Can you buy a set of Bluetooth headphones with active noise cancellation and still experience studio-quality sound? For the longest time, my answer to this question would have been no, but with the release of the Shure AONIC 50, a viable solution emerged. But not content to rest on its laurels, Shure has refreshed these popular headphones and elevated things even further with the new AONIC 50 Gen 2.
Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2
The Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 is easily one of the best Bluetooth studio headphones, with extensive features that also make it one of the most versatile headphones on the market.
The Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 ticks nearly every box I have when it comes to Bluetooth headphones, but what sets it apart is the ability to use these in a studio setting. Let’s take a closer look at these awesome cans.
Sound quality is at the heart of any pair of studio headphones; more often than not, Bluetooth headphones fall short in this area. Sometimes it is due to the codecs involved or simply because they offer a colored sound profile that is more geared toward casual listening.
The Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 bucks this trend with a balanced and neutral sound profile, making it a viable option for studio work. As with most studio cans, the wired connection is ideal for serious studio work, but even in Bluetooth mode, these perform surprisingly well.
Studio-quality sound with the convenience of Bluetooth.
The 50mm drivers do an admirable job with low frequencies. Accuracy is respectable but not as refined as some other dedicated studio cans. Despite this, there is enough punch and clarity to make casual listening enjoyable while retaining enough detail for studio applications.
The midrange is where these headphones shine. The range is ultra-falt and accurate, with enough warmth and clarity to ensure a vibrant and engaging listening experience. Vocals are lush and detailed, instruments hit clean with excellent tonality, and spoken dialogue is crisp and clear.
The top end of the frequency range is equally bright and clear and more consistent than the previous model. There are some minimal peaks and dips, but nothing that would cause significant issues if you use these for studio work. For some, they might be a little too bright, but even my sensitive ears didn’t experience fatigue after a long listening session.
The imaging is superb, with excellent harmony between the two drivers. Spatial recognition is a breeze thanks to the impressive stereo imaging. But as with most closed-back headphones, the soundstage does feel cramped. But the new Spatialized Audio does mitigate this and is a huge improvement over the previous model.
If you need a more airy sound profile, you’ll need to explore open-back options, but as a result, you’ll miss out on all the other benefits that closed-back cans offer.
For a set of Bluetooth headphones, it manages to break the limitations and shackles of the format. A wonderfully detailed sound that is capable and effective in the studio but equally engaging and fun for your daily commute.
The Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 also delivers exceptional comfort levels. It is a must-have for extended studio sessions but also ideal for on-the-go listening.
A generous amount of padding across the headband ensures no uncomfortable contact points on your head. The lightweight frame also ensures it doesn’t feel bulky and cumbersome. The clamping force also hits a sweet spot. It is firm enough to ensure stability but not overly tight, preventing the vice-like grip some other headphones suffer from.
The padding is comfortable but breathability is low.
The ear padding is also comfortable and hard-wearing. It adapts to your head shape well, and you won’t experience discomfort over longer listening sessions. As anticipated, there is some heat build-up due to the closed-back design. It’s unavoidable since there is nowhere for the heat to escape, and it is an issue inherent to all closed-back headphones.
Shure has struck an excellent balance between stability and security without introducing any comfort issues.
There is quite a lot to cover in this section, especially regarding technical design, but before we dive into that, let’s examine these from an aesthetic perspective.
The Shure AONIC 50 was available in three colors. But with the release of the AONIC 50 Gen 2 Shure has opted to ditch the extra colors and in its place is an all-black aesthetic. In some ways, I like this more refined approach and the headphones look great but I know some people like their headphones to have a bit more character. Potentially they will release some more colors down the line.
Stylish headphones that blend seamlessly.
The overall design is also sleek and modern without appearing overly bulky. I’ve tested headphones that I have had a hard time feeling comfortable wearing out and about. I have no such reservations about the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2.
Moving beyond appearance, there are other notable technical design decisions worth highlighting.
Bluetooth functionality is superb, with easy pairing. You can also pair two devices, and it will automatically switch between sources. Bluetooth 5.0 ensures long range and consistency up to 30 feet (10 meters). These headphones also support an expansive selection of codecs, including Qualcomm® aptX™, aptX™ HD, aptX™ Low Latency audio, Sony LDAC, AAC, and SBC.
The ShurePlus Play App is available on Android and iOS and grants you access to EQ settings, presets, playback, and ANC controls. Speaking of ANC, these do an excellent job of blocking exterior noise while maintaining sonic integrity.
The AONIC 50 Gen 2 does fold flat for easier transportation.
It is much better than the previous version, but it still struggles with low frequencies, so you might still hear the rumble of a bus or plane, but there is enough cancellation here to keep voice chatter at bay in a busy office. Passive isolation is also decent, thanks to the firm fit and excellent padding. Sound leakage is also minimal, ensuring those around you don’t hear what you are listening to.
