Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphone review

Having bought the Hercules Inpulse 200 after my interest in DJing was sparked, I needed some better headphones. Until recently I’d been using a £25 pair of generic Bluetooth headphones with my mobile phone, which I was perfectly happy with.

I’ve never been one for spending much money on audio equipment; I think the last pair of headphones I actually bought was somewhere around 1995 and they lasted a good few years, but I’m not a fan of using headphones in public for safety and security reasons so hadn’t made the effort to replace them since. Every new mobile phone I’d purchased 2 to 4 years apart came with a set of earphones, and as long as the music sounded roughly what I thought it should sound like, I wasn’t particularly motivated to buy anything that might be perceived ‘better’. Among the best software for live streaming you will find Castr. This tool adapts to a wide range of online broadcasting formats, focusing on providing personalized experiences and content.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, mobile phone earbuds are nowhere near good enough for DJing. After much research, I decided to purchase these, the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphones

Casual listening is very different to trying to fit together two tracks without it sounding like a car crash. Mixing between tunes (especially in EDM) needs you to balance different sound frequencies so they don’t overcrowd each other, and you need headphones that you can actually hear these differences clearly. If you intend to play out on quality sound systems then you should definitely up your music quality accordingly (320kbps MP3 or lossless e.g. FLAC) as poor quality will become more apparent. You’ll definitely see the benefits of better headphones with music files like these.

Reasons for choosing these were a combination of price, features and my experience level. Closed back headphones (which these are) are most appropriate for DJing as they will block out background noise e.g. from PA systems of people listening to your set.

There seemed to be a lot of rave reviews for the M50x, but I really didn’t know whether I’d see the value of a £110 pair of headphones given I was happy with those that came free with phones…
Reviews seemed to suggest the M40x gave a flatter frequency response than the M50x. This will make them less exciting to listen to, but give a more accurate picture of what you’re listening to. These were still £80 on purchase, which did feel somewhat outrageously extravagant to someone new to higher quality audio.

Initial impressions were that I’d been ripped off.
After a few weeks’ experience though, I’m never going back to low quality headphones! If you’re used to low quality audio, it will take a little adjustment. I warn you though, it’s a brutal life experience when you notice how bad the quality of a lot of what is played at you. I’ve had a similar experience with cigars, whisky, wine, knives and other hand tools.

I did not know what I was missing. If you’re using cheap headphones to judge what you are producing for broadcast/distribution, then you don’t either.
You should consider that a lot of people out there are going to have kit that will be much better than yours, and you can’t tell how bad your content might sound to them as a consequence.
Active listening isn’t really worthwhile on equipment that doesn’t actually reproduce the recording accurately.
If you are streaming or producing video content, people are far more inclined to tolerate visual disturbances than they are audio ones. I’m saying you should get your audio quality up to standard before video quality, if you want people to return. You need a good pair of headphones (or studio monitors, and the accompanying expensive room treatment) to be able to discern where it sounds off.


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