The pair of headphones that most people discover when they decide to upgrade to a higher-fidelity sound than their old Beats is the Audio-Technica M50x. Originally designed for professional use, these headphones started life in 2007 as the M50 model that had a fixed cable, evolved into the M50x in 2014 with a removable cable, and today blossom into the M50xBT that requires no cable at all. The look, design, and sound signature have barely changed in all that time, and Audio-Technica promises that the new wireless M50xBT will maintain everything familiar and beloved about the existing M50 lineage.
Developed by the same two engineers as the original M50s, the M50xBT have been built with wireless performance as the priority — so much so that Audio-Technica says they’ll sound pretty much identical to the M50x when used wirelessly, and different (read: worse) when wired up via an included analog cable with a 3.5mm plug. The sound driver inside each ear cup has been tuned to match the sonic signature of Audio-Technica’s previous model, and the built-in digital to analog converter further ensures a consistent sound, no matter what device is connected.
Equipped with Bluetooth 5 and support for AAC and ApX codecs, the M50xBT are rated to last for 40 hours on a charge. They’re part of a dwindling breed of over-ear wireless headphones that don’t provide active noise cancellation. Common expectations nowadays demand that headphones in this class provide active noise cancellation, though Audio-Technica would argue that it’s building on a strong pedigree with a product that already offers a fair amount of passive noise isolation through its closed-back design. Keeping up with other modern trends, Audio-Technica supports both Siri and Google Assistant on the M50xBT, which can be activated with a prolonged tap on the new touch controls on the left ear cup.
The one common gripe that many will have with the M50xBT is Audio-Technica’s use of Micro USB charging instead of the newer and better USB-C. The company provided the following comment to The Verge in response:
“Our aim with the M50xBT was to create a Bluetooth version of the M50x that not only shares the same sonic signature but that also has an affordable price. On this particular project, adding a USB-C cable would have added to the cost of the product and we felt it was essential to invest in replicating the iconic sound and retaining the durability and quality of the M50xBT whilst also keeping the headphones below £200 ($200).”
Audio-Technica is fully conscious that the wider industry is pushing ahead with USB-C aggressively, and it says it will have USB-C headphones further down the line. It just won’t be these M50xBTs.
Priced at $199 / €199 / £179, the Audio-Technica M50xBT are available to buy right away. In the US, Amazon and Best Buy will have the first stock of them, while in Europe, they’ll be available mostly online until January. With Amazon being Audio-Technica’s biggest customer for the M50x — which, together with the M50, have sold 1.8 million units to date — it appears Audio-Technica has decided to give the giant US retailer the priority.