While the sound quality of the Free Byrd is about on par with my untrained ears, I find that the AirPods Pro fit my needs better despite having worse battery life and less advanced physical controls. If you’re an Apple user, especially one with several devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook, etc), they’re hard to beat. If on the other hand you are an Android user or prioritize battery life, Beyerdynamic has made a very impressive debut with the Free Byrd.
- Bluetooth 5.2
- Up to 11 hours of playback
- Alexa built in
- Natural and accurate sound
- Case provides up to 30 hours of battery
- Low-latency mode
- Battery Life: 11 hours (ANC off), 30 hours (with case)
- Charging Case Included?: Yes
- Microphone?: 3 on each side
- Brand: Beyerdynamic
- Audio codecs: aptX Adaptive, AAC, SBC
- Bluetooth: 5.2
- Price: $249
- IP Rating: IPX4
- Solo bud mode?: Yes
- Wireless Charging: Yes
- Weight: 7g (per earphone), 60g (case)
- Dimensions (case): 43 x 68 x 30mm
- Colors: Black, White
- Charging Port: USB-C
- Incredible battery life
- Comfortable fit
- Fast charging
- ANC isn’t as effective as other brands
- No custom EQ settings
- Bulky design
Making its debut in the wireless earbud market, Beyerdynamic has recently released the Free Byrd. Similar to their over-the-ear headphones, the Free Byrd has a big focus on sound and build quality. At $249 these are on the more pricey side and face a lot of competition from the similarly priced Sony WF-1000XM4, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3, and Apple AirPods Pro. While its optional companion app lacks customization, the Free Byrd itself feels like a complete product with top-end specs that mostly match or beat the competition.
In addition to accessing your phone’s default smart assistant, you can choose to use the built-in Alexa as well. The latest Bluetooth 5.2 provides fast and reliable connectivity, even at further distances with minimal drop-outs. Several codecs are supported including Qualcomm aptX Adaptive and AAC. A low-latency mode is available when you need it, making it ideal for gaming. The premium features come with a hefty price tag, but if you prioritize sound quality, battery life, and a comfortable fit, Beyerdynamic delivers a solid experience.
The Free Byrd supports traditional Bluetooth pairing as well as Google Fast Pair, though, in truth, the latter isn’t that much faster. Unlike some earbuds like the AirPods Pro, it wasn’t as simple as opening the top lid of the case to make the Free Byrd discoverable. Instead, with the earbuds in the case, you tap either of their control buttons twice, holding it on the second time until its LED starts to flash blue and orange.
If your device supports Google Fast Pair, you can tap the Free Byrd case to the back, and it should be detected automatically and prompt you to connect on screen. For traditional pairing, you would just connect via your Bluetooth settings after searching for new devices. Your Free Byrd should then automatically connect each time you take them out of their case.
You will need to re-enter the pairing mode for each new device you want to connect to. While not difficult, it’s not a very intuitive process. The problem I ran into was forgetting what the steps were when I wanted to connect to my fiancée’s phone for her to try the Free Byrd out. I had to download their online manual and read page 14 in order to find these steps again.
You can pair up to six devices to the Free Byrd, however, they do not support Multipoint, meaning you can’t listen to music from you laptop, have it take your call from your phone, and then automatically resume playing music on your laptop when you hang up. Especially with work from home being the norm, this would have been a great feature to add.
Fit, Feel, and Confort
Similar to other wireless earbuds, the Free Byrd can detect when they are in your ears or pulled out to automatically resume or pause your media. This feature works accurately, and I never ran into issues with its detection. Beyerdynamic includes a generous selection of ear tips.
If you struggle with earbuds not fitting snug, this could be a significant selling feature for the Free Byrd. You can choose between five pairs of black silicone ear tips (XS to XL), or three pairs of orange foam ear tips (S to L). In addition to feeling more comfortable, foam tips also offer a tighter fit which gives you better passive noise reduction and bass performance.
I tend to use medium or small-sized tips with other earbuds and have mostly been using the medium foam pair with the Free Byrd. Again, being that they conform better to the shape of your ear, foam tips are especially useful when you struggle to find the right fit. When wearing one silicone and one foam tip in each ear, I felt like the foam allowed me to listen to the Free Byrd a bit longer before feeling fatigued.
Comfort and fit are almost as subjective as sound quality when it comes to reviewing headphones and earbuds. For my ears, I would say they are above average in terms of comfort. My fiancée has smaller ears and has difficulty finding earbuds that she can wear for more than a few minutes at a time before they hurt her ears. Compared to her Pixel Buds and Galaxy Buds Live, she found the Free Byrd with the small foam ear tips to be the most comfortable in-ear option she’s tried.
That said, these are on the larger and heavier end. Weighing in at 7 grams per earbud, these are 0.3 grams lighter than the Sony WF-1000XM4, but they also seem to stick outwards a bit more. This larger size probably does help give the Free Byrd more battery life, but there are some trade-offs. On one hand, the bulky body might lead you to think that these would feel quite large, but rather, the stem coming out from your ear canal connects to the main body which completely sits out of the main part of your ear, making it more comfortable to wear than even smaller options like the Pixel Buds.
Weight was never a concern, even compared to the much lighter AirPods Pro. The downside to its size and weight, however, is that they tend to feel like they’re not secure. There’s almost a floating feeling which does contribute to that comfort factor, but in turn, there’s less holding the earbuds in place. When I first started wearing these, I would constantly make adjustments as I thought they were loose. Sitting, walking and a light jog won’t make these go anywhere, but an intense run or workout might. Looking at the official marketing material on Beyerdynamic’s site, you won’t see any of the models doing much activity except for some yoga.
