Noise Cancelling Headphones Comparison: DALI IO-6 vs Shure Aonic 50
- Product Name: IO-6, Aonic 50
- Manufacturer: DALI, Shure
- Review Date: December 14, 2021 00:00
- MSRP: $500 - DALI IO-6, $300 - Shure Aonic 50
- First Impression: Gotta Have It!
Noise-cancelling headphones are nothing less than a blessing in the noisy world we live in today. It’s the solution to the noise pollution that has successfully pervaded every part of our lives. Most over-the-ear headphones provide passive noise isolation through their foam or leatherette earpads. However, active noise-cancellation takes the listening experience up a notch. It mutes background noise to a greater degree and is highly recommended, especially for long commutes. Today, we’ll be looking at the DALI IO-6 and the Shure Aonic 50. This comparison review will (hopefully) help you decide which noise-cancelling headphones are right for your needs.
Aesthetics: Advantage Shure Aonic 50
The Aonic 50’s packaging is as interesting as it can get. Aonic took quite a unique approach with these cans. The headphones come carefully packaged in a round carry case. The case is made of premium-quality fabric padded with protective material. It is small and looks like it is meant to be carried around. Its form factor gives it an extra point for easy portability. Since noise-cancelling headphones are primarily meant for commute anyway, the stowable carry case enhances the feature even more making Aonic 50 the perfect travel companion. The case is coated with a thin layer of leatherette as well. Just as manufacturers include metal in their device’s bodies to add sophistication, Shure has taken the same route by adding a thin layer of leatherette on the fabric. The layer exudes fineness and makes the product give off an expensive vibe.
Inside this sophisticated zippered carry case, you get a Type-A to Type-C charging cable, a 3.5mm audio cable and, of course, the main unit. The 3.5mm audio cable is always an appreciated accessory in wireless headphone packages. It shows the company’s generous efforts to serve the consumer when the product is out of juice.
The cans are absolutely gorgeous. They’re made of top-quality leather and feature fairly generous cushioning on the headband. The earcups sport sufficient padding as well and are supported by a metal fork attached to the headband. The metal enhances the premium vibe of the product very well.
The IO-6 come ensconced in a carry case made of foam and coated by a layer of cloth. The case is zippered and sports a handle at the top. It’s fairly minimal with just the brand name stamped on top. The package includes a charging cable, an audio cable, and a flight adapter. The audio cable, as mentioned above, is always appreciated but the flight adapter makes the package even better. I gave the company points right away for the generosity displayed in its accessories.
The headphones feature a fairly thin headband with not enough padding. As opposed to the Aonic 50 headphones that have thick padding going from its left earcup all the way to its right, the IO-6 cans have relatively much less cushioning, and what cushioning there is lies just in the center of the band. The earcups are smaller in diameter as compared to the Aonic 50’s. The shape of the earcups is circular instead of oval, like on the Aonic 50. The latter helps fit ears better since they’re better suited for their shape.
The overall design is also nothing extraordinary and the body sports more plastic and less metal. The only inclusion of metal is on the steel plates on the cups and steel rims running along the sides of the cups.
Overall, Shure wins this round fair and square. Not only is the design and body much more attractive, the packaging is also quite well thought-out. In terms of accessories, the only edge the IO-6 has over the Aonic 50 is that it includes a flight adapter. However, the absence of it is not a deal breaker in any way.
Comfort: Advantage Shure Aonic 50
With both headphones switched off, the IO-6 featured far better passive noise isolation than the Aonic 50 by doing extremely well at isolating the outside world from our auditory senses. It significantly muted the sound of my typing. Shure’s headphones reduced ambient noise to a much smaller extent.
From a comfort standpoint, however, the Aonic 50 won again. Its previously-mentioned thick headband and earcups came through with their generous padding. Their weight felt almost negligible and my noggin was fairly content throughout. Featuring the ideal fit, they provided sufficient clamping force, and soft padding. This resulted in a more comfortable fit as compared to the IO-6 which tired the top of my head pretty fast. Since the headband is thin and that divided the pressure on a smaller surface area, it put an unnecessary amount of added force on my head and I found myself wanting to take them off after a short while. The small earcups also made the cartilage of my ears bump into the earcup padding. While that didn’t significantly affect my listening experience, it was still bothersome for my ears. However, the Aonic 50’s tight clamping force can also be an advantage for some. It held on to my head tighter than the IO-6 did, which may be useful for those using these headphones while jogging or working out at the gym.
Sound Quality: Advantage Dali IO-6
It was not until I put music on that I found out why the IO-6 are priced more than the Aonic 50. They provided an immensely enjoyable experience. The music was loud, clear, and focused. The mids were balanced, the treble was high and sharp, and the bass was deep, carrying a nice thump with it. The sound was strong and powerful and the best part is that it retained its power even when the volume was maxed out. The sound was also layered, with every layer being very clearly discernible. I could differentiate the vocals and all the instruments separately.
