It’s probably safe to say most people with a phone own a pair of headphones, and while a lot of attention is paid to in-ear buds like AirPods Pro, the market for over-the-ear headphones is still going strong. If you’re looking to try out this style of headphones without breaking the bank, you might consider the Audio Technica ATH-M20xBt, the budget consumer side entry to Audio Technica’s studio headphones (ATH-M20x).
Audio Technica ATH-M20xBT headphones review
The M20xBT offers high-quality sound with Bluetooth 5.0 connection, allowing you to take the music with you wherever you go. They offer long battery life and strong connectivity. They’re equipped with 40mm drivers for enhanced sound output. While the earcups don’t swivel (you’ll need to be careful storing them in a bag or backpack), the headphones have a large adjustment range. Let’s look at the features of the ATH-M20xBT.
Design & styling
These headphones are what you could call a little lackluster. They’re basic black without any real design flourishes and they feel extremely light weight verging onto cheap. Even so there are some stainless steel elements such as where the ear cups connect to the headband, and that band has ample padding for comfort.
Wired or Wireless?
The ATH-M20xBT comes with an audio cable for times when there’s no Bluetooth to be found or if you just prefer a wired connection. Naturally they also work wirelessly, giving you the best of both worlds. (By the way: Plugging in the aux audio won’t charge the headphones; you’ll need to use the included USB-C cable.) On the plus side, even if the battery is dead, using the audio cable will allow them to work.
Fit & comfort
Something that is often an issue with over-the-ear headphones is their fit. If the band is too rigid, it can lead to headaches or too much pressure on the ears and also cause the ears to heat up. If the band is too loose, the headphone will slip off or even go flying should you turn your head too quickly. The ATH-M20xBT has an extender system to allow you to adjust to any point along the range of motion, rather than clicking in specific places like many headphones. The headphones are also very light, which should help you avoid fatigue from wearing them.
Indeed they are light on the head and unlike something like Airpods Max, there’s no compression on your skull, but I did notice that after extended wear I was ready to take them off. It wasn’t painful and wasn’t itching to rip them off my head but when I was done I was done.
There’s really just three buttons for these; power/pairing and volume up/down. The first time you turn them on they should be in pairing mode, and if not, long pressing power will nudge them into action.
Passive Noise Isolation
The first thing that struck me about these headphones when putting them on is that they have surprisinly killer noise isolation. Noise isolation is not noise cancelling (which is a digital elimination of noise bleed), but the sound blocking properties of the ear cups and the foam padding keep pretty much every outside sound from bleeding in. The tapping of my fingers on the keyboard, ambient lawn mowing noise, chit chat in the next room was all cut out and I was shocked by its effectiveness.
The second thing that struck me was that the sound quality is astonishingly good. From the first notes of a chill Arabian lounge playlist I like to put on to help me focus, the beats were beautiful. There’s a lot of delicacy in the sound and the bass is powerful, vibrant and resonant.
A hip hop playlist rattled my skull with beats by Pharell Williams and Dre, and some raw electro soul from Caught a Ghost let the indie scratchy feel come through.
Overall: Blown. Away.
With wireless headphones, an important aspect is the ability to answer or make a phone call. The ATH-M20xBT has a built-in omnidirectional microphone allowing you to answer calls, and you can make a call via your device.
On device controls
The ATH-M20xBT has three buttons along the back of the left earphone. Each button has both a single press function as well as a multi-press function. You can control playback, mute, stop, and change volume. You’ll also be able to answer a call and engage the low latency mode. The buttons are easy to press and have a tactile click, so you’ll know when they’ve been depressed. The controls are easy enough to remember and easy to engage with.
Battery & Charging
In the left earcup there’s also a USB-C port for charging. The 3.7 V lithium polymer battery in these headphones should last a knock-you-off-your-milking-stool 60 hours before needing a recharge.
Further surprising me: A ten-minute charge will give you three hours of use. A full charge will take about four hours. The unit will power down after five minutes of not being connected to any device.
Low Latency Mode
An important aspect of headphones for gamers is a low latency level. It basically means that the computer processing the data across your network is able to do so quickly, minimizing delay or lag. It can also be an issue with streaming TV or films, as the audio can become unsynced (or seem to be) with the picture. The low latency mode should remove any lag issues you might have.
One feature that is amazing to find on these headphones is the ability to pair to more than one device. This is really handy if you’re using the headphones for gaming but also want to be able to pick up a phone call or stream music. When you turn the headphones on, they start searching for nearby Bluetooth devices they’ve paired with, meaning you can simply put them close to your phone or computer, and they should link up. Their range is also impressive; you’ll stay connected up to about 30 feet away, line of sight. Google’s Fast Pair will have you connected in seconds if you’re an Android owner.
Overall review: Audio Technica ATH M20xBT
While these headphones might not have every bell and whistle, and can’t compete in the active noise cancellation game, they make a tremendous low-price entry point to over-the-ear wireless headphones. They’re light, easy to use, and last a really long time between charges. They’re comfortable for medium-term wear but may not be so for long term use.And the sound quality, is outstanding. They’re certainly worth a look if you’re after great sound for a reasonable price.
The Audio Technica ATH M20xBT sell for about $80-120 and you can get them from Audio Technica or Amazon.
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