Audio-Technica has a long history of producing high-quality headphones, microphones, and turntable accessories, and with the release of the ATH-M50xBT wireless headphones, it promises studio quality audio without the cord.
The original ATH-M50x headphones were designed to bridge the gap between professional studio headphones and the ones you plug into your phone for casual listening, and with the addition of Bluetooth connectivity, the updated model should be even better for listening on the go.
We've been living with the ATH-M50xBT headphones for a while now, and have been mightily impressed. Read on for our full verdict.
Price and availability
The ATH-M50xBTs are available to buy for $199 (£179 / AU$379), which is a decent price to pay for high-quality wireless over-ears - generally you’re looking at spending from around $80 / £60 / AU$110 right up to $700 / £699 / AU$999 for really high end models like the Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless.
They’re a little pricier than the original ATH-M50x headphones, but that’s to be expected with the inclusion of Bluetooth connectivity, and compared to similar models, they are definitely at the lower end of the price scale.
The new headphones look pretty much identical to their wired predecessor, in that they are a hybrid between professional studio headphones and ones for casual listening. This means the ATH-M50xBTs look suitably industrial, with a chunky padded headband and a thick hinge where the cups connect to it.
If you’re after a subtle design, these headphones probably aren’t for you, but the heavy duty design does come with some benefits, particularly as you can handle them quite roughly without worrying about them breaking.
They feature a collapsible design, with the ear cups able to rotate 90 degrees, which means you can fold them down and pop them into the included carry pouch when you’re finished with them. This means you can also wear them around your neck without the headphones’ cups feeling uncomfortable on your chest.
The ATH-M50xBTs come in a sleek black and silver color scheme, with a silver ring encircling the Audio-Technica logo on the back of the left and right casing - overall they look pretty good. Right now, that’s the only color scheme available, but it would be great to see them in a lighter neutral color like tan or white, which may make them look a bit less unwieldy. But that's a matter of taste, of course, and they certainly don't offend in their current form.
Features and performance
The ATH-M50xBTs are designed for really high-end audio performance, with 45mm drivers and a frequency response range of 15-28,00 Hz, and it shows - we were very impressed with the warm, well-rounded sound these headphones provide, particularly as wireless headphones don’t always measure up to their wired counterparts. You can also plug them in with the accompanying 1.2m cable if you prefer.
Mid-frequency audio, like vocals, is where the ATH-M50xBTs really shine, with a smooth, detailed sound. To really put them to the test, we wanted to try them out with some complex vocal harmony - we listened to ‘Ragged Wood’ by Fleet Foxes, and were blown away by the clarity of its textures and sonic layers when reproduced by the headphones.
Closed cup headphones like the ATH-M50xBTs can sometimes have a boxy quality to the mid-ranges, which makes it sound as though you’re listening to music through cupped hands, but we didn’t have this problem at all, and found they provided a good level of precision.
The bass frequencies are punchy, and don’t linger for too long in the soundstage, however if you’re a real bass-head you might not be entirely convinced - they aren’t thumpy enough to feel the sub-bass reverberate throughout your body. However, this is largely a matter of taste, and if you’re looking for sonic clarity, you’d probably want to avoid overly bassy headphones anyway. The aim with the ATH-M50xBT headphones are to deliver as close as possible to the studio intentions of the original recording, so as little additional audio tweaking as possible is ideal for those looking for a faithful reproduction.
We felt there could be a little more sparkle in the highest frequencies though, especially when listening to the clattering percussion in Yosi Horikawa’s ‘Bubbles’. That’s not to say the higher frequencies don’t come across well, it’s just that they feel a little relaxed.
This is pretty common in commercial headphones, as too much treble can cause listening fatigue, and you only really need it for super detailed listening - for example, if you are a sound editor or producer. Saying that, as the ATH-M50xBTs were modeled on professional studio headphones, it seems strange to take away the option for this kind of analytical listening experience.
They ATH-M50xBTs are pretty comfortable to wear for long periods of time, with soft ear cushions and a lightweight headband. Thanks to the closed cup design, the sound isolation worked really well, so you won’t disturb people around you even when you’re listening at high volumes.
Bluetooth connectivity was very good, and we had no issues connecting to our devices quickly, and didn’t experience any drop outs. The maximum communication range for the Bluetooth connection is around 10m.
Battery life seems to be very good - Audio-Technica says they should last for 40 hours on a single charge via the micro USB connector (which takes seven hours to go from 0-100%), and you can always plug them in via the 3.5mm jack should you run out of juice on the go.
Holding your finger on the left housing for two seconds activates your smartphone’s voice assistant, and it’s compatible with Google Assistant as well as Apple’s Siri. We used the headphones to call a friend via Siri on an iPhone 6s, and although we could hear them fine, they found our voice was slightly muffled and difficult to hear. So, we wouldn’t recommend making important phone calls with the ATH-M50xBTs, but in a pinch they’d be okay.
Overall, the ATH-M50xBTs are a fantastic pair of headphones, with impressive sound quality, connectivity, and comfort.
Compared to similar high-spec models, they are pretty good value for money at $199 (£179 / AU$379), particularly as they have wireless functionality (which can usually push prices up).
We were very impressed by the audio quality overall, although if you like your music really bassy you may be disappointed, and we felt the treble frequencies could have had a little more sparkle.
They also look great - but they are not subtle, and if you don’t like the clunky studio look, you probably won’t like the industrial design of the ATH-M50xBTs. That said, they are very comfortable.
The Audio Technika ATH-M50xBT headphones also performed well in terms of battery life and Bluetooth connectivity, however the microphone isn’t particularly strong, and you may struggle to make phone calls using them - still, that’s probably not the reason you would purchase a pair of studio grade headphones in the first place.
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