The 6 Best Audio-Technica Headphones

This well-known Japanese brand has some of the best headphones on the market

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The Rundown
If Audio-Technica had a flagship pair of studio monitors, it would be the ATH-M50x headphones.
The ATH-M20x cut just enough corners to save you money, but leave enough intact to make these headphones dependable.
Bluetooth connectivity and a strong battery life make these headphones ideal for modern devices such as iPhones and tablets.
These headphones aim to achieve solid bass response without throwing the rest of the spectrum out the window.
One look at the design and it’s clear that the M70x is a seriously upgraded version of the classic M50x.
Best for Size & Mobility:
Audio Technica ATH-E40 at Amazon
The ATH-E40 in-ear monitors are where Audio-Technica's earbud game truly shines.

Audio-Technica is a brand that has been in the professional music space for quite a few years. It originally specialized in microphones and headphones with a direct focus on studio producers and working musicians. In recent years, however, Audio-Technica has further delved into the all-around consumer space, providing headphones that look great and offer sound and features to match.

But this doesn’t change the fact that the best headphones you can get from Audio-Technica right now are still those billed as “studio monitors." Take the ATH-M50x, for instance. The flat response and excellent build quality make these headphones great for mixing, but the consumer-friendly design and well-rounded sound response make them totally viable for everyday use. In this guide, we’ll break down a few of our favorite headphones from the audio giant, and the application each entry is best for.

Best Overall: Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

What We Like
  • Full, balanced sound

  • Sleek, professional design

  • Excellent build quality and accessory package

What We Don't Like
  • A tad pricey for the average listener

  • No wireless connectivity

  • Ear cups can feel small for those with larger ears

If Audio-Technica had a flagship pair of studio monitors, it would be the ATH-M50x headphones. To be clear, there are pricier options in the ATH line (take the M70xs, for instance). But at a price point of around $150, the M50s present a nice price-to-quality ratio. The black-with-silver-accents design has become synonymous with DJ headphones, but what we like about this line is that they aren’t too flashy. These headphones don’t look boring and dated like some pairs from Sony or Sennheiser, but they also aren’t obnoxious and loaded with crazy color accents, making them great for professional use.

The 15-28,000 Hz frequency response makes them ideal for those who want full coverage of the sound spectrum (and then some), and the 45mm drivers provide a good amount of power for the low end without making the ear pads obnoxiously large. The sensitivity level sits at 99 dB and the 38 ohms of resistance feels just right for most uses.

The sonic response is pretty flat, which is to be expected from studio monitors because you don’t want a lot of artificial bass boost. But, there’s just something about the way these headphones sound that also makes them friendly for the average listener. The package comes with two detachable cables (one straight, one coiled), a rigid hard-shell case, and a quarter-inch headphone adapter.

Best Budget: Audio-Technica ATH-M20x

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x
What We Like
  • Excellent value

  • Decently balanced sound

  • Fairly premium design

What We Don't Like
  • Build quality is a little cheap

  • Lack in accessories

  • Less frequency coverage than more expensive headphones

If the ATH-M50x is the go-to pair of studio monitors, then the younger sibling ATH-M20x is the ideal choice if you’re buying multiple sets of headphones. This lower-level version of the flagship cut just enough corners to save you money, but leave enough intact to make these headphones dependable. It’s why you’ll often see these headphones in a studio live room when a producer needs to outfit a whole band.

The design is similar to the M50s, but without as many silver accents. The build quality, while slightly cheaper-feeling, is still totally serviceable. Key spec sheet differences include a narrower 15–20,000 Hz frequency response and a smaller 40mm driver. This means that the headphones aren’t quite as full and nuanced as you might hope. You also won’t be getting as full of an accessory pack, and the cable does not detach (which has implications for repairability). All of these trade-offs might sound unideal, but when you look at the price point of $50 for a truly balanced pair of studio headphones, most listeners will probably appreciate the value.

"Even though some features have been trimmed down, so has the price, giving these headphones tremendous bang for your buck." Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best Wireless: Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT

What We Like
  • Wireless Bluetooth connectivity

  • Impressive noise cancellation

  • 35 hours of battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Lossy sound quality inherent in Bluetooth headphones

  • Fairly pricey

  • A little heavy to wear

With the popularity of Audio-Technica's wired ATH line, it’s no surprise to see the ATH-ANC900BTs entering the market to capture sales from those who would otherwise buy from Bose or Sony. These headphones provide the classic, ATH-style design that’s been made famous by DJs and producers, but have folded in a host of consumer-friendly features.

Bluetooth connectivity makes these headphones ideal for modern devices such as iPhones and tablets, and the 35-hour battery life means that you won’t need to worry too much about the headphones running out of juice. There’s also active noise cancellation here—a technology Audio-Technica is calling QuietPoint.

It’s important to note that the noise cancellation technology will detract from the pristine sound response, and you won’t get nearly as balanced of a spectrum as you would with the wired ATH models. But for the convenience of wireless connectivity and the peace and quiet provided by the ANC, you may just be willing to shell out the $300 for these headphones.

"Bringing the ATH-M line into the wireless space, these consumer-friendly headphones feature impressive active noise-cancelling tech." — Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best Bass: Audio-Technica ATH-WS1100iS Solid Bass Over-Ear Headphones

What We Like
  • Booming bass response

  • Solid construction

  • Clever ported design

What We Don't Like
  • A little bulky

  • Fairly expensive

  • No wireless connectivity

Normally, headphones that prioritize bass have to sacrifice other aspects to achieve that improved low end. The ATH-WS1199iS headphones have taken measures to try to achieve solid bass response without throwing the rest of the spectrum out the window. At their core are 53mm drivers, which are larger than most in other headphones of this size. This means that they can support the lower end of the spectrum without a sense of distortion that you get from smaller drivers.

