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August 18, 2021
There’s a reason why generations pass down family recipes—you don’t need to mess with success. Audio-Technica knows this, and merely tweaks the extras on the new Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2, rather than reinvent the wheel. Audio-Technica has been a favorite in consumer and studio audio for decades, often skirting the line between both. Its famed ATH-M line offers a studio-like sound in basically the same tried and true plastic and metal housing. Why mess with what works?
Editor’s note: this Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 review was updated on April 28, 2023, to include the Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT as an alternative, and to address new FAQs.
People who like good sound with modern conveniences like Bluetooth and onboard controls should enjoy this headset. Musicians will enjoy the fairly accurate, but not overly clinical, sound of these headphones. Anyone who wants over-ear headphones for professional and personal use will get great value from Audio-Technica’s Bluetooth headphones.
What’s it like to use Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2?
Looking almost exactly like the previous wireless ATH-M50BTx and the even older wired Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, the lineage of the ATH-M50xBT2 is clear. Save for slightly remodeled volume, multi-function, and dedicated Bluetooth buttons, the headset looks basically the same. Unfortunately, this decades-old design also means negative similarities carry over like the tight clamping force and the padding’s tendency to build up heat. Still, Audio-Technica seems to think it has perfected the formula, and it’s pretty good.
Audio quality is the priority of the ATH-M50x line, and it shows when you look at the flimsy vinyl carrying sack. A few years ago this style of bag would not elicit such a remark, but increasingly manufacturers have upped their headphone case game. Mercifully, the headset comes with articulating arms and fully rotating ear cups, so you can conceivably stow it away in your bag. The ATH-M50xBT2 takes up real estate, but if you want good sound on the go, big dynamic drivers like the 45mm ones here tend to do it better.
I have a soft spot for the ATH-M50xBT2 aesthetic, and Audio-Technica has a great logo and design. Some may feel the large contrast branding on the headband is somewhat dated, especially with the recent stealthy design of the Sony WH-1000XM4 and all its clones. On the other hand, if you rock Audio-Technica headphones, you might as well show it.
How do you control the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2?
Play / Pause
Answer / Cancel / End call
Power on / off
Volume up button
Volume down button
Voice assistant button
Activates voice assistant
Just as before, the second-generation ATH-M50xBT2 headset has a simple control layout that includes volume buttons and a multi-function button. It does away with the first generation’s touch-activated virtual assistant in favor of a standalone button that is dangerously close to the volume up control. Audio-Technica also replaced the original ATH-M50xBT’s power slider and designates power to the multi-function button.
Unfortunately, the controls on the ear cups do not work when the ATH-M50xBT2 is hardwired and running passively.
Should you download the Audio-Technica Connect app?
If your main focus is on tweaking EQ, you should download the Connect app. Audio-Technica offers five EQ presets and even visually represents them either as sliders or as a graph—pretty neat. It does not stop there either; you can make your own custom EQ too.
Outside of EQ, firmware updates, and Bluetooth codec switching, the Connect app is not essential. For those who like their headphones to work smoothly, this is pretty appealing. Meanwhile, folks who want to remap controls are out of luck. The ATH-M50xBT2 software is directly concerned with sound quality, and not much else.
What Bluetooth codecs does Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 support?
Your Bluetooth codec options include AAC, SBC, LDAC, and a Low-latency mode for video. Apple users can stick to AAC for the best results, while Android owners can choose LDAC for (variable) high-resolution audio. The aptX codec is missing from this ATH-M50x iteration, which is a bit of a shame as aptX has more consistent transfer rates than LDAC. If you want true lossless playback from your favorite high-resolution streaming service, plug in the 3.5mm audio cable.
You get Google Fast Pair and multipoint capability with Audio-Technica’s Bluetooth 5.0 headset. Bluetooth multipoint is a great feature for those who like to watch media on a laptop while keeping an ear on their smartphone notifications.
