Audio-Technica has long ago justified its claim to a higher standing in the audio equipment industry than most manufacturers could ever hope to achieve. The company is pushing the ATH-M20x and the entire M line as an affordable audio solution, a credit to the company and the flagship of the industry, or more specifically, the studio monitoring equipment industry. The M20x is marketed as a classically designed mixing and tracking choice, which does justice to lower frequencies and catches excellent detail effortlessly. It is these main features that we’ll be addressing in our review, with some allowance for the intriguingly low price of this smallest of all M-line headphones.
Whichever way the scale tilts, it’s good to keep in mind that the M series is a favourite with musicians and music enthusiasts, and the M20x would have to go a long way to taint its reputation.
Build Quality & Design
The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x is an entry-level professional closed-back headset with ear cups that swivel back and forth on plastic brackets extending over a click-free slide that adjusts the length of the headband smoothly. The headset is flexible enough to allow you to wear one ear cup at a time, in typical DJ fashion, while the other one rests comfortably behind the ear.
The ear cups are cushioned, and the soft pads cover just enough of the surface of the ear to cancel out any outside noise passively, meaning that you’ll be able to anticipate your high hats and booming basses when you’re spinning your records. The ear cups tilt to a 15 degree angle with a circumaural design that guarantees optimum noise isolation, perfect for mixing and studio use.
The headband padding is made of protein leather, a synthetic blend used mostly on car seats and other high-friction areas for its durability. There are slides either side to adjust the size of the headset, and the metal slides click into place to let you know they’re fastened evenly. The ear cups continue with a double sided cable that terminates with a straight plug with a 3.5 mm pin.
Much like the rest of the M line, the M20x only comes in black, which only serves to point out that it means business.
Overall, Audio-Technica ATH-M20x has a full-bodied sound over an extensive treble spectrum ranging from 15 to 20,000 Hz, which is excellent at picking up the finer details, although it seems to focus on the vocals too much. The sound is smooth, but it doesn’t do justice to some audio files. These headphones are closed, but they’re not intended for noise isolation in crowded, loud places, so they’re not ideal for a commute. Even though they play remarkably well on portable devices, they work just as well, if not better, with amplifiers. With an impedance of 47 Ohm, it would be hard to expect anything else.
They’re studio, professional grade headphones, and they should be judged on their merits to deliver detail for classical, jazz, electronic and acoustic music, which resonates splendidly. Bass extension and clarity are not to be overlooked. They are, by most accounts, flawless. Everyone and their uncle agrees that the ATH-M20x puts sibilant highs to rest and several Bose and Sennheiser headphones to shame, especially when the price is factored in. Tuned to low frequency sound, it’s particularly bass that the ATH-M20x excels in, and audio engineers to ATH enthusiasts agree that this is a good headset for on-the-go and studio use alike.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x is presented to you in a cardboard box, which is spacious and practical, yet perhaps not suitable for carrying this type of professional equipment. A hard case or a zippered, cushioned case would have been more appropriate. Inside the box you’ll find a 6.3 mm snap-on adapter to fasten to your 3m cable, which exits from the left ear cup. The adapter will serve your home stereo or pro gear well.
Unlike the ATH-M20 before it, the M20x features a straight cable, not a coiled one. Slightly concerning is the fact that the cable is not interchangeable, unlike you see with the M40x and M50x, meaning that a broken cable automatically calls for repair services; not to mention the fact that you’ll have to figure out a way to shorten or extend the cable by yourself if it’s not the right size for you.
Beneath the robust ear cup casing lies a neodymium magnet, the industry standard. The 40 mm Neomydium drivers are coupled with aluminium wire voice coils in copper coating to produce low-frequency sound reproduction. The headset does not feature a microphone, unfortunately. The whole pack weighs no more than 200 g, cable and connector included, which again is a great improvement over the 320 g weight of its predecessor. Another aspect in its favour is the fact that it comes with a 2-year warranty, meaning that they don’t need to be handled gingerly.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that the ATH-M20x are the best professional headphones money can buy for under $50. They may be no-frills, entry-level type of professional monitor headphones, but they are by no means inferior to their M-series counterparts, when it comes to value for money. In fact, with the M20x, you have the best of both worlds: a rich, vibrant sound isolated from outside noise and oblivious to any microphones and speakers around it, and a price tag too small to mention. DJs, audio engineers and music enthusiasts alike would do well to have a pair of these, if not for constant use at the studio or home, then at least as a backup when other headphones break down. With a 2-year warranty, the ATH-M20x would serve them well.
|Frequency Response||15-20.000 Hz|
|Driver Size||40 mm|
|Maximum Input Power||700 mW|
|Earcup Swivel||15° Both Directions|