When reviewing the Beyerdynamic Free Byrd, it can be tough picking an appropriate benchmark. Do they need to have the kind of features that the best earbuds out there have? Do they need to have the sound quality that lives up to the company’s reputation with its other products? Do they need to make you feel like you’re in the studio with Ronnie Van Zant and co. circa 1973?
Regardless of what benchmark you pick, these are pretty great earbuds that can hold their own on most accounts. They’re not perfect, as we’ll see below, but they do most things right. They offer plenty of features, including the ones you expect, as well as a few surprises. And, they do indeed sound very good – though it’s not what I was expecting when I first put them in my ears.
After putting the Beyerdynamic Free Byrd earbuds through their paces, there’s a lot to say. It’s debatable whether they’re among the best wireless earbuds of 2022, but they’re more than worth a look. Read on to see if these are the right earbuds for you or learn more about how we test.
Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: price and availability
The Beyerdynamic Free Byrd, released in early July, is the company’s first entry into the true wireless earbuds (TWE) market. And, at £204 / $249 / AU$349, this is already among the most premium options out there.
For comparison, the Sony WF-1000XM4, considered the best earbuds out there right now by many, are a similar price at £199 / $280. Of course, you could spend even more on a pair such as the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay e8 Sport, which cost £250 / $350. The point is that the Beyerdynamic Free Byrd earbuds aren’t cheap. But, like most Beyerdynamic products, the focus is on making a premium product, and that comes at a price.
Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: design
These are chunky-looking earbuds. The top of the Beyerdynamic Free Byrd belies its inspiration with a triangle or guitar pick-shaped form. A thin, slightly raised button sits across the middle of each earbud with an LED that can only be described as expressive. It lights up solid green when charging, alternates between blue and orange when pairing and blinks blue when trying to connect.
The buttons themselves are very responsive to touch. Just read the manual before you start pressing as the list of presses and holds to perform functions is fairly extensive – for example, pressing and holding on the right earbud raises the volume while doing the same on the left lowers it.
The body of the earbud does slim down a bit, so the fit is actually fairly comfortable. The Free Byrd’s perceived chunkiness only means that it will look a little larger in the ear. It didn’t feel more intrusive than any other earbud I’ve worn. The fit is easy to fine-tune, as well, since Beyerdynamic is thoughtful enough to include five sizes of silicone tips and three sizes of foam tips.
The earbuds do seem to create a fairly tight seal, once you’ve picked the right size tips, which works as well for passive noise cancellation as it does for working out. Using these during some workouts like jogging, I had no issues with them staying in place. Also, with their IPX4 rating, there’s no issue with sweat affecting them.
The charging case is a taller variety that sits upright. It has a Y on the lid and the brand across the front in gray, while the case itself is a matte black that matches the earbuds. There’s an LED on the front that lights up when the lid is opened or the case is charging. And, there’s a USB-C port on the back for charging. You can also power up via wireless charging.
Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: performance
The Beyerdynamic Free Byrd might be better named Free Bass. I have not experienced a set of true wireless earbuds with more bass than these. The surprising thing, though, is that as in-your-face as that bass is, it doesn’t drown out or muddy the rest of the frequency response.
In fact, the Beyerdynamic seems to have the sub-bass response you would expect with a subwoofer. When listening to At The Drive-In’s “Rascuache,” there’s a lot of low-end information that would be lost with most other headphones, let alone earbuds.
An interesting side effect of the bass response is that most music recorded for vinyl – such as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “I Need You” – has somewhat anemic bass compared to more modern productions. But these headphones lift that bass and smack you in the face with it… in a good way. Just imagine how hard these hit then when you listen to something like J. Cole’s “pride.is.the.devil.”
The downside of that massive bass, though, is that the earbuds don’t have quite the punch that more mid-focused earbuds would have. That’s not to say that the mids aren’t there. You can hear vocals clearly. Guitars are fully represented. And, even the high end is detailed, though I wouldn’t use the word crisp to describe these earbuds. The sound signature is on the warmer side.
