In the world of professional audio - particularly music recording and performance - Shure is well-known for producing exceptional sound and functionality from its microphones, in-ear monitors and headphones. In the world of consumer technology, however, it does not have the mainstream appeal of the likes of Apple, Beats, Sony or Bose. At least not when it comes to over-ear noise-cancelling headphones.
Even if that's down to marketing demographics, less consumer-friendly software, or just a lack of consumer mindshare, it's certainly not down to headphone quality and capabilities. With the Aonic 50 Gen 2, it seeks to compete with the big-name headphone makers, and please the most discerning audiophile. But has it worked?
Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2
Shure gets a lot right with the Aonic 50 Gen 2. The improved battery life is fantastic, as is the Bluetooth performance. They deliver better - but not perfect - ANC, and have great sound. Perfect for the at-home music listener.
- Great battery life
- Shure sound is enjoyable - especially with the Spatializing feature
- Hi-Res audio support - wired and wireless
- Comfortable to wear and solid build
- Multi-point Bluetooth
- They're not cheap
- Noise cancelling is better, but not amazing
- Wind-tearing noise when outdoors
Specs, Price and Availability
Shure's Aonic 50 Gen 2 is available to buy now with prices set at around $350 in the US and £350 in the UK. They're only available in one colour at the moment: black.
Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2
- Battery Life
- Up to 45 hours
- Bluetooth 5 with 100 metre range
- Noise Cancellation
- Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling
- 334 grams
- Supported codecs
- aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX Voice, SBC, AAC, LDAC
- Audio codecs
- High resolution USB streaming to 32-bit/384kHz
- Carrying case
- Premium zippered carrying case
- Frequency range
- 20Hz to 22kHz
- 50mm - Dynamic, Neodymium magnet
All black everything
At over 330 grams, the Aonic 50 Gen 2 aren't the lightest pair of over-ears around. They're considerably heavier than the Beats Studio Pro, the Bose NC 700 and the Sony WH-1000XM5, but are lighter than the AirPods Max, so at least that's something.
Still, don't let that fool you into thinking they are an uncomfortable pair of headphones to wear. I was comfortably able to wear them for hours at a time without any discomfort. In reality, they were even more comfortable than some of their lighter competition.
The design and build - for instance - isn't as rattly and doesn't creak under motion like the Beats Studio Pro, as an example. They feel more secure and fitted to the head, without any feeling of pressure.
They did sometimes feel as though - when I moved my head a little too enthusiastically - that they might slip a little out of position. I think that's perhaps an expected trade-off when you have a pair of headphones that's not so snug to your head, and it's a trade-off I'd take over a pair being clamped in place but more uncomfortable.
I also didn't experience any extreme feelings of sweat or warming build up in my ears while wearing them.
There's a decent amount of space inside the cushions for your ears to fit, and the cushioning is very generous and soft. That applies to the cushioning on the underside of the headband as well, which all helps to give a relatively heavy pair of headphones, an immensely comfortable and lightweight on-head feel.
The adjustable arms are shaped from solid aluminium and - despite featuring a ratchet-style clicking mechanism for adjustment - they feel well put together. It's a premium pair of cans.
As for buttons, controls and port placement, the Aonic 50 Gen 2 is nigh-on identical to the first generation. Everything you need is down the outside edge of the right ear cup. You get the three-button cluster for play/pause and volume up/down. They're easy to find blind too, because the middle button has a raised knob in the middle.
Aesthetically, they're pretty much the same as the first generation model too, except that we now have an all-black colour. The silver aluminium arms have been painted black to give it a stealthy, classic look. And - at the time of writing - that's the only colour option.
Reading through the spec list of the Aonic 50 is like reading through a dream check-list of supported audio codecs. Like Shure decided it wanted all the best quality files it could manage, and made it happen.
That means - if you connect wirelessly with a compatible Android phone - you get AptX, AptX HD and AptX Adaptive. Essentially meaning, if you have a modern Android device from the past few years, you'll get lag-free high-quality audio. But there's more. You get LDAC support too - for lossless music playback and - if you connect the USB-C to USB-C cable to a device it can even play Hi-Res 32-bit/384kHz files with a wired connection.
Those are just numbers on a list though, the real joy with Shure comes when you pair them with your phone - or plug them into your device - and crank up your favourite tunes. No surprises: the sound is thoroughly enjoyable.
