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Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT Review: The Legend Returns

By Christopher Coke on January 03, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT Review: The Legend Returns

Welcome to January, friends! With a new year comes a new crop of reviews and we’re starting things off right with the return of a legend. The original Audio-Technica ATH-M50xs were some of our favorite headphones of all time. Today, we’re looking at their successor, the ATH-M50xBT. It’s everything you loved about the original, completely wire-free.

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Specifications

  • Current Pricing: $199 (Audio-Technica Web Store)
  • Type: Closed-back dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 45 mm
  • Magnet: Rare earth
  • Voice Coil: CCAW (Copper-clad aluminum wire)
  • Frequency Response: 15 - 28,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 99 dB/mW
  • Impedance: 38 ohms
  • Battery: DC3.7 V lithium polymer battery
  • Battery Life: Approx. 40 hours continuous use
  • Charging Time: Approx. 7 hours (for 0-100% charge)
  • Bluetooth Version: 5.0
  • Maximum Range: Line of sight - approx. 10 m (33')
  • Compatible Bluetooth Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
  • Support Codec: Qualcomm® aptX, AAC, SBC
  • Accessories Included: 1.0' (30 cm) USB charging cable, detachable 3.9' (1.2 m) cable with 3.5 mm (1/8") gold-plated stereo mini-plug (L-shaped), protective pouch
  • Weight: 310 g (10.9 oz), without cable and connector

Starting things off, if you’re familiar with the original M50xs, then you have a good idea about what to expect here. On the surface, they’re almost identical to their predecessor, sans the wire, which is exactly what I had hoped for with these headphones. After testing many different headphones last year, the ATH-M50xs became my go-to favorite with their signature reference sound.

The build quality holds up Audio-Technica’s high standard. The headband is a flexible metal that can stretch to accommodate any size head. This design is built to last and doesn’t creak or create other unwanted noise to interrupt your listening experience. Moving down to the yokes, we find they’re composed of multi-part reinforced plastic. This allows the earcups to offer full articulation while also remaining lightweight. In other headphones, I might question the longevity of using plastic here but the fact is that the M50xs have a proven design that’s known to hold up to years of use (and even some abuse).

I’ve used the wired M50xs on stage, at home, and everywhere in between and they’re as work-horse a hi-fi headphone as they come. The kind of use they get from me is more than any other over-ear headset I own and they’re as sturdy as the day I bought them, which isn’t something I can say about any other headphone I’ve used so heavily. The articulation offered by the yokes also makes them very versatile. I can rest them on my shoulders when not in use and snap them up into a nice compact crescent to tuck into the travel case.

At 310g, the M50xBTs are slightly heavier than their wired cousin but are still lightweight and comfortable enough for extended use without the head pain of heavier headsets. The padding on the headband is lush without being needlessly bulky. The pads are also a nice leatherette that’s fairly firm to the touch and creates a nice seal around your ear without being too grippy. This helps the bass presence of the headphones and also blocks out more outside noise at the expense of slightly more heat build-up. I’m not a sweaty eared guy, generally, but I wouldn’t recommend these for exercising due to that.

That weight comes with a big benefit though: a monster 40 hours of battery life. I’ve used these headphones for two weeks and still have a little under 50% battery left. They do take fairly long to charge, however, coming in at 7 hours. It would have been nice to see USB Type-C and fast charging at this price point but it’s likely to have driven the price above the $200 mark, which wouldn’t have been wise.

The fear with this release, and anytime a headphone cuts the wire, is that sound quality will take a hit. Here, there sound profile is slightly different - a touch bassier - but is largely untouched. Side by side with the wired M50xs, I was hard pressed to notice a difference. These will still work perfectly well for a reference earphone, bearing in mind that slightly elevated bass that’s easily EQ’d out if you don’t prefer it. The inclusion of aptX, AAC, SBC also means that you’ll be getting higher quality than many other wireless cans right out of the box. If you’d rather keep things wired, you’ll be pleased to know you can still connect with a wired 3.5mm cable.

Since the addition of bluetooth demands considerably more control than the previous version, Audio-Technica has added all of your controls to the left ear cup. You have your volume buttons and power switch which doubles as a bluetooth pairing button when held. There’s also a hidden touch button that activates your smartphone’s voice assistant when you touch the left earcup for several seconds.

If you’ve never used a pair of M50x headphones, you’re in for a treat. The 45mm rare earth magnet drivers deliver a full, powerful sound even over bluetooth (they get loud). The bass is slightly elevated but not overpowering. The mids are present, making vocals and dialogue come through clear. Treble is exceptions and offers tons of detail and texture that would otherwise be lost.

This also means that they’re great for those long gaming sessions at your PC or console. Paired with a standalone mic or ModMic Wireless and you’ll find yourself with a better setup than most gaming headsets could ever dream of. The bass fills out the soundscape but the mids, highs, and excellent stereo separation are great for positioning enemies before they’ve come onto your screen. 

If you can’t connect over bluetooth, the in-line remote also includes a built-in microphone for your comms. If you don’t have a microphone, you can use the in-line mic. Have a listen here:

As you can tell, this is fine for calls and Skype but is a bit quiet for things like streaming. For its intended purpose, it works just fine.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the ATH-M50xBTs delivered exactly what I hoped they would: wireless M50xs. The original M50xs were my hands-down favorite headphone since I discovered them in 2017. Now that the M50xBT is on the scene, I truly hope more people discover these awesome headphones. At $199, they might seem a little pricey but, believe me, they’re worth the investment.

Pros

  • Comfortable and lightweight
  • Intuitive left-ear controls
  • Slightly bassier profile, but maintains great mids and highs
  • Solid build quality

Cons

  • On the expensive end
  • No fast charging

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.

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