Sound on the Aonic 50 isn’t bad either but it easily got outshined by the Dali IO-6. Shure’s cans feature sound that is a little muted as compared to DALI’s product. It’s neither as powerful nor as loud. The bass isn’t completely non-existent but it’s not the kind of bass that will push you out of your seat. Don’t expect to feel the low-end in your chest or throat. The treble is good and the mids are just okay. Listening to Halo by Beyonce, I did feel the sound suffer a little when I turned the volume all the way up. Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi sounded better though, even on its highest notes.
Noise-Cancelling: Advantage Dali IO-6
The Dali IO-6 may have lacked in other departments but sound is certainly their area. The headphones provided insane noise-cancellation. Passive noise isolation was already better on the IO-6 so it was not hard for them to completely mute ambient sound when their Active Noise Cancellation was switched on. DALI’s cans silenced the hum of my fairly loud pedestal fan so well that I forgot it was on. Mind you, quite a few high-end headphones have not been able to mute my extremely loud fan.
I took the subway with these, and it was the quietest subway ride of my life. I couldn’t hear the men performing a few feet away from me, neither could I hear the baby crying right opposite to me. I highly recommend these headphones for long commute. The IO-6 didn’t just mute the ambient noise around me, it also made sure it isolates and enhances my music. I did a test of this with no ambient noise around me. Upon turning the Active Noise Cancelling on, the music would turn clearer and sharper as compared to how it would sound with the mode turned off.
Shure’s headphones noise-cancelling was nowhere near as great as DALI’s. Firstly, they don’t mute everything happening around you. You will still be able to hear the hum of your washing machine and the sound of the ice cream van. At least I could clearly both. They did mute sounds a little, but not enough to rely on them as on-the-go companions.
Moreover, the Sure Aonic 50 headphones’ ambient mode and normal mode do not differ by a large margin. I could hear as much ambient sound with the ambient mode feature turned off as much as I could hear with it on. This was a little disappointing to experience as I prefer being aware of my surroundings when I’m walking outdoors with headphones on.
Controls: Advantage Shure
The Aonic 50 clearly won this round. And you can see that for yourself if you take a look at the control panel of both the headphones. The IO-6 has an incredibly complicated controls menu. It has a toggle switch on one end that acts as both a power on/off button and a Bluetooth pairing button. Right next to the switch, there are two LED lights. One of them is for revealing the pairing status while the other one acts as a battery-status-revealing light. Then, you have a port for charging followed by an ANC button.
You must be thinking that’s not a lot of buttons. However, a lot of the main functions aren’t even covered by the physical buttons on these cans. The exterior of the right earcup doubles as a touch panel and you’re required to use that for functions such as pausing, playing, lowering or raising the volume, and skipping tracks.
Tapping the top of the metal plate stamped on the exterior of the right earcup raises the volume, while tapping under the plate lowers it. The plate is supposed to be tapped once to pause/play music, twice to skip a song, and thrice to rewind. The touch panel is poor, and often doesn’t recognize your taps. In multiple instances, I had to tap twice in order to get it registered. There were also missteps and mistakes since the controls panel was not intuitive at all.
Physical buttons are often preferred over touch controls as there are less chances of missteps. Consumers also like the feel of pressing a button and making sure their action has been registered. DALI made a terrible move by including so many physical buttons but not assigning them major functions. They could have also taken a minimalistic approach by not including any buttons. But if they decided to take an alternate route by including a fully-loaded controls panel, then they should have at least made sure it controls significant features. They ended up making their earcup look messy and useless.
Shure took a totally different approach with their controls. They designed their buttons very intuitively. There’s a charging port with a power button next to it. The same power button can be used for multiple functions. It is used to power the device on/off, initialize pairing, and check the battery status. There’s a volume rocker next to the power button which is also responsible for a variety of functions. The press/play button in the center of the rocker does what the name suggests. It is also used to skip a track when pressed twice and rewind a track when pressed thrice. Pressing the center button twice declines a call and holding it for two seconds accepts it. Holding it for seven seconds factory resets the device. You can clearly see how one single button in the center of the volume rocker is used to controls so many functions. Shure aced the controls on this one by making them immensely intuitive and easy-to-master.
The volume buttons on the rocker are obviously for raising and lowering the volume, and a switch next to the rocker is responsible for switch the ANC on/off.
Battery Life: Advantage Dali IO-6
I already knew the Dali IO-6 was going to give the Sure Aonic 50 a tough time in terms of battery life. The former has an advertised 30-hour battery life while the latter has a 20-hour claim on their specs sheet. While both of them didn’t exactly live up to their specs, DALI’s cans of course still performed better than Shure’s. I used the IO-6 for around 28 hours before they gave up on me, while the Aonic 50 gave me 17 hours before they had to be tethered to a power socket.
Both the Shure and the DALI headphones had their share of advantages and disadvantages. It ultimately depends on what your priorities are and your budget ($500 for the Dali's, $300 for the Shure's). If you’re looking for beautiful aesthetics, a comfortable fit, and intuitive controls, go for Shure. However, if your priority is battery life, sound quality, and good noise-cancelling, consider the more expensive Dali IO-6. It comes down to features and user preferences. Either way you can't lose. The Shure Aonic 50 and DALI IO-6 are both excellent noise-cancelling headphones in their own right.
Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.
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