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Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

Simply superb

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review
(Image: © Regan Coule/Future)

Laptop Mag Verdict

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 is a sonic gem that awards brand enthusiasts with strong connectivity and playtime in a retro package.

Pros

  • +

    Precise sound

  • +

    Near-category-leading battery life

  • +

    Companion app with unique features

  • +

    Robust connectivity

  • +

    Classic design

Cons

  • -

    Undesirable call quality

  • -

    Feels uncomfortable after an hour of use

  • -

    No ANC and transparency modes

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 is a sequel to one of the best wireless headphones ever created. It isn’t Red Dot Design Award material nor is it meant to be a flashy model geared towards fashion-conscious music lovers. This is simply a no-frills headphone with superior audio quality, battery life and connectivity. 

Even without highly coveted features like active noise cancellation and ambient listening, the ATH-M50xBT2 offers plenty of value at an attainable price point.

Some of its drawbacks may have you leaning towards popular rivals from consumer favorites like Beats, JBL and Sony. But if you’re familiar with Audio-Technica’s sound pedigree, you know that the ATH-M50xBT2 is a sure shot for sonic bliss.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 availability and price

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 can be purchased in Black for $199 at major online retailers, including Amazon and Dell, or directly from Audio-Technica. A second color (Lantern Glow) is sold for $219 on the company’s website. Inside the box comes an audio cable, carry pouch and USB-C charging cable.

For comparison, these cans are listed lower than premium noise cancellers like the $379 Bose 700 and $349 Sony WH-1000XM4, but carry a higher MSRP than critically acclaimed mid-rangers like the $149 Cleer Enduro ANC.

Be sure to bookmark our headphone deals page for the latest sales.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 design and comfort

If the ATH-M50xBT2 looks too familiar, that’s because the design was practically left untouched compared to the original. It sticks with the traditional studio headphone guise, donning an all-black exterior composed of plastic. You'll also find circular silver accents on the front of each earcup and the sides of each hinge.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

What it lacks in pizzaz, it makes up for in construction. These cans are well built and portable-friendly. The earcups rotate and collapse inward for convenient storage inside any laptop bag or the accompanying faux leather pouch, which has extra room to bring along other accessories.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 (Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Keeping these on your head for more than an hour will cause some discomfort due to tight clamp force. I noticed the drivers pressing up against my ears, and so did my wife during a short trial run. Padding on the earcups feels soft and pleasant, but gets hot after a while, and the headband provides very little support atop the skull. Since the headphones are on the heavy side (10.6 ounces), you’ll need to adjust the extenders properly or risk serious slippage.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 controls and digital assistant

The control scheme is basic, but versatile. A three-button module is placed on the left earcup for playback, call management, power/pairing and volume. Above it is an action button to enable your device’s native digital assistant. Each button produces solid tactility, ensuring commands are met with every single/multi-/long press.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

I already knew touch sensors weren’t in the cards, but I had hoped for motion detection to auto-pause/play when removing or placing the headphones on my head. No dice.

Audio-Technica makes up for it with Alexa integration, letting you enable Amazon’s voice assistant via “Alexa” wake word. It works well, thanks to an intelligible dual-mic array that demonstrates great vocal pickup to instantly activate the feature hands-free. Google Assistant, Siri and Bixby are also compatible and can be enabled manually to deliver similar performance.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 audio quality

Some serious audio specs lie underneath the hood. We’re talking 45mm large aperture drivers, an amplifier, an internal DAC, and high-resolution audio support (LDAC). Altogether, this helps to create detailed, clear high-fidelity sound.

I started with fun selections like Run DMC & Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.” The bass kick and snares struck vigorously, and Steven Tyler’s wailing vocals resonated well; transitioning to more bass-heavy tracks was equally satisfying. The drum loop and synths on Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice” sounded crisp and funky, making for a headbanging good time. 

