After checking out the M20xBT’s, we’re looking at another example of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” from Audio Technica.
… well, at least don’t fix it much.
A-T’s M50xBT2’s are the second Bluetooth iteration of their classic M50x headphones, with some minor adjustments over the first, available for $199 ($219 for special edition deep sea or ice blue). Let’s take a look at the specs before we dive in:
- Closed back dynamic
- 45mm drivers, 15 – 28,000 Hz frequency response
- Built-in omni-directional mic MEMS type
- Low-latency mode and multi-point pairing
- Omnidirectional built-in microphone
- Bluetooth 5.0 or 3.5mm wired operation modes
- Supported codecs: LDAC / AAC, SBC
Design and Functionality
Like we mentioned at the top, the M50xBT2 is the second Bluetooth recreation of their classic ATH-M50 and M50x, with some minor variations. Flipping over to USB-C for charging from the M50xBT, there are some functional improvements as well like low latency mode, L/R audio balance, and most importantly integration with the Audio Technica app for tweaking the equalizer for the specific sound profile you want.
The headphones are also built to travel, featuring rotating ear cups and a foldable band. This makes it easy to fit into the included travel pouch with all of the optional cables and drop it into your carry-on.
In addition to low-latency mode for video, the M50xBT2’s support AAC, SBC, and LDAC codecs, but drop aptX support from the previous generation set. It’s a bit of a disappointment since aptX is more consistent than LDAC for streaming high-res video content, but we’re guessing that’s why they also include a 3.5mm wired option. That’s honestly going to be the tried and true way to really go lossless while streaming.
That said, the M50xBT2’s work with the Audio Technica app, allowing for equalizer settings for fine tuning, codec selection, low latency mode activation, and setting the speech recognition between Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa.
The one feature some may miss – active noise cancellation. These headphones lack the ANC that some of the brand’s truly wireless earbuds come with, but I doubt that’s going to be a major issue for a good number of folks. There’s a big subset of headphone users that just don’t need active noise cancellation for the battery tradeoff, and personally I’ll take the extended battery life instead.
Bluetooth pairing is an absolute breeze, since the headset supports not only Google Fast Pair but multipoint pairing as well for multiple device use. For me it’s my laptop and phone, so I can focus on work and/or calls while still getting dings and notifications from my phone. For specificity, that’s a Windows 11 laptop and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4.
Once we got it paired up we put the battery to the test. We let YouTube do its thing and left it on for continuous playback. We found 2 things. First, the algorithm made the playlist mostly Gordon Ramsay shows. Second, we surpassed the advertised 60 hours with 61 hours and change. That’s might impressive. If that’s not enough 10 minutes charge time gives you another 180 minutes of playback. This is perfect when you get to the airport just on time and only have a few minutes to plug in before boarding.
Sound and Performance
So no one should be surprised that this is a great set of headphones that provide high quality sound. But since the design lends itself to multiple uses, we had to make sure on a few different use cases. While we mentioned above that the headphones can be tight, it’s that clamping on the sides of your head and overall tight cushioning that make a pretty good seal to isolate the sound for all occasions. That tight fit can also get a bit warm sometimes too.
First and foremost I’m not going to get into audio calls that much – Calls on Zoom and Teams were great, and the MEMS microphone array was crystal clear. No surprises here. For movies and gaming, even with LDAC on there is occasionally just a micro noticeable lag which isn’t bothersome but is still there. Plugging in with the 3.5mm cable eliminated that pretty quickly.
Wicked Games has a full orchestral arrangement, and opens with primarily strings from high violins and low cellos and bass. Without a huge kick from the lows it’s easy for the mids to come through on viola, without blurring the instruments together.
Later in the track when the percussion comes in and the entire ensemble is blasting at full, there’s still no overlap, and each of the instruments can be heard independently without blue or distortion, and delivers on this very tense portion on the track.
The M50xBT2’s presented Jimi Hendrix’s classic performance extremely well, covering both the highs and lows of one of his iconic guitar solos – it also gave us that left-to-right distortion on the track during the solo, with super clear vocals and percussion that was very present, but not overpowering.
We love using the John Wick franchise for testing movie sound, specifically the Red Circle scene from the original film. We were using the “v-shaped” preset on the Audio Technica app, which raises levels of the lows and highs, without cranking the bass all the way up.
We got great sound for the scene – the v-shaped profile was the right choice, as it gave us the bass from Kaleida and Le Castle Vania’s background tracks while giving us full sound for every hit and clip reload without overpowering background crowd noise. The bass wasn’t too much to deal with, and allowed for the high chirps of gunfire and shell casings hitting the ground to come through clearly without being annoying. The mids still came through, but felt pretty balanced.
Ah, Azeroth. Firing up World of Warcraft we flew around the Eastern Kingdoms and eventually delved in to the Emerald Nightmare to check in on the Dream. Like we found in our musical tests, we felt and heard every instrument scored into both into background tracks and SFX. We were able to head the high drums and and low strings on the load screen clearly, and while in flight could hear the vocals of Stormwind’s theme without losing the flap of hippogryph wings in the air. As a survival hunter, throwing bombs, commanding my wolf to attack, roaring for buffs, and swinging melee never lost a single note.
The important detail here is the left to right audio, which in dungeons or raids are important to know where something is or coming from so a mob or add can be effectively dispatched. For those of you whose guilds are a bit more, um… particular, you may need to plug in to fully eliminate lag just in case – or go with one of A-T’s more gaming-oriented headsets like the G1, GL, or GDL models.
So what’s the verdict? At $199 versus the wired M50x at $149, and much more than the $79 M20xBT, it’s 100% worth the extra bucks in our opinion. It has both Bluetooth as well as wired mode over the wired-only M50x, and supports LDAC which the M20x does not. The M50xBT2’s provide professional sound with a reasonable price tag, and is a great pair for folks that don’t need active noise cancellation. And let’s face it, not everyone does. The lack of ANC is part of what allows 60 hours of continuous playback on a charge, and that ain’t nothing. We can’t wear them for extremely long sessions due to the way the clamp down a bit on the ears, but still a solid buy.