Audio Technica ATH M40x vs. M50x | A TOUGH DECISION?

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Updated 12/22/2018

3,489 word post, approx 7-8 min. read

Let’s take a look at a quick chart to start!


Comparison Chart


Preview
Better For Reference
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Professional Studio Monitor Headphone, Black
Better For Fun
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Black
Title
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Professional Studio Monitor Headphone, Black
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Black
Color
Black/Silver
Black/Silver
Type
Closed Back
Closed Back
Impedance
35 Ohms
38 Ohms
Sensitivity
98dB/mW
99dB/mW
Cables
2: 1 Coiled, 1 Straight
3: 1 Coiled, 2 Straight (1.2 & 3m)
Weight
240g (8.5 Oz.)
285g (10 Oz.)
Primary Use
Mixing, Mastering, Reference, Casual
Casual, Fun, Bass
Prime
Price
$79.00
from $148.97
Better For Reference
Preview
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Professional Studio Monitor Headphone, Black
Title
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Professional Studio Monitor Headphone, Black
Color
Black/Silver
Type
Closed Back
Impedance
35 Ohms
Sensitivity
98dB/mW
Cables
2: 1 Coiled, 1 Straight
Weight
240g (8.5 Oz.)
Primary Use
Mixing, Mastering, Reference, Casual
Prime
Price
$79.00
Details
Better For Fun
Preview
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Black
Title
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Black
Color
Black/Silver
Type
Closed Back
Impedance
38 Ohms
Sensitivity
99dB/mW
Cables
3: 1 Coiled, 2 Straight (1.2 & 3m)
Weight
285g (10 Oz.)
Primary Use
Casual, Fun, Bass
Prime
Price
from $148.97
Details

Hello friend and Welcome!!

Before we dive right into the Audio Technica ATH M40x vs. M50x, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..

You’ve come to the right place!!

What I will bring you in this review

My goal for this article (and all articles really) is an attempt to outline everything you could possibly want to know about the stuff in question. In the case of today, it concerns the M40x and M50x, two highly regarded and extremely popular audiophile (or casual consumer) headphones, depending mostly on who you ask.

Today I will outline the M40x in great detail, and then compare it with the M50x. By the end, you should have a clear idea of which will accommodate to your needs better!

With that, here’s the itinerary ๐Ÿ™‚


Table of Contents

Click any of these to navigate to a specific section!


Similarities & Differences
Introduction
Specifications
In The Box
Build
Comfort
Sound
My Video Review
Photo Gallery
Imaging
Amplification
Genre Pairing
Final Grades
Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!


For people who don’t want to read my in depth discussion; I am sad, but I understand ๐Ÿ™‚ Here are quickly the Similarities and Differences:

Similarities & Differences


Similarities

  • Both the M40x and M50x’s ear-cups rotate 90 degrees. The original M50’s rotated 180 degrees.
  • Both are closed back.
  • Both are Circumaural (Around Ear).
  • Both have detachable cable features.

Differences

  • Price. The 50x’s are a bit more expensive.
  • Design/Build. The M40x has a different design. It’s a bit more minimalist. It’s smaller in stature, and feels a bit cheaper. I had a pair of 50’s for 5 years and they took quite a bit of abuse. My 40x’s are still going strong, but I don’t use them on the daily. Still, they are pretty durable but a bit lighter than the 50x. An important note: The 40x’s have been known to snap around the hinge area because they don’t move/rotate as freely as the 50x.
  • Cushions. The 40x’s have softer cushions, making them more comfortable.
  • Bass/Sound. The bass on the 40x is tighter and more integrated into the sound, whereas with the 50x it’s a bit more in your face/hard hitting. The 40x still retains it’s V shape but is less aggressive than the 50x. The 40x is a flatter response, with a tighter, more in your head sound. There’s not as much Soundstage as the 50x. What is Soundstage? The M40x is a more accurate headphone overall. It’s more suited for reference than the 50x, but I wouldn’t consider it a reference headphone like it’s marketed to be. It’s still a fairly fun sound, but can work for mixing. Overall, I would say the 40x is a bit more of a relaxed, and detailed affair, while the 50x is more in your face, intense, hard hitting, and bass heavy. Both do really well with those types of genres, but the 50x more so. It’s your standard issue bass head can.
  • Cables. The M50x’s come with 3 cables: 1 coiled, and 2 straight of differing lengths (1.2m & 3m) The M40x’s only come with 2: 1 coiled, 1 straight. They are both also extremely long, which many people have complained about.
  • Impedance/Sensitivity, and Amp requirements. The M50x has a bit of a higher impedance, meaning it requires more power to produce higher volumes, but it’s not enough to notice a difference to the casual listener. What is Headphone Impedance? The 50x also has a higher Sensitivity, meaning it takes less power to reach loudness levels (typically 100dB is the standard for loud). What is Sensitivity in Headphones? Neither need Amplification, but it will improve the sound a bit. Just don’t go overboard. An entry level Amp/DAC like the E10K is perfectly fine, and sounds sublime! Learn more: FiiO E10K Review!
  • Weight. The M50x’s are heavier, coming in at 285g as opposed to 240 for the 40x.
  • Indicators. The 50x’s have clear and classy indicators of Right ear vs. left ear. They stand out considerably. The 40x’s R & L indicators sit on the inside of the headband, and aren’t as noticeable.
  • Color. The M40x’s only come in black, while the 50x’s come in different colors (Subject to change).

