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We've recently released our Test Bench 1.6 update for Headphones! Read the Latency R&D Article to learn more.

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.5
Review updated Jan 15, 2024 at 09:52 am
Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Picture
7.5
Neutral Sound
4.5
Commute/Travel
5.0
Sports/Fitness
5.1
Office
4.1
Wireless Gaming
6.1
Wired Gaming
1.9
Phone Calls

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are decent over-ear headphones, landing at the lowest current tier of the ATH-M range below the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x. They're budget-friendly closed-backs that are well-suited for quiet settings or while monitoring and tracking audio. Sadly, they don't block much noise, which may negatively affect your listening experience in loud environments or while commuting, so it's best to reserve these for indoor use.

Our Verdict

7.5 Neutral Sound

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are good for neutral sound. They have a balanced sound that delivers pleasing warmth and bass. Vocals and instruments also have presence and body in mixes. Still, the treble accuracy's under-emphasis leads to a lack of detail in vocal harmonics. That said, if you want to track a recording, these lend a good impression of what you're listening to.

Pros
  • Balanced sound profile.
  • Decently comfortable.
  • Very good frequency response consistency.
Cons
  • Poor isolation.
4.5 Commute/Travel

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x aren't ideal for commuting. The poor noise isolation is insufficient for loud environments, and their dimensions aren't very portable.

Pros
  • Balanced sound profile.
  • Decently comfortable.
Cons
  • Poor isolation.
  • No controls.
  • Bulky.
5.0 Sports/Fitness

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x aren't intended for sports. They're a bit too bulky and unstable for high-intensity exercises. As expected for wired over-ear headphones, they don't have any IP rating against moisture or dust.

Pros
  • Decently comfortable.
Cons
  • Poor isolation.
  • No controls.
  • Bulky.
5.1 Office

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x don't excel in office settings. The passive noise isolation doesn't effectively block the chatter of a busy office. They're also a bit leaky at high volumes. Overall, they're decently comfortable.

Pros
  • Balanced sound profile.
  • Decently comfortable.
Cons
  • Poor isolation.
  • No controls.
  • Bulky.
4.1 Wireless Gaming

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are wired-only headphones; you can't use them wirelessly.

6.1 Wired Gaming

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x work passably for gaming if you don't require a built-in microphone. Owing largely to the wired connection, they produce low-latency audio. The headphones also feel decently comfortable but lack controls.

Pros
  • Decently comfortable.
  • Very good frequency response consistency.
Cons
  • Poor isolation.
  • No controls.
1.9 Phone Calls

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are wired-only headphones without a microphone. You can't use them for phone calls without a standalone microphone. Otherwise, they're decently comfortable for calls.

  • 7.5 Neutral Sound
  • 4.5 Commute/Travel
  • 5.0 Sports/Fitness
  • 5.1 Office
  • 4.1 Wireless Gaming
  • 6.1 Wired Gaming
  • 1.9 Phone Calls
  1. Updated Jan 15, 2024: We've added comparisons with the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x, Audio-Technica ATH-M40x, and Sony MDR-7506 and made text edits for consistency.
  2. Updated Aug 16, 2021: Converted to Test Bench 1.5.
  3. Updated Mar 24, 2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.4.
  4. Updated Nov 21, 2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.1.
  5. Updated Nov 21, 2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.
  6. Updated Feb 16, 2018: Converted to Test Bench 1.2.
  7. Updated Aug 10, 2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1.
  8. Updated Mar 01, 2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.0.
  9. Updated May 16, 2016: Review published.
  10. Updated May 14, 2016: Our testers have started testing this product.
  11. Updated Apr 29, 2016: We've purchased the product and are waiting for it to arrive in our lab.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x only come in one color, 'Black'. If you encounter another variant, please let us know in the comments, and we'll update our review.

Compared To Other Headphones

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are budget-friendly headphones meant for neutral listening. They sit a tier below the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x and two tiers below the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x. While they all have similar sound profiles, some of the defining characteristics of the ATH-M20x are slightly pared-back build quality, less stability, no case or pouch, and a non-removable cable. These headphones focus on delivering the bare essentials for neutral listening without added luxuries or upgrades.

See our recommendations for the best headphones under $50, the best over-ear headphones under $100, and the best headphones for music.

Audio-Technica ATH-M30x

The Audio-Technica ATH-M30x are a step up from the budget-oriented ATH-M20x in the lineup. They share a similar build quality and design. Both have similar sound profiles with noticeably quiet treble where sibillants (S and T sounds) reside, and the ATH-M30x output slightly more accurate bass. Unlike the ATH-M20x, the ATH-M30x are marginally more portable and protected with a pouch.

