Before the popularity of Bluetooth and wireless headphones, Audio-Technica was a well-known name in the wired headphone segment. That doesn’t mean the Japanese brand has lost its relevance or importance, but its new products still seem to be inspired by the credentials of some older products, such as the monitor grade M-series studio headphones. The product I am going to review is a refreshed Bluetooth powered version of an older product.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x has been around for a long time, and it was once a popular product for affordable studio monitor sound. Now the company has launched its wireless version as the latest product. Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT The price in India is Rs 16,481. This allows its old fans to experience the same unique sound signature with wireless connectivity. With 60 hours of battery life, multi-point connectivity and optional wired connectivity, is this the best wireless overear headset under Rs 15,000 that you can buy right now? Find out in this review.
Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT Specifications and Design
The Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT is the wireless version of its classic and wired models, the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x. It is the same in appearance. The headset has a good overear fit, comfortable padding around the ears and on the headband, and a metal frame connecting the two ear cups. Other similarities in design elements include the engraved ATH-M20x on the sides, gentle swivel and telescopically adjustable headband, and exposed audio wires near the headband.
The headset is currently only available in Black color. Its weight is 216 grams. The weight of the headphones is not that much for the size, it feels light and comfortable to wear. The padding around the earcup covers the ears completely.
I didn’t find its passive noise isolation particularly impressive. It did not seem to be very effective in blocking the sound coming from outside. One advantage, however, was that I didn’t have to remove the headphones from my ears to let some outside air in. Its fit is such that it allows outside air to come in as per the requirement.
There are also some differences in its design from the old model, which are given for the controls and buttons. These include a stereo socket for wired listening, a USB Type C port for charging, and three buttons for controlling playback and volume on the left side. The sales package also includes a USB Type-A to Type-C charging cable and a stereo cable for wired connectivity. But unfortunately, there is no carrying case for the headphones.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT uses Bluetooth 5 with support for SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs for primary connectivity. The headphones feature 40mm dynamic drivers, a frequency response range of 5 to 32,000Hz, a rated sensitivity of 100dB, and an impedance of 36Ohms. There’s a microphone on the M20xBT, so you can use it as a hands-free headset.
It has multi point connectivity so that you can pair and connect two devices simultaneously. Here the headphone keeps switching between the two based on its intelligence. It depends on what kind of content is being played or a call is being received. Active noise cancellation is not available in the headset and neither is app support provided. It also does not have wear detection sensors, which means that it cannot detect itself when it is worn. This shortcoming puts the headset behind rivals such as Sony, JBL and Sennheiser.
Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT Performance and Battery Life
The Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT lags a bit in terms of features. But it has a lot to offer when it comes to sound quality. Being the wireless version of the ATH-M20x, it offers similar sonic tuning, but with the convenience of wireless connectivity. I wouldn’t say that the M20xBT completely delivers the same sound quality as the M20x, as wired connectivity always delivers better sound than wireless connectivity. Yes, but the M20xBT gets pretty close to it.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT delivers the same neutral, studio-friendly sound that the M-series is popular for. Very good audible details are found in the sound. It is also able to pin-point buried elements, which gives the experience of a studio monitor. Same experience with different genres and tracks. However, its sonic signature and tone suit more in slow and detail oriented tracks. It was a wonderful listening experience on Truth from Kamasi Washington which hardly any other product in this price range can achieve.
The jazz track’s slow progression was striking, with headphones delivering every gentle hit of the drums, saxophone riffs and casual piano elements with great precision for the wireless headset. In Astropilot’s Arambol, I got a chance to hear the stereo separation of the headphones up close. Along with the frequency range, specific elements were also heard. The bass wasn’t too tight, with the headphones focusing on delivering neutral, flat sound, not the polished and refined sound like more expensive wireless headphones.
The M20xBT seemed to get stuck in tuning to a busy track. Perhaps the advanced codec support here could have added a bit to the overall sound. The headset only supports SBC and AAC codecs which makes it feel wobbly at times.
Overall Bluetooth is the only problem here. It’s pretty much tied to its roots like a wired headset. It can be said that it is not tuned for Bluetooth’s weak wireless input. The hearing problems are reduced by plugging the cable in, but you have not paid Rs 15,000 for this adjustment.
Indoor call quality is good. Connectivity is also stable and works well up to a distance of 4 meters from the source device. The battery life of the headphones is also quite good. It can last up to 48 hours on a single charge while listening to music continuously at moderate volume.
Audio-Technica is a recognized name in consumer headphones and the ATH-M20xBT is an iconic product in itself. But that is not enough here. The headset has the same monitor grade sound as its wired version which is great, but some drawbacks hold it back. The headset is expensive and does not support the advanced Bluetooth codec.
For the Audio-Technica M-series fans, it provides wireless connectivity, but it lacks features according to the price. There is no active noise cancellation, no app support, no extra features apart from Bluetooth connectivity. It is a very good pair of headphones to use but it should have been priced less than Rs 15,000.