Shure Aonic 50 Review: New (and Worthy) Competition for Sony 1000XM4, Bose 700
The Shure Aonic 50 looks and feels super premium, and offers audio quality to match. However, it is a bit tedious to store or carry around, but let that take nothing away from its competence.
- Last Updated: December 25, 2020, 14:21 IST
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Shure has a long-standing legacy in the audio field. In the commercial, mass audio space, it has excelled at making audio accessories and instruments through the years. In the personal space, Shure’s wired in-ear and over-the-ear headphones have been recommended widely as the best. This one, however, is a first – the Shure Aonic 50 is the company’s debut attempt at making wireless over-the-ear headphones, and it also has active noise cancellation. This pegs the headphones squarely in a market that is ruled by Sony and Bose. Options from Bowers & Wilkins and Sennheiser have also been super competitive, while outliers from Audeze, Beyerdynamic and Jays have also thrown in impressive choices into the basket. Now, this eclectic mix is joined by the Shure Aonic 50, making an already competitive sector more intense.
So, here’s how it looks – if you want a pair of premium sounding (and looking) active noise cancelling wireless headphones, you have the Sony WH-1000XM4, the Bose 700, the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless, the Bowers & Wilkins PX Wireless, the Audeze Mobius, the Beyerdynamic Lagoon, the Jays Q-Seven and now the Shure Aonic 50. Each of these seven headphones fall between Rs 25,000 and Rs 35,000, and each promises years of expertise in audio engineering to give you the best sound and noise cancellation that money can buy. Given that this is not a small amount of money for a pair of headphones, it is exponentially more important to get your buying decision right.
Is it Shure, then, that you should buy?
Design, comfort and durability: Oozes class, but not the best to carry
The Shure Aonic 50 squarely targets the premium consumer, who would not necessarily be an audiophile. The frankly massive retail packaging somewhat gives an idea about the size of the headphones, and inside the plum cake-like box, the Aonic 50 also comes with a rather large leather travel case. While the quality of the travel case is quite good, it is very far from any definition of convenient. The main reason behind this is that the Aonic 50 does not collapse – therefore being rather upright and bulky to carry around.
The headphones are actually fairly heavy, with the heft of the earcups being something that will get in your way if you plan to wear it for long hours. Even with the active noise cancellation set to a comfortable ‘normal’, the Shure Aonic 50 is not comfortable to wear for too long. This, coupled with the fact that the Aonic 50’s earcups cannot be collapsed, makes it an unnecessarily hefty pair of headphones. It will take up a bit too much space in your overnight backpack, and when using, feels rather heavy on the head.
However, I personally find the Aonic 50’s design to be quite suave. The overall build quality is quite splendid, and Shure has lent a feeling of understated elegance here in the same way that you’d see in German cars. Despite feeling heavy, the padding on the earcups are quite smooth and comfortable, which makes the overall experience a touch better. Its headband adjustment is not as smooth as the near-frictionless steel rails of the Apple AirPods Max, but the matte metal rail does its job very, very well.
The Shure Aonic 50 also feels built to last, and all the buttons have a reassuring clicky feel to them. It feels like a pair of premium headphones, and its size and heft are its key limitations – hence preventing it from being one that can be carried around easily or worn for long hours.
Audio quality: Well detailed, rich and accurate, with room to configure
Shure’s prime audio characteristic has always been in producing studio grade sound. Naturally catering to music producers and sound designers, Shure has always configured its drivers to offer a neutral sound signature, along with expansively detailed and intricate particulars of the audio that it delivers. With its first attempt at premium, wireless noise cancelling headphones, Shure has attempted to replicate just that.
The Shure Aonic 50 does a lot of all this. Despite its pricing, Shure does not break the norm to use balanced armature drivers. Instead, it employs 50mm dynamic drivers that have been very well tuned, which in turn allows Shure to keep distortion to a minimum, while retaining minute tonal details. This sums up to make the Aonic 50 a pair of very well sounding headphones along with a companion app to configure its sound, and the overall quality of the sound can range from complicated to sublime, depending on what you are looking for.
The Aonic 50’s drivers are tuned to offer a delightfully authentic bass. Thanks to the neutral sound signature, the low frequencies are not artificially dialled up. However, there is ample focus on the lows, and the drivers offer enough emphasis on the lows. In tracks such as Charlie by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flea’s bass is very clearly represented as a strong, tight backline. There are no distortions to note even at higer volumes, which also works well for various genres. This further adds to the versatility of the Aonic 50, in that it suits most genres that you may listen to.
The companion Shure Play Plus app offers the option to amplify the lows to an extent, which will help address concerns of those who prefer bass-biased sound signatures. The neutral sound configuration with true to source audio imaging is particularly beneficial to genres such as rock and metal, which have a natural emphasis to the bass in the mastered sound. One area that the Shure Aonic 50 particularly excels at are in mids, where vocals offer great accuracy of pitch and tone. The overall range and timbre of the headphones comes through here, where different vocal characteristics are represented very well – from baritones such as Nick Cave, to soaring, high octave pitches such as Robert Plant and Roger Daltrey, and naturally warm mid-ranges such as Camilla Cabello to sharp, high pitch falsettos such as Sharon Den Adel.
The highs are done well, too, further establishing the general versatility of the Aonic 50. There is considerable flair in the sound signature too, and the Aonic 50 excels at offering the added zing and oomph that adds a little bit of colour to the overall sound. It is this that is also crucial in onsumer headphones, which Shure claims is what the Aonic 50 is. As a result, what it produces is that added bit of flair to rock and other elaborately arranged genres of music.
In comparative terms, the Aonic 50 does rank among the best in the premium wireless active noise cancelling headphones. It is not as warm as the Sony 1000XM4 or the Bose 700, which is something that not everyone would really like. It offers highly adequate noise cancellation, but its audio pass-through mode, which lets you listen in on what’s happening around you, amplifies the sound around, giving a rather unnatural feeling. Despite the passive noise cancellation, there is plenty of audio leakage at volume levels above 70 percent, which would not be a good thing for frequent flyers.
Verdict: Headphones you should certainly consider
The Shure Aonic 50 is not an option that you would give a cursory glance to, and move over. Instead, Shure’s first attempt at the wireless noise cancelling category is highly recommendable for its authentic representation of sound, good noise cancellation and excellent battery life that should suffice for average music listening sessions through an entire work week. As a first attempt, it has flaws such as being too heavy and bulky, coupled with a slightly over-detailed and neutral sound signature that may not suit everyone. However, at Rs 30,000, the Shure Aonic 50 is certainly worth consideration, and is an option that will definitely not leave you disappointed.