When you turn on the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 it ought to automatically enter pairing mode. If that doesn’t happen, you can force pairing by doing the following.
- Turn on the headphones using the multi-function button.
- Make sure Bluetooth is turned on on your device.
- Press both Volume buttons at the same time for 3 seconds.
- Select the headphones from your device’s Bluetooth settings.
How long does the battery last on the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2?
Like its predecessor, the ATH-M50xBT2 has long battery life, aided by the lack of battery-hungry features like active noise cancellation. When subjected to constant music playback peaking at 75dB(SPL), the headset lasts a whopping 64 hours, 51 minutes. This is one of the best battery scores we’ve ever seen. A long-lasting battery often helps extend the life of a battery and therefore, your headset too.
The ATH-M50xBT2 also supports quick charging with the included USB-C to USB-A cable: 10 minutes of charge delivers 180 minutes of audio.
Does the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 have good isolation?
Relying strictly on the dampening powers of clamping force and vinyl-covered foam, Audio-Technica does not win any awards for isolation. With the headphones properly covering your ears, you’ll still hear low rumbling sounds and the sounds of traffic, for example. If you wear glasses, this headset might feel tight after short periods, but that’s to be expected. Isolation is okay, and it does a good job with higher frequencies, but it can’t compete with adept active noise canceling headphones.
How does the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 sound?
Whether we measure by the standards of consumer-friendly or studio-oriented house curve, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 scores highly. You can listen for pleasure or close analysis so long as you understand the slight quirks. In general, the frequency response looks pretty conservative, without a lot of exaggerations to any frequency.
Mids and upper-bass frequencies experience some under-emphasis, which is more typical in consumer headphones. The slight dip (relative to the lower frequencies) at 300Hz will be noticeable, but shouldn’t pose a big issue unless you listen to predominantly bass-heavy music. Overall, treble reproduction closely follows our ideal, though again conservatively, landing a few decibels quieter.
Using the Connect app, the ATH-M50xBT2 suits some EQ tweaking well. Because of the under-emphasis in most frequencies, you are less likely to run into major distortion territory should you choose to boost a frequency range.
Lows, mids, and highs
You won’t get a super bassy default sound on the ATH-M50xBT2, which is generally a good thing for those with versatile music tastes. I can perfectly hear the bass in the verse of The Rats are Coming! the Werewolves Are Here! by Doleful Lions. The headset doesn’t quite have the oomph that you feel from a kick drum, but with the under-emphasized mids, it’s easier to hear the bass than from a headset with a more platonic frequency response. Jonathan Scott’s tenor voice sounds perfectly audible, with clean rhythm guitar, bass, and drums in the verse. Cymbals cut through without sounding too loud and with good harmonic volume.
During the track’s crescendo with at least five overlapping and different vocal tracks beginning at about 2:40, nearly everything in the busy section is audible. The ATH-M50xBT2 effectively relays the instrument separate panning for an immersive stereo experience. In all, you hear everything on this headset, including some recording imperfections, which means lo-fi tracks retain all their charm.
The ATH-M50xBT2 has exactly the same frequency response when reproducing your audio passively over a hardwired connection. That’s not true for all headphones that sport both Bluetooth and wired connections, and an especially bizarre example is the AUKEY EP-N12.
Can you use the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 for phone calls?
You can use the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 for phone calls. It even has an optional sidetone, so you can hear yourself during the call. The headset does a reasonably good job of transmitting voices accurately and rejects most background noise. It’s a solid pick for calls of the phone and Zoom variety.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 microphone demo (Non-standardized):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Hold up! Something’s different:
We’ve made a big improvement to how we demonstrate the microphone performance of products we review. We now use a standardized test setup that plays back pre-recorded phrases from a calibrated artificial mouth in our test chamber, either with or without simulated background noises, simulated reverberant spaces, or artificial wind. This means that samples from every product can be directly compared, which makes it far easier to make meaningful comparisons between products in terms of the raw speech quality or the product’s ability to reject noise.
