Shure are a well-known American audio brand with an eager commitment towards research and development. With an impressive product portfolio ranging from microphones, high-end earphones and personal monitor systems, it was only natural for the company to enter the wireless noise-cancelling headphone marketplace.
The Shure AONIC 50 represent the company’s first stab at Bluetooth noise-cancelling technology and retail for £379/$399. Available in black, brown and white finishes, the AONIC 50s incorporate 50mm dynamic drivers with a purported 20-hour battery life and support for all the latest codecs. Users are also able to customize noise cancellation and ‘Environment Mode’ levels with Shure’s proprietary ShurePlus™ PLAY app.
The Shure AONIC 50s arrive in a rather unique packaging – a circular case bearing a depiction of the headphones with the Shure Logo. Inside, users are greeted to a large clamshell protective carrying case which houses the headphones on the bottom shell with a mesh for the accessories on the top shell.
These include a USB-C cable for charging the headphones as well as a 3.5mm analog audio input enabling connection to other devices and airplane entertainment systems. Users are also provided an instruction manual (also in circular format) and a 2-year warranty.
Overall, the packaging aesthetics stand out in the world of wireless headphones – however, Shure could have included a wired cable with inline remote controls to enable even more consumer choice and convenience.
Build & Design
The Shure AONIC 50 feature a smart design that stands well in the modern era of wireless headphone offerings. They come available in black, brown and white finishes. The outer headband is constructed from leather with matching stitching sewn across the edges. The headband is connected to the housings via a matt-finished aluminum yoke with a horizontal 90-degree swivel axis.
The slider mechanism offers good tactile resistance allowing easy adjustment of height for variable head sizes. Shure have supplied generously sized plush ear pads made from an imitation leather material allowing good comfort and isolation. Some may consider the AONIC 50 to be slightly large compared to the likes of competitor headphones from Sony and Sennheiser. However, the overall build and quality no doubt ensures great durability owing to the choice of premium materials. Perhaps in future iterations, Shure can consider shaving off some grams off its 337g weight and explore the options of a foldable design.
Buttons are situated on the right earpad – at the top there is a switch which alternates between ‘normal listening mode’, ‘environment mode’ and ‘active noise cancelling’. Below these are the volume keys with a play/pause function in between. Finally, the Bluetooth pairing button can be found at the bottom rim of the right earpad housing. The buttons are nicely separated with good tactile feel and accessibility for ease of convenience.
The headphones sport 50 mm dynamic drivers which utilize neodymium magnets for a wide frequency response of 20 Hz to 22 kHz.
The Shure AONIC 50 supports all the latest in audio codecs including LDAC, aptX HD, aptX LL, aptX, AAC and SBC.
The Active Noise Cancelling mode works well to attenuate low-frequency noises such as the whirring of fans of the roaring of engines. However, as with many active noise cancelling headphones – high frequency noises are more difficult to preclude. Compared to other class-leaders such as Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II, the AONIC 50 does fall slightly short in terms of absolute noise attenuation. Shure have clearly emphasized the sound quality aspect to reap the rewards of an ‘audiophile-first’ creation.
The ‘environment’ mode works in a similar way to the more compact Master & Dynamic MW08 headphones. When turned on, the AONIC 50 resembles an open or ‘semi-open’ back headphone with enhanced awareness of ambient noises and useful in ‘background’ listening.
Comfort & Isolation
The Shure AONIC 50s are not the most compact of wireless headphones and they weigh in at 337g. While this is alleviated by the choice of plush ear pads and even weight distribution, a more compact design would no doubt be welcomed for on the move settings.
Rather than an emphasis for a V-shaped signature, the Shure AONIC 50 adopts a balanced frequency response with a detailed neutral sound with some sparkle in the higher ranges. It is not a typically consumer mass market sound but rather for the discerning audiophile in search of a more balanced sound, rich in details and crispness.
