For the past two months, I’ve been using Shure’s first-ever wireless noise-cancelling headphones called the AONIC 50. Introduced as a part of Shure’s wireless listening campaign with Adam Levine, the AONIC 50 headphones have left me wondering exactly why I’ve never tried Shure’s brand before.
Delivering a premium wireless studio-quality sound with exceptional comfort and durability, the Shure AONIC 50 Wireless Noise-Cancelling headphones are among my top-five best headphones I’ve ever used. They have premier features, and while their price might be a bit daunting — trust me, these may be one of the last pair of headphones you might ever have to purchase. Since I’ve been home for the past seven months, I’ve only been able to use the headphones while working from home, and I can count on two hands how many times I’ve had to charge them. Their battery lasts up to 20-hours on a single charge, which is on par with many other brands in the same price range. However, there’s something special about the AONIC 50; they’ve earned editorial praise for their look, sound, and the fact that they are quite possibly the best for their price.
Available in two colors, brown or black, I received the brown pair, and I’m pretty glad that I did. The brown still has black elements but doesn’t look too daunting to wear out in public. It doesn’t matter which color you pick; it’s just about personal preference. Aside from their aesthetics, the Shure AONIC 50 feature adjustable noise cancellation that helps to eliminate distractions around you. I can see these being ideal for commutes to work, or in my case, working from home while attempting to make sure I get things done without being distracted with the cries of the baby in the background or just my dog barking. Alternatively, if you decide that you want to hear your surroundings, there is an environment mode that allows you to hear everything around you.
Shure states that a single charge is only needed for a week’s worth of usage; however, I listen to more than just 20 hours of podcast music in 2 to 3 days. Luckily, there is an app that allows you to not only keep track of the AONIC 50’s battery life, but it also gives you the ability to customize your listening experience — whether you are listening to speech from a podcast or you want a bit more bass out of something you’re playing on Spotify. I would only have to charge them maybe twice a week because I use them that much. And as someone who has become somewhat of a convert of in-ear headphones, I really have missed out on the audio quality, the build, and just the comfort found when wearing over-the-ear headphones.
The AONIC 50 Wireless Headphones come complete with Bluetooth 5 wireless technology for an enhanced stability that won’t cut out on you because you decided to walk more than a few feet from your phone either. The company states that it has a range of up to 30 feet, which is standard. Having been quarantined for the past 7-8 months, I’m never more than 15 feet away from my phone anyway, so I haven’t needed to test this feature. However, I did the wall test — placing my iPhone in our daughter’s nursery — and I went to our living room area with the AONIC 50s; the sound never wavered. This wasn’t just for music, but phone calls as well.
I know that headphone reviews typically highlight the listening experience in terms of audio consumption, but FaceTime and phone calls with the Shure AONIC 50 have been just as crucial during quarantine; I’ve found them to be simply incredible for this use. Compared to a typical pair of headphones that I had lying around the house, the AONIC 50 not only made crystal clear calls for myself and the person I was speaking with, the noise cancellation built into the earcups made it so that one caller (in this case, my mom) didn’t hear me washing dishes in the background. However, the noise cancellation didn’t mask the cries of our baby girl, but we’ll chalk that up to “mother’s instincts”.
For the audiophiles out there, you’ll be happy to know that the AONIC 50 supports all of the popular audio codecs, including Qualcomm aptXTM, aptXTM HD, aptXTM Low Latency audio, Sony LDAC, AAC, and SBC. However, when you’re not using the Bluetooth function for wireless on-the-go listening, Shure made “sure” to include an optional 3.5mm audio input cable. I’ve used this for listening to meetings and calls from my MacBook Pro, which seems to be the last device I have that came with a headphone jack — a true sign of the times.
Specs aside, let me give my brief overview of how they look. On each earcup, Shure stamped their name, which I get it — it’s their means of branding — but I feel it was a bit of overkill. Each of the earcups also has mesh ventilation surrounding the earcup, which feels excellent to the touch and allows for prolonged listening without feeling like you’re wearing a metal band over your head when you are.
The left earcup houses only the 3.5mm headphone jack; there are no other buttons and features. I prefer this because I hate when Bluetooth headphones have their controls split between both earcups. Having them all on the right earcup not only allows for proper muscle memory but overall looks better.
