Bluetooth-capable headphones are becoming increasingly popular due to the ubiquity of the technology in today’s landscape. It was only a matter of time before the entry-level option in the ATH-M lineup from Audio-Technica got the Bluetooth treatment. In this review, we look closely at how these headphones stack up.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT ticks a lot of the right boxes, but it also isn’t without some drawbacks. Check out the top-level pros and cons before we take a close look at these affordable cans.
The base ATH-M20x is already a popular and capable pair of entry-level headphones, but the addition of Bluetooth does add a lot of functionality. Let’s dive into the details.
I’ll break down this section into two areas. The first will cover how these sound generally, but the second will detail some surprises you might encounter when using these over Bluetooth.
With a frequency response of 5Hz-32kHz, the ATH-M20xBT offers a relatively broad range. The highs are especially bright and clear. Detailed and defined, but certain elements can appear slightly too bright.
The mid-range is my favorite part of the range. It offers substantial body, warmth, and a lush response that is satisfying to listen to. The fatigue level is exceptionally low, and you can comfortably listen to a wide range of audio all day long.
The lows are decent but do suffer from the same lack of lower bass tonality that the base ATH-M20x model displays. Don’t get me wrong, there is a good amount of punch and delivery but not enough thump to blow you away. If you want fuller and richer bass, you’ll need to step up the lineup to something like the M50xBT2.
The ATH-M20xBT offers a satisfying fatigue-free sound profile.
Overall these are very impressive for headphones at this price point. A pleasant profile that is well suited for day-to-day listening, DJing, and light studio work.
With that out of the way, it’s worth highlighting the codecs on offer in Bluetooth mode. The ATH-M20xBT supports AAC and SBC. SBC is lackluster, but the sound quality from AAC is fantastic. Little to no drop in quality. But if you use an Android-based device, AAC struggles to function well on the platform.
The solution is to offer greater support for other codecs like AptX or LDAC, but neither is present on the ATH-M20xBT. So if you are using an Android-based device, expect a drop in quality when streaming.
Despite the lack of extra support, the Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT is an excellent set of cans with a fantastic sound profile. It’s rare to find a cheap set of headphones that performs this well, making them an appealing choice for budget-savvy consumers.
With an identical framework as the base model, the ATH-M20xBT features the same level of comfort. The highlight here is the relaxed clamping force and headband design.
Clamping force is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, a firm and tight grip adds stability and plays a significant role in isolation. But it can lead to an uncomfortable fit, especially for people that wear glasses. The ATH-M20xBT manages to straddle the line between the two quite nicely. Isolation is not amazing, but you never feel like your head is getting squeezed.
The padding is firmer than other ATH-M series headphones.
The padding on the headband offers plenty of support and comfort. It’s not overly thick but equally doesn’t apply much pressure and rests comfortably. Multiple notches allow you to expand and contract as needed to adapt to your head shape.
If you have ever used Audio-Technica’s higher-end ATH-M headphones, you’ll notice the drop in the quality of the ear cups on the ATH-M20xBT. The opening and shape are more compact, and the padding is noticeably stiffer. It is comfortable but not as inviting as Audio-Technica’s more expensive options. If you have large ears, you might find these a little cramped.
At 0.47 lbs. (213 grams), these are only moderately heavier than the base model. Combining the relaxed fit and the lightweight rating results in an easy-going pair of cans that you can wear all day. Breathability is also decent, considering these are closed-back cans.
Appearance is a subjective matter, but I consider the Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT to be a refined and classy set of headphones.
The matte black finish is refined and offers more eye appeal than some tacky fake silver or glossy plastic options in the budget headphone space. But once again, this is a personal opinion. If you prefer your headphones to make a statement, these are not the headphones for you.
Excellent integration of Bluetooth controls and functions.
As for technical design, there are some notable elements worth highlighting. The first is that these headphones do not collapse. They can be a little cumbersome if you want to take these for your daily commute or travel.
From a DJ’s perspective, the earcups do not rotate, restricting the potential for one-ear monitoring. Another notable issue is the exposed wires leading from the cups to the headband.
I prefer that any cabling be discreetly tucked away to avoid the potential of hooking the cable on objects. Thankfully they don’t stick out too much, so my concerns might be slightly overblown.
Now that I’ve nitpicked the minor issues, let me gush about the elements I adore. The implementation of the Bluetooth functionality is superb. The range is long, and dropouts are non-existent. You can comfortably move about without fearing a loss of connection.
Multi-point connectivity is also available to pair these headphones to two devices. No need to keep re-pairing them when switching between your favorite devices.
The battery life is another outstanding feature. Up to 60hrs from one charge, you won’t need to keep charging them up endlessly. It’s almost to the point that you’ll forget that these are wireless headphones and potentially forget to charge them since they last so long. But even when that does occur, they support a rapid charge that will give you 3hrs of battery life from just 10 minutes of charging time.
