Audio-Technica M-Series Comparison

Audio-Technica is a world-renowned audio equipment company with a history dating back to 1962. The M series headphones are one of the most popular product lines sold by Audio-Technica and have unique features. In this article, the main topic is the comparison of ATH-M headphones, their selling points, and the applications they’re best suited for.

Main elements of the article

The M-series of headphones feature headphones from M20X to M70X and ATH-M50xBT2. However, this article won’t discuss discontinued models from the “M” series, such as the ATH-M20, ATH-M35, ATH-M50, ATH-M50xBB, or ATH-MSR7.

Noise-canceling headsets like the ATH-MSR7bGM are also not reviewed. The comparison of the M series headphones focuses on the studio-grade headphones, mainly the “ATH-M” headphones, which are widely used by sound engineers.

Comparing the M-Series Headphones

Within the M-series, Audio-Technica offers a wide range of headphones with various features. The six headphones of the M-series provide are named from M20X to M70X and offer a different level of quality.

Newer headphones are more expensive than their predecessors and should offer better sound quality or overall quality. However, newer doesn’t always mean better, and in some cases, older M Series headphones perform better than newer ones in specific applications.

The variations in quality and style are significant, and it’s worth knowing the differences between the M series headphones.

In this section, we will take a look at the six headphones of the M-series with special attention to their unique features, pros & cons and compare them with the other M-series headphones.

Let’s get into it.

Audio-Technica ATH-M20X

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20X are the 2017-model headphones and the first headphones of the M-series. It’s the type that brings a lot of basses and has higher impedance than other M-series headphones. The M-20X has an average frequency range and the smallest drivers, but it’s also the most lightweight studio headphone of the series.

Specifications

Headphone type: Closed studio headphones | Driver size: 1.6″ (40 mm) | Driver type: Dynamic | Frequency range: 15 Hz – 20,000 Hz | Maximum input power: 700 mW at 1 kHz | Sensitivity: 96 dB | Impedance: 47 Ohms | Weight: 6.7 ounces (190 g) | Detachable cable: No

How ATH-M20X performs compared to other M-series headphones

Unlike newer models, the M20X, like the M30X, has a higher impedance. It then must be combined with a medium to high power amplifier capable of producing adequate power to be used at its potential.

The M20X weighs only 190 grams, making it the lightest studio headset in the M-Series. The clamping force is light and allows you to listen to music longer than regular headphones and other ATH-M headphones.

ATH-M20X vs M40X and M50X

In terms of sound, the acoustic response of M20X is relatively flat. Compared to M50X, it has a flatter mid-range to monitor vocals and instruments. The highs roll off early in the M20X, leaving high notes without any harshness. On the other hand, this results in a lack of transparency and clarity.

In terms of volume output, the M20X can deliver good volume but has a lower SPL than M50X and M40X. Its impedance is also higher; thus, you can expect a quieter music playback and an inadequate headphone for smartphones or laptops.

The bass is not well-balanced, and the sub-bass is not as powerful as the M50X, while the highs don’t have the great extension of the M40X. Still, they are also not as piercing as the M50X’s 6 dB peak at 4000 Hz.

The sound is clear and detailed enough all the way to the treble, and for some, it’s a bit bland or lacking, but it has enough detail on the instruments and is a good, inexpensive studio headphone.

As with the M40X and M50X, the Audio-Technica ATH-M20X earpads are thin and not the most comfortable. It is better to replace them with a pair of thick leather earpads.

Who is the ATH-M20X for

The M20X is best for amateur projects, small organizations, hobbyists, or anyone who wants to dip their toes into the world of music recording. Considering the ergonomics, construction materials, and strength, it’s great for everyday use, especially if you are inexperienced with studio headphones.

In professional studios, they can be used for hours without any problems, thanks to their high comfort level. But for music production: recording, tracking, and post-production sound, it’s a different story. The M20X are best suited for occasional home recording or as additional closed studio headphones for an aspiring musician—if you’re just starting out.

