Much like the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 I recently reviewed, Beyerdynamic’s new Free Byrd headphones are aimed directly at those who prioritize sound quality over almost everything else. When you consider these to be the company’s first-ever set of true wireless earbuds, I was pleasantly surprised at how much they stand out in other ways too: the free $249 Byrds offer marathon battery life, good active noise cancellation and have a design that breaks with the standard and timeless formula.
Excellent sound quality is just the start of an impressive first effort. And I can’t ignore the name, which is clearly a nod to Lynyrd’s classic Skynyrd – and a very cliche gig request. But no set of headphones is perfect, and the Free Byrds are somewhat downed by unintuitive controls and a physical design that might prove awkward for small ears.
The Free Byrds are neither small nor inconspicuous. They weigh a hair less than Sony’s 1000XM4 headphones, but are significantly heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, Apple AirPods Pro and other headphones that offer an airy feel and extended comfort. Beyerdynamic’s buds are bigger by comparison, and in particular, there’s a bulbous mid-section of the headphones’ design that might make the Free Byrds uncomfortable in smaller ears. I don’t fit that description, so I’ve never experienced hearing pain or fatigue.
I should have expected so much from an audio brand, but Beyerdynamic includes a generous collection of ear tips with the Free Byrds. There are five sets of silicone eartips (XS, S, M, L, XL) and three pairs of foam eartips to choose from. I always gravitate towards foam when it’s available, and there’s something about the light gray finish of the earcups combined with the orange foam tips that look great. Tell me you’re an audiophile without telling me you’re an audiophile – that’s the kind of vibe these projects. (The Free Byrds are also available in black.) The wireless charging case is larger but seems well made. I haven’t had any instances of these headphones staying connected in the case, which I’ve come across more and more since the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3s post review.
Sound quality is detailed and crisp, but doesn’t shy away from bass. But there is no confusion or harshness anywhere in the frequency range. On Maggie Rogers’ new song “Horses,” her vocals come through clearly with warmth and resonance, while the crunch of the electric guitars underneath are well preserved. Muna’s “Loose Garment” is a lovely demo track for the soundstage, with vocals and strings floating between left and right channels during the song, and drums and cymbals are always perfectly distinct with their own place in the mix. Everything about the Free Byrds is engaging and refined. With Beyerdynamic’s mobile app, you can take a hearing test to customize the sound profile or choose from presets like “warm” or “V-shaped”, but there’s currently no way to fully customize the sound profile. equalizer. Overall, I still prefer the fidelity of Sennheiser’s latest pair to these, but they’re not far apart.
For codecs, these Bluetooth 5.2 headphones support aptX Adaptive on Android – enabling higher bitrate wireless playback – and standard AAC on Apple devices. Unfortunately, they don’t offer multipoint Bluetooth for pairing with two audio sources at once, but transfer between devices is very fast and doesn’t require disconnecting from one source before you can switch to another. The free Byrds include Fast Pair support on Android, optional Alexa integration, and you can use either bud standalone in mono. There’s also a low-latency mode that can be activated while playing mobile games, and the Free Byrds are IPX4-rated for water resistance, making them suitable for exercise.
The active noise cancellation on the Free Byrds is above average, if not quite on par with Sony, Bose or Apple. There is a very faint hiss that you might pick up in completely silent environments. Some people are more sensitive to this than others, and I never noticed it when the audio was actually playing. Transparency mode is a bit more common, but serves its purpose if you need a quick check-in with the outside world. Call quality is satisfactory but not mind-blowing; Beyerdynamic promotes more of your voice through without aggressively blocking it to reduce background noise. It works well on home calls but is less ideal away.
Beyerdynamic’s touch controls might need some revisions though. I prefer physical buttons whenever possible, but I’m fine with tap gestures as long as they make sense and work consistently. Free Byrd’s basic controls are decent: you tap once to play or pause, twice to switch between ANC mode and transparency mode, or three times to skip tracks or rewind. Volume is where things get a little awkward, requiring two taps and a hold after the second to adjust the volume. It works fine once you’ve finished the sequence, but it’s not what I’d call an intuitive gesture – and I sometimes accidentally paused the music the times I didn’t nail it. It would be nice if you could customize each of these gestures to your preference, but that’s not possible right now.
Battery life is an unexpected strength, with the Free Byrds getting around eight hours of playtime with ANC on and up to 11 with it off. That’s more than enough for most needs, and the charging case provides an additional 19 hours (with ANC off), so you can potentially reach a total of 30 hours in scenarios where you don’t need it. noise suppression.
For the company’s first swing, Beyerdynamic’s Free Byrd headphones deliver fantastic sound with detail and depth, class-leading battery life and good noise cancellation. I appreciate the overabundance of included ear tips, and at least for my ears, they fit well and stay comfortable over time. But that last point will be different for each person, and I can foresee instances where these headphones will be a little too big for some. What’s here is a solid debut in the wireless earphone market for an established audio brand. I recommend the Free Byrds as they are as long as your ears match. But with some improvements to the on-board controls and maybe a smaller form factor next time around, Beyerdynamic will be among the best players in the game. That’s assuming, unlike the song, this Byrd can change.
Photograph by Chris Welch/The Verge