Shure Aonic 50: Excellent Audio, Merely Good ANC
PC Magazine|May 2020
The Shure Aonic 50 headphones are priced to compete with the best noise-canceling headphones on the market. Sonically, they deliver a wonderful audio experience that will appeal to those seeking an accurate sound signature. When it comes to active noise cancellation (ANC), however, the headphones are merely good, not great. So while we enjoy the Aonic 50’s comfortable fit and quality sound, if ANC is your top priority, you can find better options in this high price range, including the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.

DESIGN

Available in black or brown, the Aonic 50 are handsomely designed circumaural (over-ear) headphones. The earpads and underside of the headband are luxuriously cushioned with plush memory foam and lined with a leather-like material. Stitching on the headband lends a touch of class, and a series of detents on the headband adjuster above each earcup allows for precise ear-to-ear fit. The headphones are bulky, but comfortable once you get the right fit.

The side panel of the right earcup houses controls for power/pairing; a multifunction button for playback, call management, track navigation, and voice assistants; dedicated volume up and down buttons; and a switch for toggling between ANC and Environment Mode (the ambient mode for monitoring your surroundings). The USB-C port for the included charging cable is also located on the right earcup side panel, while the jack for the included headphone cable is located in the same spot on the left earcup.

Although all the dedicated buttons are nice, it’s hard to feel which button is which, even though the multifunction one has a textured mark on it. It’s easy to accidentally press the wrong button when trying to adjust the volume until your fingers memorize where everything is.

You can use the headphones passively with the cable. Connecting the cable will break the Bluetooth connection but will not power down the headphones, so if you’re plugging in to save juice, you need to take that extra step of powering down manually. But this also means you can use the cable and still also use either ANC or Environmental Mode if you want. Disconnecting the audio cable will immediately re-pair the headphones with your mobile device.

Inside each earcup, a 50mm Neodymium dynamic transducer delivers a frequency range of 20Hz to 22kHz. The headphones are compatible with Bluetooth 5.0 and support AptX, AAC, and SBC Bluetooth codecs.

The ShurePlus Play app (for Android and iOS) offers solid extra controls and features, including the ability to adjust the levels of the ANC between Normal and Max as well as the volume of the outside world when listening to Environmental Mode. The app is also very responsive to whatever mode you’re in—switching ANC on immediately highlights it as an option to adjust in the app, and the same is true with Environmental Mode. One annoyance is that you can’t turn either on or off in the app itself—but that would defeat the purpose of the physical switch and cause confusion, so it’s understandable.

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