Nov 3rd, 2020

Shure is a well known and highly respected brand in professional audio. You’ll find tons of their equipment in recording booths and on stage at any concert hall, but they’re not a household brand for most consumers. The company is trying to change that with its AONIC series, a consumer-focused range of audio products with the audio quality Shure is known for mixed with extra features we’ve come to expect in consumer audio products.

Shure AONIC 50 specifications

  • Driver: 50mm neodymium
  • Impedance: 39 ohms
  • Bluetooth version: 5.0
  • Distance: 30 feet
  • Codecs: Qualcomm aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, Sony LDAC, AAC, SBC
  • Battery life: 20 hours
  • Weight: 334g
  • BUY ON AMAZON

Coming from a professional brand, it’s a big surprise that the design is so elegant and beautiful. I love how these headphones look, both in black and brown (though my pick would be this rich chocolate brown color). The contrast of the smooth plastic and bright aluminum is a great aesthetic.

On the right side, you’ll find all of the controls, including a power button, LED, the trio of volume and multifunction buttons, and the ANC switch that goes between environmental mode, off, and ANC mode and the USB-C port on the bottom. It’s all well laid out and well-positioned. On the other earcup, you’ll find just a 3.5mm jack for when you want to use the headphones wired.

The Shure AONIC 50 headphones come with a travel case. Because the headphones don’t fold at all, you’ll need to carry the large, 10″ diameter disc-shaped case around or find a way to cram it into your backpack. It’s a nice case, but unnecisserily large. You also get a regular 3.5mm cable and a USB-C charging cable inside.

Build quality

The Shure AONIC 50 are built very well. The hinges and adjustment mechanism are made out of metal and are built really well. The adjustment mechanism is notchy and stiff but feels nice, while the rotating ear cups pivot smoothly and stay in position well. It all feels very premium.

The ear cups themselves are made out of plastic. While the feel of this plastic isn’t amazing, it’s thick and rugged and constructed very well. It also shows no substantial wear from use which is great.

The buttons are of decent quality. They’re clicky and have a good shape but they don’t feel particularly high end. However, they get the job done and don’t jiggle around. They’re also easy to find and nicely positioned for easy control.

The ear cups can be removed and swapped out if they wear out with a simple twist. They clip on firmly and twist off smoothly, indicating they’ll last a long time.

Sound quality

For many, audio is the most important part of any headphones and is where the Shures shine. They feature support for an incredibly wide variety of codecs, including the obvious Qualcomm aptX and aptX HD and even the rare aptX Low Latency. And even more incredible, these are one of the first non-Sony headphones to feature LDAC support. LDAC is Sony’s proprietary Bluetooth codec and many regard it as the best.

Connect these to your smartphone, make sure LDAC is enabled in Bluetooth settings, and prepare for an experience. These things sound amazing. They are surprisingly balanced without being too clinical, and Shure added that consumer touch by making the bass a bit boosted and punchy. I wouldn’t call them warm, but the bass is a bit rumbly and hits hard. It makes for a very fun sound while still retaining all the detail and finesse in the mids and highs. It does tend to rumble a little bit in a negative way when it comes to some metal, but it’s not significant.

The highs are a bit bright, but they’re super detailed and sharp. Unless they’re at full volume they don’t become fatiguing. But even at full volume, there’s no distortion present. They’re crystal clear, detailed, and smooth. These headphones are closer to audiophile headphones than most of the competition, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Thanks to aptX Low Latency support, they can even be used for gaming. I use these paired with an aptX LL-supported USB Bluetooth adapter to play Modern Warfare on PC, and there’s no noticeable delay whatsoever. It’s also fantastic for movies as some headphones give me significant delay and there’s absolutely none here.

Features

Active noise canceling is one of the most popular additions to headphones lately, and the AONIC 50 are no different. Using a sliding switch, you can enable ANC or environmental mode without any annoying prompts or noises (I’m looking at you, Sony). ANC works well for removing low, constant noises and pretty much makes a flight nearly silent, even in a small and noisy plane. Things like air conditioning, city noise, and more are easily removed. However, it won’t remove sounds like people talking. and other high-pitched or inconsistent sounds. AND has its limitations unless you’re Sony or Bose.

ANC does change the sound signature of the headphones to help compensate for noise, which Sony does not do. So if you want a pure listening experience, keep ANC off.

The environmental mode is excellent, with a balanced sound that doesn’t sound far off from reality. It’s also plenty loud so you can hear your surroundings. However, hoodie loves or those with long hair may notice that anything brushing against the ear cups will make minor noise. This just means the plastic transmits noise better than other headphones.

There’s an app called ShurePlus PLAY, which allows you to tweak some settings. You can select the level of noise canceling as well as how much sound environmental mode lets through. You can also play local music through it, which gives you access to an EQ, but most people will never touch this feature and will instead use their favorite music app, whether it’s streaming like Spotify or an advanced local player like PowerAMP.

The app also lets you adjust warning prompts. You can select between a voice and tones, which is awesome if you hate voice prompts, how low battery is handled (a warning every 15 minutes or just once), and the volume of these prompts. This is a brilliant addition and I wish all headphones had it. Just lowering the volume of prompts alone made the experience of using these so much better!

Comfort

With ANC headphones, you’re likely going to be taking them traveling so comfort is of the utmost importance. Companies like Bose and Sony have absolutely nailed comfort, allowing you to wear those headphones on a 12-hour flight with no discomfort.

Shure has done a shockingly good job in this department, better than almost any headphones I’ve ever worn. They’re fairly lightweight, have soft cups, and a super thick padded headband that puts almost no pressure on your head.

Clamping pressure is in the middle, not too tight but not so loose that they would fall off when looking down or moving around. My only complaint is that the ear cups could be a bit deeper for those with big ears, but a vast majority will not have this issue. They also offer a great seal, without creating excess pressure or heat.

I’ve worn them for 10 hours at a time with no discomfort, they’re amazingly comfortable and Shure knocked it out of the park here.

Connection

These headphones are using the latest Bluetooth 5.0 connection, which gives them an advertised range of 30 feet. The actual range is about average, with walls causing cutouts and popping pretty much immediately. The range isn’t as good as Master & Dynamic’s offerings.

However, the connection was always strong when in a reasonably clear line of sight and never really faltered. This is both with a USB Bluetooth adapter and a smartphone.

Battery life

Shure rates these headphones at 20 hours of playback, which is about what the competition claims. The Bose 700 last the same 20 hours while Sony boasts an impressive 30 hours between charges.

In real-world use without ANC enabled, the 20-hour figure is about right. Battery life is pretty good and plenty for most situations. And when they do die, they charge very quickly via USB-C so throwing them on a charger or hooking them up to a battery bank will give you plenty of play time quickly.

Conclusion

 

Shure AONIC 50 Rating: star_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_50 (4.5/ 5)

The Good

  • Amazing sound, some of the best in the segment
  • Comfortable for many hours
  • Look great
  • Pack many features

The Bad

  • ANC isn’t great
  • Battery life could be better

The Bottom Line

For being Shure’s first attempt at a mainstream audio product, the AONIC 50 knock it out of the park. Not only do they check off almost every box for Bluetooth headphones, but they also manage to both look and sound amazing.

If you’re looking for headphones strictly for travel, you may want to look at the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose 700, as both have much better active noise canceling. No one can compete with those two. But if you care about audio, give the Shures a try. They sound phenomenal and don’t manage to make any major compromises either.