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Review Of Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2: The Most Professional Bluetooth Headphones

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The second version of a Bluetooth headset that made up for its technological lag with excellent sound quality and premium design, the Aonic 50 Gen 2 by Shure promises improvements on all levels without betraying its predecessor’s formula.

Technical Specifications of Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

Specification Details
Headphone Type Closed-back
Earcup Style Over-ear (Circumaural)
Weight 339 g
Cable Length 1.5 m
Detachable Cable Yes
Wireless Connection Bluetooth
Supported Bluetooth Codecs SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC
Ports USB-C, sub mini-jack
Hands-free Kit Yes
Measured Battery Life (with RBA) 39 h
Measured Battery Life (without RBA) 46 h
Measured Bluetooth Latency 220 ms
Price US$349.00

 

Overview: Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

The Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 is a circum-aural Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphone that boasts a high-end orientation, much like its predecessor, the Aonic 50. However, it comes with a slightly lower price, which is already considered a luxury in the current market trend.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

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Unlike most of its competitors, this model leverages its Pro/Studio side directly derived from Shure’s experience in monitoring headphones and other legendary microphones, such as the SM7B. This more serious approach is reflected not only in its sound ambitions but also in its manufacturing and design, which are more refined than average.

The manufacturer has clearly not revolutionized its formula compared to the original Aonic 50. Therefore, one should expect a device that follows in the same vein rather than an ergonomic or technological upheaval.

Read Also: Sony WF-1000xm5 Review – Exceptional Sound & Noise Canceling

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Price and Availability

The Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 headphone has been available since September 2023 at a price of US$349.00.

Review Conditions

We reviewed the headphones using firmware version 2.3.1.0, paired with ShurePlus Play app version 3.5.1.7.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2: Design and Build

In an era where headphone designs are simplifying and slimming down, the Aonic 50 Gen 2 stands as a resilient contender. This doesn’t mean it looks outdated or out of place; quite the opposite. It closely follows the imposing and robust formula of its predecessor in a single, very understated color scheme. This results in a headphone that still exudes a premium feel, though it leans more towards practicality than high fashion.

While not overly bulky like a Focal Bathys, the Aonic 50 Gen 2 does have a slightly higher weight than average (339g). Paradoxically, it may not be the best fit for individuals with very large heads, as the last adjustment notch might feel a bit snug.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

These slight excesses stem from its Pro lineage. The device showcases a particularly serious construction, where even the plastic components are dense and matte. The structure gracefully balances between sturdy aluminum components and faux leather cushioning (ear cups and headband), closely resembling genuine leather. Although it doesn’t quite achieve the seamless impression of a Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2, the Shure stands up admirably in terms of sheer quality. It surpasses the Sony WH-1000Xm5 and the Sennheiser Momentum 4 in this regard. However, it’s worth noting that some buttons feel a bit budget, especially the slider used for active noise cancellation, which tends to wobble.

Foldability and Portability

Of course, certain choices come with their own set of criticisms. Its substantial structure, only foldable flat (not collapsible), starts to take up some space. In this aspect, the rigid case, while slimmer than the version 1, doesn’t necessarily improve matters. It’s excellent for protecting against bumps and dust, but it won’t go unnoticed.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

Comfort

Due to its significant weight, the Aonic 50 Gen 2 doesn’t quite match the comfort levels of Sony or Bose creations. It still fares very well in this department, with wide, removable cushions and a sufficiently padded headrest. However, similar to the AirPods Max, you’ll eventually feel its presence on your head and neck after extended listening sessions. It’s worth noting that it applies relatively light pressure on the head, avoiding a sense of ear compression but resulting in a slightly less secure fit.

Packaging of Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

The packaging is entirely standard for a headphone in this price range. Alongside the fabric-covered, rigid carrying case, you’ll find a 3.5mm mini-jack to 2.5mm sub-mini-jack cable (headphone input) and a USB-C to USB-C cable.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 User Experience

Control

Shure has not entirely embraced modernity, as they continue to provide the 100% button controls from the first Aonic 50. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, as the experience remains very satisfactory in practice. All the buttons are located on the rear edge of the right earcup and are divided into three groups: ANC adjustment via a three-position slider; two volume buttons surrounding another for navigation (play/pause/track change); a power button that also serves for pairing, volume indication (double press), and default assistant activation (long press).

