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Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 Review

Verdict

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Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 are great-sounding, long-lasting and durable headphones. There’s one part you need to make peace with before buying. They have no active noise cancellation, which a significant hole in a wireless headphone’s feature list these days.

Pros

  • Great stereo imaging
  • Vibrant sound
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • No active noise cancellation

Availability

  • UKRRP: £179
  • USARRP: $199
  • EuropeRRP: €199

Key Features

  • USB-C chargingSwitches from micro USB charging to USB-C
  • 50-hour battery lifeEfficient Bluetooth lets these headphones last for up to 50 hours off a charge
  • LDACSupports an advanced high-quality audio codec for Android smartphones

Introduction

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 are mainstream full-size headphones, but they are based on a classic DJ design. You can trust these headphones to survive bumps, drops and scrapes. And the outer design does not seem to have changed substantially since this series began 14-15 years ago.

They sound great too, among the best you’ll find at the price.

That Audio-Technica has not thrown out what made the M50 series special in the first place is commendable. However, compared to something like the Sony WH-1000XM4 they do not seem quite as complete a package.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 have no active noise cancellation, and this is more of an issue than it used to be. It’s not just Bose that makes great ANC headphones anymore, and almost all the issues of older pairs have been more-or-less fixed. This pair is also not the best for phone calls either, as its ability to remove noise for the person on the other end is pretty poor.

I don’t think these issues are necessarily deal-breakers. For music the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 perform at a level similar to the Sony WH-1000XM4, Bose QuietComfort 45 and other similarly expensive pairs. This set is cheaper. You just have to accept there’s not quite as much techy gloss going on here.

Design

  • Classic DJ headphone style
  • Fold-in cups
  • Over-ear design

Trusted Reviews covers a lot of headphones each year. But there has been a pair that looks somewhat like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 in my reference pile almost the entire time I’ve reviewed headphones.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 design is, for the most part, very similar to the last generation Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT, and even the original M50.

This design has become a sort of low-key headphone icon. It has never been the most popular set around, but never trendy enough to really age as such either.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 laid down

The outer frame is tough plastic, with a chunky hinge that lets the cups fold up in to the headband.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 are less sleek than pricier Sony and Bose alternatives, but I find them comfortable for long sessions and perfectly fine for running. Their cups aren’t particularly deep, though, which may not suit all ears.

ATH-M50xBT2 in foldable position

Features

  • No active noise cancellation
  • Long battery life
  • Supports cabled use

One day I’d like to see a version of the M50 range with great ANC. I’m reminded they don’t have good sound isolation every time I walk out of the house with them on.

These headphones do not offer lots of features for a set of 2021/2022 headphones. They do not have active noise cancellation and I do not find their passive sound blocking that great either. This is the number one reason not to buy the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2.

Its omission is more of an issue than it was for the first ATH-M50xBT. ANC is a very common sight to see on headphones around this price.

I used to think of ANC as a take-it-or-leave-it feature. It’s great for removing city noise, but a few years ago many headphones’ ANC was not that good. It altered the sound quality too much at times and could introduce a noise bed. These days lots of headphones have good cancellation, so make sure you won’t miss it before buying the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2.

Controls on Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 earcup

The other, perhaps less minor, issue is noise cancellation during calls. This is less advanced than ANC, used to separate outside noise from that of your voice using multiple microphones. After a good handful of long conversations using the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2, its ambient noise reduction seems poor.

Now let’s get onto the good stuff. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 are very low maintenance headphones. Their battery seems to last forever, and is rated for 50 hours of use.

They automatically enter a sleep mode when left sitting around. And when you switch them back on with a press of a button on one cup, a voice prompt tells you whether their level is “high”, “medium” or “low”.

If you currently use true wireless earphones and get frustrated by the constant charging, you’ll appreciate the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2.

ATH-M50xBT2 viewed from side profile

This headphone also solves all the pairing problems of the original ATH-M50xBT. Originally that set couldn’t pair with a second device if it had been linked with another. No such problems here.

The side buttons are nicely contoured for easy use, and there’s a dedicated button to summon your phone’s digital assistant. This was missing in the last Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT pair. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 also have a full-size 3.5mm cabled input. A normal length cable is included in the box, and you could easily pick up a much longer online for next to nothing should you want to plug into a TV or AV receiver for late-night TV/movie watching.

Sound Quality

  • Better bass control than the last generation
  • Strong imaging offers involving sound
  • Conservative sub-bass

Have you ever re-arranged the furniture in a room to low-key redecorate, only to switch back a week later? Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 are a bit like this.

I think I’ve tried every version of the M50 series to date. They all sound great. But Audio-Technica added some extra bass emphasis to the last-generation Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT, for a more mass-market sound.

Audio-technica has pulled that back, making the ATH-M50xBT2 sound more like the ATH-M50X.

earcup design on the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 headphones

As a result these headphones are better-balanced, with a flatter (but not entirely flat) frequency profile. But they still offer the unusually good sound width, vitality and punch this series is known for.

I’ve always enjoyed the relative expansiveness of the M50 series headphones, found them more engaging than a bunch of their rivals, and that’s true again here. This is down to their great imaging, which helps to make up for what you miss in a closed-back headphones — that true open soundstage of an open-back pair.

I often wear open headphones when watching movies at home, but they’re useless for listening while you walk around streets. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 bring some of the character I listen for in an at-home pair in their ability to clearly separate out parts of the stereo sound field.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 headband

They have a little more treble clarity than some in this class too, a way to lend music energy without leaning on emphasised bass to provide it.

But with less bass, are they less fun than their predecessors? A little more sub-bass power would be welcome, but the otherwise carefully controlled upper bass character is great.

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Should you buy it?

As ever with this range, sound quality is the primary reason to buy the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2. It’s accurate enough to keep the audio snobs relatively happy; fun and engaging enough for everyone else. Bass has also been reined in a little in this generation, for improved coherence.

These headphones do not have any form of active noise cancellation, and their passive isolation isn’t that strong. If you’re looking to block out public transport noise you may want to save up for the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose QuietComfort 45 instead.

Final Thoughts

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 are a slightly more grown-up version of the ATH-M50xBT they replace. Bass has been re-formulated, getting rid of the deliberate boost for clearer, more transparent sound. A well-controlled low-end matched with great stereo imaging makes this pair very engaging for casual, or less casual, listening.

They also move to USB-C charging, and battery life is excellent. However, there’s still no active noise cancellation, and this should be a major consideration for anyone looking to listen to music on public transport or in a noisy office.

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FAQs

Do the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 have ANC?

These headphones do not offer active noise cancellation.

Do the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 support aptX?

There’s no aptX support, but these headphones do use AAC and LDAC as well as SBC.

Are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 waterproof?

The headphones have no water resistance rating.

Full specs

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