Cases And Accessories

Shure Aonic 40: Sound this good needs to be extra snug

Shure Aonic 40 hands-on test: Sound this good should be more pleasant

RRP $ 250.00

“A better headband would make these headphones hard to beat.”


  • Slim design

  • Excellent sound quality

  • Very good call quality

  • Tons of EQ adjustments

  • USB-C digital audio input


  • Uncomfortable with prolonged use

  • No bluetooth multipoint

  • No wear sensors

Shure’s latest wireless noise-canceling headphones, the $ 250 Aonic 40, debuted today at CES 2022, and Digital Trends was fortunate to have both hands-on (and audible) use of the new cans before their official unveiling. The judgment? Great sounding customizable headphones that are held back from receiving rave reviews due to an uncomfortable headband design and lack of bluetooth multipoint.

Heavy headphones

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Shure’s stylists did a dazzling job of making the Aonic 40 look sleek. Whether in the black or white version, the shaped, one-sided auricle forks give this box a really elegant and slim profile. You will get people’s attention. But despite their slim appearance, they’re actually quite heavy at 11 ounces. To put that number in perspective, the Sony WH-1000XM4 weighs 8.9 ounces and the Bose QuietComfort 45 weighs just 8.4 ounces.

Just because a set of doses is on the heavy side doesn’t mean they are necessarily uncomfortable. After all, Apple’s AirPods Max weigh a whopping 13 ounces, but stay comfortable thanks to their innovative mesh headband and excellent clamping force.

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The Aonic 40 should also be comfortable – it holds your head with just the right amount of pressure and the headband is wrapped in a soft but grippy silicone rubber. Unfortunately, the headband is narrower than most and the part that touches your head is even narrower. Under that layer of rubber is not enough of the padding Shure used.

This all comes together to create a pressure comb that I found passable for the first 30 minutes, but very uncomfortable afterwards. After two hours I couldn’t take it anymore. I wondered if it was just me and asked my daughter to try them out. It wasn’t 10 seconds before she yanked it off her head and said, “No!”

Another small point of criticism: Our test device had very loose swivel joints in the auricle, which gave the headphones an inferior feeling.

Satisfactory sound

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The comfort issue may not be a problem for everyone and I hope when you buy them you won’t be bothered by it because once you listen you won’t want to take them off.

I was impressed with the level of accuracy and detail Shure put into their Aonic Free True Wireless earbuds, and the Aonic 40 are just as satisfactory. Right out of the box, you get very clear high frequencies and a warm but balanced midrange that reveals many details that fewer headphones can hide.

And unlike the Aonic Free, which might sound a bit cold or harsh at times, the Aonic 40 has a more resonant sound signature. But regardless of whether it is real wireless earbuds or full-size headphones, Shure’s insider tip is the ShurePlus Play app. Inside you will find one of the most customizable EQ interfaces on the market. It has useful presets that can quickly change the Aonic 40’s tonal character, like Bass Cut, Treble Boost, and Loudness, but it also has a manual mode that gives insane control to those who love to get under the hood.

Even better, if you really like one of the built-in presets but just want to tweak it a little, you can duplicate it, adjust it, and save it as a new preset. Absolutely brilliant.

The Aonic Free comes with an analog cable if you need to connect it or want to use your own digital to analog converter (DAC). You can also use the supplied USB-C cable as a direct digital interface for computers and smartphones, so that the headphones’ integrated DAC can handle all difficult tasks. It even works while charging, which few headphones can claim. With support for AAC, aptX, and aptX HD bluetooth codecs, the Aonic 40 checks some of the most important boxes for wireless audio.

Delete calls

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Shure says calling the Aonic 40 is a strength, and I tend to agree. Even when walking on some busy roads, the microphones managed to keep most of the unwanted noise at bay while my voice remained perfectly clear. Wind noise was noticeable at times, but never a deal breaker. They don’t capture quite as much natural response as JBL’s outstanding Tour One, but they’re more than sufficient for phone calls or video meetings.

Speaking of video calls: The Aonic 40 lacks a very important function for anyone who has to jump back and forth between a computer and a phone: Bluetooth Multipoint, with which you can connect your sockets to two devices at the same time.

Shure is a clever way of activating a red indicator LED when you are on the phone. It would be the perfect way to let others know that you shouldn’t be bothered even when you’re not speaking, except that it’s hidden in the bottom of the left earcup where it’s unlikely to be noticed unless you are take a good look at it.

Noise cancellation and transparency

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

As a series of noise canceling cans, the Aonic 40 successfully takes away external noise. You get three ANC levels – easy, normal, and max – but I couldn’t see much of a difference between them so I kept them at max the whole time. It’s strong enough that you can hear callers or podcasts clearly even in fairly noisy situations, but they’re not quite as magically quiet if you can’t hear anything like the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 or the Apple AirPods Max, but on the other hand, you are significantly cheaper than these models.

The ambient mode (Shure’s name for transparency) is excellent. Fully adjustable and accessible while on the phone, almost convincing yourself that you are not wearing headphones. A special button on the right earcup allows you to switch between the ANC modes. I found it a bit awkward to use, but I love the way it works: a single click takes you from the ANC to ambient mode and then back again, while a long press turns both modes off. It’s a much better user interface than other ANC headphones – where you usually choose what that button does in an app rather than giving you all the options.


Speaking of controls, they’re pretty standard: a single button on the left earcup serves as dual power / bluetooth pairing control, while a three-button cluster on the right earcup is used for play, volume, skip tracks, answer / end calls. A dedicated button on the right earcup takes over the ANC and microphone mute during the call.

They’re easy to use as long as you’re not wearing gloves – but the buttons are too small and too close together to be precise without bare fingers.

One feature we’re seeing more and more in wireless headphones is the inclusion of wearing sensors, which automatically pause the music when you take them off your head. Sony’s WH-1000XM4 has this, as does Apple’s AirPods Max, but it’s not limited to high-end models – Wyze’s excellent and affordable $ 70 Wyze headphones got it too, but Shure didn’t add it to the Aonic 40.

Battery life

With 24 hours of playtime, the Aonic Free is pretty safe. This is more than the AirPods Max or Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 (20 hours), less than the Sony WH-1000XM4 (30 hours) and about the same as the Bose QC45 (24 hours).

We would have preferred Shure to have added more juice to these cans, but considering how heavy they already are, maybe it was the right decision.


Given the Aonic 40’s competitive price of $ 250 and its many great features, they should make a slam-dunk pick. But this uncomfortable headband makes us pause. If you can still try them on and don’t mind the narrow headband, you should seriously consider them.

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