I would say if you’re more of a critical listener, and prefer a more balanced sound, the 40x is the golden ticket. Think you would prefer it?

SEE IT FOR YOURSELF ON AMAZON!!

The 50x is for the more casual listener, with a more immediately accessible and enjoyable sound. It’s a fun experience for sure! Interested?

CLICK HERE TO READ SOME REVIEWS ON THE 50X!!

Read on for my official examination!

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Introduction


I’ve since given away my M50’s, owning them from January 2013 to April 2018, and I must say they are the most durable and time tested cans that I’ve had the pleasure of listening to.

Of course there are probably better models out there, with a flatter sound signature, less awkward frequency response curve, etc. etc. But who cares? To my ears and thousands of others, they sound fantastic, all flaws aside.

Nowadays I will say that I do like a different sound signature than I did when I was first getting into the audiophile world. I still enjoy the sound of a more bass oriented type of can, I just don’t prefer it anymore if that makes sense.

That said, the 40x’s are a pretty similar sounding set of cans to the 50x, but with some subtle differences that you should be made aware of.

In this evaluation I will casually discuss the 40x and how it relates to the 50x. Should be fun!

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Specifications


Audio Technica ATH M40x

  • Price: Check on Amazon! | Check eBay!
  • Type: Closed back.
  • Driver Size: 40mm.
  • Frequency Response: 15Hz โ€“ 24kHz.
  • Impedance: 35 Ohms. What is Headphone Impedance?
  • Sensitivity: 98dB.
  • Cable Type: Comes with a straight & coiled version.
  • Cable Length: 9.8โ€ฒ
  • Plug Size: 1/8โ€ณ (1/4โ€ณ adapter included).
  • Weight: 8.5 oz. (240g

Audio Technica ATH M50x

  • Price: Check on Amazon! | Check eBay!
  • Type: Closed back.
  • Driver Size: 45mm.
  • Frequency Response: 15Hz โ€“ 28kHz.
  • Impedance: 38 Ohms. What is Headphone Impedance?
  • Sensitivity: 99dB.
  • Cable Type: Comes with 2 straight & 1 coiled version.
  • Cable Length: 2x 9.8โ€ฒ, 1x 3.9′
  • Plug Size: 1/8โ€ณ (1/4โ€ณ adapter included).
  • Weight: 10 oz. (285g)

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What’s in the box?


In the Box

M40x


  • Headphones
  • 3.9 to 9.8′ (1.2 to 3 m) Coiled Cable
  • 9.8′ (3 m) Straight Cable, 1/4″ Screw-On Adapter
  • Carry Pouch
  • Limited 2-Year Warranty

M50x

  • Headphones
  • 3.9 to 9.8′ (1.2 to 3 m) Coiled Cable
  • 9.8′ (3 m) Straight Cable
  • 3.9′ (1.2 m) Straight Cable
  • 1/4″ Screw-On Adapter
  • Carry Pouch
  • Limited 2-Year Warranty

How’s the build on the 40x?


Build Quality


I really do enjoy it.

The build of the M40x is very solid, but it’s not quite on the level of an M50x.

Why do I say that?

Well for one very specific and important reason: The hinge.ย 

On the 50x, you’re able to rotate the ear cups completely 180 degrees. This allows the hinge to remain free like Nakey Tommy Pickles.

Lol, Chuckie looks mad bro

What this freedom enables is a preventative measure from the headband snapping or cracking around that sensitive point where the ear-cup meets the hinge.

On the 40x, this isn’t the case. They do not fully rotate like the 50x and therefore are prone to breaking in that very area.

The good news is that I haven’t had any issues with it personally, but your mileage may vary. I do tend to take care of my headphones though. This was a main concern from others about the build of the headphone in various online forums and review hubs.

Other than that, the 40x is built very well.

It’s smaller, more compact, and lighter than a 50x. It does feel a bit cheaper than a 50x, but doesn’t feel cheap on it’s own if that makes sense.

The 50x feels more rugged, and did survive 5 years of cold hard abuse from me. When I first purchased it, it replaced my MDR 7506 for mixing and reference duties, but that’s a whole different story in and of itself.