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

What I found most surprising was the ATH-M50xBT2’s stereo imaging. It’s remarkable. Most mid-range-priced wireless headphones can’t accurately pinpoint the direction of individual sounds in songs. These headphones can — and do so as well as expensive models like the WH-1000XM4. 

Just give any jazz record with strong instrumental representation a spin. I recommend the Ahmad Jamal Trio’s “Patterns,” which sounds like a live concert in your ears. The further you get into the track, the more you’ll pick up subtle nuances like cymbal taps and double bass plucks.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

While the headphones sound superb out of the box, Audio-Technica grants users the freedom to tweak it by selecting from five different EQs: Original (default), Bass Boost, Clear Vocal, Treble Enhanced and V-Shaped. They are decently engineered, but if you’re someone who wants more emphasis on specific frequencies, it’s worth toying with each one. Bangers like Black Milk’s “Black Sabbath,” where the EQ on both the bass and vocals is already high, benefitted from this feature. Clear Vocal brought more definition to the drearily sung hook and V-Shaped balanced the low end, resulting in a less distorted presentation.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

LDAC support is appreciated to enjoy lossless streaming services, though it doesn’t work so well. Transfer rates were sluggish and there was occasional dropout when playing Qobuz tracks. Thankfully, you can get real true lossless playback while using the bundled audio cable, an accessory that adds more punch to bass and slightly increases the volume. 

A Low Latency Mode is also available; this synchronizes vocals better on videos.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 special features and app

The Audio-Technica Connect app is where most of the magic happens. Besides the previously mentioned audio features, there are some other perks worth exploring. You can adjust the sound between the left and right channels, as well as the volume levels from 16 to 64 steps. Other notables include a visual quick guide, volume slider, and battery level indicators.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

You can download Connect for iOS or Android, though let me warn you that some Android users may experience pairing troubles, depending on their device. The app was extremely biased against my Samsung Galaxy Note S20 Ultra, constantly throwing “connection failure” errors at the screen when the headphones were already paired to the smartphone. That wasn’t the case when using my Google Pixel 6 XL Pro or damaged-but-still-functional Pixel 2 XL.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 battery life and charging case

Audio-Technica included a DC 3.7V lithium polymer battery for 50 hours of continuous use. This is more than double the playtime of top ANC models like the AirPods Max and Bose 700; each is capped at 20 hours. The only other wireless headphones with more battery life are the Enduro ANC (60 hours with ANC on) and Edifier W830BT (95 hours).

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Fully charging the headphones can take up to three hours, but if you’re the impatient type, the ATH-M50xBT2 boasts some insanely powerful quick charging. A 10-minute charge equals three hours of listening time.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 call quality and connectivity

As a calling headset, the ATH-M50xBT2 isn’t very serviceable due to muffling issues and the mics letting in too much external sound. Most of my calls were met with negative feedback. My voice was overpowered by background fracas, no matter the environment. Video calls performed similarly.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

At least Bluetooth 5.0 surpassed expectations. Range was much higher than what Audio-Technica advertised on the ATH-M50xBT2’s product page (33 feet), achieving up to 45 feet of wireless listening before dropout occurred. Pairing was instantaneous on Android devices through one-touch Google Fast Pair. There is also multipoint technology to connect the headphones to two devices at the same time.

Bottom line

You can go fishing through numerous $199 wireless headphones, and you’ll be lucky to reel in a pair that can hit must-have marks (battery life, connectivity, sound) the way the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 does. Audio is superbly balanced with a clean and natural delivery that some experts complained was missing from the original. Up to 50 hours of playtime warrants zero complaints. And the variety of newer wireless features like Alexa voice activation, LDAC and multipoint technology show the company’s commitment to modernizing each release without compromising their minimalistic and nostalgic designs. 

However, the ATH-M50xBT2 isn’t flawless. Had Audio-Technica put more effort into polishing the call quality and companion app, as well as add effective ANC, these headphones could have achieved a perfect score.