Shure’s AONIC 50 Gen 2 pack powerful sound customisation but fall flat on ANC
If you care about sound, these are worth considering next to the likes of Bose and Sony.
Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 headphones
⊕ Flexible customisation of sound, controls and general functionality br>
⊕ USB-C connection for lossless listening br>
⊕ Outstanding battery life br>
⊕ Excellent connectivity options br>
⊕ Pleasing microphone br>
⊕ Very comfortable with replaceable earpads br>
⊖ ANC is inferior to other headphones in price bracket br>
⊖ No support for Dolby Atmos/Sony 360 despite spatial audio options br>
⊖ Fiddly controls br>
American audio brand Shure has supplied artists, producers and creators with some of the most dependable mics on the market – including the SM57, SM58 and SM7B – and a line of reliable in-ear monitors and headphones. After branching out into consumer audio territory in 2013, Shure is now flaunting the AONIC 50 Gen 2s – an upgrade to the 2020 model. These headphones are designed for listeners who appreciate sound quality over features such as Active Noise Cancelling and voice assistants.
But, at $350, these headphones are up against some serious contenders. Bose’s QuietComfort and Sony’s WH-1000XM5 float around this price range, and are touted by many critics as the go-to choice for consumers looking for ANC wireless headphones. Still, the AONIC 50 Gen 2s are extremely comfortable, boast excellent audio reproduction and pack some pretty cool customisation.
Connecting the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2
Shure marketing tells us that the AONIC 50 Gen 2s are designed to ‘connect with what connects you’. In other words, you can hook up these headphones to a plethora of music players. They support a range of Bluetooth codecs and come with an analogue cable and USB-C cable for high-res wired listening (32-bit/384 kHz).
Happily, they also have multipoint connectivity, which is so effective that it’s like magic as you seamlessly transition between phone and laptop. This can be modified via the companion app, Shure PLAY, from static multipoint to dynamic multipoint. If you’re into sound and feature customisation, you’ll definitely want to download the handy PLAY app — more on this later in the review.
How good is Shure AONIC 50’s ANC?
The Active Noise Cancelling on the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 is decent, not amazing. It’ll minimise some of the ambient sound around you, but you’ll still be able to hear most of the hum of an aeroplane, train noise, and passers-by while playing music. And you probably don’t want to amp up the volume too much in quiet, public spaces because the sound leakage is quite significant.
For at-home use and other low-noise environments, they’re excellent, but if ANC is a priority for you, it’s worth looking at headphone models that are more accomplished in that area. Users on Soundguys’ review rate the ANC at 6 out of 10, with which we concur.
Shure tells us that this ANC system is the best they’ve used yet, but providing top-tier sound alongside best-in-class ANC would likely ramp up the price significantly.
With headphones, the effect of the noise cancelling and leakage will depend on getting the right fit, too. Thankfully, the AONIC 50 Gen 2s fit snug on our ears with supremely comfortable earcups (these are replaceable, too) and are not too heavy on the head. We’re extremely happy to keep these on for extended periods of time.
How does the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 sound?
You’ll get a nice, natural sound from the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2. They’re built with the same 50mm dynamic drivers as found in the Gen 1 model, but this time are capable of spatial audio and custom EQing.
On their default sound, there’s no over-exaggeration of bass, nor is there piercing high-end. You might notice a slight dip in the low-mids compared to more accomplished headphones, but we truly enjoy their sound across a plethora of genres.
There’s plenty of detail across the frequency spectrum, a wide soundstage, and they can go pretty loud – just remember, they leak a fair amount of sound.
During a test listen to Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, everything is in its right place. There’s no over-emphasis on any particular element, and the sound is consistently smooth. You’ll hear each vocal layer beautifully, never overshadowing the high mids of the guitars and the impact of the drums.
We play Justice’s distorted and bass-heavy Waters of Nazareth and can’t help but head-bop. The kick and bass aren’t muddied, despite there being a lot of low-end content, and the high synth parts gleam through easily as the snares hit just right.
The PLAY app lets you go deeper with your sound. Once downloaded and connected, you can instantly start tinkering — no signup required. Here, you can change settings such as ANC level, button configurations, and multipoint connectivity. But the most useful functions are the sound spatialiser and the graphic four-band parametric EQ.
A range of EQ presets are on offer, but you can manually tweak the sound to your ears and save presets. You can change the bandwidth of each of the four EQ nodes and hone in on specific frequencies, so this is a win for the AONIC 50s.
The spatialiser is also interesting, with three options for music, movies and podcasts. There’s no head-tracking and it’s not incorporating Dolby Atmos or Sony’s 360 Reality Audio, instead being Shure’s own effect.
You might choose not to use this, depending on your listening preferences but it’s worth trying out because it’s quite nice on some songs. Jungle’s Don’t Talk actually sounds more full and lively with the spatialiser mode enabled, for example.
What are the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 like to use?
Shure’s AONIC 50 Gen 2s battery life is superb. Shure says you get 45 hours of playback, which is plenty but could vary depending on ANC usage.
They’ll power off after 10 minutes when disconnected (you can change the duration in the app) but we wish they’d power down quicker when you take them off. They also don’t stop playing when you take them off your head, which feels like a basic function in many competing headphones now, so a shame it’s not featured here. You can double-tap the power button to hear roughly how much battery is left if you’re ever unsure.
The buttons are all on the right cup and are a little confusing. You’ll end up pressing the wrong one very often —spreading them out over both cups would’ve been better. You can tweak these in the app, too.
We find the microphone fantastic on our calls, with much better quality on WhatsApp calls than with our default iPhone mic.
Should you buy the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2?
If you’re not desperate for best-in-class ANC but care about the sound quality of your headphones, the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2s are worth considering at this price range. At £350, they aren’t cheap — they were briefly on offer at half price around Black Friday, which was a serious bargain — but are a better choice for sound over, say, the Beats Studio Pro, which sit at around the same price.
Shure’s on the right track here. We’d like to see better ANC in future models and perhaps Dolby Atmos/Sony 360 support if it wants to be useful for spatial audio, but the sound quality, customisation, and connectivity options are seriously impressive.
- 50mm Dynamic drivers
- Sound customisation via PLAY App
- Other functionality options via app
- 45-hour battery life with USB-C fast charge
- Active Noise Cancelling with three modes
- Sound spatialisation via app
- High-quality lossless listening via USB-C
- Support for Snapdragon Sound with Qualcomm aptX Adaptive and AAC, SBC, and LDAC codecs.
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