Reviewed: Audio-Technica's Brand New ATH-M50xBT2 Bluetooth Studio Headphones Are Superb – Forbesby September 3, 2022
Audio-Technica’s new and updated ATH-M50xBT2 have almost everything you’d want from a pair of … [+]
Audio-Technica’s original ATH-M50x studio headphones had a brilliant reputation for being a great pair of studio headphones offering a wonderfully neutral sound that made them perfect for professional audio work like recording, mixing or even broadcasting. They were also perfect for listening to music for pleasure. A few years ago, Audio-Technica created a Bluetooth version of the classic ATH-M50x which were very well received at the time. Now the company has come up with an updated version that I’ve been fortunate enough to get my hands on to put them through their paces.
Physically, the closed-back ATH-M50xBT2 wireless headphones look virtually identical to their predecessors except for a few subtle changes. First off, these new headphones now feature a USB-C port for charging the lithium-polymer batteries and the old in-line microphone has been taken away and replaced by two new mics in the earcups. The control buttons for doing things like turning on the power, pairing over Bluetooth, adjusting volume, skipping tracks and taking care of phone calls have been altered very slightly and now include a mute button.
The comfort levels of the new version of these headphones is the same apart from a small change to the texture of the plastic used for the headband. If you’ve ever worn a previous generation pair of Audio-Technica’s M-series headphones, the new ATH-M50xBT2 will feel very familiar – why change a winning design? Audio-Technica has saved most of the upgrading for the inside of the headphones with enhanced sonic performance. As with the first version, Audio-Technica has kept the easy fold-up design that means the ATH-M50xBT2 can be folded up into a compact size that can fit easily in a messenger bag or rucksack.
The new ATH-M50xBT2 headphones look like their predecessor but there have been subtle changes to the … [+]
I tested the ATH-M50xBT2 using both wired and wireless connections to see how they compared. To be honest, they’re that good you probably would have trouble picking them out in a blind test. There’s the same great accuracy and dynamic sound that original M50x owners love. This is largely due to Audio-Technica’s large aperture 45mm diameter drivers that deliver exceptional clarity plus an accurate and dynamic bass that’s never flabby.
To create a wireless audio quality that approaches the same level as a wired sound, Audio-Technica has used an AK4331 advanced DAC and a dedicated headphone amp that does wonderful things to the way the sound is shaped. The result is a Bluetooth performance that really shines. I think it’s very close to a pair of wired headphones and that makes the ATH-M50xBT2 ideal for working on audio projects without being tethered to a mixing desk or computer by a headphone cable.
In addition to support for the basic SBC audio codec, the M50xBT2 can also work with the AAC codec used by Apple on all its iOS devices, plus there’s support for Sony’s premium LDAC wireless audio codec for high-definition sound. What you don’t get is support for Qualcomm’s apt-X HD or adaptive codecs that are becoming increasingly popular.
The ingenious folding design of the Audi-Technica ATH-M50XBT2 makes these headphones ideal for … [+]
The new ATH-M50xBT2 also have a low-latency mode that cuts the audio lag that you may have experienced when watching videos and listening to the soundtrack through Bluetooth headphones. With the low-latency feature engaged, the sound and vision stay in sync with each other, delivering a smoother streaming experience and more realistic gaming sound-effects that match what you are seeing on the screen.
Thanks to the addition of two MEMs microphones with beamforming technology, the M50xBT2 now sound much clearer when making phone calls or livestreaming. Another big improvement is support for sidetone. This feature enables you to hear your own voice through the headphones when you’re making a call or having a video chat. If you’ve ever made calls using headphones without sidetone (and that’s most of them) you’ll know how frustrating it is to only be able to hear your voice as a muffled sound while the person you are talking to can be heard perfectly clearly. Sidetone makes it easier to enjoy a more natural-sounding phone call or video conversation and makes the ATH-M50xBT2 a great headset.
The two new mics in the ATH-M50xBT2 can also be used to give commands to the built-in Amazon Alexa function. Other voice assistants are supported so you can use Google Assistant and Apple Siri, depending on your smartphone or computer. The headphones now have a dedicated mute button for briefly turning off the mics when having a chat with a colleague. The mics are noise cancelling so they should be able to deal with a fair bit of background noise that could otherwise spoil a conversation.
There’s support for AAC and LDAC audio codecs but no support for apt-X Adaptive on the ATH-M50xBT2
Audio-Technica has included multipoint pairing to the ATH-M50xBT2. This means you can pair two Bluetooth devices to the headphones at the same time. For example, you could pair the ATH-M50xBT2 with your digital music player or personal smartphone, as well as your work phone. This way you can be listening to music but still be able to pick up a work cal. The music will pause, the headphones will switch over to your work phone enabling you to take the call. When the call is finished, you will be returned to the exact point in the music where you left off. And when it comes to pairing, the ATH-M50xBT2 support Google’s Fast Pair, enabling you to quickly pair the ATH-M50xBT2 headphones with a compatible Android smartphone with a single tap.
A full charge of the headphones using the supplied USB-C cable can provide up to 50 hours of continuous playtime. If the batteries are completely flat, a 10-minute burst charge will rejuvenate the headphones with up to three hours of playtime. Should the battery run down completely, there’s a 1.2m (3.9″) analog cable included for connecting the headphones to a device with a headphone jack.
Audio-Technica has created the free A-T Connect app for both iOS and Android devices. This app can be used to activate the ATH-M50xBT2’s low-latency mode and adjust its EQ settings to provide a customized sound. There are also controls in the app for adjusting the balance between left and right channels, choosing the voice assistant you prefer and even locating the headphones if you’ve forgotten where you have left them. The app also lets you choose your preferred audio codec.
The new ATH-M50xBT2 from Audio-Technica can play for up to 50 hours on a single charge of the … [+]
Verdict: This latest iteration of Audio-Technica’s much-loved M-series headphones put right the few shortcomings of the original ATH-M50xBT wireless version. The improvements bring the new model right up to date in terms of battery life, USB-C and support for LDAC codec. In addition, the sound ofd the new version has been retuned to produce a slightly wider soundstage and a sound that’s even more detailed and spacious but still without that brilliant neutral tone. The lack of support for Qualcomm’s apt-X HD codec may disappoint some people but that’s about the only criticism I can level at such a superb pair of wireless headphones. Highly Recommended.
Pricing and Availability: The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 Bluetooth wireless headphones cost $199 / £199 / €179.99.
More info: www.audio-technica.com