Audio-Technica makes a few popular full-size headphones, including the ATH-M30 reviewed here, that perform very well and offer excellent performance bang for the buck. The ATH-M30, which retails for around $60 online, isn't as ruggedly built as the step up
Like the M50, this model has a thick single cord that terminates in a heavy-duty, reinforced plug. The padded earcups swivel on only one axis (the M50 swivels on two), and the headphones don't fold flat for storage. Audio-Technica also makes the
As I said, the M30 doesn't feel as sturdy as the M50, and the headband isn't as thick, but they're well-built for their price. They're also quite comfortable and relatively lightweight, weighing in at 7 ounces compared with the M50's 10.1 ounces.
Naturally, since these are over-the-ear headphones, with a closed-back design, they will make your ears pretty steamy on warmer days.
Although they don't have the active noise-cancellation feature of the
The Audio-Technica ATH-M30 headphones are better suited to indoor, stationary listening (they come with a 1/4-inch adapter for plugging into a home receiver). They're technically "monitor" headphones and some people will use them in the studio for making recordings (or perhaps podcasting) or out in the field for video shoots. They also work fine on the go with smartphones/MP3 players and in size are on par with the aforementioned Monster Beats By Dr. Dre headphones (they're slightly smaller, in fact). However, the one big drawback of the headphones for mobile use is the length of the cord. It's 11 feet long and because it's so thick, it becomes a bit unwieldy.
Another thing missing for on-the-go listening is a built-in microphone and in-line remote for making cell phone calls. But like other monitor-style headphones, these cans are more for purists and don't have any extra bells and whistles.
In terms of technical specs, the ATH-M30 headphones feature 40mm large-aperture drivers with neodymium magnet systems. As with the ATH-M50 headphones, I ran an eclectic mix of music through them and they sounded good with everything I threw at them (they're designed to play well with just about any kind of music -- or movies and games, for that matter). While they don't offer the level of detail, more-refined bass, and overall more dynamic quality of the M50 headphones, they deliver well-balanced, relatively open sound for closed-back headphones (by "open" I mean the sound doesn't feel canned or trapped inside your head).
That bass may not be quite big enough for folks who are looking for a booming low end with big thump, but I gravitate toward headphones that are a bit more laid-back (warmer) and have flatter, more natural sound. These guys certainly fit that description.
As with the step-up M50 headphones, I had both editor Justin Yu and contributor Steve Guttenberg listen to these. They both prefer the M50, of course, but also thought the M30 sounded quite good, especially for the price.
There are several other "studio monitor" headphone models in this price range, including Audio-Technica's own ATHM40FS, which requires a 3.5mm adapter for mobile use and weighs slightly more. That model also has a extra-long cord. The
Many of these full-size, closed-back headphones weren't designed with an emphasis on mobile use. But with larger headphones being in fashion these days (thank Beats for that), more people are taking a look at affordable models like the ATH-M30 and
Alas, I wish Audio-Technica made these with a shorter cord (and perhaps provided an extension cord for "studio" use), but that's the only serious strike against them. Otherwise, they deliver a solid mix of comfort, decent build quality, and impressive sound for an affordable price.