Like the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3S, which I reviewed recently, Beyerdynamic’s new Free Byrd earbuds are aimed squarely at people who prioritize sound quality over almost everything else. When you consider that these are the company’s first set of true wireless earbuds, I’m pleasantly surprised by how well they stand up in other respects as well: the $249 FreeBirds have marathon battery life, good active noise cancellation, and a Design that breaks from the standard, unchanging formula.
Great sound quality is the starting point for an impressive first attempt. And I can’t ignore the name, which is clearly a nod to the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic — and a very cliche concert request. But no set of earbuds is perfect, and the Free Birds are brought on by somewhat unwieldy controls and a physical design that can prove troublesome for little ears.
Free birds are not small or few. They weigh less than Sony’s 1000XM4 earbuds, but are heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, Apple AirPods Pro, and other earbuds that offer an airy feel and longer-lasting comfort. The Beyerdynamic’s buds are comparatively more chunky, and in particular, the earbud design has a bulbous middle area that can make small ears uncomfortable for freebirds. I don’t fit that description, so I never experienced any pain or ear fatigue.
That’s as much as I should have expected from an audio brand, but Beyerdynamic includes an eclectic collection of ear tips with Free Birds. There are five sets of silicone tips to choose between (XS, S, M, L, XL) and three pairs of foam-style tips. I always gravitate towards foam when it’s available, and there’s something about the earbuds’ light gray finish combined with the orange foam ear tips that feel great. Tell me you’re an audiophile without telling me you’re an audiophile – that’s kind of the vibe. (FreeBirds also comes in black.) The wireless charging case is on the longer side but feels well made. I don’t have any examples of these earbuds staying connected to the case, which is something I’ve encountered more and more with 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 turbidity or hardness anywhere in the frequency range. On Maggie Rogers’ new song “Horse,” her vocals come through with distinctly warmth and resonance, while the crispness of the electric guitar below is well preserved. Muna’s “Loose Garment” is a good demo track for the soundstage, with vocals and strings floating between the left and right channels throughout the song, and the drum and cymbal taps still completely distinct with their own place in the mix. . Everything about Free Birds feels charming and sophisticated. With Beyerdynamic’s mobile app, you can take a hearing test or choose from presets like “warm” or “V-shaped” to personalize the sound profile, but there’s currently no way to fully customize the EQ. Not there. Overall, I still like the fidelity of Sennheiser’s latest pair of these over these, but they’re not far off wildly.
As for codecs, these Bluetooth 5.2 earbuds support aptX adaptive on Android — allowing for high-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 handoff between devices is very quick and doesn’t require disconnecting from one source before you can switch to the other. Is. Free Birds includes support for Fast Pair on Android, optional Alexa integration, and you can use Buds standalone in Mono. There’s also a low latency mode that can be activated while playing mobile games, and Free Birds is rated IPX4 for water resistance, making them perfect for exercise.
The active noise cancellation on FreeBirds is above average, if not quite at the level of Sony, Bose or Apple. There is a very faint hiss that you can pick up on in a completely calm environment. 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 run of the mill but serves its purpose if you need quick check-in with the outside world. Call quality is satisfactory but not mind-blowing; Beyerdynamic lets you give more to your voice without aggressively gating to reduce background noise. It works well on calls to home but is less ideal outside.
However, Beyerdynamic’s touch controls could use some modification. I prefer physical buttons where possible, but can settle for tap gestures as long as they make sense and work consistently. Basic Free Byrd commands are fine: you tap once to play or pause, twice to switch between ANC and Transparency modes, or three times to skip or return a track. Volume is where things get a little awkward, requiring two taps and one hold after the other to adjust the loudness. It works fine once you jot down the sequence, but it’s not what I’d call an intuitive gesture – and I sometimes accidentally paused the music when I didn’t nail it. It would be nice if you could customize each of these gestures to your liking, but that’s not possible at the moment.
Battery life is an unexpected strength, with Free Birds able to play for about eight hours with ANC enabled and up to 11 with it. That’s more than enough for most needs, and the charging case provides an additional 19 hours (with ANC disabled), so you can potentially get up to a total of 30 hours in scenarios where you don’t need noise cancellation Is.
For the company’s first swing, Beyerdynamic’s Free Byrd earbuds deliver great sound with detail and depth, top-tier battery life, and good noise cancellation. I appreciate the plethora of ear tips that are included, and at least for my ears, they fit well and stay comfortable over time. But that last point will vary from person to person, and I can predict cases where these earbuds will be a bit harsh for some. Here’s a strong start to the wireless earbuds market for an established audio brand. I recommend the Free Birds as they are as long as your ears are the right match. But with some improvements to the onboard controls and perhaps a smaller form factor next time around, Beyerdynamic will be right up there with the best players in the game. Assuming, unlike the song, this bird can change.
Photography by Chris Welch/The Verge