The right earcup ends up being the “business” end of the AONIC 50 heaphones. It holds the Power and Bluetooth connection button, the volume rocker, and the ANC on/off switch. Each of the buttons is raised enough to notice when you’re not physically looking at them, and are readily identified by their engraved “+” and “-.” The ANC function sits a bit to the left of the earcup, which is great because you won’t accidentally toggle them while attempting to turn up the volume — this is something I tended to do often with prior headphones. One other feature is the USB-C charging. I don’t know about you, but I’ve attempted to steer clear of ANY headphones still using microUSB as more and more of our devices, including tablets, laptops, and smartphones, have begun using USB-C, so I was glad to see that Shure included it.
Now on to what I wasn’t excited about — The carrying case and the headphones’ lack of a true folding function. The included carrying case is entirely too large for almost all scenarios, whether throwing it in a bag, throwing it in a suitcase, or even carrying it in hand. Even with a handle, I don’t understand how Shure thought this could be a good idea unless you’re never meant to leave home with them.
Since the headphone band cannot be folded in half due to the aluminum headband underneath the padded leather, the headphones only fold inward at the bottom. And while this would be okay for stowing in a bag next to a laptop, the chance of you damaging the leather earcups or even just bending the aluminum band is higher and just not something I’d want to risk in a $399 headphone.
That main gripe aside, I continue to be impressed by the AONIC 50, especially paired with the ShurePlus PLAY app. I’ve used many headphone brands’ mobile apps, and the Play app for Shure products is hands down the cleanest. With the built-in EQ and the ability to trigger hi-res music files, it’s leaps ahead of the competition. One huge thing I noticed, but haven’t yet bothered setting up, is being able to set up tones and voice prompts for notifications. These days, I exclusively use the AONIC 50 headphones for my iPad and iPhone in Bluetooth mode, so I’ve never needed to use the voice commands to power them on and off or to be notified of the battery life, but the option is there if you want it.
Finally, there’s the audio quality — it’s simply amazing. Now, I’ve never proclaimed myself to be an audiophile, and I’ve never really got into the logistics of “this set of headphones has these tweakers and bass reductions, etc..” Still, I do know a great listening experience versus a bad one. I’ll tell you that I’ve had more of the latter than the former in the over-ear headphone space. Aside from Master & Dynamic’s headphones, the AONIC 50 headphones are up there with some of the best I’ve ever had. There’s something about the listening experience of the AONIC 50 that you won’t get from a sub-$99 brand on Amazon, no matter how much you attempt to justify the higher price tag of a premium pair “not being worth it.” That’s an absolute lie.
No matter if you’re listening to NPR, watching Netflix, or even casually meditating using Headspace, the AONIC 50 are in a completely different class. Immediately the noise isolation is vastly superior to anything you’d ever tried before. Combined with the comfortable earcups, the pleasure of having these on my head for hours at a time, not having to readjust them because the earcups have built up a sweat or because they’ve started just to hurt to wear is amazing. When listening to music, they are even better. I’m someone who listens to their music at deafening levels, and with the AONIC 50, I don’t have to max out my sound to get the right experience. I don’t even have to change the settings in most cases when using them because even at the default setting, the experience is fantastic — all of this is BEFORE turning on the active noise cancellation. Now, if you’re bold enough to ignore everything and everyone around you, the AONIC 50 can make a full house feel like you’re the only man or woman in the room. This, of course, is to my wife’s annoyment because I’ve lost count how many times she’s said, “Greg did you hear me?” only to have to say I didn’t, risking being put in the dog house. Luckily this dog house comes with fabulous headphones; you need to try these to understand how impressive they are (especially the brown colorway!)
I can’t really believe I’m saying this, but Shure’s AONIC 50 headphones have not only impressed me, but they are also the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever used. While I still believe in the next iteration, they need to make a foldable model with a case that is worth carrying around, the AONIC 50 at $399 is proof that the brand, founded in 1925, has kept up with the times. Plus, I mean, Adam Levine loves them — and when has he ever been wrong about sound?
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Absolutely stunning audio capabilities; Noise isolation fantastic; Volume controls on one earcup for easy muscle memory
What Needs Improvement: They won’t fold, so they aren’t as portable as I would like