Advantages

  • Extremely comfortable
  • Affordable and good value
  • Above average sound isolation
  • Long 10 feet (ca. 3 m) cable
  • Similar build quality as top-end models in the M-series (M50X, M40X)

Disadvantages

  • Decent clarity and low bass quantity
  • Not portable since they don’t swivel and fold
  • The packaging is the least attractive of all (only a 1/4” (6.3 mm) snap-on adapter is included).
  • Requires a medium-power headphone amplifier
  • Fixed cable

Audio-Technica ATH-M30X

Audio-Technica’s M30X is the second most affordable professional studio headphone in the M series and is intended for casual music listening and music production. Its specifications are nearly identical to the M20X, but it delivers a much better sound response and excellent recording performance, making it an ideal choice for budget customers.

Specifications

Headphone type: Closed studio headphones | Driver size: 1.6″ (40 mm) | Driver type: Dynamic | Frequency range: 15 Hz – 22,000 Hz | Maximum input power: 1,300 mW at 1 kHz | Sensitivity: 96 dB | Impedance: 47 Ohms | Weight: 7.7 ounces (220 g) | Detachable cable: No

How ATH-M30X performs compared to other M-series headphones

ATH-M30X is an entry-level closed-back studio headphone, and it’s one of Audio Technica’s mid-range headphones. ATH-M30X is an almost identical version of the ATH-M20X. Likewise, the M30X is a studio headphone for amateurs and home use and shouldn’t be used for critical listening.

ATH-M30X vs ATH-M20X

Right from the start, the main similarities between the M30X and the M20X are driver size, sensitivity, impedance, and fixed cable. The M30X has a slightly more generous packaging, but the sound quality is its most impressive feature.

The M30X plays with much more detail and clarity than the M20X. In addition, it also has a more linear sound response, but with a slight treble peak around 6 kHz, resembling that of more expensive M-series headphones.

Despite the flat sound response curve, the M30X doesn’t play music with much detail and clarity. The low tones are somewhat muffled, and the bass isn’t that tight. The bass is tighter than the M20X, but people initially think the bass is too tight; however, if you listen closely, you’ll realize that the bass lacks detail.

ATH-M30X vs M40X

The M30X is an extraordinary closed-back studio headphone and can be compared to the M40X. Both are reliable choices in the M-series. In terms of sound tuning, the M40X is more suitable for recording than the M50X due to its more linear and smooth sound reproduction.

The M30X, on the other hand, is just as smooth and neutral as the M40X, if not more so. It may struggle to get enough volume without equal power, but the bass response of the M30X is even less pronounced than the M40X.

Unlike the M40X, the ATH-M30X has a slight 6 dB rise, as does the M50X in the 5 – 8 kHz range. From the lower end of the sound spectrum to 4-5 kHz, the M30X shows exemplary linearity.

ATH-M30X vs M60X

Instead of comparing the ATH-M30X to the ATH-M50X, a comparison with the ATH-M60X makes more sense, despite the threefold difference in price and design. The Audio-Technica ATH-M30X is a budget over-ear studio headphone, while the M60X is a high-end on-ear monitor headphone. Yet they share more characteristics than the other M Series studio headphones.

All the other M Series headphones are heavier than the M20X and M30X, except for the M60X, which weighs 201 grams compared to 220 grams for the M30X. The M30X is slightly heavier, less comfortable, and more difficult to drive than the M60X. But it is also three times less expensive.

Sound-wise, the M30X is similar to the M60X, with slight variations. Its drivers are larger (45 mm vs. 40 mm), are capable of reproducing much higher notes, and the sub-bass is more present. The ATH-M60X is the most appropriate choice for critical listening and recording. It has a sharp, detailed, and accurate sound reproduction, but for casual music listening and voice recording, the ATH M30X sounds more lively.

ATH-M30X vs M70X

The M30X can fold but not rotate, while the M70X can rotate its ear cups. The M30X is lighter but has more clamping force. It is also smaller than the M70X, making it a poor choice for people with larger heads.