Sony MDR-7506

The Sony MDR-7506 and the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are similarly designed for neutral listening. Both are somewhat stiff-wearing with relatively shallow ear cups. While the Sony edges ahead with regards to repairability (thanks to the prominent screws designed to be disassembled and parts replaced), both have hardwired cables, although the Sony's cable is shorter. The Sony headphones output better bass and treble accuracy than the Audio-Technica.

Samson SR850

The Samson SR850 are better for neutral sound than the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x. The Samson are semi-open headphones and have a much better passive soundstage performance. They also have a brighter, more detailed sound profile that some may prefer. On the other hand, the Audio-Technica have a closed-back design, so they leak less audio and block out more ambient sound.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x

The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x, while similar in appearance to the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x, have a better overall build quality without exposed wiring on the headphones. They have more room to accommodate ears. They fit with better stability than the ATH-M20x. In the upper bass frequencies, the ATH-M20x provide a more accurate bass response, while the ATH-M40x have a greater lower frequency extension with more thump in your audio. In contrast, the treble range sounds more accurate on the ATH-M40x. The ATH-M40x also have two detachable cables and a pouch, while the ATH-M20x retains a single hardwired cable.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are the more budget-minded variant of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. As a result, they're not as comfortable or well-built and have a less neutral sound profile overall. They also lack a detachable cable design. The M20X have a more consistent audio delivery and a more accurate mid-range response than their more premium sibling. 

Superlux HD 681

The Superlux HD 681 are better headphones for neutral sound than the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x. The Superlux are semi-open headphones, helping them create an immersive and natural soundstage. They also have a more neutral sound profile, which some users will prefer. However, the build quality is pretty cheap and fragile. On the other hand, the Audio-Technica will be better if you're live recording since they're closed-backs, which means they block a bit of ambient noise and don't leak as much audio.

Beats Solo Pro Wireless

The Beats Solo Pro Wireless headphones are more versatile than the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x. The Beats are better built, have a more neutral sound profile, which some users may prefer, and have a significantly better noise isolation performance, thanks to their ANC system. They also have an integrated mic, a wireless design, and an H1 chip, so you can seamlessly pair them with your Apple devices. However, the Audio-Technica are more comfortable and have a better passive soundstage performance.

JBL Live Pro+ TWS True Wireless

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are designed for neutral sound, while the JBL Live Pro+ TWS True Wireless are better suited for casual use. The Audio-Technica are wired over-ear headphones with a more neutral bass and mid-ranges, which some users may prefer. They also have a wider and more spacious soundstage. However, the JBL are more comfortable, better built, and stable. They have a companion app that allows you to tweak their sound and an ANC feature to help block out ambient noise around you.

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Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style
Type Over-ear
Enclosure Closed-Back
Wireless No
Transducer Dynamic

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x have a simple and understated studio appeal that's a little bland but will work for some. They come in an all-black color scheme and share the same design as the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x, with slight differences on the back of the ear cups. They also resemble the higher-end Audio-Technica ATH-M50x but with a different metal frame that looks slightly cheaper.

7.0
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.46 lbs
Clamping Force
0.99 lbs

The headphones are decently comfortable. They don't apply too much pressure to the head, and the large ear cups fit around most kinds of ears, but they're somewhat shallow in depth. However, the ear cups don't swivel like the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x or Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, making these headphones feel slightly stiff with less padding than their more upscale counterparts.

0
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
No Controls
Ease Of Use No Controls
Feedback No Controls
Call/Music Control No
Volume Control No
Microphone Control No
Channel Mixing
No
Noise Cancelling Control No
Talk-Through
No
Additional Controls No
6.3
Design
Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference 6.3 ยฐC

These headphones have mediocre breathability. This isn't unusual with closed-back over-ear headphones that don't promote airflow. Expect to experience some heat build-up throughout a listening session.

5.5
Design
Portability
L 7.9" (20.0 cm)
W 6.5" (16.5 cm)
H 3.3" (8.5 cm)
Volume 171.12 inยณ (2,804.14 cmยณ)
Transmitter Required No

These aren't portable headphones. They don't fold into a more compact format or have swiveling ear cups that lay flat. They're cumbersome to carry around, occupy a lot of space in a backpack, and may not fit comfortably in a handbag. Their cable is also a little bulky and non-detachable, which can be frustrating when transporting these headphones. They also don't come with a case pouch.

