Sound controls

Great sound, but wish they were less bulky – Review Geek

Evaluation:
7/10
?
  • 1 – Absolute hot waste
  • 2 – A kind of lukewarm waste
  • 3 – Severely flawed design
  • 4 – Some advantages, many disadvantages
  • 5 – Acceptably imperfect
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great, but not best in class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with some footnotes
  • 9 – Shut up and take my money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $249

Justin Duino

True Wireless Headphones (TWE) are a dime a dozen, but the ones that stand out from the crowd sound great, fit comfortably, and have decent microphones. Beyerdynamic, known for its high-quality over-ear headphones, took on that challenge with the Free BYRDs, and they largely succeeded.

Here’s what we like

  • Solid sound profile
  • Microphone is better than average
  • Great battery life

And what we don’t do

  • Larger than most headphones
  • Non-traditional touch controls
  • Dear

The buds are bigger than I would like

  • Lester: 7g per earbud, 74g case with earbuds
  • Dimensions (charging case): 1.7 x 2.68 x 1.18 inches (43 x 68 x 30mm)
  • Bluetooth version: 5.2
  • Protection against water and dust: IPX4
  • Loading: USB-C and Qi wireless charging
  • Battery life: 11 hours without ANC, 8 hours with ANC, charging case provides additional 19 hours

Pulling the Beyerdynamic Free BYRD out of the charging case, I was surprised by the size of each of the headphones. Compared to the sleek design of the AirPods Pro and the small size of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro that stow in your ear, the Free BYRD seem to have added an extra layer to a standard-sized earbud.

All the extra space makes the touch controls easy to use. Instead of sensing the vibration of hitting the earpiece, Free BYRD’s Beyerdynamic logo is touch-sensitive. This allows the headphones to recognize light and hard taps.

The only headphones I’ve tested that come close to the size of the Free BYRD are the Sony WF-1000XM4. These, which are often touted as the best noise-canceling wireless headphones, are bulky due to the high-end speaker and built-in technology. Why then are free BYRDs so big? I’m not sure, because the ANC (Active Noise Cancelling) isn’t as good, but after a few days of wearing them, I forgot their size.

To note: A Beyerdynamic representative didn’t comment when asked if Free BYRD’s name refers to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song.

The good news is that despite being prominent in your ears, weighing two to three grams more than other headphones, and a lack of ear cups to stabilize the devices, the Beyerdynamic Free BYRD never felt heavy. Yes, my ears hurt after wearing them for four or more hours straight, but I also feel that way after wearing earbuds for an extended period of time.

And speaking of long periods of listening, the battery life of the headphones was fantastic. Even with ANC on, I never killed the free BYRDs in one sitting. The company claims 8-11 hours of listening time depending on features enabled, an additional 19 hours using the charging case’s built-in battery, and the ability to get just over an hour of use after 10 minutes of charging.

When it’s time to charge the earbuds, toss them in the charging case, which uses magnets to perfectly align each earbud with two pogo pins. You can then either plug the included half-meter-long (20-inch) USB-C to A cable into the back of the case, or place the device on a Qi wireless charger.

The sound is excellent after some adjustments

Beyerdynamic Free BYRD headphones in a person's hand
Justin Duino
  • Driver Size: 10mm
  • Codec: Qualcomm aptX adaptive, AAC, SBC
  • Listening Modes: ANC (Hybrid Feed-Back and Feed-Forward), Transparency, None
  • Sensors: In-ear detection (cannot be disabled)

Now let’s talk about the sound quality, because the Beyerdynamic name gave me high hopes for the Free BYRD. I’m no audiophile, but out of the box I found them well tuned, if a bit lacking. It all sounded good, and I’m sure most people would be happy with the default setup, but I wanted a little more punch. Fortunately, the company’s mobile app (more on that below) includes built-in EQ settings and the ability to customize the sound to your ears using a Mimi audio test.

After customizing the sound to my ears and testing the available EQ profiles, I opted for the “V-shape” option, which boosted the lows and highs. Again, we’ll talk more about the app below, but I wish I could manually adjust the EQ presets to really define the sound.