Audio-Technica has also built in a bass-venting system just on the outer edge of the earcups, providing some modicum of presence (much like you’d find in a ported subwoofer speaker). There are also some key touches on the build-quality front. Audio-Technica is calling the earpads “dual-layer,” meaning they provide quite a bit more cushioning and seal than you’ll find in other headphones occupying the same footprint. The metal housing of the earcups is also really durable, which offers two things: solid isolation for your ears and some protection for day-to-day wear and tear.

Overall, if you want the Audio-Technica brand and you want bass-first headphones, the ATH-WS1199iS really are the only way to get it.

Best High-End: Audio-Technica ATH-M70x Professional Monitor Headphones

What We Like
  • Super-wide frequency coverage

  • Premium build and accessories

  • High-end design

What We Don't Like
  • Pretty pricey

  • Not collapsible

  • Nicer materials means more care is needed

If you’re in the market for high-end headphones from Audio-Technica, there are some audiophile-style options out there. But because the ATH-M line has such a track record for balance and quality, the high-end pick for us has to go to the M70x. One look at the design and it’s clear that the M70x is a seriously upgraded version of the classic M50x—with chromed-out metal accents and smoother, plusher leather earcups. 

But the spec sheet also holds these headphones to a higher esteem. The insanely wide 5–40,000 Hz frequency coverage means these headphones offer the most support compared to any other pair in the line. Even the hardshell case that comes with these headphones is more premium-feeling. There’s also an extra detachable cable that comes in the package, meaning you’ll have three choices in cable lengths for these headphones.

Of course, the $300 price point is a little steep, and thanks to the law of diminishing returns, they don’t sound twice as good at the M50xs, as the price would imply. But if you’re willing to take care of them and just want the best that the Audio-Technica’s M line has to offer, this is where you’ll find it.

Best for Size & Mobility: Audio Technica ATH-E40

Audio-Technica ATH-E40
What We Like
  • Balanced, accurate sound

  • Light, portable design

  • Nice accessory package, including a carrying case

What We Don't Like
  • A little expensive for what they are

  • No wireless connectivity

As we’ve already covered above, Audio-Technica is a brand most known for its professional audio equipment. So, while they do offer true wireless earbuds that are consumer-friendly, the ATH-E40 in-ear monitors are where the brand's earbud game truly shines.

Weighing only 0.3 ounces and coming with their own hardshell carrying case, these earbuds will go with you anywhere you need, and they’ll get there safely. The dual-phase drivers in these earbuds also provide a decent amount of soundstage, making for a balanced sonic response. This is crucial because musicians will often use them on stage to monitor a mix—an application that demands clarity. Of course, they work great for everyday high-fidelity listening as well.

The package is a little pricey for wired earbuds, but they do come with a few tips, nice detachable cables, and a gold-plated jack on the other end. The whole thing is designed to last (and be repairable), and can slip into a backpack super easily.

Final Verdict

It’s difficult to pick a favorite among Audio-Technica's many headphone offerings, but when you aim to balance professional studio use and everyday music listening, the ATH-M50xs provide the most value for their price.


If you want the best headphones that sport the classic ATH sound profile and design, go with our high-end pick: the $300 ATH-M70xs. The initial monetary hit will be real, but you won’t regret it when you get them in-hand.


The key here is to ask yourself what your main needs are: all-around studio use? Wireless, on-the-go listening? In-ear monitors for high-fidelity tunes? Once you drill down on those answers, it will be easier to make your pick.

About Our Trusted Experts

Jason Schneider is a writer, editor, copywriter, and musician with almost ten years' experience writing for tech and media companies. In addition to covering tech for Lifewire, Jason is a current and past contributor for Thrillist, Greatist, and more.

FAQ

What’s the difference between studio headphones and consumer headphones?

One of the most important factors to consider with a brand such as Audio-Technica is whether you want professional studio monitors or headphones friendlier to everyday listening. Studio monitors have what’s called a “flat response," meaning they give you the most accurate portrayal of music without artificially boosting bass, mids, or treble. This is great for musicians who are keen on accuracy, but if you want everyday listening headphones, you’ll want the little bit of EQ molding provided by consumer headphones.


What are the advantages of wired headphones over wireless headphones?

Bluetooth headphones provide a good degree of convenience, as they can easily connect to devices such as smartphones and tablets. But, because transferring audio using the Bluetooth protocol requires compression of your source file, a wired pair of headphones is truly the only way to get a fully-lossless rendering of your audio. Many of the headphones on this list are wired because that’s what Audio-Technica does well, but you’ll find both options available here and on their site.

What to Look for in Audio-Technica Headphones

Design - Headphones come in all shapes and sizes these days, from wireless earphones than can slip into your wallet to full over-ear designs that deliver killer sound. How, when, and where you plan to use your headphones will help you decide which to choose. If you’ll be using them while working out, for example, opt for a lightweight wireless pair. But if want a pair that will block out crying kids while you’re traveling on a plane, pick a pair of over-ear headphones that create a noise-canceling seal over your ear.

Sound quality - Sound quality is one of the most important features to consider when buying new headphones. To help you judge, you’ll want to check the size of the diaphragm, which is indicated by the diameter of the driver. In general, a larger driver delivers better sound. For over-ear designs, look for 30–53 mm and for earbuds, aim for 13.5–15.4 mm in diameter.

Comfort - All ears are different, so what one person finds comfortable, another might find unbearable. If you’re buying in-ear headphones, look for a pair that comes with different ear tips and wings so you can customize the feel and fit. For over-ear headphones, consider the ear cushions and the headband.

Want to keep looking?

Check out our ultimate headphones buying guide.

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