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Audio-Technica M50xBT2 review: Cool, clear and collected

Our Rating :
£155.00 from
Price when reviewed : £179
inc VAT

The limited edition Ice Blue Audio-Technica M50xBT2 are as cool-looking as over-ear headphones get but they’re far more than just eye candy


  • Well-balanced and detailed sound
  • Comfortable, robust and stylish
  • Strong battery life


  • No active noise cancellation
  • Occasional connection hiccups
  • Earcups get warm quickly

The “Ice Blue” Audio-Technica M50xBT2 reviewed here are quite literally the coolest-looking headphones that the esteemed Japanese manufacturer has created.

They’re a limited edition of its flagship Bluetooth over-ear headphones and along with the black and “Deep Sea” colourways, are the follow-up to the excellent M50xBT, which we awarded a Recommended badge in 2018.

The colour was chosen by fans of the brand so they likely already have a captive audience, but how did they fare when I put them through the rigorous Expert Reviews headphones testing process? Read on to find out.

Audio-Technica M50xBT2 review: What do you get for the money?

This particular iteration of the M50xBT2 will set you back £179. They’re a limited edition release from 2023 so you may struggle to find stock outside Audio-Technica’s online store, but the other two colours are easy enough to come by. Amazon had the black version listed for £155 at the time of writing, while the Deep Sea variant was priced at £166.

All three pairs are identical bar the obvious aesthetic difference. They operate wirelessly over Bluetooth 5.0, support the most commonly used codecs – SBC and AAC – and have high-resolution audio capabilities thanks to LDAC support.

They do lack a couple of notable features, however. The first is active noise cancellation, which leaves them at a bit of a disadvantage to similarly priced rivals such as the Edifier WH950NB (£150) and the Sennheiser Accentum Plus (£199). Less impactful but still worth mentioning is their inability to automatically pause when removed from your head.

Battery life is stated at roughly 50 hours of continuous use, and the headphones are topped up via a USB-C port located on the left earcup. A USB-A to USB-C charging cable is included in the box, as are a 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable and a carrying pouch.

The left earcup houses physical controls that handle playing and pausing music, track skipping, volume adjustment, answering, ending and rejecting calls, and activating your voice assistant. The right cup is free of any buttons and there are no touch controls to get to grips with.

Various customisation options are available in the A-T Connect app. This can be downloaded for free via the App Store on iOS and the Google Play Store on Android and provides access to several sound presets – Original, Bass Boost, Clear Vocal, V-Shaped and Treble Enhance – all of which can be tweaked manually.

Other options include a low-latency mode that reduces the delay between audio and video, left/right balance adjustment, the ability to raise or lower the volume of your voice when on calls and an option that allows you to choose between 16-, 32- and 64-step volume increments.

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Audio-Technica M50xBT2 review: What did we like about them?

M50x series headphones have always had an eye-catching aesthetic and that’s particularly true of the Ice Blue colourway. I’m usually rather conservative when it comes to brightly coloured audio devices but found myself taken by their metallic light-blue hue. They drew plenty of admiring glances from passersby and I regularly found them going walkabout at home – it’s fair to say my girlfriend was rather enamoured with them.

At a shade over 300g, they’re not the lightest over-ear headphones I’ve tested but also they never felt unduly heavy on my head and they’re very well put together. The hinges connecting the earcups to the headband can be folded inwards, swivel and are extremely solid; you’d really have to go some to do them any meaningful damage. The padding on the underside of the headband is relatively thin but does its job effectively, while the earcups are nice and soft.

The control buttons are appropriately spaced out, which meant I found it a doodle to locate the right ones to execute my desired commands and I had no complaints whatsoever when controlling the M50xBT2 when my phone was in my pocket.

The star of the show, however, is the audio. The Audio-Technica M50xBT2 are among the most musical headphones I’ve tested in their price bracket. Their 45mm drivers don’t go overboard with boosted bass but instead favour a balanced presentation that gives the low-end, mids and treble an equal chance to shine. They’re a great choice, therefore, for those who listen to a wide range of genres.

The two words that first come to mind when thinking about their sonic reproduction are coherent and clean. The various components of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep were integrated expertly; the London songstress’s voice was front and centre (as it should be) but the backing track and supporting vocals were allowed the space to play their part. Stereo imaging was also a standout trait. I got a great sense of different parts of the song taking place to the left and right of me, which aided immersion.

Faster, more challenging tracks such as Architects’ Curse were also handled capably with plenty of energy in the way the guitars attacked, screaming vocals that had real force and the militant drumming was adeptly articulated both in terms of tempo and rhythm.

I was very happy with the default tuning, but if you want to play around with how the M50xBT2 sound, you have plenty of options. The various EQ presets are useful if you simply want to boost bass, treble or both, but it’s the in-app equaliser where things get interesting.

There’s a graphic equaliser that allows you to boost or attenuate across five bands and a parametric equaliser that lets you make more granular tweaks to the frequency curve. I found both worked well; audio enthusiasts will undoubtedly enjoy the freedom provided.

Call quality is another area of strength. Audio-Technica has a great deal of experience manufacturing microphones and it shows; my voice was picked up, isolated and reproduced clearly in all but the most raucous of environments.

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Audio-Technica M50xBT2 review: What could be improved? 

While I thoroughly enjoyed how the M50xBT2 sounded, the default sound profile comes up a little short when dealing with big, bassy numbers.

How big a deal this is will ultimately come down to your own taste. If drum and bass or hip-hop are your genres of choice, you’ll want to dip into the app and engage the Bass Boost EQ or manually tweak the lower-frequency bands. Doing so added a commendable amount of kick and resonance to the bassline on Katy B’s Katy on a Mission but even then, those who want skull-rattling bass may be left disappointed.

Less easily remedied is how hot the M50xBT2’s feel to wear. Generally, they’re quite comfortable, but the padding inside the cups could be more breathable; even on a cool evening stroll, I found my ears were getting a little sweatier than I would have liked.

It’s also worth mentioning that I experienced a few hiccups with the M50xBT2’s connectivity. Getting them to pair to a phone was easy but there were several occasions when they wouldn’t connect to my paired device again after being turned off and back on again. Fortunately, these gremlins abated after a few hard resets, deleting the companion app and starting everything from scratch.

My other reservations about the M50xBT2 relate to missing features. Many of their competitors offer active noise cancellation and I missed the ability to drown out the world around me at the press of a button. The passive noise cancellation provided by the earcups is very effective but only to a point and, as a result, I found myself having to crank up the volume higher than I would have liked in busy public places.

Wear detection is another feature I’d like to have seen included but its omission isn’t worth getting too worked up about.

Audio-Technica M50xBT2 review: Should you buy them?

If you can live without active noise cancellation and are looking for highly musical headphones with a striking, stylised design, then the Audio-Technica M50xBT2 should be on your shortlist.

In testing, I found them an engaging, informed and articulate listen and the in-app EQ options are beyond reproach. They do have some shortcomings – they’re a little light on convenience features – but as a colourful update to a beloved series, they hit more of the right notes than they miss.

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