It's similar to what I felt with the first pair. In its default out-of-the-box settings, you get great sound. There's good bass, without it being overpowering, getting too 'boomy' or rattly. You get crisp, clear treble and vocals too, plus plenty of mid-frequencies to ensure that even soft background instrumentation can be heard clearly, adding rich flavour to expansive arrangements.
It's the type of quality - as I've noted in several quality headphone reviews - where you want to listen to your favourite tracks and arrangements all over again, just to be served those tasty morsels of background violin plucking, rhythm egg shaking, or even breathing. Delicious.
It's well suited to all kinds of music. I really enjoyed the right recordings on Nothing But Thieves latest album, particularly Tomorrow is Closed, where there's a clear distinction between quite, sparse sections of the song and the louder, fuller chorus. The impact of the drums is crisp, and cuts through, while the bass is given space to reverberate cleanly without losing texture.
They're sound properties that also mean any singers with naturally interesting, textured voices - whether it be Paolo Nutini, Louis Armstrong, or any deep, textured voice of Dave Le'aupepe - lead singer of Gang of Youths - belting out the chorus for The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows before dropping into his huskier, quieter verses. Perhaps surprisingly, it was the audio configurations in the app I found were the biggest selling point. The headphones have a new Spatializer feature which changes the way the music feels, or more accurately, gives it a sense of being in your space, and not just blasting into your ears.
The Spatializer has three modes. In 'Music' mode, it makes the music feel more like you're in the middle of a small, intimate personal concert, and it actually does make the music more enjoyable.
Similarly, there's a 'Cinema' mode which expands video audio to make it more impactful and dramatic, while the 'Podcast' setting brings the action closer, almost like you're sitting around the table with the podcast hosts. It's surprisingly effective, to the point where I didn't want to listen to music without the 'Music' mode enabled.
A lot of this is actually quite similar to the first-generation pair of Aonic 50 headphones. Where Shure has really improved things is actually in the noise cancelling performance and battery life. Like the first gen, there are also lots of preset EQ settings you can switch between to elevate different frequencies, as well as the ability to create your own custom balance.
Handy features, and the improvements that matter
As comfortable as the Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 is, and as enjoyable the sound is, it's the noise cancelling and battery life department that has made the biggest difference coming from the previous generation headphones. At 45 hours of listening time, these will comfortably get through a full week's worth of commutes to the office, even if your commute is long. In fact, they might even get you through two weeks, and using a USB-C cable to charge them, they'll deliver 15 hours of use from a 5-minute top-up. Really handy.
There's a Bluetooth connection which can stay connected up to a massive 100 metres. Of course, things like thick brick walls, doors and other barriers can affect that, but - in real life - it means being able to leave the streaming device in one room while you walk around - and the music won't cut out.
That's not the only benefit of the Bluetooth tech in the Shure either. It's got multi-point support, so it can be paired to multiple devices and switch between them when needed.
As for the noise cancelling, it's definitely better than the last model. External noise like busy roofers knocking in new tiles and lead flashing on my office roof was pretty effectively blocked out, but not completely. As was the sound of generators and cars. When the headphones get caught by a gust of wind, there is definitely a noticeable tearing sound, and with persistent wind, it doesn't seem smart enough to completely get rid of it, so maybe not the absolute best headphones for walking outdoors in.
At home, however, or in the office - they're ideal. You can switch to maximum awareness mode when you need to hear what's going on around you and - even better - you can set up an automatic function in the app so that whenever you press the pause button, it also activates the maximum awareness mode. It's perfect for when someone's trying to talk to you, or you need to hear what's happening - like if a train platform announcement blasts out the loudspeakers - and you don't want to take your headphones off completely.
Shure's headphones won't win prizes for being the best noise cancelling headphones - especially not if you wear them while walking outside with the blustering wind - but, once you get into your quiet space at home, in your office, or even on a train or plane, the Shure cans really come into their own. I love the sound profile, and the ability to emulate different spaces by switching through the different Spatialize presets.
With that audio quality married to the long battery life, the ability to listen to Hi-Res codecs, and a really comfortable, premium build, the second generation Aonic 50 is a brilliant choice. If you're after an alternative to the popular ANC headphones, this is certainly one that lives up to its promise.