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Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 review: Improving slowly but surely

Our Rating :
£255.00 from
Price when reviewed : £330
inc VAT

With exceptional audio and improved battery life, the Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 are a worthwhile upgrade, despite their comfort issues


  • Refined sonic profile
  • Much-improved battery life
  • More portable carry case


  • Comfort issues persist
  • Design feels like a step down
  • Fiddly control layout

As their name suggests, the Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 are a refresh of the brand’s first noise-cancelling over-ear headphones, the Shure Aonic 50. While the first model impressed on the audio front, there were some notable comfort issues, and battery life left quite a bit to be desired.

The Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 don’t completely do away with their predecessor’s flaws – the base structure is identical, so the comfort issues remain – but there’s a reasonable amount in the way of technological advancement. Battery life is especially impressive, more than doubling the previous total, and the new Spatializer function effectively enhances already outstanding audio.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 review: What do you get for the money?

The Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 launched at £349 but were available for £330 at the time of writing. Bluetooth connectivity remains at version 5.0 with multipoint present and correct, and codec support covers SBC, AAC, LDAC, aptX and aptX HD, though aptX Low Latency has been replaced by aptX Adaptive and aptX Voice.

The design also gets a slight tweak from the first gen. The mechanical structure is the same, leading to the same weight of 334g, but where the first generation had three multi-tone styles to choose from, Gen 2 only comes in a single, all-black colourway. The carrying case at least gets a functional makeover and is slimmer than its chunky predecessor, making it easier to transport.

Perhaps the biggest improvement, however, is the battery life. The stated total stamina of 45 hours is more than twice that of the first generation, and rapid charging is included this time around, too, allowing you to yield up to five hours of playback from just 15 minutes on charge.

The earcup features are identical to the first generation, with the left only housing a 2.5mm port, while the right gets all the action – here you’ll find the USB-C port, status LED, volume and playback controls, power button and three-way ANC switch. The latter can now be reprogrammed in the ShurePlus Play app to cycle between the new Spatializer modes – Music, Cinema and Podcast – or whichever three of the EQ presets you prefer.

The four-band graphic equaliser returns alongside seven preprogrammed tunings, once again allowing you to adjust frequency, gain and bandwidth for each band. Elsewhere in the app, you can adjust the strength of both the active noise cancellation and environmental modes, set the latter to come on automatically when you pause audio and set whether you want USB connections to focus on audio quality or allow for mic use.

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Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 review: What did we like about them?

The speaker setup is identical to the first generation – pairing two 50mm dynamic drivers with a neodymium magnet apiece – so it’s unsurprising that the audio quality continues to impress. Articulation across the frequency spectrum is outstanding, with the drum beats in Shinedown’s Sure is Fun hitting with a palpable weight and the airy lyrics in Can’t Be Sure by The Sundays floating to their peak without a hint of distortion.

Rather than resting on the sonic laurels of their predecessors, however, the Aonic 50 Gen 2 have added three new Spatialized Audio modes. The Music setting raises the roof in more ways than one, opening the top of the soundstage and kicking the volume up a notch. The result is subtle, but highly effective, expanding the delivery without ruining the mix with overprocessed echos and uncanny reverb.

I wasn’t as impressed with the Cinema and Podcast modes – both made voices a little too echoey for my tastes and therefore I left the spatialiser switched off when listening to podcasts or watching films.

If you don’t mind going wired, the USB-C connection offers streaming up to 32-bit/384kHz, and with the right track, it sounds phenomenal. I tested audio quality with a varied playlist that featured tracks including Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild to Rope by Foo Fighters, and what was delivered was clear as a bell and packed with detail.

I labelled the noise-cancellation competent on the first generation and things are marginally improved this time. It’s still not class-leading, however. The worst drones of a busy road were effectively negated when dialling the ANC up to Max strength, but higher frequencies still came through and wind noise proved an issue.

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Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 review: What could be improved?

As the second-gen Aonic 50 use the same mechanical structure as their predecessor, it was inevitable that I would encounter similar comfort issues with them. They’re not intolerable to wear, but the strong clamping force caused the earcups to apply unwelcome pressure beneath my ears and I found the headband a little too rigid.

I’m also not sure that opting for an all-black look was the way to go here. The market is saturated with black headphones, and while the build quality of the Aonic 50 Gen 2 may be a cut above most, the distinction isn’t that clear from a distance. Replacing the previous model’s stylishly contrasting aluminium and matte plastic with a hegemony of black feels like a step backwards, aesthetically speaking.

Finally, another issue from the first generation was that the low-profile controls could be fiddly to differentiate from one another, and the same is true here. The play/pause button sticks out enough to find easily, but the power button feels too similar to the volume down key, and it’s more trouble than it should be to determine which position the three-way ANC switch is currently on.

Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 review: Should you buy them?

The Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 are a relatively straightforward recommendation for audio purists, especially those who will appreciate the option to listen to music over a USB-C connection. Their sound quality improves on an already terrific foundation, delivering some of the most dynamic and engaging audio around, while a massive improvement to battery life and the addition of effective spatial audio modes elevate them above their predecessors.

I’m still not happy with how much the headband pinches, however, nor do I feel that the new design is an improvement. The issues with the build ultimately hold the Aonic 50 Gen 2 back from earning a Recommended badge, but they’re definitely a step in the right direction. If Shure can combine the internals here with a more comfortable and attractive package, the next generation of Aonic headphones could be a game changer.

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