We should also discuss Free BYRD’s ANC and Transparency modes. Starting with ANC, I was honestly disappointed with the performance of these headphones. While it definitely cut out a decent amount of white noise compared to ANC being off, there was still a ton of sound coming in. They’re nowhere as sound isolating as other headphones like the AirPods Pro, so ANC can only do a lot.

I recommend trying out the eight pairs of ear tips that come with the headphones (three of which are foam). Finding the right fit ensures that as little sound as possible reaches your ears.

Transparency mode, on the other hand, was surprisingly good. It’s nowhere as good as the one found on the AirPods, which lets you talk to others as if there’s nothing in your ears, but it’s still pretty clear. Vocals still sound a bit electronic and you can tell the sound is partially channeled using Free BYRD’s microphones.

Microphone is better than average

Beyerdynamic Free BYRD earphone in a person's ear
Justin Duino
  • Type of microphone: MEMS, omnidirectional
  • Signal to noise ratio: 64dB
  • Speech enhancement: Qualcomm cVc (8. Gen.), 2 mics

It is obvious that most Bluetooth headphones do not have good microphones. The primary purpose of the accessory is usually music and audio playback, and since the microphone is usually quite a distance from your mouth, there’s little to do.

To my surprise, when I called people using the Beyerdynamic headphones, the person on the other end had no problem hearing me. They shared that it didn’t sound like I was talking into my phone, but it was better than most wireless headphones they had heard on Zoom.

I recorded two mic tests on the Free BYRD which you can listen to below:

Microphone test without background noise


Microphone test with background noise

As you can hear in the second clip, when there’s background noise, part of it pops out. Fortunately, the free BYRD eliminated most of it without distorting my voice too much. I was impressed.

The app should let you change the touch controls

Everything from EQ settings to firmware updates are live in Beyerdynamic’s MIY (Make It Yours) app (available on iPhone and Android). It’s your one-stop-shop for customizing the sound of free BYRDs and setting the voice assistant you want to use (including the ability to use Amazon Alexa).

As stated above, I followed the app’s instructions to test my hearing for a personalized listening experience. I also went in and swapped between some of the EQ profiles. Both of these improved my listening experience, although I wish there were custom EQ controls, even though all they did was let you change the intensity of each profile.

The app’s biggest limitation is the inability to reassign touch controls, which is annoying because Beyerdynamic has chosen touch controls that differ from most of its competitors. For example, if you double tap/tap the Apple AirPods, you will skip to the next song. But with free BYRDs, double-clicking toggles between ANC and Transparency modes. You have to tap three times – which is used to go back to a song on most buds – to advance. I can’t tell you how often I accidentally enabled Transparency mode during my tests.

The MIY app has an entire section dedicated to teaching you the various Free BYRD commands, so I don’t see why Beyerdynamic couldn’t use this area to introduce customization settings.

Another change I would like to see in the MIY app is in the “Statistics” section. Opening the menu, you’re greeted with headphones run time, play time, phone time, and startups. Unfortunately, you can only see lifetime stats. You can’t view data for your current listening period, a 30-day average, or anything else.

Should you buy Beyerdynamic Free BYRD headphones?

The more I used the free BYRDs, the more I liked them. The company’s oversized headphones took some getting used to, but the sound quality and microphone quality won me over quickly.

The price is the most significant drawback of these Beyerdynamic true wireless headphones. If you’re willing to spend over $200 on TWE, consider the Jabra Elite 85t and Apple AirPods Pro. Both offer sleeker designs, best-in-class audio quality, and frequently go on sale.

Another thing to consider is that the free BYRDs do not support Bluetooth multipoint. You can pair them with up to six devices and quickly switch between them, but you can’t connect to two devices simultaneously and be able to pull audio from either.

But if you like what Beyerdynamic offers with the free BYRDs, you can buy them directly from the company or from Amazon for $249 in black or gray (see above).

Here’s what we like

  • Solid sound profile
  • Microphone is better than average
  • Great battery life

And what we don’t do

  • Larger than most headphones
  • Non-traditional touch controls
  • Dear