Japanese specialist headphone manufacturer Audio Technica may be best known for its excellent ATH-M50X headphones, which are considered to be the best monitor headphones under Rs 10,000. However, the company has many more options available, with varying styles and sonic signatures, along with all kinds of fit options including in-ear, on-ear and over-ear. Also Read - Happy Father's Day 2021: Last-minute gift ideas if you have forgotten to get a present for your dadAlso Read - Audio-Technica announces true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation at CES 2020; Price, features
With the new E-series, Audio Technica hopes to bring its reputation and capabilities with monitor headphones to the in-ear segment. With prices starting at Rs 7,999, this range offers monitor-grade audio for use by sound professionals and in studios. Today, I m reviewing the most affordable product in the E-series, the Audio Technica ATH-E40. Does this pair of monitor in-ears have what it takes to live up to the standards set by the ATH-M50X? Let s find out. Also Read - Audio Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC40BT Headphones Review: Silence, please
Audio Technica ATH-E40 Design and Specifications
While most in-ear headphones tend to feature a more compact design to keep the headset light and easy to store and use, the ATH-E40 is anything but compact. Although the earbuds themselves are small and sit inside your ear canal, the portion of the casing that remains outside is large and bulky. This therefore necessitates the flexible ear hook, which keeps the headphones in place during use. The casings are also detachable at the ear hooks.
The ear-casings are entirely plastic, but have an interesting transparent window on the outer side that gives you a glimpse of some of the circuitry inside. Although what you see inside is no different from what is on a typical circuit-board, it s still an interesting approach to design. The windows have a small Audio Technica logo on them that s easy to miss unless you re looking at it up close, but apart from this, the headphones come across as functional rather than aesthetically inclined.
The rest of the 1.6m cable is a rubber-coated affair, with two separated lines for each audio channel. Since these headphones are meant for professional use, there s no microphone for hands-free calling. Naturally, the headphones are small and affordable enough to be used by consumers even outside the studio, and Audio Technica does hope to make the ATH-E40 into the in-ear equivalent of the ATH-M50X that started out for the studio but eventually became a consumer favourite.
The Audio Technica ATH-E40 features dynamic drivers, and has a frequency response range of 20-20,000Hz. Sensitivity is rated at 107dB, while impedance is a relatively low 12Ohms. Connectivity is through the standard 3.5mm connector pin, and the sales package also includes a fabric hard carry case, four pairs of ear tips and a 6.3mm pin adapter.
Audio Technica ATH-E40 Performance
I tested the Audio Technica ATH-E40 headphones using my OnePlus 3, the Astell & Kern AK300 high-resolution audio player and a Windows laptop. Focus tracks for the review were Astor Piazzolla s Suite Punta del Este, Maroon 5 s Sugar and Nucleya s Street Boy.
Starting with Suite Punta del Este, I was immediately treated to a head-filling rendition of this classic track which inspired the Twelve Monkeys theme. What immediately struck me was the quality of the timbre in the cello, which almost fooled me into thinking I was listening to this live. Every aspect of the track felt real and alive, giving me a true sense of passion for the track. The quality of the combination of equipment made me feel every part of the track, and closing my eyes almost made me live the experience, as if it was the soundtrack to my own life.
Although this was a combination of a Rs 1.5 lakh audio player, a very high-quality uncompressed DSD file and the ATH-E40 headphones themselves, the headphones certainly did their part in keeping up with whatever the rest of the set threw at them. The neutrality and tonality of the headphones is unmatched at this price, and indeed puts in-ear headphones that cost far more than this to shame. It s a clean, immersive sound that was enjoyable to listen to from the minute I first used the E40.
Moving on to the much more peppy (and considerably less moving) Sugar, the ATH-E40 retains all of its neutrality, but doesn t let responses suffer. Bass feels tight and present, the mid-range resonates strongly, and the high-end sparkles just enough to remind you it s there. At no point did I ever feel that the sonic abilities of the headphones suffered as a result of one part of the frequency range receiving more attention, and this is truly the way a neutral pair of headphones should sound.
With Street Boy, I switched over to the compressed mp3 format on my smartphone, and there was immediately a noticeable difference in sound quality. While it sounded great nonetheless, there was a definite difference thanks to the use of lower-end equipment, which led me to the conclusion that in true in-ear monitor fashion, the Audio Technica ATH-E40 brings out the weaknesses in your audio just as easily as it highlights the strengths. These are true monitors that do exactly as they re supposed to, but that also makes them a bit unsuited for everyday use, because of the tendency to bring out the flaws in your audio tracks. This isn t a fault of the headphones themselves, but rather a downside of good monitors.
The Audio Technica ATH-E40 is one of the few headphones that deserve to be called monitor-grade. This is thanks to a level of neutrality and tonality that is difficult to match at this price, and the headphones indeed come across as the in-ear version of the popular Audio Technica ATH-M50X headphones. While options such as the Shure SE215 might be tempting alternatives, it s fair to say that the ATH-E40 is certainly well worth the money.
The only flaw with these headphones is not a flaw in itself; the headphones are so good at monitoring, that they will bring out the faults in compressed music. That s not to say they sound bad, but just that they sound best when used with good equipment and audio. Additionally, they may come across as average to look at, and the complicated fit may be bothersome to some. However, if you are used to using high-quality audio tracks and equipment, and want a pair of headphones that are neutral through the range, the ATH-E40 is, tonally speaking, the best pair of in-ear headphones you can buy at under Rs 10,000.