The closed circumaural Shure Aonic 50 are a pair of wireless headphones with Active Noise Cancelling which have been designed to provide studio sound in the upper mid-range. We’ve checked them out to see if they succeed in doing this.
The Shure Aonic 50 come with everything you need to use, transport, and store your headphones after purchasing them. Besides the headphones themselves, a soft transport case is included. The matte black container has a fabric carry-handle and is equipped with a moulded shell for the headphones and a mesh pocket for accessories inside, which can be closed in the middle with a Velcro fastener. Since the ear cups of the Aonic 50 can be rotated by 90 degrees, the headphones can be stowed flat in the case. Where the metal struts of the headband could come into contact with the ear cups and rub against them, small foam pads are glued into the case. They protect the headphones from wear of the material and small scratches during transportation. This proves that Shure has an eye for such useful details.
In addition, a USB cable is included to connect the USB C socket on the headphones to the standard USB A socket on a charger or PC/laptop. In addition to charging the Bluetooth unit, the USB cable also allows the Aonic 50 to be connected to playback devices with digital audio output. The accessories are completed by a replacement cable for analogue operation, which has a 2.5 mm plug on the headphone side and a 3.5 mm jack plug at the other end.
To my eyes, the design of the Shure Aonic 50 has succeeded. A soft design with curved lines, matt surfaces and an appealing colour scheme underline these headphones’ ambition to belong to the upper mid-range of headphones. Depending on the version, the ear and headband pads of the Aonic 50 are brown or black. A mix of fine materials is used, with aluminium, soft artificial leather and plastic elements, which do not look “cheap” by any means. Whether it’s the precision-fit swivel joints, the burr-free metal parts or the sewn imitation leather upholstery on the pads – the workmanship is flawless throughout. These headphones are lightweight yet robust thanks to the brushed aluminium headband. The matt finish prevents fingerprints from being visible on the surfaces. Only the visible cable routing on the inside surprised me. This may be user-friendly, but visually it is a tiny flaw in the design.
The technical values given by the manufacturer read well, but do not make these headphones stand out from the competition per se. Their 50 mm drivers deliver sound in the audio transmission range from 20 Hz to 22 kHz, covering the entire audible range. With an impedance of 39 ohms, they can also be used with less powerful preamps, such as Smartphones, tablets and laptops. The manufacturer’s sensitivity specification of 97.5 dB/W @ 1 kHz identifies the Aonic 50 as headphones that are not among the very, very loud ones. And at 332 g, its weight without cables is low for its size.
According to the manufacturer, the battery life of these headphones is up to 20 hours and this makes long-lasting music enjoyment possible. An LED on the right headphone shell provides information about the battery level and pairing status. The wireless connection of the Aonic 50 is based on Bluetooth 5, which has a range of 10 m. The Shure headphones work not only with SBC, AAC and aptX, but also with aptX HD, aptX Low Latency Audio and Sony LDAC.
Special ANC mode with app control
The on/off button on the headset also serves as a pairing button and allows you to check the battery status, for which an audible status message is then issued. Plus and minus buttons control the volume. In between there is a multifunction key for play/pause, skip forward/backward, answer/reject calls, activate voice assistant and factory reset. A further button is used to activate noise suppression or the “environment mode”.
Headphone functions can be controlled with the free ShurePlus PLAY app, which is available for Android and iOS devices and also serves as a music player. This allows the user to control everything necessary from a single source and means you don’t have to switch between different apps on your mobile device. Unfortunately, the app requires at least Android Oreo 8 or iOS 11.3, which means that users of older versions of the operating systems will be disappointed. The app’s settings contain some of the special features of the Shure Aonic. Firstly, the “Environment Mode” which can be adjusted in ten stages. There are also two intensity modes for noise reduction, which can be selected in the app (normal/max). Furthermore, the headphones have an integrated equalizer on board, and five presets are available for use in the app. This allows the user to choose between linear playback, de-esser, loudness, low and vocal boost. The app itself is clearly laid out and works reliably, and the operation of the app features is self-explanatory.