All in all, both are very durable and you’ll feel like it was money well spent when you hold them in your hands. I go into more regarding the build in my Video Review. More on that in a bit!

BUILD SCORE: A-

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What about comfort?


Comfort


Comfort on the 40x is a bit of a mixed bag.

I wouldn’t call it bad or good. It lies somewhere in the middle. For instance, the clamp force is a bit tight, similar to something like an HD600.

The cups do envelop your ears, but just barely. I would say they’re roughly the size of the pads on the MDR V6, but slightly larger. I do not consider a V6 to be a Circumaural headphone (Around the Ear), but rather a hybrid On Ear/Around Ear.

The 40x’s cups tend to dig into your ears a bit more than I would like. I do find myself making somewhat frequent adjustments.

That said, comfort overall is about average to pretty good. It’s definitely not going to wow you, but from my perspective it’s tolerable because I do enjoy the sound so much.

Compared to the 50x

Compared to the 50x, comfort is about the same although the 50x’s are a little more comfortable because their ear cups are slightly larger and do envelop your ears a bit better.

M40x COMFORT SCORE: B/B+

M50x COMFORT SCORE: A-/B+

COMFORT WINNER: M50x


How do they sound?

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Sound


The sound of the 40x is definitely not neutral, but it is fairly balanced, all things considered.

Bass

I would say the mid-bass here has a bit of a rise/bump in it, which can sound slightly unnatural at times. There’s a slight fuzz to tracks which can kind of distract from the mids as well as the overall clarity of the sound as a whole. It feels like some type of thin cobweb or something. I’m kind of nitpicking however, as I find the character of the low end to have a lot of nice impact and clarity.

To be honest, some will call this a bass head can and others will claim it for reference. I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

I probably would not rely on this headphone as a primary mixing can, but I also wouldn’t toss it aside if it was the only thing I had lying around. I do prefer the V6 for that as far as closed backs are concerned, and this 40x more so for general listening purposes, which it really excels at.

Compared to the 50x

The bass on the 50x is going to provide more slam and impact, and I would definitely consider it more of a bass head headphone more so than the 40x.

Mid-range

Surprisingly, the mid-range on the 40x is very resolving and pretty accurate. I don’t find it to be recessed (although it can be in certain areas) which is a welcome change from most closed backs with that V-shape type of sound.

Vocals and instruments have a nice clarity to them, with an overall sense of crisp excitement and detail.

V6 comparison

You will hear a clear difference between the mid-range of the V6 vs. the mids of a 40x. I say that because I do a lot of mixing/critical listening, and going back and forth I was able to discern that the 40x sometimes has this weird way of pushing stuff back a little bit, while the V6’s mids are brought to the forefront, sounding more natural and nuanced.

Compared to the 50x

The mid-range in comparison to the 50x is definitely more natural, while the 50x’s is a bit more recessed. The 50x is your typical V-shaped can, and should be treated as such.

Treble

The treble is mostly very good, with a small concern. They can sometimes sound slightly metallic and essy, but it’s kind of faint and you may not even notice with the majority of tracks. Still, there’s a sense that this is indeed a $100 headphone as opposed to a $400 one. To me it’s palpable because of the fact that I’ve demoed over 70 headphones and kind of have a good idea about how stuff sounds in relation to another.

For example, a particular high hat I used for this one beat sounds great with a V6 but not so great with a 40x. This is kind of disappointing and makes me want to either EQ it, or scrap it in favor of something else. This is what I mean by not considering the 40x first for mixing. It simply doesnโ€™t perform as well as a V6 and shouldnโ€™t be your primary reference headphone.

Compared to the 50x

I think the treble on both is fairly similar and more so than either the bass and mid-range. You’re going to get some slight metallic hues with both, so be forewarned.

M40x SOUND SCORE: A-

M50x SOUND SCORE: A-/B+

SOUND WINNER: DRAW


Let’s take a break!

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My Video Review!

Please don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel. I would really appreciate your support! ๐Ÿ™‚


Click to see the M40x!!

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What about Imaging?


Imaging


One thing that the 40x really excels at that you wouldn’t think is Imaging.

These have a way of separating instruments and vocals very well, with a mostly natural sounding character and some nice Timbre. What is Timbre?

I definitely wouldn’t sit down and expect these to sound marvelous with Jazz, but they can work in some circumstances like good source files, etc. I think the Bass is too heavy for such an affair, but we’ll get into Genre in a bit.

Soundstage is fairly narrow, but that’s to be expected. Just don’t write them off completely though. I do get an “out of my head” feeling at times which is completely awesome considering how isolating these are. I think Audio Technica did a fine job here.

Compared to the 50x

I think Imaging on both is excellent and about the same. I remember first hearing an M50 and being amazed at how good the Soundstage was. A lot of purists might argue with me about that but I know what I heard. I kept thinking stuff was going on around me and there was very nice width to the image, despite it being a closed back headphone. I think this is one of hte main reasons that the 50x is so popular and still remains relevant.

