Today here at Toneshift I have a treat for your minds ears. I am pleased that German audio equipment manufacturer Beyerdynamic was the first of several companies to step up to our plate so I might have an honest listen to a few of their current professional and audiophile headphone and earbud models. And girl oh boy am I glad they did as this trio of various designs make up a wonderful lot. In a word Beyerdynamic is….well, dynamic (to say the least) as we have a look!
Based in Heilbronn, Germany the company has been in the business since the roaring 20’s (maybe I can find an example from around that era to test!). Below you will find direct links to the best current prices in real time via Amazon. Of the three headset/buds we are looking at today two are wired including the DT 240 Pro, a professional studio headphone for monitoring (MSRP $99) and the Xelento Remote earbuds, a high-end in-ear headphone that includes a 3-button universal remote and microphone for most Apple/Android devices (MSRP $999). Lastly I will talk about the Aventho Wireless, a mobile Bluetooth headset with Tesla technology and a whole lot of bells and whistles (MSRP $449). As you can see they offer multiple price points and options, and beyond these three, Beyerdynamic has a vast selection for every possible listening situation and preference.
Now, always keep your personal listening needs in check. You may require something to best listen to at the gym or while otherwise physically active, or perhaps you just want to jam dance to your favorite albums while breaking into an asymmetrical, uncoordinated interpretive dance in your living room. Hmmm, still, there’s the type among us who simply wants to perch a fine goblet of chardonnay in your easiest chair only to lay back into the silky essence of the latest orchestral piece from a symphony orchestra of choice. Honestly, these guys have got you covered! Now on to the reviews.
MODEL: Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro
COST: $; affordable for the pro on the go, and those in the know
DESIGN: Simple, matte black, low profile, sturdy plastic and metal construction
TECH FEATURES: 5-35,000 Hz; dynamic transducer; 34 ohms; without noise cancellation these still have a powerful and impressive blockage of exterior noise.
COMFORT: Boasts nominal headband pressure and, yes, I could feel it. This set weighs 196 grams (without the 1.25-3 meter expandable cable) which is not terribly heavy, but the pressure is induced on the ears rather than at the top. I have fairly small ears so they fit into the earcups quite nicely. The padded headband, once adjusted to your sweet spot will offer good support for minimal slippage as they offer a standard to moderately strong clamping feel (depending on your head size). The earpads are some kind of foam covered in a soft pleather (vegan leather?) and are reasonably comfy, though my ears got a touch warm after a half hour of listening – nothing unreasonable though. With my eyeglasses on and under the earcups there was no significant added pressure.
EXTRAS: detachable combo straight/coiled cable with gold-plated mini stereo jack (3.5 mm standard) and a 1/4″ adapter; unbranded black silky polyester drawstring bag
SOUND TEST: Shhhh. What’s that I hear? Holy mole macaroni batchildren, these impressed from note one. I hooked them up to my 27″ iMac and turned on Spotify, and then the headphones turned me on! Keep in mind I find to best test headphones to have the volume set to 50% for a strong average, though when listening up to 75% there was no hiss, no loss, only bolder and more dynamic, but I want to save my ears at 50-something! What is most exciting are the mids, which is where, for me, the action must reside. These have serious detail and switching between electronica tracks from Backtearer to Cylob I was literally lost in the overt thwaps and phonic-tronics.
These brought a quintessential zest to the table, and I can easily imagine someone who edits soundwork might want to consider using these ‘phones. As for bass frequencies and big bad boom-booms, I’d rate these somewhere in the middle range. While opting for The Human League’s Hysteria and Deee-Lite’s World Clique as examples of funky percussion no beat was skipped, it was all there out in the open – and there were plenty of in-house shoulder shimmies and head bobs without the brazen glare of unnecessary bass. It’s like I’m hearing “how do you say delicious, delovely, delectable, divine?” in a new language. Likely the dimensional way in which the original was intended. The grooves are streamlined in the way in which they deliver the goods. These do not offer any silly bass boost gimmicks like other makers – these have a steady beat that is clean and not overstated. A sound you can easily get lost in, not to thrash to.
Rated for studio and mobile applications I moved on to my Google ProjectFi-enabled MotoX⁴. At first I chose Google Play and had to crank the volume all the way up for impact. Man, I’ll never go back to my old Apple earbuds. On the playlist everything from Mannequin Lung to David Bowie to Saint Etienne to Tina Turner were punchy, the vocals brought the thrill and not the shrill. In fact, on the phone I experienced a more rounded bass signature, something I did not at all expect, though I have tailored my Mac with an equalizer to suit these here ears. The mids here were not as clean, but still better than several earbuds of yore. When listening to The KVB’s track Radiant Hour, however, I was trapped in this dreary post-Sisters of Mercy pop landscape that broods ever so sweetly over the bleary jangle of guitars and shoegaze vocals. It was the best mobile performance in my test, for all intents, etc. Though I must add that overall my computer was a better match for these cans. In the end I’d recommend using these for your hi-fi or desktop system primarily, though you’d likely have a sleek and cool look commuting in them as well. I’m looking forward to how the others here might better fit that mobile niche.
