For me, committing to an Audio-Technica M50xBT review was a no-brainer. Having used the original M50s for over four years now, for both at-home and on-the-go listening, I feel that I’m the perfect candidate for assessing whether or not the new wireless variant is worthy of the “M50” moniker. If Audio-Technica was able to combine the incredible bang-for-your-buck sound quality of the M50 and M50x, with the convenience of wireless Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, then it would be a winning result.
I’ve given the M50xBT headphones a thorough testing, comparing them to my (still very much working) M50s. While the overall experience has been a positive one, there are some caveats that potential buyers should be aware of. Let’s dive on in!
Audio-Technica M50xBT Review – Hello, Old Friend!
Unboxing the M50xBT was a solid experience, as you get a few additional goodies included. The protective pouch is certainly welcome, and should protect the headphones from any scuffs. The 30 cm Micro-USB charging cable enables a sufficient charge rate (USB-C was sadly omitted), and the 1.2 m controller cable with microphone enables a wired solution when necessary.
As I removed the M50xBT from its box, I recognized the same feel and build quality of my trusty pair of M50s. There was no immediate clear difference when it came to holding the headphones in my hands and then sitting them atop my head. Wireless support had demanded several buttons be added to the earcup, allowing for the usual expected Play/Pause, Skip Track, and Volume Up/Down functions. When connected to a cell phone, another button allows for access to Google Assistant/Siri. This function proved to be a little laggy, however. Happily, the addition of Bluetooth doesn’t seem to have impacted the weight or feel in any discernible way, which is nice to see.
While the M50xBT headphones do use Bluetooth 5.0, high-fidelity audio is limited to only AAC and aptX codecs. Instead of pushing for higher definition audio codecs, Audio-Technica leverages Bluetooth 5.0 for support over longer ranges. Connecting the headphones to a phone is a tad trickier than normal, as there’s an added step of needing to “forget” the headphones before pairing to a new device. However, it’s only a mild annoyance that users will quickly get used to.
As phone manufacturers continue to kill off the headphone jack, forcing users to opt for a dongle or Bluetooth, wireless support is now a main feature that all but the most stubborn look for in a new pair of cans. It’s the next level of convenience that makes wirelessness so sought after. However, the convenience of a wireless headphone, or any other wireless gadget for that matter, quickly becomes void if the battery life simply doesn’t hold up and you’re forever plugging in a cable to charge. Fortunately, the M50xBT’s battery life is incredible, easily lasting 25 hours before I charged them for the weekend. Audio-Technica rates them for 40 hours, and while that is probably under some super-efficient conditions, I can still vouch for 25+ hours with loud music playing.
Audio-Technica M50xBT Review – Sound Sacrificed?
So how does it all sound? Well, Audio-Technica uses phrases such as “exhilarating wireless listening experience, with exceptional clarity and deep, accurate bass response” with the M50xBTs having “45 mm large-aperture drivers with rare-earth magnets and copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils.” As impressive as that is made to sound, I’ll put it simply: This pair of wireless headphones sounds just as good as the wired versions. The bass is still as punchy and delicious as ever, while the mids and trebles are present without becoming overbearing. It’s just a perfect mix that leans just enough into the bass end to make most users happy. Being able to take what makes the M50 and M50x so great, and then improving on it without any sacrifices being made, is a job very well done.
The rugged-feeling, plastic design makes its return. While it doesn’t look super stylish or Beats-esque in any way, the M50xBT still has its own recognizable look. Currently, the BT version is only available in black, which I hope will soon expand to include the other colors seen in the M50 range.
The ability to tuck in and swivel the earcups 90 degrees to allow for easier storage is also back. While these moving joints normally make me a little uneasy and concerned about the long-term effects of wear and tear, my M50s have survived four years of heavy use and frequent travel within backpacks. With no cable to yank on, I’m even more confident in the M50xBT. Of course, if you’re planning to regularly travel with your headphones and require a more secure place to keep them, a hardshell case is a must-have accessory and will be a significant upgrade to the included soft pouch.
Audio-Technica M50xBT Review – Same Old Niggles
Staying true to the M50 design isn’t all good news, however. As I found with my original M50s, there is a clamp factor that can make for an uncomfortable wearing experience over longer listening sessions. I resorted to stretching the M50 headphones over the back of an armchair, forcing the band to adapt to a wider head. A bit extreme, perhaps, but it worked for me. Another popular solution is to swap out the earpads for something more comfortable and cushioned. While this can certainly help improve comfort, it can also change the sound. I have dabbled with a few different earpads and each time the bass has become significantly less impactful. Do remember that Audio-Technica tunes its headphones with the provided earpads in mind. They aren’t perfect, but they are part of what makes the great sound. So yes, the clamp is unfortunately still present with the M50xBT, so users with larger heads will want to bear this in mind!
With noise cancellation being the latest big thing in wireless headphones, it would be remiss of me to avoid mentioning the M50xBT’s total lack of NC. If you were hoping to see Audio-Technica bring NC to the M50s, helping them go toe-to-toe with Sony or Bose, you’re going to be disappointed. Aside from the natural sound dampening experienced with all closed-back headphones, the M50xBT doesn’t go any further to block out ambient noise.
Audio-Technica M50xBT Review – The Best Got Better
While I understand that Audio-Technica has to cut some features to stay within its manufacturing budget, while also avoiding cannibalizing its higher-end lineup of products, there are a few improvements I’d like to see in the next M50 refresh. As we will no doubt see in the next couple of years, support for higher-definition codecs will become a must for mid-tier headphones, and I hope Audio-Technica checks that box sooner rather than later. I’d also love to see easier pairing with NFC, as well as faster charging and compatibility with USB-C. Oh, and a first-party hardshell case included in the box would be awesome.
Lastly, I want to address the $199 price tag, as this will be the make-or-break factor for many. With the M50x non-BT still available at $149.99 (and regularly on sale at $129.99), potential BT buyers have to decide where the wireless support is worth the additional $50-70. Personally, I’d spend the extra, as the combination of massive battery life and ability to ditch the cable (but keep the sound quality) is an absolute game-changer. One of the best just got better!
ATH-M50xBT review unit was provided by Audio-Technica.