Hi-fi specialist Audio-Technica has announced its new ATH-M50xBT2 headphones, which are available now for £179/$199/AU$349, and are one of 2021's most exciting audio releases.
The M50 line of headphones has been around since 2007, and rapidly became a favourite pick of audio insiders and headphones reviewers, because they sound damn great and didn't cost a lot. They've always given you an accurate, studio-friendly sound, but don't come across as flat – and did it without costing the earth. Audio-Technica notes that they've been used by the lines of Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey and Drake.
Over time, the M50 evolved into the M50x, which then became the M50xBT once Bluetooth was added, and immediately crashed our list of the best wireless headphones. And now we have the M50xBT2, a set of headphones whose level of potential is matched only by how inscrutable the name is if you don't know the history.
This latest version of the headset keeps a very similar no-nonsense design (again, quite studio-like) with comfortable padding and light weight for long listening. It also packs the same 45mm driver design (it ain't broke…) – but there are big changes everywhere else inside.
For Bluetooth listening, the drivers are powered by an AK4331 DAC (digital-to-analogue converter) with built-in headphone amp, which should help to keep the music clear and powerful. And you'll get higher-quality music going into that setup, because they now support wireless transmission via SBC (regular Bluetooth), AAC (perfect for iPhone fans, because it means Apple Music tracks won't be transcoded), and even LDAC, which is Sony's competitor to high-res aptX streaming.
That's paired with a truly glorious battery life of 50 hours, with a fast-charge option for three hours of listening from a 10-minute juice (using a high-power USB-C connection).
You can use Audio-Technica's app to tweak the EQ if you want, turn on a special low-latency mode for gaming or wireless music creation, locate lost headphones and more.
There's also a dual-mic system which is designed to make them better for voice calls, but also for the new built-in Alexa support (Siri and Google Assistant can be triggered by a button).
Thoughtfully, the M50xBT2 actually has a 'Mute' option actually built into the headset, which is a really nice touch. Multi-point pairing is really useful too, so you can connect to two device at once for quick switching. Google Fast Pair for Android phones is also here.
You also get a wired cable, naturally. For under £200/$200/AU$350, these are going to be seriously tough headphones to beat, based on the previous models. The only real weakness is the lack of active noise cancellation, but odds are you'll get much better audio quality from these than any of the best noise-cancelling headphones at the same price can offer. We can't wait to get them for a proper review listen.