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Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: A music charmer, but no ANC high-flyer

Expectations are high, but these earbuds have too many better performing ANC rivals at the price

Hero shot of Beyerdynamic Free Byrd in charging case
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Beyerdynamic Free Byrd have plenty to recommend them — not least their lively overall sound — but at the price better overall ANC performance can be found elsewhere.

Pros

  • +

    Lively, substantial sound

  • +

    Impressive specification

  • +

    Personal sound customisation

Cons

  • -

    Look and feel doesn't feel particularly premium

  • -

    ANC is nothing special

  • -

    Sound can sometimes be inarticulate

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd: Specifications

Price: $249
Colors: Black; gray
Battery life (rated): 8 hours (ANC on); 11 hours (ANC off); Up to 22 hours via charging case
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 (codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive)
Water resistance: Yes (IPX4 rated)
Size: 1.7 x 2.7 x 1.2-inches
Weight: 0.25 ounces (per bud); 2.12 ounces (charging case)

Beyerdynamic is pretty late to the true wireless earbud party, but better late than never as the saying goes. The Free Byrd are here now, and these active noise cancelling earbuds are intended to make the Beyerdynamic name as prevalent in the true wireless arena as it is in every other area of the headphone world.

Ultimately, though, the Free Byrd are just wide of the mark. Read our full Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review below to find out more.

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd box showing contents

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: Price and availability

The Beyerdynamic Free Byrd are on sale now priced at $249 / £205 / AU$349. They can be purchased from Beyerdynamic's website (opens in new tab) directly, or via UK distributor Polar (opens in new tab), as well as from online retailer Amazon (opens in new tab).

The pricing puts the German brand’s first stab at the true wireless market in direct competition with proven premium designs from the likes of Astell & Kern, Bose, Sennheiser and Sony… so at the very least you have to admire Beyerdynamic’s ambition and confidence. Mind you, there’s no doubting Beyerdynamic’s wider credentials, and so the Free Byrd are rather more hotly anticipated than they otherwise might be.

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd on a white background with orange eartips fitted

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: Design

It’s hard to make a product that’s necessarily small, light and discreet to look or feel upmarket, especially when form is dictated by function as much as where wireless earbuds are concerned. But nevertheless, the Beyerdynamic Free Byrd don’t look or feel even remotely special. The plastics from which both the earbuds and their charging case are built don’t feel anything beyond acceptable. Fit for purpose isn’t an especially exciting way of describing a product that’s priced to compete with some properly premium alternatives, but it’s about as generous as we can be here. 

The ‘twist-to-fit’ aspect of the design is very successful, though, and at least Beyerdynamic seems to have spent some time considering the ergonomic aspects of the design of the Free Byrd. The IPX4 certification means they’re not especially fussy about the situations they're used in, and are sufficiently sweat and water resistant for use in most activities.

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd charging case in black

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: Comfort and fit 

At 0.25 ounces per side the Free Byrd are far from the lightest earbuds around. But the decently ergonomic design we’ve already discussed, along with a very wide selection of eartips, makes getting the correct fit fairly straightforward.

Beyerdynamic provides eight pairs of eartips in the Free Byrd packaging, so there really ought to be something to suit even the stranger ear. Three foam pairs (‘S’, ‘M’ and ‘L’) in a very lively orange finish and five silicone alternatives (‘XS’, ‘S’, ‘M’, ‘L’ and ‘XL’) in rather more sober black, should be plenty.

They don’t feel the most secure when in situ, but as long as you accept that these are not sports earbuds and will work themselves loose if you spend any significant time running (for example) while wearing them, there’s not too much to complain about where comfort and fit are concerned.

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd lifestyle shot showing earbuds in gray in charging case held in hand

(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: Controls

Each earbud features a capacitive touch surface (which sits handily proud of the main surface of the earbud), from where the major functions (play/pause, volume up/down, skip forwards/backwards, answer/end/reject call, ANC on/transparency) are easily, reliably and consistently accessible. The right earbud can also summon your source player’s native voice assistant, and from there the mic array proves adept at issuing commands.

