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These $200 headphones are recommended by audio experts, and I understand why

Jada Jones/ZDNET

There’s a popular saying in the South that goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Essentially, why change something that’s perfectly fine the way it is? This saying is certainly the mantra of Audio-Technica’s well-respected M-Series headphones, the latest in the line being the ATH-M50xBT2 wireless headphones.

I’m sure you’ll agree that the product name is a mouthful, so, for convenience, I’ll refer to them as the M50x2 headphones. 

Also: These top headphones deliver impeccable sound and all-day comfort

If you’re unfamiliar with Audio-Technica, the company’s audio products have been a go-to choice for professionals for decades. You’ll see Audio-Technica headphones on the ears of podcasters, professional musicians, and even casual listeners here and there.

Audio-Technica’s new M50x2 headphones promise improved battery life, Bluetooth connectivity, and internal audio components that should deliver a better sound than ever before. I tested them to see if that all holds true.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 headphones in black


Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 wireless headphones

Audio-Technica’s latest M-Series headphones deliver studio-quality sound without compromising your battery with ANC.

I won’t bury the lede: The M50x2 headphones sound superb. They have a clear, well-balanced sound that’s not too heavy on the bass, mids, or treble. And in the Audio-Technica Connect app, you can set custom EQ settings and toy around with the headphones’ sound.

Also: These $350 headphones allowed me to hear things I’d never heard before

Like other professional-grade headphones, you can control the M50x2 by the hertz, and the Audio-Technica Connect app has an impressive range of levels for you to play around with.

When listening to Neon by John Mayer, I could clearly hear Mayer’s harmonies and one of his most famous guitar riffs translates beautifully through the M50x2’s 45mm dynamic drivers.

Additionally, you can access multiple codecs with these headphones, solidifying their purpose for sophisticated listeners. Your options are AAC, SBC, LDAC, and low-latency mode for video and gaming. And should you want the most lossless audio form, these headphones come with a 3.5mm headphone jack for higher-quality listening, or to keep the jam sesh going when you’re low on battery.

The M50x2 headphones don’t have active noise cancelation (ANC), a feature that can significantly eat away at battery life. As a result, Audio-Technica says you’ll squeeze out about 50 hours of playtime. I got about 10 extra hours than that, which I was super jazzed about.

Also: Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones: The perfect headphones for all-day listening

In fact, the lack of ANC doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll hear every noise and sound that’s happening around you. The M50x2 headphones have a 45mm driver that sits inside vinyl ear cups, creating a tightly sealed fit around your ears, which makes up for having the ANC omission.

But the tight fit can become uncomfortable after a few hours of wear, so you’ll need plenty of breaks before the battery gives up on you.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 headphones in black

Jada Jones/ZDNET

Design-wise, I like how the M50x2 headphones embrace a traditional, retro design and deviate from the modern, futuristic headphone design that’s typical in modern cans. Many new headphones take after Sony’s ultra-modern design choices on its flagship WH-series cans, opting for a muted, uniform look. 

But the flashy logos on the headband and ear cups of the M50x2 will make you stand out from the crowd, and ensure you look like you know a thing or two about music. One last note: I was hoping for a hard shell carrying case, given the headphones’ $200 price point. Instead, Audio-Technica supplies a polyurethane leather pouch to store your headphones, which is not ideal but better than nothing.

ZDNET’s buying advice

For $200, you’ll get a pair of headphones with comparable sound quality to other high-end professional-level headphones, such as the Sennheiser Momentum 4. You’ll also miss out on the strong noise canceling found in headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 45 or AirPods Max. But if noise canceling is not on your priority list, this is as good as $200 will get you.

Also: The AirPods Pro 2 got a huge upgrade, and they’re on sale right now

Aside from that, Audio-Technica gives consumers a straightforward and enjoyable pair of headphones with the M50x2. They’re free of complicated software and over-the-top features, but they give you the same high-quality sound that has made them a fan favorite since 2007.

You can buy the ATH-M50xBT2 wireless headphones in Black for $200, and in Deep Sea and Ice Blue for $220 on Audio-Technica’s website. Best yet, you can frequently find them on Amazon at a discounted price.

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