Occasionally, when a new product drops, my internal reaction is: finally. Often, you’re waiting for an update or new feature to be introduced that is, at least in your own mind, long overdue. This is exactly where I was at with the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT Bluetooth headphones.
There are few pieces of audio equipment that are as equally at home in studios as they are in the hands of your typical music lover than Audio-Technica’s ATH series headphones, namely the ATH-M50x. They’re almost omnipresent in studios, most often served as headphones for tracking, thanks to their balanced response and price, that allow studios to buy multiple pairs. All those reasons inform why they’re so popular with your everyday listener, too.
Though Audio-Technica is no stranger to Bluetooth headphones, the ATH-M50xs (and their younger siblings, the M40x and M20x) have always been relegated to the realm of the cord. The popularity has even lead to the rise of third-party Bluetooth adapter solutions dedicated to the ATH-M50xs, which work fine, but are clearly a compromise. In steps Audio-Technica with the M50xBT.
The headphones themselves are immediately familiar; there’s no massive physical redesign here. They are built physically to spec to the wired version with which many of you are familiar, including the 45mm drivers, swiveling earcups, and foldable design. The Bluetooth functionality is somewhat no-frills, compared to some other models available; you won’t find any multi-gesture swiping controls, noise cancellation (though the earpads do provide some passive isolation), or accelerometers.
What you do get are three buttons (Play/Pause, Forward, and Back) and a power switch. The left earcup can be tapped with a two-second hold to wake Google Assistant or Siri on your phone. Outside of these few tweaks, the ATH-M50xBT provide a fit and feel that is essentially exactly that of their wired version, with the built-in rechargeable battery (giving up to 40 hours of playback) not adding much in the way of perceivable weight.
Sonically, their Bluetooth performance is top notch, thanks to aptx/AAC codec support. The same present, full bass and clear high mids I’ve come to expect from the wired ATH-M50xs are there, with the overall experience as close to being a 1:1 with them as Bluetooth audio is going to provide.
I’ve already used the phrase “no frills,” and I’m going to break a rule of writing and use the same term a second time to describe the wireless functionality of the ATH-M50xBT. If you are looking for more elaborate Bluetooth headphones from Audio-Technica, there are several models that fill the bill. What these give you is the sonic quality many already know and love, with full Bluetooth functionality.
However, to be clear, the more streamlined approach with the ATH-M50xBTs is a definite strength of the headphones, and a bit of a welcome addition to the market. The wired version of the headphones isn’t a new product, and has quite a loyal following. Audio-Technica’s approach here seems to be to provide wireless functionality to one of its most popular headphones without changing the sonic quality, look, and feel.
Since the ATH-M50xBTs also include a cable, you are also getting a pair of ATH-M50x in the deal. I found I was using them to monitor tracking some guitars in my home studio, and when I was finished I just unplugged the detachable cable and left the apartment, just switching the Bluetooth on. These cans have helped bridge the gap between “studio use” headphones and the ones I use during my commute.
Ultimately, the Bluetooth functionality does not attempt to overcomplicate the positives and performance of their wired sibling. This is either a strong pro or a con depending on what you’re looking for in a pair of Bluetooth headphones. But for an audio professional such as myself, I must say it’s about time.
Interested in these headphones? Tell us why, in the Comments section.