Audio-Technica M50X vs Audio Technica M40X
The Audio Technica M Series is easily one of the most recognizable headphones in the industry. They are very reliable and have been used in numerous professional productions such as films, podcasts, and albums. The two most popular Audio-Technica models in the M Series are the Audio Technica M40X and M50X.
With how similar these two headphones are, consumers are having a tough time deciding whether they should spend the extra cash on the tried and tested M50X or go with the more affordable M40X. If you are in the same boat, then you have come to the right place.
In this article, we will be going through the differences between these two models. We will be talking about key features such as the build and the sound quality. We will also be talking about what we consider the better value headphone, better performer, and ultimately help you decide which one of these models you should pick up. Keep on scrolling to learn more.
The Audio Technica M50X and M40X are very similar in terms of their design and build quality. There are a few aesthetic differences, including a different hinge design, faceplate design, and several silver accents present on the M50X. But aside from those, these two headphones are mostly similar.
Both headphones are made out of a high-quality plastic material that is designed to survive the demands of the professional and studio environment. The M40X and M50X also feature a foldable design for easy transportation as well as a removable cable.
Audio Technica provides a straight cable as well as a coiled cable for these two models. Aftermarket options are also easy to find since these headphones have been in the market for several years now.
Both of these headphones are also utilizing the same pleather material on the earpads and the headband. Both headphones have adequate padding, which should provide comfort for long listening sessions.
However, take note that the earpad and headband material can deteriorate over time. The earpads are easily replaceable; however, the headband is not. Audio Technica does offer headband replacement, but it would have been better if users were able to easily replace the headband similar to the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro.
There are some minor differences in terms of the feel of these two models. When holding both of these headphones, you will feel that the plastic material used on the M40X is a bit lower quality compared to the M50X. This can lessen the durability of the M40X, so you should be more careful when using it.
One minor thing that you should consider is that both of these headphones have limited editions that are exclusive to each model. The M50X has more limited editions and color variants compared to the M40X. So if you value aesthetics more than sound performance, then you might already be leaning towards the ATH M50X.
But overall, both headphones are very durable and reliable. If you are deciding on which headphones to buy, we highly recommend basing your decision on the sound quality, which we will be getting to in a bit.
Both of these headphones are very efficient. The ATH M50X has an impedance of 38-ohms, while the M40X has an impedance of 35-ohms. You can learn more about headphone impedance in our headphone impedance FAQ.
They should both work with almost any electronic device without any issue. This is part of what makes these headphones very popular, especially for entry-level users. You don’t need to purchase any additional equipment to truly make these headphones sing.
However, if you are a more advanced user and already own high-quality sources such as DAPs and DAC/Amps, then both the M40X and the M50X won’t benefit too much from them. You can still use them since they will still be providing a cleaner signal as well as advanced decoding capabilities for file formats such as MQA and DSD.
The biggest differentiating factor between the ATH M40X and M50X is, of course, the sound quality. Based on the technical specifications and its product positioning, the M50X should be the clear winner here. It has a larger 45 mm driver that is technically more proficient and produces a richer sound compared to the M40X’s 40 mm driver.
However, the performance of these two headphones in a real-world scenario tells a completely different story. The M50X may produce a richer sound, but it isn’t entirely accurate. Compared to the M40X’s more neutral and laid back sound, the M50X tends to over exaggerate certain frequencies such as the lows, which can be an issue if you are doing professional work such as sound mixing.
So despite having a more boring sound signature, most enthusiasts consider the M40X to be a superior sounding headphone and outperforms the M50X for its intended use case. We’ll be going into more detail by breaking down some of the key frequencies of these headphones.
The Audio Technica M50X is well known for its bass response. Compared to other studio monitors, the M50X has more forward and impactful bass. The bass is still well-controlled and isn’t as prominent as DJ Headphones or Bass-heavy headphones.
This makes the M50X a great all-rounder since you can use it for other applications aside from music production. However, not everyone is a fan of this exaggerated bass response. The overall sound becomes less accurate and a bit muddier compared to most studio headphones.
The ATH M40X, on the other hand, has a technically inferior bass response compared to the M50X. It is more neutral, is not as punchy, and doesn’t hit as hard as the M50X. But it is more accurate and true to the source, making it a better pair for tasks such as mixing.