At 36 ohms, these work fantastic with all devices. The execution of the buttons is also excellent. Easy to access, easy to use, and all the functionality you’ll need to control the playback, voice calls, and microphone. The microphone itself is also quite good for headphones this cheap.
Finally, the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x features a low-latency mode. This helps reduce lag which is ideal for gaming and watching movies. For DJ’ing, I would still recommend using the wired connection, but in a pinch, the low-latency mode is decent and a lot better for DJ’ing than some Bluetooth headphones.
So despite a few issues, the ATH-M20xBT gets nearly everything else right. Clean design, functional features, and reliable Bluetooth. All with a price tag that is very approachable.
Perspective is critical when assessing budget headphones. As much as we would all like super high-quality cans at a low price, it is often this area where you’ll need to accept some compromises.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT features a full plastic build. Not uncommon for headphones, but the plastic here does feel a little low-grade. Not as bad as I’ve seen on other budget cans, but I’ve also seen better. At this price point, the quality is decent but not impressive.
The ATH-M20xBT features reasonable build quality.
There is minimal flex, and the structural integrity of the plastic doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. Mind you, I’ve encountered similar feeling headphones in the past that ended up lasting a fair while, so initial impressions can be deceiving.
The component quality, in general, is good. The 40mm drivers are fantastic and deliver great sound. The included cable for charging is appropriate, and the Bluetooth integration is excellent. The included hardwired straight cable is 3.9ft. (1.2 m) which is a decent length. Some DJs might prefer a longer cable, but I didn’t have any issues when using it in a DJ set.
In summary, these are better than many competitor offerings and, at this price point, above average. You’ll inevitably need to up your budget if you want a more refined pair.
The headphone market is exceptionally competitive. Several high-quality audio brands offer budget-centric cans, and this offering from Audio-Technica is among the best out there. With crisp sound and good features, it presents excellent value for money.
The included cable gives you the freedom to use a wired connection.
It is worth noting the lack of accessories. No pouch or case highlights that these are not the best option for traveling and transportation. Likewise, you’ll be restricted to just a solitary cable offering. Also surprising is the lack of an adapter for the ⅛-inch connection. To be fair, I have accumulated a drawer full of these, but for first-timers, it is nice to have an adapter to connect to all types of gear.
Despite a lack of additional bells and whistles, the Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT is still among the most affordable Bluetooth headphones out there and well worth the asking price.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT headphones are very popular. Most people appreciate the excellent Bluetooth functionality and the detailed sound profile. Critics also agree that these present fantastic value for money despite a few minor drawbacks.
Why Latency Matters
Latency is a critical component of Bluetooth headphones. Latency is the time it takes for data to go from one source to another. For casual listening, it isn’t that important to have low latency, but it is a must-have feature for other situations.
Our brains have an exceptional knack for figuring out when things need to be more in sync. Whether watching a movie or gaming, those fractions of a second can make or break your experience.
The low latency feature on the ATH-M20xBT is excellent.
Even DJs emphasize getting the timing right between two tracks, as any sound that is not in sync is instantly recognizable and jarring for listeners.
Headphones like the Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT that feature low latency technology help mitigate these issues. It may seem minor, but it is the difference between a pleasant experience and an atrocious one for specific applications.
So when you are buying Bluetooth headphones, it is worth investigating what type of latency features they offer.
I’ve already mentioned how competitive the market is for Bluetooth headphones. You’ll be spoilt for choice, but sifting through the countless options can be challenging. Below are some noteworthy alternatives worth exploring.
PreSonus Eris HD10BT Review
If the passive isolation of the ATH-M20xBT is not strong enough for your needs, the Eris HD10BT is an appealing alternative. But it is worth noting these are more expensive.
- Good quality sound with a distinct mid-range.
- Active Noise Cancellation of 18dB helps keep exterior noise at bay.
- The sound profile is less balanced than the ATH-M20xBT.
PreSonus Eris HD10BT
Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT Review
Pioneer is the go-to brand for DJ equipment. The HDJCUE1BT is their Bluetooth-capable set of headphones with a distinctly DJ-focused design.
- A loud output level that still retains clarity and precision.
- Various colors are available, making these a good choice for people who want more character from their cans.
- The tight clamping force and on-ear design might be uncomfortable for some people.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50XBT2 Review
If budget is of no concern, you would be remiss not to explore the ATH-M50xBT2. These outstanding headphones are among the best Bluetooth cans you can buy today.
- A fantastic sound profile that is punchy, loud, and clear.
- Excellent build quality. Rugged and dependable.
- Higher quality throughout does result in a much higher price tag.
Should You Buy?
The ATH-M20xBT is an excellent addition to the Audio-Technica lineup. It offers a perfect entry point to the ATH-M Bluetooth range while retaining many qualities that have made that range of headphones successful.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT offers an impressive sound profile that combines perfectly with practical Bluetooth functionality. If you want a budget-focused pair of Bluetooth headphones, the ATH-M20xBT is worth picking up.