MODEL: Beyerdynamic Xelento Remote
COST: $$$; expensive high-end earbuds for serious audiophiles
DESIGN: Stunning, jewelry-like presentation, ergonomic, flush w/ear pod design engineered in a gleaming chrome finish
TECH FEATURES: Hi-Res Audio; 8-48,000 Hz; dynamic transducer with moving coil and Tesla driver; 16 ohms.
COMFORT: With a bit of finesse you can get these perfectly customized to your own ears, and with the endless tips all ears will be dressed for success. So lightweight you will forget they are in after initial adjustments.
EXTRAS: seven pairs of silicone (XS to 3XL) and three Comply™ foam eartips; two detachable silver-plated 1.3 meter long rubber-feel clear finish cables (one w/3 button remote, 3.5mm plugs); one small leatherette case with magnetic closure and inner pockets for each element to take on the go; a silver brushed cable clip; two additional earpod filters
SOUND TEST: First thing, I must mention the presentation. From the slipcase which notes aptly “an audible piece of jewellery” to the jewel-box-like black matte finish cigar-sized box I was transported to a place of elegant attention to every last detail. Upon opening the inner box subtly embossed with ‘Xelento’ you see the silver sheen of the pods immediately and read “Elevate your listening experience.” An apropos message for starters. The second layer houses all the bonus parts and goodies, and they do not skimp on extras here. It took a few minutes to figure out the best sizing for my ears, but with medium Comply tips in, wires over ears as recommended, I’m plugged in and ready to rip. I placed them and at a slight angle for best directional sound. Of course, when you pay a premium for both adorning your body you want these to fit perfectly, and when stimulating one of your primary senses, you may as well get the proverbial cherry on top – so from the outset my ears are bated. These are clearly marketed to those who find one of the ultimate accessories should be stylish and bold, never bling or over-designed.
Anticipation aside, here we go, go, go. It makes sense to try out the sounds of Stereolab initially as their sound offers a dynamic stereophonic sound that is dimensional with vibrant highs and lows. First thing I notice is volume, these buds are a bit of a powerhouse and at only half volume these are espresso to your average coffee in terms of velocity. Be careful with these boys and girls, they deliver a robust and fully rounded sound that is crisp when increasing the aforementioned volume up to 60%, and every instrument is fully present. It’s a tall order on such intricate arrangement, but these accomplish something extraordinary in my opinion with this example. Farfisa organ never sounded so funky-retro, I’m immersed from the start.
The Comply tips were not right for my ears, so after about 20 minutes I switched to the silicone tips in medium, and voila, much easier to pop in and clearer, more direct sound. They also fit in my ears much more snuggly with these. Aside from electronic sonic scapes I can keenly appreciate vocals so to the land of Donna Summer I tread, so walk this way with me…..Sunset People with all of its Giorgio Moroder synthy schematics shrunk three decades into one hot minute, as this sounds so fine and fresh. You may as well be cruisin’ down the strip in a convertible to this track, hair and shirttails flapping the open breeze – it feels like you are there in the studio at moments. Though when I switched back and forth from my iTunes library where I have more equalizer tuning power over Spotify I was pleased with the results, though Summer’s The Wanderer had a slight tinny-ness in the mids at 60% output. Though when I used the pre-set for ‘Vocal Booster’ I had to turn the volume down a bit when switching to the sultry croon of the pan-ultimate disco classic I Feel Love. The voice is sheer, translucent and angelic/dreamy. When testing sound there are too many factors to account for, like original source material, personal taste, your own hearing and a plethora of other dramatic aspects to achieve the ultimate sound profile – and it’s so so so personal. But to me the kick of the bass is lacking as the clarity takes center stage, so let me try a few other samples.
So, folks, when I switched over to listening to a sweet jazz vinyl recording by Dewey Redman (Tarik) transferred to digital the envelope opened up much more widely, and I could hear the creative, skillful cymbal work and intricate percussion of Ed Blackwell instead of it being drowned by Redman’s unreal sax that soars like a wild bird. The mids are open and dimensional and its a warm and never bloated signature, in fact it makes appreciate the sheer subtlety of Malachi Favors’ basslines for the first-time after countless listens of this record. That is no easy task, so jazz-lovers do heed this alarm call. A sweet sound, indeed. When testing something a bit more out and avant garde I turned to the weird world of Aaron Dilloway and his recording, The Gag File. There are a lot of found-sound hijinks here, and lots of hiss and whir, but mind you that’s the source, not the earbuds, but they manage to present all this ruckus in an upscale way without flash and circumstance. Dilloway uses samples and scratchy vinyl to make repetitive tracks like the bleary-eyed It’s Not Alright. The Xelento set picks up every layer, crusty and nightmarish, drunken sounds that are delivered with a particular drama unheard when listening through my typical speaker set-up.
