So I was able to get hold of Audio-Technica M40X and M50X as offered by Stefan Abad who seems quite eager to get a BRI out of these babies, which I guess can’t be in better timing. You see, there has been a lot of comparison made between these 2 monitors from Audio-Technica, and I really can’t blame anyone for doing so. These two are quite very identical save from very few aesthetic details, however, in terms of sound they are nowhere close. Yes they are made by just one brand, and somehow one would think that M50X might just be a better iteration of the M40X, probably just have better details or clarity or probably wider frequency range. However, that is not the case for these two babies.
These are actually good cans, considering the build but the bigger question to answer is, which one is better, be it in build, sound or any other technical aspect. Let’s go ahead and find out then.
As mentioned earlier, these two are identical. Actually, they are almost identical; yes they both sport similar headband and ear pads but once thing you will immediately notice is the design on the cups. To make it easier to identify from afar, the M40X has a smaller silver ring while the M50X has a bigger one. Als0, the M40X has the logo finished in silver while the M50X has the ATH logo etched on the cup, uncolored. That should make it easier to identify which is which in case you have both.
M50X also has better articulation, as the cups of M40X can only swivel frontwise (90 degrees). M50X can swivel front and back (180 degrees), giving it a more pliable movement.
A few more differences on the build can be seen on the specifications below:
The caveat on the build that I have noticed so far (which I think is general with ATH cans) is the pleather bands and pads. I have seen it quite prone to scuffing, and it shouldn’t really be an issue with the pads as it is easily replaceable (there’s the Brainwavz HM-5 pads available in the market which I think is the most ideal) but the headband is the bigger issue as you will be hard pressed to fine a replacement for such. I can see 2 screws on either sides of the headband, but thing is I have seen none yet who sells a replacement. This is the area which Audio-Technica should improve on considering that there are other cans in the market of the same price range but has a significantly better materials.
As I have mentioned, almost identical when it comes to build. Sound, however, is a different story as discussed on the next section.
So how significant is the difference between the M40X and the M50X? Pretty wide gap, I will say. Based on my initial impressions, I liked the M50X’s mids and high ranges given some consistency particularly the sparkles on the high ranges. I also liked the register of the mid bass with the M50X but the bass on M40X sounded punchier. Here’s a visual read-out as to how each fares in a frequency range chart:
Let me discuss further using some choice tracks as paired with Onkyo DP-X1/Xduoo XD-05:
Angel (Aerosmith, Permanent Vacation)
With M40X, you can feel the sub-bass and mid bass a lot punchier compared to M50X. However, I also can hear the highs a bit inconsistent with the M40X to the point of sounding a bit dark. Roll-off can be heard from around upper mids and it slowly declines with sparkles getting lesser as you go higher. As for the M50X, there is a healthier dose of highs towards the higher end but I felt a strange dip on the mid bass. Sub bass is deeper with the M40X. Steven Tyler’s voice sounds better with the M50X, so is Joe Perry’s guitars which feels to lack a bit life with M40X.
Sleepyhead Symphony (Clever Girl, No Drum And Bass In The Jazz Room)
Guitars and synthesizer sounded a bit distant using the M40X, but is lush with the M50X. Snares are better heard with the M40X though compared to M50X. Lower brass notes are quite good with M50X but seems to be rolling off with M40X.
Do I Need A Reason (D’Sound, The Very Best Of)
Somehow, I kind of enjoyed the track using the M40X over the M50X. The sub bass is much more consistent and healthy regardless if it is the mid or sub-bass. As much as the sparkles of the highs are better with the M50X, overall the track sounded way better using the M40X.
So overall, choosing between the M40X and the M50X is a matter of personal preference against the budget. M40X can be had for $77 while the M50X has a pricetag of $149 in Amazon, so that is a significant difference. For me M40X is the darker one while M50X can be a tad too bright for some. M40X sounds a bit more natural compared to M50X but it carries better details over M40X. So after a lot of debates, I would suggest that the only key to find out which better suits you is to test it for yourself and see which works for you. Personally I like the M50X better given the details, but M40X is something I won’t hesitate to consider especially with the price.
However, if one is to look for a can for the same purpose within the same vicinity of the price but has better value, I would still personally choose the Shure SRH840 ($199) as it sounded well rounded and more natural compared to either of the Audio-Technica cans (kindly refer to the previous BRI for SRH840). I think it kind of covers the quirks of both M40X and M50X in terms of sound for a small fraction of budget added. Afterall, we are getting these gears primarily for the joy of music.