Sound Quality and Noise Cancellation
Similar to their full-size over-the-ear headphones, the Free Byrd aims to deliver more natural and accurate sound reproduction. Its 10mm dynamic drivers support a frequency range of 10Hz to 20kHz. Despite their larger drivers, out of the box they may not sound as exciting especially when compared to the Sony WF-1000XM4 with their 6mm drivers, for example, which are known for their strong bass which a lot of users might look for. In contrast, the Free Byrd is more balanced, and the bass while present, never feels overpowering.
The highs and mids also sound clear, and even at higher volumes, never sound distorted or muddied. While I haven’t had the opportunity yet to compare them, the Free Byrd more closely competes with the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 which also prioritizes that purist experience.
LDAC, a Sony proprietary codec that supports higher bit-rates compared to AptX is absent—but unless you’re an absolute audiophile with high-quality tracks to stream, this shouldn’t be a deal breaker. For a more pure listening experience, users will still likely prefer the Free Byrd over Sony. If you want to tweak your sound and get that deep-bass experience, additional sound options are available within their app.
Active noise cancellation (ANC) is available and can be toggled with a double tap between on or its transparency mode, which allows outside sound to come through more clearly. Unlike the AirPods Pro, there doesn’t appear to be a third option for turning it off completely for a “regular” mode. The noise cancellation seems to be most effective at quieting low hums and rumbles. As I write this review from aboard an Amtrak train, the Free Byrd reduces that droning sound as the train travels along the tracks. As passengers enter and exit, the rolling of their suitcases is virtually silent.
Where the Free Byrd struggles, however, is with voices and other higher-pitched sounds. Even as they whispered their apologies for bumping up against sleeping riders with their oversized luggage, I could still clearly make out what they were saying, although it was much quieter compared to the Free Byrd ANC being off. The AirPods Pro don’t completely eliminate voices either, but they do a significantly better job in my opinion at muffling it. For longer rides, I frequently find myself using the AirPods Pro with ANC, even when I’m not listening to anything, just to help cut out unwanted noise, including annoying chatter. While not bad, the Free Byrd is not on the same level.
Advanced App Features
You can customize settings and change the EQ via the MIY app for Android and iOS. When attempting to find the app, I assumed it was called Beyerdynamic or Free Byrd. Instead, they went with the odd choice of “MIY”. Aside from changing the ANC modes, which you can do on the earbuds themselves, you can also choose your voice assistant, create a custom sound profile, change the EQ, turn low latency mode on, and perform a factory reset.
I personally didn’t notice much of a difference after going through the custom sound profile process, which is supposed to fine-tune the Free Byrd to your ears, but your experience may vary.
Unfortunately, you can’t create custom EQ settings. You can choose between original, bass boost, warm, smooth treble, v-shape, and speech; but you can’t adjust these presets or make your own. Hopefully, a future software update can bring these changes.
On a positive note, the Free Byrd offers a low latency mode which can be especially useful for games like COD and PUBG where you rely on sound so heavily to stay alive. Beyerdynamic doesn’t explicitly state that the Free Byrd support AptX low latency, so it might be safe to assume that this a result of the newer Bluetooth 5.2 technology. What’s the difference between Bluetooth 5 and AptX?
Similar to other wireless earbuds, the Free Byrd uses a combination of tap and hold to change controls. Your inputs register with a slight haptic feedback and a little beep sound too. It takes a bit of getting used to, but many of the controls enter muscle memory after a few tries. Something unique, that the Airpods Pro lack, is volume control. On the Free Byrd, you can adjust volume with a double tap and hold on the second tap. Doing so on the right ear increases volume while on the left, it decreases.
An odd one for me though was changing tracks which is a triple tap versus the usual double tap on most other ear buds. Instead, double tap toggles between ANC and transparency mode, whereas a triple tap is needed for advancing tracks.
Battery Life, Charging, and Case
These earbuds stand out for their long battery life giving you up to 11 hours on a single charge with ANC off, or up to 30 hours total with its Qi wireless compatible case. This is nearly three times as long as the AirPods Pro’s four hours, and about three hours more than the Sony WF-1000XM4.
Whereas my AirPods will never last a full train or plane ride for me on a single charge, the Free Byrd easily can and then some. Quick-charging for 10 minutes gives you about 70 minutes of playback with ANC off. This isn’t as good as the AirPods Pro which can give you about 60 minutes with just a 5-minute charge.
To achieve its very impressive 30 hours of total playback, the charging case is rather large measuring 43 x 68 x 30 mm. The AirPods Pro case is a little wider but is overall much smaller and easier to fit in your pockets or smaller compartments. If you are just throwing this in a bag or purse you won’t notice, but if you are carrying these in your jeans, you will.
Are Free Byrd the Premium ANC Earbuds for You?
My favorite earbuds are still the Apple AirPods Pro. While the sound quality of the Free Byrd is about on par with my untrained ears, I find that the AirPods Pro fit my needs better despite having worse battery life and less advanced physical controls. If you’re an Apple user, especially one with several devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook, etc), they’re hard to beat. If on the other hand you are an Android user or prioritize battery life, Beyerdynamic has made a very impressive debut with the Free Byrd.