DESIGN, BUILD QUALITY, COMFORT AND FIT
Shure Aonic 50 is a made premium product offering to ANC Headphone market and which quite evident in its design and build-quality. Everything from the materials used to the headband stitching shows the level of craftsmanship goes to them. Leather wrapped headband and earpads as well as the use of cast metal bars and swivel brackets adds-up the premium feel of the product. Plastic driver cups may seem too little contradicting to the price point, but that may help to keep weight under control. Overall Aonic 50 possesses a classic and retro tech look which can be stylish for the current gen too.
Shure made it really comfortable to wear nearly perfect regarding fit and comfort. Even with the larger size, it's lightweight which helps to not create any pressure or pain points during longer sessions. With bigger earpads and the 50mm drivers (most of the competition here is on 40mm drivers) it has real advantage here too other than batter sound quality. You can also wear them with glass frames.
All physical buttons are concentrated on the right side cup and Aonic has toggle switch for ANC (off/on/ambient mode), volume control, playback/call control and power button. Center button (playback/call controls) modes are accessed by multi press actions.
No touch-capacitive touch controls here unlike the Sony XM series. They are not the latest tech but still old style buttons which makes sense for confident and easy access to them. Shure bundles a strong circular hard case which is very good for storage and travel. The Aonic 50 is not foldable like the competition but the cups are rotatable for to keep them comfortable in our shoulders and goes in tilted into the case.
This overall good design and build quality make the Aonic 50 really comfortable for long sessions. However, after few hours of usage I felt some pressure points over below headband. This may not happen to others as their head size/shape can be different.
USABILITY AND FUNCTIONALITY
Coming to one of the main topics of this pair of headphones which is the ANC. Noise cancelling is excellent here and I can say somewhat natural like the passive isolation, it blocks out recurring pattern noises really well. From my memory I felt like Shure’s ANC is doing better and more natural noise cancelation than Sony XM series. (Sadly, I don’t have the Sony unit now do an A/B comparison) ANC button has turn on and off control plus an ambient listening mode which helps to hear the outside environment without removing the unit. Shure’s companion app Play Plus helps to adjust the ambient environment level and ANC mode etc., more on this later.
Bluetooth support is on version 5.0. It has all the codecs invented so far - aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, AAC, LDAC. So compatibility is universal. Audiophiles may prefer the Aonic as has it 3.5mm jack and can also work in wired mode. Another unique feature is that the charging USB-C port also works as an input port when connected to a PC or mobile phone. So connectivity and use options are many here.
Shure recommended the companion Plus Play app (available on Play store/App store) which provides some additional functions to the Aonic 50. First is the noise level control and ambient environment level control to make them comfortable to our taste.
Additionally, this app provides a PEQ (not the usual EQ) to tune the sound signature. It comes with couple of default presets and one custom preset to set our own. This app does firmware updates for the Aonic 50. Shure released an update on this July which is recommended to install and has some good improvements in noise control and call quality. Battery life seems as per the manufacture specs which 20hrs which I wasn’t able check it fully but it seems to have a very good battery life.
Now the most important section which the sound quality. In brief, I would like to say that the sound quality is really good, both for music listening and calls. General sound signature is U curved tuned and balanced sounding with some shift towards warmness with good extension in details and highs. Saying that, Shure has tuned it somewhat laidback but this is recommended for the use cases of this headphone. Larger 50mm drivers are paying off well here, with no distortions even higher volume levels. Shure is clearly taking advantages of these drivers and they are tuned to be comfortable for longer listening sessions. Being closed back, stage and imaging is somewhat limited but provides what similar units provide in market.
Default presentation is natural and only need to touch the EQ to compensate if the recording has losses. Unfortunately the Play Plus app EQ only work if the music is played through the app and doesn’t work with any other player apps, which is a major limitation. Other companies like Audeze have done better here with their HQ app for iSines. ANC mode “Normal” recommended for music listening and the “Max” is worsening to the sonic balance of this headphone. In “Max” setting the stage become flat. There is no depth and the sound is gets compressed and thick and has less resolution. Unless you’re in very noisy environment settle on “Normal” mode for better sonic quality.
This is really important in current times with the new normal of WFH culture and conference calls are one of most important task of the most people’s job routine. With Anoic 50 you can take the calls comfortably from your living room, moving vehicle or even from somewhat noisy outside location. Microphone quality is very good with the latest firmware version of 0.4.9. Mic quality was okay with the default firmware but the upgrade has improved things like vocal accuracy and other features.
Microphone background noise cancellation has also improved with the latest firmware. The listener on the other side doesn’t hear background noise like AC, fan or even to some extend traffic noise if you’re in a street. Overall call quality is really good.
I don’t have any ANC units available now to compare. But from my memory the Shure Aonic 50 sound more natural and balanced than Sony and Bose counterpart models. Also, Shure ANC tech feels like more natural and doesn’t feel like standing in a vacuum room.
If you're in search for an ANC, over-ear headphone that sounds great, built to last, comfortable to use and feature rich then Shure Aonic 50 great option in the market right now. Sound signature is really good with slight warmer side of presentation but with good details and resolution. Music is a pleasure to listen on them and call quality is really great with noise cancellation and background noise reduction features.