Are the new Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 the company’s best Bluetooth over-ears to date? Maybe! Audio-Technica has done just about everything right with the M50xBT2. They sit comfortable and stable and offer a very long-lasting battery. Also they come with high-resolution audio, multi-pairing and extensive personalisation options via the app.
In 2018, Audio-Technica released a wireless version of their popular studio headphones M50x: the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT (review here), which have received a comprehensive update for their second generation. The Japanese manufacturer’s consistent pricing policy is worth noting. But how has the new model improved?
With a weight of 308 grams, these compact over-ears are not ultra-lightweight, but this does not detract from the wearing comfort in any way. Since the fit is neither too tight nor too loose, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 offer sufficient support to stay on during a sprint to the bus stop. They are also extremely comfortable to wear for several hours.
With its tilting, swivelling and folding ear cups, the design is very portable, space-saving and adapts flexibly to a wide variety of head shapes. The size adjustment of the well-padded headband also has a good range, covering heads from petite to larger sizes. With the previous model, I complained about warm ears during longer listening sessions. But the heat generation tendency caused by the design has now been optimised, increasing the suitability of the M50xBT2 for periods of longer use. The passive shielding of these headphones also appears to be extremely effective. With the oval-shaped cups being angled rather than straight the ears are snugly enclosed by the padding. Audio-Technica has dispensed with the active noise cancellation (ANC) that many of their competitors currently offer. But given the isolation properties of the closed over-ear system, I didn’t miss the ANC function, at least not during playback.
Battery life of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2
In our battery test, these superbly made Bluetooth over-ears impressed us. They offer excellent endurance values, achieving a runtime of 64 hours when using the AAC codec at a higher volume level. An extended weekend trip or longer journeys, therefore, present no problem to the M50xBT2. Especially as these over-ears are quick-chargeable via the USB-C port and offer sufficient capacity for just under five hours after a ten-minute power supply. The full charging process takes three hours and twenty minutes. The included USB-C to USB-A charging cable is rather short at 30 centimetres, and it would have been good if it were longer.
As an alternative to wireless operation, the ATH-M50xBT2 can also be used wired thanks to the 3.5 mm audio input on the left side. This extends the range of use and is a big plus. In this second generation, however, the mini-jack cable included comes without a remote for device control. Also an additional microphone is missing, which is probably due to the fact that most smartphones no longer have a 3.5 mm connection.
For wireless connection, Bluetooth version 5.0 is used. This makes it possible to achieve a range of up to ten metres within an urban environment, and was stable through several rooms. Advantageously, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 support multi-pairing with two devices simultaneously, so that both smartphone and laptop or tablet can be paired. And you need not miss any phone calls.
The ATH-M50xBT2 connect very quickly and reliably as soon as the system is switched on by briefly pressing the middle remote button. This is helped by the fact that Google Fast Pair can also be used with Android devices. If the wireless link is active, the central button controls the start/stop function and is used to answer and end phone calls. Separate plus and minus buttons are available for volume control. By pressing and holding these buttons, you can also select a track by using the plus button to skip forward and the minus button to skip back. This is intuitive to use and functions perfectly. The classic 3-button remote is supplemented by a round button that can be easily distinguished haptically and is used to communicate with your phone’s voice assistant. According to the manufacturer, Siri and Google Assistant, as well as Amazon Alexa, are supported, and selection is determined via connection with the app. When making phone calls, we noticed that the two beamforming microphones were quite effective in separating your own voice from background noise. This results in good speech intelligibility on both sides of the call.
Many additions have been made to the A-T Connect app for iOS and Android systems. The app features extensive personalisation of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2. You have the option of updating the firmware, a tracking function and playback control. Also the app displays the battery status and the audio codec in use and choices available have been retained from the previous model. These over-ears also support Sony’s high-resolution Bluetooth codec LDAC in addition to SBC and AAC. New functions such as the L/R balance control, the step division of the volume control into 16, 32 or 64 steps and the EQ section, all focus on the ability to make individual adjustments to the listening experience. The range of functions was well implemented and was not overwhelming; they were clearly structured and self-explanatory to use.
