A successor that proves its mettle!

One of the most renowned brands in the audio industry, Audio Technica have pioneered manufacturing headphones that are not only fit for professional use but also bring high-end audio to the regular folk. The BT lineup of professional-grade ATH-M brand of headphones brings a perfect balance of professional-grade audio and ease of connectivity. The latest headphone from that lineup to show up at the Digit Test Centre is the Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2.

We reviewed the Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT back in 2019, with the latest device from the lineup tested by us being the Audio Technica ATH-M20xBT. Both these headphones stood out from the rest of the headphones that we had tested. The main reason is their positioning in the market. However, between the ATH-M20xBT and the ATH-M50xBT2, we get a lot of new additions, which might be a factor that drives users towards and away from these headphones.

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

I tested all the changes between the ATH-M50xBT and the ATH-M50xBT2 and also compared them to the ATH-M20xBT to see how much of a difference approximately ₹10,000 brings in. Here’s what I found out –

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review – Build and Design

The overall design of the ATH-M50xBT2 is pretty much the same as its predecessor. The industrial design of these headphones is my and my lead reviewer, Dhriti’s favourite. If you were to place the old M50xBT and the M50xBT2 side by side, then pointing out the difference would be really hard.

The biggest changes are in terms of the controls of the headphones. In the ATH-M50xBT, you had a toggle switch for power, while on the ATH-M50xBT2, it has been replaced with a regular button. The brand has added a dedicated voice assistant button to the control cluster. The micro-USB charging port has been swapped out for a more convenient and better USB-C port. And the branding on the headband was printed on in the earlier variation of the headphones, and in the ATH-M50xBT2, it is embossed. 

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

The weight of the two devices remains the same, but I noticed a slight difference in the clamping force of the two headphones. The newer ATH-M50xBT2 had a more snug fit on my head. My head size is slightly on the larger side, so finding a pair of headphones that sits well on my head without crushing my skull is a bit of a task for me always. But with these, I got the perfect fit that I desired. I daily drive the ATH-M50xBT, and when I switched out to the ATH-M50xBT2, I barely noticed any difference apart from the clamping force.

When I wore it for long hours, like through an entire work day, taking calls, I experienced slight discomfort around my temple as the higher clamping force meant that the stem of my eyeglasses dug in. As we have mentioned numerous times before, the fit is completely subjective, and what works or might not work for me is totally different from what you’d get. So, try it out for yourself.

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

As for the materials used, they continue the trend of the solid quality that Audio Technica maintains across its product lines. The plastic used is robust, and barely grabbed any scuffs or scratches while I was using the headphones. The headband has a metallic band layered over a plastic one, which makes it indestructible in daily use. 

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The cushioning is soft and comfortable, as usual. While on the topic of cushioning, over the three years that the ATH-M50xBT has been here in the Digit Test Centre, the leatherette material used on the headbands and the earcups has frayed. So, that is something you should keep in mind. But the earcup pads are easily replaceable and are available on e-commerce platforms, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it that much.

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 reviewAudio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

The swivel mechanism on the headphones is robust as usual and ensures that the headphones can be worn the way you want to, and you get a great seal around your ears at all times. Thanks to the swivel, these headphones can 

The USB-C and 3.5mm ports are robust, and the cables sit in place without moving much.

To summarise my thoughts about the build and design in a sentence – It carries the legacy well and will not disappoint in the long run.

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review – Features

Like the ATH-M20xBT and others in the ATH-M BT lineup of headphones, the ATH-M50xBT2 is also not heavy on features. You get Google Fast Pair support, which works like a charm on Android devices. So, if you are someone working in a studio environment and want to quickly take your workaround to show it to others while maintaining the monitoring quality you have in the studio, then these headphones are for you!

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review -

The controls are intuitive and easy to use. The button presses have a nice tactile feel to them, and every press is registered without any lag, regardless of the device I was connected to. When you plug in the 3.5 mm cable supplied with the headphones, they automatically turn off and switch to AUX mode, which is something I have loved on headphones!

There is multi-point connection support. The support for voice assistants has been added to the ATH-M50xBT2, which was missing on the cheaper ATH-M20xBT. Between my Apple iPhone 12 Mini and the test phone which I was using, the Google Pixel 6A, the voice assistant trigger and the voice command pickup were flawless for the most part. There were some cases when I needed to repeat the commands, but that had more to do with the microphone fitted on these headphones than anything else. 

As for the app, it is also something extra that you get over the M20xBT with the ATH-M50xBT. The app is well done, with the design and flow being easy to navigate. The included pentaband EQ should be good enough for most people to tune the sound signature of these headphones to their liking. You can also toggle the sidetone, L/R balance, and low latency mode (gamers, rejoice!) from the app. And, that is about it. More consumer-centric and massy headphones tend to have a more feature-rich app. But, these headphones do not have enough features only to be added to the app. Whatever is there though, is well implemented. 

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 reivew

There is no ANC on the headphones, which at ₹20,000 is something that many would expect a pair of headphones to have. But these are not like other headphones. These stand out in. What makes them stand out is the lack of features. But, what they lose out here, they make up in other aspects like build quality, comfort, and performance, which we will talk about next.

