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For many years, the Audio Technica ATH-M50 and its variants have been popular among cost-conscious audiophiles. By offering a much better sound for the price over competitors like Beats, the ATH-M50 has long been a go-to recommendation for anyone looking for an inexpensive step-up. However, one of the best Audio-Technica headphones never quite made the jump to wireless. That is, until the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT.
Editor’s note: this review was updated on November 3, 2021, to add more information about the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2, the ATH-M50xBT’s successor.
Who is the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT for?
- Anyone who liked the original ATH-M50 or the ATH-M50x will love the new ATH-M50xBT. The main thing that’s different is that it’s wireless—that’s it.
- Younger listeners will enjoy the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT because of its somewhat bass-heavy sound, and overall high sound quality. This is a dramatic step-up from most popular models.
- Musicians will appreciate these as a set of studio monitors much like the wired version of ATH-M50.
- If you’re looking for a step-up in audio quality, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT is the logical step up for many.
What is it like to use the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT?
When you first take the headphones out of the box, you’ll see that there’s a detachable 3.5mm cable, microUSB cable, and a leather carrying pouch.
Like most Bluetooth headphones, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT offers a listening experience free from wires, and is primarily focused on audio quality instead of the latest features and doodads. It’s not surprising, given that every preceding iteration of the famed Audio-Technica ATH-M50 has basically followed the same product philosophy of “sound quality over all other concerns.” However, the addition of Bluetooth 5 means it can hang with the best of them where the spec-sheet is concerned.
The padding on the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT is a little thin, but then again: it was a little thin on every other iteration of the ATH-M50 as well. Though it’s not uncomfortable, listeners who use their headphones over four hours a day may want to look for something a little different—and just about any padding that works for the Sony MDR-7506 will fit on the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT. Additionally, those with extra-large ears should also look for a headset with more room.
However, the band of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT is well-padded, and it’s unlikely to break under force because it has a metal skeleton. When you want to stow your headphones in a bag, all you have to do is fold the ear cups in, and the cans will have a much smaller profile.
On the back of the left ear cup are the rather spartan controls of the ATH-M50xBT, including volume up/down, a slider to turn the headphones on and off, and touch controls to toggle your voice assistant of choice. To get the most out of your headphones, you’ll need to install the Audio-Technica CONNECT app from either the App Store or Play Store, but it’s a free application. We’re not too happy about the forced location access sharing but this is necessary for the app to “find” your headset. It also allows you to find your headphones if they get lost, so at least you get something in return for that data.
How’s the connection on the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT?
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT is one of the few Bluetooth headphones on the market with a Bluetooth 5 radio, so data transmission to and from your smartphone is not only fast, but low on energy consumption. This headset also makes the most of the aptX codec. If I just lost you don’t worry: all it means is that among Bluetooth headphones the ATH-M50xBT has some of the best support around. Among Bluetooth codecs, aptX is in the top tier, and you shouldn’t notice any compression errors or added noise in your music.
However, Bluetooth has some issues that might frustrate you. For example, audio quality takes a minor hit, and sometimes you can run into connection errors with certain phones if certain codecs aren’t supported. But as far as headphones go, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT is a special exception to the rule, as it offers the exact level of support you’d hope a premium product would.
You may notice some latency depending on the codec you use for Bluetooth, and you might find that some video content has lagging audio. This is pretty standard for any set of wireless headphones, so the option for wired listening is a really nice plus if that sort of thing bothers you.
Is the battery life of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT any good?
Yes. Good lord yes. With a listening level of 75dB (SPL), the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT is able to push tunes for more than 30 hours, 12 minutes in total. That’s a fair bit more than the other top-flight Bluetooth headphones offer, and should last you most of the week for commutes and work if you turn the volume down a little bit.
How does the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT sound?
A chart’s all well and good, so what does it actually sound like?
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT has a very consumer-friendly sound. By that I mean, it has slightly boosted bass notes (pink), and some tasteful adjustments to note the emphasis in the mids (green) and highs (cyan). In general, you’ll probably notice that your music will be a little clearer than it is on your earbuds or drugstore headphones—even over Bluetooth. That’s because in general, the frequency response is a little closer to a single target level than most inexpensive options.
Additionally, a larger speaker element like the one on the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT allows for a slightly more planar wavefront, making your tunes sound much more realistic. However, it should be pointed out that it won’t really compete with something that has angled drivers or a different driver type.
That pink area of the line is bass, and for the most part you can see that there’s a fair amount of emphasis here all the way up to middle-C. All this means is that your music will have a somewhat notable bass boost, but because that line is pretty even: no single note will overwhelm or startle you.
The Audio Technica ATH M50xBT reproduces very clear audio with a consumer-friendly frequency response.
You’ll notice that songs with low background synths and kick drum samples with “thump” a little more with this kind of sound. For example, this is very apparent when you listen to Queen’s Radio Ga Ga.
Notes above middle-C will sound just like they would on just about any other set of headphones, as this range is very consumer-friendly. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT bumps up the loudness on notes from 800Hz-3kHz, which will make instruments with higher pitches like cymbals and snare drums a lot more “clarity” over the rest of your music, as that’s where some of their fundamentals lie.