Of course, you can EQ the sound to a degree to adjust more to taste. Specifically, there’s the MIY app, in beta during my test, which not only lets you select from a number of equalizer presets – though there’s no customizable settings – but also lets you take a listening test to fine-tune the audio frequency to the way your ears receive aural information.
The app also lets you toggle between ANC and transparency modes (or turn them off), choose voice assistants, and adjust the Low Latency Mode meant for use with mobile gaming. By the way, if you like playing mobile games, that low latency mode will reduce any potential delays so you’ll get immediate feedback from your games.
Like most true wireless earbuds – except for maybe the bargain-basement models – these come with active noise cancellation and transparency modes. A double tap quickly switches back and forth between the two while the app lets you toggle between or turn them off. For some reason, the app is not always responsive, something that will hopefully be fixed in a firmware update, but toggling physically works quickly and seamlessly.
As far as the quality of either mode, they’re not going to blow anyone away who’s used ANC or transparency modes, though they work as intended. Active Noise Cancellation drastically reduces ambient noise but doesn’t get rid of it entirely.
For example, I tested ANC when I could clearly hear someone mowing their lawn outside my window. With it on, I could barely hear the mower, though I could still tell it was there. Transparency mode lets you hear the outside world fairly well. When on, it seems very slightly muffled, but that’s due to the warmer sound profile of these earbuds.
Notably, call quality is a little bit of a letdown. It’s not bad – in fact, it’s probably on par with plenty of other earbuds I’ve tried or tested. But, the speaker’s voice is slightly muffled in comparison to just speaking directly into the phone. That said, it seemed to do an OK job rejecting background noise. On the plus side, I had no issues hearing the other side of the call.
Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: battery
The battery life on these earbuds will free you from needing that carrying case too often. Instead of the typical 4-6 hour battery life for a single charge, these earbuds will give you 11 hours. That’s incredibly impressive. In fact, after four hours of use, the earbuds read as having 65% battery left – though that was with active noise cancellation and Low Latency Mode turned off.
The case can charge the earbuds four times. Unlike the earbuds which you can monitor in the app, there’s no way to see the charging case’s remaining battery life. That said, I charged the case once when I first got the Free Byrd and didn’t need to plug the earbuds in again in the two weeks since receiving them for testing.
Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: verdict
Make no mistake: the Beyerdynamic Free Byrd is as good as most earbuds on the market. You have solid active noise cancellation and transparency modes accessible with a press of a button, multiple EQ presets, a low latency mode and even an EQ personalization available via the MIY app, as well as the same call functionality of most other TWS earbuds.
Of course, not everything is perfect. That call functionality is decent but not as good as some other earbuds that cost less. And, the price will make people question whether they’re that much better than multiple solid options available at or below £200 / $200.
But, if there’s one thing that sets the Beyerdynamic Free Byrd apart, aside from some of the features, it’s the sound. I have never experienced a set of earbuds, let alone headphones, with bigger yet perfectly controlled bass than these. This is not the case of someone having a subwoofer in the back of their Geo Metro overpowering everything. You can hear everything else clearly. The bass will never overwhelm the rest of the audio. But it is enormous.
On the whole, the sound signature is a pleasure to listen to, if it is on the warm side. So, depending on your preferred genre, you might love these for hip hop, EDM and even classic rock or want to either EQ or look for something else for something like modern rock.
Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: also consider
The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 might seem like a strange suggestion here. It’s even more expensive, has a shorter though still solid battery life and doesn't come with active noise cancellation. But, those earbuds have a similarly warm and high-quality sound signature, just with less bass.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is just a little more expensive and comes with world-class active noise cancellation. So, if that's your top priority, you might want to go with these buds instead. That said, you’ll miss out on the extraordinary battery life of the Free Byrd and some of its more interesting features, not to mention the sound profile.
If you’re hoping for something with most of the same functionality but a more reasonable price, the Beats Fit Pro sound almost as good, come with active noise cancellation as well as transparency mode, and even integrate more seamlessly with iOS devices since they’re technically an Apple product.