The Aonic 5 earphones are available in black, clear or red and have detachable cables. The cord is semi-rigid and malleable near the earbuds so it can be bent slightly, over and behind the ear, for a secure fit that stays in place. There are three symmetrical armature drivers in each earbud that deliver a frequency range from 18 Hz to 19 kHz.
The cable has an in-line remote control pocket that sits approximately at chin level along the right ear cable. The three-button remote control has a central multi-function button that controls playback, track navigation and call management. There are also plus / minus buttons that control the volume.
The earbuds come with a variety of fit accessories including four pairs of Comply foam earbuds of various sizes, three pairs of regular foam earbuds, three pairs of silicone soft-flex earbuds of various sizes, one pair or flange-style earbuds and one Not rounded orange foam pair. That’s pretty much a lot of work. You also get an earwax cleaning tool, a quarter-inch headphone jack adapter for stereo and pro gear, and a compact, circular, hard-shell zippered case.
As mentioned earlier, there are interchangeable filter nozzles that offer neutral, light, or warm tone signatures. A replacement tool is also included with the headphones so that you can easily replace them. You will receive a small storage container with a screw cap for the nozzles that are not used. So for the price, you get a nice selection of accessories.
The filter nozzles are easy to replace, but what they offer is a subtle, not drastic, setting. The included neutral density filters offer the truest sound signature, while the bright filters allow an increase of 2.5 decibels between 1 kHz and 8 kHz. The warm filters do not offer a bass boost, as you might assume, but actually 2.5 decibels to decrease in the same range from 1 kHz to 8 kHz. There is no bass boost option for recording. These filters are more about customizing the sound signature to your liking than drastically customizing the sound signature.
It’s actually hard to imagine that you’d want to hear a lighter version of the already fairly mid- and high-focus sound signature, but you have that option with the bright nozzle filter. A simple case can be made for the warm nozzle, which provides a slightly less bright sound signature – but here, too, it no longer offers a low-frequency presence. We tested with all of the nozzles, and it’s not hard to imagine some users hitting the neutral nozzle warm, but the sound signature will be aimed at mid-mids with not exaggerated lows regardless. Our test results discussed below relate to the neutral density filter nozzle.
See how we test headphonesSee how we test headphones
On tracks with intense sub-bass content like The Knife’s “Silent Shout”, the headphones deliver precise, shallow bass depth. Anyone looking for a subwoofer-like presence will be disappointed. Things never sound thin, but the focus across the frequency range is on clarity and there is no bass boost in the lows for that purpose. You get a solid feel for the powerful sub-bass hits, but this is clinical, accurate sound signature, and little stands in the way of the low-frequency push.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the overall sonic signature of the Aonic 5. The drums on this track can sound excessively thunderous on bass-forward-in-ears, but sound here don’t overdo them – this is a signature flat-response signature through and through. Even Callahan’s baritone vocals sound more crisp than full, which is rare in our bass-forward era. There is detail in the mids and highs that come through brilliantly, and the general sound signature here is clarity, balance, and transparency. This makes the headphones ideal for mix review and critical listening. For users who are used to hearing a little more bass depth, the Aonic 5 might be a little too clinical.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop gets an ideal amount of high-mid presence so that its attack retains its punch. The vinyl crackle and hiss that can usually be heard in the background almost takes a small step forward here, but this seems to be due to the lack of bass boosting rather than a real sculpture in the highs. The sub-bass synth hits are delivered with precise presence, but nothing like the menacing subwoofer rumble we often hear through bass-forward in-ear pairs on this track. The vocals are delivered clean and clear with no additional sibilance.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel after the other Mary, sounds flawless through the Aonic 5. The lower register instrumentation sounds exaggerated, but it also manages not to sound thin. The focus is on the mids and highs, and therefore brass, strings and higher register vocals are delivered with ideal clarity and attention to detail.
We’re seeing fewer wired in-ear options out there, but there are still plenty of people who prefer a wired, potentially lossless signal to a wireless one. For those looking for a premium, precise in-ear solution, the Shure Aonic 5 earbuds are a great option. We’re also fans of the $ 180 Bowers & Wilkins C5 Series 2, which have a comparatively bass-forward sound signature, and the custom-molded $ 499 Ultimate Ears UE 5 Pro, which are in-ear monitors that can act as headphones. Ultimately, this is about price – it is possible to have a sound signature that is less accurate for that. The $ 350 Etymotic ER4 SR (or the XR model with a bit more bass depth) is pretty much an industry standard for flat-response audio. What Shure delivers with the Aonic 5 is also pretty accurate, but ultimately it feels a little overpriced.
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