0
Design
Case
Type No case
L N/A
W N/A
H N/A
Volume N/A
6.5
Design
Build Quality

The build quality is adequate. These headphones can handle a few drops without getting damaged and feel sufficiently dense. Unfortunately, their build quality feels cheaper and less durable than the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x and the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. The metal frame is thinner and exposes the audio cable connecting the ear cups. Unlike the higher-end models of the same design, this exposed cable makes the ATH-M20x more likely to get damaged by wear and tear.

6.0
Design
Stability

These headphones aren't designed for use while doing sports and physical activity. They'll maintain their position during casual listening sessions and won't slip off as you tilt your head. However, they'll quickly fall off during high-intensity physical activity and aren't ideal for use in a gym or while running and jumping. Also, the cord isn't detachable and may yank the headphones off your head if it gets hooked on something.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

  • Audio-Technica ATH-M20x headphones
  • 1/8" to 1/4" adapter

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
-2.02 dB
Treble Amount
-2.57 dB

The sound profile is neutral leaning. For the most part, bass frequencies are conveyed with a slight emphasis, although the lowest notes are rolled off, meaning you hear less bass depth, or thump and rumble. Besides a dip where the high-bass meets low-mid, the mid-range is quite consistent, which suits most genres well. Still, that dip occurs where a lot of instruments reproduce. The treble frequencies suffer with dips and peaks, leading to vocals and instruments that take a hit. Fine details like articulation are veiled and less clear. Sibilants like cymbals are largely dulled.

7.7
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
0.45 dB

Fit, positioning, and seal contribute to how you perceive frequency responses, and these headphones supply a predictably very good consistency. Pay attention to the over-ear seal to ensure all frequencies remain audibly consistent between wears.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
8.1
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
2.53 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
38.86 Hz
Low-Bass
-4.14 dB
Mid-Bass
1.51 dB
High-Bass
0.05 dB

Bass accuracy is great. The overemphasis in the mid-bass and high-bass ensures those frequencies can sound boomy. However, there's a low-bass roll-off below our target curve. As a result, your audio has audible, boomy bass, but it won't sound especially thumpy. For instance, fans of EDM and hip-hop might notice the lowest frequency thump is lacking.

9.1
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.17 dB
Low-Mid
-0.96 dB
Mid-Mid
0.17 dB
High-Mid
1.16 dB

Those looking for superb mid accuracy can expect it on the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x. Overall, the ATH-M20x headphones reproduce fundamentals like spoken word, sung vocals, and guitars in a true-to-life manner. There's a dip in the lowest mids, which can slightly reduce boominess.

5.6
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
6.31 dB
Low-Treble
-2.17 dB
Mid-Treble
-4.28 dB
High-Treble
-8.17 dB

The headphones struggle to reproduce treble with great accuracy. The headphones underemphasize key frequencies, contributing to a warmer, less clear treble sound than our target. Harmonics in vocals lack detail and clarity due to dips in the low-treble and mid-treble. The peak in the upper mid-treble leads to the uneven emphasis of high-pitched instrument harmonics and sibilants like hi-hats.

6.6
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
2.16 dB
Dips
2.25 dB

Mostly, these headphones follow their own sound profile with fair consistency. The peak through most of the bass range leads to a punchier, boomier sound, while the transition between high-bass and low-mid makes bass harmonics slightly thin compared to bass fundamentals. High-mids and (some) low-treble are emphasized so the highest notes of a guitar, for instance, will sound disproportionately loud and harsher compared to low notes on a guitar. The significant dip in low-treble to mid-treble means that details get lost. The peak in higher treble frequencies results in piercing harmonics, like crash cymbals.

8.7
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.34
Weighted Phase Mismatch
2.29
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
0.65
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
1.63

The imaging is excellent. Generally, the Audio-Technica headphones we've tested exhibit consistent imaging results. Quality control appears solid, with similar performance exhibited in each driver, although this still inevitably varies from unit to unit. While the bass frequencies have some group delay, it's minor and doesn't contribute negatively to your listening experience. Our unit's L/R dynamic drivers are also well-matched in phase, amplitude, and frequency response, which ensures that sound objects like footsteps reproduce accurately.

5.3
Sound
Passive Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
2.19 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
2.98 dB
PRTF Distance
9.53 dB
Openness
5.0
Acoustic Space Excitation
3.7

As expected from closed-back headphones, the passive soundstage is middling. Audio sounds like it's coming from inside your head rather than outside of it.