Read Also: Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones – Offering Immersive Audio and Advanced ANC Technology

By opting for traditional actions, Shure ensures that no one is left behind. The classic controls are simple and responsive, the play/pause button is easily identifiable thanks to a raised marker, and the switch associated with the three noise reduction modes is very effective. While no classic button is customizable, Shure still offers a small degree of customization through the slider, which can also be assigned to three equalizers or three spatialization modes.

Automation enthusiasts might be disappointed by the absence of wear sensors, a technology quite prevalent in high-end headphones.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

Connectivity

As a good audiophile headset, the first Aonic set the bar very high in terms of connectivity. Consequently, the Aonic 50 Gen 2 is slightly less surprising, but it continues on this positive trajectory. The setup is powered by a Bluetooth 5.2 chip with support for codecs SBC, AAC, AptX, AptX HD, and even LDAC. It also features multipoint, which functions with LDAC enabled.

Equally delightful, our Aonic retains the good old mini-jack connection and can operate in passive mode (headphone off), which is becoming rare in 2023. The only drawback is the type of connector used, a 2.5mm sub-mini-jack instead of the standard 3.5mm, making replacement cables a bit more challenging to find. The connector is therefore a bit more delicate.

As an added bonus, it includes a USB audio interface mode. Once connected to a PC or smartphone, the Aonic 50 Gen 2 can operate in Hi-Res mode (supporting PCM streams up to 32 bits/384 kHz) or in Communication mode, which limits quality to 16 bits/48 kHz but activates the microphone.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 Application

The headphone is perfectly usable on its own but significantly benefits from being paired with its dedicated application, ShurePlus Aonic. While not perfect, it offers a wide range of settings, particularly in the audio domain.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

More importantly, although Shure doesn’t push ergonomic options as far as Sony, it emphasizes some rather unique functions. In addition to the USB mode adjustment, there’s an option for the headphone to switch (when a new source appears) in multipoint, or to activate charging only if the headphone is off.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

But the standout feature of the device is its equalization system, which far surpasses the competition. In addition to some fairly standard preset equalizations, ShurePlus Aonic provides access to a very comprehensive parametric equalizer. This is controlled on three bands, each time allowing you to define the targeted frequency, gain (+/–10 dB), and bandwidth around that frequency. With a little effort, it becomes possible to precisely adjust the sound signature.

Audio: Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

Sound Profile

The Aonic 50 Gen 2, despite its audio architecture driven by a very ambitious and large 50 mm dynamic driver, is typically the kind of headphone that doesn’t please everyone. We are indeed far from experiencing the very round and powerful signature of Sony’s WH-1000XM4 and WH-1000XM5.

Here, Shure leans towards a more analytical, drier sound compared to Sony, but it is certainly not lacking in interest. While the bass is accentuated, it remains slightly subdued in the extremes and does not overflow into the midrange, which is slightly set back. This is followed by an emphasis on the high-mids, bringing clarity to voices and pulling the soundstage forward. Then, there’s a dip in the treble to avoid being aggressive, followed by a new emphasis in the 10 kHz range (brightness). This rollercoaster-like sound profile might raise concerns, but it maintains coherence in practice.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

Yes, the sound is less round and less powerful than on many devices, such as the Sennheiser Momentum 4 or Apple AirPods Max, but Shure never crosses the limits. Each accentuation or dip remains within a few decibels, avoiding any drastic imbalances. This allows the Aonic 50 Gen 2 to maintain an overall sense of balance while being highly detailed, effectively utilizing the technical qualities of the driver, and packing a punch when needed.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

Spatialization Modes

We won’t dwell on the presence of spatialization modes in the app, intended to simulate an enveloping representation of sound. The sound processing is simply never interesting or convincing.

