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Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT review: Simple but reasonably effective

Ben Johnston
19 Jul 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
80
inc VAT

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT impress with extensive battery life and engaging audio but fall short in terms of comfort and sound isolation

Pros 
Terrific battery life
Detailed sound
Affordable
Cons 
Some comfort issues
Mediocre sound isolation
Frustrating companion app
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The Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT are the latest headphones in the brand’s popular M-series and the wireless alternative to its affordable wired ATH-M20x.

They lack the ANC found on similarly priced over-ear headphones like the Soundcore Life Q30 and Lindy BNX-100XT, but impressive battery life and a handful of useful features that aren’t commonplace in this price bracket go some way towards making up for their noise-cancelling deficiencies.

Add in the same dynamic sound that made the wired version a hit and you’ve got a pair of wireless headphones that will appeal to those on a budget willing to sacrifice fit and features for audio balance and stamina.

Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT review: What do you get for the money?

Offering more functionality than their wired counterpart, the Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT come with a slightly higher price tag, retailing at £80. For your money, you’re getting wireless headphones that operate over Bluetooth 5.0 and support both the SBC and AAC codecs. Bluetooth multipoint is also supported, allowing you to stay connected to two devices simultaneously.

The design is solid, if a little utilitarian, with a flexible headband that doesn’t pinch too closely to your skull and is reasonably well-padded. The earcups could do with being a bit plusher, however – they’re a little too firm and can get uncomfortable during extended listening sessions.

On the left earcup, you’ll find the USB-C charging port, a 3.5mm jack for a wired connection and control buttons. There are just three of these - power, volume up and volume down – but they have multiple functions. Track skipping is set to long presses on the volume keys, while a single tap on the power button plays and pauses, and a double-tap activates low-latency mode.

If you’d prefer, you can switch to the low-latency mode in the Audio-Technica Connect app, where you’ll also find your battery life displayed and a broad selection of useful customisation options. In addition to a five-band equaliser, you’ve got the option to cycle audio codecs, adjust the left/right balance and toggle sidetone and guide sounds on or off.

Audio-Technica states that the ATH-M20xBT offer battery life of up to 60 hours, with just ten minutes on charge yielding up to three hours of playback. In a pinch, you can also use the provided 1.2m cable for a wired connection. These figures are very impressive and on par with our favourite cheap ANC headphones, the Soundcore Life Q30, which manage around 60 hours with noise cancellation switched off.

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Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT review: What did we like about them?

The ATH-M20xBT seek to recreate the natural sound of the wired ATH-M20x and do so successfully. On the standard tuning, the soundstage is suitably broad, with clearly articulated vocals and effective instrument separation helping produce an impressively detailed mid-range.

Fans of bassy music will be pleased to learn that there’s a decent amount of weight to the ATH-M20xBT’s low-end reproduction and that it avoids stifling mid-range frequencies. The bassline in Foghat’s “Slow Ride” thrums along nicely, making its presence known without getting in the way. At the other end of the scale, the treble is generally clear and detailed. I did experience mild distortion in Shinedown’s “Dysfunctional You” at maximum volume but it’s unlikely you’ll ever find yourself needing to go above 80%, so this isn’t much of an issue.

The ATH-M20xBT’s stereo separation is also praiseworthy. The drum solos in The Damned’s “Smash it Up - Pts. 1 & 2”, for instance, jumped dramatically from right to left, helping highlight the depth of the soundstage and adding an effective dynamic shift to the track.

While the ATH-M20xBT are relatively light on features, what’d there works well enough. Particularly useful is the low-latency mode, which reduces the lag between audio and video for more seamless streaming and gaming. I tested this with the latest season of Stranger Things on Netflix and the reduction in delay was impressive. There was still a miniscule delay between mouth movement and speech, but it was only noticeable when I was looking for it and didn’t hamper my enjoyment.

Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT review: What could be improved?

I’ve already mentioned that some thicker ear cushions would go a long way to making these headphones more comfortable, but they’d also benefit from improved sound isolation. With ANC off the table, the ATH-M20xBT rely on their ear cushions to prevent external sound making its way into your lugholes and, unfortunately, they aren’t really up to the challenge. As well as mild discomfort during extended listening sessions, the rigid cushions didn’t fully conform to the areas around my ears, reducing the efficacy of the passive noise cancellation.

I’m also not overly enamoured by the ATH-M20xBT’s aesthetic. They don’t do anything drastically wrong, but the black plastic and metal extenders combo is pretty played out at this point. The top of the headband does feature the brand’s logo in silver, which does something to separate them from the hegemony of budget wireless headphones, but you’re unlikely to turn many heads while wearing the ATH-M20xBT.

Audio-Technica Connect is one of the better companion apps I’ve seen, with a great selection of customisation options and quality of life features. What’s frustrating is that actually being able to access them is very hit and miss. I frequently opened the app only to have it fail to register that the ATH-M20xBT were connected. Looking at reviews on Google Play, I’m not the only person to experience this issue, which is a shame as it means you’re often locked out of being able to play around with handy features.

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Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT review: Should you buy them?

The ATH-M20xBT are a mixed bag. Audio quality is fantastic for the price, with plenty of bass and a detailed mid-range doing justice to a wide range of genres. Battery life is also impressive, ensuring you won’t find yourself having to charge the headphones more than once every couple of weeks, if that.

However, comfort issues mean you’ll likely want to avoid extended listening sessions, while ineffective sound isolation makes them a poor choice for commuting. Then you have the Connect companion app, which is very useful when it works, but is extremely inconsistent. These issues add up and ultimately detract from a great-sounding pair of over-ear wireless headphones.

If well-balanced, accurate audio is your primary concern, there’s a case to be made for the ATH-M20xBT, but those seeking a more complete package will be better served by options like the Soundcore Life Q30 or the Lindy BNX-100XT.

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