It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this review (and many others!) once we’re able with improved microphone demos. These will be made obvious in each new sample which begins with the phrase, “This is a SoundGuys standardized microphone demonstration …”
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
Should you buy Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2?
Anyone who wants an excellent-sounding headset for less than $200 USD should try the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2. Its straightforward nature makes it a pleasure to listen to, and the long battery life with an optional headphone jack promotes an uncomplicated music experience.
The only caveats to this recommendation are the tight clamping force that can cause discomfort for folks with glasses, and the lack of active noise cancellation. Then again, not everyone needs active noise cancellation (or glasses).
For analytical listeners, the frequency response is neutral enough, and for people who listen just for fun, it’s pretty consumer friendly. As jacks of all trades go, the ATH-M50xBT2 is the archetype. From music to a great Zoom call candidate, it’s easy to recommend this headset.
If you’re happy with the sound, it might not be worth upgrading the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT to the ATH-M50xBT2 if you already have the first Bluetooth model. Both headphones are good, and based around the ATH-M50x, which has been around for a long time. So you’re basically just updating the wireless capabilities by getting the second version, going from aptX to LDAC (both are solid codecs), and doubling the battery life on the latest model. With the ATH-M50xBT2 you’re upgrading to a USB-C charge port too, which adds a layer of convenience for many.
If you own neither it makes sense to choose the latest model as you’re ensuring greater long term device compatibility and firmware support. Plus, it’s a more refined experience on the newer model.
What should you get instead of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2?
Continuing in the Audio-Technica universe, the pared down Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT supplies a lot of the same features as the ATH-M50xBT2. It takes the formula and cuts back on the upgrades to keep the cost down. For instance, the ATH-M20xBT does not fold down, and lacks the LDAC codec, but it’s still Bluetooth capable with a long battery life. It retains similar button controls and functionality, and a low latency mode, however. Plus the frequency response is pretty favorable, even if it’s not going to blow your mind with sub bass. While not as cushy as the ATH-M50xBT2, the Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT feels fine for most, and sells for the reasonable price of $79 at Amazon.
Audio-Technica sort of has this corner of the market covered. You won’t find many wireless headphones that can double as studio suitable. For this reason, save a few bucks and try the similar Audio-Technica ATH-M40x if you don’t need Bluetooth. This pair of wired, studio-grade headphones costs .
Let’s suppose you’re on the lookout for some high-quality codecs, excellent sound quality, and noise canceling. You might have to pay a premium for it, but the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless ticks all the boxes and costs $284.23 at Amazon. It’s the kind of headphones for nearly every situation.
Frequently asked questions about the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2
Nobody likes having to erase all the settings, but sometimes you need to do a factory reset on headphones. Luckily, Audio-Technica has made it relatively simple to perform a factory reset on the ATH-M50xBT2.
- Turn on the headphones.
- Ensure the ATH-M50xBT2 is not connected via Bluetooth to anything.
- Press and hold both volume buttons and the multi-function button simultaneously for 6 seconds.
- The indicator light ought to turn red and the headphones will restart automatically.
If active noise cancellation is really your priority and the lack of it on the ATH-M50xBT2 irks you, try Bose. The QuietComfort 45 offers excellent noise canceling and consumer-friendly frequency response curves in an easy, foldable, and comfortable format. Whereas, if LDAC is important, the Sony WH-1000XM5 often tops our lists for best headphones, although it doesn’t fold down.
It appears Audio-Technica was taking notes from consumers, and ditched the lockable cable found on some of its studio headphones in favor of a conventional 3.5mm headphone cable for the ATH-M50xBT2. In short, the cable can be yanked out if you snag it, but truly that’s better for most people, because having a cable pop out when snagged is better than accidentally ripping the whole unit off of your head. Plus, it’s cheaper to replace a conventional non-locking cable when, and if, the time comes that it needs replacing.