It does an incredible job of this and tends to win over the hearts of many who may not even be aware of what Soundstage is. Related: What is Soundstage?

M40x IMAGING SCORE: A+

M50x IMAGING SCORE: A+

IMAGING WINNER: DRAW

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Will you need an amp?


Amplification


They are very pretty efficient at 98dB, but I still may consider some sort of amplification as it will help with clarity and resolution to a great degree. The M50x as mentioned earlier is 99dB. Not too big of a difference.

With that said, I wouldn’t really worry too much about which Amp/DAC combo or Amp + DAC (separate) you go with.

Here are some good options to consider:


The Budget Homie


FiiO E10K.

Listening right now with the E10K actually, and it’s hard to believe this puppy is under $100. For instance, on the track “Over Sensitive” by Chelsea Jade, it’s so intimate that I feel as though the woman is speaking directly to me. She sounds so close I could touch her face! Lol.

The E10K provides just enough power for an HD600/650, but you’ll have more than enough for the 40x. With a gain switch and bass boost, you’ve got everything you need to enjoy music on a deeper level than simply plugging into your phone. The E10K provides a ton of clarity, crispness, and detail that really does impress me considering how cheap and small this thing is. It’s good! You like! Comes with coaxial out, line out, and USB input for your PC/Laptop.

CHECK OUT MY OFFICIAL FIIO E10K REVIEW!!

My Video Review

Please donโ€™t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel. Any support is much appreciated! ๐Ÿ™‚


A Step Up


Audioquest Dragonfly Red

Audioquest DragonFly Red Review
Dragonflies are found outside, right?

I really like the Dragonfly as sort of a step up from the E10k. You’ll notice a bit better clarity, Imaging, and Soundstage, but the differences are fairly subtle. What’s great about the Dragonfly is that it’s much more portable and convenient. You can literally stick it in you pocket and take it anywhere!

If you do a lot of traveling around like me, this will prove to be very valuable as you don’t have to worry about wires, or the size of the amp and DAC. Just toss it into your laptop bag and away you go! Once you reach your destination, whip it out and stick it in the USB hole. If you desire to pair it with your phone, that’s cool too. You’ll simply need this adapter which is very cheap and gets rad reviews.

LEARN MORE: AUDIOQUEST DRAGONFLY RED REVIEW!

I wouldn’t worry too much about Amps outside of these two great options as far as this headphone in particular is concerned.

If you are interested in a more in depth discussion about Amplifiers, how to choose one, and some of the logistics behind it, here my detailed article on the matter: How to choose a Headphone Amp!

What types of music will these do well for?

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Genre Pairing


Well friend, you know what I’m about to recommend. Anything bass oriented with these will shine.

I’m enjoying them right now with Indie Pop, EDM, Rap, and Hip-Hop.

They will also do well with Rock and Metal.

I would probably steer clear of Jazz, but Classical and Ambient type stuff will sound very clear and detailed. I’m thinking of artists like 36, Claude Debussy, etc.

Compared to the 50x

The 50x and the 40x both do well with pretty much the same genres, so don’t become too concerned about this. Most anything you like will work with both (the big exception being Jazz).

So whatโ€™s the Final Grade?

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Final Grade


I would probably give the 40x a solid A, maybe A- because of the sometimes essy treble and slightly over-exaggerated bass.

You may think that those are too serious of problems for an A, but they aren’t. They’re minor issues that in no way detract from the wonderful overall experience that these headphones provide.

M40x FINAL GRADE: A

M50x FINAL GRADE: A/A-

WINNER: M40x BY A SLIGHT MARGIN

What’s the Final Word?

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Final Word


After owning both for a significant amount of time, I believe the 40x to be a more realistic representation of the music. It’s still got a lot of bass impact, but it’s more “true” sounding than the 50x if you will.

The 50x is definitely a bass-heads can, and possesses the typical V-shaped response: Lots of bass, a recessed mid-range, and a sparkling treble. I owned the M50 from January 2013 – April 2018, so I have a pretty good idea of how it sounds.

Anywho, it’s not much different than the 50x which I have also demoed in the past.

If you’re looking for a more honest sound signature, the M40x is phenomenal, and does come across as more balanced and true to life. I consider it a fantastic all around solution that will handle most any type of music you throw at it.

SEE THE M40x FOR YOURSELF ON AMAZON!!

As mentioned in the open, the 50x is for the more casual listener, with a more immediately accessible and enjoyable sound. It’s a fun experience for sure! Interested?

CLICK HERE TO READ SOME REVIEWS ON THE 50X!!

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Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the Audio Technica ATH M40x vs. M50x.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

Hey Marvin, what do you make of all this? I would love to hear from you.

Until next time..

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

Be sure to also check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

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