The battery life has received a notable upgrade, up to 45 hours from a full charge. It also supports fast charging, allowing you to clock in 5 hours of life from just a 15-minute charge. A range of controls is also available on the right earcup, allowing you to adjust volume, skip tracks, and activate ANC or Environment mode which allows you to hear what is going on around you.
These headphones also don’t fully collapse. You can rotate the cups to lay flat for a more discreet profile and for storage in the included case, but if you travel a lot, these will take up more space than you might like.
With an attractive exterior and powerful features, the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 ticks multiple boxes.
With a relatively high price point, I expect top-notch quality, and the AONIC 50 Gen 2 doesn’t disappoint. These are sturdy and reliable headphones that can handle the rigors of daily use.
There is an abundance of plastic, but it doesn’t feel cheap. It’s tough and thick and can handle an odd drop or bump. This is essential, especially if you take these on the go regularly where invariable accidents happen.
Despite a lot of plastic the AONIC 50 is well-constructed.
The padding is also durable and will not flake easily. The ear padding is also replaceable, adding to the potential longevity of these cans. Component quality is also fantastic, with quality drivers and satisfying buttons, and the hinges also feel reliable.
The included cables are also on par with what I would expect from headphones at this price point. The rugged case is also highly durable and a perfect companion to these headphones. Excellent quality throughout, along with a two-year warranty. No complaints in this area.
The Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 is a premium pair of headphones with a relatively high price tag. In comparison to other Bluetooth headphones, you can indeed find cheaper alternatives. But the quality of the components and its highly flexible nature make it an excellent choice.
The package includes a 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) USB-C charging cable, which is enough length to be able to charge these comfortably. There is also a 5.2ft (1.6 meters) 1/8-inch TRS cable for wired listening.
The included hard case is fantastic.
But the star of the show is the exceptional case. This redesigned hard case keeps your headphones secure and protected. The design and finish scream quality—a great travel companion despite its slightly bulky size.
While cheaper headphones are available, the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 is a solid investment. Combining studio-quality sound and on-the-go convenience into one pair of headphones adds value and justifies its price point.
A Quick Guide To Bluetooth Codecs
Bluetooth has come a long way and is now a defining wireless technology with deep integration with a broad range of devices. From laptops, PCs, smartphones, tablets, and headphones.
While Bluetooth versions vary, codecs do the heavy lifting of encoding and decoding audio. Below are some of the codecs that the AONIC 50 Gen 2 supports and what they offer.
The AONIC 50 Gen 2 offers excellent codec support.
AAC – The Bluetooth codec that Apple uses. Excellent compression while maintaining a high bitrate. Doesn’t work as well on Android devices.
SBC – A catch-all codec often found in lower-cost gear. Decent bitrate but, unfortunately, is prone to high latency. Not the best for gaming and studio work.
AptX – A range of codecs finely crafted to specific situations, including low latency and HD for high audio quality thanks to a high bitrate.
LDAC – In ideal conditions, this codec from Sony offers supreme audio quality. But it can revert to more standard codecs in less-than-ideal situations.
This range of codecs will ensure maximum compatibility and give you access to high-quality audio, which is ideal for casual listening and detailed studio work.
The Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 is an excellent set of headphones, but the price tag is a little steep. Below, we look at some more affordable options and a comparably priced alternative.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 Review
The ATH-M50xBT2 takes all the qualities of the popular M50x and adds Bluetooth functionality. Satisfying sound in a reliable and durable frame makes it worth considering.
- It has a relatively balanced sound profile, but it has a greater emphasis on bass.
- Robust and hard-wearing construction at a reasonable price.
- The more colored sound isn’t ideal for serious studio work.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Review
The Momentum 4 is a comparable alternative to the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2. These premium ANC headphones offer excellent sound and also feature adaptive noise-canceling technology.
- Exceptional sound quality that is clear and neutral. Good choice for studio work.
- High comfort level and attractive design.
- Much like the AONIC 50 Gen 2, these are not budget-friendly.
Sennheiser Momentum 4
Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT Review
The ATH-M20xBT is a cut-price alternative that will still get the job done. While not the best choice for studio work, the number of features at this price makes it very enticing.
- Punchy sound profile that is satisfying for day-to-day casual listening.
- Long battery life and a solid set of features. Excellent value for money.
- These headphones don’t fold, and there are some exposed wires.
Should You Buy?
The Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 is among my favorite Bluetooth headphones that can pull double duty. An engaging and neutral sound profile ensures these can do the heavy lifting in a studio setting. However, the addition of Bluetooth and ANC also makes these an ideal candidate for on-the-go listening.
The build quality is good, and the comfort level is perfectly balanced for long listening sessions. When you factor in the excellent hard case and extensive codec support, these rapidly rise to the top as one of the best. While a little pricey, they take the role of two separate sets of headphones, making them a worthwhile investment and a pair of headphones I can easily recommend.
Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2