-duty plastic, aluminum, and soft leather.
There are no squeaks or worrying sounds when opening or closing the headphones and you get a consistent experience with every use. Folding and unfolding are done in one fluid motion with no stiffness. You can tell that every design element was well thought out and serves a purpose.
The earcups are made from plush leather that gently surrounds your ears. The headband is nicely padded and keeps long listening experiences enjoyable. Both ear cups flip 180 degrees for one-ear monitoring and rotate 90 degrees. This means each cup can be folded inwards to lie flat and safely in a bag.
The M50x are monitoring headphones and designed to be worn for long periods of time and the comfort factor reflects this. Since the earcups don’t actually put pressure on your ears, rather, they sit around them, they are effortless to wear.
Weighing a mere 10 oz, they’re unlikely to start feeling heavy even after hours of continuous wear. Some users have reported them to be a tight fit, to begin with – but after some breaking in, they become more comfortable.
The M50x offer great isolation, sealing your ears off from the majority of the external noise. The padding forms a nice, tight seal around the ears without causing discomfort.
What we did notice was that when the M50x were used in more active environments, such as walking or at the gym, your ears can get seriously toasty. This was the same with the M40x.
We’re not too concerned because these are ultimately designed for monitoring and a more relaxed listening experience. Just in case you wanted a new pair of gym headphones, we can confidently tell you that these aren’t the ones for you.
Monitoring headphones are made to give users the truest representation of sound possible. Consumer headphones such as the Beats range have a tendency to beef up particular frequencies, usually, the bass, whereas monitor headphones provide accurate vocals and tones.
With a peak response of around 9,000 Hz, it’s capable of handling all genres of music. When listening to classical through the M50x, you’ll really start to hear those bright, crisp highs come alive.
Listening to an artist who can nail those high notes like Prince or Michael Jackson will show how formidable these headphones are at reproducing those high-level frequencies.
One drawback we noticed was that the treble leaks out of the headphones into the surroundings, giving people within a few feet of you a taste of what you’re listening to.
The bass response is what usually divides people when it comes to discussing headphones. The M50x has a peak bass response of 33 Hz, going down as low as 15 Hz.
If you’re comparing the M50x to consumer headphones known for their bass, then you may be a little disappointed. That being said, the M50x does capture the low frequencies better than most other headphones in this price range.
It’s easy to see why these headphones are so highly rated. Everything from the packaging to the style and design, the attention to detail and incredibly realistic sound reproduction makes these headphones a solid choice.
All aspects considered, there is nothing at this price that even comes close to the MX50s.
Head To Head Comparison: M40x vs M50x – What’s the Difference?
Either pair will impress you when it comes to build quality. Audio-Technica hasn’t cut corners in terms of materials on the M40x and M50x.
Both are crafted from heavy-duty plastic and feature aluminum headband and extenders, they feel like the kind of headphones that’ll last you a long time.
If you put them side by side, you’d struggle to tell the difference between them. That’s if they’re both in black, which is the only color the M40x comes in, whereas the M50x has a wide variety of colors to choose from.
Once some color has been added to the M50x, they give off a much classier and more premium vibe.
Audio-Technica has given greater attention to detail when designing the M50x, with a different design on the side of the ear cups compared to the M40x and some small areas of the headphones accented to make the headphones pop.
Both headphones have plush, buttery soft leather earcups and headbands. They’re designed with long listening sessions in mind, so both offer exceptional comfort.
The M50x and the M40x are both around the ear headphones and can feel a little tight out of the box, but users say they break in quite quickly and you’ll find them becoming more comfortable.
Included when you purchase the M50x is are two straight cables and one coiled cable. The M40x only comes with a long straight cable and a coiled one.
For the extra money, you’d expect that from the M50x anyway and this isn’t really a deal maker or breaker.
The M50x takes the lead in this category as the ear cups swivel a full 180 degrees for superior one-ear monitoring, whereas the M40x cups only swivel 90 degrees.
Of course, we’d expect the M40x to be less impressive when looking at specs, but the difference between the M40x and M50x is probably less than you think.
The M40x has a low impedance of 35 ohms and a frequency response range of 15 Hz to 24 MHz. In comparison, the beefier M50x has an impedance of 38 ohms and a frequency response range of 15 Hz to 28 Mhz. This isn’t enough of a difference to put the M50x on a different level, though.
But the beefier M50x is packing a 45mm driver, whereas the M40x only has a 40mm. What does that extra 5mm get you? A surprisingly different sound, actually. It’s here that we start to see a greater difference between the two models.
The M40x offers a more relaxed sound, paying as much attention to the highs and mids as it does to the lows. This neutral sound is refreshing, especially when compared to the consumer-orientated headphones which tend to be heavy on the bass. For the price, the M40x delivers an impressive sound suited to critical listening.
The M50x pays a little more attention to the bass than the M40x does and still reproduces the mids and highs with accuracy. Whether or not these headphones pack too much bass for critical listening is a topic up for discussion, but we think they’re fine.
That isn’t to say that the M50x are too bassy. It just has a little more kick compared to the M40x, thanks to the larger 45mm driver.
So Who is the Winner?
In the Audio-Technica M40x vs M50x battle, who comes out on top?
Well, it’s all down to why you want the headphones in the first place. For everyday music listening, I won’t hesitate in recommending the M50x. Not only are they more stylish than the M40x but also offer a richer, deeper sound courtesy of the 45mm driver. They will no doubt provide you with a more pleasurable listening experience.
If you want headphones for critical listening and monitoring then you will probably prefer the M40x. Not only are they substantially cheaper than the M50x, the gap between the two in terms of specs is much smaller than the price difference would suggest.
Both headphones dominate their respective price ranges and no matter whether you buy the M40x or M50x, you won’t be disappointed.