Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT: Is it a Good Gym Headphone?
Audio-Technica is a Japanese company specialising in audio equipment: microphones, mixers, wireless systems and headphones. Last week, they released the ATH-M50xBT headphone: a wireless version of their popular ATH-M50x headphones.
Bluetooth headphones are popular for workouts. It’s hard to concentrate on form if there are wires to get caught up in. Certainly, wireless headphone technology has come a long way in recent years with all but the strictest of audiophiles opting to cut the cord. Audio-Technica headphones were sold originally as studio headphones for musicians but have since become popular thanks to their superb sound quality. These are very good headphones -- but are they good for the gym?
Firstly, Audio-Technica headphones weren’t designed for the gym. They’re not sold as workout headphones; the cushions aren’t sweat-resistant and there’s every chance that if you exercise regularly in these cans then they’ll break. Sweat is corrosive and it doesn’t mix well with padded cushions or internal electronics. If you want to wear the ATH-M50x’s in the gym, then pair them up with sweat-proof headphone covers. Ear Hugs has a great range of designs and they’re far cheaper than buying a replacement set of headphones.
If you’re familiar with the previous incarnation of this headphone - the one with wires - then you can rest assured that Audio-Technica hasn’t compromised sound quality by going wireless. Writing for Digital Trends, Andy Boxall compares listening to them as being akin to a ‘religious experience’. He goes on to say that the sound is ‘crystal clear’ and with ‘pronounced bass’. This is good news. Often when we buy headphones for a specific reason (exercising, for example), we have to compromise on certain elements. Whilst we’ve applauded Dwayne Johnson’s ProjectRock Gym Headphones for their innovative sweat-proof design, it was on sound quality and comfort that these headphones fell down. The ATH-M50xBT will make your workout playlist POP!
The Audio-Technica’s website describes its latest release as:
“The ATH-M50xBT harnesses the legendary M50x studio sound for an exhilarating wireless listening experience, with exceptional clarity and deep, accurate bass response. Utilizing Bluetooth wireless technology and 45 mm large-aperture drivers with rare-earth magnets and copper-clad aluminium wire voice coils, the ATH-M50xBT brings the coveted sonic signature of M50x to a wireless, on-the-go design.”
It’s good to see that going wireless hasn’t had an impact on sound quality. This dedication to preserving that is summed up on the brand’s website where the tag is - Studio Sound Unbound.
Battery life is a solid 40-hours. Although, the headphones do come with a 1.2-meter long cable for when you’re running out of juice. One potential downside is that there’s no quick-charge function. A full charge will complete if left overnight, but it’s not ideal if you’re a last-minute recharger as completing a workout without music isn’t just frustrating but it can also reduce your performance.
Touch the left earcup and you can control calls, music playback and volume. Ideal for when your hands are full or for when you’re focusing on form. You can activate Google Assistant or Siri from your smartphone, too, with a long press.
The cups rotate and the headphone collapses down making it easy to transport to and from the gym. Helpful, if you plan on using these headphones when you’re travelling. They come with a carry bag, too.
ATH-M50xBT headphones have an over-ear design which will help with passive noise cancellation but these don’t have an anti-noise cancelling (ANC) function which will make them less ideal for some. Certainly, we’ve been big proponents of ANC technology, partly because the gym can be a noisy environment but also because we believe premium brand headphones should be useful to you outside your workout, too. ANC is a big, big plus if you’re travelling on aeroplanes or public transport and could help to protect your hearing from long-term damage by reducing ambient sounds in places you’re likely to ramp the volume up in.
These headphones might not have ANC technology, but they’re quite a bit cheaper than other premium brands that do. Sony’s WH1000XM3 headphones have been declared as being the best in the world for ANC but that’s reflected in the cost. A pair of Sony’s latest cans will set you back £329.99 and a pair of Audio-Technica’s just £179.99. Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones are another great (and very comfortable) pair of noise-cancelling headphones, too.
But if ANC isn’t that important to you, then you could save yourself a fair bit of cash by buying Audio-Technica.
The design of these headphones isn’t as smooth or as attractive as other brands, either. This may or may not be a deal-breaker for you. Certainly, sound quality and portability should be more important but if you have an appreciation of style and aesthetic, then Beats headphones could be more suitable. That being said, these are a sturdy set of ‘phones, and if you’re going to be packing and unpacking, folding, collapsing and moving them around between sessions, then that surely should be a bigger consideration than dismissing them simply on the basis of how they look.
Crucially, and what we’ve read in a number of reviews is that after a few hours of listening, people started to get ‘sweaty ears’. Uh-oh. These people weren’t even working out in these headphones. Even if you don’t intend to exercise wearing these, then you might consider adding covers with moisture-wicking fabric to the headphone’s cushions to keep you comfortable and to improve hygiene.
Weighing 310g, these are slightly heavier than the Sony WH1000XM3. This might be something you have to consider if you prefer a lighter fit. Skullcandy’s Hesh 3 headphone weighs in at just 200g, for example.
As with everything, it’s a compromise. Certainly, Bose QuietComfort, Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 and Sony’s MX3 come with ANC and a whole heap of added benefits but at a greater price. Beats headphones look better and they have Apple’s W1 chip (with quick-charge function) but the sound quality isn’t as great. Skullcandy is cheaper (and the Hesh 3 much improved on previous models), but you’ll lose out on sound quality there, too.
Whatever you choose to wear on your ears in the gym, on the running track or out and about - it’s important to do your research first: what is it YOU want from your headphones? What is your guiding motivation? Sound quality, comfort, noise-cancellation or budget?
The ONE THING that all of these have in common, however, is that they’re NOT gym-ready until you add EarHugz.