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Audio-Technica has taken their successful line of ATH-M headphones and revamped the lot with minimal tweaks on the formula. Across a wide range of features, performances and prices, these three models cover the market’s needs for variety and options in headphones.
The line starts with the most affordable model, the M20X. It is all black with soft and plush oval earpads that surround the ear (circumaural), featuring steel adjustment bands and a padded headband. The ATH-M20x is pretty slim in features - it offers a permanent 3m straight cord only, stereo mini-plug and adapter is included.
Performance-wise they sound pretty darn good, almost great. Bass response is adequate and thorough (not too peaky at certain frequencies), not as extended as the higher models, and not crazily frequency-hyped like so many stylish consumer models are these days. Highs are crisp and a bit strident (mostly due to some hot 10-12 kHz) and the mids are less than linear but pleasant. Isolation, dynamics and imaging are all good. It’s a fine headphone for the money and way better than most.
The ATH-M30x ups the ante in comfort with plusher earpads, plus they fold into a more compact form. There's still a straight permanent cord, but thisadapter screws onto the plug. Sonically, the ATH-M30x is similar to the ATH-M20x but with deeper bass, a smoother top end, and a midrange that's more barky and kind of papery. They do offer better isolation and response than the ATH-M20x - out to 22 kHz.
The ATH-M40x brings plusher earpads, the additional fold-up joint and a carrying pouch plus 90-degree swiveling cups, all for better comfort, fit and portability. Picky engineers will delight in the ATH-M40x’s coiled and straight cables, both removable/replaceable, employing the screw-on adapter. Sonically, the ATH-M40x is quite professional with a thick, warm sound—deep bass, the flattest mids in the ATH line and an understated top end. The ATH-M40x will go very loud very cleanly.