Aside from the ergonomic differences, both studio headphones are well-built and studio-ready. The M70X is more robust but more inconvenient to transport (it comes with a large, sturdy carrying case). At the same time, the M30X has tight bass, less clarity, and poor sound extension, which is not suitable for professional studio work.

The M30X, unlike the M70X, is not as versatile and ready to be equalized as you like without any distortion. Nevertheless, the M30X is more exciting than the M70X, but not as much as the M50X.

Who is the ATH-M30X for

The M30X is aimed at enthusiasts who record or listen to audio content and expect decent results. It has a flat sonic response and a discrete lower range, but it’s certainly not as clear and detailed as the M50X.

As a sub-$100 studio headphone, the Audio-Technica ATH-M30X offers decent results. It is adequate for many applications such as recording, video editing, monitoring, instrument tracking, and music listening for those who like a clean representation of music. However, it should not be used as a critical listening device or for professional purposes.

Advantages

  • Excellent linearity across the whole audio spectrum
  • Can fold for easier carrying
  • Can receive more power than ATH-M20X (1,300 mW at 1 kHz)
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • It is versatile and offers great potential for EQ
  • Great soundstage representation

Disadvantages

  • The cable is not detachable
  • The ear cups cannot rotate 90 degrees
  • Sub-bass is barely felt
  • They’re not as musical as other M-series headphones
  • Music listening is dull for casual listeners
  • No hard case included, only a soft pouch.
  • Requires amplification, just as the ATH-M20X

Audio-Technica ATH-M40X

The M40X is a classic studio headphone with a closed-back design. It is affordable and offers the ultimate value for money for music producers. It’s less expensive than the M50X and provides a more accurate and consistent sound response to monitor your recording.

Specifications

Headphone type: Closed studio headphones | Driver size: 1.6″ (40 mm) | Driver type: Dynamic | Frequency range: 15 Hz – 24,000 Hz | Maximum input power: 1,600 mW at 1 kHz | Sensitivity: 98 dB | Impedance: 35 Ohms | Weight: 8.5 ounces (240 g) | Detachable cable: Yes

How ATH-M40X performs compared to other M-series headphones

ATH-M40X vs M50X

The Audio-Technica ATH-M40X is the second-best closed-back studio headphone in the series and offers fantastic acoustic characteristics needed for recording and monitoring. It has a balanced and neutral signature, low distortion, good power handling, and is not as colorful as the M50X. Unlike the M40X, the M50X offers an increased comfort level and more robust construction.

Apart from the difference in comfort, the M40X is better suited for professional use than the M50X. If the wearing comfort of the M40X wasn’t slightly reduced, it would have been the perfect recording headphones for professional music producers. As such, you can still use the M40X as reference monitoring headphones, but not for long recording sessions or if you have a big head.

ATH-M40X vs M70X

Both of these headphones (M40X and M70X) have exemplary linearity, but the M40X has a less consistent bass response, while the M70X has a more aggressive treble response. The M40X and M70X are superb for use in the recording studio, as they provide consistent sound reproduction good sound isolation and do not significantly color the sound at all.

The M40X has smaller drivers with similar output volume but weaker sub-bass. However, the difference is not noticeable, and the M70X’s harsh, analytical sound response makes the M40X easier to listen to when recording music.

Lastly, the M40X lacks the detail and low sound distortion of the M70X, but for a closed-back studio headphone that costs one-third as much, the M40X stands out as an excellent budget recording headphone.

Who is the ATH-M40X for

The Audio-Technica ATH-M40X is a fantastic recording studio headphone for short recording sessions or final checks. It’s a great budget headphone for producing and listening to music.

It doesn’t sound as vibrant and lively as the ATH-M50X to make listening to music a fun experience. Still, it’s a professional piece of audio equipment that offers an analytical and detailed sound response to reveal any imperfections in your recordings.

I recommend the ATH-M40X to professional music producers, sound engineers, and home studio owners who have experience in music production.

