I tried Shure's new ANC headphones, and audiophiles need to take note

Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 headphones held in a man's hand
(Image credit: Future)

One of the products I've been most looking forward to seeing at IFA 2023 is the Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2. The original Shure Aonic 50 got a glowing review from us, but with the caveat that they were lacking some features compared to the super-popular Sony headphones of the time.

Well, Shure seems to have taken that to heart. The Gen 2 version crams in all kinds of new tech, including spatial audio support with multiple processing options, a range of smart ANC modes, much longer battery life, and a bunch of other stuff that we covered in our original news about the announcement.

But these aren't the most important thing – what I'm most excited about is having that stuff paired with more of the great sound that defined the original headphones.

I managed to grab a pair from Shure for a while, and because I was using them with my own phone and its music library, I couldn't test its smarter features – that will come in our full review, as soon as we can.

Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 headphones held in a man's hand

(Image credit: Future)

But after testing the music for a while, I can say that those who really prize their music quality should keep a very close watch for when the reviews of this do drop – because I think these are going to absolutely be among the best noise-cancelling headphones; they seem pretty special.

Now, one caveat here is that I was in an extremely busy convention center, surrounded by people talking, rattling mugs around, and echoing all over the place. This provided a good test for the ANC, of course, but in general is effectively the worst possible way to experience some headphones.

And yet, I was seriously impressed. Even among that din I was instantly taken with the powerful, gripping, controlled bass that underpinned the songs. The roaring mid-range also stood out, being full of detail despite having the energy to really go hard with complex songs. The treble lifted out of all this perfectly, poised and delicate and sharp.

I tried dense electronic stuff to really try to drown out the world around me, and the music stayed rich and involving even when it got dense and I cranked the volume. It still couldn't block all the noise, of course – no ANC could in that environment – but using the switch on the side to turn the noise cancellation off temporarily, it was clear that it's definitely an effective version of ANC, because without it I lost practically everything in the music.

Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 headphones held in a man's hand

(Image credit: Future)

With ANC turned on, the music was impressive expansive, and natural. ANC really tends to make music feel closed compared to what headphones can do without all the signal processing and frequency futzing that goes on with active noise cancellation. Even when given such a strong workout, it was clear that sound on the Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 had room to stretch its legs.

My main thing here is that music lovers and wireless audiophiles should absolutely keep their eye on these. Because if the sound impressed me this much in basically audio hell, then their potential in quieter environments is very exciting indeed.

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Matt Bolton
Managing Editor, Entertainment

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Entertainment, meaning he's in charge of persuading our team of writers and reviewers to watch the latest TV shows and movies on gorgeous TVs and listen to fantastic speakers and headphones. It's a tough task, as you can imagine. Matt has over a decade of experience in tech publishing, and previously ran the TV & audio coverage for our colleagues at T3.com, and before that he edited T3 magazine. During his career, he's also contributed to places as varied as Creative Bloq, PC Gamer, PetsRadar, MacLife, and Edge. TV and movie nerdism is his speciality, and he goes to the cinema three times a week. He's always happy to explain the virtues of Dolby Vision over a drink, but he might need to use props, like he's explaining the offside rule.