Possibly the least-important range for music, a decent response in the highs is where things can get a little weird. For example, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT clearly tries to avoid resonances in the ear by downplaying 4kHz notes, but then returns to a more normal response in the following frequencies. All this means is that the atmospheric effects and harmonics might sound a little off, but probably won’t. Boring, right?
This is pretty apparent in songs with slight vocal echo like David Bowie’s Lazarus. With the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT, it’s tough to hear if the echo effect is really there or not.
How well does the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT block out noise?
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT isolates well enough but won’t compare to noise cancelling headphones. Incidental sounds (1kHz and higher) are rendered up to one-eighth as loud as they’d sound without the headset, but low-frequencies still cut through the headset pretty clearly.
It’s not surprising that the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT don’t isolate below 100Hz, but if you’re in an airplane you may find that these headphones don’t do enough to combat the whine of the engines. If you are a jetsetter, you’ll want a pair of active noise canceling headphones instead.
How good is the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT’s mic?
While this is a very strange-looking response, our practical testing found little to complain about. In general, we’d like to see a microphone stay close to 0 on this chart, but this seems to be running a speech enhancer kind of processing on the microphone. In any case, these deviations aren’t enough to impact your call quality in an obviously negative way.
Should you buy the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT?
Audio-Technica discontinued the ATH-M50xBT when it released the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2. The second-generation Bluetooth M50x headset has a better control system, LDAC support, and much better battery life (just under 65 hours). The new model isn’t much different than its predecessor, as it has the same hardware outside of a USB-C connection.
If you can find the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT, you’ll enjoy it. This is a classic set of headphones updated with the latest wireless tech, and it’s still an excellent set of cans. Not only do they offer stellar battery life, great audio quality, and a price to match—but they’re a continuation of one of the best headphone series to ever be sold.
You may not like how they fit on you, and that’s okay. Some people find the earpads to be too thin, but just like every other Audio-Technica ATH-M50 model, these are compatible with any replacement pads on Amazon that you can find that fit the Sony MDR-V6. If you’re willing to spend a couple of extra bucks, you can have velour pads, deeper pads, you name it.
What should you get instead of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT?
A solid studio headphones alternative is the AKG K371, but if you’re looking for Bluetooth headphones, you’ll have to pay a bit extra for the AKG K371 BT. This set of headphones has slightly better isolation than the ATH-M50xBT. It’s also more comfortable for users with glasses due to their rotatable ear cups and soft memory foam pads. The midrange frequency response is more accurate, which makes this solid for studio applications.
If you’re set on Bluetooth, the Sennheiser HD 350BT is worth a look. For $100 less, you’ll still get Bluetooth 5.0 and great sound, although users with large ears will likely encounter more comfort issues compared to the ATH-M50xBT.
As these are some of the more popular headphones out there, you can find them at several outlets. Just be sure to shop around a bit to find the retailer that’s right for you. Be sure to check out our Best Bluetooth headphone list to see if there’s anything else there that might work better.
Frequently asked questions
Below are the most frequently asked user questions we’ve collected about the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT.
These headphones have a healthy amount of bass emphasis, but there are definitely more bass-heavy headphones out there. We’d recommend exploring additional options from our best headphones for bass list so you can make an informed decision.
Many modern televisions will have some sort of Bluetooth capability, though you may have to go searching in the settings for a way to connect. Consequently, a cheap Bluetooth dongle (transmitter, not receiver) may actually be the best and fastest way to connect your headphones to the TV if you’re willing to spend the money.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT are definitely some of the best wireless headphones money can buy. However, if you’re in the market for something more specific like active noise cancelling headphones, you’ll want to narrow down your search to options like the Sony WH-1000XM4. There is no true “best” set of headphones out there, as your personal needs and wants will shape what that is.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT have a microUSB input for charging.
You can use the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT as a pair of studio monitors. The headphones support Bluetooth 5 and 3.5mm connections, so they can handle wired and wireless needs. However, you may need to EQ it a bit to get a more neutral frequency response. These come with a more consumer-friendly frequency response, with slightly boosted bass and mid-range output.
Yes, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT support wired playback along with Bluetooth streaming.
PS4 uses a different kind of wireless connection than Bluetooth headphones for audio (2.4GHz Wireless RF USB dongles). The ATH-M50xBT are not directly compatible with PS4. However, you can use a Bluetooth USB dongle to hook up any Bluetooth headphones to your PS4, but there will likely be audio lag issues due to the Bluetooth connection. Rather, for a PS4, we’d recommend going with a designated gaming headset, or a pair of wired headphones.
Isolation shuts out noise by physically obstructing it from entering your ear. Active noise cancellation, on the other hand, shuts out noise by removing it using electronics (generating anti-noise to phase cancel). Active noice cancellation is ultimately more powerful in blocking out unwanted sounds.
Nope! Bluetooth headphones are like active speakers, meaning they have their own amplifier already inside the cans themselves! Because the audio signal is sent from your phone to the headphones and decoded/amped internally, you won’t benefit from buying an after-market amp, or DAC..