I had high standards for audio-technica’s ATH-M20xBT headset after recently reviewing their “open-back” ATH-GDL3 recently and given the company’s high pedigree. Those expectations were immediately shattered.
Audio-technica’s ATH-M20xBT has an entry-level ticket price for wireless headsets, but a top-tier studio quality. This is simply the best-sounding piece of technology I’ve ever had strapped to my head. The dynamic range on the ATH-M20xBT is incredible, with robust stereo sound, rich bass rumbles, and definition in every range above that.
Speaking of strapping the headset to my head, I don’t think I’ve ever worn better-fitting earphones. This is an area where I often have to settle for a “close-enough” fit given the size of my head, but the ATH-M20xBT extends fully to sit comfortably over both earlobes—at full extension, granted. Either way, these headphones are one of the best options around for those with big heads.
“The dynamic range on the ATH-M20xBT is incredible, with robust stereo sound, rich bass rumbles, and definition in every range above that.”
However, they’re also incredibly light, enough that I’ve worn them for entire afternoons and not noticed, with no lingering soreness. Others have left me wiggling the headbands for a bit of relief after a couple of hours. They feel as light as those cheap headphones you would get with a Walkman, or the complimentary pairs in hospitals or on airplanes, but with secure earcups and powerful sound.
I have only one small quibble with the ATH-M20xBT’s design. A small wire on each side connects the main band to the earcup, to accommodate the metal sliders inside the band that extend for fit adjustment. These seem like a considerable vulnerability, the kind of loose end that might get caught on something and accidentally wreck the entire set. At minimum extension, these cables jut out even further, so users should be wary of where they set these earphones down when not in use.
The Bluetooth pairing process was quick and painless. What really impressed me, however, was the wireless range. I can wear these anywhere in my home without losing the signal, which is more than I can say for my current go-to set, the SteelSeries Arctis 9. While the dongle-enabled Arctis 9 starts to break up if I go up one floor, depending on where I stand, the ATH-M20xBT never wavered, even through two floors. The battery life, rated at 60 hours on a single charge, also holds up, covering these two essential departments.
The left earcup houses the connection ports—one USB-C for charging and one 3.5mm headphone jack—and the onboard controls. Its three buttons have been optimized to provide practically all the functions you might need. The power button sits between the volume up and down buttons, and all can perform various tasks: press the power button twice to play/pause, or the volume buttons twice to change tracks. Low latency mode can even be toggled by a quick triple-click of the power button.
“Audiophiles will appreciate their rich sound and will find they pair nicely with the company’s range of turntables”
Through Multi-Point Pairing the ATH-M20xBT can connect to two devices simultaneously—meaning you can answer phone calls while listening to music on your computer, for example. The microphone itself is also hidden incredibly discreetly as a pinprick hole on the left headcup, but unfortunately is the weakest point of this headset. It serves well for phone calls but sounds so thin and tinny that I can’t recommend it for anything else. Zoom calls or Discord game parties deserve a little better. Honestly, I overlooked the microphone entirely through my first days with it and was just as happy not having it at all.
I would also have liked to see some kind of equalizer control, through either the company’s Connect app (which doesn’t support the ATH-M20xBT as of this writing, but could theoretically be updated to include it) or a desktop utility. The sound output is amazing, but a little control over it would go a long way.
While these small flaws hold me back from giving audio-technica a perfect 10, they pale in comparison to the overall quality of the rest of the package. So long as you don’t need a quality microphone onboard, the ATH-M20xBT is a worthwhile and cheap investment when it comes to wireless audio.
Audiophiles will appreciate their rich sound and will find they pair nicely with the company’s range of turntables. As a counterpart to the studio-quality ATH-M20x, anyone who works with audio, from podcast editors to musicians, should likewise find them a worthy wireless alternative. Even if you’d just like a light and comparatively inexpensive pair of earphones to wear on public transit, the ATH-M20xBT will have you covered.