Audio-Technica ATH-SR50BT Review - Awesome $200 Headphones, But Not Perfect

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As the premium ANC headphone market heats up, cheaper ANC headphones are getting better and better cause of the trickle down effect. And a good example of this are the new Audio-Technica ATH-SR50BT’s. I think these are a pair of very well rounded headphones that perform great and have some very welcomed features. And if it wasn’t for their touch pad, I think these headphones would be perfect. But first a word from one of our partners. 

The new Audio-Technica ATH-SR50BT’s… which I’ve christened the Sir 50’s, retail for $200… thats the same as last year’s ATH-ANC700BT quitepoint headphones. And for simplicity sake, if you’re looking into getting the quitepoint headphones I recommend you go with the Sir 50’s instead. If you want to pick up the Audio-Technica ATH-SR50BT’s I’ll have that linked down below.

As always, we’re going to go over what comes in the box first. The Sir 50’s come included with a carrying pouch which I think feels a little more premium than the carrying pouch that came included with the ATH-MX50BT’s. But still, if you plan on traveling with these headphones on a regular basis I still recommend you invest in a hardshell carrying case. The Sir 50’s also come included a 3.5 to 3.5 millimeter audio cable. Now theres no inline controller or mic on this audio cable, but I think this audio cable is decent for a pair of $200 headphones. But unfortunately the Sir 50’s still come included with a Micro USB cable for charging, and this is one of those things that I feel are really holding these headphones back in 2019. As of right now, if you want USB C on your headphones you’re going to have to go for more premium models like the 1000XM3 or the Surface Headphones. And I don’t expect Audio-Technica to adopt USB C any time soon cause they announced their new ATH-ANC900BT Quitepoint Headphones at CES 2019 which are also still using micro USB. 

But micro USB aside, the sir 50's actually has very good build quality. They're super light weight, the headband clicks into position, and there's basically no cracking or squeaking when flexing the headband. But what really makes these headphones stand out from other $200 headphones is that they can be laid down flat OR collapsed. And this is a big deal cause usually with $200 headphones they can either only do one or the other. And when it comes to fit these headphones have a very loose fit, just like the 1000XM3's or Bose QC35'S. Which make them great for long use sessions and they are without a doubt big head approved. And regarding the Sir 50's earcups, they're very spacious and should have no problem fitting people that have large ears or ears that stick-out a lot. In short, the Sir 50's are just as comfortable as the Bose QC35's cause their earcups are a little more spacious than the 1000XM3. 

Now when it comes to tech specs... The Sir 50's are rocking Bluetooth 5.0 and they're good for watching YouTube videos on your iPhone cause they have very little latancy. But unfortunately these headphones can only be connected to one device at a time so you cant hot swap from one device to another like say the Surface Headphones or Bose QC35’s. 

But when it comes to battery life, the Sir 50’s have an advertised battery life of 28 hours which is a touch average for headphones these days. And for me I’ve found that they can go about a week and a half in-between charges for the way that I use them. But unfortunately, these headphones don’t have any official fast charging numbers. 

But now lets talk about the active noise cancelation on the Sir 50’s. First I just want to set expectations here. Active Noise cancelation across the board on Sub $200 ANC headphones is going to be no where near as good as the ANC found on more premium models. And just so you can see first hand, we’re going to jump into an ANC test

Like you may have just heard, the ANC on the Surface Headphones and 1000XM3’s easily blocked out way more noise than the Sir 50’s. But it doesn’t mean the ANC on the Sir 50’s is out right useless. The Sir 50’s do manage to do a fair job of blocking out some constant low frequency sounds like road noise, and they do so with very minimal cabin pressure.

But one of the main reasons I like the Sir 50’s so much is cause they are one of the only $200 ANC headphones out there that feature both an Ambient mode and quick attention mode, similar to the 1000XM3’s. Audio-Technica calls their feature Hear Through mode, and it allows you to select how much ambient noise you would like the headphones to pump in while you have them on. And a feature like this is very useful if you’re walking around the city, or if you’re in an office or at school if somebody calls your name you’re still going to be able to hear them. But the Sir 50’s also feature quick hear through, where by pressing on the only button on left ear cup the headphones will mute your music and pump in all of the ambient sound like this. 

And this feature is useful cause you can have a quick conversation with someone with out having to take your headphones off. And like I said, the Sir 50’s are one of the only Sub $200 ANC headphones out there that has both an ambient mode and quick attention mode like the 1000XM3. Cause for comparison the Skullcandy Venue’s have monitor Mode which is similar to quick attention but lacks an ambient mode. But still, the Hear through feature on the Sir 50’s isn’t perfect, its simply letting in All of the ambient sound and its not filtering out any of the excessive noise pollution like the 1000XM3’s do. Which means if theres a loud bang, a dog starts barking or a siren passes by you’re going to hear all of that in your headphones. Where as the 1000XM3’s are smart enough block out those sudden loud sounds and save you from jump scares and from going depth. 

But features aside, lets talk about sound quality. The Sir 50’s have a neutral sound signature thats all about clarity. And honestly, I don’t have any bad things to say about these headphones when it comes to sound quality. Their bass resonates nice and deep and it never bottoms out, the sound stage is wide, instrument separation is good and the highs never get tinny. But just keep in mind, these are neutral sounding headphones… if you’re looking for something thats going to rock your head when the bass gets going, these aint it. And unfortunately Audio-techinca doesn’t allow you to adjust the EQ on these headphones through their app. And I think thats done on purpose cause they don’t want you messing up their headphones already awesome sound signature.

But not lets talk about something thats not so awesome on the Sir 50’s… and thats their touch controls. First off, the touch controls on these headphones are on the left ear cup… which I think is a bad choice on Audio-Tecnica’s part cause the majority of the population is right handed. So as a righty, it does take some time to get used to using the touch controls on these headphones and even after that… it still feels a little weird. But in order to play or pause your music you just press once on the Audio-Technica Logo, and if you want to skip or go back a track you swipe up or down on the left ear cup. And after you get the hang of it, it works ok. But I’ve found trying to adjust the volume using the touch controls is too much of a hassle. You’re supposed to press right above or below the logo to adjust the volume… but it almost never works on the first try so I just skip the headache and whip out my phone and adjust the volume from there. But you can cycle from having ANC turned on, hear through, or just having those featured turned off by completely covering the touch pad. Which is nice. But still I think Audio-Technica would be much better off if they just used physical buttons instead of trying to keep up with the cool kids by insisting on using a touch pad that cause more problems than it should. 

And finally heres the microphone test. And just like most other headphones the microphone isn’t that great. But this audio clip is being recorded by the microphone found on the Audio-Technica ATH-SR50BT’s so you can be the judge of that.

But over all, I really do like the SR50BT’s… and if it wasn’t for their imperfect touch controls and lack of USB C, I think these would be hand down the best Sub $200 neutral sounding ANC headphones on the market right now. But still, if you can look past the lack of USB C in 2019 and imperfect touch controls the SR50BT’s are a great pair of headphones. They have very good build quality, they’re very comfortable to wear, they sound very good and I think they look good. But what really makes these headphones standout for me is their hear through and quick hear through features. Not a lot of other sub $200 ANC headphones have both of these features.