Soundstage and Separation

While it may not be the most immersive headphone on the market, this Shure offers a rather wide and deep soundstage, with a great ability to separate different instruments in space. Moreover, although it may not be as fun as a Sony, for example, it doesn’t display significant spillage, especially in the transition between bass and midrange.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

Balance and Performance

The Aonic 50 Gen 2 is not a technical marvel; it’s a bit dry with some already aggressive styles, lacks a touch of impact due to its relative shyness in the very low frequencies, but it also strikes a good balance between “pro sound” and musical approach. In this regard, it’s an outstanding performer that goes a bit further than other classic high-end products.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

Furthermore, it enjoys an advantage that the competition does not possess, or hardly anymore: a passive wired mode (headphone off) that performs as well as the active modes. Add to that the excellence of the USB audio connection, and Shure already gains some valuable points.

Lastly, and this is significant, the quality of ShurePlus Play’s equalization offers room for improvement for the device. While it won’t work miracles on certain characteristics of the driver, particularly its softness in the bass, there are opportunities for some personality adjustments.

Isolation

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)

The first Aonic 50’s Achilles’ heel was its active noise cancellation, which was, at best, insufficient and far too weak to make a significant difference. Shure went back to the drawing board and delivers here an honest reduction, but it falls far short of the standards of 2023, especially in this price range.

The manufacturer still struggles to cancel out the very low frequencies, which is no longer a feat. The Aonic 50 Gen 2 manages to attenuate around 15 dB (sometimes 20 dB) in the bass and midrange. Beyond that, passive isolation (the ear cushions) takes over, behaving like a fairly decent closed-back headphone, nothing more. The cushions, in a way, allow for more breathability compared to what’s found on a Sony WH-1000Xm5.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

In practical use, the Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 is perfectly usable, but don’t expect it to place the user in a complete bubble. Through the app, different levels of ANC intensity are available, but given the very relative effectiveness of the process, it’s never necessary to go below the maximum setting.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2: Ambient Sound Transparency

The assessment is slightly better on the sound return. With the default setting (middle), it manages to provide a natural rendering in the bass and midrange. As expected, the brand can’t fully compensate for the attenuation in the treble. This mode is very usable, but it doesn’t reproduce a completely precise sound environment.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

However, there are three phenomena worth noting. The first, quite common, is the poor resistance of the microphones to wind noise, both in ANC and Transparency mode. The second, seemingly random (only on the left side of our model), is the appearance of a very pronounced background noise in Transparency mode. This phenomenon resembles a malfunction in sound processing or the microphone, but it appeared on both of our review units. The third comes from its very poor adaptation to pressure changes, for example in a train/metro with open windows. Air movements completely disrupt the headphones, causing them to lose any sense of active isolation.

Read Also: Nothing Ear (2) Stylish Wireless Earbuds Features and Detailed Review

Battery Life of Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

Compared to the first Aonic 50, the battery life gets a significant boost here, managing to double its previous performance.

With ANC using the AAC codec, we measured 39 hours (at 60% volume). Without ANC, the duration rises to 46 hours, placing the headphones among the very top performers in its category. Additionally, there’s a fast-charging feature that allows you to gain 5 hours of battery life in just 15 minutes of charging. However, the standard charging time is a bit longer, taking around 2 hours and 20 minutes to go from 0 to 100%.

Read Also: 10 Best Stereo Headphones Of 2023 – Top Picks for All Models and Styles

Pros and Cons of Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2

Pros

Spacious and deep soundstage.

Highly detailed and energetic sound.

Serious construction.

Multiple operating modes (Bluetooth, USB, wired).

Excellent quality in passive mode.

Very advanced parametric equalizer.

Cons

Limited extension in the very low frequencies.

Weak active isolation.

Microphone sensitivity to wind noise.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 Review Conclusion

Slightly more mature than its predecessor, the Aonic 50 Gen 2 generally retains the same strengths and weaknesses in an overall improved yet endearing package. Shure’s professional inspiration enables it to offer a robust model that’s highly versatile, durable, and boasts excellent sound quality. Unfortunately, the active noise isolation falls short of convincing, preventing the manufacturer from finally entering the realm of top-tier ANC Bluetooth headphones.

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