0
Sound
Virtual Soundstage
Head Modeling
No
Speaker Modeling
No
Room Ambience
No
Head Tracking
No
Virtual Surround
No App
7.6
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.176
WHD @ 100
0.185

The weighted harmonic distortion is good at moderate listening volumes. Low-bass and treble frequencies see some distortion spikes, but that won't be noticeable because it's well below 1%. At louder volumes, mid-range frequencies increase in the amount of distortion. Nevertheless, this won't significantly impact the purity of your audio signal.

Sound
Test Settings
Firmware
No Firmware
Power
Passive
Connection
Wired
Codec
PCM, 24-bit, 48kHz
EQ
No EQ
ANC
No ANC
Tip/Pad
Default
Microphone
No Microphone

These are the settings used to test these headphones. Our results are only valid when used in this configuration.

Isolation
4.5
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-11.74 dB
Noise Cancelling No
Bass
0.74 dB
Mid
-9.9 dB
Treble
-27.03 dB

The headphones exhibit overall poor noise isolation. They don't have active noise cancelling, and the passive isolation provided by the ear cups mainly reduces high-pitched environmental noise. They provide virtually no isolation in the bass range, and isolation only starts to kick in at the mids and higher. They block high-pitched noises like a fan whines better than a bus engine.

6.8
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
40.96 dB

The majority of the leakage occurs across a relatively broad frequency range. The content of the leakage (lyrics, for example) may be understandable to the people around you at moderate to loud volumes.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
No
In-Line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
No
Mic No
0
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
N/A
LFE
N/A
FR Std. Dev.
N/A
HFE
N/A
Weighted THD
N/A
Gain
N/A
0
Microphone
Noise Handling
SpNR
N/A
Noise Gate
No
Speech + Pink Noise Handling
N/A
Speech + Pink Noise Audio Sample N/A
Speech + Subway Noise Handling
N/A
Speech + Subway Noise Audio Sample N/A
Active Features
0
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
No Battery
Continuous Battery Life
N/A
Additional Charges
N/A
Total Battery Life
N/A
Charge Time
N/A
Power-Saving Feature
No
Audio While Charging
No
Passive Playback
Passive Headphone
Charging Port None
0
Active Features
App Support
App Name No App
iOS No
Android No
macOS No
Windows No
Equalizer
No
ANC Control
No
Mic Control No
Room Effects
No
Playback Control
No
Button Mapping No
Surround Support
No
Connectivity
0
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
No Bluetooth
Multi-Device Pairing
No
NFC Pairing
No
Line Of Sight Range
N/A
PC Latency (SBC)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX HD)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX-LL)
N/A
iOS Latency
N/A
Android Latency
N/A

These don't have any Bluetooth capability. For similar headphones with Bluetooth, consider the Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT.

0
Connectivity
Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line Of Sight Range
N/A
Non-BT Latency
N/A
9.0
Connectivity
Wired
Analog Audio
Yes
USB Audio
No
Detachable No
Length 10.00 ft (3.05 m)
Connection
1/8" TRS
Analog/USB Audio Latency
0 ms

The headphones come with a non-removable 10' (3.05m) long cable that terminates in a 1/8" (3.5mm) TRS headphone jack. You also get a 1/4" adapter. Unlike higher-tiered models like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, you only get one hardwired cable, affecting long-term usability. For video content, you won't experience any latency with your audio.

Connectivity
PC Compatibility
Analog
Audio Only
Wired USB
No
Non-BT Wireless
No

These headphones are audio-only, so they're compatible with a PC when plugged into the computer's headphone output port. There are no additional controls or a microphone, so you'll need a standalone mic for calls and games.

Connectivity
PlayStation Compatibility
PS4 Analog
Audio Only
PS4 Wired USB
No
PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No
PS5 Analog
Audio Only
PS5 Wired USB
No
PS5 Non-BT Wireless
No

These headphones only work with a hardwired connection and do not feature a microphone. They can only work via an analog output with PlayStation consoles; you'll need a separate microphone if you want to chat with teammates.

Connectivity
Xbox Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
Audio Only
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Non-BT Wireless
No
Xbox Series X|S Analog
Audio Only
Xbox Series X|S Wired USB
No
Xbox Series X|S Non-BT Wireless
No

These headphones are audio-only with a hardwired connection. They connect via an analog output with Xbox consoles, but you'll need a separate microphone if you tend to play games with others.

0
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
No Base/Dock
USB Input
No
Line In
No
Line Out
No
Optical Input
No
RCA Input
No
Dock Charging
No
Power Supply
No Base/Dock