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Shure AONIC 50 review: Exceptional audio, but at what cost?

Our Rating :
£219.00 from
Price when reviewed : £219
inc VAT

The Shure AONIC 50 are stylish and sound great, but a few issues make them a tough sell at full price


  • Powerful and detail-rich audio
  • Competent noise cancelling
  • Premium design


  • Mediocre battery life
  • Bulky case
  • Comfort issues

The Shure AONIC 50 were the American audio brand’s first pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones when they launched in 2020, but have since been joined in the company’s over-ear lineup by the cheaper and leaner AONIC 40.

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While they make a strong impression on the audio front, they struggle to keep up with rivals such as Sony’s WH-1000XM5 and the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless when it comes to battery life and noise cancellation, while a couple of design choices hurt the overall package. They’re still a reasonably attractive proposition when available at a discounted price – such as the one discussed below – but are a much harder sell at RRP.

Shure AONIC 50 review: What do you get for the money?

The Shure AONIC 50 operate over Bluetooth 5.0 and support the SBC, AAC, LDAC, aptX, aptX HD and aptX Low Latency audio codecs. Multipoint pairing is supported, too, meaning you can connect to two devices simultaneously and switch freely between them.

At the time of writing, the AONIC 50 cost £309 directly from Shure, but the white model was available for a far more wallet-friendly £219 from Amazon. The black and brown variants were out of stock, however, so if those appeal to you, expect to pay full whack.

Whichever colour you choose, the AONIC 50 cut a stylish profile. The aluminium frame curves elegantly into matte plastic earcups, with plush faux leather padding around the ears and on the underside of the headband. Branding is subtle enough to not be tacky, with an embossed Shure logo inside the headband and shiny metal iterations on the outside of each cup.

Unsurprisingly for a product that evolved from studio headphones, the AONIC 50 are fairly chunky, with all that metal contributing to a weight of 334g. Though well built and robust, they don’t have an IP rating for dust and water resistance, and the earcups don’t fold into the headband. This would have let you slip the headphones into a coat pocket, but as it is, you’ll either have to wear them around your neck or transport them in the included carrying case.

The left earcup is home to a 2.5mm port, which can be used with the provided 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable to enjoy audio over a wired connection. On the right cup, there’s a USB-C port, above which are the power button and a status LED. Further around the curve, you’ll find the volume rocker, with a central button controlling audio playback, and finally a slider that toggles the noise cancellation modes.

While this switch only allows you to jump between the normal, ANC and environmental listening modes, you can further customise the noise-cancelling experience in the ShurePlus Play app, with a slider for the transparency mode, and the option to switch ANC between “Normal” and “Max” strengths. The app is otherwise pretty sparse, with the only other feature of note being a four-band graphic equaliser that allows you to choose from seven preset tunings or create your own by adjusting frequency, gain and bandwidth for each band.

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Shure AONIC 50 review: What did we like about them?

For the most part, I ignored the equaliser during testing, as I was primarily using the LDAC codec, which disables EQ settings. I never found this to be a problem, however, as the base tuning on the Shure AONIC 50 is superb. Tucked away in each earcup is a 50mm driver paired with a neodymium magnet, the combined efforts of which produce impressively powerful audio.

Kicking off testing with “Never Sure” by Mayday Parade, I was met with a bombastic medley of thrashing guitars and frantic drums that, even at around 60% volume, packed a serious punch. Seconds later, the energetic lead vocals joined, and the borders of the soundstage became apparent; not cavernous by any means, but spacious enough to give each element room to breathe. This was especially valuable when the backing vocals joined in the chorus, with faint singing coming through clearly.

While attention to backing vocals is always appreciated, the exceptional level of detail offered here is best exampled by a more densely packed track. I flicked over to “Surely (I Love You)” by Colin James and The Little Big Band to see how well the AONIC 50 could juggle the bouncing lyrics alongside a pacy drum beat and half a dozen brass blowers. They didn’t disappoint, corraling the chaotic jump blues track into reasonable order, carving out plenty of space for each toot of the trombone and squeal of the saxophones to shine through.

