I love higher-end headphones. There’s just something about listening to your playlist in very high detail that almost makes me feel as if I’m listening to my favourite tracks all over again. That’s what I felt like with the Shure AONIC 50s when we first took a look at those. But a year or so later, we’re back with their second iteration, the Gen 2s, and we’re putting them to the test in this video.
For the most part, the Gen 2 headphones are pretty much like-for-like with the Gen 1 AONIC 50s when it comes to their physical design. They still use a pretty much all-metal frame, with the stems wrapping around the back of the cups. They can rotate and still lay flat when you want to store them away in the included carrying case, though they don’t fold in on themselves, so the surface area of the case itself is pretty large. The headphones can creak and are a little stiff when rotating the cups, though I didn’t feel this was an issue at all and the build quality of these headphones is actually very nice. They are quite heavy, though this wasn’t an issue with comfort for me, but I could see some people have a problem with this over long periods if you are sensitive across the crown. With some pretty chunky ear pads made from memory foam, and a fairly padded headband, the AONIC 50 Gen 2s were actually extremely comfy and I had no problem giving these headphones hours of use at a time, and if you’re someone who commutes via train to say London, these headphones will be a great companion. Being over-ear headphones too it meant my ears were pretty comfortable being surrounded by memory foam. The clamping pressure was very light considering my ears were pretty sealed which was a good feeling. There’s a Shure logo on each earcup to show off the brand and overall the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2s, like the Gen 1s, look stylish and modern and come in either black, brown or white according to the Shure website.
On the right earcup, you can find several buttons and a single slider. Let’s now run through what everything does here, and I will say for the most part everything is pretty simple. The bottom button is your power button. One press turns the headphones on and off. A double press gives you a battery life status and a small long press turns them on and off, and a longer press enables pairing. Above this is a volume rocker and centre button and this is where I am a little confused about Shure’s choices. The volume rocker ONLY turns the volume up and down, whereas the centre button acts as a way to play/pause music and answer calls with a single press, while a double tap skips the track forward and a triple tap skips the track back. Surely it would have made more sense to put volume changes on long presses on the rocker and skip tracks as single presses on the volume rocker or is this just me? Finally above this collection of buttons is a clickable slider which switches between ANC, Environmental Mode and neutral. You’ve got a 3.5mm aux input and a USB Type-C input for charging, of which you can get a maximum of around 20 hours of listening time depending on volume levels and if Environment or ANC mode is switched on.
There’s an app that you can download to Android and iOS devices called ShurePlus Play which unlocks a few custom settings you can change to get the most out of the headphones and it’s easy to set up. Just connect your phone to the headphones using Bluetooth and the app will auto-detect the Gen 2s. From here you’ve got three tabs at the bottom of the screen where you can find your settings. The first tab is for the physical settings of the headphones where you can find settings for things like how amplified the passthrough audio is on the Environmental mode or how dulled your environment is on ANC. Under this, you have your Personalisation settings. These settings can be attributed to things like how your headphones act when plugged in to charge,e if you’ll allow 32bit-384kHz playback when using them with a laptop or desktop when plugged in via USB, or what the slide toggle does on the side of the right earcup, if it changes between environmental or ancient modes or if it activated different equalisers and more.
The most interesting setting though has to be the Spacilizer, which enables an almost virtual surround sound. Music for example acts as if you’re sitting in front of a set of speakers and Cinema sits you in an auditorium as if you were at a movie theatre. By the way, don’t use this setting, it’s junk. And finally, Podcast, which is supposed to put you in the same room as the host. Again, junk. Leave the Spaciliser will alone. Keep it switched off and you’ll have a much better time with the AONIC 50 Gen 2s. The second is your equaliser which comes with several preset equaliser patterns, or if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you can set a manual equaliser yourself and save them as custom presets. The Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 headphones though do allow users to use a vast array of codecs including aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX Voice, SBC, AAC, and LDAC so you’ve got a pretty strong choice there, and it also uses Bluetooth 5 too for that extended range.
Personally with the EQ though, I liked the treble boost preset for really most of my music though I did duplicate it and add a little bit of low end and save it out as a custom equaliser. The AONIC 50 Gen 2s do a pretty decent job with bass precision and control though sometimes it can be a little overwhelming on a neutral EQ, so some added clarity at the top end really helped with the overall mix of my music though don’t go too far. Certain snare hits or higher-sounding tones can be a bit piercing. Sitting in the back of the car with the AONIC 50s set to their noise cancelling mode, I was really impressed with the way they reduced the droney noise of the car tyres on the road surface. As it was Christmas too, there were other people in the car having conversations, and the radio was playing some Mellow Magic, yes it was my parents’ car. But for the most part, their conversation was pretty inaudible. I could tell they were talking to each other, but I didn’t really know what they were saying. The radio though I did hear pretty clearly. But that’s probably because I had a speaker right next to me. But once I started playing music from my Rock playlist, which you can find a link to in the description by the way, everything around me was blocked out. Shure’s attempt at Active Noise Cancellation is good, but it’s nowhere near as strong as other contenders at this kind of price point, even though at the time of writing this review, there’s a pretty hefty sale on them.
Moving over to the microphone quality. and I think you’ll be pretty impressed with the quality when either recording audio or taking phone calls. Voice quality is nice through the headphones, but voice quality through the built-in microphone really shines through over other wireless headphone brands, and is certainly one of the best I’ve heard on the market so far.
So are the Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2s worth the asking price of £155 in the sale? Absolutely! They’re £150 cheaper than they usually are, and a darn sight cheaper than similar headphones on the market from Bose, Sony and Sennheiser, and even Apple. But usually, they’re priced at just over £300 on Shure’s website. So at that price, they’re not the best headphones directly from the box. The Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2s need some fine-tuning for sure to get them sounding nice. But if you don’t mind doing that and then leaving your settings, you’ll have a pretty decent set of headphones at your disposal which cost right now significantly less than the competition.