How do you take an iconic pair of headphones that launched a decade ago and bring them up to date without ruining everything that people loved about the originals? Audio-Technica faced this task when updating its M50 studio headphones, which gained an almost cult-like following around the world thanks to a unique sound signature. The solution? Add Bluetooth, but keep the same listening experience. The result is the ATH-M50xBT, a pair of headphones that take the wire out of the equation, but leave almost everything else intact.
Why do people care about the M50 headphones? These studio monitors became popular for several reasons. Only available in certain music stores at first, they became the headphone of choice for those in the know, and were also seen adorning the heads of many big names in music; Faithless and Stormzy are among those using the headphones today. The sound was tailored to a studio, and therefore rich in detail, letting the producer hear exactly what was played by the musician. Audio-Technica has worked hard to maintain this sound signature, using 45mm drivers, copper-clad aluminum wire on the voice coil, and a closed-back cup design.
Fans of the M50 will recognize the design, which has not changed drastically from the originals, or the M50x sequel. A battery has been added for the Bluetooth 5.0 connection, and it’s rated for 40 hours of use, but the headphones remain lightweight at 310 grams. Siri or Google Assistant can be activated by tapping the left cup. There are also physical buttons on the left cup, and the M50xBT will sync with Audio-Technica’s new Connect app for iOS and Android, where further features will be available. A 1.2-meter cable with a 3.5mm jack, which also has an inline microphone for calls, is included in the box, along with a handy carry pouch. The ATH-M50xBT have AptX support, along with AAC and SBC codecs, but not AptX HD.
Audio-Technica has sold 1.8 million M50 headphones worldwide, and has no intention of upsetting its dedicated fanbase with a pair of wireless M50 headphones that don’t sound like wired M50 headphones. It’s confident the unique sound remains, just with the added convenience of Bluetooth. The headphones cost $200, or 180 British pounds, and are available to buy now from Amazon, Audio-Technica’s website, and other retailers.