These affordable earbuds just needed one tweak to make a great listening experience

The Beyerdynamic Free BYRD earbuds.

The Beyerdynamic Free BYRD earbuds are a joy to use.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The Beyerdynamic Free Byrd earbuds are available on Amazon for $169.
  • When using the right ear tips, you’ll savor buttery smooth and rich music that conforms to the traditional “Beyerdynamic sound”.
  • There are no ‘wings’ or other bits to keep these earbuds in your ears, so finding the best cushioning makes all the difference.  

Most people assume that using earbuds is just a matter of slipping them in and tapping play on your preferred music app. There’s often little care for the fit of the hardware or the quality of the sound. To those people, I would say you are missing out.

No matter what earbuds you use, selecting the right tips can make a big difference. This is especially true when you’re working with mid-to-high-end devices, where the right earbud tips can make a huge difference. That’s certainly the case with the Beyerdynamic Free Byrd earbuds.

Also: The best earbuds: Expert tested and reviewed

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of “Beyerdynamic sound”, you should know that Beyerdynamic is a company dedicated to creating a unique sound for its headphones, speakers, and earbuds. The company focuses on “diffuse field” target response, which refers to a specific frequency response to replicate the sound of flat-measuring speakers in a lively room.

So, why is the feature important? Some speaker and headphone manufacturers go out of their way to artificially boost sound in different ways. Consider Beats headphones, which artificially inflate the bass response to make them sound more dynamic. What then happens, however, is the headphones produce sound that isn’t true to the original source. 

Also: These $99 Sony headphones are almost as good as the XM5 for less than half the price

The goal with headphones and earbuds should be to create sound that is as close to the original as possible out of the device. Then, if the user so chooses, they can adjust the EQ to fit their tastes. Starting from the “diffuse field” target is a brilliant launching point — and Beyerdynamic does it better than most.

So, when I received the Free Byrd earbuds, I had high hopes. I’d used Beyerdynamic over-the-ear headphones and knew what to expect from the company. The sound the company delivers is so rich it’s almost appreciate gooey caramel for the ears. However, the Free Byrd earbuds really hit home the idea of how important the correct ear tips are to enjoying the best possible sound from a high-end product.

The specs

  • Qi charging case for numerous charges and long battery life
  • Active Noise Canceling and Transparency mode
  • IPX4 certification
  • 11 hours of battery life on a single charge
  • 30 hours runtime with additional charges from the case
  • Bluetooth 5.2 connection
  • Google Fast Pair maintain
  • Transducer type — Dynamic
  • Frequency response — 10 to 22,000 Hz
  • T.H.D. < 0.1% at 1kHz
  • EN 50332 compliance
  • Weight — 7 grams per earphone
  • USB cable — USB Type-C
  • Ambient noise attenuation — 20 dB (low frequency), 18 dB (mid frequency), 15 dB (high frequency)

My experience

Even though I’m quite familiar with the importance of earbud tip sizes, when I made my selection and inserted the Free Byrd, I was very disappointed with the sound. I knew, right away, that this was not the “Beyerdynamic sound” I was expecting. 

Also: Beyerdynamic’s Blue Byrd earbuds are bringing neckbands back in style

However, I immediately switched out the medium silicon tips for the medium foam tips. With the foam tips, you have to squish them — I prefer to use the rolling method — before inserting the earbuds. The foam then expands to create a tighter seal. 

The Beyerdynamic Free BYRD tip selection.

Fortunately, Beyerdynamic includes a number of different tips to select from.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Once I had the right tips, the sound blossomed to become the buttery smoothness Beyerdynamic is famous for. Rush’s ‘Tom Sawyer‘ was incredibly vibrant and alive, Barenaked Ladies ‘One Week‘ bounced in ways I’d not heard before, Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir‘ was more exciting than I’d ever heard it, Len Cariou singing ‘My Friends‘ from Sweeney Todd was absolutely haunting, and ‘Before Yesterday‘ by Band-Maid was electric.

ZDNET’s buying advice

It’s important to grasp that the tip selection will make or break these earbuds, as is the case with all headphones with removable cushioning. Not only will it bring the sound to life, but it’ll also stop the earbuds from falling out. There are no ‘wings’ or other bits to keep these earbuds in your ears. So, selecting a pair of tips that create a perfect seal is crucial to your enjoyment of these buds. Keep that concern in mind when deciding on the purchase and when you’re finally diving into the music with the Beyerdynamic Free Byrd earbuds.

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