The Shure AONIC 50 is not a big bass lover’s headphone – from the outset there is an element of heft and authority lacking which can be experienced on other wireless sets such as the Sony WH-1000XM4 & the Master & Dynamic MW65. Instead, more emphasis is placed on punchy bass lines which do not get in the way of lower midrange frequencies and beyond. There is more of a mid-bass predisposition compared to the sub-bass frequencies and notes are detailed and controlled. While there is not a whole of ‘moving mass’ behind the bass frequencies, the preciseness and exacting tonality suits the overall neutral profile of the headphones.
The AONIC 50’s midrange follows suit from the bass – neutral, balanced and detailed. It is a presentation which defies the ‘in-the-head’ feeling with decent levels of space and separation. There is a not a lot of warmth lent from the bass and as a result, the AONIC 50 delivers notes in a crisp and clean fashion. There is a great of transparency and clarity which adds some momentum and liveliness to tracks. In addition, notes are very precise and detailed which adds an overall sense of pace and energy. This is impressive considering there is not much intra tri-band frequency contrast to aid this type of sound profile. The AONIC 50 also manages to evade harsh tones and a ‘sterile analytical’ signature.
Although the Shure AONIC 50 is pitched as a largely neutral headphone, there are hints of brightness in the higher frequency ranges giving some bite and sharpened transients to note decays. However, this does not come at the compromise of sibilance or harshness. Rather, there is a sense of ease and the AONIC 50 demonstrates clarity and transparency akin to the rest of the frequency range.
Soundstage & Imaging
The Shure AONIC 50 sets good foundations for an open soundstage with little of ‘in-the-head’ feeling. There is a good amount of separation and layering to prevent things from sounding congested. Owing to its closed-back form factor and compact nature, it is not the widest sounding of headphones. However, the sense of openness and separation will no doubt keep imaging fanatics pleased.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II ($299)
Bose has held the roost along with Sony as class-leaders in noise-cancellation technology. This still stands as the QC 35 II is able to provide better attenuation of frequencies (particularly midrange and treble) compared to the Shure AONIC 50. However, the Shure AONIC 50 provides more clarity and nuanced across the spectrum compared with the QC 35 II. The QC 35 II, on the other hand, are warmer with its enhanced sub-bass profile while the Shure AONIC 50 favors a mid-bass predisposition. Build quality wise, the AONIC 50 features more premium materials with higher comfort whereas the QC 35 II is slightly more basic albeit more compact.
Master & Dynamic MW65 ($499)
Both the Master & Dynamic MW65 and Shure AONIC 50 hail from US companies with the former based in New York while the latter, Illinois. The two headphones also employ premium materials with the MW65 going the extra length with its carefully crafted profile and use of lambskin leather. The AONIC 50 delivers a stronger noise cancelling performance with more effective cancellation of low and midrange frequencies. Sound wise, both headphones offer good detailing with the MW65 adopting a warmer tilt whereas the AONIC 50 is decidedly more neutral in character. The Shure AONIC 50 also retains more sparkle and crispness in its note delineation.
Shure have released a strong competitor in the AONIC 50 with a headphone packed with useful features including ‘Environment Mode’ & ‘Active Noise Cancellation’. The build quality is excellent with a good choice of premium materials and smart overall aesthetic. Though there could be more in the way of compactness, the Shure AONIC 50 feels robust and built to last. The sound quality is well-done with a neutral sound packed with clarity and transparency. If you are looking for a high-fidelity premium pair of noise-cancelling headphones, the Shure AONIC 50 are certainly deserved of an audition. For these reasons, they will earn a spot in our highly recommended headphones list.
Shure AONIC 50 Specifications:
- Frequency Response: 20 – 22000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 98 dB at 1 kHz
- Impedance: 39 ohms
- Driver type: Dynamic
- Nominal Sound Pressure Level: 110 dB
- Codecs: aptX, aptX HD, aptX LL, AAC, LDAC, SBC
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