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Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review – Performance

In terms of performance, it is business as usual for the ATH-M50xBT2. The sound signature isn’t completely flat, as it is the case with many other studio-grade headphones out there. There is colouration in the mids and highs, which might disappoint the purists who would ideally want a flat sound. But for the audience that these headphones are targeted at, the sound signature is well-rounded.

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

The bass has been neutered, so bass heads will need to tune the sound signature in the app. In the mids and the highs, there is a significant boost, which can be seen in the graph below. As a result, the sound is bright and perfect for mixing tracks where you will get a fair idea of the vocals and instruments, especially metal instruments. But too much of a boost is also something that is not good. It introduces sibilance, which is the over-amplification of ‘S’ and ‘T’ sounds, and causes fatigue when you are listening to the headphones for longer periods of time.

As you can see in the graph below, the ATH-M50xBT had significantly more boost in the highs than these headphones, which caused them to have sibilance in the audio. The boost in the highs was added to neuter the bass that was boosted, but it ended up introducing sibilance. And, the ones who are susceptible to it, would be prone to getting headaches and experiencing fatigue when listening to these headphones.

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

Now, in a 1:1 comparison with their cheaper cousins, the sound signature of both the ATH-M50xBT and the ATH-M50xBT2 is much more gradual. This also goes to show the difference in the targeting of the headphones and the difference in cost of the headphones. The better tuning on the more expensive headphones demands R&D, which drives up the cost. And, the people spending close to ₹20,000 would most likely be professionals actively working on important audio projects, for which they would need a more balanced sound. With the ATH-M20xBT, which comes at around half the cost of the ATH-M50xBT2, the target audience would comprise of starters in the audio space and casual listeners who would want a more mainstream and coloured sound.

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

With the volume cranked up to the max, there was barely any distortion that I experienced. Enough about the sound signature. Let’s move on to the microphone performance of the headphones. 

The ATH-M50xBT2 come with two microphones fitted on the left earcup. This microphone arrangement seemed weird to me to begin with, and when I started using the headphones, the lacklustre performance of the mic came through. While it held its own in quiet environments, as soon as there was background noise, like people talking about 5-6 feet away from where I was, the pickup quality of the microphones took a plunge. So, if you were planning to take calls on these headphones during your commute, then be ready to answer all the ‘Huh?’ and ‘What did you say?’ that comes your way.

As mentioned earlier, there is no ANC on the headphones. So, to cut out background noise you will be relying on the passive isolation and fit of the headphones. These headphones fit me well so the passive isolation was sufficient in most cases in office. There was minimal sound leakage as well, until I hit the 70 per cent volume mark. Over that, my colleagues could hear every song that I was listening to.

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The Bluetooth connectivity on these headphones is solid. I had two wooden walls between me and the source and the connection was strong! As for the CODEC support, these headphones support both LDAC and AAC, which would appeal to people who are planning to connect to these headphones primarily using Bluetooth.

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review – Battery Life

The claimed battery life of these headphones is about 50 hours on a single charge. When I tested the battery life of these headphones, the headphones came close to the claimed figure. The ATH-M50xBT2 lasted for 46 hours and 58 minutes at 50 per cent volume which is pretty impressive. But keep in mind that these headphones do not have ANC on them, which generally tends to bring the battery life down of most other headphones significantly.

When you need to charge these headphones, you can connect the included USB-C cable. If the claims made by Audio Technica are anything to by, then these headphones will get up to 3 hours of use on a 10-minute rapid charge.

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review

Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review – Verdict

Now, the main question – Is the Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT2 a worthy successor to their predecessor the ATH-M50xBT? And, are they worth spending the extra ₹10,000 over the ATH-M20xBT? The short answer is YES and yes!

The ATH-M50xBT2 bring a host of upgrades over the ATH-M50xBT making for a well-rounded pair of headphones which some might even pick over some of the mainstream options out there. The sound signature is well-rounded and suited for both regular listening and studio work. The battery life is impressive. There is added support for low-latency mode, Google Fast Pair, a dedicated app which you can use for customisation and voice assistant. There is no ANC or touch/capacitive controls which many headphones in the mainstream have. But, if you are going for these, you will have to give up on those features in favour of great sound!

As for the extra money that you’d be shelling out over the ATH-M20xBT, it depends on your needs. If you have the budget, then the upgrades that you get on ATH-M50xBT2 over the ATH-M20xBT is definitely worth the money. But, don’t push your financial boundaries if you are someone on a tight budget. The ATH-M20xBT are a good starting point as well.

If you are looking to use these daily, then I’d say go for the mainstream offerings from brands like Sony and Sennheiser. They have all the creature comfort that you’d come to expect from a pair of headphones priced at ₹20,000. As for other options similar to the ATH-M50xBT2, the one that stands out is the V-MODA – Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex Edition. At the time of writing, it was retailing for the exact same price as the ATH-M50xBT2.

Fuente: Digit

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