Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT Review

Can Audio-Technica's ATH-M50xBT wireless cans live up to the reputation set by the terrific ATH-M50x?
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Verdict

Top sound quality and reliable wireless performance at the right price

Pros

  • Great soundstage imaging
  • Engaging sound
  • Good wireless reliability

Cons

  • Unusual pairing style
  • Slightly thicker sound than older M50 models

Key Features

  • Review Price: £179.99
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Up to 40-hour battery
  • On-cup controls
  • Included cable

What are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT?

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT are the wireless version of one of the best pairs of headphones you can get for under £120, the ATH-M50X.

This line of headphones started off as pro pairs for DJs and sound engineers. However, thanks to their good looks and great sound, they’ve earned an army of “normal” fans.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT are among the most engaging and vital-sounding wireless full-size headphones available for £179. There are a few issues, such as picky Bluetooth pairing, but they’re easy to look past at the price.

Related: Audio-Technica announces the ATH-M50xBT wireless headphones

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT – Design and comfort

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT look and feel just like the wired ATH-M50x. They’re full-size headphones with chunky plastic hinges, designed for careless one-ear monitoring without the worry that they may fall to bits after only a few months.

They work as street headphones better than most pro pairs because the cups don’t protrude too much from your head. The headband doesn’t sit as flush as that of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II or Sony WH-1000XM3. This is largely because Audio-Technica hasn’t really tempered the design in the shift from pro to consumer headphone.

As a result, you get to appreciate the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT’s swivel-happy cups and the headphones’ hint of industrial aggression – but there’s no sense of them being a “try hard”.

Related: Best wireless headphones

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT

Both the cups and the headband benefit from a generous amount of foam padding and are topped with synthetic leather. It’s soft and well textured – and particularly thick on the pads, where wear is most likely.

You can wear the ATH-M50xBTs for hours at a time comfortably, but with one caveat. Ensure they’re positioned correctly, or you may suffer some earache when you take them off. Firm padding and shallow cups aren’t the friend of oversized ears.

Audio-Technica’s aim with these headphones was to make the ATH-M50xBTs feel just like the ATH-M50x. In this mission I’d say the company has been successful. All the plastics are tough and creak-free, and the circular band of silver on the cups is real aluminium. Sound isolation isn’t hugely impressive, but they can be used without issue on buses and trains.

You get a basic carry pouch in the box for when you want to sling them in a bag, too.

Related: Best headphones

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT – Features

Bluetooth wireless is the one new feature of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT, whose set of controls sit on the left cup.

There’s a flicker power switch, a micro-USB charge socket and the usual three-button array for changing volume and play/pause.

The right cup is also touch-sensitive. However, this invisible pad simply runs your phone’s voice assistant when pressed for two seconds. You don’t have to contend with any swipe gestures here.

Battery life is excellent; it’s rated at up to 40 hours. This should be sufficient for up to two to three weeks of use for many people.

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT are lacking in only a few areas. Codec support includes AAC and aptX, but not aptX HD. When streaming Spotify, there’s no obvious signal deficiency.

The company also says that a full charge takes seven hours, which sounds very slow. Real-world results are better, with the headphones going from empty to 100% within four hours of being plugged into a laptop’s USB port.

There’s no NFC, and the approach to pairing is slightly unorthodox. Most Bluetooth speakers and headphones ask you to long-press the power button to enter pairing mode. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT begin pairing when switched on and not connected to another device. For example, to switch between your phone and laptop, you need to disconnect manually, then re-connect.

Once familiar with the process, however, pairing is quick and stability is rock-solid.

Also note that, unlike the pricier Audio-Technica DSR9BT, you can use the ATH-M50xBT with a cable should the battery run dry. One is included, with a single button remote.

Related: What is aptX and aptX HD? What you need to know

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT – Sound quality

The ATH-M50xBT have new 40mm drivers, but Audio-Technica’s  intention was to make these headphones sound just like the M50x, when used wirelessly.

All the traits that made the last model such a hit are present here, too. The ATH-M50xBT sound is engaging and vivacious. As before, there’s real energy to the treble and upper-mids, but this is only part of what makes the ATH-M50xBT sound so alive.

You won’t find many full-size wireless headphones at the price with as impressive dynamics, or as clear a soundstage. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT’s soundstage is fairly wide for a closed-back pair, and imaging is excellent at the price. You get a clear view of the position of different instruments and vocal tracks in a mix.

Related: Black Friday headphone deals

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT

Bass depth is good, just lacking a little of the curtain-shaking power of a pair such as the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 or Sony WH-1000XM3.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT are great at relaying the rhythm of music, and making it sound exciting.

So, what’s the bad stuff? Some will find the high mids and treble a slight challenge at increased volumes. While not overly sharp or sibilant, you may want to think twice if you’re very sensitive to “bright” sound signatures.

These headphones also sound slightly different to the wired ATH-M50X. Audio-Technica says they’ve been engineered to sound the same when used wirelessly. However, this pair actually has a little more weight in the upper-mids and low bass.

Which in fact makes them sound a little less like a “professional” headphone than the M50X and original M50. I only noticed this effect in direct comparison, though, and it does help to make vocals sound less cold, and very slightly less recessed than previous generations.

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT

Why buy the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT?

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT are one of the best mid-priced Bluetooth wireless headphones. They have vitality and a clarity of imaging that isn’t matched by many, including Audio-Technica’s very own “SR” series of mainstream headphones.

There’s a slight shift towards a more mainstream signature here, with some weight added to the upper mids/low bass. However, this should only be a concern if you want to use the ATH-M50xBTs as monitoring headphones rather than a wireless pair.

And if that’s the case, consider the Shure SRH940 or open-back AKG K702 instead.

The Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT are a much more affordable alternative to the Sony WH-1000XM3, for example – if one without active noise cancellation. And they’re among the very best at that job.

Verdict

Top sound quality and reliable wireless performance at the right price.

Score