The overall sonic profile isn’t brimming with warmth, but anyone who likes their bass of the teeth-rattling variety will be pleased to know that the AONIC 50 go a long way with the right song. “Not Sure” by Lil West has a fairly heavy low end, with a particularly weighty beat repeating throughout. Switching from LDAC to SBC and turning the EQ to Bass Boost mode pushed it even further, tilting the mix distinctly towards the lower frequencies.

This distribution ended up being too heavy for my tastes. “Not Sure” is a simple enough track to get away with it, but something with a more engaging mid-section, such as ABBA’s “Love Isn’t Easy (But It Sure Is Hard Enough), suffered from the unbalanced mix. Vocals came through effectively enough, but the bass shouldered its way into the lower-mids more than I’d have liked, so I switched back to LDAC to restore equilibrium.

With such an impressive showing on the audio front, you’d expect the features to suffer, and they do to an extent – we’ll get to that below – but noise cancellation emerges relatively unscathed. Flicking on ANC at normal strength removed a decent chunk of the roaring road I was walking alongside, and pushing it to max strength in the app cut even more out. It never reached the point of a complete ambient sound blackout, but even listening at 50% volume, the outside world rarely intruded on my listening in any meaningful way.

Going in the opposite direction, the transparency mode is also effective. After the initial playing around in the app, I essentially forgot about the strength slider, as it was always more convenient to use the controls on the headphones to flick transparency on and off rather than open the app to make incremental changes. At maximum strength, the ambient sound that was filtered in sounded overly processed, but as this is the sort of feature you turn on for short periods, it’s not that much of a problem.

Shure AONIC 50 review: What could be improved?

The quoted battery life of up to 20 hours is based on listening via the AAC codec and with ANC disabled – using a higher-resolution codec or enabling noise cancellation will inevitably eat into that total. While the battery life isn’t that bad, the simple fact is that you can get a lot better for this price.

Our favourite wireless headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM5, manage 30 hours with ANC switched on, and a further ten hours if you disable noise cancellation. They’re a bit pricier than the AONIC 50, though (£349), but even the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, which cost slightly less than the AONIC 50 (£300), last an outstanding 60 hours with noise cancellation enabled.

Extended listening sessions aren’t advisable anyway, as I found the design to have some mild but enduring comfort issues. While the ear cushions are plush enough, the headband is fairly rigid, and holds them quite tightly against your ears. On the plus side, this creates a strong level of passive noise cancellation, but the downside is that I noticed some slightly painful pressure beneath my ears a little way into testing.

The unyielding design continues to be a problem when it comes to portability: the headphones come with a carry case, but as the earcups don’t fold, the case has to be quite a behemoth to store them. It’s not comically large, but its 26cm diameter is still fairly bulky, meaning you’ll need plenty of bag space in order to lug it about.

My final design concern relates to the physical controls on the right cup. The buttons themselves are very low profile and clustered quite close together, so telling the difference between them takes some getting used to. Even once you’ve figured out what function is where, the ANC slider feels like an inefficient way to handle the feature; swapping between ANC at the top and transparency on the bottom are simple enough, but settling the slider on the middle “off” setting was fiddly often enough to make me reach for the app instead.

The playing and pausing button protrudes further out than the others, making it the easiest to locate. This is fortuitous as, unlike the Sony and Sennheiser headphones mentioned above, the AONIC 50 don’t feature any form of wear detection. This isn’t a deal breaker, but given the AONIC 50’s premium price tag, the absence of such a handy convenience feature puts them at a disadvantage to more recent releases.

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Shure AONIC 50 review: Should you buy them?

That’s quite a long list of problems, and they hurt the AONIC 50’s standing against other models in their price range. If you’re set on spending £300 on your next headphones, you’ll find the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless offer much better value for your money: in addition to that exceptional battery life and the wear detection, they sound fantastic and are lighter and more comfortable.

The saving grace here is that the Shure AONIC 50 have been out for a while now, and can often be found available at a considerable discount. They’re much more tempting around the £200 mark, and for that money, they deliver in spades: the design is gorgeous and audio quality is outstanding. If sonic prowess is your main concern when shopping for headphones, the AONIC 50 are absolutely worth paying attention to – they’re just not worth paying full price for.

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