Audio-technica ATH-M50xBT2 Wireless Over-ear Headphones Review
Matthew Jens auditions the latest high-tech iteration of this trusty headphone design…
ATH-M50xBT2 Wireless Over-ear Headphones
I am going to let you in on a little secret – you don't need expensive headphones. Yes, I know you're reading a hi-fi website with money to burn - I get it. You're here to have your ears blessed by the newest, flashiest, leather-wrapped, woodgrain-laden planar magnetic kilo buck headphones, painstakingly crafted by hand in a remote village. But I have news for you. Audio-technica figured out this headphone thing years ago, with the original ATH-M50x release.
It took the entire head-fi community by storm, with its remarkably low price point, robust build and famous mostly flat, but with a cheeky wink from the low-end frequency response. These combined elements have made the M50x a world-renowned workhorse, used in studios and live environments worldwide. So now, the company has released a new wireless version. No, not the wireless version from a few years ago. This one is new, with even juicer bells and whistles…
The fundamental elevator pitch is this. One of the best selling, professionally revered headphones on the market now has LDAC support, killer battery life, and is advertising to have retained its famous neutral tuning. How much of this pitch rings true? Let's dig in and find out.
The M50x BT2 is nearly physically identical to the M50x, with some added tactile buttons and only around 20 grams of extra weight. Impressive, considering all of the tech that's packed inside. These buttons are considerably more straightforward to use than the touch panels they are replacing on the ATH M50x BT from a few years ago. That tech, mind you, now includes the respected Asahi Kasei AK4331 DAC, and drops aptX codec support, favouring Sony's LDAC support instead. A great move, considering LDAC boasts a considerably higher bitrate and is generally more favourable among those fussy about such things.
There's also a battery inside, which allows for a whopping 50 hours of claimed use, and this is charged by a USB-C port, thankfully. I am inclined to believe the advertised battery life is correct, as I've been using these headphones every day for a while now, and they haven't needed a charge yet. The slow charging complaints from the previous M50x BT are now gone, replaced by a rapid charge feature that can juice up to 3 hours of playtime in just 10 minutes of charge.
Despite all of these goodies, the M50x BT2 still folds up neatly (with both cups folding into the headband) and doesn't eat up much bag space. I have been able to fit the original M50x into my toolbag for years without even thinking twice about it.
It's much of the same story when it comes to fit. The usual traits of the ATH-M50x make a return here. Hanging the headphones over some books for a few days can easily loosen the tight fit. Considering they're aimed at home and professional use, it's a positive sign to see a confident, firm grip on the head. The leatherette pads don't allow for tremendous amounts of breathing, though. This tight fit means that acoustic isolation is still fantastic – passive isolation, not active noise cancellation, which the M50x BT2 lacks. For those sorts of bells and whistles, you're better off chasing down the ATH-ANC700BT.
Sonically the faithful neutrality and cheeky mid/bass hump is still there. You would be hard-pressed to hear a difference if you weren't comparing this with the original M50x. Mind you, that's when using the wireless LDAC codec. When it's plugged in, the sound difference is even more negligible. The sensitivity is similar, too, so you won't need any external amplification to listen to this headphone within its full potential. A trusty laptop, tablet or soundcard will drive these just fine. Or perhaps a mixing console. And the brilliant part is, you can now EQ the sound to your liking with the inbuilt app.
I am happy to report that Audio-technica's new ATH-M50x BT2 is precisely what it says on the tin. It's the trusty ATH-M50x, but with LDAC support and whopping battery life. Sometimes, even the most straightforward elevator pitch can be a perfect, accurate summary of a finished product.
Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.
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