If you’ve ever shopped for a great set of headphones between $100 and $200, you were probably at your wit’s end at some point. Between these two price points, there exists a wealth of headphones. Some are nearly identical while others are in a class all their own. But two of the most popular – the M40x ($99) and the M50x ($169) (both from Audio Technica) – offer some deceptive similarities as well as polarizing differences. Which one is better? Behold! the comparison review!
Audio Technica M40x vs Audio Technica M50x
Either headphone will impress in terms of build quality and design. Featuring some heavy-duty plastic with an aluminum headband and aluminum extenders, the overall robust feel can’t be denied. They also come with some impressive cables – the M50x with a short straight cable, a long straight cable, and a long coiled cable, and the M40x including the last two, but omitting the first.
The cups and the headband utilize a soft pleather, leading to decent comfort and great noise-isolation. Both the earcups and the cable on either model is replaceable. On the M40x, the cups swivel 90 degrees. On the M50x, the cups swivel 180 degrees.
Side by side, they look almost indistinguishable, though the M50x might give off a slightly classier or slightly more robust vibe. Just below the extenders on the left and right earcups, there are some fancy left- and right-indicators that have the appearance of burnished steel. The sides of the cups are also different; on the M50x, there’s a silver ring around an engraved Audio Technica logo. The M40x, by comparison, features a smaller silver ring that forms part of the Audio Technica logo itself.
Comfort-wise, too, these headphones are more alike than they are dissimilar. Both feel pretty tight on the head straight outta the box, but both also tend to “break in” for most users, leading to comfortable experience a little later.
Under the hood, the M40x seems less impressive, spec-wise. With a low impedance of just 35 ohms and a frequency range of 15-24000 hertz, it would seem to play second-fiddle the beefier, meatier M50x, which sports a similar impedance of 38 oms, but with a larger frequency range of 15-28000 hertz. The driver size is also different between the two models: the M40x has a 40mm driver and the M50x has a 45mm driver.
What does 5mm of extra driver get you? A fairly different sound, it would seem. Because here we start to see a greater divergence between the two models.
The M40x is a little more relaxed in the sound department, with a more neutral sound that is not unimpressive for a headphone at this price. Mids and highs seem to get the same amount of attention as the bass does, which is refreshing to say the least – especially when stacked up against all the Beats-like alternatives that crowd the headphone landscape.
The M50x, by comparison, is a bit more substantial in the low end, giving you the impression that it might be just the little bit bassy. Whether or not this is too bassy for most critical listening situations is up for debate, but our money is on “No.” But more demanding ears may prefer the cheaper M40x.
It’s important to note here that the bass in the M50x isn’t necessarily over-emphasized, but has just a little more “oomph” in it, courtesy of that slightly larger driver, no doubt.
In the end, which is the better headphone? For everyday musical applications, I like to recommend the M50x because for $169 the sound can’t be beaten. It’s at once accurate and moving, and it won’t break your bank like some other headphones.
However, for those who prefer a cleaner, more exacting sound, the M40x may be of more interest, but we still recommend you do a side-by-side comparison to let your ears decide.