Shure advertise the Aonic 50 with the words “unparalleled comfort”. And indeed, ear and headband cushions are not only wonderfully soft and supple, but the adjustment of the headphones to the shape of the head is also extremely smooth. This is due to the fact that the ear cups can be turned, tilted and swivelled. Because the size adjustment is ratcheted, the last setting is retained even after the headphones are removed. The oval ear cushions of these headphones can be removed and changed with a gentle twist. Replacement ear cushions are available in black and dark brown, corresponding to the two colour versions of the Aonic 50.
The mini jack cable that is included is 1.50 m long and thus long enough to be easily placed underneath clothing when using the headphones on the move, so there isn’t too much cable to get tangled up. By the way, the USB cable not only allows you to charge the headphones but also to connect them to digital audio devices.
When the Aonic 50 is switched on and paired with a Bluetooth audio source; voice feedback provides information about the respective pairing status. Even the sound quality of these announcements is significantly better as the resolution is more detailed than on many competing devices. The learning curve for operating the button shortcuts isn’t too steep, the buttons themselves are easy to reach and can be easily distinguished from one another by touch and can therefore be selectively controlled.
When using Bluetooth, it is immediately noticeable that the Aonic 50 delivers a high-range sound with lots of details. It is also extremely well positioned in the mid-frequency range of speech and vocals. Here it differentiates the audio material well and draws a wonderfully vivid sound image. In the bass range, its differentiated image extends to just before the deep bass range. Although sub-basses take up a proper place in these closed headphones, no unpleasant booming occurs at ultra-low frequencies. For my personal taste, the upper mids and highs could be a bit more subdued, so that the Aonic 50 doesn’t sound so aggressive at higher volumes. This sound pattern quickly leads to hearing fatigue, especially with mid-range music like rock and metal. At medium playback volumes, however, these headphones fully display their sonic strengths. Here they sound more balanced, with an open sound stage and strong stereo width. Compared to other reference headphones, the dynamics of the Aonic 50 seem slightly compressed to me. Particularly when listening to classical recordings, I found that quiet parts of the recording seemed much louder to me than with other headphones.
I especially liked the shielding of your ears from outside noise. Even without the noise-cancelling function, these Shure headphones only allow small amounts of sound from the outside world to reach your ears. Even their sound insulation to the outside is perfectly ok. What is more important, however, is that although it eliminates ambient noise, there is actually a clearly perceptible permanent background noise after switching on the noise cancelling in “Max.” mode. In “normal” mode, on the other hand, the noise-cancelling works much more quietly. However, the app must be used to switch between the intensities. Environment Mode is really exciting and useful. While on the one hand continuous ambient noises (such as from engines, air conditioners, etc.) are cancelled out, occasional, selected sounds (e.g. speech, signal tones) are reproduced via the headphones. In this way, the standard sound insulation of the ear pads can also be eliminated. The sound image of these headphones remains largely stable in all three listening modes. Only in the noise-cancelling mode does the treble reproduction appear a little more aggressive.
If the Aonic 50 is used with an analogue audio cable, its maximum playback volume is significantly reduced. But when it comes to sound, these headphones remain true to themselves. If you listen carefully, you will notice that the aggressiveness of the treble is somewhat less pronounced in cable mode.
The Shure Aonic 50 are closed Bluetooth headphones with active noise cancelling, which performs convincingly. Stylish design, great materials and an attractive package are the basis for this. In addition, their wearing comfort is excellent and their handling is good. The headphones offer a detailed, very vivid and full sounding sound, which even remains balanced at medium playback volume, but has slightly aggressive trebles. Its active noise suppression works perfectly but leads to noise when used in “Max.” mode. A highlight of the Aonic 50 is their Environment Mode, which eliminates ambient noise, but makes speech and signals from your surroundings clearly perceptible.
For me, the Shure Aonic 50 delivers on its promise of studio-quality sound, and thanks to their comfort and Bluetooth features, they cut a fine figure in day to day life as well.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 22.000 Hz
- Impedance39 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)dB/W @ 1 kHz: 97,5 dB
- Weight with cable351 g
- Weight without cable332 g
- Cable length150 cm
What's in the box
- Mini jack cable
- USB charging cable
- Travel case
- available in black and brown/white
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, LDAC
- BT version: 5.0