(Pocket-lint) - When it comes to headphones we're rather spoiled for choice these days. A lot of our favourites cost a stack, however, which is where a pair of over-ears like the Bluetooth version of Audio-Technica's M50x come into play.
At £179 upon launch - and that price will only come down over time - the ATH-M50xBT is a couple of hundred pounds less than the top players elsewhere. No, there's no noise-cancelling included, but if you're after a high-quality wireless listen in comfort then these cans offer aplenty.
Design & Features
- Bluetooth (v5) wireless connectivity
- Hi-Res Audio capability via aptX
- 3.5mm wired connection too
- Physical controls on earcup
- Voice assistant compatible
- Weight: 310g (wireless)
We first reviewed the M50x back in 2014. Some five years on and those classic cans remain a solid purchase point, which puts this Bluetooth version on review in good stead.
That said, the design hasn't really come along, whereas other makers have been really pushing the envelope - from the turn-dial Microsoft Surface Headphones, to the half-in-half-our Nuraphones, to the insane noise-cancelling of the Sony WH-1000XM3 - which makes the Audio-Technica pair look simpler, older and altogether more plasticky by design.
The headband is rather chunky, the brand imprint is altogether huge, while rotational points around the earcups are somewhat blocky and make for a pair of cans that look and feel rather large.
Contrary to the size and what that might imply, however, the M50xBT is a really comfortable pair of over-ears to don for many hours at a time. We've done so on planes, trains and busses across various cities and the wear quality is decent thanks to those large earcups and comfortable pads. The fit isn't too 'pinchy' either, nor too loose.
The big deal about the ATH-M50xBT is, as those last two letters signify, that there's Bluetooth wireless connectivity on board. It's activated by flicking a switch on the left earcup and we've found the connectivity to be pretty decent while using a couple of different phones - with only a couple of 'stutter' incidents when the line-of-sight connectivity has been broken due to putting a phone in pocket.
The Bluetooth is of top quality too, delivering aptX, meaning higher quality can be broadcast without wires - if you have the source material at your fingertips anyway. Whether you'll really notice this, especially when out and about, is questionable though: the M50xBT lacks great sound isolation, so whirring plane engines and noisy Tube trains aren't dialled out of the listen.
Elsewhere, the left earcup also houses physical controls to adjust the volume and track. A great idea, but it can be a fumble to find these in the moment - we think a rotational dial, like the Surface Headphones, is a more foolproof solution that looks more elegant too (as it can't be seen).
If you're not all about wireless than these cans offer wired listening too, via the included 3.5mm cable that's in the box. There's also a carry case and Micro-USB cable for recharging (yes, it should be more up to date with USB-C, but A-T seems to be behind on this front across its product range).
Sound Quality & Battery
- 45mm driver diameter in closed-back dynamic earcups
- 15 - 28,000Hz frequency response
- 10m Bluetooth line-of-sight range
- 40 hours battery life per charge
The real reason to ever buy a pair of headphones is for the sound quality. It's here that the M50xBT excels when in the correct environments.
By which we mean pop them on at home in a quiet space and these comfy cans will deliver heavyweight audio into your lugs without a second thought. With many headphones we tweak a multi-band graphic equaliser to get the sound just as we like it, but no need with the M50xBT.
The low-end is said to crank out at 15Hz minimum, which is beyond human hearing really, but in sub-heavy tracks running a 40-60Hz bass, you'll get plenty of clout from these over-ears. That's fairly unusual, which is great news, especially from an affordable headset.
It's not all about bass, though. The balance of mid and treble is well considered, without any one spectrum of audio dominating the next. Those big earcups and large 45mm drivers within give a good sense of space around the ears, for a dynamic listen.
However, move out of that quiet space and the dynamic changes rather a lot. Try listening on the Tube going into London and the limited isolation meant surrounding dirgey noises made the bass less present and we sorely missed having a noise-cancelling feature to make for a cleaner, more isolated listen.
In short: if you want big sound quality, with great balance and bass that booms without bleeding then the ATH-M50xBT is an exemplary example of what can be done without breaking the bank. That said, a different fit and noise-cancelling would make for an improved listen overall - to the extent that we'd look to spend a little more for such features.
We've got a lot of love for the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT Bluetooth over-ear headphones. From an audio perspective there's a lot of clout, with great balance and precision from these affordable cans. The comfortable wear for long periods and a battery life that seems to last forever is fantastic too.
That said, the physical proportions feel dated in a headphone world that's evolved over the last few years, while the lack of top-notch isolation and noise-cancelling is something we've missed during our travels.
If you're looking to use some wireless headphones at home then these over-ears are an ideal and affordable option when soaking up your favourite tracks while sat on the sofa. It's versatility that arguably lacks compared to some of the pricier competition.
Ok, so they'll cost you £100 more, but the Sony adds the best noise-cancelling you'll find on the market, which makes these over-ears great for travelling and ensuring top audio quality in all manner of environments.
Bowers & Wilkins PX
Again, a pricier pair than the A-T, but for the extra £100 asking price you're getting far better build quality from the Bowers pair. Plus, like the M50xBT there's aptX for optimum wireless quality if that's an essential for your wants list.