Audio-Technica ATH-E40 Review (bought & Tested)
Verdict and Review Summary
At a decently low price tag, Audio-Technica puts forward a budget-sensitive set of in-ear monitors with a tight fit and solid sound quality at a wide frequency range. Testing with both bass and electric guitar during a live performance left little to complain about.
The ATH-E40 is an in-ear monitor designed primarily to be used with a wireless monitor pack in a live performance. I was able to test this scenario in church, playing bass and electric guitar to see how the ATH-E40 set performed.
And while there's only so much you can say about a set of in-ear monitors, I think it's helpful to hear from someone who has actually used these so you can make a more informed decision about whether or not they'll work for you.
Here's one of the pics we took at my house, on our dining room table:
I've also used the Shure SEs, which are the same price. I'll provide some thoughts on how the two compare.
My impression of the ATH-E40 set was great on all fronts:
- Great sound on the low and high end
- Fit tightly around my ear
- Fair price point
The only thing I didn't like as much were the included ear pads (or whatever they're called) because they didn't fit my ear canal particularly well. But I actually just swapped those out with a set that I already had and they worked fine.
Since I saw some comments on this issue, I'd like to point out that it's a bad move to judge in-ear monitors based on their ear pads alone. These can easily be swapped out with whatever set you prefer. So don't leave bad reviews for stuff that can be fixed that quickly.
As I've already mentioned, this review is based on real-world use and first-hand testing. It should also be clear that we partner with retailers like Sweetwater because we use and trust them ourselves. While our reviews are sincere and objective, we still use affiliate links to support ourselves and stay ad free, but at no extra cost to you. If you shop through our links we might get a commission. That's the best way to support us.
Prices updated Sun, December 03rd, 2023.
Current Sweetwater Pricing
Audio-Technica ATH-E40 Review Card
This section gives you some quick scoring and a review summary for the ATH-E40. We'll expand on rationale and provide more details in the paragraphs below.
IDEAL FOR: Live monitoring on a strict budget and direct instrument monitoring.
Overall Tone Quality
After I swapped out the ear pads the E40s did a better job of isolating outside sound. Bass tones had plenty of thud and low-end and at no point did I hear crackling in the phones, even with volume on my wireless receiver turned up really high.
On the electric guitar highs got a little too shrill at times, but I was able to EQ that out and just cut volume back a little.
You have to keep in mind that there are a lot of factors playing into your live sound, even with just one instrument. By the time the sound makes it to your headphones, there's only so much the headphones can do to clean up or conceal any issues with mixing.
So overall, the set sounded great - certainly equal to, if not better than, the Shure SE series that I've previously used.
Bass (lower end)
When it comes to bass, in-ears are rarely able to re-create what you get with large-form studio headphones. So you should expect a less immersive bass tone with in-ears.
The E40s are in the same spot, but still handled my bass tone extremely well. It sounded smooth and percussive, without hiding notes or making it hard to hear other parts of the mix.
They clearly had no trouble handling lower frequencies.
Guitar (higher end)
I should mention that I'm rarely on the lead end of the guitar spectrum. Rhythm and percussive playing have always been my arena, so I'm admittedly giving lead playing less time when I test gear.
When I dabble on the lead guitar side, I tend to use a lot of ambient effects and layered modulation.
Having said that, the E40s handled higher frequencies fine, and even seemed to provide a bit of a dampening effect compared to the Shure set. The Shure SEs sounded brighter and thinner than the E40s, in which case I'd definitely prefer the Audio-Technica tone profile.
Comfort and Fit
First I tried the E40s without wrapping the cord around the back of my ear. Even that seemed steady and I wasn't worried about them falling out.
To follow best practices, I spent the rest of the time with the cord wound to fit right behind my ear, in which case the ear pad fit perfectly. It's not as good as the pro molded sets, but it felt pretty comfortable.
The section of the cord near each headphone is where it bends and holds its shape. Through several adjustments it felt very tight and didn't budge after I had it set.
Now I can't speak to how this holds up over longer periods of time, because some cords like this tend to loosen and wear out with continued use.
But it felt far more solid than the Shure SEs.
No complaints here.
Live or studio?
For mixing and recording, I'd always recommend the over-ear studio headphones, which we cover in detail here: Best Studio Headphones Overall
And that's not to say you can't use the E40s in that environment.
I've used in-ears like them in the past for recording YouTube guitar covers, when I wanted something that was low profile. They work fine in that environment as well. But it's fair to say that the design and intent behind them is for live instrument monitoring on stage.
Either can work, but we'd recommend the E40s for the stage before the studio.
Overall Value (price)
We'd complain a little bit if Audio-Technica pushed the price ahead of the Shure SEs, but they're right in line (at least at the time of writing this review). At $99, it's a fantastic lower-budget solution that gives you sound quality and comfort, yet without the more expensive price tags of professional-level in-ears.
You can really only ask two things of headphones:
- They should sound good
- They should be comfortable to wear
Those are the two most important factors by far, and the ATH-E40 set handles both without any issues.
My only complaint is the weird fit with the ear pads, though that will likely vary from person to person. If you have issues with getting them to fit or getting them to stay in (there are several included sizes to try), I'd recommend simply replacing just the ear pads with something that fits you better, even from a different head set.
Again, not a big deal. Certainly not a good enough to reason to leave a negative review.
If you have questions about my Audio-Technica ATH-E40 review, drop them in the comments section below and I'll help out as much as possible.