Overall, the M50X is technically better than the M40X when it comes to the bass. However, the better sounding pair will entirely depend on your use case scenario.
The ATH M50X and M40X offer very similar midrange reproduction. The only difference is how they are presented. The Audio Technica’s midrange is slightly recessed compared to the M40X. This isn’t a bad thing since the bass frequencies do not bleed into the mids. Instruments such as guitars and vocals are still easily heard even through a busy mix.
The M40X, on the other hand, has a more neutral presentation. This means that the mids pretty much have the same exposure as the lows and the highs. Having this kind of presentation makes sure that the mids will never get drowned by other frequencies, nor will it be overexposed.
Aside from those, the mids are pretty similar. They are both technically capable of capturing the small details in instruments such as guitar and vocal performances. If you are using these headphones in a live setting, then you shouldn’t be missing any important cues.
Overall, the better headphone will entirely depend on whether or not the slightly recessed midrange on the M50X will bother you.
The highs on both models are very similar. But this time around, the highs on the M50X are slightly more forward, which helps give the illusion of better detail retrieval.
The M50X does handle the highs pretty well despite its slightly forward nature. Sibilance and harshness are kept to a minimum. And with the help of the M50X’s bass response, you won’t be having any issues with the M50X’s high-end.
The M40X is once again the exact opposite of the M50X. The highs are smoother and are more in line with the mids and the lows. This gives even better control of the high frequencies and makes sure that your ears won’t be bleeding when listening to or mixing intense sounding instruments such as cymbals.
Again, aside from the difference in presentation, both headphones offer very similar highs. The M40X’s treble performance may not be as intense as the M50X, but you won’t be missing out on any essential cues or details.
Imaging and Soundstage
The soundstage is relatively similar in both models. They are both very intimate and will not give you the wide and open speaker like effect that open-back headphones are known for. Even other closed-back headphones from Audio Technica, such as the ATH A500Z, do a better job than these two headphones.
The most logical reason why these headphones have a pretty tight soundstage is that studio monitoring headphones do not need to have the widest soundstage. They are mostly used as monitors for vocals and instruments such as bass, drums, and guitars. But with that said, most closed-back studio monitors are better in this aspect compared to the M50X and M40X.
Imaging is pretty much the same story for these two headphones. They are good but not great. You will be getting good instrument separation and will be able to easily discern the panning of the various instruments and elements in your mix.
But again, there are better options when it comes to imaging. The decent but not great imaging and soundstage is a big reason why both the M40X and M50X aren’t recommended for gaming.
Which Headphone is for You?
Better Value: M40X
If you are looking for a better deal, then that is without a doubt the ATH M40X. You are getting the majority of the M50X’s features without breaking the bank. And additionally, you are getting better sound quality if accuracy is what you are after.
You just have to be a bit more careful when handling the M40X. The M40X is still a very solid and reliable pair. However, the plastics used aren’t on the same level as the higher-end M50X. Points of failure, such as the hinges, may break down faster than they would on the M50X.
Better Performer – M50X
However, if you do not have any budget constraints and are looking for a better all-rounder headphone, then the Audio Technica ATH M50X is potentially a better choice. While it may not be the most accurate sounding model, its tuning and drivers can give a more enjoyable experience.
Its sound signature is relatively safe and can give enough excitement to most tracks without throwing off the accuracy. These headphones can also be used on more applications such as professional DJing.
Should You Upgrade?
If you already have the M40X and are thinking of getting the M50X, we highly recommend going for other options instead. While the M50X is a great headphone, there are better alternatives in its price range.
Headphones such as the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro offer more accurate sound, wider soundstage, better imaging, and better performance in every category. It is also more durable and has easily replaceable parts.
And if you are an audiophile, the M50X won’t give you the satisfaction that you would have if you were to upgrade to more expensive closed-back or open-back headphones.
Stephen is a musician, cinematographer, and headphone enthusiast who is passionate about reviewing audio equipment. He has been playing guitar for at least a decade, which introduced him to professional recording equipment such as headphones and in-ear monitors. With the help of reviews and online content, he was able to learn the ins and outs of the hobby. His goal is to give back to the community by providing quality content to help others enjoy the beautiful (and expensive) world of audio.
Favorite Headphones: Sennheiser HD660s