Audio-Technica MX50xBT2 headphones review: Super natural sound

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(Pocket-lint) - The second-generation of Audio-Technica's M50xBT headphones don't revolutionise what the series is all about. But that's no bad thing at all, for the M50xBT2 over-ears continue with the classic design and comfort appeals, but bolster the battery life and charging capabilities.

If you're looking for headphones with all the bells and whistles, such as active noise-cancellation (ANC), then you'll need to look elsewhere. But with decent sound isolation by default, and bags on comfort, you'd be doing yourself a disservice to not give the Mx50BT2 cans a look-in. As natural sound goes, Audio-Technica truly nails it.

Design & Features

  • Weight: 307g
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Physical controls on left earcup
  • Included: USB charging cable, 1.2m 3.5mm audio cable, carry pouch

We first reviewed the M50x back in 2014, so these over-ears are long established. They also don't look dramatically different after seven years in this BT2 form, it's been more a subtle evolution rather than revolutionary design shifts. You can read that as they look a little dated and somewhat plasticky as a result.

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But Audio-Technica has taken the time to tweak and improve things. There's no clunky on/off switch as on the older headphones. There's finally a USB-C charging port, which is more more efficient than the older Micro-USB fitting.

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It's just that while other makers are pushing forward with next-level noise-cancelling (Bose QC45), rotational dial controls (Microsoft Surface Headphones 2), and so forth, Audio-Technica is sticking to its guns. But that does also mean the price tag is considerably less than many.

Irrelevant of no seismic shift in technology, however, the second you put these headphones over your ears you just know. They're so, so comfortable to wear. The plush earcups are large and deep. There's no excessive pinch. They can get a little warm around the ears over time, but for static listening sessions they're just perfect.

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The big deal about the ATH-M50xBT2 is, as the last two letters in the name signify, that there's Bluetooth wireless on board. It's activated by pressing-and-holding a button on the left earcup and it's super fast to prompt connection - we had fast pair popping up on our Motorola phone before we could even suggest connecting to our Mac.

Connectivity is strong, too, as we've been able to walk around much of the house away from the source of music without problems.

The Bluetooth is of top quality too, delivering various codecs support, including Sony's LDAC, meaning high quality can be broadcast without wires. Oddly aptX is absent from the specification this time around, so there might have been a processor change behind the scenes.

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The left earcup also houses physical controls to adjust the volume and track. It's a great idea, but it can be a fumble to find these in the moment. We would prefer a touch area or a rotational dial, to deliver something more futuristic and less fussy. 

Sound Quality

  • 45mm driver diameter in closed-back dynamic earcups
  • Frequency response: 15 - 28,000Hz
  • 50 hours battery life
  • USB-C charging

Just as we said of the previous model: the real reason to ever buy a pair of headphones is for the sound quality; and it's here that the M50xBT2 excels. From the very moment we put them on the comfort was immediately obvious, but then feed these 45mm drivers some sound and the impeccible natural sound is just sublime.

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Some headphones we've seen in recent times sound a little overly processed (Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX) or just don't have the natural fit of comfort by comparison (Marshall Major IV). The M50xBT2, however, just have this effortless way in which sound is delivered.

There's plenty of volume, the balance is nigh-on perfect, and while you'll get all the mids and highs pinging all the right parts of your ear canal's inner workings, there's no cost to the bass - which when demanded has more than ample pomp to please.

Those big earcups give a good sense of space around the ears, for a dynamic soundstage that even just with a decent stereo source have superb placement.

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However, move out of quieter listening areas and the dynamic changes up: particularly noisy places can affect the overall sound profile. And as there's no active noise-cancelling (ANC) you can't really 'hide' those ambient extras. It's not a major bother, it's just how these headphones are designed. So if ANC is a must then you'll need to look elsewhere.

In terms of battery life the BT2 lasts for an epic amount of time. Audio-Technica claims a 25 per cent boost over the previous model, taking these cans to an almost absurd 50 hours of listening time. There is some benefit to having no ANC after all then, eh?

Verdict

If you want supremely natural sound quality, with great balance and bass that also booms, then the ATH-M50xBT2 are exemplary over-ear headphones.

Well, exemplary ones without active noise-cancelling (ANC). If you want cans that can negate extraneous noise through such technology then you'll need to look elsewhere and, most likely, spend a bit more too.

Nonetheless, despite the ageing 'classic' looks, we've still got a lot of love for the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 on account of their comfort and audio clout. Not to mention a battery life that seems to go on forever.

Also consider

Urbanista Miami

If you have a smaller budget, want even bigger bass, and active noise-cancelling (ANC) is a must-have, then Urbanista's affordable over-ears do a grand job.

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Writing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 22 October 2021.

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