The Free Byrd are compatible with Beyerdynamic’s MIY (Make It Yours) control app, which gives access to some EQ presets, allows ANC to be switched off entirely, and lets you select low latency mode — handy if you’re using the earbuds while gaming. And it’s also home to Mimi sound customisation, which assesses your hearing and adapts the sound you receive accordingly.

Image showing Beyerdynamic Free Byrd contents and accessories

(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: Sound quality

The Beyerdynamic use a 10mm full-range dynamic driver in each earbud to deliver sound. That’s a fairly big item by prevailing standards, and it results in a fairly big presentation. 

Certainly an MQA-powered TIDAL Masters file of "Hold Me In Your Arms Again" by GusGus featuring John Grant wants for nothing where scale, momentum or low-frequency presence are concerned. The Free Byrd are a spacious and well-defined listen, with energy and drive to spare. The bottom end grinds and squelches in the analogue manner, digs very deep, and hits good and hard. There’s a nice pocket of space for the various vocal strands in the midrange to flex their muscles, and the treatment on some of the voices is made apparent. The top end is rolled off just slightly, which can make the overall presentation sound a little blunt - but, again, there’s no shortage of drive or attack here.

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd lifestyle shot showing man in a hat with beard and wearing earbuds

(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

Switching to the quieter, more contemplative and considerably less hectic sound of Ljósið by Ólafur Arnalds exposes a slight lack of articulacy in the Free Byrd, though. When there’s no requirement for vivaciousness, the Beyerdynamic aren’t the most precise or insightful pair of earbuds this sort of money can buy. They have no problem handling broad dynamic shifts — in fact, they seem to revel in them — but where harmonic variations apparent in a solo piano or an unaccompanied violin are concerned, the Free Byrd aren’t as attentive as they might be. As a result, the piece sounds just a little matter-of-fact when it should be lyrical and emotive.

Despite the relative shortage of insight and detail, tonality is consistent from the bottom of the frequency range to the top. The Beyerdynamic express rhythms well, and are equally confident where integration and soundstaging are concerned. Even tricky or lop-sided tempos present no meaningful problems.

As far as noise-cancellation is concerned, the Free Byrd are competitive without ever threatening the class-leaders (by which we mean Bose, really, with Sennheiser and Sony both part of the argument too). They’re very adept at dealing with low-frequency sounds, and suppress wind-noise efficiently too — but higher-frequency external sounds routinely make it through.

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd earbuds in charging case

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: Battery life

With ANC switched off, the Free Byrd can go for around 11 hours; switch ANC on and that figure drops to more like 8 — the case is said to hold roughly two more full charges. These are pretty decent numbers for ANC wireless earbuds, and better than the AirPods Pro — our wireless ANC benchmark. The Beyerdynamic can also be wirelessly charged via a Qi charger pad, and ten minutes on the power is enough for more than an hour’s playback.

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd lifestyle image showing female outdoors with laptop and wearing earbuds

(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: Call quality and connectivity

The Beyerdynamic use Bluetooth 5.2 for wireless connectivity, and are compatible with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codecs. The Free Byrd maintain a robust wireless connection — they’re hard to disrupt, even if you wander a fair distance from your source player.

Each earbud features a three-mic array with Qualcomm dual-mic cVc taking care of speech intelligibility. The technology is as effective here as it seems to be everywhere else — call quality is very good indeed, and the Free Byrd do a decent (if hardly Sennheiser-bothering) job of suppressing wind-noise too. 

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review: Verdict

In isolation, the Beyerdynamic Free Byrd have plenty to recommend them — not least their burly, up-and-at-’em attitude and zippy, lively overall sound. But, of course, there’s no such thing as ‘isolation’ where products like this are concerned — and for this money, it’s possible to buy greater fidelity, better noise-cancellation and superior pride of ownership elsewhere.

Simon is a freelance technology journalist and consultant, with particular emphasis on the audio/video aspects of home entertainment. Before embracing the carefree life of the freelancer, he was editor of What Hi-Fi? – since then, he's written for titles such as Wired, Metro, The Guardian and Stuff, among many others. Given time, Simon likes nothing more than publishing and then quickly deleting tweets about the state of the nation (in general), the state of Aston Villa (in particular) and the state of his partner's cat.