Links on SoundGuys may earn us a commission. Learn more.
August 18, 2021
Original: $199 USD
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 March 24, 2022, to include in-line FAQs, a disclosure box regarding the non-standardized microphone demo, and an FAQ section at the bottom of the article.
- People who like good sound with modern conveniences like Bluetooth and onboard controls should enjoy this headset.
- Musicians will enjoy the fairly accurate sound out of these headphones.
- Anyone who wants over-ear headphones for professional and personal use will get a great value out of 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 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’s 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 drivers like the 45mm dynamic 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?
Just as before, the second-generation ATH-M50xBT 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.
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 just work easily, 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 (inconsistent) high-resolution audio. The aptX codec is missing from this ATH-M50 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.
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 and 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 some mid frequencies. If you wear glasses, this headset might feel tight after short periods but that’s to be expected. Generally, isolation is okay and it does a good job with higher frequencies, but it can’t compete with adept active noise cancelling 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 bump at 300Hz will be audible, 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 couple of 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. There’s little auditory masking, and I can still 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 in particular cut through without sounding too loud.
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 basically hear everything on this headset, including some recording imperfections, which means lo-fi tracks retain all their charm.
Can you use the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 for phone calls?
You can definitely use the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 for phone calls. It even has an optional sidetone on tap, 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 (Old):
How does the microphone sound to you?
As of April 19, 2022, nearly 71% of respondents have rated the microphone sample as “good,” which is better than most embedded mic systems.
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.
What should you get instead of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2?
Audio-Technica sort of has this corner of the market covered. You don’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.
However, if Bluetooth and accurate audio reproduction are your primary focuses, you can also try the Sennheiser PXC 550-II. In addition to a studio-like sound, it comes with the added bonus of active noise cancelling. The PXC 550-II additionally supports a multitude of codecs including aptX, but has the drawback of old hardware like a microUSB input.
The AKG K371 BT is the wireless version of the excellent studio monitor, AKG K371. For the glasses-wearing folks out there, it feels very comfortable. The lightweight build is great for portable use, and articulating ear cups house the large 50mm drivers. Like the ATH-M50xBT2, the AKG K371 BT has an optional wired connection.
Frequently asked questions about the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2
If active noise cancellation is really your priority and the lack of it on the ATH-M50xBT2 irks you, try Bose. The new QuietComfort 45 and (still good) QuietComfort 35 II offer excellent noise cancelling and consumer-friendly frequency response curves in an easy and comfortable format. If you don’t need the best ANC around, we recommend the older QC 35 II, which sounds better than the QC 45 anyway.