Audio Technica  - Audio Technica ATH-SR50BT

Audio Technica

Bluetooth Audio Technica ATH-SR50BT headphones: natural sound reproduction

Aprox. 179€ - see price -

With the ATH-SR50BT, Audio Technica is focusing on sound performance and the quality of the listening mode for surrounding noises, even assuming a modest active noise reduction. Does this somewhat atypical strategy pay off?

Our review


Launched at the end of 2018 at € 199, the ATH-SR50BT is a Bluetooth headset with touch controls equipped with active noise reduction (RBA), and a feature for listening to surrounding sounds. It is also this last feature that the manufacturer highlights (in particular by integrating a dedicated command and configuration options via the mobile application), the RBA being considered as a small bonus for "gently limiting ambient noise". The autonomy announced is 28 hours. This model has two 45 mm loudspeakers with large sound claims, both for wireless and wired use.



The ATH-SR50BT does not do in frills. He opted for a relatively simple and discreet design. The helmet is mainly protected by plastic elements, the assembly marks of which are easily identified. Despite a certain lack of flexibility, the design inspires confidence and is fairly light (282 g). The ear cups can pivot flat (90 °, ear cushions towards the user for comfortable wearing around the neck) and fold up towards the headband for easy storage and transport.

At first glance, the roll bar deployment seems a bit short, but this is largely offset by the ovoid shape. Larger heads can easily put it on. However, there is a fairly marked clip effect on the ears, largely offset by the thickness and softness of the ear pads. There is also a slight pressure localized at the top of the head. It is possible to reduce it by deploying the arch, at the cost of more than average and detrimental support when in motion; the helmet easily escapes in the event of sudden head movements.

Audio Technica favored touch control. There are still two physical buttons on the back of the ATH-SR50BT's left atrium: an on / off switch and a "quick listen" button. Easily accessible, it works like the standard listening mode for headphones, with a more frank focus on the mids to maximize the intelligibility of the voices. It also completely reduces the listening volume without pausing the music. The song being played therefore scrolls silently during the use of this function; an astonishing and frustrating choice.

The other usual functions and commands are accessible via the flat surface of the left atrium. This accommodates a sensitive touch panel divided into 3 zones. The central area provides access to music management, calls and the smartphone's voice assistant. The two areas above and below manage the volume. We navigate between the tracks via vertical sweeps. By covering the 3 zones at the same time for 2 seconds, you switch between RBA (switched on by default when switched on), passive isolation and the listening mode for surrounding noise (which does not interrupt music playback and does not reduce listening volume) . After a short adaptation time to properly identify the zones and memorize the triggering movements (described in the instructions and in the app), this interface becomes very intuitive and practical.

To best guide the user, Audio Technica has placed audio and voice indications (in English only) in its headphones in addition to the two integrated LEDs. We can thus know the status of the headset, the Bluetooth connection and the chosen mode. It is possible to deactivate them in the app, but you then lose the mode selection indications. With each alert, the headphones mute the music for a good three seconds, including when voice assistance has been deactivated.

We measured a better autonomy than that announced by the manufacturer: 33 hours of wireless use with active noise reduction (instead of 28 h announced), which is an excellent score. The full recharge, however, takes almost 5 hours to complete. The choice of micro-USB port is felt. The headphones can still be used wired (without noise reduction) when recharging. As for Bluetooth, the ATH-SR50BT supports aptX, AAC and SBC audio codecs. Unfortunately, the multipoint connection is not there. We measured a latency of 175 ms in Bluetooth, which allows to correctly view videos on applications offering a certain latency compensation on smartphones (Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video…). Apart from this case, the difference between sound and image becomes a little annoying, but not unacceptable.

The microphone assigned to the hands-free kit function is extremely disappointing: even in a quiet environment, it is difficult to hold a conversation because the voice seems far away. The report is catastrophic in noisy surroundings: the voice is drowned out by the surrounding noises. The solution for a quality call is to switch back to your phone. This is also possible directly with the helmet by covering the 3 touch zones for 2 seconds, but only after picking up ... handling in the end not very easy and much longer than taking the phone directly to switch and pick up.



The Audio Technica ATH-SR50BT offers a balanced and musical sound rendering. Small faults, however, just miss the maximum score.

The low frequencies are slightly accentuated and show a slight tendency to softness. The round and warm aspect (which one can also call "felted") of the latter is notably highlighted, which does not prevent them from being well defined, and that whatever the musical styles. The feeling of impact is present, the attacks are frank and marked.

The quality of reproduction of the mediums is one of the strong points of these headphones: although the frequency response is not completely devoid of accidents, the timbre of the voices, among others, remains very faithful. The helmet offers a good mix of presence and subtly tempers the aggressiveness to guarantee a form of softness, even on brass instruments, for example. Contrary to the habits of the manufacturer, the treble is slightly down here. Fortunately, they are large and well defined, in particular thanks to the excellent extension at the highest frequencies. However, these highs reveal a slightly "chemical" side, especially audible on mixes very rich in harmonics.

Like a magnifying glass effect, the Audio Technica ATH-S50BT tends to increase the width of the stereophonic image and reduce the depth a little. The compact mixes are as if magnified, therefore more open and more extensive. On the other hand, this behavior is somewhat excessive on mixes that play a lot on stereo spatialization: the sounds at the lateral ends of the soundstage are like "packed". This is not a fault in itself, rather an element of character - moreover very rare on a closed helmet.

Good surprise: unlike other Bluetooth headsets with active noise reduction, the ATH-SR50BT also offers great performance in wired use. The rendering is very similar between the two uses, although we note a slightly more timid response in the bass extremes and slightly better precision. Enabling active noise reduction does not significantly affect the sound performance of headphones either, and that's great.

As indicated from the start in the manual, the active noise reduction of the ATH-SR50BT operates especially below 300 Hz, and with a much less effective action than that of the market leaders. Thus, this mode offers only 15 dB of attenuation in its most effective range (between 80 and 300 Hz approximately), and 5 small dB in the lowest frequencies. So here we have a fairly discreet noise reduction, especially in charge of reducing certain noises officiating in the low / low mids (some of the engine noises, train rolling, the feeling of proximity to the voices ...). We will always be able to perceive the presence of voices (hissing).

The surrounding noise mode seemed to us extremely natural in use, which our measurements clearly demonstrate. We can then largely overcome the passive insulation of the helmet and thus easily identify the different sources around us on the go. The fast listening mode, due to its essence and the boost in mediums it offers, is effective in hearing conversations and announcements in the surrounding area very easily.



The Audio-Technica ATH-SR50BT offers great sound performances, including a particularly natural and musical rendering. Its active noise reduction is clearly below that of its competitors, but the functionality of listening to surrounding sounds is very effective. This Bluetooth headset is therefore an ally of choice for music lovers who especially want to remain aware of the outside world during their walks. That said, this ATH-SR50BT is positioned right in front of serious competitors, in particular the Jabra Elite 85h, more versatile and more efficient on almost all points.