ATH M-50’s Little Brother, the M-30

For half the price of the bigger brother (that’s roughly $60), the Audio Technica ATH-M30 is an interesting entry level headphone. Its sound signature reminds you a lot of the M-50, and yet the M-30 has a more engaging and more forward midrange than the M-50 (even when compared to my newer M-50 variant). Of course it is inferior to the M-50 in a lot of ways, from soundstage, frequency extension, detail, to ergonomics and comfort. The M-30’s build reminds me a lot of the Sony MDR-7506, V6, or the CD900ST headphone. It’s slightly smaller and lighter than the M-50, though still much bigger than the ultra portables. If you want to, you can still squeeze it as an outdoor walk around headphone.

The sound is generally fun. As I’ve mentioned, the midrange is more engaging than the M-50, though not as clear. The treble rolls off much earlier than the M-50, but it also makes the M-30 a better headphone for treble happy recordings. You’re less likely to be annoyed by sharp trebles on the M-30, and likewise sibilant factor is also very low on the M-30. The bass, though not as good as the M-50, is quite potent and fun.

A lot of people has complained that the M-50, though great all around, is not forward enough, and doesn’t engage you enough. The M-30 is definitely more forward, just enough difference from the bigger brother while not going overboard. The frequency balance is very likable too, even more than the M-50. Hadi and I even joked that we should email Audio Technica to develop a flagship based on the M-line signature, called the M-1000.

The Achilles heel of the M-30 is the lack of technicalities. In addition to the frequency extension, detail, and soundstage, the housing quality is also very entry level, resulting in reverbs and occassional midrange glares. It’s really hard to ask for more quality at this price though. And I mean to warn people intending to get the headphone to be aware of the limitations of the M-30, rather than criticize it.

Compared to the good ultra-portables like the PX100, PX200, and the V-Jays, the M-30 still suffer from an inferior technicality. However, the M-30 still gives a bigger sound than the ultra portables, simply because it comes with a bigger size driver. So, there is a bit of give and take there.

The M-30 can be a second choice to people looking to buy ultra portables like the PX100. It is much bigger, even compared to the HD2X8 Sennheiser line, but I believe it can still pass as a portable headphone that you can take on the Metro, Campus, etc. The build should be able to take more abuse than the ultra portables, and so it’s quite a fun headphone to take around town.

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  • .Sup

    Thanks for the impressions. Headband seems better, for me one of the reasons I sold M-50 is the headband was uncomfortable. Can these be folded like M-50s, Mike?

    • Hi, Sup. I think the M-50 headband is more comfortable than the M-30, but people's head are different. Unfortunately, the M-30 doesn't fold at all.

    • ph33lix

      The ATH-M35 is similar and foldable. Do check it out!

      • Anonymous


  • Rapier84

    Nice review Mike, pretty much spot on.  Am surprised that its not more widely adopted.  I have owned a pair for over 3 years now, and the sound is still engaging as ever.  It held its own against higher end headphones.  For the record, the most pricey pair I have are Sony MDR V900HD/7509HD.   Sure the higher end headphones (not that the V900HDs are any where near high end enough) may resolve more, go deeper, deliver faster.  But the M30s are surprisingly musical.  And they get better with alot of run in IMHO

  • ramonovski

    Hey, have you ever tried the Audio Technica M40fs? I’ve heard that they have the most similar sound to M50s.

  • hey mike,i m in an urgent need of your help,i am planning to buy a full sized headphone..nd my budget is maximum 80$…i basically listen rap,rnb nd david guetta…….my focus is on sennheiser,shure or audio technica…i want to use it to add some style as well as i’ll it outdoors source is my htc one v and hp pavilion g6…if u want i could buy an amplifier as well but i could spend a maximum of 40$ on da amplifier……all i had ever used is my creative ep 635 ..plzz do reply..

    • I love hip hop. The best headphone I’ve heard hip hop through is the V-Moda M80. Awesome bass (impact and extension) and the mids aren’t too recessed like the Image Ones, Beats, K181 and even the HD25-1-II. So vocals sound nice and upfront. Plus, they’re easy to drive, so no amp necessary. But… they’re on-ear. For full-size, I highly recommend the M-Audio Q40. Clean lower bass reproduction and great punchiness when called for. Smooth vocal performance (I call them my “Marvin Gaye” headphones). As for drive-ability, they just squeak by going un-amp on an ipod. An amp will bring out its full potential and believe me if you love R&B, these are must-hear headphones. Wow! The only downside is their comfort, though there are ways around this.

      Alternative full-size cans for hip hop: ATH-M50, XB700, Creative Aurvana Live. All are easy to drive. Also good things have been said about the Panasonic HTF600 and Denon AH-D1100. Both very bassy headphones which is good for hip hop.

      Re: Closed vs. Open. Go closed. Better bass.

      • none from sennheissers…..or shure
        …should i look forward to fiio e6…..

        • Get the ATH-WS55. No amp necessary. I wouldn’t spend a single penny on amp for a $80 headphone. Also the HTF600 are in your price range.

      • none of them are in my budget….they all r expensive…….plzz hilerio something in my budget………..der r many sennheisers and audio technicas under 80$…plzz help…………….something lyk an audiophile headphone

        • dalethorn

          You probably won’t believe this, but it’s true. The best sound I’ve heard under $200, which I think is every bit as good as a Vmoda M80 or better, is a Sennheiser PX-200ii played on iPod or iPhone with “rock” EQ to reduce the midrange emphasis. It isn’t just good – it’s incredibly good. Very few colored headphones fix up this well, and the PX-200ii is the rare instance. Try it before you doubt it.

        • The HD202, I replied below.

      • Yes go closed if you want bass.

        • audio technica ath m35 or hd 202

        • i could extend my budget upto da ath m35 suggest me da best da best da best ….headphone whose sound quality would wow …me i need bass should either be a sennheiser or audio technica..

    • For house music, the K181 is way to go. Excellent PRaT and bass impact is off the charts. Because of this, they can pass for great hip hop/dance pop headphones. They’re on-ear but are comfortable enough and isolate extremely well. I have two pairs myself.

    • Here is one of the best headphone you can get for the money:

  • open back or closed back ……

  • Is the m50 worth spending 80 more dollars on than the m30s? (Prices from amazon)

    • The difference is really big and the M50 is a lot more popular so I guess it’s worth the difference.

      Sent from my mobile device. Sorry for any mistype.

    • L.

      My colleague uses the M30 so I brought the M50 along to compare. I won’t go into too much details but the difference is pretty huge, in everything. In other words, yes the M50 is worth the extra money.

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