The Q40 is a full-size collapsible monitoring headphone from studio equipment manufacturer M-Audio. Prior to the Q40 all of M-Audio’s headphones were Ultimate Ears rebrands and were mostly made obscure by the lack of competitive pricing. However, the Q40 does not seem to have an OEM progenitor and is a whole different story.
MSRP: $179.95 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $100 from amazon.com
Build Quality (9/10): Underneath the handsome black-and-grey plastic paneling of the Q40 is a tank-like steel construction. The well-padded steel headband and massive steel hinges really make the Q40 feel like it was built to last. The headband stretches to gargantuan lengths and has numbered notches for easy adjustment. The pleather pads are soft but the cups aren’t really deep enough for such shallow pads. The thick 9’ cable is detachable and utilizes threaded 3.5mm jacks at both ends. There are some reported long-term issues with the cable but replacement cords are available at a cost of about $10.
Comfort (6/10): The steel headband of the Q40s boasts quite a bit of clamping force. Despite being very pliable, it is also surprisingly resilient to permanent deformation. The padding on the headband is great but the ear cushions just aren’t quite thick enough for me. As a result my ears are constantly pushed against the grilles, resulting in pain. Beyerdynamic velour pads are better but not quite thick enough either. I ended up using the pads off of my JVC HA-RX700, which didn’t fit the Q40s perfectly but gave a great comfort boost (thickness difference illustrated here; stock pads on the right). Though I did not attempt this, a cost-effective way to improve the comfort would be to stuff an additional foam ring into the stock pads to boost their thickness and then sew them back up. With thicker pads the Q40 can provide hours of comfort.
Isolation (7/10): The perforated external grilles on the Q40s are purely decorative – the headphones are fully closed. The isolation is surprisingly modest for such a large headphone – noticeably lower than the smaller JVC and AKG portables. Still, they isolate more than most and leakage is negligible so they are well-suited for portable applications.
Sound (8/10): The most striking aspect of the Q40s’ sound is the bass – specifically the depth, power, and texture of the low end, which are all superb. The Q40s can really go deep when the track calls for it and the sub-bass is felt as much as it is heard. For my tastes the boosted mid- and upper bass on the Q40s is excessive but the rest of the sound signature is rather neutral and monitor-like. They remind me of a far more refined JVC HA-M750 on both counts. The midrange is lush and full but seems to have a slight dip at the lower end. The treble is never harsh or sibilant and is rolled off slightly off at the very top. The soundstage is slightly below average in width and lacks depth, resulting in a rather intimate sound. Instrumental separation is good and the Q40s do a good job of relating detail. They are not very forgiving of poor source material and the 64-ohm impedance means that while the Q40s are perfectly capable performers when driven by a portable source, they do benefit from some additional juice, which opens them up and gives them some more speed and control in the lower and middle registers.
Value (7/10): The M-Audio Studophile Q40 is a very solid headphone designed for studio use but also quite functional as a portable set. This full-size, collapsible headphone features a rock-solid build, decent isolation and comfort, and a bass-heavy sound signature with subdued treble. The rest of the signature is balanced and accurate, making the Q40 sound somewhat like a less aggressive and much more refined JVC HA-M750. For the bass lover looking for headphones in this price range these should be at the top of the list.
Frequency Response:10-20,000 Hz
Sensitivity:116 dB SPL/1mW
Cord:9.84ft (3m), single-sided, detachable; Straight Plug