Advantages

  • Detachable cables
  • Package includes multiple cables (1.2 to 3.0 m coiled cable & 3.0 straight cable)
  • Can receive a lot of power and is much easier to drive compared to M20X and M30X
  • Studio-grade sound reproduction with good recording performance
  • Lightweight and comfortable for a few hours
  • Flexible and versatile with good ergonomics (can adjust, fold and rotate)

Disadvantages

  • No hard case included, only a soft pouch.
  • Smaller than M50X and uncomfortable for people with larger heads
  • Less comfortable than previous M-series headphones

Audio-Technica ATH-M50X

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50X is the most popular and hyped studio headphone in the M series. It is a mid-range closed-back headphone that costs about $150. It has good overall sound and provides a good amount of bass due to the large 45 mm driver. However, many reports show that the bass is too much and not suitable for recording music.

Specifications

Headphone type: Closed studio headphones | Driver size: 1.77″ (45 mm) | Driver type: Dynamic | Frequency range: 15 Hz – 28,000 Hz | Maximum input power: 1,600 mW at 1 kHz | Sensitivity: 99 dB | Impedance: 38 Ohms | Weight: 9.9 ounces (240 g) | Detachable cable: Yes

How ATH-M50X performs compared to other M-series headphones

The Audio-Technica ATh-M50X is an upgrade of the classic Audio-Technica M50 with a more comfortable headband and earpads for longer recording sessions, better sound reproduction, and detachable cables. Moreover, it is the mid-range model of the M series and is only comparable to the M40X and M70X.

Due to its growing popularity, the ATH-M50X headphones are also available in various colors: Black, Gunmetal, White, Metallic Orange, Limited Edition Purple, and many more. Studio headphones don’t have to be color specific. Still, consumers choose the M50X over Beats headphones because they offer engaging, superior music playback and can pick the look that suits their style.

ATH-M50X vs M40X

To not repeat the same points here, check out the above section to see how M50X performs compared to M40X.

ATH-M50X vs M70X

Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50X and M70X have qualities that recording professionals and musicians need: high-quality craftsmanship, comfort, and versatility. They share some key features, but the M70X is the better monitoring headphone of the two in many ways.

The M50X has versatile sound reproduction with low distortion, almost like the M70X. It can be equalized without distorting the sound and has good sonic extension in the upper audio spectrum.

However, the ATH-M70X offers a broader frequency range with deeper bass, granular audio reproduction, more refined bass, even lower sound distortion, and an analytical sound signature.

Who is the ATH-M50X for

The M50X is advertised as a professional studio headphone, but it’s more on the consumer side with its closed-back design, vibrant and rumbling bass, and multiple appearances to choose from. In addition, the headphones are versatile and come with three detachable cables for numerous tasks. You can use them to edit YouTube videos, listen to music with the short cable, record voice-overs in the studio, or make podcasts.

Advantages

  • Great packaging (three cables, hard carrying case, adapters)
  • Detachable cable
  • Available in different styles
  • Lively and enjoyable sound reproduction
  • Excellent for voice recording, voice-overs, and podcasts
  • Well-built and sturdier than older M-series headphones

Disadvantages

  • No hard case included, only a soft pouch.
  • Sharp mid-treble
  • Does not offer the best recording performance for the price
  • Heaviest headphones in the M-series

Audio-Technica ATH-M60X

The Audio-Technica ATH-M60X is the most distinguishing studio headphone in the series, featuring an on-ear design and extraordinary audio performance.

In terms of overall quality and sound reproduction, it ranks right up there with the M70X and M40X. It’s not as warm and colorful even with the same drivers as the M50X. In fact, the M60X has an analytical sound that is great for in-studio applications.

Specifications

Headphone type: Closed on-ear studio headphones | Driver size: 1.77″ (45 mm) | Driver type: Dynamic | Frequency range: 15 Hz – 28,000 Hz | Maximum input power: 1,600 mW at 1 kHz | Sensitivity: 102 dB | Impedance: 38 Ohms | Weight: 7.1 ounces (201 g) | Detachable cable: Yes

How ATH-M60X performs compared to other M-series headphones

Unlike most of Audio-Technica’s M Series headphones, the M60X is an on-ear studio headphone instead of an over-ear headphone. This design change results in different acoustic properties and increased comfort.

