Shure is an iconic headphone company. It has a rich history in the audiophile, consumer, and professional markets. They have a devout following and have some of the most advanced and best-sounding equipment you can buy today. However, what they haven’t had in their stable products until now is a premium noise-canceling headphone. The Shure Aonic 50 we cover in this review is an ambitious product because, with an RRP of $399, they will head to head with Sony and Bose, who currently dominate the market.
Where to buy the Shure Aonic 50?
Design and Build Quality
Things get off to a bad start out the gate. The build quality is excellent, and I have no complaints when it comes to the materials or the quality of the finish. The plastics used are all of high quality, and it feels like they will be scratch and drop resistant to a point.
The headband is smooth and easy to adjust while remaining firmly in place when you are active. The headband can flex substantially and return to its original shape showing that they are well made and robust.
A single-arm yoke is used on which the earcups sit and articulate. It’s well-made, and I don’t feel like I’m losing any rigidity over a dual-sided hanger system.
So what’s the problem with the Aonic 50?
Well, the actual design is pretty bad. These are big bulky awkward-looking headphones that don’t look as sleek as the current noise-canceling headphones from Sony and Bose. Both companies have been working hard to refine their products with a more sleek and low profile appearance on the head. The Shure Aonic 50 looks dated and clunky mainly due to the huge gap that the yoke forms from the head at the top of the ear.
Side on, they look excellent, but it’s when you get them in a head-on situation they start to look far too big and awkward.
They are also heavy, a full 100g heavier than the Sony WH-1000XM4, and the way they sit so far off the head with their mass is something instantly noticeable when you have them side by side. It’s not overly heavy to be unusable, but full-size home headphones like the MDR-Z7M2 are a similar weight, yet these Shures are meant to be used in a portable setting.
Finally, my last grip with the design is that the Aonic doesn’t fold as small as the XM4. It folds flat, and the headbands don’t fold inwards. I want my headphones to be as small as they can be when I’m traveling, and the sony, for the most part, does a good job where I don’t feel they take up too much room in my cabin bag. They sure have the ridiculous case I have ever seen; it’s a full-size biscuit tin of a case, way too big, awkward to pack, and bulky.
Do the Shure Aonic 50 have good noise cancelation?
The highlight feature here is the inclusion of noise cancelation technology, which is the headphone’s main selling point. If I were to place the Shure in terms of performance, I would say it’s a couple of generations behind Sony and Bose’s market leaders.
It does block out a lot of noise, and they will provide a considerable reduction to ambient like engine and road noise, but they lack the strength of Sony even in the highest setting.
When you do enable the highest level of noise-canceling, that’s where you fall into a problem that there is a significant reduction in sound quality. Sony has worked hard to make sound quality when used wirelessly and with ANC on as close as possible to using in a wired setup. The Shure sound completely different with a more sucked out hollow feeling and a slight background buzz/hiss.
In terms of performance, it’s closer to being a 3rd tier noise-canceling headphone or something that competes with the best maybe five years or so ago.
The Battery life was observed to be around 20 hours with Bluetooth on and noise-canceling at full strength. That’s a relatively decent amount of time and should last most long haul flights without the necessity for a recharge. To charge, we are happy to report that this headphone includes a USB-c charging port that should be standard now across all brands.
What features does the Shure Aonic 50 have?
I’m not going to pretend that these are advanced or a feature-rich headphone. Sony again goes way beyond what you could ever imagine in terms of customization and everything and the kitchen sink performance.
- You can use the headphones wired with a cable when required
- There are physical controls on the right earcup but no touch controls
- Call performance was good and on a par with similarly priced headphones
- There is no support for Siri, Google Assistant, Bixby, etc
- The app is lacking many features of its rivals, such as environmental tuning
- APTX is supported for lossless music streaming
So all in it’s not great; the lack of in-app customization other than the custom EQ setting was a disappointment, and it was a shock that these don’t include a way t use your phone’s digital assistant.
How do the Shure Aonic 50 Sound?
I did two tests for this review to assess Aonic’s ability to replicate sound accurately, and I came away disappointed as a result.
When used in wired mode, these headphones display the ability for an excellent listening experience, but it all falls a little when we go to Bluetooth mode. Even with the ANC set to a light mode, things sound less full and energetic than when used wired with the ANC off. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there and detracts from the overall experience.
The sound that is there is tuned very well with an enhanced low-end smooth midrange and relaxed treble that many people will find easy to get along with. Detail and imaging were relatively decent, and the low-end enhancements were certainly a highlight, with the headphone able to give a very full and textured sounding bass.
It won’t be perfect for Jazz or classical, but if Rock, EDM, and Hip-hop are your thing, tonally, they are well suited.
Shure Aonic 50 Review: Conclusion
I know I bashed these headphones, and it gives the wrong impression that they are sub-par. They are an excellent headphone with lots of good qualities, but the competition from Sony and Bose is just too far ahead.
There exists no ambiguity as to what headphones market share the Aonic are going after. It’s here that they fall short. In my eyes, if you were to choose these headphones over the Sony or Bose ANC headphones, you would have to either be crazy.
Shure is a fantastic headphone company, and I do hope they stick with this line. Sony and Bose are multiple generations into their lines, and if Shure keeps at it in time, there is no reason they won’t be able to match them. It’s a solid first attempt but lacking somewhat in features. However, if you do find them at a lesser price than those aforementioned ANC headphones then they could represent some excellent value for money.