Audio-Technica is one of our (and rest of the world’s) favorite headphone manufacturers with many solid models in their portfolio. The wildly popular ATH-M50x seems to be omnipresent both in studios and on streets, yet the entry level M20x in some ways beat them. Perhaps the ATH-M20x deserves to be more popular?

Pros
  • One of the most neutral sounding closed backs out there
  • Great value

Pros list with Sonarworks Reference calibration

  • Improved sub-bass extension
  • The mid-range dips and high frequency boost ironed out
Cons
  • No detachable cable
  • Comfort could be better
Use cases Best use case:
Tracking
Production
Mixing
Tech specs Type
Closed back, Over-ear
Impedance
47 Ohm
Frequency response
15 Hz to 20 kHz
Connector
3.5 mm stereo jack
Adapter
Click on 6.3 mm adapter
Weight
190 g (without cable)
Require headphone amp
No
Build quality

M20x are very light — just 190 grams without cable. This is achieved by using lightweight plastic throughout the build, the only visible metal parts are the headband adjustment rails. The cable is not detachable, which is common in this price range, yet Monoprice manages to incorporate this in headphones that cost less than half of ATH-M20x price. Headband is very good though, as are ear pads, which feel not that different from the ones you’ll find on pricier M series headphones. Despite the abundant use of plastic M20x give an impression that they’ll withstand some beating. It’s a shame the cable that connects left and right ear cup before entering the headband, leaves a tiny fragment of cable exposed, which is a potential point of failure.

Sound

Audio-Technica have done an outstanding job tuning the M20x! At the time of writing these are among top 7 closed back headphones we have measured when it comes to neutral frequency response, and by far the most affordable of the bunch! This makes them a terrific choice for computer-less setups where Sonarworks Reference calibration is not available. The high-mid cut and high frequency boost is a common trait for most headphones, yet M20x’s are positively conservative in this regard cutting and boosting only 5 dB respectively. The low end is almost flat down to 60 Hz, sadly they don’t extend lower, but that’s where calibration comes in to help.

Channel balance

On average channels are tightly matched and any deviations in the low end are extremely rare. While inconsistencies above 5 kHz are more frequent, they’re still minuscule and don’t skew the perceived stereo image. M20x blows M50x out of the water in this regard.

Comfort

For the price, comfort is adequate, but don’t expect to work with them all night without any issues. Both headband and ear pads at first feel great but after an hour or so a short break is needed.

Value

We’re talking about a very impressive frequency response at a price of about  ‎50. This is a very serious tool for a very affordable price. Value is superb!

Observations on how headphones perform after applying Sonarworks Reference calibration Total Harmonic Distortion

Looking at the graph, below 45 Hz you’ll find some relatively harmless 2nd harmonic distortion which in real world applications isn’t obtrusive. Same with the abrupt THD spike at 5 kHz. When it comes to THD, M20x outperform the more expensive M40x but are not as good as M50x and M30x. Obviously these are not the cleanest headphones out there but harmonic distortion produces no audible artifacts and will not hold you back from crafting high quality mixes, especially if you’re using them calibrated.

 

How accurate and consistent is the correction effect among different listeners?

The perceived acoustic power frequency response for ATH-M20x will be nearly identical to any listener, this means that calibration as well will deliver highly accurate sound to everyone.

How much do they differ pair to pair in terms of frequency response?

Manufacturing consistency is good and deviating pairs are rare. There’s a great chance that model average profile will yield very accurate calibration for any pair.

Rating

6.8 / 8.3 / 9

Sound rating is a weighted average of Frequency Response, Adaptiveness, Harmonic Distortion and Channel Balance scores, with Frequency Response and Adaptiveness having the greatest influence.

5 / 9 / 10

The flatter the frequency response – the higher the score. When evaluating the frequency response score with the Average calibration profile, the pair to pair consistency of the given model is taken into account – if we have measured a considerable frequency response inconsistency among multiple pairs of the given model, the score drops, as the profile loses accuracy. Individual calibration will grant perfectly flat frequency response.

8

Adaptiveness shows how capable these headphones are at delivering the same perceived frequency response to any listener. Headphones with high score will sound nearly identical to everyone.

7

Harmonic distortion – the lower the Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) figure, the higher the score. Headphones with prominent 3rd harmonic distortion above 100 Hz will score lower.

8 / 10

Channel balance – the closer to identical the frequency response of both channels, the higher the score. Individual calibration delivers perfect channel balance.

5.5

Comfort – shows if headphones can be used for long listening sessions comfortably. Every model is tested by at least a few individuals.

6

Build – evaluates how well the headphones are put together, the materials used and indicates the expected longevity. Easily replaceable (and easily available) parts will boost the score. We don’t do any stress tests and very few models are used for longer than a couple of days, so this is a fairly subjective score.

9

Value – indicates the price-performance ratio of the given headphones and how they stack up against the competition. High score means that you won’t find more neutral sounding alternatives for the price.

Conclusion

ATH-M20x are very natural sounding closed backs fit for mixing and tracking work and pack a considerable bang for your buck. For genres that don’t require surgical precision in sub bass region, M20x is arguably a better choice than M50x when it comes to studio work. 

Final Rating

8.1
With Sonarworks Reference 4
Calibration Enabled
6.8
Without Sonarworks
Calibration

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