Hands on: Shure Aonic 50
We’ve all got an electronics wish list, haven’t we? I’m certain it’s not just me. Quite near the top of my wish-list, for quite a long time, has been ‘Shure wireless over-ear headphones’. Well, now my prayers are answered, with the Shure Aonic 50.
The Aonic 50s are wireless, active noise-cancelling over-ear headphones that will sell for pennies less than £400 when they go on sale in the UK later this year. At that price, they’re right at the top of the premium active noise-cancelling wireless over-ear market, a market that’s currently carved up by Bose and Sony. From DALI to Microsoft, though, there are numerous companies attempting to force their way onto the top table – so Shure’s Aonic 50s have their work cut out.
Mind you, if any company has what it takes to break the current hegemony, surely Shure is it. The company’s been a big cheese in the audio industry for over 90 years, and its ubiquity on the pro side of things is unquestioned. So the Aonic 50s must have what it takes to compete. Musn’t they?
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Shure Aonic 50 design and features – Look and feel like a premium pair of headphones and are a showcase for extremely impressive ANC
They certainly look and feel the part. Available in black or tan/brown finishes, they’re a winning combination of soft, pliant pleather and aluminium – so as far as looks and tactility go, they’re well on their way to justifying that premium price.
Battery life, with noise-cancelling engaged, is quoted at 20 hours from a single charge – which is competitive, but hardly class-leading. Sound is delivered by two 50mm full-range, free-edge drivers behind earcups that are filled with memory foam.
During my time with the Aonic 50s I was probably only wearing them for a total of 20 minutes, but that’s long enough to establish both their comfort and their resistance to making the wearer’s ears hot and/or sweaty.
Much more significantly, though, 20 minutes proves plenty long enough for the Shures to demonstrate their extremely impressive noise-cancelling abilities. Shure’s stand in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Centre was absolutely packed while I was there, but with the most vigorous of the Aonic 50s’ three-stage active noise-cancelling engaged the ambient roar was reduced to no more than a gentle hubbub.
Combined with their comfort and undemanding weight, the Shures would seem an ideal choice for the frequent travel. Or the infrequent traveller, for that matter.
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Shure Aonic 50 sound quality – Lives up to Shure’s audio heritage
And in terms of sound, the Aonic 50s seem to have everything that’s required to live up to Shure’s impeccable heritage. A listen to a 24bit/44.1kHz file of Radiohead’s Reckoner is gratifying in the extreme – the Shures are aptX HD-equipped, and they deliver a sound of extraordinary scale and spaciousness.
Detail levels are sky-high, the amount of detail revealed in the midrange making Thom Yorke’s vocal sound intimate, immediate and just a little fractured (which is exactly how it sounds on big, expensive full-size stereo systems).
Stereo focus is impressive, as is tonal variation, and there is more than enough dynamic headroom to put meaningful distance between ‘full band attack’ and ‘middle-eight gentle contemplation’. Equally, low-level harmonic dynamism gives character to instruments and voices alike, with the tiniest changes in timbre identified and explained.
None of this is at the expense of the overall flow of a recording, nor its unity and integration – the Aonic 50s, on this evidence at least, are a thoroughly accomplished pair of headphones. As the price demands they must be, of course.
Shure Aonic 50 – Early verdict
There are caveats to every hands-on review, naturally – and none of these findings will be confirmed until review samples are available for an extended listen. But their performance in the LVCC cauldron is more than enough to make me impatient to hear more.