I was a big fan of the Shure Aonic 50 when it initially released a few years ago. Since then, Shure has focused a lot on their IEMs and wireless adapters, with no mention of a follow-up headphone mentioned until now. The Aonic 40 has finally been released, giving people a less expensive option in the wireless market. At full price, the Aonic 40 is $249, with discounts being as low at $199. With the Aonic 40 bringing over the wealth of features from the Aonic 50 through Shure’s PlayPlus app, will it be a new top rival for some of the most popular over-ear Bluetooth headphones on the market today?
What You Get
- Carrying case
- 3.5mm audio cable
- USB-C charging cable
Look and Feel
Shure chooses some changes in quality to the build of their wireless design. The Aonic 50 used great materials for its frame, but the Aonic 40 takes a bit of a shortcut with its more plastic makeup. With that being said, it makes sense for the decrease in price for the build to take a hit, and even then its construction still comes together quite well. The ear pads offer plenty of isolation and comfort, however the cup size isn’t as big as the Aonic 50.
Design and Functionality
Unlike a lot of wireless headphones on the market, the Aonic 40 doesn’t use a touch sensitive interface. Instead, the Aonic 40 uses traditional buttons for its actions, which can be completely customized within the Shure PlayPlus app. Toggling ANC, play/pause, and voice assistant are a few actions that you can assign to different buttons on the side panel of the headphones. Inside the app, you also get a four band parametric EQ that gives you options to boost certain frequency bands and adjust their Q size as well. As for the noise-canceling, the Aonic 40 doesn’t give you Sony levels of isolation but it puts up a valiant effort with its adjustment settings. On max level, the ANC is still pretty average, but should definitely block out harsh environmental noise.
The Aonic 40 uses Bluetooth 5.0 for high bandwidth and range. It supports SBC, AAC, aptX , and aptX HD. Pairing was simple and fast when connecting to my iPhone and the Shure Play Plus app.
Off of a single charge, the Aonic 40 should give you 25 hours of playtime, with only 15 minutes of charge adding up to 5 hours. For the price it’s a plentiful battery life that should get you through a couple days of use before needing to charge fully.
For an over-ear wireless headphone, the Aonic 40 does a pretty good job spacing out its linear soundstage. With no spatial audio features implemented yet, the Aonic 40 needs to rely on its standard stereo imaging, to which it does and admirable job. Its width isn’t anything to find yourself being in awe of, but its closer proximity is at least given proper layering and separation. With a more contained stereo field, the inward headspace needs to avoid conjoining sound elements together, which the Aonic 40 does respectfully. For some added height, try using the in-app EQ to raise to raise some of the high-end. I used a high-shelf for some of my listening, and it brought out the soundstage more effectively.
The Aonic 40 doesn’t over-exaggerate its bass in any considerable way, but you’ll still get a good amount of heft when it’s called for. In its factory default form, the bass provides a full resonance of tone that doesn’t muddy or cloud the bass in booming textures. It works best when dealing with some standout bass guitar grooves, as they really give the Aonic’s presentation some needed energy. Of course, you can boost some of the bass frequencies using EQ, which can add some rumble but in a controlled manner. I gave the bass a smaller shelf to just give the timbre a bit more meat, and it gave me the effect I needed without sounding excessive.
There’s a flawed response in the midrange that presents a more selective range of frequencies. You get little bits of recession here and there, but it is mostly clear, finding ways to balance itself quite well. It’s a softer resonance, but instruments and vocals still come through in a pleasant fashion. Low and upper mids have an average bump, but leave some notches in the middle that benefit better from EQ. Vocal performances come off the most naturally, coming forward and giving the mids some power.
Slightly underemphasized, but strengthens with EQ of course. The frequencies don’t completely drop out or even sound dull for that matter, but their timbre is neutral in a way where it’s rarely called attention to. It’s flat and even, with some roll-off in the upper-highs that can leave some instruments too much in the background. Using EQ, these elements are given a lot more focus, and can even add some sparkle to the timbre. The sound signature appears more complete on a whole after its use.
The Shure Aonic 40 is a worthy Bluetooth headphone, especially when it has its price knocked down a bit. Its greatest attributes are its multiple levels of personalization, from its in-app EQ to its customizable controls. The ANC levels are also a nice feature, even if the max setting doesn’t fully achieve exactly the level of isolation you might be looking for. Of course, when comparing the ANC to Sony, not a lot of headphones offer the same isolation, but I can name the Strauss and Wanger BT501 which has a similar level of noise0canceling for less. It might not stack up to the Aonic 50 build wise, but it still seems durable, and the comfort is as satisfying as it ever was.
· Clean default sound signature
· Custom EQ
· Custom controls
· Instant pairing
· Fast charging
· Average ANC
The Shure Aonic 40 is available here.