Beyerdynamic Free Byrd Review | PCMag
Beyerdynamic may be late for the noise-canceling true wireless party, but the company’s new Free Byrd earbuds ($ 249.99) aren’t dull. They sound great, support a wide range of Bluetooth codecs and come with a lot of accessories. They also offer decent active noise reduction (ANC), although they do not compete with the best options in this price range, and their companion app (we tested the latest beta) only includes equalizer presets, not a fully adjustable EQ. For a little more money, Sony’s $ 279.99 WF-1000XM4 earphones offer superior noise reduction, a better app and equally impressive sound quality, earning our Editors’ Choice award.
A slightly bulky construction with first-class battery life
Available in black or gray, the Free Byrd earphones are slightly thick, but they fit securely without fins or stabilizers. Five pairs of silicone earplugs (XS, S, M, L, XL) and three pairs of foam earplugs (S, M, L) come in the box – we are always fans of foam tips because they provide superior passive noise reduction, tend to ensure the safest fit, and often leads to a slightly stronger bass response.
(Photo: Tim Gideon)
Internally, 10 mm dynamic drivers deliver a frequency range of 10Hz to 20kHz. The earphones are compatible with Bluetooth 5.2 and support the codecs AAC, AptX Adaptive and SBC. The aforementioned Sony earplugs and Technics EAH-AZ60 have a slight advantage here because they also include support for the more audiophile-friendly LDAC codec.
The outer panel of each earplug has a black capacitive touch strip with the Beyerdynamic logo and a status LED. Press once on the outer panel of one earplug to play or pause sound. Press twice to switch between ANC On and Transparency mode. Press the left earpiece three times to navigate one track backwards or three times to the right to skip forward one track. Finally, press and hold one of the earbuds to call the device’s voice assistant. The capacitive buttons are sensitive enough to detect touches, but sometimes we detected a delay between a press and an action; this can cause misfire if you ever try to press the button again during this delay.
An IPX4 water resistance rating is not impressive, but typical of the category. The ranking means that the ears can withstand light splashes from all directions; Neither sweaty workouts nor light rain should be a problem, just do not rinse them under a faucet or lower them. The rating does not apply to the charging bag, so be sure to dry the earphones completely before docking them. If you need an ANC in waterproof design, check out the Jabra Elite 7 Pro ($ 199) or the Jabra Elite 7 Active ($ 179), both of which have IP57 ratings.
The charging bag is a bit bulky, but the flip-top lid is easy to open and the surface has a good grip. Most other cases may not require the latter two distinctions. The front has a status LED just above the Beyerdynamic logo, while the back houses a USB-C port for the USB-C-to-USB-A charging cable included in the box. The cover supports wireless charging via the Qi standard.
Beyerdynamic estimates that the earphones can last for about eight hours per charge with the ANC on or 11 hours with it off. The cover has an additional 19 hours of extra battery life (depending on the use of ANC and volume settings), which is slightly below average.
We tested the latest beta version of the Beyerdynamic companion app (available for Android and iOS). The app is mistakenly named MIY and the logo, even more confusing, is very similar to the word “Min.” We confirmed that the search for the term “Beyerdynamic” in the App Store appears in the app, anyway.
In the app you can set up a sound profile that tailors sound to your hearing and then mix that profile with the original signal with a fader. This type of feature is increasingly common in companion apps, but unfortunately usually at the expense of full EQ controls, as is the case here. The app offers several EQ presets (bass boost, warm and steady treble, for example), but you can not adjust them or create a custom profile.
Apart from the presets and the audio profile function, you can switch between ANC and Transparent mode (or turn off both), as well as activate a low latency mode for games. You can also set up Alexa as your default voice assistant, although you will need to install the Alexa app first. Apart from the EQ error steps, we also miss the ability to customize the on-ear settings here.
Effective noise reduction (with reservations)
The Free Byrd earplugs deliver above-average noise reduction. In the testing, they repulsed loudly low-frequency rumbling (as you hear on a plane) and trampled down the low and middle tones significantly in a recording of sounding dishes and noisy conversations from a busy restaurant.
Unfortunately, despite their good performance on these tests, the earphones add a remarkable amount of high-frequency hiss – it is not unpleasant, but is a sign of less than top-class noise reduction. The earphones even give a hiss to the signal in quiet surroundings, and thus make a quiet room sound louder with ANC than without. Ultimately, if the ANC is a top priority, either the Sony WF-1000XM4 or Bose QuietComfort earbuds ($ 279.95) handle deep tones and more complex soundscapes far more efficiently and with much less in the way of a hiss.
Transparency mode works well; it allows you to easily hear the surroundings and conversation without removing the earphones. But again, we noticed a significant lag when we tried to switch modes via the on-ear controls. We also wish we could go to the All Off setting via the touch controls, but that option is only available via the app. Many other earphones allow you to add Off mode to the control system on the ear.
Detailed and balanced sound
On tracks with intense subwoofer content, such as The Knife’s “Silent Shout”, the earbuds deliver an impressive low-frequency response. At peak, unwise listening levels, the bass does not distort, and at more moderate listening levels, the low levels still sound robust and complementary to the higher frequencies.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover”, a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the sound signature. The drums on this track may sound too thumping on bass-forward in-ears, but these earphones have a beautiful balance between amplified lows and natural tones. Callahan’s baritone vocals come across with low-mid-richness and benefit from sharp high-mid-definition. The acoustic currents and percussive beats with higher register also sound bright and clear.
(Photo: Tim Gideon)
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild”, the kick drum loop gets enough high-middle presence for the attack to retain some momentum. The background vinyl hissing and crackling is also evident in the mix – we hear lots of higher frequency boosting and sculpting. The sub-bass synth hits that separate the beat come over with powerful depth – you will not feel like there is a subwoofer in your skull, but you definitely get a healthy dose of rumbling. The vocals on this track sound clear, although you may prefer a slightly more high-middle presence on this track – this is where the lack of an adjustable EQ is a real downturn.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel according to the other Mary, get a little more low frequency boost than they need, but never to the point that they upset the balance too much. Brass, strings and vocals with a higher register retain their place in the spotlight, and for the most part the extra bass depth only makes the track a little richer.
The MEMS microphone array works well. We had no trouble understanding every word from a test recording on our iPhone. We did not notice any distorted Bluetooth audio artifacts in the signal, and the microphone offers strong clarity, although Beyerdynamic noticeably filters and EQs the signal here.
A respectable first effort
The Beyerdynamic Free Byrd earphones sound fantastic and support a good selection of Bluetooth codecs. However, the lack of an adjustable EQ is annoying, and we had some issues with the response to the on-ear controls. ANC performance is above average, but suffers from an obvious and distracting hiss. Ultimately, the aforementioned Sony WF-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort earbuds are superior overall, earning both our Editors’ Choice awards. Beyerdynamic also faces tough competition from Sennheiser in the form of Momentum True Wireless 3 earphones ($ 249.95), which are a little more convincing than Free Byrd for the same price.
Do you like what you read?
Sign up Laboratory report to get the latest reviews and top product advice delivered straight to your inbox.