“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know” was how Lady Caroline Lamb described the great Romantic poet, Lord Byron.
However the wireless headphones that share his name, Beyerdynamic’s Byron BTA (the premium version of the Byron BTs) are almost the exact opposite. They’re a safe choice for a solid sound.
Build and comfort
Another difference is that while the poet was a classicist, these headphones are distinctly modern. Much like its wired equivalent, the Byron BTAs’ black-and-metal housings look sleek and cutting edge.
Each housing has its own magnet on the back, and when they’re brought together the magnetic force snaps them together; they might look like a necklace, but it keeps the headphones tidy when you’re not using them and stops them from falling off if you’re running.
Near the right earpod is a three-button remote control for volume, playback control, and Bluetooth pairing. There’s also a microphone built-in for taking calls, but it takes some getting used to; we found that we had to talk a bit louder, and enunciate a bit more, with this microphone than with others we’ve tried.
The Byron BTAs have the neat trick of being able to connect to two devices simultaneously, so you can switch between your smartphone and your laptop with relative ease. And its (claimed) nine-hour battery life means it should last through your workday and commute home.
Also, instead of having a mini-USB input on the headphones, the Byron BTAs come with a little charging dock that plugs into a USB-A connection for faster charging than your standard connecter.
This is something of a double-edged sword; while having the headphones’ battery full in under two hours is certainly useful, it does mean that if your headphones run out of juice you can’t just grab a handy cable to charge them up again.
And while the BTAs will indicate when they’re running down (with a voice telling you that “Battery is low”), you don’t get much time between the warning and the headphones turning off.
Using Tidal on an iPhone 6S, we sling the 56cm cable round our neck, stick them in our ears, and are treated to a fine sound.
We begin our test with Golden Earring’s 70s classic Radar Love; the power chords that start the song and the rising drums reveal the dynamism of these headphones, changing between the loud blast of the song’s chorus to the solitary vocals with precision and speed.
It’s also a surprisingly spacious sound for in-ear headphones; the distinction between Barry Hay’s wheezy singing at the centre of the soundfield and the backing vocals on the right is clear and relatively open.
And there’s a good lashing of detail, put to the test by Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker. His husky, earthy vocals are insightful through these headphones, managing to capture the sense of resignation that underlies the lyrics, as well as the little sighs and breaths scattered throughout it.
Moving from the softly spoken Cohen to the light, brisk M79 by Vampire Weekend, the Byrons give the low end a decent kick, and their sense of timing means they keep up once the rapid violins get into full swing.
It’s not perfect though; the bass could do with a bit more weight, as it comes across a little lean.
Compared to the Bose SoundSport Wireless, the deep bass on Lorde’s Royals doesn’t have the richness necessary to convey the low notes – and this quality continues in the midrange and treble too. Her vocals waver a little, lacking the same solidity or strength as other headphones we’ve heard at this price.
We’d also like more refinement at the top end. The Byrons push their treble forward too much, but it doesn’t have the quality that would make it really enjoyable.
Crashing cymbals and high frequency bagpipes in AC/DC’s It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll) are a little coarser than we usually expect from Beyerdynamic.
A pair of neckbuds with a premium design and fine audio quality, the Byron BTAs are not to be sniffed at.
While they probably won’t reach the same level of notoriety in the hi-fi world as their poetic namesake, they’re definitely a sound purchase.