On-ear vs over-ear studio headphones

The M60X offers medium sound isolation and a bright, analytical sound signature. Users benefit from incredible comfort and the highest sensitivity of any M Series studio headphones.

The problem with the Audio-Technica ATH-M60X is that changing the ear cushions alters the sound response, whereas, in the M-series over-ear headphones, the impact is not as severe.

Another issue with the ATH-M60X studio on-ear headphones is the lack of a swivel and folding mechanism; thus, they aren’t excellent DJing headphones.

Who is the ATH-M60X for?

The M60X is a fantastic on-ear monitor headphone for work-related applications: music recording, field monitoring, and mobile use. You can monitor tracks on a laptop, listen to music on your smartphone casually, or do critical listening.

Advantages

  • Great packaging (three cables, hard carrying case, adapters)
  • Detachable cable
  • Features the same drivers as M50X
  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Portable even if they don’t fold
  • Sturdy metal head slider
  • Fantastic soundstage

Disadvantages

  • Cannot swivel or fold
  • Stock ear pads are thin
  • Changing the ear pads affects the sound response
  • Low passive noise insulation

Audio-Technica ATH-M70X

The M70X is the best performing professional studio headphone in the M-series. It offers an analytical sound response with a grainy tone and a balanced sound signature for music recording, which is impressive in a closed-back studio headphone. They’re clearly the best recording headphone for audio engineers.

If you thought the M40X was linear and flat, the M70X is flatter and offers even more clarity and definition. It exposes every sonic artifact from the recording, from subtle details to digital glitches.

Specifications

Headphone type: Closed studio headphones | Driver size: 1.77″ (45 mm) | Driver type: Dynamic | Frequency range: 5 Hz – 40,000 Hz | Maximum input power: 2,000 mW at 1 kHz | Sensitivity: 97 dB | Impedance: 35 Ohms | Weight: 9.9 ounces (280 g) | Detachable cable: Yes

How ATH-M70X performs compared to other M-series headphones

Audio-Technica ATH-M70X is the high-end studio headphone of the series, featuring a precise, clear, and balanced frequency response with a wide reproducible frequency range.

ATH-M70x is the only truly professional studio headphone that offers an excellent sound response for studio applications among all the M-Series headphones.

The newest headphones in the lineup aren’t always the best performers, as was the case with the M50X and M40X. Nonetheless, the ATH-M70X is up to any recording task and, thanks to its workmanship, is sure to survive for years to come.

Who is the ATH-M70X for

The M70X is the best of the M series for those who produce music professionally. It offers detailed and accurate sound reproduction with a balanced sound signature, capable of revealing subtle notes, mistakes, and flaws in the recording. Instrument tracking, voice recording, post-production and sound design are all possible thanks to the clarity of the sound.

Listening to music is not as important for professionals. So, when it comes to enjoying your music, the M70X isn’t so musical. Here it’s best to go with the M50X, which offers a warmer, more realistic sound and makes listening easier while not sacrificing audio accuracy. The M70X is a bit too dull and analytical for everyday listening.

Advantages

  • Great packaging (three cables, hard carrying case, adapters)
  • Detachable cable
  • Neutral/analytical sound signature for music production
  • Versatile headphones that can be used for a plethora of professional tasks
  • Low total harmonic distortion
  • Fantastic manufacturing quality

Disadvantages

  • Average noise reduction for over-ear headphones
  • Excellent recording performance, but not as cost-effective as the M40X
  • Inadequate sound reproduction for recreational music listening
  • Doesn’t resemble the M50X in terms of vibrancy and punch

Conclusion

The six studio headphones in the “M” line are diverse and focus on studio-grade sound quality. With their wide range of features and distinct sound signature profiles, Audio-Technica’s M Series headphones are extremely flexible and have no shortage of options to meet your specific needs. Each ATH-M studio headphone offers different levels of value, but more importantly, each model is designed to excel in a particular way.

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