If you have the pretty coins it takes to own these, they really can’t be beat. You will not be disappointed, and your ears will thank you for years to come. The sound is a bit “smaller” when accompanying my Motorola phone and I blame the device and I tested the diversity of sound, everything from Sylvester to Vatican Shadow (of which the latter was quite impressive). The slight drawback is the even bass, but if you are seeking the big bad booms get yourself some Sony cans. These are better equip for those who enjoy delicate layers, and the ability to determine live dimensional sound space. Overall I’ve never heard better earbuds, these take the crown, so it will be difficult to pop a stamp on and return these to their maker.
MODEL: Beyerdynamic Aventho Wireless
COST: $$; moderately priced Bluetooth mobile headset
DESIGN: On-ear with a matte silver/black finish
TECH FEATURES: 10-40,000 Hz; dynamic transducer with high-end Tesla drivers; 32 ohms, wireless via Bluetooth, headset uses touch pad functions. Audio Codecs include: Qualcomm®, aptX™ and aptX™ HD, Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), and Low Complexity Subband Codec (SBC). Battery time is rated at 30 hours which is fantastic.
COMFORT: Nicely soft faux leather earpads and headband that even after a few hours on make for a snuggly comfy fit with a hint of weight up top, and reasonable clamping force. These feel expensive, but won’t break the bank.
EXTRAS: Sturdy, gray canvas drawstring bag; audio cable w/mini 3.5mm plug; Charging cable (USB-A > USB-C); Voice prompted battery status.
SOUND TEST: At the beginning of using these I couldn’t get the MIY app (Make It Yours) to work right away, so decided to use the supplied cord to plug-in to the Mac as these come partially charged. Though I was a bit excited to understand my very own ‘Sound Personalization’ by Mimi which is supposed to adapt to your specific hearing levels. I’m a bit of a unpractical sort when it comes to lengthy instructions and though this app is custom-made for IOS and Android I’m unsure if the Bluetooth connection works for my desktop, I didn’t find it discoverable within my system preferences. After giving it another go, I realized that the demo model didn’t allow for sound personalization on the app. But this initial few minutes didn’t at all color my overall experience which turned out to be quite the opposite.
For right now it’s all about my growing listening anticipation. So immediately I knew to give these a go ’round and revved up Byetone’s Plastic Star on Spotify. This was the perfect track to tease out the ability to decipher blurts of altered sine waves with a mathy funk in its trunk. The beats sound phenomenal, wide-ranging and so pleasing to the ears, and the sound is so well balanced – the best of the three listening experiences I’ve tested here. From there I took a left turn towards the lush electro-symphonic textures created by the recently departed Jóhann Jóhannsson and the intricate, complex sounds on his future-classic Orphée. It’s like having a ballet performed inside your head on tracks like A Pile of Dust and The Radiant City. Clear as crystal. It’s as if I am amid the falling leaves in Autumn on the latter track, the piano sounds as if it were located to stage right and the backdrop is illuminated in pastel tones. And I was able to move clearly through the house, untethered by wires, things only started to become a little shaky after about three walls.
Marnie’s Lost Maps had several percussive clacks and atmosphere that I had never noticed. The bass finds its place, bouncy and rounded with just the perfect ping on Juju & Jordash’s Techno Primitivism. Without being hundreds of extra pounds the bass performance really shines on the title cut and the wacky Stoplight Loosejaw (sounds as its titled, lol). You get all the jangle without losing the layered acoustics. The rhymes were in the most vivid full frontal spectrum of technicolor on Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s staple, The Message. I took this classic up to 70% and it got better and better at the louder setting. You can help becoming more intimate with the music wearing this first-rate headset. Smooth and velvety in the funky lows, crisper than an apple in mid August in the hypnotic mids. Early hip-hop will always be characterized for its gear in my mind’s eye – just imagine having had these dangling from your neck back in the day (!). As I continued turning this early 80’s genre-defining o.g. record – all’s I can say is Oooooo, those vocals, every last syllable uttered, delivered in fine time only brought out front by the expressive Aventhos.
Of the three headphones tested these provided the cleanest transition between my computer and my phone in terms of similar clarity and quality output. The touch controls on the Aventho Wireless are intuitive and fairly responsive, and you can adjust that within the app as well. These come in black or brown designs. Of course this comes partly with the intimacy of headphone deep listening sessions, something that the open air diffuses, even in closed rooms. Hey, mind you I use a pretty mundane set of plastic Creative speakers and this is like a brave new world in many respects. Another notable feature are the clever construction on the earcups which can rock from flat to back with ease, giving you a full range of natural head gestures if you are like me and when listening to certain songs might be prone to erratic hair flips, even if you are bald like me. This set is the most impressive of all those covered here, they most definitely conform to this listener’s lifestyle, I do not want to take them off my noggin. Alas, I gotta water the plants.