Sound adjustment of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 can be done either via graphic or parametric equaliser. Five bands are provided for your own settings that can be saved as pre-sets. Alternatively, pre-configured EQ settings such as “Bass Boost”, “Clear Vocals”, “V-shaped”, or “Treble Enhance” can be used, providing good reference points. These settings are permanently active even without the app. However, there is a restriction when using the EQ section, as the maximum sampling rate is reduced to 48 kHz. This is not relevant when using the codecs SBC or AAC but is relevant when using LDAC. Furthermore, the app provides a low-latency mode, which is intended to optimise the synchronisation of picture and sound. When watching films or when gaming, this ensures a smoother display without noticeable offset when using the SBC codec. Using the sidetone function, it is also possible to set whether and to what intensity one’s own voice and outside noises should be mixed in during telephone calls. This offers a more natural conversation situation due to the high level of isolation.
A lot has also changed from a sound perspective. In the 2018 model Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT (review here), there was a clear discrepancy between wired and wireless playback. The result was a drop in quality, that seemed clipped and a bit harsh. This is no longer the case with the ATH-M50xBT2, as the sound quality offered wirelessly has improved considerably; not only in the use of LDAC but also in the AAC and SBC codec.
Three years later, we find a completely different level of quality is achieved in Bluetooth playback. The previous version was tuned with a bass emphasis. The basic sound of the second generation is characterised by an excellent balance with a very clean, pure sound image, which merely has a subtle, warm finish. Without the fullness in the upper bass and fundamental range, the sound seems more delicate, airier and a little brighter. The individual instruments are more clearly separated, especially in more complex arrangements. The stage of the M50xBT2 also feels wider, which makes it easier to locate the instruments in the stereo panorama, as there is more space between the signals. The only thing I missed a little were the benefits of the depth gradation of the previous model.
Although the lower-frequency presentation has been slimmed down, the bass reproduction was still powerful, tight, crisp and as if from a unified source, with a fast, direct response. The low bass also put a smile on my face due to its penetrating power and ability to punch from below.
The midrange has gained in presence, and it seemed to me to be more restrained in the M50xBTs, except for the fundamental range. The lively, finely resolved reproduction seems appealingly natural and invites you to listen consciously. It is highlighting both specific nuances as well as weaknesses since these over-ears are not inclined to gloss over them. Voices are centrally positioned and are reproduced in a way that encompasses the entire space, conveying an intense directness in pop and rock as well as in jazz or classical music without being over-focused or becoming obtrusive. However, emphatic voice reproduction with excellent intelligibility is characteristic across genres. Sibilants causing no problems even at higher volume levels.
The high-frequency range had energy, seemed lively, agile and rich in detail. But it never felt like a strain, and it was free of sharpness or harshness, meaning you can listen without fatigue.
Overall, the individual frequency ranges struck me as balanced, coherent and immaculately matched. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 commending as high-quality all-rounders that need not shy away from comparisons with more expensive models.
In my view, the manufacturer has done just about everything right with the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2. These comfortable and stable Bluetooth over-ears offer a fast-charging, very long-lasting battery, high-resolution audio codecs, multi-pairing and extensive personalisation options via the app. I award full points for the precise, balanced sound and the excellent price/performance ratio of the attractive overall package. My congratulations to Japan!
- Precise, balanced sound
- Comfortable, stable fit
- Robust, foldable design
- Long battery life
- USB-C port with fast charging function
- 3.5 mm audio input
- Speech intelligibility during phone calls
- Multipairing with two devices
- Extensive personalisation options via app
- Support AAC format and LDAC
- Excellent price/performance ratio
- EQ section limited to a maximum sampling rate of 48 kHz
- No Bluetooth 5.2
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)15 - 28.000 Hz
- Impedance38 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)99 dB
- Weight with cable324 g
- Weight without cable307 g
- Cable length120 cm
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC
- BT version: 5.0